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مجموعه: سهم من از کوهستان / کتاب: سهم من از کوهستان / فصل 6

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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In Which I Meet One of My Own Kind and Have a Terrible Time Getting Away

Five notches into June, my house was done. I could stand in it, lie down in it, and there was room left over for a stump to sit on. On warm evenings I would lie on my stomach and look out of the door, listen to the cicadas and crickets, and hope it would storm so that I could crawl into my tree and be dry. I had got soaked during a couple of May downpours, and now that my house was done, I wanted the chance to sit in my hemlock and watch a cloudburst wet everything but me. This opportunity didn’t come for a long time. It was dry.

One morning I was at the edge of the meadow. I had cut down a small ash tree and was chopping it into lengths of about eighteen inches each. This was the beginning of my bed that I was planning to work on after supper every night.

With the golden summer upon me, food was much easier to get, and I actually had several hours of free time after supper in which to do other things. I had been eating frogs’ legs, turtles, and best of all, an occasional rabbit. My snares and traps were set now. Furthermore, I had a good supply of cattail roots I had dug in the marsh.

If you ever eat cattails, be sure to cook them well, otherwise the fibers are tough and they take more chewing to get the starchy food from them than they are worth. However, they taste just like potatoes after you’ve been eating them a couple of weeks, and to my way of thinking are extremely good.

Well, anyway, that summer morning when I was gathering material for a bed, I was singing and chopping and playing a game with a raccoon I had come to know. He had just crawled in a hollow tree and had gone to bed for the day when I came to the meadow. From time to time I would tap on his tree with my axe. He would hang his sleepy head out, snarl at me, close his eyes, and slide out of sight.

The third time I did this, I knew something was happening in the forest. Instead of closing his eyes, he pricked up his ears and his face became drawn and tense. His eyes were focused on something down the mountain. I stood up and looked. I could see nothing. I squatted down and went back to work. The raccoon dove out of sight.

“Now what’s got you all excited?” I said, and tried once more to see what he had seen.

I finished the posts for the bed and was looking around for a bigger ash to fell and make slats for the springs when I nearly jumped out of my shoes.

“Now what are you doing up here all alone?” It was a human voice. I swung around and stood face to face with a little old lady in a pale blue sunbonnet and a loose brown dress.

“Oh gosh!” I said. “Don’t scare me like that. Say one word at a time until I get used to a human voice.” I must have looked frightened because she chuckled, smoothed down the front of her dress, and whispered, “Are you lost?” “Oh, no, Ma’am,” I stuttered.

“Then a little fellow like you should not be all alone way up here on this haunted mountain.”

“Haunted?” said I.

“Yes, indeed. There’s an old story says there are little men up here who play ninepins right down in that gorge in the twilight.” She peered at me. “Are you one of them?” “Oh, no, no, no, no,” I said. “I read that story. It’s just make-believe.” I laughed, and she puckered her forehead.

“Well, come on,” she said, “make some use of yourself and help me fill this basket with strawberries.”

I hesitated – she meant my strawberry supply.

“Now, get on with you. A boy your age should be doing something worth while, ’stead of playing games with sticks. Come on, young man.” She jogged me out into the meadow.

We worked quite a while before we said any more. Frankly, I was wondering how to save my precious, precious strawberries, and I may say I picked slowly. Every time I dropped one in her basket, I thought how good it would taste.

“Where do ye live?” I jumped. It is terribly odd to hear a voice after weeks of listening only to birds and crickets and raccoons, and what is more, to hear the voice ask a question like that.

“I live here,” I said.

“Ye mean Delhi. Fine. You can walk me home.”

Nothing I added did any good. She would not be shaken from her belief that I lived in Delhi. So I let it go.

We must have reaped every last strawberry before she stood up, put her arm in mine and escorted me down the mountain. I certainly was not escorting her. Her wiry little arms were like crayfish pinchers. I couldn’t have got away if I had, tried. So I walked and listened.

She told me all the local and world news, and it was rather pleasant to hear about the baseball league, an atom bomb test, and a Mr Riley’s three-legged dog that chased her chickens. In the middle of all this chatter she said, “That’s the best strawberry patch in the entire Catskill range. I come up here every spring. For forty years I’ve come to that meadow for my strawberries. It gits harder every year, but there’s no jam can beat the jam from that mountain. I know. I’ve been around here all my life.” Then she went right on telling me about the New York team’s place in the league.

As I helped her across the stream on big boulders, I heard a cry in the sky. I looked up. Swinging down the valley on long pointed wings was a large bird. I was struck by the ease and swiftness of its flight.

“Duck hawk,” she said. “Nest around here every year. My man used to shoot ’em. He said they killed chickens, but I don’t believe it. The only thing that kills chickens is Mr Riley’s three-legged dog.” She slipped and teetered as she crossed the rocks, but kept right on talking and stepping as if she knew that no matter what, she would get across.

We finally reached the road. I wasn’t listening to her very much. I was thinking about the duck hawk. This bird, I was sure, was the peregrine falcon, the king’s hunting bird.

“I will get one. I will train it to hunt for me,” I said to myself.

Finally I got the little lady to her brown house at the edge of town.

She turned fiercely upon me. I started back.

“Where are you going, young man?”

I stopped. Now, I thought, she is going to march me into town. Into town? Well, that’s where I’ll go then, I said to myself. And I turned on my heel, smiled at her, and replied, “To the library.”

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