Greetings and Salutations illustrious readers of the blog,
Today we’ll kick off another story, but first I must tell you Digger has been quite impossible to be around since we preempted his spot. Please be sure and comment on his posts. That seems to soothe him some. He assures me he has a very interesting guest scheduled for this week. Be sure to tune in.
In other news I’ve been on the road this summer, I’ve made my way across Tennessee spending a week in Nashville and another in Memphis. Great music combined with powerful stories surround this part of the country. I’m soaking up as much mojo as I can. I hope some of it makes its way into my own stories.
Now for this weeks tail. Turn the lights a little brighter and invite someone to join you.
The Deadly Trees of Cape Blanco
By Dave Benneman
What I’m about to tell you, you will no doubt find absurd. For that reason I’ve resisted telling this story for seventy-eight years. Who would believe it? Leaving me branded either a liar or a lunatic. I don’t know which is worse. To go through life labeled a liar would certainly be awful. On the other hand, having spent the last two years in a nursing home, where nursing is a misnomer, to say the least, I imagine being locked up in an asylum would be more disagreeable.
Nursing, according to my dog-eared, paperback dictionary, is defined as the practice of providing care for the sick and infirm. There is little providing of care in this place. More like off-site storage, where unsightly items are moved to wait out a predetermined sentence before being disposed of. Sure, I’m am provided meals, if you want to call them that, for they barely meet the requirements of sustenance. My caretakers are more concerned with ensuring I swallow the medications that make me no better, but easier to manage.
Having outlived most everyone I ever knew, everyone of any importance, that is, I have no visitors. Sometimes I get visits from well meaning folks who come to the home hoping to raise the spirits of those of us who made the mistake of living a little too long. Some bring dogs, those are the best days, but they are infrequent and their visits far too short. One of those well-meaning folks gave me the composition book I’m writing in now, along with this pen, which has sparkles and unicorns on the barrel. I felt a little silly writing with such a pen, but once you’ve read this, it may make a certain kind of sense.
I doubt very much anyone will be interested in the meanderings of an old man. Once I’m gone, my meager possessions will be packed up and when they realize no one will be claiming my things, or my remains for that matter, it will all get thrown in some landfill. I can only hope the landfill will some day be repurposed and my things will become the foundation of a playground, or better still, a dog park.
In truth, I’m not writing this for anyone to read, I hope by this confession I may get some relief in my last days on this earth. I seemed to have digressed from the story. You’ll have to forgive an old man. My concentration isn’t what it used to be.
I was saying, even at thirteen years of age, I knew enough to keep my mouth shut and let the adults form a narrative they could accept. I feigned no memory of the weekend my class set out to visit the most western point of Oregon, but in truth, I will never forget the trip to Cape Blanco. Not a single bloody detail will ever fall from my memory. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my friends and teachers who perished there. Not a night passes without my waking up in a pool of sweat, mouth stretched wide in a silent scream.
It was late spring. Teachers were running out of time to grind knowledge into our young minds. After the long winter we had little interest in what they were trying to teach. I gazed out the window, watching the trees leaf out in the sun. I was not alone. A field trip had been rumored, but few details leaked. I prayed to a God I didn’t know, to let it be so. A field trip to some exotic location was the perfect remedy for our lack of focus. Finally it happened. Permission slips were sent home. Accompanied by an explanation of where we would be going. Also, a plea for volunteers to assist as chaperones.
Camping in tents, in the woods on Cape Blanco. Visiting the lighthouse and learning the history of blah, blah, blah.
“Camping!” I said to my mom. “We’re going camping?”
“I’m not so sure about this.” She looked over her glasses. “Who will—”
“Not sure about what?”
“I can’t help. I have to stay home with your little sister. Who’s going keep an eye on you?”
“There will be teachers and other moms and dads. Come on, I gotta go.”
“You don’t ‘gotta go’. What are they teaching you, if you ‘gotta’ do anything?” She waved the permission slip at me.
“Sorry, But I really, really, really, really, want to go.” My voice cracked on the last really.
“Let me make some calls.”
“Who you gonna…Who are you going to call?” I corrected myself.
“Let me check with Mr. Overby. If he’s going, and he agrees to keep an eye on you, well then I think I can come up with the money.”
“Thanks mom.” It was in the bag now. Clarence Overby was my best friend. His dad would never say no. He always said it was easy to find Clarence because he was always with me. Mrs. Overby would add it was easier to find me because I was always at Clarence’s house. “Can I go tell Clarence the good news?”
“He still has to say yes,” she reminded me.
“Yeah, I mean yes.” I was out the door and through the hedge separating our houses in a flash.
The next couple of weeks we learned the history of Oregon light houses. The importance of shipping goods by sea. The tragic wrecks that took place on the rocky shoals of the Oregon coast. Why the lighthouses were so important. We learned about the keepers and their families who lived in these remote outposts keeping the lights burning.
Clarence and I read everything we could get our hands on about living in the wild. Jack London was our favorite. His story, To Build A Fire, chilled us to the bone. We practiced building fires every weekend until that magical Saturday arrived when we boarded the school bus to travel west.
When we arrived on the coast I was stunned by the ferocious wind. With nothing but water on three sides, the wind gets a running start in the north and collides with its first speed bump at Cape Blanca. It sculpted everything it touched. Trees were misshapen into distorted, cartoonish shapes. Dunes were created, blown away, and recreated. Waves crashed on the rocks grinding them to sand.
After the tour of the lighthouse we retreated to the camping area. Tucked into an ancient pine forest the wind rushed by over our heads, but we were spared the pummeling we’d experienced earlier. The roar, however, was relentless. The treetops thrashed and the noise seemed unendurable. Some said it would die down soon, while others said we’d get used to it. Mr. Overby was in the, ‘you’ll-get-used-to-it,’ camp.
The adults started the fire in spite of Clarence and my offer to do it. Dinner was comprised of beans and franks. It was the best weekend ever. Several of us decided to explore the woods. We were warned not to wander too far, be back before dark, and not to go alone. Not alone meant just that, not alone, but what does too far mean to a group of thirteen-year-old boys? So Georgie, Bobby, Clarence and myself set out for parts unknown.
We wandered into a thick copse of trees. Twisted trunks with giant limbs reached for us. The branches were close together, making the trees easier to climb through than to walk around. The rough bark caught at our clothes and shoes. The four of us climbed higher until the wind grabbed at us once again. I worked my way down, going no direction in general, when someone yelped and cursed. It wasn’t Clarence, so I paid little heed until they called out to me. Heaving a big sigh, I’d hoped they could hear over the wind, I worked my way back. Georgie’s calf was gashed a good one, and bleeding pretty heavy when I entered the circle.
“What?” I said.
“Watch this, Curt,” Clarence said. “Do it, George.”
George shifted his position, pushing his bleeding leg against a tree limb. When he pulled it away it was clean. You could plainly see the scrape, until the blood slowly seeped out blurring the wound.
“So?” I shrugged.
“The tree soaks up the blood like a sponge,” George explained.
“He wiped it off on the tree.” I pointed at the tree in question.
“Did not,” George seethed.
“Get out. Are you guys falling for this manure?” I started away.
“Show him again,” Clarence said.
“You do it,” Geogie said.
“I’m not doing it.” Clarence shook his head. “Not no way, not no how.”
“Are you afraid?” Bobby chimed in.
“You do it, if you’re so brave. I dare you.” I pointed a challenging finger at Bobby’s chest.
“Fine.” He pulled a Barlow pocketknife out and proceeded to slice his thumb straight across his fingerprint. Blood welled up and dripped onto the ground. He placed his cut against the tree, and then pulled it away. His finger was clean, the bark absorbing the blood like a gauze pad.
When it welled up again, I stepped in closer. “Let me hold your thumb.”
Bobby shrugged and held out his hand. I guided it to a different branch and pressed it for a one thousand count and pulled it away. It was clean. I whistled my astonishment.
“You want to try it?” Bobby held out his Barlow.
“No thanks. I’m not feeding these trees my blood.”
“I double dare you.” Bobby thrust the knife at me handle first.
A double dare couldn’t be refused. I took the knife and repeated Bobby’s action, slicing my thumb. Clarence followed me. We stood around in awe watching the blood disappear from our various wounds.
George interrupted with a weak. “Hey guys.” He pointed down at his leg.
A smaller branch had wrapped itself around his leg. It nuzzled in as if holding on. I nudged it with my foot. It didn’t move.
George pulled, but his leg didn’t come free. “Get it off me.” Panic laced his voice.
We bent to the task, but it might as well have been made of iron. Bobby brandished his Barlow and proceeded to saw through the branch. When he cut into the bark, a pink sap dripped from the wound. We gasped as one when we saw it. Bobby doubled his efforts to cut through the branch.
TO BE CONTINUED
We will wrap this one up on Wednesday in plenty of time for Digger and his guest. I hope you are enjoying story time. It would help me if you left a comment in the box provided for such things below. And now for our wrap it up quotation.
“It is not death, but dying, which is terrible. …”
by Henry Fielding
Thanks For Tuning In,