Monday, August 31, 2015

River Hideaway - Short fiction




A Short Story – fiction




The Shepard family was looking for a second home in the mountains, and a river lot with a house overlooking the water sounded wonderful. Jim and Beverly Shepard drove up to the house on weekends and brought Tiki, the family Yorkie named after Tiki Barber, a player for the New York Giants for ten seasons. Tiki was left in the basement garage whenever the Shepard’s left the house. Each time they returned they found him whining and staring at the back wall of the basement. There were also scratch marks on the wall and floor, as if he had been clawing at them.


Jim thought he better do some research into the house and its surrounding community, so he walked down the river to Colson Miller’s place. Colson was a crusty old-timer who generally thought fish made better companions than people, as evidenced by his habit of spending half the day fishing and rebuffing most people’s attempts at conversation. Yet for some unexplainable reason, Colson had taken a liking to the Shepard family.

Jim knocked on Colson’s screen door, and when there was no response, he walked down to the river and found him fishing. Colson acknowledged his presence with a nod, then reeled in his line and walked to the bank. Sitting down beside Jim, he used the break to change the lure on his line.

“Colson, tell me about the history of these homes.”

“No mystery there. The houses were built along the riverbank by some big city development company looking to make a few dollars.”

“Did anything unusual happen during construction?”

Colson shrugged. “They had to cut back into the hill in some cases in order to lay some of the foundations, but that’s to be expected when you’re building on the side of a big rock like this.”

“What about the mountain? Any unusual history here?”

Colson stopped and thought for a moment. “I remember my grandad telling me that there used to be a mine around here, but I’ve never seen it.”

When Jim got home he told Beverly about the mine. Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of whining and scratching. Jim looked around. “Where’s Tiki?”

Beverly pointed at the basement. “I must have left the door open when I went down to the garage earlier.”

They went to the garage and found Tiki pawing at the wall.

“What is it, boy?” Jim asked.

Tiki responded by pawing even harder.

Jim decided he had finally had enough. Maybe an animal had made a nest in the wall, or maybe Tiki smelled something dead, but Jim was going to open up the wall and find out what was going on.

The next day he rented a mason saw and cut out a four-foot-square hole in the wall. When he broke through the wall, he was surprised to see an opening filled with cobwebs. Tiki growled at the dark expanse, and Beverly scooped him up and carried him upstairs, closing the basement door firmly between them.

Jim shone a flashlight into the opening, but he couldn’t see far. The cobwebs reflected the light back at him. He didn’t smell anything other than dank earth, and he was fairly certain an animal hadn’t been this way or else the cobwebs would have been disturbed. He had no idea what had gotten Tiki so upset.

“Do you think this is the entrance to that mine Colson talked about?” asked Beverly.

“Must be,” said Jim. “You can see the ground would have been flat along here. The builders must have used the shallow opening and placed this foundation wall over the entrance.”

“Jim? Aren’t there bats in caves?” Beverly asked, obviously concerned her house was about to be overrun with bats.

He chuckled. “Well, if it would make you feel better, the first thing I’ll do is put in an access door so nothing from out there can make it in here. I’m not ready to seal this up for good. I think Colson and I would like to do some exploring.”

Jim spent the rest of afternoon building a frame around the opening and installing a small door with a padlock. Afterwards it was time for them to head home, but Jim was already making plans to explore the mine with Colson when they returned in two weeks. Beverly had made it clear she wasn’t going to step foot into the mine.

When they returned two weeks later, Jim carried their bags upstairs while Beverly unloaded groceries from the car. When she was alone in the garage, she heard a knocking on the small door. She dropped the bag of groceries and ran upstairs to get Jim. “Jim! Someone is knocking on that door you installed in the garage!”

 “What? No way! I doubt that old mine has another entrance or someone would have found it years ago.” Jim grabbed the key and went down to investigate, but he did not hear anything. It seemed like a good time to explore the mine.

After a quick phone call to Colson, Jim gathered his best flashlights while he waited for his neighbor to arrive. Colson soon arrived in old grubby clothes and a banged up helmet with a light attached to it, all of which he claimed were remnants of his caving days. Jim unlocked the padlock and cautiously opened the door. His heart was beating fast as he turned on his flashlight and noted the cobwebs were still intact. How could anyone have knocked on the door without disturbing them? Beverly must have been mistaken. Maybe Tiki was just scratching at the door again.

Jim and Colson crawled into the dark, brushing down the cobwebs as they went. They didn’t have to travel far before reaching a room large enough to stand up in. The back of the room had marks on the sides where picks had dug into the dirt and rock. The floor was level, and there appeared to be the remains of wooden tracks leading to the back. The room was about fifty feet deep, and there was no one there. Jim could find no explanation for the noises Beverly heard or for Tiki’s strange behavior.

“Jim? Look at this,” said Colson, handing him a leather-bound notebook. He pointed to a ledge along the left wall. “Someone left it over there.”

Jim handled the notebook carefully so the pages wouldn’t fall apart. “It’s a diary of one of the miners who dug the mine.” He flipped through the pages, reading selected passages to Colson.

 August 26, 1837 - Having won this 40 acres in the Georgia land lottery some years back, and then having to pay the Indians in order to open this mine, we have at last found a quartz vein that looks promising.

 February 20, 1838 – Found out that the Dahlonega mint is now accepting gold. If we could only find enough gold to sell to them, we might be able to keep the mine going longer. Our supplies are running low, and the quartz vein is hardly producing any gold. We will keep digging for another month.

 May 17, 1838 - The Indians are very upset, and there may be war. The government is rounding up the Indians for movement to land west of the Mississippi.

 May 25, 1838 - Giving up the mine. There is no gold, and the Indians in these parts are threatening to attack.

 There were other details in the diary about the mining operation. Jim would take it back with him to the house for further study to see what else he could find out about the mine and the early inhabitants of the area.

Jim shined his flashlight around the area for one last good look, and a bright flash caught his eye. Colson saw it too, and the two of them walked over to the corner where the light was shining. Jim bent over and picked up an old coin, and after rubbing it on his shirt to wipe it off, he realized that it was a gold coin!

He started laughing. “Imagine that! Here they thought there was no gold in this mine!”

In the following weeks, Jim started doing research around the period of the gold rush in North Georgia, and he ran across an old article about a bank robbery where the stolen gold was never recovered.

He thought about the gold coin he had found. Could it be possible that the gold was hidden in the old mine?

The next morning he found Colson cleaning out his tool shed. He expected Colson to laugh at his crazy idea, but instead he picked up a shovel and his old caving helmet and said, “Only one way to find out.”


They spent the rest of the day digging around the mine, and they were just about to call it a day when Jim’s shovel hit something solid in the soft dirt. Clearing off the top he realized it was not a rock, but a metal box.

The two of them carried the box to Jim’s tool bench in the garage, where they went to work prying the box open. They were speechless when they lifted the lid and saw bright and shiny gold coins, looking like they were freshly minted.

Colson thought about the display of gold coins at the mint that were stolen a few years back, “Jim, the old mint building is just not the same without the display of gold coins that were minted there, do you think we could replace the display with some of these coins? They would love that.”

“Great idea! We’ll let them pick out what they want, then we will talk to a coin collector about the rest, we can split whatever money they bring.”

Colson and Jim shook hands in agreement, and Jim had the feeling it was only the first of many adventures they would have together.
After the box of gold coins had been unearthed from the mine, there were no more sounds from the door in the garage, and Tiki no longer scratched at the door.

 


New addition to book,
Short Story Collection Order at:
https://www.createspace.com/5472299

The Trout Pond is now on Audible.com: http://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/The-Trout-Pond-Audiobook/B06WLMRTH3/

By: Hubert C. Crowell
Jim makes a find in a pond that tears a small Kentucky coal mining town apart. Ron, a stranger in town carrying a secret of the largest crime of the century becomes snared in the Union wars of the 1950’s.

 
 


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Number Five Spot - A Poem


Number Five Spot




The number five spot to catch a nap,
is to snuggle up close or find a soft lap.
In the late evening after treats and play,
tired from all the activities of the day.


Dreams of chasing squirrels across the lawn,
as ears twitch and feet run till it’s gone.
A sound or movement may open an eye,
and sometimes he will let out a sigh.


But until you announce, time for bed,
will he rise or just lift his head.
To the chair you think he became attached,
until you offer him a tummy scratch.


A whimper or whine to let you know,
it’s time to play with a bone to throw.
Chase him around the room a few times,
or else just listen to that pathetic whine.

Copyright © 2015 Hubert Clark Crowell
Current book of short stories and other books by author available at:

The Back Pew







I was twelve when I accepted Jesus as my Lord, and it was not a minute too soon. Victory Baptist Church was only two blocks from where we lived in Providence, Kentucky. Like most kids, I spent the majority of my time in church on the back pew. I was not even aware that I was listening to the sermon that Sunday, but when the invitation came at the end of the service, I almost ran down the aisle. I knew from that day forward that God would be with me in whatever I faced in the future. Without his protection, I am sure that I would not have made it to age twenty.
     Growing up knowing Jesus helped me from making big life-changing mistakes, but I certainly made my share of the less serious ones. At the early age of sixteen, after I had left home, God placed a special couple in my path encouraging me to join the service. The army provided me with the discipline that I needed at that age. I knew that God was watching over me, and He helped me whenever I was tempted to make a bad decision.
     Everyday God intervenes to protect us. As I backed out of a parking space, a car turning in off the main road almost rear ended me, and only the week before, while following a swerving car, two other cars cut me off trying to get around quickly as the driver crossed the center line several times, and then made a wild U-turn on a red light. Think about all the drivers that are distracted while speeding through heavy traffic, then thank God for watching over you each time you get on the road.
     Are we safe anywhere? While walking our dog in the back yard a bullet tore through the trees, falling at my feet, bouncing off the wooden bridge with a loud bang, and landed in the dried leaves. A second later I heard the gunshot and knew at once what it was. Had not the Lord caused me to pause and knock down a spider web I would have been hit. Close calls occur every day, most of the time we are just not aware of them, or maybe we just ignore them.
     I knew the Lord was protecting me when that bear stepped over me in the mountains of New York. I was on a weekend hiking trip on the northern tip of the Appalachian Trail and arrive at the camp site after dark. It was full of campers, so I continued down a side trail to a clearing with a view over the moon lit lake. I threw a rope over a high limb and raised my backpack, which contain a hamburger, to prevent the animals from getting into it. I did not realize that the pack with food was between the lake and where I was sleeping. I could see the outline of the bear as he stepped over my sleeping bag, snorting, brushing my body as he passed. My life flashed before me as I held the knife at my side waiting for the attack. A strange peace came over me and I dozed back off, only to be disturbed a second time as he stepped over me again. Through the thin sleeping bag cover, I was using to keep the dew off my face, I could see the full moon and his outline as he passed over me again.
     When we drove vehicles out of a burning lot in Germany, I knew that God was protecting us all. A solder refueling his jeep late one night from the large tank truck, caught fire and we were called out to evacuate the motor pool. We had to drive by the burning fuel truck with flames reaching a hundred feet into the night sky, tires exploding, and feeling the intense heat. No one was hurt and only two vehicles lost.
     When the plane I was a passenger on, slid off the runway in Syracuse, New York during a rain storm. I was reminded once more that God was watching, not only me, but all those on that plane.
     At yearly caving conventions we would camp out and everyone would joke about the summer storms and floods that always seemed to hit the camp site during the conventions, knocking down tents, or worse yet, a lake rising to flood the entire camp site. More than once we would return from a banquet late at night to find tents piled up and sleeping gear soaked. Yet I don’t recall anyone getting injured, again God and His angels had to be watching over the saved and unsaved alike.
     All the close calls while caving, at any time, if God had taken his hand off of me I could have died. I look back on the deep pits I crawled around in the mud and the fear that hit me days later about how close I came to death. Falls that could have been disastrous, but only shook me up, tight places where I almost got stuck, and loose rocks that moved or fell when touched. How great it is to not live in fear, knowing that whatever happens, however bad, God is in control, even at the end of this life here on earth, God will provide, and has already provided a better home for us.
     A gun waving drunk stopping my family on the expressway, as we traveled home from Florida. I slowly eased by talking, and trying not to upset him more. Pulling off at the next exit to report it. This was long before cell phones were common. God kept his gun pointed up and protected us as we drove by.
     Shortly after we moved onto our current house, shots were fired in front of our home as an angry wife chased her husband down the street, the back doors of his van swinging open as bullets flew through. He jumped out and dived into the ditch that ran down the side of our property, hitting the foot bridge I had just built that was chest high, falling over the waterfall just below it, while the woman fired shots at him from her car. The policeman who showed up would not even get out of his car for fear of being shot at also, and just talked her into going home to cool off. How foolish to think we can live one hour on this earth without the protection of God who loves us.
     I currently write about how God has watched over us, and how great He is. When I walk past the back pew, I shake their hands and give the boys sitting there a big smile as I remember the time I sat on the back pew.


Copyright © 2015 Hubert Clark Crowell
Copies can be ordered from:
 https://www.createspace.com/5472299

The Trout Pond is now on Audible.com: http://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/The-Trout-Pond-Audiobook/B06WLMRTH3/

By: Hubert C. Crowell
Jim makes a find in a pond that tears a small Kentucky coal mining town apart. Ron, a stranger in town carrying a secret of the largest crime of the century becomes snared in the Union wars of the 1950’s.
 
 
 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Broken Heart








A Broken Heart


 

Short Story – Non-fiction



Bobby was sixteen when he fell in love for the first time. He walked Ruth home after school, took her to the movies, and spent more time with the tall brunette than with his other friends. Bobby was always cracking jokes and having fun, but he managed to stay out of trouble. His father was the preacher of a medium-sized Baptist church, as well as a butcher at the Piggly Wiggly Store. They lived in the small town of Providence, Kentucky, the year was 1956, and everyone knew everyone else.

The center of town was located at the intersection of the two main streets, and it was a common gathering place when anyone was looking for something to do. Bobby went to the intersection one day to meet his cousin, Clarkie. Clarkie and his family recently had moved back from Lakeland, Florida, where Clarkie had his first paying job at a bowling alley setting pins.

When Clarkie met Bobby at the corner, he instantly knew something was wrong. “Bobby, you look like you lost your best friend. Is everything okay?”

“No.”

“You want to talk about it?”

“No.”

Clarkie knew at once that Bobby had broken up with his girlfriend. “You want to do something?” he asked, hoping to take Bobby’s mind off his ex-girlfriend. “We can find the guys and play ball.”

Bobby surprised him by saying, “I feel like getting away for a while.”

Clarkie was fifteen and an experienced traveler. He had hitchhiked down to eastern Tennessee earlier that year to visit his sister, saving the bus fare his parents had given him for the trip. He felt confident that he could travel anywhere. “Where would you like to go? Florida is nice this time of year.”

 “Anywhere, I just need to get away.” His girlfriend had just broken up with him, and he did not want to talk or think about it. Leaving home and running away seemed like an easy way to fix things.

“How much money have you got?” asked Clarkie.

“Five dollars. How about you?”

“Let’s see,” Clarkie said as he searched his pockets. “Fifty cents.”

It was early fall, and a cold snap was coming. Clarkie thought about the weather and said, “Highway 41 is only a mile out of town. If we make it down to Lakeland, I could get my old job back at the bowling alley. There is a lot to do in Lakeland.”

“Okay, let’s go,” said Bobby.

Neither boy considered how leaving home would affect their families; they were only excited about doing something new and different.

The mile walk to US41 took less than an hour. Bobby was quiet as they left town. As they passed beneath the city gate, he looked back at the sign and said, “Wonder if we will see that sign again?”

“Yeah, it’ll always be here,” said Clarkie. “Now comb your hair and straighten your shirt. We want to look good so we can catch a ride.”

Their first ride was with an elderly couple who let them off just outside of Madisonville on a quiet stretch of US41. They only had to wait a few minutes with their thumbs in the air before another car pulled over. The driver of a late model black Ford rolled down the passenger side window and asked, “Where you fellows headed?”

The boys ran up to the car’s passenger side and said, “We’re going down to Nashville, sir.”

“I’m going to Clarksville. Will that help?”

“Sure will,” Clarkie responded as he opened the back door and jumped in.

“I think we should try and get a ride past Nashville. It’s almost impossible to get a ride in the middle of a city,” Clarkie whispered to Bobbie under the sound of the country music playing on the radio. Bobby nodded approval as they continued south.

They planned on taking US31 south from Nashville to Montgomery, then US231 toward Tallahassee. The next ride got them through Nashville, Tennessee, but they were not so lucky in Birmingham, Alabama. The young man driving let them out right in the middle of town. It was a bad mistake since they had to walk south to the edge of town before they were able to catch another ride.

In Montgomery the situation was even worse. They were let out on the north side of town and had to walk all the way to the south side before catching another ride. That night they crossed the Florida line and ended up alone just north of Tallahassee on a dark and lonely stretch of road.

An early cold front had pushed south during the evening. Dressed only in light clothes and without coats, they needed to find shelter to stay warm. After a while they found a parking lot full of school busses with all the doors left open. They picked a bus and tried to sleep on the back seats, but it was too cold.

Back out on the highway there was no traffic, so they tried to sleep hobo style. They laid down head to head and used each other’s shoulder for a pillow. After about thirty minutes they gave up trying to sleep and started walking again. Fortunately they found an old abandoned house sitting on a small hill just off the highway. They built a fire in the fireplace and managed to survive the night.

The next day, cold and hungry, Bobby said, “I’ve had enough. I’m ready to go home.”

Clarkie agreed, and so they started hitchhiking back north. They had good luck with the first few cities, getting rides through to the north side of town, but south of Montgomery their good luck ended. A trucker picked them up and headed north with Bobby sitting in the middle of the seat.  When the driver placed his hand on Bobby's leg, well that did it. Bobby and Clarkie were out of that truck in nothing flat.

“Was that ever freaky!” Bobby said as they watched the truck drive away.

In Nashville their bad luck continued when they got stuck in the middle of town again. They went into a diner and spent the last of their money, except for a quarter, which Bobby used to call home. Their dads drove down that night and picked them up, relieved to have them home safe again. Believing that the boys had learned a lesson, their dads did not punish them.

Sometime later Bobby and Ruth made up, and after graduation they married and had a lovely family. One of his sons even became a preacher, following in his grandfather’s footsteps.


Copyright © 2015 Hubert Clark Crowell
Copies can be ordered from:
https://www.createspace.com/5472299

The Trout Pond is now on Audible.com: http://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/The-Trout-Pond-Audiobook/B06WLMRTH3/

By: Hubert C. Crowell
Jim makes a find in a pond that tears a small Kentucky coal mining town apart. Ron, a stranger in town carrying a secret of the largest crime of the century becomes snared in the Union wars of the 1950’s.