A Faraway Song (Part 17)

I drove slowly over there, thinking about how I was going to approach him if he was home.  I had quite a few questions for him running through my mind and I realized that asking them could easily elicit  a hostile response.  Brown Suit had not seemed that friendly even at the best of times. My interrogating him about the strange things in Clyde Forks, and more specifically about his own behavior, was probably not going to improve his mood.  Still, I felt that I needed to do it.

As I turned onto Cemetery Road I slowed down even more, my thoughts switching to the mention of an Otto Clements who had been reported as living on this road.  It seemed probable that he still lived there and I was hoping to find his name on one of the mailboxes that lined the road.  That, however, turned out to be yet another odd thing about the place, as not one of them had even an address on the side.  I had not noticed it before but all of those mailboxes looked the same, the standard model you might imagine and either black or green in color.  Only one had any kind of identifying mark on it, a faded sticker of a Canadian flag attached to Shotgun’s box.  As I pulled up at the end of the road, off to the side of Brown Suit’s driveway, he opened his side door and stood there looking at me.  I walked over and put on my friendliest face.

“Hello!  I was hoping that you would be home.  Do you have a few minutes to talk?”

He was not wearing his fedora and his hair looked slightly disheveled.  He scratched at his long scar as he replied.

“About what, boy?”

“Well, you asked me before if I liked history and this place, well, I have questions about it that I thought you might be able to help me with.  You seem to know a lot about things around here.”  I thought appealing to his vanity might work.  I waited as he stared at me, still scratching at his scar.  Finally he turned around and walked inside, calling, “Fine, come in,” over his shoulder.  Once we were seated at the table, again with glasses of water, he spoke.

“What is it that you want to know?”

I took a deep breath before starting, wondering how far I would get before he became angry and threw me out.

“Does someone live here with you?”

“Why do you care?” he growled back, his voice as always sounding right inside my ear.

“I’m just wondering I guess, it’s just a getting to know you kind of a question.”

“What’s your next one?”

Strike one for me I thought before going on.  “You told me that the mine was thirty miles away.  I found out that was not true and that it really is just a few miles from your house here.  Why lie to me about that?”

“I thought it was obvious that you shouldn’t go there but you weren’t listening.  I was trying to protect you.”

“From what?” I replied.

“Danger naturally.”  Brown Suit was answering calmly now, his voice softer than when we started.

“I went there you know, with the reverend, and nothing happened.  I’m here, all safe and sound.”

“That doesn’t mean you weren’t in danger.”

“Again, from what?”

He just looked back at me with a face that was serious and also sympathetic, like I was too stupid to understand what I was facing.  He stayed silent so I continued.

“You know, I followed you one day, out toward Mississippi Mills.  Past it a bit, onto that dirt road.”  I paused, figuring that would get some kind of reaction but Brown Suit just sat there with that same look on his face.  “And then you walked back into the woods and released that rabbit.  What was that all about? What is your whole rabbit collection in your backyard here all about?”

He leaned forward, elbows on the table, before speaking.  “You had no business following me around, boy.  What I do is not your concern, or wasn’t any of your concern anyway until you decided to stick your nose into it.  You want answers?  Do you want to understand something about this place? Do you really want to learn something?”  His face had darkened as he spoke, eyes seeming to glow in the deep recesses of his face.  He repeated himself. “Do you really want to understand?”

I nodded but that was apparently not enough, as Brown Suit continued to look at me silently, a demanding scowl on his face.  I spoke softly.  “Yes.”

“Fine then.  Maybe this time you will listen to me and stop this little adventure you are on.”  Leaning back into the chair he drank some of his water, then slowly and deliberately set the glass back down.  His facial features were still tense as he resumed speaking.  “Let’s begin with rabbits, which you seem to know little about.  I’m sure you think that rabbits are soft and fuzzy little animals, cute but a little skittish?”

“Well, yeah, sure,” I replied.

“Rabbits are also known as Fear Callers by Native Americans.  I suspect you didn’t know that and don’t know why, do you?”

I shook my head in reply and he continued.

“Rabbits, even when they are just sitting there looking at you, even when they may seem perfectly normal, are incredibly afraid.  It is their natural condition.  They are so afraid, so timid and scared, that they actually project that fear outward, like a call into the wilderness, a call that attracts predators.  It draws in those who want to eat them.”

“That’s creepy and weird.”

“Maybe, but it is also very useful.  They can be used to attract predators toward them and also draw them away from other prey at the same time.  Plus, they are relatively stupid animals and easy to catch, so not only do they attract hungry hunters but those animals also end up eating them almost every time.  It makes for satisfied predators.  Do you understand me so far?”

“Yes, I get it.  What does that have to do with anything around here?”

“To understand that you need to be willing to believe in evil.  Do you?”

“What kind if evil?  Cultural? Religious?”

“I mean real evil, unnamed and unseen, the kind that exists in this world but which we never want to face, never want to deal with.  The kind that is simply part of nature and hunts us all.”


…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 13)

He stood up and retuned the flask to it’s hiding place within his jacket.  I remained sitting, looking up at him as he started to walk away.  He did not look back, content it seemed to leave it at that, so I challenged him with a question.

“Why did you agree to take me out here?  I mean, if you are so afraid of this place, so afraid of whatever it is you think you heard, why come out here with me?”

He stopped and turned around, standing there with his hair backlit by the sunlight.  Before replying he rubbed his face a few times, seeming to be considering what to say.  He was looking past me, back at the mine entrance, when he finally spoke.

“I think I was hoping that someone, you, could confirm it for me.  Or maybe not, I mean, not confirm it.  I think I just wanted someone else to come out here and see if they heard it too.  Then I would know if I was just crazy or if all of the stories about this place are actually true.  Checking on my own sanity I suppose.   And that’s all I can say.”  He turned back away from me, heading up the small incline.  I sat for a few more minutes before my brain had processed his last few comments.  Then I took off after him at a run, catching up and pulling at his arm.

“What stories are you talking about?  I thought you didn’t know anything about this place, or its history?  You told me that you knew nothing about this mine expect its location.  What did you mean back there?”

Pulling his arm away he stalked off, muttering, “Damn, I said too damn much,” to himself.  Those were the last words he spoke all the way back, although he did manage to drain the flask along the way.  I followed along, asking questions to his back for awhile before finally giving up and then spent the remainder of the time trying to puzzle out whatever lessons I had learned from the day’s adventure.  I also resolved to not let the reverend off easily.  We reached the driveway for the church and he turned in without offering a goodbye or even a glance back at me.  I suppose he thought I was going to keep on going down Clyde Forks Road toward my truck, but I turned into the driveway right behind him.  When he realized this he turned around.

“Don’t follow me in here.  I’m done for the day.”  His words were spoken with just a little bit of heaviness, the edges of the alcohol showing through.

“I want an answer to what I asked you.”

“We already talked about this.”

“No we didn’t.  You walked off and haven’t said a word since then.”

“I meant before that.  I told you what I knew before and that’s all I know.”

“I don’t think so.  I think you know more than that.  You were talking before about how secretive everyone here is, and it turns out you are too.  I just want to figure out what is going on in this place.”

He smiled at me, in a sad and condescending way.  “No you don’t.”

“I do.”

“You aren’t even from anywhere around here.  You’re just a kid on a temporary adventure.  This place will mean nothing to you when you leave.  So go now, and just forget about it.”  He turned and walked away again.  I followed him and a minute later we were standing in the small office area of the church, the reverend staring up at the ceiling in exasperation and me standing resolutely right inside the doorway.

“How about you just tell me what you heard in the mine?”

He waved me toward a chair.  “Fine.  I’ll be back in a minute.”

I was excited as I sat there waiting for him, hoping that this was where I actually started to learn something about the place.  Maybe this one story would lead to another, or to some actual fact that I could check, or maybe to a piece of information I could use in my investigation.  When he came back the reverend was carrying a bottle of whiskey.  He sat down with a long sigh, then opened the bottle and poured a rocks glass halfway full.  After taking a long drink he started talking.

“Ok, so here you go.  Take it for whatever you will and then leave  me alone.  It was the third time I hiked out there, the other two times I had just poked around the entrance a little bit, pulling back the branches, not going in.  Like I said, I’m not much of an adventurous type.  I prefer things normal and easy.  So, that third time I kind of dared myself to go deeper, to step into the mine itself.  I guess it was a self-improvement kind of thing, overcoming my fears.”

He took a small drink of his whiskey and then resumed talking.  “So I did it, I had those branches pulled back just like the other two times, but then I stepped in and let them drop behind me.  My heart was racing, I mean it too, it was beating like a hammer in my chest so hard that it almost hurt.  I just stood there, right up against the branches, sticking my fingers back through them toward the outside.  It made me feel just a little bit better you know, like I could escape easily if I had to.  It seemed so quiet in there and dark.  I mean, it was darker than outside of course, but I could see things scattered around on the ground, although I couldn’t remember any of the details later.”

He stopped talking again and finished off the remaining whiskey in one large gulp, pouring another half glass right away.  He traced his left index finger around the rim of the glass for a moment before continuing.  “After a couple of minutes my heart had calmed down and I was about to step out, figuring I had conquered it, that I had stood there and nothing bad had happened.”  He ran his right hand slowly though his hair, his voice dropping to a murmur.   “It was like a whisper, just a really faint whisper.”

He stopped talking then, for several long minutes, sipping slowly from the glass which he kept held up to his mouth.  Finally I prompted him.  “What whisper?”

A sigh escaped his lips before he spoke.  “The voice, her voice, it was just the faintest whisper.  There was no wind outside, and the mine was still, but that voice came from inside there, from somewhere deep inside there.  I’m coming, that’s all it said, maybe four or five times just repeating itself, like she was calling to someone.  I’m coming.  I was so scared that I ran for the outside.  I didn’t even pull the branches back, I just ran through them, and I kept running until I couldn’t go anymore.  I must have covered a mile or more through that forest, face all scratched up from the branches I ran through, knee banged up when I tripped over some roots, I kept going though until I couldn’t hardly breathe.  Then I just collapsed in a small clearing and I was still shaking in fear as I recovered.”  He poured and drained another glass of whiskey and then just stared at me.  My skin was tingling from the story, the hair on my neck raised up and my mind racing.

“That voice you heard, who was it?  Could you tell?”

The reverend blinked a few times and then answered.  “It was a little girl.”

…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 12)

We started out walking southwest down Clyde Forks Road, an easy path to follow, and the reverend and I chatted as we went along.  I tried asking him a few more questions about the history of the area but he proved to be as unknowledgeable as he had claimed.  After that we mostly spoke about the surrounding scenery and I told him a few things about myself.  Eventually we got to a point in the road where the reverend indicated we needed to head off into the woods, which we did and emerged fifteen minutes later in a large clearing.  He explained to me that this was the former railway bed for the K&P line and that it now was used mostly as a trail which extended for many miles north and south.  We took a quick break there as he indicated that the upcoming part of the hike was going to be the hardest and then we set off again.  By the time we reached the beginning of the mine system I was in complete agreement with Reverend Currie about the difficulty of the hike.  The forest we came through was thick and constant, broken only a few times by two-track roads and once by what appeared to be an old logging cut.  I sat down on an old tree stump to rest and take some long drinks of water.

“Quite a hike, isn’t it?” The reverend was also sitting down, in his case on a large boulder next to several oak trees.

“Damn right about that.  Oh, sorry.”

“It’s okay.  I don’t really object.  Quite frankly, damn by itself is not religiously dangerous.”  He laughed a little at his own joke.

I had taken my boots off to rub my feet and replied as I did so.  “Couldn’t we have just driven over here on that two-track?”

“Not really.  You didn’t see it the way we came but that road is not continuous all the way through the forest.  There are a few creek beds in there, and several large old quarry pits, that it does not cross.  Besides, the walking is good for you.”

“Tell that to my feet,” I replied as I checked out the surroundings.  About fifty feet away from where we both sat there was a short path heading down through the forest to what appeared to be a small clearing.  Everything else around us was just trees and bushes.  I pointed at the path.

clyde forks mine path courtesy-dualsportdiary-com

clyde forks mine path courtesy-dualsportdiary-com

“Is the mine down there?”

“It is.  There is a small campsite down there also, seems to get used a little bit.  About a month ago when I came over here it looked like someone had just left a few days before.”

“Hmmm, interesting.  Do people go into the mine?”

“No idea.  I don’t that’s for sure.”  He shrugged and finished with, “I’m not much of an adventure seeker.”

“Right.  Let’s go check it out.”  I tied my boots back up and walked slowly down the path, slipping several times on the dense leaf litter that had accumulated in several places.  At the bottom, the clearing was larger than it had looked, although still closely crowded by the surrounding trees.  A black mark in the middle, surrounded by a ragged circle of small stones, marked out a place for a campfire.  There were several other well-worn areas that seemed to verify that the place was visited and used with some regularity.  The reverend walked over to the edge of the clearing and pointed into what looked to me like just another bunch of bushes.

“It’s right there.”

I peered in closer but still saw only the bushes. “Huh?  Where?”

“Stand over here and look closely.  You see that dark patch in the middle?  That’s the entrance.”

clyde forks mine entrance ref ontarioabandonedplace.com

clyde forks mine entrance ref ontarioabandonedplace.com

I still could not see it but wanted to get closer anyway so I headed down the small incline toward the set of bushes he had indicated.  He called a warning to me to be careful and then sat down on the ground, his back against a tree.  I was almost on top of it when I could finally make out the actual entrance.

Hidden by a screen of wispy branches, the kind you can pull back without damaging, the cluttered space beyond them made me pause.  It was dark and earthy, smelling like mildew and old, damp firewood.  The ground was littered with various pieces of debris along with rocks of various sizes.  There was even an old cast iron skillet hanging from a nail on the entryway frame.  It looked too new to have been leftover from the active days of the mine, but it still struck a chord with me, something about old-time miners and days spent out in the wilderness.  The space itself was both mysterious and lonely, a kind of sad junkyard of days gone by.  I stepped further in, letting the branches fall back behind me.

It was dark inside there behind the screen of leaves, but enough light filtered through to allow me to pick my way forward.  I ran my hand over the rotting wood that made up the walls of the short entry way, the logs smooth and dusty under my fingers.  After several more steps I was past that part and into the passage beyond, one that quickly faded into blackness as it got further into the earth.  I turned my flashlight on, shining it down the shaft but the darkness seemed to eat the light, the gloom impenetrable.  I remained standing there for several minutes, breathing in the musty air and wondering about how much effort, money and planning it would take to explore the place.  Probably a lot, more than I could afford, spare or come up with anytime soon.  I walked out, back into the light, and sat down besides the reverend.  He spoke as soon as I sat down.

“Did you hear anything in there?”

“Huh?  No, it was totally silent, eerie kind of.  Why?”

“I, well,  I thought I heard something one time.”

“You heard something inside there?  When?  And I thought you weren’t the adventurous kind?”

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair.  “I’m not, not at all.  I was scared both times that I did it.  The first time was kind of a dare I gave myself.  To overcome my fear, ya know?”

I nodded and kept listening.  The reverend’s face was pale now and he looked afraid.

“You know, I shouldn’t be talking about this.  It was just the wind, I’m sure it was just the wind.  Had to be.”  He bowed his head down and shook it slowly side to side.  Then he reached inside his jacket and took out a silver flask, opening it and taking a long pull.  He spoke with his eyes closed.

“We should probably head back.”

…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 11)

Brown Suit drove past me, into the driveway and then around the back of his house, the vehicle disappearing from my immediate view.  I wandered off a little more to the south and could see some faint motion back in the trees, and then another building into which the vehicle drove.  A few minutes later Brown Suit was walking toward me, a good one hundred yards away still but his voice was right in my ear.

“What do you want?”

I waved feebly in his direction.  “Hi, I’m just checking out something I thought I heard.  It seemed to come from this direction.”

“What’s that?”

“A voice, a kid’s voice, kind of shouting like kids do when they play.  Is there one around here?”

The slightest tick had whisked across Brown Suit’s face when I mentioned the child but it faded quickly and did not return.

“No children here.”

“You sure about that?  I’m really sure that I heard it, pretty clear too, and it was definitely coming from somewhere down this road.”

“I told you that there ain’t no kids around here.  These woods play tricks with sound all the time.  You probably heard something from far away just echoing around.  Happens all the time.”

“So where are these kids then?  Where do they live if they aren’t here?  I’ve been around this place a bit and haven’t seen many houses nearby, especially any close enough for sounds to carry over here.    Or any children.”  I realized as I spoke that I was standing like an old-time Western gunslinger, feet spread apart and hands on my hips.  It really did feel like a showdown as I was certain about what I had heard.

“You’ve been in these parts a few days and you know everyone here?  You really are some kind of detective aren’t you?  I told you, there ain’t no kids.”  That last sentence was loud in my ear, almost screeching in it’s tone.  My head twisted a little in shock, instinctively turning away from a sound that it really could not avoid.  I shook my head and replied.

“I know what I heard.  I’ll find that kid.”

“Don’t threaten me, boy,” Brown Suit angrily answered back.  Then he spun around and walked quickly into his house.  I turned to look west, contemplating my next move and was greeted by a fierce but distance stare.

Standing out on the road, parallel  with the location of Shotgun’sproperty, was an older man, about six and a half feet tall and wearing what appeared to be very dark blue overalls.  He stood there, ramrod straight, with his thumbs hooked into the place on the overalls where the bib fastens at the front.  He was staring right at me with dark eyes, a look that was clearly challenging even at the distance we stood apart.  He had long grey hair and a bushy beard, one that cascaded down his chest in various shades of white.  Shaking my head to clear it I shouted a greeting at him but he did not reply, remaining as he was and continuing to stare me down.  I took a look back at the old building on Brown Suit’s property that had caught my eye, the one with the flash of red, and then I started walking up toward Mr. Overalls.  As soon as I did so he turned and walked off the road, into the driveway of the garage I had seen with all of the automotive parts piled inside of it.  I kept walking and so did he, passing by that garage, and the house it was attached to, finally disappearing through a break in the cedar bushes that surrounded that neat, split-level brick house which I had seen on my first trip down Cemetery Road.  This was the man from that house apparently, the one set far back off the road and wrapped in a strange aura of secrecy.  That intrigued me and I stopped in the road, right where he had been standing and staring at me, shouting after him that I just wanted to ask a few questions.  I still could not see him but several seconds later a door slammed from the general direction of that house and I stopped yelling to consider what to do.

There was obviously another property between me and the split-level brick house, and I also had Shotgun’s place directly behind me.  I glanced over that way and was relived to find that so far all my shouting had not brought him, or anyone else, out to check on what was going on.  I did not feel much like risking any kind of trespassing violation, especially in light of the “Beware of Attack Dog” sign posted on the garage full of auto parts.  It looked like an old sign, faded and with broken corners, but around here it seemed possible that warnings like that were meant to apply forever.  Resolving to come back tomorrow after my hike to the mine I walked back up the road toward my truck.

I awoke the next morning to the slightly disconcerting sight of Reverend Currie standing off to the side of my truck bed.  He smiled back at me as I sat up.

“Good morning!  I figured you wanted to get started early, and I always try to hike before the sun gets too high in the sky, so here I am.”  He smiled at me again, almost too nicely.

“How long have you been standing there?’

“About forty-five minutes.”  That just seemed odd to me, to stand there instead of maybe leaving a note for me, or going for a short walk and then coming back to see if I was up yet.  Why would you just lurk there?  That train of thought gave me the creeps so I buried it.

“Ok, give me a few minutes to try to get myself together.”  As I pulled my boots on I caught a whiff of myself, a rank odor that made me realize a shower was going to be needed very soon, today really.  I definitely felt the grubbiness of the last few days all over me.  Lacing up my boots I asked the reverend for a favor.

“You have a place I could grab a shower later on?  Like maybe at your office?”

He smiled at me yet again. That was getting pretty irritating but his answer was better than expected.  “Yes, actually I do.  Because there have been so many ministers in and out of this place over the years, my office has a small apartment attached to it.  I don’t use it, but there is a working bathroom in there.  You’re welcome to it whenever you care to use it.”

“Thanks,” I replied and then stuffed a few granola bars and three bottles of water in a small backpack.  “Let’s go check out that mine.”

…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 9)

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.

“Hello Father.”

“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

A Faraway Song (Part 8)

With that she leaned back heavily into the cushions of the sofa, her eyes closed tight.  Over the course of the next thirty seconds her face relaxed completely, the wrinkles around her eyes and mouth smoothing out slightly, her mouth sagging open just a bit.  I wanted to ask her to repeat what she had said but instead stood up and walked out of the house, taking care to lock the door behind me.  It was still early in the day, the cool air from earlier still lingering around especially in the shadows of the trees in her yard.  I sat underneath one of them and thought about what to do next.

On top of all of the other weirdness about this  place I now had the cryptic question from Eyebrows to ponder, even though I thought it possible it had just been the ramblings of a tired old woman.  I needed to find someone in the area who would tell me about the actual history of Clyde Forks, not just when people were born or to whom they were related.  Most of the residents seemed to be poor conduits for this kind of information and I eventually decided that finding a local church might be a better option.  Surely a pastor or priest who had been in the area for awhile would have some good historical details to share.  I had no idea where to find one but it seemed to be the only plan I had so I started driving back east on Clyde Forks Road.


I had only gone a very short distance, and was just coming around the soft curve near Cemetery Road when I saw Brown Suit turn right off of that road in a Mercury Colony Park Wagon.  At least I was fairly certain it was him as the fedora and color of his clothing seemed unlikely to be repeated in this small place.  Tossing aside my other plan I made the decision to follow him.  I did not think he had seen me as he had completed the turn and was already looking east when I came around the corner.  There was very little traffic in this area, and long stretches of open road, so I believed that I could hang back a good distance and remain unobserved as I followed him toward wherever he was going.  And then we drove for a very long time.

I later knew that it had only been thirty-two miles or so as the crow flies, but that is not the route we traveled.  The roads meandered all over the wilderness out there, cutting back north and south as we picked our way east, passing through small villages and scattered towns.  We also passed through the much larger municipality of Mississippi Mills before turning right onto Upper Dwyer Hill Rd.  This was the only place where I almost lost him, as I stopped to let a young boy on a bike cross the road and ended up trapped at a stop light that Brown Suit had just passed through.  I did manage to catch up though, and finally, after one hour and ten minutes of driving, and a final turn onto a dusty dirt road, he came to a stop.

I had been hanging well back and being cautious yet I still almost went too far, stopping just as the rear bumper of his car came into view, the vehicle parked on the far side of a small group of cedar bushes.  Feeling I was too close, I put my truck in reverse and eased back up the road, going about five hundred feet and pulling into a break in the tree line.  Grabbing a jacket I had stuffed behind my seat, I set off carefully back toward where Brown Suit had parked.  When I got there, he had already exited his car, but I caught sight of his fedora fading into the shadows of another tree line about four hundred feet east of the road.  I did not think he knew I was there but I still wanted to be careful in following him now that we were on foot.  Waiting a few minutes, I then walked in the general direction I had seen him go, doing my best to stay in the shadows as I walked along.  The first few minutes were easy as the land was relatively clear, but then I had to plunge into woods, which were close in places and then would fade to scrub brush and collections of dead fall.  I could hear someone ahead of me making plenty of noise, and I assumed it was him as that was the only guide I had to go on.  My own steps were tentative and light and I felt that I was falling further behind.   Ten minutes later the sound ahead of me stopped just as I climbed over the trunk of a large, dead oak tree.  I froze, the rough edges of the decayed bark pressing against my palm, a mosquito buzzing around my ears.  Slowly I lowered myself to the ground and looked around.

Everything was screened by the trees and I could not make out anything other than the gentle swaying of their branches.  I tried standing up a little bit more but the results were no different.  I needed to be much closer to wherever Brown Suit was in order to figure out what he was doing.  Without the sound I had no idea which way to go, but I did at least know the general direction it had been coming from before it stopped. Starting off toward that location, I crept along in a crouched position, pushing branches aside carefully when I could not avoid them, stepping down gingerly on the twigs and leaves that littered the ground.  After four or five minutes of this I caught sight of him, leaning down to take something out of a large green sack on the ground.  My view of him was screened by the heavy, drooping branches of a white pine tree and at first I thought he had brought out a fur hat, which seemed like an odd thing to be carrying into the woods.  That was quickly corrected as he turned more in my direction and I could see that he was holding a rabbit.

…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