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مجموعه: سهم من از کوهستان / کتاب: در دور دست های کوهستان / فصل 3

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  • زمان مطالعه 17 دقیقه
  • سطح خیلی سخت

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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متن انگلیسی فصل

IN WHICH I Start Over

I turn the pages to find a blank page in my journal for today’s events.

“June 17

“It’s just a year since Alice moved in and stayed.

“And it’s somewhere around three o’clock in the afternoon according to my sundial.” I doodle with my pencil for a moment, then go on.

“Frightful was consficated today by the—”

I stop. Putting my arms on the desk and my head on my arms, I see my falcon going down the mountain on the conservation officer’s fist.

Presently, I hear the leather hinges on the door of the root cellar squeak as Alice goes in. She doesn’t seem to have noticed that Frightful is gone or she would be calling me. I am grateful. I just want to be by myself.

As I listen to Alice’s footsteps pass my tree and fade along the path to her tree house, Leon Longbridge comes vividly back to mind. I hear his voice, see his blue eye and brown eye, and suddenly I think of something. Why didn’t he show me his badge or some identification? I should think a person confiscating an endangered species would certainly have to show a person his authority to take the bird. Maybe he’s not even a conservation officer.

“I’m going to Delhi and ask the sheriff,” I say, hoping he isn’t and that I can get her back.

I make preparations for the trip by filling my belt pouch with nuts and smoked venison. I never leave my mountaintop without food. Anything can happen to delay me—a twisted ankle, a storm, a trout waiting to be caught.

As I close the root cellar door, I find a piece of paper tucked in one of the leather hinges I made from my brother Jake’s old belt. It’s a note from Alice. She’s always leaving me messages, usually not on paper but in the mud, written in pine needles, or scratched on a leaf. Once she floated a birch-bark note downstream to me while I was fishing.

“I’m thinking waterfalls,” this one reads.

That’s Alice—tantalizing—“thinking waterfalls.” I’m sure she is. Ever since she set foot in the Catskills, she has talked about, and gone out of her way to find, cascades, cataracts, waterfalls, rills, riffles and niagaras. For whatever reason she’s thinking about waterfalls now, I’m glad she is. She’s preoccupied and I don’t have to tell her about Frightful yet.

I’ll tell her in a note. That won’t be as difficult as saying it to her face. I won’t have to see the sorrow in her eyes or be witness to what she might do.

I return to my desk and tear a sheet out of my journal.

“Dear Alice,” I begin.

“It is easier for me to write this than tell it to you. Frightful has been confiscated by the conservation officer. She’s an endangered species, and the laws concerning her are rigid. I’m going to Delhi to see if there is anything I can do to get her back. I don’t think there is, but it will make me feel better.

“Keep the charcoal going under the fish on the smoking rack. Turn them once more. They ought to be done by late afternoon. Wrap them in maple leaves and store them in the grape vine basket in the root cellar.

Hastily, Sam.”

I leave the note on the path to her tree house, check the door on the sluice that carries the water to the waterwheel to make sure it’s tightly closed, and depart.

The course I run is straight down the mountain to the county road, where I leave the cool shelter of the woods and trot over the hot asphalt to town. The traffic increases as I near the bridge over Delhi Creek, so I slow down. The heat and stench of exhaust from the cars is almost unbearable and I want to turn back. I don’t. I have to know.

Walking here on the streets, I feel conspicuous in my mountain clothes, but I guess I’m not. The summer visitors in Delhi are dressed in old pants and T-shirts, too. I look no stranger than any of them in my moccasins and the jeans my brother Jake gave me when he left. Once I was laughed at when I wore my deerskin clothes to town, but in these clothes no one even notices me. And I wouldn’t care if they did. I want to find Leon Longbridge.

I round a corner and pause. The library is to the left, the Delaware county courthouse and sheriffs office are to the right. I strike out for the sheriff’s office.

Inside a woman is working at a typewriter. Above the door to another room is a sign reading COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE, and under it is a card saying Conservation Officer on duty today. I’ll soon know the truth.

“Madam?” My voice squeaks and I clear my throat. “Madam.”

“Excuse me a minute,” she answers and types on.

Presently, the typing stops. The woman takes off her glasses and smiles.

“I was wondering, madam,” I begin, then hesitate as I try to word this just right. “I was wondering, is Mr.—Do you have a conservation officer by the name of Leon Longbridge?” “Leon Longbridge?” She is scratching a mosquito bite on her neck, and my heart skips a beat, for she looks as if she has never heard of him.

“Oh, yes,” she says. “Leon Longbridge is the environmental conservation officer. He just happens to be here today. He has a big territory to cover, so he’s usually in the field. You’re lucky.” “Can he confiscate an endangered species if somebody has one?”

“Yes, indeed, he can. He can even make arrests. Do you want to see him?”

I swallow hard in disappointment.

“No, thank you.”

I walk slowly out the door.

Back on the sidewalk, I move fast, weaving in and out of the strolling people, barely noticing them. I am thinking over and over and over again: There is nothing I can do to get Frightful back. She is gone. She is gone.

Sam, I say to myself as I start across the bridge, you must stop these thoughts and start thinking about what to do now that you have no falcon.

Life, my friend Bando once said, is meeting problems and solving them whether you are an amoeba or a space traveller. I have a problem. I have to provide Alice and myself with meat. Fish, nuts, and vegetables are good and necessary, but they don’t provide enough fuel for the hard physical work we do. Although we have venison now, I can’t always count on getting it. So far this year, our venison has been only road kill from in front of Mrs. Strawberry’s farm.

I decide to take the longest way home, down the flood plain of the West Branch of the Delaware to Spillkill, my own name for a fast stream that cascades down the south face of the mountain range I’m on. I need time to think. Perhaps Alice and I should be like the early Eskimos. We should walk, camp and hunt, and when the seasons change, walk on to new food sources. But I love my tree and my mountaintop.

Another solution would be to become farmers, like the people of the Iroquois Confederacy who once lived here. They settled in villages and planted corn and squash, bush beans and berries. We already grow groundnuts in the damp soil and squash in the poor land. But the Iroquois also hunted game. I can’t do that anymore.

I’m back where I started from.

Slowly I climb the Spillkill. As I hop from rock to rock beneath shady basswoods and hemlocks, I hear the cry of the red-tailed hawk who nests on the mountain crest. I am reminded of Frightful and my heart aches. I can almost hear her call my name, Creee, creee, creee, car-reet.

Maybe I can get her back if I plead with the man who is in charge of the peregrines at the university. “But it’s the law,” he would say. I could write to the president of the United States and ask him to make an exception of Alice and me. That won’t work. The president swore to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States when he took office.

I climb on. I must stop thinking about the impossible and solve the problem of what to do now. I must find a new way to provide for us. Frightful is going to be in good hands at the university, and she will have young.

I smile at the thought of little Frightfuls and lift my reluctant feet.

When I am far above the river, I take off my clothes and moccasins and bathe in a deep, clear pool until I am refreshed and thinking more clearly. Climbing up the bank, I dress and sit down. I breathe deeply of the mountain air and try to solve my problem more realistically.

Alice and I could raise chickens—no, they’re domestic birds and wouldn’t look right in the wilderness—pheasant and quail would be better. I put my elbows on my knees and hold my head in both hands. I don’t like that idea either. Alice would undoubtedly name them and then we couldn’t eat them. You can’t eat pets. Alice named that pig she talks to, and now the man who owns it can’t butcher it.

Across the rushing stream grows a carpet of dark moss. I wade over to it and lie down in its cool greenery. I can’t go back to Alice just yet. I’m not ready to talk about Frightful. I’m just not. I close my eyes.

The leaves above me jangle like wind chimes. The vireos twitter as they carry food to their nestlings. A squirrel family scampers over the leaves, rattling them noisily, which is one of the ways squirrels communicate with each other. It means “I’ve found a nut crop.” The birdcalls grow more frenzied as twilight approaches. The males are making their last territorial annoucements before darkness falls. The tree frogs start singing, and I open my eyes. I am looking up into the trees.

A limb just above me resembles a shotgun.

“I would never use a gun,” I say out loud. I would be forever tied to stores for bullets, and the friendly spirit of my mountaintop would be violated. The birds would not come and sit on my hand, Baron Weasel would move out, and Jessie Coon James would no longer trust me. Something happens to a person when he picks up a gun, and the animals sense it. They depart.

“No guns,” I say.

In frustration I pick up a stone and throw it. It flies down the rocky stream bed and forcibly cracks against a boulder.

“Stones,” I say. “I’ll make a sling.”

A sling is the answer. I jump to my feet. Ammunition lies everywhere, and the birds and beasts are not afraid of stones.

No sooner do I solve one problem than I face another. How do you make a sling? Not a slingshot, the forked stick with an elastic band attached to it, but the powerful sling with which David killed Goliath.

I try to remember the pictures I’ve seen of huge Goliath falling to earth with little David standing beneath him, his sling at his side. I see a short strap with two long cords fastened to both ends. That’s all there was to it, I think, also recalling the sling my uncle made when I was a kid. To operate it, a stone is put in the strap; the ends of the strings are held and whirled above the head. When the stone is speeding, it is aimed, one string is released, and the stone zings to its mark.

I should go to the library and ask Miss Turner for a book on how to make a sling, but I can’t. I don’t want to tell her about Frightful. I don’t want to tell anyone.

I find a basswood tree, take out my knife, and cut off several branches. Peeling off the inner bark, I braid it into a tough but slender rope. When I get home, I’ll replace the bark rope with rawhide, as that will be more durable. Meanwhile I can practice.

It’s almost dark when I fasten two cords to a strap of leather I cut from one of my moccasins. I swing the sling, aim at a tree, and let go. The stone misses by yards.

I think about Alice. I really should get back and tell her; she is the one who will be affected the most by Frightful’s confiscation. She may even have to go home to our parents. I get to my feet and start out but sit down again. Alice will cry, or worse, she’ll run down the mountain to find Leon Longbridge—and who knows what she’ll do then. I think of the merchant who took Slats, the horse, because Mrs. Strawberry hadn’t paid a bill. Alice followed him to the county road and called “Kidnapper!” to the driver of a car that came along. The driver pulled over and stopped. While the merchant was trying to explain himself, Alice got on the horse and rode him back to Mrs. Strawberry.

But I can’t face Alice. I’ll just spend the night out here. She’ll be all right even if I don’t come back for days. She has enough food in the root cellar to last a long time, and if she doesn’t want to eat smoked fish or venison, she can catch a fresh fish in the millpond. I caught and released some largemouth bass and a batch of bluegills in the pond shortly after it was built. They are big fish now, and Alice is good at fishing. She also knows where the yellowdock and mustard greens grow in case she wants fresh vegetables. I really don’t worry about her; she’s very resourceful.

As a matter of fact, she probably won’t even miss me. When she’s working on a project, she gets so involved she doesn’t bother to come to my tree for meals. Instead she takes food from the root cellar to her tree house and works while she eats. I didn’t see her for two days when she was making a mirror out of a windowpane and some mercury. When I realized she had not bought the mercury but gotten it out of a thermometer she had taken from Mr. Reilly’s barn, I made her buy a new one for him with some of the forty dollars I had brought with me from the city and never spent.

When she took it back, she was so embarrassed she could hardly lift her head. Mr. Reilly was very nice about it. He said that he had done something like that when he was a kid.

“Unfortunately,” he had said, “most of us have to learn from mistakes. But we do learn. I’ll bet you never do this again.”

“I won’t,” Alice had said softly. And I know she never will.

Come to think about it, if anyone is all right tonight, Alice is. Frightful must be terrified and I am miserable, but Alice, I’ll bet, is humming and working and probably hasn’t even read my note.

I focus on a tree trunk across the stream, twirl the sling over my head, and let a stone fly. I miss again. Discouraged, I lie down on the leafy ground and look up through the foliage at the silent moon.

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