Mountains of Memories
Copyright © 2016 by Parker Sheaffer
When Lucas announced his intention to travel west for a while the boys were rather upset. They had come to love the handsome boy who was now their uncle. Fred begged to be taken along, but his sister forbade such a notion. Diana herself expressed her concern to Andrew about Lucas being able to manage such a trip on his own.
"He's just a boy," she said. "Can he look out for himself out there with all of those ruffians and savages?"
Andrew smiled and said, "Actually, Dear, Lucas is a bit older than he looks. He has seen some of the world and knows how to manage on his own. He will be just fine, so don't let that worry you. Lucas will be back with us before you know it."
"Well, I'm going to miss him, and the boys will too," she said, her voice still tinged with worry.
"I suppose this is as good a time as any to tell you something," Andrew said, suddenly serious.
Diana looked at him with concern, waiting for him to continue.
"The reason Lucas left is so that we can have a little discussion about him and our… secret. I am about to tell you something extraordinary and you are not going to believe me, but I have to tell you anyway. Lucas is much older than he appears. You noticed recently that he looks just as he did when you met him two years ago. That's because Lucas doesn't age like normal people. In fact, Lucas doesn't age at all."
"I don't understand," Diana said.
"Nor do I, my love. I don't understand it and neither does Lucas, but he looks just the same as he did when he found me and adopted me on the streets of San Francisco. I was around five at the time. Lucas and Clive took me in and made me a part of their family. Lucas is not my brother, he's my father."
Diana frowned and stared at Andrew, trying to decide if he was joking or mad. "That's preposterous, Andrew," she said. "I take it that you are not being serious, but I don't understand why. What is this really all about?"
Andrew smiled kindly and said, "It doesn't matter right now. I've said it and that's enough for the time being. Try to put it out of your head and don't think any more about it. In a couple of years you will begin to see and believe. I have grown up with this so it isn't so difficult for me to accept it. Now that you are part of our family, Lucas needed to tell you and the boys the entire truth about us."
"I will play along with this for a bit, since you seem so solemn. Just how old is Lucas supposed to be?"
After a pause, Andrew said, "Lucas was born in 1840, in the mountains of Tennessee. He has lived an adventurous life at times. When I came into his life he was living with Clive, my other father. Lucas and Clive were, for all practical purposes, married. I hope that doesn't shock you. It's something that you need to know."
Diana sat down on the bed and tried to collect her thoughts. Finally she said, "Let me understand what you are telling me. You think that Lucas is sixty-five years old and a sodomite? And you really believe this?"
"Yes, but sodomite is an ugly word, and Lucas is a beautiful and wonderful person. He loves us dearly and we owe everything to him. It's his fortune that provides us with this house. He deserves our love and respect."
"Andrew, this is a lot to accept. You must realize how mad it all sounds."
"Oh, I do. That is why we should not mention it again for a while. Someday you will see, and until then, let's just try to be happy."
"Andrew, is it safe for him to be around the boys?"
"Diana, think about what you are saying. Can you ever imagine Lucas harming the children in any way? He would rather die. We can trust him completely."
Diana was out of sorts for a few days after their discussion, but soon seemed to return to a normal mood. Her classes at school dominated much of her thinking as she prepared for exams. Both Andrew and Diana worked hard at their educations and somehow still found time to play with Ed and Fred.
Diana retained her fear of the sea and Andrew's experiences there had been largely spent in his cabin, sick. The boys however wanted to go sailing and often pleaded to be allowed so Andrew arranged a trip to the shore, south of Boston, where he hired a gruff old fisherman to take them out for an hour or two on his small craft. There was enough room that they did not feel crowded and because the weather was calm and the fisherman had been instructed to stay close to shore, they all had a surprisingly fine time.
Both Ed and Fred made up their minds then that they would someday learn to sail and they would have great adventures at sea. After their first experience on the water they began to beg for more, but Andrew told them to wait for Lucas to return.
"He can teach you all you want to know about sailing," Andrew assured them.
"When is he coming back?" they asked, but Andrew had no answer for that. Lucas had not written or wired them in months.
Knoxville had changed greatly since Lucas had last seen it. Nothing remained of Mrs. Ogle's boarding house or of Earl's dry goods store. The town was now a city, with a university and several large industries. There were iron works, quarries, and textile mills creating noise and smoke everywhere. Lucas wandered around in the downtown area, marveling at the changes. Because farm prospects were on the decline in the surrounding areas, many people began to move to Knoxville in search of jobs so the streets were often crowded.
The railroad was still under construction in the regions east of Knoxville so Lucas went as far as he could by rail and then had to resort once again to a horse and buggy to complete his journey. He had never spent much time astride a horse so a carriage was much more desirable. He entered a livery stable and spoke to the proprietor.
"I need to get up to Harden's Cove and I haven't been there in a while. Everything looks different now so I could use someone to drive me. If you know of someone who is trustworthy I will pay them for their time," Lucas said.
"Well, my boy Tad could drive you, I reckon. I can spare him for a few days. How long you figure to be up there?" the man said.
"Not more than two days, most likely. I just want to look around some."
The man turned and shouted, "Tad, Tad. Come here boy."
A few minutes later a young man lumbered up to the door. He looked to be in his early twenties and was a tall fellow. Despite his height he was a bit stooped over, as if he was trying to appear shorter. Lucas thought that Tad didn't look too bright, but if he could handle a carriage then he would suffice.
"Tad," his father said, "This feller wants to get up to Hardin's Cove. Hitch up that cart over there to the big gray. You're gonna need the muscle to git up some of them steep roads. You drive him and listen to what he tells you now."
To Lucas he said, "Take care of my horse and my boy. Tad ain't real quick about things, but he's a good boy and he knows the way. We got a cousin that lives up that way. Where you plannin' to hole up when you get there?"
"Actually, since the weather looks like it's going to be dry for a bit, I thought to just camp out on the ground. I have some supplies in my duffle here, enough for a few days for both of us," Lucas said. He had learned some things about camping from the lumberjacks in Oregon and was looking forward to experiencing a night in the forest once again. He missed the smells and sounds of wild nature and the warmth of a campfire.
The man said, "There ain't been no trouble around here for a while. The White Caps done been run off but you never know what you're gonna run into out there. You got a gun with you?"
Lucas was surprised by the man's question. This area had been peaceful when he left it and the only gun he had ever needed was a hunting rifle.
"No, sir, I don't. Do you really think I'll need one?"
"Well, you just never know. Can you handle a revolver?"
"I've fired one a few times."
Opening a wooden box that was attached to the wall, the man drew forth a bundle wrapped in homespun cloth. He unwrapped it and uncovered a fairly new Colt revolver. Checking to make sure it was loaded before handing it to Lucas, he said, "Tuck this in your bag. You might just be glad you got it. I hope you don't have to use it, but keep my boy safe. Now, that'll be twenty dollars."
A half hour later, well supplied and well-armed, Lucas and Tad set off. Where Knoxville had been a surprise to him, the mountains of home were a shock and disappointment. The lumber barons had been through the hills like locust and had clear cut the forests, leaving denuded hillsides that were eroding badly. The river was littered with the corpses of trees, left behind by the receding waters. The popular method of getting the wood from the mountains to the cities was to dam the streams until they formed small lakes and then breaking them, allowing the floating logs to be washed downstream by the thousands. This not only destroyed the forests but also the rivers, killing the fish and tumbling boulders everywhere.
Fortunately the lumber companies had not reached the Cove at this time and Lucas was relieved when they finally entered the shade of the giant chestnut, oak and hickory trees. The transition into the cool forest was refreshing and made his heart sing with the joy of remembrance.
Conversation with Tad had been very pleasant and more interesting than Lucas had anticipated. Despite being mostly uneducated, Tad had a poetic turn to his nature.
Passing a particularly ravaged portion of the river Lucas was distressed by the damage but it was Tad who said, "It looks like Zeus done struck the world with his lightnin' bolt."
Surprised, Lucas said, "Tad, you know about Zeus?"
"Sure. Mr. Tully, back at the home used to tell us about Zeus. About the other gods, too. Pa don't like for me to talk about it though. Says it's goin' agin' the bible."
"What home is that, Tad?"
"The one back in Maryville. That's where Pa found me and adopted me in."
"Oh," said Lucas, "I didn't realize that you were adopted. Was it a nice place, this home?"
"It was purty good, I reckon. I didn't have to work too hard like I do at the stables. Mr. Tully was right nice, too. I had friends there, but now I get to eat better. I don't get hungry like I used to," said Tad. "Look over there where those rhododendron are a-bloomin'. That color of pink is like the clouds in the mornin' when the suns a-comin' up."
"Yes, it's beautiful," Lucas agreed. "I like that even in places where men have created such ugliness there is still some fight left in nature as she brings us beauty."
"That's right, ain't it? Nature's fightin' back with flowers and purty things," Tad happily agreed.
The two had hours of pleasant conversation as they rode along. The horse didn't seem to tire, even on the steeper parts of the road. Night fell before they reached their destination so they pulled off into an abandoned cornfield and while Tad cared for the horse, Lucas started a fire and prepared a simple dinner for them.
There had been few people on the road so Lucas' fears about trouble seemed to be unwarranted. Still, he slept with the pistol under his pillow when they hit their bedrolls that night.
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