Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Into the woods

I finally made it to the woods. I have begun my life of isolation and ignorance of the outside world. I will have to make trips from time to time to the nearest town but I have warned the town folk not to update me on world events. By this time next year I will not know who our President is, if Israel has bombed Iran or visa-versa. I will not know if we have pulled out of Iraq or it there has been another terrorist attack on the US. I will not have heard the words “global warming” or economic downturn” or care diddley about the price of oil. I already feel a great sense of relief and calm. Let me tell you a little about my secret cabin in the woods. The land has been in my family since 1967. My parents bought the approximately 500 acres from a lady named Taylor for $3500.00. There is a small river that borders one edge for about a mile. Splitting the land is Rock Creek that runs into the river and forms a small delta that provides a low water crossing which is the only practical vehicular entrance into the property. There used to be a rickety swinging bridge that crossed the river but seasonal floods eventually knocked it down. There are literaly miles of exsisting logging roads, oil roads and ATV trails throughout the property. The ATV trails are relatively new and, although I don’t encourage it, the locals seem to enjoy using the land. They have been very respectful. On either side of Rock Creek are rock formations and typical West Virginia mountains that rise steeply up to zig-zaggy ridges. There is very little flat land in the area. According to local lore and some evidence there was a town named Owl Rock on the property around the turn of the last century. There was a schoolhouse, a sugarcane mill and a number of small homesteads. In my explorations I have found two large millstones that confirm the mill’s existence. My cabin was built on a hill near the mill site in about 1930. It has three rooms and a large front porch that overlooks the valley. I plan to spend a good deal of my spare time on that porch. The nights are still strangely silent to me. No sirens, helicopters, diesel trucks, no thump of bass speakers from disrespectful youth and no TV background noise. In the early evening there is plenty of sound. Flirting birds, insects and frogs all sing their hopeful songs but ease up around ten o’clock like a self- imposed curfew. The summer mornings provide a spectacular light show. At dawn there is generally a mist that gives way to the sun peeking over the eastern mountain. The sunlight is filtered by the trees and constantly changes the patterns of shadow and light on the ground. Dew on hundreds of spider webs built in the trees during the night catch and refract the light into little blue sparkles. I feel safe here. A beautiful thing about West Virginia is the absence of dangerous natural things. In Florida I had to worry about hurricanes, tornados, gators, brush fires, extreme lightning, coral snakes scorpions, extreme heat, sharks, amoebas, jellyfish, sand spurs, fire ants, heavily armed gangs, home invasions, burglars, dishonesty and water shortages. About the only natural thing that causes great problems to the common man in West Virginia is the occasional flood. My cabin sits high enough for that not to be a concern. We have snakes, but I’ve only seen one blacksnake in my last ten years of visits. There are ticks but they are more of an aggravation than a hazard. There was another cabin built along Rock Creek that my father used for hunting. He allowed two local brothers to live in the cabin with an agreement they would keep a path clear to the cabin from the swinging bridge. When we would visit the property my Dad would give the brothers some whiskey and they would disappear into the woods until we left. The brother’s names were Dexter and Holly Sleath. On Halloween night in 1969 Holly shot Dexter with a shotgun and burned the cabin down leaving Dexter on a bed inside. As a teenager I remember visiting the site with my dad and the only thing standing was the large stone fireplace and chimney. Nearby, a charred bed spring still had a few tiny bones overlooked by the local sheriff. All that remains of other cabins on the property are the stone chimneys, foundation stones and bits of rusted tin roofs. Perhaps that will be all that remains of my time here.

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