Rowan’s Abacus
by MacBride Callihan

Prophet Nation, it’s me! Knock Knock Knock! Come on, hurry! Dag-burnit it’s pouring the rain, hahaaa! OKAY I’M INNNNN! THANK YOU! Hey, um, got a cup of coffee for me?! HA! Welcome Propheteers, it’s your pal, the Holbrook Crook! God bless ya’ll, you believers of hope, of love, and of humility. So...what keeps your faith in the Lord alive? What sustains your belief in a loving creator of mankind when the world has fallen to lower and lower depths of unthinkable treachery? Write about it, talk about it, go go go!

Anyway, our boys are doing just fine, as pre-season basketball is in full stride at this point. The boys are improving, loving life, serving as an inspiration, and just contributing all around to their respective teams. More next month on that, but for now, that’s all I’ve got on the Hoopdom front...Propheteers, I hope you are cozying up snug under the harvest moon and under a hand-knitted quilt, sipping on apple cider. For tonight, I have an unexpected report to relay to you, and I am not the author of it.

Yesterday evening, out at my farm in Argillite, my 3 year old grandson Gatsby and I went digging for lost treasure. Two small shovels, two tin buckets, a couple canteens of lemonade, and we were set! Gatsby surveyed the land before deciding upon a barren patch in the northeastern corner of my soybean field. I took little trinkets, marbles, and various things for him to unearth, for that warms my heart fully and tickles me so to see his eyes light up with discovery.

So we had dug down about a foot into the planet when Gatsby became distracted by an enormous, gliding hawk overhead. This was my little window of opportunity to hide some fool’s gold and a turtle shell under the loose dirt in the hole, I remember thinking. So I quickly tossed the treasure into the hole and covered them with dirt. Gatsby was looking skyward, and declared with conviction that the hawk was hunting a “mean, giant rattlesnake”, and we watched the winged predator lazily coast over the distant hillside and out of sight.

Gatsby hopped back down in the hole and resumed his digging; he struck it rich instantly with the turtle shell and golden nuggets, celebrating with a loud woop! His eyes lit up I tell you, Propheteers! I acted awed and excited, relishing every second of it. Children and grandchildren bring out the wondrous innocence in all of us, don’t they?!

Though Gatsby was satisfied with these stellar finds, he wasn’t finished just yet. He never is. I encouraged his digging, because we might still yet find some dinosaur fossils (I had a few fox jaw bones hidden in my sock). With his sturdy mini garden shovel, he sunk a powerful stab into the Earth and we hard a hollow, tinny sound. He looked at me with electric eyes--he had hit something solid.

I quickly lay flat on my stomach and reached down into the cool, soft dirt to help him uncover the object. We had to dig another inch or two, and Gatsby outlined it with his finger...it was a small and rectangular tin box, possibly a cigar box. I wedged the little shover under it and pried it up and out. Gatsby was ecstatic, shouting, “Papawl! Papawl! The hidden treasure from the ancestors. They buried it! Or pirates did it!”

“I know!” I replied in genuine awe, equally as shocked. “Let’s see what’s in it, Buster!”

“Okay, papaw,” Gatsby slowed his speech, speaking reverently of the box, “but we must be very careful with it...it’s really old.”

“Yes my boy...you’re right…” I said, taking his cue and studying the cigar box curiously.

“Let’s open it but be gentle, Papawl, because you are so strong.”

I smiled at little Gats and said, “let’s see what’s inside.”

With very little effort, the caked on lid just fell off the top. I reached in with two fingers and pulled out a cloudy little glass scroll tube, sealed thickly with wax at it’s opening. With my pocket knife, I scraped off the wax. Gatsby and I peered into the tube and I sure enough, there was what appeared to be an actual scroll inside!

“A treasure map! Let’s look, Papaw!” Gatsby screamed, nearly shaking with excitement.

I shook the contents out on the barren soybean field and was astonished to find two separate scrolls. We unrolled them slowly and with great care; both pages, to my surprise, were remarkably legible and intact. A wax seal, Prophet Nation, can protect anything! For any amount of time! Ha!

So, wow, yeah...Gatsby was in a frenzy, claiming the words revealed directions to a wild Dragon City located in the clouds. I agreed that it very well might. My interest was certainly piqued! So I had little Gats sit in my lap there in the soybean field under the warming glow of the October sun, and I began reading aloud the scrolls.

Here is what it said, Prophet Peoples:

Early this morn, Rowan Leander took me by the hand, pulled me out of the bed, and led me down the stairs. My dear wife Jillian was softly humming a peaceful, calming melody I’d never heard. Jillian stood over the wood stove, cooking oats and biscuits. Rowan took me to her.

We approached her quietly and she pretended not to know or hear, as is our morning custom. I placed my hands gently upon her hips and nestled close behind her. She turned her head slightly to the left, and I could see her begin to smile. A few strands of her dark hair fell languidly over her ear just as I leaned in to kiss her cheek. She is surely the most beautiful, spirited woman I have ever had the privilege to know, and for that I am eternally grateful and lucky.

The three of us each took turns praying aloud to our Lord for all his blessings and all he has provided. Then we nourished ourselves with the hot breakfast which Jillian had prepared so lovingly.

Afterwards, little Rowan and I kissed her goodbye and left the farm with a hatchet for chopping and a basket for gathering. We walked the narrow and winding forest path toward the cliffs that overlook her cold majesty, the North Atlantic. Easterly headwinds blew with an uncommon strength, and were unseasonably chilly for early September. The sky was cloudless and bright, a never ending blue. The air smelled saltier with each step we took.

When little Rowan and I arrived at the cliffside, we were awed by the breathtaking view, as we are every time we look upon the sea. The heavy winds had her in an uproar, and her waves crashed without mercy high upon the rock cliffs below us. Hand in hand, we meditated on the bluff with crossed-legs and closed eyes for about one minute. My dearest Rowan Leander, such a spritely lad of four years, stayed completely quiet for the whole minute! I find it imperative to teach him patience and appreciation for nature at his tender, young age.

After a short time we told the raging sea farewell and turned back onto the trail. About a half kilometer into our homeward hike, we veered off the trail and into a thick patch of first willows sprinkled with the occasional cyprus, and finally oaks. We hopped over a rushing, crystal clear thrutch along the way. We admired the attributes unique to the various families of trees. Little Rowan is immensely fascinated and intrigued by the whole existence of forests, and by the animals who inhabit them.

He pointed out to me an enormous oak with a fork near the bottom, as if it were a set of grown twins who were connected at birth. The lush fork contained a fair sized rowan tree...the tree for which my son was named.

“My tree! A rowan tree, daddy! It’s growing like me! How does it grow on that oak tree?”

Ha! I explained to him that birds eat rowan berries, and because of that, their droppings contain rowan seeds. A bird passing overhead unknowingly (or actually, perhaps knowingly) dropped some rowan seed right where this tremendous oak splits in two. As legend has it, I told him, the wood from a “flying” rowan tree such as this is particularly powerful against malevolent forces.

Rowan Leander held the wicker basket and I pulled my hatchet out to chop a few limbs down to take home. The patches of red berries were vibrant and numerous; they had just recently bloomed, as they do every autumn.

I had to chop several times and with considerable might to procure a single little limb; for the wood of a rowan is very dense. As I went to chop a second limb, I noticed a bustling within the tree. In a flash, a scarlet thrush rocketed out of the tree and bombarded me, trying to slap my head with it’s wings. He was fiercely defending his food source (for thrushes mainly dine on the rowan berry), and he was willing to take on a giant with a hatchet. We respected his fight, and his bravery! Little Rowan Leander was filled with fright at first, but then began laughing at the irritated, invaded, swooping scarlet thrush. I hastily chopped the second limb, took Rowan’s hand, and hurriedly escaped that danger zone!

Upon arriving back at the farm, Rowan explained to Jillian our adventure in great detail and with great vigor. She soaked it up with a loving smile...an active listener to his wild tale.

A bit later, we all built an abacus together with a variety of wood. We whittled, measured, and did some auguring. It was a project for the ages...a fun one! With the leftover rowan wood, I created four amulets. Jillian made necklaces out of three, for each of us, and the fourth we hung at the front gate of our house. When it comes to deflecting misfortune or a witch’s hex, there is no better apotropaic power than rowan wood.

I have written this note in the earnest hope that it finds you well; that it may inspire and brighten your day; that it may spark and strengthen your love of nature’s unmatched beauty. I realize fully that these scrolls may never reach anyone’s hands at all...but that doesn’t mean I’ve quilled them in vain. For I’d like you to know I was here for a time, and that I lived. And that if this has found you by some fortunate happenstance, I believe you are reading it for a reason. Embrace what you love wholeheartedly and unabashedly.

Until we meet again,

Colin Harrington

County Donegal, N. Ireland

7 September, 1891

I can’t really say anything else. Colin Harrington just dropped the mic, Prophet Nation! Weeeee! Ha! Until next time, guys...phew...I love my job. I’m Smith Holbrook, and it’s Prophet reporting.