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Reflections from the Road

Winter Song Part 1

by Rick Mansfield

      What follows is the first part of a four-column allegory.  I trust all will find it entertaining; perhaps, even, a bit inspiring.  Like all good fables, it is founded in truth.

      William Smith had not visited the cabin on Turtle Creek for many years.  Had not roamed any of his vast holdings for several.  Mr. Smith, for both his age and social position demanded the use of the title; could generally be found in his office six days a week.  That is the office at his flooring plant at the outskirts of town.

      Sunday, he was in the office, or study, of his two-story mansion in the oldest part of town.  A colonial style wooden home built when he still entertained notions of building a family.  That was before he become absorbed with building an empire.  And surely an empire is what by the 1940’s he had built.

He had started supplying staves for the liquor industry, from his white oak.  Shortleaf pine had gone to joists, studs and rafters.  Hickory had made cabinets.  By the Great War, he was producing all things wood.  Smith Timber had survived the recession felt by many when the tie industry all but died and so many timber barons had moved on after overcutting their holdings.

He had loaned money, for substantial interest; always with good collateral.  William Smith was a wealthy man.  And with the passing of his childhood friend and lifelong business partner a few years back, he was a lonely one.  Probably why he had gone on this afternoon adventure.

He found himself wandering past the little pond formed when he and his friend had first started construction of the small cabin so many years ago.  They had dammed up the spring branch and stocked it with trout.  Fell the pine by crosscut and axe; hewed the timber with broad-axe and adz.  Well ahead of their time with machinery at their mills; they had enjoyed the closer connection to the land this type of construction offered.

He took the old trail to the larger creek into which the spring-fed branch ultimately joined.  Walked through the stand of cedar that had supplied the mantle for the fireplace; strolled among the rocks from which they had split the stone for the hearth.

Sat on an old stump overlooking the glade where once he had listened to hounds on the trail; an enjoyment he had given up long ago as it took time from his earnings.  Perhaps the added physical exertion to a now normally sedentary life; maybe the serenity of the place and unseasonal warmth of the winter sun.  William Smith fell asleep.

“Billy Boy!  Wake up!”

From a dreamlike state, William felt the gentle hand on his shoulder; heard the familiar voice calling him by his childhood name.  Slowly, he opened his eyes.  He shook himself, at least what passes for shaking at his advanced age.  There, before him, was Greg.  “Gorgeous Greg” he had called him, so many years ago.

There before him stood his cousin.  Friend.  Dead partner.  Gone was the childish grin.  Even the businesslike grimace long perfected for negotiating.  Vaguely familiar was the frame.  Even the posture was bowed, in part by the log chain circled over a shoulder and dragging behind.  More by a tiredness that permeated his every feature.

“We need to talk” the apparition said solemnly.  While the specter explained what was to come, William remained speechless.  His apprehension grew as the image departed.  How could he stand three more?


See you all next week for part two!

Feature Image by Talisha Cowin

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