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TITLE : Gerrie and the 'Old Man'
Written By: James H. Wilson
Date: © Copyright, June 24, 2005


      She took the stranger by the hand and led him to the horse she had tied. When the lightening had hit the rock, there where he stood, it left him blind. She had seen him drop to his knees when the tree fell at his side. She knew where his mind was at. She'd been there herself one night.
      When it rains for days it fills the lakes and the rivers run wild. After the wind blows the weakened trees over, the water rises out of it's banks and erodes the new soil from around their roots. Mud slides from the treeless landscape while thunder rolls across the hills and valleys. No one wants to be caught in the likes of such weather in these parts.
      Four years ago, nearly to the day, Gerrie came to vacation. She plotted her course like a sea captain, with the intent of accomplishing a goal. She made a list of 'to dos' each day. She would have enough gasoline, even extra, to complete the trip. An adventure can take on unexpected dimensions, this is where she knew she could fall back on her 'Girl Scout' training. She had planned for rain right out of the Almanac, but they say the 'mountain' has a mind of it's own.
      Her mountain stood proud and alone rather than so joined as most others in the range. Many had come, over the years, to conquer this majestic piece of real estate. The nearer to it's top the more it seemed to rail against all forward movement. As if to say "how dare they even try." 'They,' could refer to any creature with legs.
      At twenty two Gerrie had been in church most every weekend she could remember, even when on vacation with her folks. On this weekend four years ago, she had brought her bible and passages her pastor had recommended. She knew that nature held a certain peace and this mountain would let her find herself wrapped in Gods love. If she could stand at the top, she knew God would have helped her find her way there.
      Though many had tried over the seasons, few true stories were heard of the top. Barely a handful could give reasons they had turned this way or that as they traversed the rough terrain. But for those who did, postcards were made of their pictures. Gerrie would be the youngest woman ever to befriend this old mountain, she found some solace in that. You could drive to a camp ground six miles from the base, from there you either hiked in or rode in by horse.
      Gerrie had grown up on a beef cattle ranch and raised her foal to the sure footed painted pony she trusted without thought. She knew her every move, they'd been through five round-ups together, and as many boy friends had come and gone. A week all planned to just get away, she was so young and filled with heart.
      Monday morning she'd left shortly after chores. She'd leaned in the door and reported herself primed. Her mom came over and kissed her on the cheek and whispered, "I know you'll be all right but take this cell phone in case you want to talk." Her dad simply bid her to have fun and she was off. It was half a day's drive, maybe a little more, towing Dasiy Mae.
      The camp ground had grown in size and they'd hired a keeper and as of five years before this day they started taking reservations. So far they could get you a place three or four months in advance and hardly anybody came in the winter. Some did but just to take pictures of the frozen falls down south of the mountain, and this was early summer, when the the ranch was less demanding.
      Gerrie pulled to the right side of the booth. The man checked the paperwork they'd sent her to present, and punched a hole in the lower right corner and pointed her to space number forty one. In the lower right corner were the options - 'weekend' - 'one day' - 'two days' - 'three days' - 'one week' - the ranger would punch a square box next to the choice. Gerrie was there for 'the week'.
      Gerrie, Dasiy Mae, and a week to wonder. A week of one on one with mother earth, and a mountain. She would mix views of deer and butterflies and sunset hues. She could go to those beautiful falls and have long conversations with Dasiy Mae. She could ride Dasiy Mae to the top of some of the lower hills and use her binoculars to scope out her route up the 'Old Man'. That's what she called him, she thought it an appropriate name from all she'd heard about him, (the old mountain).
      Today she can say he really is an 'Old Man', like the 'old man in the moon', been around for years. Always there, always looking down on the rest of us, and liking his solitude. For those who don't know him well, he never speaks. He may laugh or snicker, but you'd needs be around him weeks before you'd notice such things. About five years ago Gerrie had heard from one old man she had talked with. He told her, just toward the end of winter when no one had been around for months, the two of them had a nice long conversation. The 'Old Man" said he was glad to see the snow thaw and some green come back like hair on his belly. He said this had been one of the longer winters he'd known and was grieved of the cold. He said it's more fun when humans come around and tickle his ribs, so-to-speak.
      She had considered the 'Old Man' to be and old man with a heart, not just rocks and trees and such. And she wanted to, 'tickle his ribs', and 'pat him on the head' and be a part of something greater than her. She wanted to know what it felt like to be so alive standing on the top and being part of a picture postcard. She wanted to say, "I'm not stuck in my little back yard."
      She pulled into forty one and zipped around back to get Dasiy Mae on the ground. Forty one was one of the newer spaces designed for camper trailer rigs with posts to tie the horses. She was anxious to go investigating, but the well behaved woman knew better than the little girl inside her. She knew camp and horse feed and water came before a meet and greet with her 'Old Man'.
      Her campsite was at the base of one of the smaller hills and after set-up she had just enough time to go up to that clearing sort of close to the top. She hiked up there and was lining the landscape up in her mind when something moved behind her. She knew better than to jump or scream, still, something was behind her. She froze for a few moments to see if it was going on by. It wasn't!
      As the movement proceeded her way a thousand thoughts flashed through her head. One wrong move and wind up dead. Don't move and not know what's there. Could be a bear just out roaming, a mama with her cute little cubs. Or a deer with her fawns but they don't usually make this much noise. Gerrie started turning slowly straining with the corner of her eye, it was still forty feet or so away and not coming to fast. Maybe it doesn't know she is there. Just as the sun was setting to her left across the top of the lower hills, the park ranger came into sight.
      She let out a sigh of relief, smiled and looked him right in the eye. The ranger was perched atop that Morgan, sixteen or seventeen hands, folded his arms to the horn of the saddle as he leaned down to talk with her. She watched and waited. He seemed to be in no hurry as he gave her the 'once over'. She got posed to ask him... when he said, (in a slow cowboy sort of way), "I saw somebody up here. Didn't know who. Didn't s'pect you. That's... even worse. You do know, you do what you do after sunrise and before sunset, don't you?"
      She sized him up more cowboy than ranger. S'posed rangerin' paid the bills. He sat well in that old saddle. Old it may have been but somebody'd taken good care of it. She decided she needed to know, "You're much to young to have bought that saddle new..."
      "You are right, my uncle Pat cowboyed all over these parts." He slung down from his perch and continued, "said he'd used his rodeo winnings to buy it." He smiled......, "I'll tell you the rest of the story if you'd like as we head down."
      She said as she returned his smile, "O.K. and by the way I'm Gerrie."
      "I'm Weldon, but most call me W. P. for Weldon Patrick Birchand. W. P. for short." She nodded, they started walking down the hill through the brush. "Uncle Pat never had kids, to restless, couldn't settle down. He told me he'd hocked it a couple of times so he could eat, but as soon as he got caught up he'd oil it up and put it back in service. Uncle Pat told me if I'd give it the care he gave it, he'd show me everything I needed to know. I did, and he did. He died last year. He said as he pulled the cowboy hat over his face 'put me in a pine box and slip this three-x over my eyes and leave my boots on, and with the right care that saddle might last your whole life.
      She was thinking he was a nice guy and all but long distance romance never works, and most every cowboy has some quirks. She'd been there with her last and wasn't wanting to go that road again. When they arrived back at 'forty one' she shook his hand and thanked him for the rules. He reminded her there are bears in these parts and more. She made him aware she intended to climb the 'Old Man' in three or four days. He said he'd make a mental note, tipped his cowboy hat, and went on his way.

      She lit the lantern, after she bedded Dasiy Mae down, and studied the map she had of the area. She could hardly wait for the morrow to come, she wanted her chance with the 'Old Man'. She was glad W. P. was around, he took nothing for granted. At least he was steady, and steady was good in the wild. She pulled her bible out and after reading a chapter in the New Testament, she started feeling yawny. It had been a long, interesting day and was ready to stretch out.
      The wind came up and the camper started a gentle roll back and forth which she hadn't noticed 'till that crack of thunder woke her up. She sat straight up in bed. When that nickel size hail started bouncing off of that tin roof she had just finished taking Dasiy Mae back inside the trailer. Dasiy Mae got a little nervous with all the lightening and thunder but Gerrie was right there to help her be at ease. As she calmed her friend she started remembering another night when the 'girls' were up most of the night. They'd said a tornado was headed their way, and the wind blew fierce, but the storm only took some older weaker trees down, one spring two years earlier.
      Tuesday morning the high wind had passed leaving the rain. The rain came harder and lighter as the day progressed. Every time it let up she would get Dasiy Mae out on the ground and take her for a walk, not going to far until it showed some real signs of clearing up. That was Tuesday. Tuesday cleared in the afternoon and needless to say, all the campers were happy.
      Her and Dasiy Mae was glad to be traveling, checking out new trails. The trail toward the 'Old Man' didn't seem as well worn as she had thought it would be. "I guess not everyone wants to tangle with the mountain," she said to Dasiy Mae and she shook her head as if she agreed. Every open spot she could, Gerrie would give her the reins and Dasiy Mae would get wound up. That first five miles brought her close enough to see the top of the 'Old Man'. Through binoculars he didn't look so hard to tame. As a matter of fact she should have been able to ride close to three quarters of the way up, where it appeared she could tie Dasiy Mae, hike up and down around two, two and a half hours, and be back in camp by one or two in the afternoon. She could go to the falls the next day and just laze around the last day, and get a little sun.
      Weather providing, tomorrow she planned to skirt the base as much as possible and take some pictures. The day after that she wanted to try her new fly rod in the creek that ran south of the camp ground. She wanted to fish a ways away from those falls. She could keep an eye on Dasiy Mae while she ate, and pull in some Trout. Of course, that all depended on the weather which was letting her know she'd best be cutting it short.
      Dasiy Mae had no idea what was coming and Gerrie could only see the lightening cracking across the sky when she looked back over her shoulder, but started hi-tailing it back. She got a shiver and felt a little colder, when the rain/hail started but it left unwanted memories all the same. It got bad enough she pulled off the trail up under an old oak where the hail and rain was filtered some. The hail part left but the rain had come to stay.
      The water was running and cutting it's own path in the trail by now. The two of them were soaked but for where the 'conco' fit. It kept Gerrie's torso more or less dry but didn't help much with the lower half. She'd worn men's Levis 'cause they hold up better in the brush and it was good they were between her legs and those leather chaps. Any thing else would have left her legs raw by the time they got back to camp.
      It was thirty one miles down the water grade two lane road, only used by the locals year round, and the ranger and campers otherwise bound. To get radio, you needed a portable. You may need to change locations a lot to hear the weather news. Gerrie had brought along her dads little old six transistor, he'd played out in the shop over the years. It wasn't fancy but it was a good size to get the basics, small enough to sit on the dash or you could tie it around your neck. By the time dark came Tuesday, she decided she'd keep it more handy, like around her neck for the rest of her stay.
      Wednesday morning's sun woke her up reflecting off the side mirror. She had parked facing west just so she could leave the morning sun outside and listen as the world came to life, all the birds singing their songs. She was up. The day was calling her out. She had no choice. She turned her radio on while she ate and the weather man said, "more rain this afternoon." This was getting a little old and wreaking havoc on her fun, but she'd make the best of it.
      She had lunch after skirting most of the 'Old Man.' She had tied the reins back out of the way so Dasiy Mae could feed on that grass in the clearing. She finished off the peanut butter and jam sandwich and was watching the squirrels at play in the trees overhead, when a cool breeze blew her cowboy hat off into the woods. She playfully went after it, and the breeze blew it further. By the time she caught up to it she had wandered several hundred feet away from Dasiy Mae, to where she couldn't see her anymore.

Top

      Since most of her surroundings looked the same she relied on her training to guide herself back out of the woods. She looked for broken twigs and disturbed ground. She noticed the position of the shadows. She started retracing her footsteps, till the sky changed. She strained to look through the trees to see Dasiy Mae in the clearing. The cool breeze had become a cool wind and she picked up her pace. She told herself 'she'd be all right'.
      As she broke out of the tree line in to the clearing she was much relieved to see Dasiy Mae was unaware of her peril, her tail swatting at a fly, her head still down. Gerrie looked up to survey the sky and turned the radio on to get the latest... but no real difference according to them. The sky said different. She knew she better head for camp. Guess their afternoon comes early 'round here, it was barley twelve twenty.
      She was beginning to think something didn't want her to get well aquatinted with that old mountain. The Almanac and the weather service both forecast dry all week, and now that the rain has showed up again, they're talking records broken if it keeps up. She was a little more familiar with this trail this time. If she couldn't out run the storm she'd found a cave where her and Dasiy Mae could get and let it pass.
      The lightening came first cracking across the sky like it needed to remind her who was boss. Then the hail and high wind. When the hail passed they made a run for that cave. By the time they arrived they were in the midst of a gully washer, soaked from head to toe with around four miles to camp.
      This storm had made the trail harder to ride where it had taken some limbs, big limbs, and put them in the way. It was nearly sundown according to her watch, and the rain, though lighter, wasn't going to let her be dry again today. She had brought a slicker on the trip, but it was too warm to wear it when she left. What with a clear sky and no rain in the forecast she didn't see any good reason to bring it along. That wouldn't happen again. We learn from trial and error sometimes and this gave proof to that.
      Thursday morning showers off and on. Determined, Gerrie walked out to the ranger station for coffee and conversation with W. P. She ask if this was normal, all this rain.
      "No, I've been here as a ranger the past four years. I'm twenty five, and I've been in these parts all my life. I don't recall but one other season kind'a like this. I was just a kid, eleven I think. I don't remember much but dad said it was like that mountain had it in for us humans that year. What with that guy gettin' washed away and all."
      She was twenty two and he was twenty five and he had such a smooth easy way about him it made it easier to stick it out. But she promised herself, 'just friends'. She could not handle romance so soon after her last... "Getting washed away?"
      "Yeah, I guess the guy was just learning to fly fish and was determined to catch his limit. They said a flash flood came rollin' down the mountain and took ev'ry thing in it's path including him. So be aware."

      Gerrie sipped her coffee letting it stay hot for a little longer and was in no hurry to leave good company anyway. She was looking out the window when like a ghost the lightening touched the ground. She, for the next few seconds would see the image of an old man's face. An old man with a beard and a devilish grin. She would ask herself what that was, and could it be true? Surly not!
      She didn't want it to be what she thought it was, the old man coming out of the mountain. She'd never heard of anyone actually seeing a spirit, so it set her at odds with herself. She turned swiftly and ask W. P. if he'd seen the face. He just looked at her like she was coming loose from her marbles.
      "All I saw was a flash of light."
      "It hit that tie bar right over there," Gerrie pointed to the post for the horses.
      "Yeah, well..., I s'pose we can still tie our mounts there. Don't look like it's busted."
      She could tell W. P. was no help. She got a little shiver when she realized it was aimed at her. But then again maybe it wasn't real. Maybe it was just a reflection. Now the question was, if she could forget about it. Yeah, it was just a reflection, come to think of it, it wasn't even close to looking like a face...??
      Thursday came and went a lot like Tuesday. Fortunately at the last minute she had thrown a couple three books to read on the floorboard, but at the time she put them there she couldn't think why she would need them. She read for a while. She went out and exercised Dasiy Mae. She read for a while. She feed Dasiy Mae and curried her some. To say the least she was bored, but she knew, this too, shall pass.
      When Friday morning rolled in it was quaint, fresh and crisp. It was good to be alive on a day to be tackled. She finished off those eggs and bacon while she was putting a peanut butter and bacon sandwich together. Her dad usually walked away when she started building sandwiches, he didn't want to be the one she tested on. He learned when she was young she would put lemons and tomatoes and mustard together. While it might sound exotic to some, he said he'd stick with boring old tried and true, thanks just the same.
      Even Dasiy Mae was giddy. She would've said, "hurry up, we need to go, it's a perfect day and all those miles, today's the day, now hurry up!" if she could talk. She had spirit, and was bred for hard work, she wanted to run some, and Gerrie knew it as she spread the blanket over her back. She was being playful and almost wanted to leave without her. As soon as Gerrie got locked up they were off.
      There were other riders but they just came to ride the trails. They hadn't come to climb the 'Old Man.' She would smile and say 'Hi' as they passed them up. By now Dasiy Mae had the trail to the 'Old Man' in her head. She knew each turn, each up, each down, and nearly every rock. They made their fastest trip yet to the base of the mountain, minutes, mere minutes it seemed.
      She had a plan, a little rough, never the less a plan. She rode straight away from the mountain and a ways up the side of one of his neighboring hills, stopped and pulled her make-shift map out of her pocket. Checked it, and took off like a rocket. She guided Dasiy Mae to the right and followed a trail a quarter mile, then left that trail and cut left into a clearing near a jutting rock. She ducked and felt her hat brush against the moss growing on the shadowy underside, and thought maybe she had tickled 'him'. She smiles to herself at the thought, and Dasiy Mae kept her footing on the narrow path.
      She figured she'd sashay back and forth going up to that point where she'd leave Dasiy Mae. She did, and did well for a while. She pulled Dasiy Mae up short and looked out across forty or fifty feet of what could be loose shale. If she tried it she knew she could go down, she dismounted and decided she could walk across it. Dasiy Mae balked a little and pawed the ground, her way of letting her know she disagreed.
      Gerrie tied her to a nearby tree and very carefully started across. It was loose all right. She started kicking the shale to see if she could clear a path. It wasn't too deep, she found bottom, she could clear a path, but it was slowing her down a lot. It would be worth it to take Dasiy Mae along, she still had half the way to go.
      She cleared a path wide enough for Dasiy Mae and went back and brought her through, even though she didn't want to go. Having Dasiy Mae was a comfort as she looked at her watch. She was forty five minutes behind now and just perchance decided to check the weather. Before the left they'd said no rain all day today. "Some clouds moving in, maybe rain tomorrow," "good!" she said to herself.
      In an hour she reached that clearing she'd marked and dismounted. No time to waste she kissed Dasiy Mae on the nose and told her she'd be back in an hour or so, to be good. It seemed silly, she was always good, for a horse. She turned and took a swig of water as she started up.
      Now, her course was the most direct route she could manage one step after another straight up. She'd been running every morning for the past year to be in good shape for this short climb, it isn't the same. Not that she tired, but this takes different muscles. Like running up a stairway it's hard on the ankles. She started realizing how easy it could be to turn an ankle and wished she had brought those climbing/hiking boots like her dad suggested, but she knew she could go on up a ways. And the view........
      She had been going upward for an hour. She knew by the sun she had better be getting close to the top. She stopped on this huge rock. It must have been ten by twenty feet across and around fifteen feet thick and nearly flat. Nearly flat enough to lay back and take in the warm breeze and sunshine. Not a good idea. Not part of the plan. Besides I'm so close to the top of my hairless headed 'Old Man'! I should check for weather, she thought. "Clouds moving in from the south - could be in our area by eight p.m. tonight - might be bringing more hail and high wind."
      She thought maybe she should at least catch her breath. She looked up and around and could see the top. It would take another fifteen or so minutes to get there, snap a few pictures. Get at least one of her on top. But just in case she got the camera out and shot a few from this rock, what a great view.
      She started back upward with a renewed vigor. She paid careful attention to where she had just came from, it's not like there was a marked trail with signs at this point. She was slipping some with these smooth soled cowboy boots. She was full of determination right to her roots that this one thing she could do, she'd come this far.
      Rockier and steeper, and legs that had started growing weaker, just another hundred feet. She stopped standing on a small fat rock just big enough for her right foot. She had to hold on to another rock jetting out by her head to keep her balance. She looked around. Had she passed the point of no return, straight up or straight down or back the way she'd come?
      She decided to go forward and up if she could find a way, if not, then down. She looked carefully and found no route to match her ability in the direction she'd been going. She turned slowly to reverse her course and spotted a small ledge, if she could get there. She thought about taking pictures but it required letting go with her hands, and that's not happening. To bad, could have gotten some really nice shots.
      She started to realize it takes a lot of energy to hold your position on the side of a mountain, as she very carefully made her way down to that ledge she hoped would hold her. She had a least achieved the most of her goal, she could live with that. She wanted to just plant herself on that ledge like she had on that big rock but she had read that some ledges are not at all safe even though they appeared that way. If she fell from here it was thirty or so feet to the next something not straight up or down. She checked her footing and gave that ledge a good downward kick, hoping it would hold. It did.
      She sat with her feet tucked up beside her just barely on the ledge, but good enough for a short break. She took a swig of water as she pondered her plight. It's a good thing she had helped her dad re-roof that old barn, 'cause this would be a bad time to find out you are afraid of heights.
      She took the camera out and was getting some good shots when she zoomed in on a water tower. It wasn't to big. Not big enough for a town, and the trees were too thick below it to tell what it went with. She took a couple of it anyway, stood up and took a couple of her goal and found out her legs would not let her complete her journey. She took another swig of water and checked her watch, it was time to head back anyway. She was about two hundred feet short. Next time she'd be better prepared!
      She reminded herself of her slick bottom boots and away toward the clearing where she had left Dasiy Mae. She had thought going down would be easier. It wasn't! Going down on the side of a mountain means you must look downward and focus in on each next step, even if you follow the exact reverse course. It's all about trust.
      Now how much had she trusted God on the way up? She must trust equally on the way down. 'She ask God to guide her footsteps, each and every one, Amen.' She began to sense another presence about her. Good or bad she couldn't tell. Carefully plotting her course she had returned to the large rock where she had rested before and could rest again. This time her legs were nearly cramping, and she needed to catch her breath, and calm down, and focus at the task at hand.
      From here she could see Dasiy Mae swatting at flies and waiting patiently about twenty minutes below her. She was down to her last swig of water that she'd brought with her, but that was O.K. She had two more bottles in the saddle bags. She headed on down. The grade was not nearly as steep from here on. Almost felt like level ground compared to where she had been.
      Gerrie was twenty feet above Dasiy Mae when she stepped on a loose rock. Her foot slipped and down she went. She was sliding on her rear headed for Dasiy Mae and not much to grab in between. She was out of control. She tried to cut her descent by catching on to the brush. She came to rest nearly at Dasiy Mae's feet. She laughed, then she moved and began to realize everything hurt. She checked herself over and decided she could get up and continue on.
      She went to the saddle bags and pulled out a bottle of water and drank. When she put the half empty bottle away she noticed she had lost her dad's radio from around her neck. She could see the clouds were getting thicker. She looked around a short while hoping it had come on down the slide with her. It hadn't! The camera made it, the radio didn't. "Pictures are good for proof, but I need to know the weather," she told Dasiy Mae as she mounted up.
      Time to go. No time to waste. The wind had came up and brought that chill with it. This time the clouds were coming in around them, a heavy fog with wind. Not a good thing, as it grew harder to see the ground. Sometimes she could let Dasiy Mae lead the way, this didn't seem like one of those times. She stopped and dismounted while she could still see where she was dismounting. And they walked, it was O.K. because her rump was a bit sore anyway.
      Before long they came to the loose shale she had made a path across. She considered nothing had changed and kept going 'til she reached the end of those reins. Dasiy Mae had stopped, determined not to cross. Gerrie did a one eighty and slipped again. Down she went on that shale, that shale with it's sharp edges. The reins left her finger tips and she rolled front to back and into an old fallen tree trunk. The termites had cleaned it down some so it was a softer landing than it might have been.
      As luck would have it, lightening struck twenty five or so feet away, and brought another tree to lay beside her. She was very scared. She wanted to be up there with Dasiy Mae and she wondered if she could get up. She felt sore in lots of places but she knew she had to get to Dasiy Mae. She didn't seem to have any broken bones..., but the day wasn't over yet. It had started to rain. She was glad it was only rain as she climbed back up the forty or fifty feet. She got a hold of Dasiy Mae and got that slicker on. She was already wet but it would help keep her warm.
      They crossed the shale field this time together and the clouds had lifted a little and the going was good enough to ride. But she didn't feel much like a conquering hero. The water kept coming in buckets and she had a feeling this would be the longest couple of hours in her life. The rain kept coming. The lightening kept flashing. Dasiy Mae started sinking in the mud, not a good thing! They came to the creek which hadn't had any water and was now over flowing. The camp was still four and a little more miles away.
      Dasiy Mae knew better this time. They would have to wait, they'd never make it across. Gerrie headed back up to that cave. She knew they had a good chance to make it there. Though it was almost time to feed Dasiy Mae, the rain showed no signs of letting up. From a wonderful morning to worries of survival, what a discouraging place.
      As she sat on a rock near the cave's entrance and watched the rain pour down, she knew she would have one heck of a story to tell when she got back. She leaned back against the wall of the cave and rested her eyes for a few minutes. What else was there to do? She could hear the steady breathing of Dasiy Mae and the constant down pour of the rain. And started thinking how nice a hot bubble bath would feel. It would take a lot of the sting out of this deal.
      The wind came up and the rain hit her in the face. The lightening touched just at the mouth of the cave like before. She saw that face. He smiled. She heard him say, "come back and see me again sometime. I like you."
- - - - - - -

      Well she had come back to see him again. it had been four years and W. P. had come out and helped her get back safely. They parted friends and wrote letters. He gave her the new record totals and kept her up on the changes the park made. He got married, she didn't, yet. He reserved her 'forty one' again. She bought heavy hiking/climbing boots and had ran up and down the hills near where she lived. She was prepared.
      When the lightening had hit that tree a few feet away she could barely see. She had held still and an angel come to her rescue. Today it was raining like that day. She knew she didn't survive that day on her own, and today she had a chance to finish this day by helping another. "Do you know how to ride a horse?" she yelled!
      "I'm sure I do but I haven't mounted up since I was a pup," he responded, "and I can't see!"
      "The same thing happened to me four years ago. Try to relax and I'll put you up on Dasiy Mae. She's been here before and she's very sure footed. She's mine. I'm Gerrie."
      "I'm Benjamin, Ben for short. I am sure glad you came along. God bless you for your help."
      Gerrie took the reins and led them to that cave. She knew that creek would be swelled, no use going there. She got Ben down and sat him on that same rock. This time she'd brought a little pot to make some cowboy coffee if she got caught up in a storm like they have. They would have something warm to drink and a little conversation went a long way toward making this thing easier to take.
      Gerrie told Ben of her trip four years ago. She knew it seemed hard to swallow but it happened that way. Ben spoke of the peace and serenity he'd felt until this storm had hit, and when the lightening touched that stone he said he saw a man's face with a beard smiling a friendly smile.
      Gerrie looked outside and the rain had started letting up. She looked and the clouds were subsiding. Still another hour to sundown but she knew W. P. would be along. They headed back to camp. W. P. met them at the creek. The water flow was down to where they could wade across if they wanted, it clears quickly this high up.
      The next day Ben woke up and had regained his sight. When he saw Gerrie he fell in love.
      "Where do you live Ben?" she ask.
      "I'm in Kensington county half a day from here."
      "You mean we might be neighbors? I live on a farm near Larson in Colby county."
      "Well I'm the new minister at Chuktow Community Church. I thought I'd come up to this mountain to get closer to God and he brought us together."
      Gerrie took a liking to him right away. When they got back home, she started going to listen to his sermons. She has been to his church twice a week for the last six months. They'd been out on many dates and Gerrie had fixed him several peach cobblers by the time he popped the question. She said yes!
      The next trip to the 'Old Man' she would not be alone. She had gotten to the top in many ways, and God had helped her every step of the way.

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