There was a day that they talked about for the rest of her life.
Both of their families knew the story; their friends knew the story; hell, even some of the people whose lawns Jacob mowed had heard him tell the story while he drank their ice water and picked dirt from underneath his fingernails.
It is the nature of things in West Virginia that every so often one stumbles across a small patch of earth so beautiful and untouched that it’s easy for him to think he’s the only person who’s ever tread that land. Jacob and Jessica found it outside of Frankford. They drove his pickup into a holler and laughed nervously as the stone road turned into stones on a mud path and then, through an aluminum cattle gate, dusty tire ruts in a green field surrounding a farmhouse that nobody’d lived in for a generation or more. A creek wound against the land and turned sideways at a rock wall and moved some more toward the Greenbrier. The porch was held up by stacks of bricks. Out back, a barn with no doors, and way far up on the hill several cows grazed easily in a world they owned almost entirely by themselves.
The kids parked and held hands and explored what they’d found. They peered into the house, decided which room was the living room and which was the parlor, spit into the half-open cistern out back, and tossed rocks at an old rusty milkjug. They decided that whoever made the shot first would cook dinner that night. Neither of them could do it. Pizza, then.
Sometime while they were planning their future children and thinking that a house such as this one would be a perfect place for a family and kicking the tops off of unbloomed dandelions, they heard a rapid thumping noise from the barn. Jacob picked up a rock and Jessica held the back of his shirt and the two of them crossed up the hill and wrapped their necks around the doorframe and there was the bed of a pickup truck come unattached some years ago with the cab having been driven away. They waited. Jacob peered into the hayloft and held his rock up shoulder-high. The old truck frame began to jolt up and down, banging its hitch on they concrete slab it had been resting on, and the whole thing made such a squealing, awful racket that the kids backed up from it and watched it from what they judged to be a safe distance. The box lifted a dozen times or more, and each time several feet in the air. Jacob loosened Jessica’s fingers from his back and approached the barn opening alone.
“Ho-ly shit,” he said, swinging in an arc ten feet away from the truckbed. “Jess, stay right there.”
“What is it?”
Jacob went to the frame and wrapped his fingers around some spot of purchase. He squatted and thrust his legs upward and the truckbed lifted and, underneath, a calf scuttled crazily in the mud until its hooves found grip and it shot out from under the truck and came running staight in Jessica’s direction. She crouched and covered her head and Jacob laughed until he couldn’t bring in any more air.
The calf finally slowed halfway up the hill behind the house and eventually stopped and looked back at Jacob and Jessica, who, shocked, looked back at him. He stared at them for a minute and swung his head around and went off to find his herd.
Three years later, Jacob and Jessica found out the owner of the farm had died and they offered her son a more than fair price for a fixer-upper. They moved in after the last snow thawed in late April.