Up and Down the Holler


Green, Mountain, Car

The sun sets lower and lower in the sky.  Days are getting shorter now.  The evenings are nippy; a welcome respite after the dog days of August.  After Labor Day it cools off quickly here on Camden Mountain.  The spiders have finished their egg sacs and most birds have flown south.  The bears are fat and sleepy, full of fish and berries and forage.

I put a sweater on and told Grandma I was going up the holler to look for injuns.  She just smiled and told me to be back before supper, she needed wood brought in before it got dark.  Off I went in search of injuns, bears and rebel soldiers. When you play alone sometimes you have to improvise.  I changed up the bad guy pretty often in those days.  When I tried to imagine what a real injun looked like I could see his clothes, his boots, tattered and scuffed.  I could see scars on him and long matted hair.  I never could put a face on him though.  I had never seen a bad guy (except pictures in a book) and had no idea what one looked like.

I picked my way up the holler and past the trees, being careful to look for tracks that might have been made on the carpet of grey-green moss, twigs and old leaves that blanketed the mountainside.  About a mile of the road was visible, twisting its way up the mountainside before it disappeared into the woods.  Over the hill there was a clearing, dotted here and there by huge boulders. Pa says God put the boulders here, that he likes to play marbles with them.

I continued on my way, kicking at leaves here, checking under a rock there.  An injun would hide his arrowheads under a rock, so he could have ’em nearby if got himself into a fix.  Everyone knew that.  I checked a birch tree; sometimes they would mark them by writing codes on the bark.  Slash marks and cuts, not everyone knew how to read them but I did.  Sure enough, injuns had been here!  I hunkered down and crept along, they couldn’t see you if you were low to the ground.  After a while my legs got tired of creeping, and I stood, looking to see what else I could get into.

What was THAT?  I could see a car coming!  That was an event not to be missed in these parts, cars were almost never seen up on the mountain.  Injuns forgotten, I ran as fast as my legs would carry me back down the holler.  The car was just coming around the corner when I pulled up by the back door.

Loud and smoky, it rumbled slowly around the curve then straightened out and came on…right past our house.  I ran beside it the length of the yard, waving and smiling.  It didn’t matter that they hadn’t stopped, or that I didn’t know them.  I was going to got to school and tell Billy Macy about the big black car that I saw and he didn’t.  I would be king of the playground for a while with this one, unless everyone else saw it too (or heaven forbid it stopped in their yard and not mine).  I wondered if anyone would believe me.

I ran alongside and just before it got past the yard one of the dusty windows rolled down and a hand tossed a pack of gum out the window.  A whole pack of gum!  I could not believe my luck.  The man driving the car smiled and waved.  I thanked him, smiling ear to ear.  There was a lady beside him and pretty soon they were both laughing as they drove out of sight.  I walked back to the house, imagining what Billy Macy was going to say about this!

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