Old Man By The Lake
sometime in 1975, I think
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Old Man by the Lake

I wrote the following story, I think. It sounds like me. I found a copy in my hand-written pencil among loose leaf stuff I've saved. I have never copied anything that long in my life, and I am pretty sure I would remember copying it if I did and the source, but I don't. I have no idea when or where I wrote it, so perhaps I didn't. Judging from the condition of the paper on which it was written and the place I found it in my loose-leaf file "semi-organized" by date, I suspect I wrote it while smoking dope, drawing Klein bottles (before I had ever heard of them) all while exploring the Uncompahgre Plateau and environs of Grand Junction, Colorado during my second thesis field season; reminding me of the howls of the coyotes at Iron Springs campground. Scared the bejesus out of me at first, then I missed their mournful songs later in the season. Note in italics written on January 24, 2013 as an introduction to the story in an Email to Mark Wilkerson.

"It's been a long time", thought the old man as he sat on his porch watching the late afternoon clouds drifting over his lake by the house. "A long time", he thought. He had built the house long ago, first as shelter against a soft blanket of deadly snow. He had not built the lake. It was already there. He just knew it as one of his immortal treasures keeping it in his thoughts and feelings where it was safe. It gave him life, well that and the forest around it. He couldn't remember why he had come to the lake, but they were with him then, Isabelle and the children. That first summer they had all built the house together, over the shelter. Even then Jimmy was old enough to help set the traps. A few years later Little Red had brought down his first moose with his own carefully strung bow.

One day Jimmy looked at the sky and saw a cloud being painted by a moving silver dot. For weeks he had marveled at this wonderful dot, finally asking if he could have such a dot for his own. Upon hearing the answer, he had left.

Cathy found a sparkling clear crystal in the earth where she was sitting one day. She had brought it to the house and hidden it. Sometime later, while cleaning in the spring, her mother had found it, admired its beauty and asked Cathy where she found it. The girl grabbed the stone and run from the house, never to return.

Not many seasons after Little Red saved that baby raccoon's life by bringing it home, caring for it and feeding it. Soon after he had met a stranger along one of the trap lines. The stranger told him of other strangers less fortunate than his pet raccoon who needed his help and love. He dutifully said goodbye, promising to return when suffering was ended.

Isabelle soon followed the children down the path that led away from the lake. She promised to return when she knew all her children were safe.

"Yes, it's been a long time", he thought

But, wait, what is that? Someone is coming up the path. Oh praise life for this moment; they're all coming home; no finer blessing could I receive.

"Hello, dear. They were all safe and had all made such good lives for themselves. We have come to take you back with us so you too can enjoy the comforts of a better life."
"Yes, Dad, the earth is so beautiful from the clouds. Come fly with me."
"Oh, father, you have no idea what happiness and excitement diamonds are. Come with me and I will show you my collection and teach you how to collect your own."
"Dad, don't listen to them, they know not God, come with me. You are so wise and so strong and there are so many that are neither that need our help."

The old man said nothing for a long time. Finally, he spoke.

"Yes, I will come with you, if any can answer my question.

Cathy, are your diamonds safe?" -- "Oh, yes, father, my house is locked and the lock is unbreakable."
"Jimmy, are the stars reachable?" -- "Sure, Dad, of course. Why, we now have machines with power to level forests and move mountains, soon we'll reach those pesky stars, soon they too will yield."
"Isabelle, my dear wife, with whom will we share our feelings?" -- "Oh, my silly man, with everyone my dear. I have so many dear, dear friends who want to be your friend too. The world is full of so many wonderful people. Why, just last week three dear friends invited me to share watching a movie with them, how sweet."
"And Little Red, my dear, dear boy, what have I that I can offer as charity?" -- "My dearest Father, I followed you on trap lines and learned from you in the hills, and then left you so as to pass on to others what I learned. But I also need help, for your wisdom is far greater than mine, and I shall not rest until all suffering and wont are wrested from the hearts of men. You KNOW peace, so you must come share it. It is our duty as humans."

Again, the old man remained silent. Not until the bright reds of evening slipped into the velvet of night did he speak.

"I shall stay. You are welcome to stay."

He turned, walked into the house leaving the door open, and began splicing a fishing net that had become worn during the summer's use. The Autumn's breeze slowly covered the sounds of voices heard fading down the path.

"It's been a long time", he thought.