They had been climbing up the steep hill until they came to the trail they were obviously looking for, the trail I was walking. Well, not at the moment. I had exhausted myself trying to make it to the ridge and back before dark. I knew that it was two point four miles from where I had parked my pickup on the Forest Service road. I would have to push it in these last few hours of daylight. I was panting and puffing and leaning more heavily on my staff as I pushed myself. Reluctantly, I had to muzzle my pride and sit down on the stump to catch my breath.

And that’s when I first saw them. I’m sure that they had seen me long before I noticed the man and his wife. He carried the hindquarter of a nice elk and his wife was bending under a large pack of meat that still dripped blood. I suspect it was the meat from both front quarters. As I watched these two approach, a boy came out of the pines below, following their way. He was obviously laboring with the hindquarter that I suspected most white men would not have carried very easily. I didn’t need to understand her language to know that the younger girl following him was obviously teasing. It is the way of all sisters in every race and tribe. I know from both observation and experience.

He had a most nondescript face, like most Umatilla’s I had met before. But there was one feature that appeared to one who looked at him. At least those who looked into a man’s face with a sincere desire to see just what kind of man lived behind it. Not the casual glance that most men exchange when passing on a trail.

It was his smiling eyes. His face was totally devoid of any expression or communication of feeling or emotion. There was no sign of fear, anger, joy or sadness. Not even a hint of curiosity. But the eyes were smiling. I thought, they were actually laughing. And I liked them and him.

He stopped and looked at me for a brief moment and I was delighted when I detected the slightest lift of his chin. I knew it was more than just permission to follow. He was actually inviting me to come along.

I was well aware that if they had not all been so heavily burdened with their fresh supply of meat I would never have been able to keep up their pace. But now the side-hill trail had leveled out and made for easier walking. Then up a section that was so steep that a sharp switch-back to the left was the only relief in the climb.

Unable to communicate, I couldn’t ask the many questions that I wanted. Just where they were headed? How far had they come to find their meat? Were they headed for a village? Would they stop and spend the night over the ridge in a spot sheltered from the stiff breeze that was picking up?

As we slowly, steadily and silently climbed we came to the crest of the ridge. And there in the trail was a stack of stones. It must be why they called this Indian Rock trail. He stopped and carefully laid his burden on a boulder. Then selecting a rock about the size of your head, he placed it on the pile, laid one hand on the rock, and lifted the other to the dazzling sunset. Don’t ask me how I know that he offered a prayer of gratitude. Maybe it was for the elk he had killed or just an acknowledgement of the awesome beauty of these mountains and this sunset and this panorama from the hand of The Creator.

But that was what was in the heart of this old man.  Along with a big “Thank You, Lord” for leaving the imagination with the boy that is tucked away in the wrinkles and stooped shoulders of this old greybeard!


2 thoughts on “INDIAN ROCK TRAIL

  1. Good reading. I felt like this when we climber 180 steps up to the beautiful water falls while on vacation in GA, NC, SC, and TN recently. But thankful for my new knee which allows me to do these and many other things. Is this part of your book?

  2. Dear Dun,

    An excellent “post”, as all yours are…. Certainly you are gifted with writing… Obviously, you’re still in the NW

    Wed. 10:20 AM Ron met our good friend ( Durant, MS, native, whose mother still lives there on Castalian Springs Rd.), Mike Howell. Mike is the pastor @ whose house I took that nasty fall in 9/’12. Sue, his sweet wife & mother of his 5 children, had had cancer already for about 5 yrs. She faithfully helped nurse me those days prior to our heading home. In Jan. she went to be with Jesus. Mike is having a hard time, as you can well imagine… Anyway, in July, Mike first brought his youngest son, Joseph, to visit for a week; then they drove all out west, seeing country neither had ever seen before. By the end of July, he brought his oldest son, John, to stay for a week…. John, same age as our Rachel- 27 yrs.- can’t seem to find his place in the world….His folks so wanted him to finish college, but he’s reluctant to do so, for some unknown reason. He’s had a few jobs, but nothing to make a living in this present world. The 2 oldest, Mindy & Katie, are established in their life’s work- nurse & some kind of hospital tech. The youngest of all, Jenny, is a lieutenant in the Air Force, San Antonio, doing very well, also a nurse…

    Well, yesterday Mike asked Ron to take him to Tyler ( E. TX), about 3 hrs. away, where a retired miss. friend lives. They didn’t arrive there until noontime, stayed until 5:00 PM & headed to San Antonio to see Jenny. If you look @ the TX map you will see it’s a good 5-6 hr. drive… Ron called a few minutes ago to say they didn’t get in to S.A. until around 11:00 PM- worn out… My sweet husband is not a young fellow anymore…. This AM they’re having brunch with my soon-to-be retired GYN, Skip Rath & wife Judy. Last Fri. we drove down for Skip’s retirement party the hospital did for him- very nice. Skip & Judy have been longtime friends, prayer & ffinancial supporters, for which we praise the Lord. Ron expects them to be home in time to watch the “Wheel”… Time will tell. Mike’s flight home is early Tues., so Ron will take him up Mon. PM, they will spend the night close to the airport. Then, on Fri. AM, Lord willing, we will be headed N & E with stops in MS, OH, PA ( Gene & Alice Hiester’s…), CT, MA, ME & then Nova Scotia…. The above mentioned Raths are going to fly into Manchester, NH, on Mon. the 20th; we will get them, taking them with us for the ME & NS run. They’ve never been to CAN, so are looking forward to this, as we do. They’re fine people!

    I’ve rambled on long enough. Give your sweet Eleanor our love. Know when you’ll be heading to GA? I’m sure you both are lonesome for the other one…..

    Love & our prayers,
    Shirley & for Ron

    Sent from Windows Mail

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