For miles around, in neighborhoods, playgrounds and city squares people abruptly stopped what they were doing and in a choreographed movement, looked to the east. In deep resonating tones that shook the very earth and rattled store windows with almost frightening tenacity, the citizens of Chimes, South Dakota stared in frozen amazement as they tried to understand what they were hearing. Of course they all knew exactly what it was, they just couldn’t believe that it was happening and, what it meant.
The chimes had been built almost six hundred years ago, as a marker of the prosperity enjoyed by the first generations of what started as a small logging community in the early 1800s. Holding the world’s record for largest functioning wind chimes, the daunting apparatus stood 18 feet tall when not hung in the specially designed tower built to display its magnificence; the circumference of each chime so large it would require three large men to link hands in order to encircle it. Having only sounded once to prove it was in fact a functioning wind chime; it had taken 32 Clydesdales to move the chimes enough to produce even the smallest sound. Declaring it would take a hurricane to produce adequately sustainable wind for the chimes to ever work without human interference, the chimes were left to hang silently in their tower on the small hill overlooking the town center below.
In those early days, the town, eager to make a name for itself and distinguish its populous from the surrounding townships rallied behind the gargantuan chimes and insisted the town be renamed Chimes, South Dakota, which it was. Now, centuries later after two civil wars that left the United States anything but, the people of Chimes thought little about the chimes on the hill and apart from a few obligatory fieldtrips in elementary school, no one considered them important enough to visit. But, tucked in the corner of every citizen’s subconscious they remembered what their parents and grandparents had told them, “If you ever hear those chimes, get inside and stay there… you must take cover.”
It was happening; there was no mistaking that terrifying sound. Within seconds of the first chime, the streets emptied, abandoned shopping carts left to guide themselves into curbs or topple over, the only vehicles left on the small two-lane roadway that served as the main artery of the town were parked and seemingly forgotten in the panic. By the time night fell, Chimes, South Dakota was a veritable ghost town. For the first time in memory, night gardening, a Chimes tradition for decades didn’t take place as every resident hid under mattresses in their bathtubs or below ground in fallout shelters built before the second civil war of 2243. Every resident that is, but one.
Climbing down the hill in the dark with the assistance of a single lantern, Falcon Duarte, the sixteen-year-old son of one of the more prominent members of the Chimes night gardening society, smiled smugly. For the first time in his life, Falcon would be able to fall asleep without the constant ‘clinking’ ‘scraping’ of garden tools outside of his bedroom. He would drift off to sleep without the smothering aroma of manure or the light from a high-intensity florescent bulb coming through the window as his father and his friends traipsed around with their potting soil, bulbs and fertilizers. In Falcon’s sleep-starved mind, duping the entire town for one good night’s worth of sleep was completely justified.
They would ask him, years later as he sat monk-like in his cell, “Yes, you told us the why, Falcon. But what we really want to know is… how did you do it? How did you move the chimes?” Falcon would stare into the distance and smile serenely and reply after several minutes, “Maybe it really was a hurricane.”
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: Finding ourselves at Lucas Nursery this fine afternoon, Andy and I wandered around for a while deciding on some plants we’d like to bring home to spruce up the front of our home. Walking towards the succulents, we almost ran smack dab into the biggest dang wind chime I have ever seen. It was rather windy today so the hulking dark metal chime actually honored us with a few notes that sounded just like we were inside a church belfry. They were almost as big as the pine tree they were hanging from, probably a good eleven, twelve + feet tall.
TWO: Getting home and wanting to get the plants in the ground before the rains came, we began prepping the flower/plant box in front of our house. It took a little longer than anticipated and before we knew it we were digging and planting in complete darkness. Grabbing one of his clamp lights, Andy was able to light up the area enough for us to finish, and while it’s not quite finished it’s looking pretty good. I think we might just have started a new tradition for our little household- night gardening.
Love & Squirrels.