A Faraway Song (Part 4)

“Do you like history?”  The man asked me this while refilling his glass at the sink.  He had gestured toward mine also but I had waved him off.

“I guess so.  It usually interests me anyway, if it’s useful.  Not boring stuff, but a good story about something or some interesting details, yeah, I like those.”

“Ok.  So, this will be a little history lesson for you about that mine.”

“For the purpose of keeping me out of it, I suppose?”

Brown Suit just raised his eyebrows in reply, then drank half of his water.

“That mine goes back a ways, basically to around 1918.  There was a family up here at the time, the Caldwell’s, kind of prominent in business and politics.  They made some decent money by investing in the Wilbur mine and the son, Boyd, he came over this way and put in stakes for what became the Clyde Forks mine.  He didn’t stick around for long though, just enough time to dig a few holes and put in his claim.  Probably didn’t even pull one ton of barite out of that ground.  That family wasn’t really the type to spend a lot of time in the field, if you know what I mean.  He basically went back to Lanark and got comfortable, bought some more businesses, mostly mills and the like, got elected to Parliament and we never heard from him again.”

“We, meaning you were here?  In 1918?”  I was skeptical of that claim but thought it might just be possible given how old this man looked.

He finished his water and continued on.  “So it just sat there, with not much happening to it, and eventually his claim ran out and then someone else picked it up, and then that all repeated itself for decades.  Claims, a little fuss, no action.  Then a few locals up here decided to take a crack at it in the late 1950’s. That’s when the first person disappeared.”

I raised an eyebrow at that.  I kind of felt like this story was going to end up being about some reason not to go to the mine, but I had not quite expected it to go this way.  I guess I was expecting tales of people dying in the mine, not disappearing.  Me and the old man stared at each other for a few moments and then he continued.

“They spent three years on it, surveying and taking samples and drilling, all for nothing much.  They were closing up shop, getting the equipment out, when one day a guy just isn’t there.  Five men had gone out to clear the site and the four guys that were left were just as confused by the whole thing as everyone else was.  They said they woke up one morning and he was gone, and they figured he had given up and gone into town on his own.  They got back to Flower Station  and couldn’t find him and that’s when everyone realized he was missing.  Not one trace of him was ever found either, except for his hat, which they found hanging from the lower branches of a tree about five hundred feet from the mine.”

“Yeah, that seems a little strange.  There couldn’t have been many places he could really go I suppose, not around here.  I mean, these are all pretty small towns.  Someone would have probably noticed if he turned up nearby.”

“Yes, they would have, and he never did.”

I stretched a little and looked around the kitchen.  I had not noticed before but there was a cat with thick black and white fur sitting on the inside ledge of a window by the stove.  It yawned when it looked at me and then turned its attention back outside.

“So, that’s one missing guy.  Who else?”

“Six other people.  Two working men associated with mining operations, a local who drifted between towns, an old woman, and a young boy.  All of them were in that area right near the mine for various reasons and all of them disappeared completely.”

“How much searching was really done for these people?  I mean, this is a whole lot of water and trees around here and I expect it’s pretty easy to get lost.  Really lost.  And dying out here, well you probably wouldn’t be found unless someone stumbled right over your body.”

“That’s a good question but I can assure you that all of these people were searched for extensively.  By us, by police, by dogs, over and over again, sometimes for months.  Nothing was ever found except a few personal items.”

He stopped talking and was looking at me expectantly.  Or maybe it was just hopefully, figuring I would give in now.  I was going over his story in my head as something did not seem right, some detail was wrong or missing.  I finally thought I had it.

“So, I might see how most of these people, well how the last location of most of these people might be known.  You said they had all been in the exact area around the mine, right?”

“Yes, they were.”

“Well, I guess I buy that except for your drifter.  How would anyone know where a person like that had been before they went missing?  You said he just drifted around between the towns up here.”

“She did.”


“The drifter was a woman.”

“Oh.”  That gave me a moment of pause to reconsider my assumptions about a few things.  Then I continued.  “Still, woman or man, how would anyone know?  Maybe that person just died under some big tree and rotted away.  It might not be part of your great missing person conspiracy about the mine.”

Brown Suit rubbed his wrinkled face and blinked back at me several times, his bright, deep-set eyes seeming to turn on and off in the shadows of his brow.

“Her campsite was found right at the old entrance of the mine.  The cooking fire was out and there was a full cup of cold coffee sitting on a nearby rock.  She took off her shirt before she disappeared.”


“Her shirt was found on the ground by the coffee cup.  It was tangled up in a branch but I think that was probably from the wind blowing it around a little.”

“So she left a shirt behind?  Big deal.  I don’t think that says anything about her taking it off before she left.  Maybe it was just a random shirt from her backpack, or whatever she carried her stuff around in.”

“She only had one shirt.”

“Really?  How do you know that?”

“I gave it to her because she didn’t have one.  She only ever had one set of clothing and her shirt had fallen apart when I saw her sitting on a tree stump just up the road from here.”

“Maybe it was already off when she went missing?”


“Hmm, well maybe.  That’s a strange detail if true.  So, these six people,” and that is when it struck me.  The thing that was really off about the old man’s story.”

“You know, you said that six people went missing. But then you only mentioned five specific people?”

…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 3)

Feeling a little unnerved, I walked slowly toward the man who now stood with his hands clasped behind his back.  As I approached, a few more details about him became evident.  He was old. Very, very old, or at least looked that way.  His face was deeply wrinkled, in a way that made it difficult to distinguish his exact facial features.  It just looked like a huge mass of deep valleys and ridges, with stark black lines marking the boundaries.  His nose was strangely unwrinkled and looked odd jutting out from the crags of his face.  Blue eyes, almost midnight blue it seemed and wiry grey hair poking out from underneath a fedora were the last things I noted before I stopped about ten feet away from where the man stood.

“Were you talking to me?  Was that actually you?  Because it sounded like you were standing right next to me.”

The man did not answer, but just cocked his head a little bit to the side.

“Can you hear me?  I asked if that was you talking to me?”

“Where did you come from?”  That was his reply, delivered in a soft voice that still sounded like it was being spoken right into my left ear.  It actually made me turn my head, looking for someone else standing next to me, even though I could see his lips move with the words.

Finding no one there I replied, “How do you do that?  It’s really freaking me out.”

“Where did you come from,” he repeated, this time turning to face me completely.

I rubbed my ear in reply, some weird reaction that I suppose was my attempt to get his voice to seem farther away.  It did not work.

“Are you afraid to tell me where you came from?”

“No.  This place is just weird.  Really weird so far.  And your voice in my ear isn’t helping.”

He just kept staring at me, so I told him the whole story about coming to find the mine, getting lost, and my adventures up the road with the two people I had now nicknamed Window Man and Mr. Shotgun.  It was at that point I realized that people must have real names around here.

“What’s your name sir?”

No reply, just the stare.  Finally he turned and said, “Follow me.”

He walked toward the side of the house and I followed.  It was apparent that the front door of this place was not in use as it had a large dead tree branch blocking access to it.  From the fact that the branch was very decayed, and that the tree which is apparently had belonged to was now just a withered trunk, I figured that entry had not been used in a long time.  As the man opened the door and stepped into the house, he waved his hands in front of him quickly.  I thought I heard a chair push back inside, but when I also stepped through the door the room was empty and all was quiet.  We had entered into the kitchen, and it’s neat and clean appearance was a surprise given what I had observed outside the house.  The appliances were old but well-kept, and the small table was set with placemats and silverware for four.  The man opened a blue and green Westinghouse refrigerator and pulled out two empty glasses from the top shelf.  Filling them from the faucet on the cast iron sink, he put one down on the table and pointed at it.




“Drink some, it’s plenty warm out there.”

I raised an eyebrow at that, as I actually thought  it was a little cool out, but I was thirsty anyway and complied.  Placing the glass back on the table half-empty I tried moving my head around to see into some of the other rooms.  Had someone else been in the kitchen before I entered?  And if so, why had the brown-suited man shooed them away.  Brown Suit.  That was apparently going to be my nickname for him, as it appeared he was not going to give me his actual name.

“So, can you help me find the mine?  Is it nearby or was I way off?”

“The mine is closed and dangerous.  You need to stay away from it.”

“I know that.  It’s the whole point of why I want to go there.  You know, cool old mine, explore the darkness, you get it right?”

“It’s closed.  And dangerous.  You need to stay away from it.”

I sighed.  “So, I guess that means you aren’t going to tell me how to get there?”

Brown Suit started repeating himself again but I cut him off.

“Fine, I get it.  I’ll go ask someone else.”   I stepped toward the door but suddenly the man reached out and grabbed me, his long fingers wrapping around my forearm in a tight, vice-like grip.  As he did so, a shiver shot through my body, like when you touch a live electric wire, and I almost lost control of my bladder.  I yanked my arm but the man’s grip held.  His voice, still soft but hissing now, was loud in my ear and each word was accentuated very clearly. As he spoke he stood up, his wrinkled face coming very close to mine.  His eyes seemed to be sparking as he spoke.

“You must stay away from there.  It is dangerous.”  His grip got even tighter on my arm and I started yanking again, pushing back at the man’s narrow chest.

“Let me go!  Let go!”

Finally he did and I staggered toward the door, my balance upset by his sudden release.  I turned the knob but the door would not open.  The voice was in my ear again.

“Have a seat.”


…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 2)


Out on the road again I assessed my situation.  Although I had been a little spooked by the man in the window,  I also was determined to not let that be my sole attempt at getting some directions.  How bad could this place really be?

I did a quick check of the surroundings as I rubbed my arms against a slight chill I was feeling.  As far as I could tell, the entire area that comprised Clyde Forks stretched out before me down the short distance of Cemetery Road.  That thought matched up with the rather old map I had brought with me for the trip, which basically had two roads on it and nothing else for quite a distance.  Just a lot of trees and water.  There were some more houses further down the road though and I started to slowly walk that way, taking in the place as I went.

The first thing I noticed was that the properties in the area basically fit into two categories.  Neat and tidy was the least prevalent, although there were some very well-kept yards.  The one I was nearest to was the best example of this, looking like it belonged in a photo shoot for some kind of lifestyle magazine for senior citizens.  It was a split-level brick home with accented corners, a wrap-around white porch complete with rocking chairs, neat planters full of petunias and perfectly manicured grass.  It even had this magnificent maple tree that shaded the porch and one perfectly bent limb that arched over the sidewalk, tendrils of maple leaves slightly obscuring a clear view of the home’s front door.  After my previous experience, you might think I would have run up to such an inviting place; however, it had a strange aura about it also.  It was set back quite a way from the road, and although the yard looked nice, it also had several rows of off-set cedar bushes that wrapped it in a protective embrace.  While I was contemplating that contradiction, I assessed the other, far more prevalent category of property in the area.

Still to this day I call these kinds of yards a small-town special.  I’m not sure if it is the lack of local ordinances on blight, a natural inclination of locals in these areas to collect things, or just a lethargy that infects people in these places.  Whatever it is, it always results in the same scene: scattered rusty cars, old pieces of farm equipment, broken pottery, overgrown yards and out-buildings bursting at the seams with clutter and junk.  There were several of these in Clyde Forks, and somehow, almost impossibly, they seemed more inviting than the nice brick house with the pretty porch.  I decided to walk on down the road toward one of these less attractive places and see what I could find.


old cars

old cars

I passed on the first one, which also had an open garage full of automotive parts, because there were no vehicles in the driveway.  The property almost directly across the street though had two pick-up trucks parked right in front of the door to a double-wide trailer.   The north edge of the driveway had two moss-covered old cars standing guard.   Everything seemed quiet as I walked up, a slight breeze making the seed pods at the top of the foot-high grass dance back and forth.  As I neared the trailer I could hear the television playing inside.  With a deep breath I knocked on the door. And waited.  The sound from the television went away and then a true silence settled on the place.  I could hear someone inside grunt and the low squeak of protesting sofa springs.  A few shuffled footsteps and then a click, but not of the door, it was something else inside the trailer.  About thirty seconds later the door did open and I was greeted by a very large man with a double-barreled shotgun.  He was both tall and overweight, dirty blue t-shirt hanging out sloppily at the sides of his overalls.  He was unshaven, with small dark eyes and long dirty-blonde hair, and his breathing was raspy and loud.  I raised my hand in greeting, which he returned by reaching into his pocket and pulling out a shotgun shell.  I took a step back, after which he flipped the lever that broke open the breach on the gun.  That was enough for me, and I took off running for the road, which I managed to reach without a shot being fired.  I looked back at the trailer then and saw that the man still stood there at his door, the gun now raised up and pointed not in my exact direction but definitely out toward the road.  My mind thought “He wouldn’t,” just as he fired, causing me to instinctively duck down.  The shots were well wide of me, rustling up some bushes across the road and kicking up gravel.  Then he calmly walked back into his trailer and I got up, shaking with fear and adrenaline.

Dusting myself off, I kept my eye on the door to the trailer as I also considered what to do next.  This was obviously not the friendliest place in the world.  I think that if I had been older I would have taken the hint, but twenty-something is not an age known for that kind of good judgement.  Instead, I looked around and was a bit startled to see a man, tall and dressed in a faded brown suit, standing at the end of his driveway.  The house behind him was old and tattered, the sides covered with what appeared to be roofing shingles, and the yard overgrown but otherwise clean.  His house was the last one I could see, and the road seemed to end by meeting up with his driveway.  It was maybe two hundred feet away and the man was beckoning me with a small wave of his hand.  I glanced back over at the trailer door and then heard a voice, which I took to be the brown-suited man, although it sounded like it was a person talking right into my ear.

“He’s done with you.  Get on down here before you get hurt.”


…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 1)


k and p trail looking north at clyde fork road

The first part of this story happened awhile ago, back when there was still time in my days for aimless wandering and random missions seeking adventure.  Reading my notes from that time I almost feel like scolding myself, reaching out to slap my own face, some version of, “How could you just stop looking into what happened up there?” flashing through my mind.  It makes sense that way now, but I have to give back a little credit and kindness to my younger self.  Life got busier, my free time vanished and the mysteries of Clyde Forks became vague nighttime memories, haunting ones for sure, but just memories.  They were almost always beaten into submission by my own tiredness, and they would be gone in the morning.  I can honestly say that I would likely have left it that way except for two things.  One was a podcast I happened upon randomly in my search for audio accompaniment in quiet times.  I won’t name it here but you can find it without looking very hard.  The second was the re-reading of my tattered journal from back in the time when I first ventured up to the Clyde Forks mine.  That podcast had spooked me and my notes only made it worse.  Was there some part of what I knew, some piece of the odd and unsettling time I had spent in that area, that related to this mystery of a missing boy?

Back to the beginning…

I went there initially for a simple, if slightly dangerous, reason.  Having run out of other interesting ways to tempt death, I was planning on crawling around inside the abandoned Clyde Forks mine.  This was just another one of those places that you hear about among your adventuring buddies, some strange place way off in the Canadian brush-land.  So I went, driving well past what seemed to be the middle of nowhere, into a never-ending patchwork of water and forest.  Tired of traveling by the time I had located Clyde Forks itself, I pulled over on the side of the gravel road for the night and slept in the back of my truck, wrapped up in a light sleeping bag.  Two days later, frustrated by the apparently poor information I had on the location of this mine, I wandered back into Clyde Forks.  I guess it would be more accurate to say that I wandered  into what remained of it.

The town of Clyde Forks had been robust enough at one time, at least for a place that was located in the lumber and mining country of eastern Ontario.  Back then the Kingston and Pembroke railway ran past the town and the area was alive with all the usual activity of an active operation.  Boarding houses for the teams that pulled lumber out of the nearby forests surrounded Clyde Forks and the town itself had a decent sized population and quite a few stores and other buildings.  There was also a mine in the area of course, one which contained barite and small amounts of other useful minerals such as gold and silver.  The remains of those glory days still stood for the most part when I got there that day, covered in moss and overgrown bushes, grey buildings peeking out from behind foliage.  It was not a ghost town but it was definitely headed that way, with just the occasional modern house scattered around a small area along the Clyde Forks Road.  I had gone back with the intention of asking someone for assistance in finding the mine; however, once I arrived I found such a stillness and silence that I just stood there looking around.  It did not just seem quiet. It seemed vaguely hostile in a way I could not put my finger on.  Like walking into a local bar on a day when all the regulars are present and there are not many open places to sit.  You would be tolerated, but just barely.  Finally I shook my head and walked toward the nearest house which was down Cemetery Road, a label that did not improve the general feel of the place.  The house was made of red brick, various additions having been made over the years, all of them also in brick, but in colors that did not quite match the original.  Although it had a crumbling chimney and rotten wood window frames, the roof appeared to be brand new and the porch had been recently painted.  An odd feature that I noticed as I approached was that the ground floor windows were almost level with the scrubby grass that surrounded the home. They were also tall enough that an average-sized man could have stepped straight through the opening if the glass had not been in the way.  They made it seem as though the house had been slowly sinking into the ground over the many years it had been there, one day to be swallowed up with only its uppermost chimney stack sticking out to mark its location.

As I approached, it was obvious that someone was inside, as I could hear a radio playing and saw a few shadows behind the opaque window glass on the front door.  I knocked and the first strange encounter in Clyde Forks happened.

As soon as my first rap echoed through the house the shadows stopped moving.  The radio still played, a soft blues melody carrying through the humid air, but other than that there was nothing.  I stepped back and attempted to look into one of the windows; however, they were covered by thick, dirty white drapes.  I knocked again and this time the radio stopped playing and the silence of the area sprang back at me.  It was indeed an eerie kind of quiet.  I waited several minutes, wondering why no one was coming to the door.  I suppose you could attribute it to the remote nature of the place.  People in those kind of areas probably do not get many visitors, and when they do I expect they know they are coming before they arrive.  They probably like to just be left alone.  But if someone knocks on your door, and you know how obvious it is that you are home, well, you just answer it.  It is the polite thing to do.  Figuring that I needed to explain why I had intruded upon their seclusion, I knocked once again and called out.

“Sorry to bother you, but I just need some quick directions and I’ll be on my way.”

Again nothing happened.  Stepping back again to look toward the windows I almost jumped right out of my shoes.

Standing inside the window farthest away from me was a tall, angular man, grey-skinned and with a pinched face that had a long scar going over the right eyebrow.  He was dressed in a poorly tailored black suit and wore a battered grey derby with a red feather in the band.  The drapes, which still hung behind him shielding any view of the interior, made his dark clothing seem all the more stark. One of his hands rested on the window frame and the other was tucked inside his suit coat.  After I recovered my wits I gave him a half-hearted wave but was met with a stony look from his green eyes and nothing else.  As I stood there, with my heart still beating faster than usual in my chest, I felt that something other than the man himself was odd about this moment.  I soon figured out that this was little more than the window situation again, as I could see almost the entirety of the man in the window, all the way down his long legs to a point right above his feet.  Apparently those windows really did go all the way to the floor.  I glanced back at the man again and he remained as he had been, blinking only occasionally, expressionless and still.  His look reminded me of the way I imagine people stare at headstones of long departed love ones; somber and grieving but distant from their emotions, like it does not matter so much anymore.  I raised my hand to knock again but then thought better of it and walked off the porch, back toward the road.  As I did the radio clicked on in the house again, and that same blues melody followed me off the property.


…to be continued