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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/1970549
by brin
Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Fantasy · #1970549
A tired vet home from the war seeks peace up on the mountain.
A Night On The Mountain

The fresh pungent smell of sage and cedar hung over the hillside like a heavy clinging cloak. Moments before, a fast moving thunderstorm had passed this way, leaving a legacy of icy fat raindrops smeared onto the hot unyielding rock of the mountain. Already the steam was beginning to rise in the warm dry air of the late afternoon as lonely lizards cautiously poked their heads out from the shelter they had sought to marvel at the freshly washed world which lay before them.

The boiling black storm clouds surged onward, pushed by a swirling wind as frequent flashes of lightening flickered and tickled their glowing underbellies. Rolling up a jagged valley, they were doomed to beat themselves into infinity against the unyielding peaks which lay beyond. As if in angry protest at the fate which awaited, thunder grumbled and boomed and bounced back down along the high canyon walls as the storm passed.

With the passing of the storm the mountain would stand above the desert plains a bit higher then it had the day before. For with each fall of rain a bit of sand and gravel rushed down off the slopes to the desert below where it blended with the ancient sands that themselves would eventually be washed to the faraway sea.

In eons past the top of the mountain had once been but a small rocky knoll protruding from the bed of an ancient mighty sea. With the passage of countless days and years the waters had eventually fled, leaving behind a flat, shell littered desert plain whose perfection was marred only by the tip of the stony peak. With the passing of a hundred million seasons the winter snows and summer rains had gradually pried loose the weaker rocks and then the wind had pounded them to sand to prepare them for their journey to the sea. This was how it had always been and this was how it would always be on the mountain.

“Yeah” he murmured to himself, “I ought to be able to sleep here just fine.”

He switched off the engine of the battered old Ford and sat for a few moments, surveying the scene which lay before him through the smudgy cracked windshield of the tired truck. The heavy silence of the high desert was broken only by the ticking of the cooling engine and a rumble of thunder which rolled down from the valley above.

He was by no means a stranger to this place, for he had been here many times before. The small plateau which nestled against the stark shoulder of the mountain on one side fell steeply away on the other to present an eagle’s eye view of the dry desert valley which lay far below. Dotted with sage, rocks and cedar the only thing out of place was the old fire pit which darkened the center of the clearing.

The setting sun dropped below a thin bank of clouds to briefly bathe the hillside in a baleful red glare before finally slipping behind the Wind River Mountains which lay far to the west.

With window down he continued to sit and watch as the dark line of blackened sky in the east rose overhead and began to sink towards the fading glow to the west. A few stars winked into being and soon the air would cool and darken and the night would be complete. The high pitched yapping of a coyote drifted up to him from the valley floor below.

“Yeah” he repeated again, “I will be able to sleep here.”

The dented door of the Ford squawked in protest as he pushed it open and squawked a second time as he got out and closed it. The outside handle had broken off long ago and he left the window down so that he could get back in later.

He limped slightly as he stepped to the rear of the truck to retrieve his camping gear, moving older then his young years. While the injury that had caused the limp was minor and would soon heal, the memories that went with it would be with him much longer. Grabbing the tailgate of the old truck with both hands, he bit down hard on his lip as a flood of emotion washed over him. After a few seconds he shook off the new ghosts and took a deep breath to steady himself.

“Cowboy up, pansy” he muttered to no one in particular as he lifted his gear out of the truck bed and carried it over to where he would be spending the night.

In the fast fading light he wandered about the clearing gathering wood for the night’s fire. He knew that the old odd bits of cedar would make a bright crackling blaze that would be a good companion as long as he kept it fed and so with that thought in mind he collected a bit more then he thought he would need.

As he was walking back to the campsite with his last armload of wood a cottontail bolted from the brush beneath his feet and dashed off a bit on blurred feet before freezing behind a small clump of brush several yards away.

Instinctively he too froze and gazed at the rabbit, who now had only the gathering darkness and it’s stillness for protection. Slowly he raised his finger and pointed.

“Bang!“ he said softly, “it’s good thing for you it isn’t rabbit season or you’d be dinner, you dumb bunny!” The rabbit remained frozen in place and with smile he moved on.

With practiced hands he quickly laid the fire and a moment later clouds of sweet pungent smoke began to roll into the cooling desert air. With a soft whumpf the smoke magically transformed into a bright flame, bursting forth to push back the darkness.

The afternoon storm had dashed itself to oblivion on the rocky ledges above and the night promised to be dry and cool. Already a myriad of stars arched overhead in the crystal clear air of the high country.

Sorting through his gear by the light of the fire he paused as he lifted the light camper’s tent, weighing in appraisingly in his hand. The tent was a marvel of workmanship and modern technology. With it’s 75 ST aluminum poles, mesh windows, rip stop nylon taffeta envelope and full cover rain fly he knew that it would protect him from just about any kind of high country weather he might encounter this time of year.

With a smile, he set it aside. Tonight he would sleep out under the stars.

Next he laid the foam ground pad next to the fire, close enough for comfort but not too close for safety. Then he shook his sleeping bag out of the stuff sack and arranged it neatly on the pad. Later, when it was time to sleep he would cram his shirt into the stuff sack and use it for a pillow. His camp was now set and by his standards, cozy.

He was grateful for the fire. It had been a luxury that he had not been able afford in Afghanistan. There a fire would have told anyone for miles around just exactly where you were and that could have led to problems, big problems. He sat on a rock and looked out across the shoulder of the mountain and down on the shadowy arid valley below. He smiled to himself at the similarity. Here in the Rattlesnake Mountains of central Wyoming where he had grown up, the land was almost indistinguishable from Afghanistan. But there was one big difference. No one in these mountains wanted him dead. There was no Al Queda. No Taliban. No IED’s and no ambushes. Here he was safe from the anger and hatred of man. Here he was alone with just the mountain and his thoughts. Here he could sleep in peace.

He had been home on leave for three days after his second deployment to Afghanistan and still had another ten days to go before he would have to return to Fort Bragg and whatever else the Army might have in store for him.. While the familiarity of the home where he had grown up had been comforting on a certain level, it had proven too alien to that with which he had become accustomed. The first two nights he had lain in his old room, tossing and turning, trapped between the clean crisp sheets and stifled by the soft mattress.

As he had tried to sleep, the memories of where he’d been and what he’d done had crept forth, emboldened by the darkness of the confining room. On the third morning he knew that he would have to get out of the house for at least a night.

That afternoon he had told his father that he missed the high country and that he would like to spend a night up on the mountain. The old man had smiled and nodded at the news and seemed to understand his desire to return to the mountain.

“You just be careful up there” he had cautioned, “They don’t call them the Rattlesnake Mountains for nothing, you know. Don’t be getting’ snake bit, or fall and break an ankle or anything dumb like that.”

“I’ll be careful, dad” he had answered, “I’ve made it through two deployments in Afghanistan with only a little scratch. The mountain isn’t going to hurt me. I’m just going to go up to our old spot where we always camp. If I’m late getting back, you’ll know exactly where to come look for me.”

“Well, alright then” he had muttered, “Enjoy the view up there.”

“I will, dad. That’s why I’m going.”

Now that he was here he knew without doubt or reservation that on this mountain and on this lonely plateau he would find peace, even if only for a short time. With a tired smile he settled back and let the good memories wash over him like a warm, cleansing soothing sea.

Early one crisp October morning when he was twelve years old he had killed his first deer two ridges over from where he now sat. He had been leaning against a stunted cedar tree on a cold windswept ridge studying the brush choked valley which lay below his vantage point. Occasionally he had glanced up to admire the beauty of the sunrise which was unfolding before him with all of it‘s pinks and grays and yellows which were gradually and grudgingly giving way to the new day. Then, when his attention had returned to the game trails below he had seen three does step timidly out from behind a clump of brush on their way up the valley.

Instinctively he had crouched a bit lower, bringing the rifle to his shoulder as he continued to watch, hoping that a giant buck that would be the spitting image of the one he had seen on the cover of Argosy magazine would somehow magically appear.

Several minutes had passed as the does had stood nervously in the clearing, twitching their noses as their ears had turned and twisted, searching for any sign of danger. Finally, they had gingerly stepped towards the far side of the clearing. For a moment or two he had thought that he was going to be disappointed, and then his young eyes had caught a flicker of movement in the brush from which the does had just emerged.

As bucks would often do, this one had been following the does, allowing them to be exposed to any danger which might lie ahead before venturing forth himself. While he had not been anywhere near the size of the giant buck which had graced the magazine cover, he was nonetheless a good three pointer with heavy thick antlers and a strong sleek body.

He had already been on enough hunts with his dad to know that such a deer should be taken. While he would have preferred a monster buck, this one would do just fine and he didn’t want to miss an opportunity to get the meat that his family needed.

Although he had dressed warmly to offset the October cold of the high ridges, when he hunkered down to steady his rifle against the tree he had suddenly begun to shiver violently. His father had told him about buck fever, but up until that very moment he had been sure that he would be immune. Now he knew different.

Finally he had steadied himself enough to get a clear look at the deer through his rifle scope. The buck had been oblivious to his presence as he stood looking back over his shoulder down the valley from which he had just come. Placing the cross hairs on the ribcage just behind the shoulder, he had flicked off the safety and slowly squeezed the trigger.

The boom of the rifle had echoed off of the canyon walls and the recoil had jarred him back enough to cause him to momentarily lose sight of the buck. When he had looked again his heart had at first sank when he saw that the clearing appeared to be empty, but then a thrashing leg in the heavy brush had caught his eye and he knew that his deer was down.

His father had joked with him a bit about shooting a Bambi but they both knew that it was a fine buck and he could still remember the pride in his father’s eyes. It had been a good day.

The last vestiges of day now manifested in the western sky as nothing more then a faint rose colored smear. The night was in control now and with it the thin air of the high desert cooled quickly. He rose slowly and carefully and as he did so he raised his arms to the sky and for a few moments he stood, stretching long and hard, as if supplicating the fates above.

Moving over to the wood pile he bent and retrieved a piece of wood and tossed it casually onto the fire. The hunk of cedar landed with a soft thump onto the glowing coals. With the impact a swarm of bright sparks came bursting forth, racing and dancing to swirl up into the black velvet sky in a series of crazy twists and turns before fading into nothingness.

The summer after he had killed his first deer he had been back up on the mountain with his mom and dad on one of the trips they made to the clearing for regular overnight camp outs. During the day, as his parents had puttered around camp, he had taken a canteen of water and his .22 and walked out across the flats, exploring the ancient seabed as it shimmered in the hot sun.

About a mile out from camp he had dropped off of a low hill into a gravel bottomed ravine and had decided to follow it’s random path across the desert plain. Walking carefully, he kept his eyes on the ground, looking for arrowheads, bones or perhaps even a rattlesnake. The thought of encountering a snake had never bothered him in the least, for in the foolish naivety of youth he always felt invincible as long as he was armed, even with just a .22.

He had stepped up onto a rock which partially blocked his way and then paused, taking advantage of his new found height to survey his surroundings. As he was about to step down he spied something curious protruding from the sand by the base of a rock. For a moment he hesitated, staring at the dark cylinder and making a game out of trying to figure out what it might be before he investigated further.

Still baffled, he had stepped down and bent to retrieve the strange object which was embedded deeply in the hard bentonite floor of the old creek bed. After a fair amount of prying and digging he was able to coax his prize from it’s earthy sanctuary.

As the mysterious object came free he brushed the last bits of clinging gravel off and then stared at it in amazement. Although bent and blackened with age it appeared to be a huge rifle cartridge* Turning the case over in his hand he could tell that it was as least three times as big as any rifle shell that he had ever seen and he wondered who would ever hunt what with a rifle that size.

As he started to shove the shell into his pocket he thought better of it and kept it gripped tightly in his hand as he headed back to the camp to share his find with his parents.

Although his dad had been able to identify the object, he had been equally baffled as to how it might have found it’s way up onto the mountain.

“Why, that’s a fifty caliber machine gun case” he had mused, turning it over in his hand in amazement. He had been a tank crewman in World War II and this was the first time he had seen such a thing since he had been in the Army years before.

“Nobody ever hunts with one of these” he paused for a moment “Now I wonder how in the hell it could have gotten way up here?”

Later on, when they got back to town, he had taken the shell over to Mister Jost at the museum. He had figured it was pretty old and seeing as how they kept old things at the museum he had hoped that maybe Mister Jost might be able to help him out.

“Where’d you find this?” he had asked as he peered closely at the old blackened brass.

“Up in the Rattlesnakes” he had answered.

“Doesn’t surprise me a bit” he replied.

Mister Jost had then gone on to tell him that during World War II there had been an Army Air Corp training field over in Casper Wyoming.

“They used to fly out of there all the time for training” he said, “There was a war on and all, so naturally they did a lot of gunnery training. When they fired those fifty calibers from the bombers and fighters the empty shell casings would just come raining down. They did a lot of training over the Rattlesnakes because no one lived out there. What you have here my boy is a genuine relic from World War II.”

Opening the top drawer of his desk he reached in and pulled out a large magnifying glass.

“Look here” he had said, holding the glass over the battered end of the old cartridge case.

“See those two letters and those two numbers?”

His eyes were much younger then Mister Josts’ and he could make out the numbers and letters clearly without the help of a magnifying glass. He nodded.

“LC” Mister Jost continued, “Now that stands for the Lake City Ordinance plant. That’s where this cartridge was manufactured. And that” he said, indicating the number, “is the year it was made. See there, it says 43. This was made in 1943, right in the middle of the war. Yesiree bob, you do indeed have a relic here. Pretty good shape too, considering it’s age.”

The old cartridge had sat on top of his dresser in a position of honor for several years before finally finding it’s way to the back of the bottom drawer to make way for more up to date treasures.

As he relished the memory he gazed up at the sky and watched as a satellite drifted silently across the sky, seeming to between the stars as it made it’s way from north to south.

Later that same summer he was walking the ridges to the north of their camp when he had found his first arrowhead. He had just stopped for a breather and was leaning against a large flat rock just beneath the crest of a low ridge, enjoying the view and the quiet. As he was resting, his eyes had wandered to a flat sheltered area on the shady side of the rock. For a moment he had just stared, unable to believe what he was seeing.

There, lying free and clear on the top of the rock, was a perfect arrowhead. Rising to his feet he took three slow steps to where it lay, never taking his eyes off of it. As he continued to look his mind began to race and he began to wonder how such a thing could have gotten to where it was.

Perhaps a deer, long ago, had been shot but not killed and had run off to find shelter in this very spot before dying. Or maybe it had been left here along with other valuables, now long since grown to dust and blown away, by it’s maker wh,o for whatever reason, had never returned to reclaim it.

He had hesitated as he reached out to pick it up.

“My hand will be the first to touch this since it was held by the man who made it so long ago” he thought to himself.

As his hand had closed around the arrowhead he had marveled at it’s perfection. The tiny chippings along the edges that had converted the rock into an efficient cutting instrument . The sharp point and the flat aerodynamic efficiency of it. In spite of it’s incredible workmanship it had still amazed him that people could have survived with only such things for hunting and protection.

The next hour found him sitting on the ridge, contemplating the fate of the man who had fashioned the arrowhead that was now his. Long ago, perhaps a thousand years or more, he had passed on, turned to dust to mingle with the sands and rock of the mountain upon which he now sat. Was his spirit still here? Could there be some sort of a shared kinship or link between him and this ancient one through his meditation and awareness? He knew not, but as he sat and continued to ponder he felt a stirring deep within that may or may not have been his imagination.

He shifted his weight on the rock and as he did so a quick sharp pain shot up his left leg. Instantly he found himself back in the mountains of Afghanistan, the land that looked like his home but was not. Again he was in the Humvee moving out on a clearing mission, the same mission that he had since performed a thousand times and probably would continue to perform forever.

He never even saw the Taliban who fired the RPG. He only knew that the inside of the Humvee went instantly blazing bright with shards of glass and hissing shrapnel flying about looking for soft targets. His best friend Rudy had been driving and was killed instantly while he had only taken a relatively minor hit in his ankle. The doctors had told him that his ears would probably continue to ring for the rest of his life but that he would be okay otherwise.

Survivor’s guilt. He knew it for what it was. He knew it hadn’t been his fault. He knew that there wasn’t anything he could have done or not done that would have made a difference. While his logic knew all of these things his guts still wrenched at the memories that lurked just under his consciousness, waiting to spring. Gritting his teeth he squeezed his eyes shut and then, with a conscious effort, he forced himself to again leave Afghanistan.

The fire had diminished a bit, allowing the hazy edges of darkness to creep in closer. For a moment he considered throwing on some more wood. With a small smile to himself he sat back down, having decided to let the night have it’s way.

Three years earlier he had returned to the Rattlesnakes one last time before leaving for the Army. He remembered how his boots had crunched softly on the hardpan gravel as he had carefully worked his way across a barren ridge on his way up to the tallest peak in the range. He had made the ascent several times before in years past and always the sense of accomplishment and the magnificent view that awaited him had made it all worth the effort.

After an hour of climbing he had finally scrambled over a series of rough reddish gray car sized boulders that stood as the last obstacles between him and the barren peak. He had been in pretty good physical shape back then, but even so he was winded. Selecting a recliner shaped rock from which he would be able enjoy the view, he settled in and relaxed, content to let the desert wind cool him and dry his sweat.

For perhaps twenty minutes he had lain there, moving only his eyes and head as he took it all in. From his high elevation a fluffy scud of cloud raced by so low that it seemed as if he could reach up and bury his hand in it’s passing whiteness. Miles to the west the Wind River Mountains rose from the flat plains, their tall shoulders still mantled in snow even in august. Looking down the slope from his aerie he saw a golden eagle circling far below as she searched for dinner. He smiled to himself as he realized that from where he was he could actually look down on a soaring eagle.

As his eyes drew closer to his immediate vicinity he had spied a curious formation of rocks just below where he lay. A jagged piece of granite which seemed to have been pried away from the side of mountain had chosen to thrust upwards towards the heavens. The area between it’s base and the mountain formed a small clearing, perhaps ten feet to a side with a perfectly flat floor.

Wrinkling his brow in consternation he wondered why he had never noticed it before. Finally, he told himself that this was a very big mountain and reminded himself that every time he had came up here he had seen something new.

Refreshed and cooled by his rest and the wind, he rose from his rocky bed and picked his way down to the clearing which lay beckoning below. As he had dropped the last few feet to flat ground within, the wind had ceased almost as if he had entered a room and closed the door behind him.

The solid rock walls loomed over him in a protecting crouch while a patch of clear blue sky hung directly overhead, the only thing between him and heaven. Immediately a warm feeling of well being and protection had washed over him as he had slowly turned full circle, taking in his new found abode. And then he saw them.

A series of ancient petroglyphs lined the south facing wall of the rock room. Although lichen had encroached a bit here and there, the designs were still bright and distinct. Curious for a better look, he stepped closer to study the rock drawings .

One appeared to be a large ochre colored lady bug of some sort complete with spots, antennae and six bent legs. Another portrayed a small herd of running elk, four cows and two bulls. Behind them a third bull had been drawn lying on his side with a spear protruding from his ribs. Above these drawings the artist had painted a man.

The ancient one had been drawn standing on a mountain peak with his arms stretched towards the sky as if supplicating the Gods above. A bolt of blue lightening had been etched in, slashing down from the heavens to end where it contacted his up stretched hands. Although the drawings were ancient, the peak upon which the old one stood had not changed over the intervening centuries and he knew that it was the same mountain upon which he now stood.

A soft whispering breeze had whirled about the abode, kicking up the ancient dust which rose and enveloped him as he continued to gaze at the ancient artwork. While he had always found a magic of sorts on the mountain, he now knew that others had also experienced a strange magic here. For the next hour he had remained in the clearing, strengthening his bonds with those who had gone before as he listened to the whispering wind. Finally he had reluctantly left as the summer sun sank in the west and he had made it back to camp just as full darkness had set in. The next morning he had left for the Army.

The fire was just a faint glow beneath the grey white ashes as he settled into his sleeping bag for the night. He lay back and gazed up at the blazing stars as the cold nylon lining of the sleeping bag warmed to his body.

He had been almost a week with nothing more than catnaps and for just a short moment he wondered if here, he would finally be able to sleep.

Far off to the east a great horned owl hooted softly in the still night air…

He awoke to a strange and distant rumbling which seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Remaining perfectly still he kept his eyes closed as he tried to identify the strange sound. It was man made, he thought to himself. Not a noise of nature.

As his bafflement continued he rolled over and opened his eyes. While he had slept the waning moon had risen in the east and the desert around him was now lit with a soft light that made the surrounding sage seem to glow. A series of flickered reflections in the moonlit sky high above caught his eye and when he looked he realized that the rumbling came from the reflections and his mouth dropped open in amazement as the realization of what he was seeing sank in.

“B-24’s” he whispered to himself, “ Those are World War two B-24 Liberator bombers! Three, four, five….” he counted until he reached nine. The rumble from thirty six Pratt and Whitney radial aircraft engines continued as the ghostly old bombers sailed serenely on in the night sky. Struggling out of his sleeping bag, he stood staring in disbelief at the spectacle which was unfolding above.

“This is impossible!” he shouted to the night, “What in the Hell is going on here?”

As his words faded into the darkness the bright red lines of tracer bullets streaked out from the bombers to arc across the empty desert sky. Moments later the distant sound of the puttering machine guns reached his ears.

After a few more moments had passed the air was suddenly filled with a strange chirping whistling sound which seemed to spring from the throats of a hundred strange birds and then from all around, he heard the soft chunk and thuds of the shell casings as they tumbled onto the mountain. There was a sharp clink from off to the left and he realized that one had hit the old Ford.

The phantom bombers droned off to east and he watched in fascination until they had faded from sight and the silence of the night returned.

He continued to stand for a few moments, staring in the direction the planes had taken. Finally, as he sat down on his sleeping bag, shaking with a disbelief at what had just happened, a great weariness overwhelmed him.

When he awoke the rising sun was just below the eastern horizon and the clear morning sky glowed orange and yellow, a preview of the warm day to come. All seemed normal enough and as the chill had not yet left the desert air, he decided to lay for a few moments more, contemplating what had happened the night before.

The memories of what he had seen still caused him to tense up and shake. Never had he dreamed so vividly. He had always thought that dreams were nothing more then that: Just dreams. Although sometimes they might be interesting or frightening or joyful, they were still just that: Dreams. While he usually couldn’t even remember what he had dreamed about, he knew that this one would be sticking with him for awhile.

With a sigh he climbed out of his sleeping bag and began to gather up his gear for the ride back down to town.

He took his shirt out of the stuff sack and put it on and then crammed the sleeping bag into the nylon sack. Next he rolled up his sleeping mat and stacked both it and the sleeping bag on the ground next to the unused tent. After stirring the fire to make sure it was out he managed to pick up all of his gear at once and carry it over to the waiting truck.

He dumped the gear into the front of the bed behind the cab and secured it all with a bungee cord so that it wouldn’t roll around on the drive down off of the mountain.

As he stood back to survey his work a bright glint from the back of the truck bed caught his eye. Curious, he walked around the rear and over to the corner to investigate.

He stood stock still for a long moment as he stared down at the object which had glinted up at him in the new morning sun. Then, taking a deep breath he reached over and picked up the shiny piece of brass and as he held it closer he saw that it was a brand new fifty caliber machine gun cartridge. Turning it over in his hand the words that Mister Jost had told him years before came to mind.

“LC 43. That means Lake City Ordinace plant, 1943. You’ve got yourself a real relic here boy…”

When he looked at the end of the shiny new cartridge the inscription LC 42 leaped out at him.

As he headed back down to town the events of the night before continued to run through his head like a whirling kalideoscope. Was the mountain some sort of portal to the past? Was the veil that separated now from then thinner there? Had he been seeing and feeling ghosts?

While he could not even begin to know the answer to these questions there was one thing that he did know for sure: The Mountain harbored some sort of magic, the meaning of which he could not even begin to fathom and he knew that he would come back, and continue to come back until his questions had all been answered.


_______________________________


I guess that this is going to be some sort of a ps or something like that. I just found this story when I was cleaning out Ned’s room and going through some of his stuff. I know that Ned was always a pretty good writer and after I read this I know he must have written it about himself and some of the stuff that happened to him up in the Rattlesnakes. I'm not nearly as good a writer as Ned was so bear with me.

I had a few things happen to me too up there over the years but I wasn’t much of a writer like Ned was and so I just kept it all to myself.

God, how I miss that boy. After Patty died six years ago it was just me and Ned and then he up and went and joined the Army and it was me all alone except when he got leave and come home for a week or two.

He was three months into his third tour in Afghanestan when they finally got him. I don’t know the exact details of how it happened cause that kind of stuff can be kind of confusing. I do remember that much from when I was in the army back in world war 2 even though that was a real long time ago.

He said that he was going to come back to the mountain in his story and I know the story was about him and he always meant what he said. His mom and I taught him to be like that.

Write now it looks like it’s going to be a fine clear night tonight. I think I’ll get my old sleeping bag and head on up to the mountain for tonight. Hard telling what I’ll find but I know what I hope I’ll find.

I’ll just leave his story and my note here on the kitchen table so that you’ll know where to look for me if I don’t make it down off the mountain right away so that you’ll know where to come look for me. I’m gonna put this nice shiny new .50 caliber machine case that I found setting on Ned's dresser on top to hold it all down so that the wind won’t blow it away…
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