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Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Legend Of The Maple Sugar Bush

I remember when I was a boy of about nine or ten, my Grandfather & I would sit for hours, while he told me of adventures far & wide. He had a way about him that spoke of magic kingdoms & super hero's all rolled into one. 

One such story involved a band of tiny elves who lived deep in the woods in the Maple bush that was back of our house. According to Grandpa, when it came time for the sap to run in the Spring of the year from the giant Maple trees, the woods would fill with scores of miniature people with pointed hats & doll shoes that curled up at the toes, decorated with little bells on the ends. 
The way Grandpa told it, was that late at night, when all was quiet, the elves would appear out of nowhere with little wooden pails the size of thimbles in hand while they played tiny fiddles & danced a jig on top of an old tree stump. They were merry, little creatures who enjoyed their work as they would march single file down the paths in the woods to the huge, old trees that were beginning to flow with the sweet liquid. They would attach the pails to the sides of the trees to be filled one drop at a time until they were filled to the brim, with room for no more. 

 Grandpa swore up & down that when he was a little boy, he actually saw the elves for himself as they laboured through the night, tiny lanterns in hand. He always had a way of getting my curiosity up & this was no exception.

Grandpa smiled, his eyes twinkled with that look of mischief that he had about him. He shifted me on his knee & continued his story. He said, that just as daybreak would appear, the elves would mysteriously vanish into thin air just as suddenly as they had appeared, their work completed for another night. So, one night I decided to find out for myself as to whether the stories he had told were true or if he had made them up just to amuse me.  

It was late, & my excitement mounted as I crept across the front yard to the path that led out back to the sugar bush. Grandpa liked to tell stories, & I think he had a pretty good imagination too. This one though was a whopper, & I just had to know if it was true or not.

The air was crisp & all I managed to slip on was a light jacket over my pajamas without getting caught.  My flashlight shone brightly as I made my way down the path over sticks, rocks & mud holes that were on their way to becoming hardened potholes. Whoops! That one wasn't a pothole. I guess ol' Betsy used this path too. As I lifted my left foot I found that she had left her calling card behind. Nice time for her to distribute her trademark right where I wanted to step. " Oh well. So much for my new slippers.

In fact, the light was almost too bright, & I had to switch it off in a hurry when I saw the upstairs hall light come on at the back of the house. I stood there sweating beads of perspiration, not daring to move in case mama had discovered I was missing from my bed.

Now, I don't recommend going out looking for elves to just about anybody. No, indeed. It's a talent that only few people in the world acquire. You must be willing to face unknown danger, suffer the freezing cold, be willing to stumble through the pitch black darkness of the night. Be willing to allow yourself to be eaten alive by scores of insects all laying claim to our hide. Be scared out of your wits by stray cats that seemed to take offence when you accidentally step on their tails & suffer the shame of returning home with the blessings of Betsy the cow on the sole of your slipper, not to mention the thrashing that seems to find its way to the gravest part of your sit down for some unknown reason.

To me it was an adventure, but to mama it was a time to exercise her motherly duties to the fullest extent of the law. I had no idea that mama could be so angry & not use those four letter words you hear so much about.

As I made my way towards the woods, my light caught sight of something that nearly made me jump out of my skin. Something high up in a tree was watching me. My skin crawled as I slowed to a snails pace, realizing that two beady eyes were keeping tabs on my every move. Slowly, I raised my light again in hopes of seeing what it was that had nearly stumped me out of a years growth. 

" Where did that thing go?" I approached the tree like a man with a mission, knees knocking & my hair standing on end. The woods sure looks different at night even to a boy who was raised  in the country. There are things that come out at night that you never see in the daytime. Oh,  they're there all right, you just never see them.

I got as close as I dare, when all of a sudden, this monster came swooping at me from high up on a branch that in my opinion you'd only be able to see with the strongest telescope possible. As it made its dive, I heard a big " Swoosh," as it skimmed the top of my head. It was bad enough that the heating of the britches awaited me when I got home, without something in the wild getting first shot at me. 

I screamed, not knowing what my attacker was. By the sound of it, it must of had a wingspan of ten feet across. I had read about such things in my comic books. I just knew they were real. 

I fell to my knees in total exhaustion from the attack.. As I regained my sense of courage, a bit, I realized that this was no way for an explorer to act. I must be brave, & with the renewed strength of the man I thought I was, I shone my light high up in the branches where this monster of the night had landed. How could such a huge creature had become so invisible? 

As if on cue, I heard the sound of this enemy of elf chasers as he made his presence known to the inhabitants of the forest. " Hoot, hoot, hoot, hoot." I couldn't believe it as my light beamed brightly on his fuzzy face. The old owl sat there contented as he watched me below making a fool of myself, almost on the brink of tears. 

I slowly regained my sense of bravery or as much as I could muster, & headed deeper into the woods, always keeping watch over head in case of another air raid from the dive bombing creatures of the dark. 

Travelling in the dark leaves somewhat to be desired, like decent light. Because of this fact, I found myself face down in a patch of poison ivy. To be sure, it was a small patch, but a patch none the less. How was I to know, as I went sailing through the air with the greatest of ease that one of the trees in this dumb woods didn't know that its roots were supposed to grow under the ground instead of on top. 

Down I went with a thud & a few "ooos & ouches." It's one thing to respect the land, but when you end up kissing the ground without any choice is quite another matter. With everything that was happening to me, somehow, I began to wonder whether those elves of Grandpa's were worth the effort or not. 

From the darkness came a scream that made every nerve in my body crawl like million dew worms wiggling all at once. It was low at first, gradually mounting until it reached its peak. The howl of a wolf is something you have to hear to understand what I'm talking about. Now, there's a sound that'll put goose bumps on your goose bumps. 

The call echoed through the darkness as if he were right behind me, & for all I knew he might have been. " What was he crying for?" I was the one who had ended up in this miserable mess. I tried to remain as still as I possibly could, but it's hard to do when your skin is doing the jitterbug, your heart is racing for fear & you have to keep checking your pajamas to make sure that it's just the snow that has caused all that wetness.

Now, I'm no chicken, but I'm not stupid either. Tangling with a wolf is not my idea of having a good time. I was scared beyond belief to be sure, but I sure as heck wasn't about to let anyone know about it, not if I wanted to keep my self respect. 

I went a few yards further & decided this had to be far enough. I plopped myself down on what was left of an old Maple tree we had cut down for firewood. There I sat, waiting for the miracle to happen. It seemed like hours as I sat, shifted, stood & paced, not daring to leave for fear of missing the grand event that I had set out to see. I had come through trials & tribulation & I wasn't about to miss out on my reward.

My teeth were chattering & I had icicles hanging off my toenails but I was determined to stay. I watched through droopy eyes to see if I could catch a glimpse of the little people as the did their dance with tiny buckets in hand. 

" Where were they?" I had become so tired & drenched through with cold that finally I had to give up in despair. Disappointment haunted me like a plague as I inched my way back toward the house. 

The sun was beginning to show its face with a big yawn, as if to say, " Good morning to ya." I'm afraid though that it wasn't to be a good day for me, for there stood mama with a look of righteous indignation on her face like I've never seen before. You've heard of people being hopping mad? Well, that's nothing compared to the look I was getting no matter how innocent I tried to appear. I knew I was in for it as I silently marched past mama & straight to my room where I'd await the final judgement.    
     I don't know why but mama & Grandpa sure spent a long time talking about something. It seemed funny though, but from that day forward, Grandpa would never again tell his stories to me. Now, I'm not saying Grandpa was lying, but the thought has crossed my mind that just maybe this was another one of those, " Hear my story but don't take it seriously" times.

Well, there I sat, I had been scared half out of my wits. I had skinned my knees & elbows, not to mention my pride. I had torn my pajamas. My face was so covered with lotion that I looked like I was made up for Halloween, all in pink, while mama constantly hollered at me to, " Stop scratching."  

To be sure, this was one lesson I would never forget. How could I? Mama wouldn't let me. She seemed to feel too that my new slippers needed to be cast aside in the garbage for some unknown reason.

" Gee whiz, I didn't mean to track up her new carpet."

Here we go again.

The end.

Dalton Lasher

Copyright Makwawebsites 2010

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