Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Campfire Stories 7/25

In Tuesday's (7/24) quick-write prompt from Kate Messner's blog, she asks us to tell a campfire story.

My experience with campfires is vast, as I spent many weeks at sleep-over camp when I was younger, both as a camper and a counselor.  In fact, I met my husband at camp when we were both counselors many, many years ago.  We are both skilled at starting a one-match fire.  In the rain.  With our eyes closed.  Just kidding.

Since we both love campfires, we have built a permanent fire pit in our patio in the back yard.  Our children have subsequently attended multiple weeks at the very same camp we attended as children, and it is so much fun to hear their voices tell the same stories that we heard (and later, as counselors, told) long ago.  It is a great connection that our family shares, and it is fun to compare and contrast our versions of the same tale.

Our camp had been an ice mine a long, long time ago.  On the property, there is a place we called "the gorge" that was essentially a dam where miners would harvest large blocks of ice, back in the days before people owned electric powered refrigerators.  The ice blocks would be cut, loaded onto railroad cars, and distributed throughout the area for sale.  Once electricity became more widespread, however, and the demand for large quantities of ice declined, the mining business dwindled and then disappeared.

We would love to hike to the ice harvesting dam to swim, because the area is wide and deep and filled with cool water.  It was a refreshing reward after a hike on a hot summer afternoon.  On the way back, however, we counselors liked to stop at "The Hermit's shed" for a break at dusk, the perfect time to tell his scary story.  My version is below.
According to legend, there was a man who wouldn't leave the ice mine when the industry shut down.  He had nothing left, no family, no other skills besides ice harvesting and living off the land.  We are sitting in his home, a one-room cabin that he built with his own two hands.  He had started off with hopes of settling here and making a homestead while living off the land, and he would walk to town once a week for supplies.  After the first winter, however, his visits into town became less and less frequent, and he began to mumble to himself without making eye contact with the storekeepers who saw him.  He also began carrying his ice-pick with him everywhere, making it increasingly difficult for the friendly townspeople to approach him, for fear of startling him and becoming skewered like BBQ meat.  His trips stretched from weekly, to monthly, then to random evening surprises- banging on closed shopfront doors until the owners let him in to grab what he needed and go, his long hair covering his eyes and his dirt-streaked beard moving mechanically as he mumbled in a hypnotic trance.
(At this point, our co-counselor would make a low humming, repetitive noise, and the kids would start whispering, "What was that?")
Soon, the hermit (as he had become known) stopped visiting the town altogether.  Despite warnings from other friendly townsfolk, a couple of brave souls decided to take a trip out to the homestead to check on their strange neighbor.  As they approached the house, they were greeted by a variety of vermin, or should I say, vermin hides, strung up on twine to dry across the front yard.  Squirrels, rabbits, even rats were gutted and hung up like bloody laundry.  A variety of sharp, rusted instruments lay scattered across the porch, like an evil game of pick-up sticks.  As they knocked on the creaky, mildewed front door, it swung open.  And RIGHT THERE (counselor pointing to a poor terrified camper) he was laying in a heap in the corner, clutching his ice pick, frozen STIFF, his eyes wide open as if he had seen a terrible beast and died on the SPOT!
Even today, if you listen carefully, you can hear him walking around with his ice pick, Thump, Thump, Thumping around (co-counselor then thumps on the floor, and all of the campers jump and scream on cue.)  And as for the beast he saw, well, that mystery is still unsolved...

Then, we evil counselors would take our frightened campers back to our tents in the dark.

Good times.  I mean, who doesn't like a good ghost story every once in a while?

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