I looked back through the glass. He was curled into a tight ball on top of the desk still unable to control the violent shakes. He was safe now.
That Christmas season we sold more fruit than normal. Customers were buying apples, oranges and bananas by the box. Were completely out and there was still two more days before Christmas. I would have to make a run to Louisville; I called my order in and asked that it be ready when the market opened at five o’clock, the next morning. By four o’clock in the afternoon on the twenty-third a heavy snow began to fall. It ended around midnight with an accumulation of twelve inches. The temperature dropped freezing the roads under the white mantle of snow. At two thirty a.m. Christmas Eve I left Wilmore. All the roads were almost impassable, but I knew that fruit was a must for Christmas stockings, I as I wound thru Keene toward Versailles on highway 169 to save time, it was a “Silent night,” the moon was crystal clear, and created a winter wonderland seen just for me. The stars shown brighter than usual, and I thought about the first Christmas. At the junction of 169 and Highway 33, the dim lights of a car in a field, 150 feet off of the road caught my attention. I put the four-way Flashers on, and pulled off the road as far as I dared without getting stuck. The truck had four tires under the bed and can get good traction on the icy road.
I noticed a large barn and then a small house down along the drive about 200 ft. from the highway with a wary eye on the truck and one on the stranded car I blazed a trail through the field. The snow had partially covered the car’s path. The windows were frosted over I couldn’t tell if anyone was inside.
I knocked on the window and called, “Is anyone there?”
No one answered; I pried the frozen door open and saw a semiconscious man slumped over the wheel. “Come on sir, you have to go with me. You’re going to freeze if you stay here.” “I’ve got to take my car, can you help me get it back on the road?” The man tried to rive the engine, it choked and died; the gas line had frozen. We stumbled back across the field to my truck.
“Sir, I’m going to Louisville. I’ll drop you off at the restaurant in Versailles. You can call someone there.”
The man crawled down the floor against the truck’s heater. He was unable to stop shaking from the cold. I took my old barn jacket off and covered him for extra warmth.
The chatter of his teeth, the roar of the fan motor and crunching of the tires on the snow made a strange song of desperation for my passenger. It was pass four o’clock when I pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot. It should be open for breakfast, but it was closed.
“Wake up sir, you can’t stay here. Where can I take you? Is there anyone whom I can call?” My passenger roused.
The man’s teeth chattered, “cc-can you take me to SS-Shelbyville? I have a bb-brother who has a gas ss-station. If I can get there, I have a kkk-key.”
There was no further communication from my passenger, his “song” continued, punctuated by an occasional moan. “Sir you have to get up and show me where your brother’s station is, we’re almost out of Shelbyville,” I urged him.
The man raised his head high enough to see out of the truck’s window and saw where we were. “The next light, right at the next light, the Shell Station.” I helped the frozen man tumble out of the truck and into the station. I made sure he got in and the lights were on and the heat was up, I heard him call his brother and say where he was, he’s brother would be coming soon to help him.
“You’ll be all right now. I hope you have a Merry Christmas sir,” I said as I walked towards the door.
“Buddy, I don’t know who you are, but you are my angel, my guardian angel. I knew I was going to die tonight there in my car and never see Christmas. It was ten o’clock last night when I ran off the road. I tried to get the people in that house to help me, I knocked on the door, I could see in side, they were watching TV but the wouldn’t come to the door. I guess they were afraid. I went back to my car and kept the motor running to stay warm and tried to figure out what to do. I really can’t thank you,” he choked. I pated the man on the back, “Merry Christmas sir,” I said as walked through the station door making sure it closed securely behind me.
The wonderful smells of Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie as they baked filled our house. I couldn’t wait until two o’clock. I loved turkey and all its trimmings. “Come on Clarabelle get dressed. Let’s go slide down Blair’s hill.” I called to my older sister. We put on our snowshoes, grabbed our sleds and headed to our favorite hill about a mile from the house; it was covered with several inches of heavy snow. I stood at the top and looked toward the creek that cut across the bottom of our run. I couldn’t tell from the top if it was frozen. I would have to brake before I plunged across the creek. “Come on Chicken! Last one down is a rotten egg,” was lost to the wind as I jumped on my toboggan. I couldn’t leave Clarabelle in the dust, she was right behind me, but I did manage to throw up some loose snow in her direction. WE had been sledding for about an hour as Dad came in the car with my tow younger sisters, Lila and Johanna. “Len take your sisters for a ride. They’ve been pleading with me all morning to take them,” my dad demanded. I told him it was too dangerous, because you had to stop short of the creek, I still wasn’t sure if the creek was frozen solid, and I didn’t want to find out the hard way. Its surface was covered with snow, so I couldn’t tell the depth of the ice. Lila still pleaded with Dad, and he gave in to her will. Climbing on board Dad put Lila in front of him, the hill had gotten slick, and their ride was fast, Lila became scared, putting her legs out as dad came to the bottom. A loud crack and scream erupted from Lila. Dad finally got the sled stopped; he scooped Lila up and climbed up the slippery hill with Lila and his arms and the tobogon in tow. Out of breath, Dad called, “Len I think her leg is broken.” A neighbor had been watching, “John make her stand on her leg, that way you will know if it’s broken.” Lila didn’t want to, but she obeyed Dad, she screamed as the bone punctured the skin. It was a compound fracture.
Dad gently picked her up and talk all the girls back to the house, “Len, bring all the sleds and go home, we will have to take Lila to the hospital in Plattsburg.” I trudged back to the house, wondering if I’d ever be able to enjoy my beautiful mahogany toboggan after today, it had been my Christmas present from the year before, I drug my load out into the snow on the surface of the creek, I went through the ice up to my waist, freezing I struggled with the water and the sleds but finally made it to the other side. By the time I got home, I was chilled to the bone. There was no one home to help me put the sleds away, or get warm. The once warm smells of our dinner, seemed forgotten, Momma had gone with Dad to the doctor. It took me the rest of the afternoon to get warm. We didn’t get to eat, until Dad came home later in the evening, around eight o’clock. Dad came back and said that Lila had a compound fracture, both bones in her leg were broken, and she would never be able to walk again without a crutch.
We sat down for our late Thanksgiving Dinner, Dad said his blessing and began to carve the Turkey, he broke down and cried, I had never seen my Dad cry, he wept for his Lila. I looked at my Dad and saw how defeated he looked and knew life was hard. I was ten years old, and that was the day I grew up, leaving behind my childhood dreams.
Since it’s Halloween month, I thought this week I’d tell a “real” scary story.
When I was eight years old my favorite show was Little Orphan Annie, it came on every Sunday afternoon, and filled our dull day with adventure and mystery. It was our reward if we sat still and behaved in church, I had to keep myself from running as church let out to make it home and changed so I could hear the booming voice of the announcer, as he invited us to listen in on Annie’s next adventure. I had just sat down and turned the radio on and heard the tubes crackle as they came to life, but just as I waited for the deep voice of the announcer, I heard our newscaster, “Be on the look out for a late model station wagon with Canada plates.” The newscaster continued, “Be on the look out for a tall man, height about 6 foot 2, dark hair, age about 35, last seen wearing a fur coat.” The announcer continued, “Do not approach this man, but contact the local authorizes, he is wanted in connection to a murder of a family of five outside Vancouver.” The crackle started again when the announcer came back on, “we now return to our regular scheduled program.” The booming voice of the announcer started. I looked at my sister with wide eyes, “do you think he’ll come here Clarabelle?” My older and wiser sister rolled her eyes, “of course not Len, there’s no reason, why would anyone come to Moore’s who’s on the run? Be quiet I want to listen.”
We sat back and listened to the show, but all I could think of was the station wagon, I looked out the window watching for anything unusual, but all I saw was snow flakes, snow and more snow. I wished that Daddy and Momma were there, they had gone to New York city for the weekend, and all we had to protect us from the killer was our five foot two Nanny, who was no older then sixteen and no stronger then my sister Claribell. I looked at the door and wished we had a big lock, then I gazed out of the front window and I saw him, the tall figure in the fur coat, he was walking up sidewalk across the street and there was the station wagon. It couldn’t be true I thought, I called to the Nanny and she looked out, she sensed as I did that this was a real threat, she picked up my small brother, and quietly called my sisters and I to follow her. Just as we crept into the dinning room we heard the knob of the front door turn and the wood crecked as it gave way to open. Our nanny gave a gesture to remain quiet as we backed into the kitchen, we could hear the loud steps of the tall man walk through the hall coming closer, we could hear him walk up the stairs, opening the doors and closing, walking back down and entering the dining room, with steps more silent then I thought possible we backed into the kitchen cupboard, we squished in, with not room to move, I heard the door open to the kitchen and my heart pounded, I was sure he’d hear it, pounding like drums.
We each held our breath as we heard the steps pause at the door, but it wouldn’t give, we were so crammed in there was no room for it to open. The man gave one last tug and walked on, losing interest, we held our breath and waited as we listened, the steps grew fainter and at last we heard the front door close and the latch catch. Our Nanny squeezed us against the shelving as she pulled the door open. We all seemed to tumble out; we crept in and looked at the window, and saw the back of the man as he excited our gate.
We could smell he’s cherry pipe everywhere, a reminder that he had been real, with that Nanny asked Clarabelle to go next door and get the pastor, he’d call the authorities.
As Clarabelle leapt the fence to the parsonage and ran for the door, Nanny seemed to crumble to the kitchen chair, and sensing it was clear, Johnny let out a holler. Nanny patted him, trying to calm him, as I kept watch from the front window, peering just above the window ledge, crouched so if there was another passerby or our visitor returned he would not see me.
Minutes seem to stretch like hours, finally the pastor burst in, convinced that it was our imagination and sense of fear of not having Daddy at home that had created this crisis, then he smelt it, the cherry pipe tobacco, it seemed to linger in every crevice of the house.
We later heard on the radio that in deed the man had passed through Moore’s taking the back roads from Canada to the United States, he was caught that night and found guilty of killing the family of five, I wondered why he’d stopped at our house, but I always knew it was God’s protection that kept him from finding us, and of course my addiction to Orphan Annie that alerted us, but sadly after a real life mystery, it no longer held the thrill of life and death.
COPYRIGHT 2011 Stephanie Fitch – all rights reserved
My home in Moore, New york was located on the banks of the Shazy River. I fished, swam, snorkeled and rafted in the warm months. In the winter Larry Vogel and I ice-skated for miles up and down the frozen river.
We began to collect driftwood in the fall when the river was up; Larry and I took long poles to snag all the free material we needed. The next spring when the ice went out of the Shazy River, more logs and driftwood were deposited at our “ship-yard” just below the old burnt-out shirt factory.
After school and on most Saturdays we labored construction of the raft. We had a heavy, sleek, six by eight foot log raft with 2×4 for a platform top. Two small sturdy trees (two inches in diameter) were polished and cut in to eight-foot lengths for poles to push the raft.
After school one Monday afternoon in late April we pronounced the raft “river worthy,” and launched. A quick trip in the backwater below the dam, we poled and drifted until the sun set, then headed to the shipyard to moor our raft. Our maiden voyage was a success. We were master raft builders!
It rained all night. The river had flooded again it swept everything in its path that could float, including our raft. Larry and I walked the slippery riverbank for the mile down stream. We found our raft, snagged by the hidden island at Brook’s Bottom. The raft was hung on the large rock just below the surface. All our efforts were wasted; it would not budge.
“Len, Graham will let me use his tractor to pull it off the rocks, let’s go ask him.” Larry said as we walked towards town. Larry worked for Graham doing odd jobs, and I felt confident we would be able to regain our prize.
The mile back to town was easy when you walked down pavement and not a slippery bank. Graham was in his barn getting his new John Deere tractor ready to plow a field. “Len, Larry, what are you boys up to?” He gave us a grin.
“Graham, We lost our raft. We found it stuck on the rocks near Brook’s Bottom,” answered Larry.
“You can use the John Deere, if you want to pull it back up to Len’s house. Larry you know how to drive it,” replied Graham.
“Thanks, we won’t be long,” we chimed.
“I’ll be down at the IGA when you get back, just let me know how it handles in the water,” Graham called over his shoulder.
I rode behind Larry. We made it back in record time. The sun would go down in another hour. Larry backed the tractor down to the water’s edge. I took a chain and hooked one of the logs of the raft. Inching the tractor back until we could attach the chain to the John Deere. The chain was taunt, and the rescue was on. Larry crept forward. The rocks beneath the back wheels rolled. Graham’s new toy that he was so proud of, his John Deere, had slipped into the hole and become stuck. No amount of coaxing and yelling could budge it.
“Come on Larry, we better go face the music before we loose it altogether,” I sighed.
The mile back to town was like making the last mile to an execution. Graham and my Dad saw us coming up the street, and by our hung heads, they knew something was wrong. My Dad started yelling before we reached the corner, we explained what happened, Graham laughed and promised he could take care of it the next day.
We ran to the store after school, my dad and Graham were there with long faces, “I’m doomed, we’re doomed Len,” Larry said. “It’s ok boys, I placed your logs under one wheel and teased the motor, she came out perfectly,” Graham laughed.
With grace and stealth the wolf pack stalked its prey deeper into the woods, ever closing their circle of death. Their pack-song screamed louder than the snow whipping around us by the wind, and my Dad wondered, “How had we lost the trail?”
We had heard of tales of hunters being attacked by a wolf pack. I had never seen any around Moores, but I feared the stark woods in the winter all the same. When I was ten, my Dad told me of his experiences hunting near the Canadian border.
It was a beautiful crisp November afternoon, a perfect day to run the hounds. Dad took his favorite beagle, Harry and drove up the North Star road to hunt; he left his car parked in an alfalfa field belonging to his friend.
Before he could load his gun, Harry caught the scent of his first quarry and the hung began. The rabbit bounded across the field, and plunged into the woods at its edge. Dad shot several times and missed. The challenge of the hunt lured He and Harry deeper into the stark woods. So intent on the hunt, Dad did not notice the weather change. In a matter of an hour it was snowing so hard, he had trouble seeing the trail. Looking behind him, the snow had covered his footprints. He could see no familiar landmarks. How had he lost his bearings? “Harry, Here boy! Let’s go!” Out of the corner of his eye he noticed movement. Turning, he saw a dark shape stalking him. It was then he heard the first howl in front of him, echoing behind him. He was being stalked by a wolf pack. The wolves advanced, tightening their circle, making bold moves toward Harry and him, nipping at their hills. Dad raised his shotgun and shot in the air, they backed down for a while.
Knowing the wind and snow were coming in from the north, Dad walked due South in the direction towards the road, finally after an hour, he saw the field where he had left the car; he and Harry were safe.
As Dad told the story, I wondered of the fear my Dad had faced and smiled at his bravery, “Dad, there aren’t any wolves left around here, right?” Dad smiled, “Len I’ve been told some people have seen and heard them, but I haven’t, but you should still be careful. We were standing in a field he intended to purchase to grow produce for the store; it was down a long lane off the North Star Road. About ten miles from town and completely surrounded by thick woods, the next Spring he drove me out to the field and left me alone to plow and it get it ready for the next weeks planting. All morning I plowed, keeping one eye on the field, and one eye on the surrounding woods, Was there something waiting just beyond the edge of the field?
At noon Dad came to check on me, and bring my lunch, I continued to plow until around three o’clock. My heart skipped several beats when I checked out the woods for wolves. There I saw it a large gray shape watching me from a tree, it was about seven feet off the ground, and it’s eyes pierced through the foliage watching me.
Each row I plowed brought me closer. The gray shape began to take a more recognizable form, it was as big as a bushel basket, never moving, never taking its eyes off of me. As I plowed my last row, it took all my courage to walk closer to the edge and peer at my prey, I was now twenty feet from the gray form – – – it was the LARGEST PORCUPINE —I’d ever seen. Thank goodness it was not a wolf! I took my friends to see it, we never got closer then the twenty feet, even though were weren’t afraid of it’s teeth, none of us wanted one of those quills shot at us!
COPYRIGHT 2004 EMILY FITCH – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Our house in Moore’s was one of the first houses in town to have electricity, and by the time we moved in, the once stately house, was drafty and in great need of re-wiring. The Attic was filled with exposed wires ready to zap little exploring hands.
In order to keep us safe from our own curiosity Momma forbid us ever to venture up the long narrow staircase to the attic, and to a boy of six that was more like a standing invitation to adventure.
One rainy afternoon, while Momma was making bread, and the girls were playing I saw my chance, I crept up the narrow staircase feeling a slight draft that seemed to chill me to my core, I was ready for the adventure that must lie beyond that door.
I slowly opened the door, the light from the hall filled the opening, and I looked around at wonder, at the old furniture stalked around, and trunks ready to be explored, but as I took my first steps into the room, I felt them, eyes on me. I reassured myself that it was my sense of wrong, and the fear of Momma catching me, so I ventured in further, and then, I saw them, red eyes from the corner staring at me, daring me to take my next step, and without fear for the consequences, I took my next step, a daring run for Momma.
“Momma, Momma come quick there is something in the attic!” Momma came running worried there must be some kind of animal that was clawing at the door, and then she saw I had opened the door and gone up to the attic, “Leonard James, did you go upstairs?” I looked down at my feet realizing my mistake and feeling a sense of shame, “I thought I heard something Momma, and you’ve got to see it! It’s big, bigger then me, and it’s got red eyes that seem to look into your very being Momma! You’ve got to see it, maybe we should get Daddy’s gun.” “Len, I swear, you and your imagination!” Momma took the steps seemingly two at a time, and pulled the one light an exposed bulb in the middle of the room, and there the culprit stood in the corner, almost as tall as me with red eyes, a stuffed loon…