Olgy Rainer's house
All that remained of the oak tree was a piece of its trunk nearly as high as the house. Right where the first limbs had begun to branch out away from the trunk, they were all cut off years ago, soon after Olgy had left. With no man living on the place, Sarah and Josie and Ruby all had to do all the work and cutting firewood closest to the house was the easiest. Olgy knew that is what had happened.
The rising sun warmed the rear of the house where the kitchen was, and threw the oak stump’s shadow all the way across the yard. Made Olgy think of the huge sundial he’d seen in one of the plazas at the Columbia Exhibition in Chicago. He pulled out his pocket watch and saw that it was nearly half past six. He looked at the tip of the stump’s shadow and saw that it pointed down the hill to the dilapidated remains of the smoke house. In a way it was telling time by pointing out its passage and its toll on the small farm.
The shadow fell as it did the day he’d left, he figured, since it was about the same time of year. He didn’t remember the shadow, but he knew he'd left in February. He knew he'd walked out the back door into the morning light and turned toward the road and away from the barn. He couldn’t remember if he looked back of not, but for over twenty years he’d always ended his story of leaving Hickshaw Ridge with “...and I didn’t look back.”
It did not look as if any one was awake. Olgy didn’t know for sure who if anyone was living there. Sarah probably remained, but Josie and Ruby must be married and living off somewhere else by now. Or perhaps no one was living there, even though the yard looked clean swept.
Olgy started thinking he might have made a mistake by returning without writing first. He thought that if he left then, right then, he could do so before anyone knew he’d been there. Maybe he’d come later that day. That would be better. But after a few steps he pause,d and looked back at the house once more. That's when he saw smoke from the chimney and heard the back door open.