She was always telling me about how her father would go out into the woods behind their house and stay out there for hours at a time. When he'd finally return there'd be a remote look on his face, as if the the forest and the animals living there had special secrets meant only for him. He wouldn't talk much after each of these journeys, he would just sit in the den near the fireplace and watch the logs crack and whistle. Mother would bring him potato soup and set it near him, but it would mostly go unnoticed unless the cat came over to investigate. Then he would swipe and hiss and the cat would run off into the dining room to sit beneath the dinner table and watch as father finally ate the soup.
She told me about the time she decided to follow her father out. She gave him a two minute lead before sneaking down the trail that wrapped around the back side of their property. After an hour of steady walking he stopped at a large tree with thick, low hanging branches which covered the trunk from view. He entered in and remained there for some time. She fidgeted with her hair and watched two squirrels gather nuts on the ground and race back up into the trees to a nest high in the canopy. She counted each ascent... once... twice... three, four, five times before her father finally emerged from his own nest.
As soon as he was out of ear shot she moved in to investigate. Inside the tree she discovered an elaborate miniature battleground dug into the dirt surrounding the trunk. Military bases were built out of rocks and sticks, trails and trenches were dug and snaked off in multiple directions. An army of plastic G.I.Joe toys were positioned all around, holding rifles and bent in ways that mimicked various acts of warfare. And just above the suspended dirt war below, carved into the tree bark were the words "ME" and "THEM", and next to each word were hash marks representing the death toll of both sides. Apparently her father was winning, 6-4, and this made her very happy.