March, 1935

(This is another short excerpt from the novel I’m working on.  This scene takes place in 1935.  Originally, these were going to be minor characters with a short backstory, but they keep talking to me, they won’t shut up, so I’m letting them go until they’re done.

Not much happens yet in this scene, it’s getting too long to excerpt, so I thought I’d share what I’ve got so far)

Randy and Corey were exploring, deeper into the forest than they’d ever been before.  They’d left the three mile out east-west fire road two hours earlier and headed south, toward the noon day sun that shone bright in the sky.  Andy was fourteen, Corey ten years old. At first, the forest was thick with scrub maple and birch, the terrain mostly flat, with occasional short and gradual knolls, the ground damp and black, the March trees grey and leafless. Then, as they continued south, the woods opened up and the trees, mostly oak and ash now, grew taller and older, as the ground rose and fell with undulating hills and draws, covered by a thick blanket of dead leaves and green moss. On the northern slopes of the knolls and rises un-melted snow banks stubbornly clung to the mossy ground.  The previous night’s frost had burned off and lifted in thin clouds of mist that the hungry morning quickly consumed, its satisfaction evident in the rays of warm sunlight that crossed Randy and Corey’s faces.

They were looking for more artifacts of the logging camps that at one time, forty to fifty years earlier, in the last twenty years or so of the nineteenth century, dominated the area. They’d seen the paintings and the old photographs on the wall of the feed and implement store of men with handlebar moustaches and wool coats and misery whips standing dwarfed by the massive trunks of the immense fallen white pines they stood next to.  The white pines were gone now, but the implements, the men’s tools, remained where abandoned, their usefulness passed to all but the slow and steady forces of rust and decay. Randy and Corey had already found, on previous expeditions, rusted out straw lines and springboards and peaveys and grapples, and a pair of abandoned calks, in surprisingly good condition, still wearable, with their soles still intact. Mr. Nelson had partitioned a corner in his old machine shed for the boys to stash their findings. He seemed to be the only one who expressed any interest in them, showing them to his father when he’d visit. Grandpa Nelson, as Anne and Laura called him, was at the time in his seventies, and remembered the times during his childhood that his father worked on a logging operation, as a chokerman and a faller. Randy and Corey would see Mr. Nelson and Grandpa approaching the machine shed and run over to show him what they’d found, and Grandpa Nelson would explain what each piece was and how the loggers used it and how rare or common it was, dismissing the spool of rusted cable they’d unearthed as nothing more than haywire, and getting animated at the site of the steel spiked pole, explaining that it was a peavey and was used to provide leverage when moving large logs.

At about one o’clock, about two hours after having left the fire road and heading deeper into the forest than they’d ever been before, Randy was relieved when they found a stream, choke full of snow melt and gurgling as it rushed south. He pulled out his jackknife and carved a deep gouge into the side of an oak tree.

“What are you doing?” Corey asked.

“Marking this tree, in case we get lost,” Randy replied.

“How would we get lost? We’ve got the sun to go by.”

“Well,” Randy said, “that’s all well and good if it stays out. But what if it gets cloudy?”

“Okay,” Corey said.  “Suppose it does get cloudy.  How are you gonna find one oak tree in all these woods?”

“Cause we ain’t gonna leave this stream now that we’ve found it. And by marking up this tree, we should be able to see it on our way back, and know this is where we found the stream, so this is where on the way back we leave the stream.  We know home is due north from here, and we’re about an hour away from the fire road.  So by reading the tree with the creek, we oughta be able to figure out which way north is.”

“Wish we still had a compass,” Corey said.

“We ain’t gonna need no goddamn compass, cause we ain’t gonna get lost,” Randy said.

“How much further we gonna go?”

“Not much,” Randy said.  “I’d like to follow this stream a little ways, see where it goes.  Unless you’re too scared.”

“I ain’t scared of nothing,” Corey protested.

Randy and Corey followed the stream as it wove its way through the high banks that over thousands of years it’d carved into the forest floor, bending, widening and narrowing as it slipped between the knolls, gathering momentum as it flowed under the cover of the trees, which were taller here.  There wasn’t any scrub brush in this part of the forest, just the trees, wide, wide and tall and far apart, and leaves, dead leaves, several inches deep covering the forest floor.  As they went the sky grew grayer as the sun disappeared behind a veil of darkening clouds.

Then, without warning, the woods opened up and dissolved into a huge, flat meadow, with long brown and gray grasses.  From where they stood, looking out at the meadow, they could see the stream, a thick blue line winding through the brown and gray, and they could see other pockets of blue open water scattered across the meadow.  The meadow was flat and wide, bordered by higher ground of the knolls and hills. A couple of hundred yards beyond where it began, where Randy and Corey were standing, the meadow narrowed, with knolls on both side encroaching in and pinching it, then it widened again, immense and open, the tree line on the other side looking small and distant against the suddenly immense afternoon sky, which was now a study in contrast between ever threatening shades of gray.

Randy and Corey stood looking at the landscape ahead of them, and they both took notice of the sky, devoid of any of the sunlight that had made the morning so warm and welcoming,. They both heard the wind begin to gather cold momentum through the dead trees, and they both felt its chill.

2 thoughts on “March, 1935

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