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.
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