MRJ

Trouble Mountain

By: Mr. J.

“Arrrrgg!!! screamed the smallest goblin as he stepped out of the shadows.” Sam began. “Now I will chew you for supper!!!”

Little Joe squirmed at the chilling story his older brother was telling. “Will they really get eaten?” Little Joe was starting to fear. “Maybe we should go play something else.”

Sam knew he should let his brother relax from the tension. “Yeah, let’s run out to the base of the waterfall.” The soft trail only covered a quarter of a mile and barely increased elevation.

These two brothers, Sam and Joseph, lived in a mountain community where their parents owned a grocery store. The store sold all kind of things from food to tools. That way the folks who lived nearby did not need to drive into town. Sam, being the eldest, always watched out for Little Joe.

One day the boys were playing near the foot of the waterfall when they heard their mom shouting for their help. “Not again!” L.J. cried.

Sam knew mom wanted them to unload items for the store. “Come on,” he said. “We better head back. Mom wants us to pack the new storage shed for the winter months.”

“No!” little Joe complained. “I want to stay and play.” Being a six-year-old meant that he was always pouting to get his way. “I ain’t going!” he yelled and he ran away from his bother.

“Fine!” Sam grumbled. He was not going to deal with a brat right now. Just let mom get him in trouble! Sam hurried off toward the store hoping Little Joe would follow.

The forest parted for the narrow pine needle path. This was his favorite memory. As the sun warmed the pine trees  scent as he jogged along. Glancing quickly he saw L.J. staring after him.  Maybe a little incentive could help. “Mom made fresh chocolate chip cookies this morning!” That did the trick. L.J. started following his brother home.

            After unloading all the cans and bags of beans from the semi-truck this family was tired. Sam was rubbing his back. Being eleven meant he had all the hard work to do – well, him and his dad. Good thing Dad let Sam use the hand truck and the wagon. Without them he would still be moving cases of cans! And those bags sure were heavy. “Why do we have the storage shed Dad? I mean, we have so many cans of food and bags of beans. We couldn’t eat these in a thousand years!” Sam was pointing to a bag of pinto beans that looked bigger than L.J.! He did not want to move that one ever again.

            “We need the storage shed because we can only hold so much in the store. And the winters up here really make it tough on travelers. No delivery truck wants to come up Camas Creek Road once there is snow up here.”

            “I love snow,” Little Joe jumped in enthusiastically. “Couldn’t we have snow all the time? We could build snowmen and have snow forts, Christmas, and...”

            Sam stopped his brother. They both enjoyed snow, yet when the warmer rains came the ugly brown melting slush was no fun. Sam recalled aloud the last summer family trip. “But then we would never have summer. And that means we would never get to visit Uncle Mark on San Juan Island.” Describe traveling to the island

            “Oh,” L.J. knew his brother was right. He loved his Dad’s brother. And the property on the island was amazing. He remembered the almost two weeks last month boating, whale watching and running the pebble beach searching for crabs!

He had moved a rock bigger than his head and found a family of green and red baby crabs.

Later his uncle took them out to check the crab pots.  The tide had finished coming in and would soon turn back out. “L.J., you get the front of the boat.” Uncle Mark told him. “Sam, you get to push us out while I crank the engine.” With no sons, only three daughters, Sam and Little Joe gave Mark some needed time with the boys. Their cousins were not interested in zooming across the water or capturing crustaceans for dinner.

            Within moments they were bouncing on the saltwater waves as the sun crept toward the Olympic Mountains in the distance. How much fun riding in the boat! “L.J. Stay in the boat,” Uncle Mark yelled as they came to a set of large waves from the Victoria ferry. “Hold on tight!”

“Yehaw! This is so much fun!” L.J. held on for dear life.

Sam wondered if their family should move to the island with Uncle Mark. He was having just as much fun as L.J., even if he did not show it as much. The mountain they lived on had some nice features, but how do you compare with the wide open waters, orca whales, and Uncle Mark’s steamed crab. They would be eating at least a crab each tonight, drenched in butter – yum!

            Dad’s voice brought them back on the mountain. “I know your mom does not want you spoiling your appetite for dinner. Let’s lock the shed and get our fresh cookies from the kitchen!” Both boys took off running, leaving dad to close and lock the shed. It was really an old tractor trailer without the wheels. They bought it at the beginning of spring and finally had filled it. This would keep out any hungry animals for years and no one would need to leave the mountain for supplies this winter!

The next day brought rain, rain, rain. Dad and mom took turns at the store and the boys stayed inside. Both completed their weekend chores, did their reading for school, and sat by the wood stove keeping warm. The weather really had turned. Summer was over and fall was here in force.

Sunday came and so did the blue sky and a little wind. The trees bent forwards and back as if bowing to the wind king. Brilliant orange, red, and brown leaves blew across the hillside. “Can we go see the waterfall?!” L.J. asked with so much excitement he was shaking and jumping at the same time. With all the rain that fell, Camas Falls would really be exciting!

“After church,” his mother reminded him. They attended the community church for Camas mountain along with twenty others. The community members and even took turns giving the Bible talk. Today was L.J.’s father’s turn. He really liked having Dad talk, but he hoped for time to move quickly so he could go see the amazing falls. He imagined the roar of the water and the constant torrent flying off the mountain.

Grandma played the piano for the hymns even though there were at least two keys that really needed tuning. “You can’t fix everything at once,” she had said. “I don’t mind waiting. We could use the $100 piano tuning money to buy the last dry goods for the winter shed.” The congregation voted and agreed. The piano could wait. Their winter food should come first.

Now the singing ended and Dad made his way to the front of the community hall. Grandpop used to do the talking every Sunday before he got sick and died. Mr. Avery took turns speaking and running the community store with his wife. They had quite a unique relationship on Camas Mountain. Everyone was a part owner of the community.

“Let us pray,” Dad began. “We thank thee, Lord for the blessings of breath, music, and song. Please use this humble servant for your honor and praise. Amen.” L.J. heard those words thinking it was time to go to see the huge waterfall, but when he looked up he realized Dad had only just started! L.J. was good at waiting, but he so wanted to see the amazing jet of water shooting off the hillside. While his father spoke, L.J. stole glances out the window. Snow and rain fell through the angry grey clouds.

By the time church ended the black forest was alive with flurries of snow. The contrast was striking. Dark ponderosa pine trunks stretched toward the storm clouds. Each snowflake fell faster, as if getting heavier the closer to the ground it fell. Now the flakes grew fatter as they collided with each other and became even bigger.

Mom looked out across the meadow and shook her head. “I am NOT going to the waterfall in this weather!” The wind chased some flakes toward the community hall building. Although many maples still had some leaves, this early October snow storm was not going to stick around long. “I am not bundled up for this,” mom complained. “I will see you boys back at the cabin. How about some nice hot chocolate?”

Dad was quick to answer, “Yes, please! And get that wood stove blazing!” Bundling their coats tighter they started toward the trail. Sandy ran in front of them, barking wildly at the snowflakes.

“I know you love the snow, you goose! But do you have to bark at the fat snowflakes?” Sam asked good naturedly.

“Maybe she thinks the snowflakes are toys to play with.” L.J. commented. “Look at her trying to get them as the disappear into the ground!”

Sandy was a large dog that loved to play. She was digging in the leaves looking for where the fallen snow had gone. Her golden-brown fur seemed to be gaining some white coloring. She was a faithful golden retriever.

“Let’s hurry boys. I want a hot drink!”

“Will we miss school tomorrow because of snow?” L.J. asked excitedly.

“This storm will not last much longer and the snow won’t stick around. The ground is not even frozen yet.”

“Race you, Dad!” Sam yelled and ran ahead with Sandy. Dad and L.J. hurried along as they stepped on pine needles and maple leaves.

“Wow! What a jet of water!” Yelled Sam. The noise required him to use a louder volume so the others could hear him. L.J. could hardly hear his brother with his earmuffs hat pulled down low.

“What?! That waterfall is really loud!!!” L.J. knew this would only last for a day before the river became a trickle. Often in the winter the waterfall became an ice fall – a frozen wall of water. Not because the temperature was just so cold, but because the amount of water coming off the mountain reduced to hardly nothing as rain changed to snow. “Dad, can we climb to the top? I know Sam and you have done that before. When can I go up too?” Little Joe was pouting some. He knew the family tradition. Dad climbed up the waterfall with Grandpa when he was ten. Sam climbed up with Dad when he was ten. L.J. did not want to wait two more years for the chance to enjoy the power of nature from that height.

“Son, you know you have to wait until you are ten. That’s just the way the Averys roll.” Dad patted L.J. on the shoulder. “Maybe we could climb it next year when you turn nine…”

Sam butted in, “Dad! That is not fair – next thing you know L.J. will get to drive sooner than me!”

“I will not Sam! You are so much older than me.”

“I mean you would climb the waterfall when you are much younger than when I did. And that is not fair,” Sam reasoned.

“Well, maybe Sam is right, L.J.” Dad cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled into the valley below. “Hello!” The sound rolled across the hillocks and bounced off the next mountain over.

L.J. knew he should delay until he was old enough, but he really did not want to. Maybe he could climb the waterfall when no one was watching, he thought. He would not tell anyone, he would just climb it to see the view and prove to himself (and his family) that he was old enough! But not today. The water was loud as it shot over the ledge and thundered against the rocks nearby. He would need to wait for a sunny day so the cliffs would be dry and not slippery. He was smart. Planning a little meant he could wait.

At home that night the snow changed back to rain again causing the metal roof to rattle with the pounding flood. “Dad, do I have to go to school tomorrow? The river will be running high. Maybe the road will be flooded?” Sam asked, but L.J. wanted the answer.

“Sam,” Dad spoke slowly, but would not give in. “You know you have a math test in two days. Besides, don’t you want to see Jordan and play on the soccer team?”

Dad was right. “Yes, but staying at home would be nice.”

“Yeah, I want to stay here forever!” L.J. butted in. “We could grow old together like Grandpop and Grandma. They hardly left the mountain and they are still here now – I mean we still visit Grandpop’s grave!” It was true that the Avery’s helped start this mountain community over 75 years ago. They really liked living in God’s country. They never needed to go anywhere else.

“But, you might want to live on an island like Uncle Mark, or in the city with your cousins.” Dad reminded them. “I mean this is a great place to live, and I don’t want to live anywhere else. However, you might.”

“Not me, Dad! I want to be just like you. I will stay here forever and run the store. I will be the speaker for church and everything!” L.J.’s huge smile was contagious and hard to argue against.

That night, as Dad tucked L.J. in to bed he smiled at their earlier conversation. L.J. was such a bubbly little boy. Secretly, Mr. Avery wished L.J. would stay. He wished the Avery legacy to go on,  that an Avery would help the residents of this mountain side live peaceful and productive lives. He stood and turned to close the drapes. The rain had slowed to a steady trickle on the wood-framed single windowpane. Each of the four panes were dripping wet. The hundred-year-old cherry tree in the front yard sprawled ever larger dwarfing their cabin home. That tree is like our mountain community. We just keep growing and producing. Nothing can stop our progress he thought.

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