I fixed up the little cabin perched on the side of the mountain to be rented. Within a week I had a renter, a young man that promised he could help around the yard, split wood and help fix up the other two-room building that sat next to the highway. In early years it was an apple, cherry and plum cider stand that also sold jellies and souvenirs. It had a cement floor and some of the logs needed to be repaired. Whenever I asked the young man to help me he seemed to have something else to do. Or if I knocked on his door, he did not answer. I always had a feeling he was inside.
Gail and David told me several times that someone was peeking in the window at them in the bedroom. I thought it was Gail’s imagination and did not pay much attention. I trusted everyone and never suspected anyone of anything. Logic was my friend and I guess I wanted to show my kids to not be afraid by acting brave.
The young man paid his rent and told me he was working at a hardware store. The second month he was there we hardly saw him at all. One evening a car drove up in our yard with the big letters “Sheriff” on the side. A car right behind him was my friend Marie. My kids had never seen a uniformed officer, and I had never talked to one. I immediately thought Jack had run off into the river.
The sheriff pointed at the rental cabin, and asked me if (I cannot remember his name) lived there. Yes, I said, for a month and a half but he is rarely home. Marie, tears running down her cheeks, grabbed my hand and put her other arm around the kids and said, “He’s in jail.”
The sheriff filled in the details. Seems the rancher in the canyon to the north of us found twenty of his Hereford’s shot to death. They caught the young man walking out of the canyon with a rifle. Not knowing where he lived or where he came from and knowing Marie Bean, the Sheriff drove up the canyon to ask her.
When the sheriff explained what had happened, poor Marie thought maybe we had been shot also! She was so relieved to see us in the driveway she said, she just started to cry!
To close this story, the young man had been judged mentally ill two years before. He tipped over the edge and they sentenced him to 30 years in a penitentiary.
My trust and always believing people were nice and good, went from not trusting anyone and being suspicious of everyone. I realized that the renter kid was peeking in the windows at night. I listened to Gail more closely.
I used the cabin from then on for our relatives and friends that came to visit and stay a few days. No more renters!
Horseradish leaves and logging trucks
There was a big patch of horseradish in the yard. It grew to about 6 or 7 feet tall and the leaves were as long as my arm. The kids would pull up the stalks and play war and wave them at cars and trucks that came along the highway. The logging truck drivers would “honk-honk” when they saw the kids waving the horseradish leaves. It made there day! Every time they would hear a truck coming down the canyon and shifting gears, they would run down to the parking area in front of the old cider stand and wave the leaves at them and wait for the “honk-honk.” I still smile when I think of them standing like stair steps and waving those big leaves.
The big mountain lion
Our mailbox was across the highway from the old cider stand, and I would walk down the driveway across the highway and retrieve my mail. It was a nice walk and I always enjoyed the wild plum and chokecherry trees then stand and look at the river for few minutes. I did not feel it was safe for the kids to cross the highway.
On a warm fall afternoon, I took my regular hike to the mail box and along the way took in the beautiful fall colors and the roar of the river. As I crossed the highway something moving caught me eye. I looked up to see a big dog in the distance. I looking the other way for traffic and looked back to see the longest biggest tail on a mountain lion I had ever seen. He had increased his speed down the highway, with his tail swishing from side to side; he made a leap and another, coming right at me! I actually do not know how I got up the driveway and into the house! That is a mystery to me to this day! The kids were taking a nap or I would have been in real panic if they would have been outdoors with me.
Through the rest of the fall, we would sometimes see him sun himself on the big rock under the clothesline. He never came close to the house and I never went outdoors without looking in all directions. I think he would have not hurt us — maybe!
As I mentioned before, when it snowed in the canyon, it swirled in circles and at times you had to concentrate so you did not feel dizzy or upside down. I drove back and forth all the winter, taking the kids to school and the babysitter and me to work at the hospital. Then I drove back at night, scared spit less in the swirling snow. I always uttered a “thank you God” when I turned into the driveway and up the hill to our house. After prying my fingers from the steering wheel and getting the tired, sleepy, hungry kids in the house, I began to wonder why I lived in the mountains! And sometimes “The Dad” did not come home. We moved back to the flat lands in 1966.
Next week: Fuzzy pink slippers, some more of Marie Bean, motor cycle accident, making big decisions and moving again.