The animal was a fairly large one, at least from my experience with rabbits. It was light brown in color and of the kind I would call floppy-eared, although I am certain they actually have a much more official, scientific name. He was holding it by the neck and its elongated hind legs were kicking feebly against the air. Brown Suit crouched down with it, stroking its head and muttering something which I could not make out. Finally he placed the rabbit onto the ground and let go of the neck. I thought it would bolt away, happy to be free, but instead it just hopped two times and then looked back at the old man. They stared at each other, the rabbit with its nose-twitching, Brown Suit shooing it away, until finally the animal turned and disappeared into the brush and leaves. I waited, tucked under the branches and shadows of that white pine, until he had walked past me toward his car. I then went over and examined the spot where he had released the rabbit.
I do not know what I had expected to find there, or really why I walked over there, except for my own increasing curiosity over everything having to do with this strange place. I of course did not find anything and had started walking back toward my truck when a sudden rustle in the bushes caught my attention. I looked over toward a small group of saplings and caught a glimpse of a light brown, floppy-eared rabbit peeking out at me. Shaking my head, and trying to convince myself that it was a different rabbit then the one released by the old man, I started walking again. It was about four minutes later, just as I was breaking out of the last part of the forest, that a thought occurred to me. Could the old abandoned mine be around here? I was not completely certain of where I was but did know I had come a fair distance from Brown Suit’s house. He had told me I was off by thirty miles, although no direction was ever mentioned. I decided to pull the atlas out from behind the seat of my truck and see if I could get a better idea of my location.
Knowing I had passed through Mississippi Mills a short time before we stopped gave me a fairly good idea of where I was, and it did in fact turn out to be a little over thirty miles from Clyde Forks. Considering myself a super-sleuth for having connected this information together I set off back into the woods to explore for the mine. Four hours later, and after having stumbled several times into the backyards of a neighboring group of houses on a cul-de-sac, I sat down exhausted on the tailgate of my truck. At this point, having come completely unprepared for such a prolonged adventure, I was extremely hungry and thirsty. Two hours later, and after a very good meal at a place called Kettle’s Cafe, I was back in Clyde Forks and searching for a local church.
I found it, tucked rather surprisingly behind a thick row of trees directly across the road from Eyebrows’ bungalow. Somehow I had driven right past it twice, although it was rather hard to see from the road which gave my detective ego some small relief. The church was simple and small, sided in white wood and with a roof in need of repair. I walked in through an unlocked back door and was met promptly by a man of medium height and build, soft-spoken but with an earnest face. He asked if he could help me.
“Reverend, I’m Reverend Currie” he interrupted me but then waved me to continue.
“Sorry, Reverend, I am trying to find out some information about this place and was hoping someone here could help me.”
He smiled a little at my question but did not explain why, responding instead with, “Of course, what did you want to know?”
That seemed like the perfect opening, especially considering how full of questions my head was, so I unloaded my story on him. He listened to the whole thing very patiently, his eyes twinkling a little in amusement as I described my interactions with the locals. When I was done, having ended with the rabbit looking at me from the bushes, he reached over and gently grabbed my shoulder.
“You do indeed seem to have picked up quite a few observations about Clyde Forks. It’s an interesting place as you already figured out. I might be able to give you a few answers but think I may not be exactly the person you were looking for.”
I gave him a questioning look and he continued.
“Something tells me that you went looking for a church because you were hoping to find an old priest who had been around for decades and could tell you his own history of this area.”
“Yes, I guess I was but I knew when you met me at that door, well you weren’t exactly going to be that guy. You’re way too young.”
“Yes, that too, but more importantly I’ve only been here for a few months.”
I did not respond immediately as something was struggling to make itself known from my subconscious. It finally came through.
“So you just moved here a few months ago? That’s weird because that old lady I spoke to this morning said that no one had moved here in forty years or so. She said her and her husband were the last ones.”
“Ah yes, well I think she was basically telling you the truth. The people around here do not exactly count the church ministers as among their population.”
“Really? Is this not a very religious place?”
“It’s not that. It’s just that they have been rotating ministers in and out of this place for almost sixty years, not one of them spending much more than a year here. I guess the locals think of us like some kind of interchangeable knick-knack. It makes it a challenge to minister to them but I guess the church brought that struggle on itself. I just keep smiling and trying to do my best.”
“So, I guess you don’t know much then, huh?”
He paused before answering, considering me I guess, or whether he wanted to share things with me. Then he spoke.
“Well, maybe not everything you want to know, but I do know a few things.”
“Well, for one thing, that mine is not thirty miles from here. It’s just a couple of miles west.”
…to be continued