by L. H. Hall
were chattering at us before we could see the sun. Then Sheba and
the pups were still lying lazily around us. They had not bothered
to go hunting. "Where's our breakfast, Sheba?" I rubbed the sleep
from my eyes.
me with a low, "Woof," got up and disappeared from my line of vision
above my head. I assumed she was going hunting, but the next second
she dropped a two-foot long fish on my face. "Ooh! What's that?"
Momentarily startled, I knocked it off onto Julie. Then I realized
the little whales had delivered breakfast.
that cold fish out o' the bed." Julie awoke, throwing it onto Jamie
who lay on the opposite side of her.
you do that for?" Jamie wanted to know.
wanted to get it off o' me." Julie wiped her chest where the fish
Birthday, Jamie." I was laughing at their reactions.
a very good way to wake the Most Important Person of the Day up."
Jamie was ready to fight.
Jamie." Julie tried to be serious. The rest of us were laughing,
and she was beginning to feel the humor. It might not have been
funny to Jamie, but it got us all up. Even the dolphins were
chattering from the cove, like they thought it was funny.
the water from the canteens into the cups while I cleaned the fish,
and Sarah stirred up the fire. While the fish was cooking, Jamie
and I ran to the stream above Crescent Lake to refill the canteens
for the day. When we returned, the girls had breakfast cooked and
the bed tied up in five tight rolls. They seemed to be smaller, and
tighter than normal. I picked one up. "Did you leave something out
of the bedroll?"
"No." Sarah handed me a dish of fish
and half a mango. "We just rolled them tighter. I thought maybe we
could tie them to the belts, and ride the dolphins down to the end
of the other side of the island. We can make them go wherever we
want them to."
we can!" I was purposefully sarcastic. "If they don't want to go
"I ain't had
no trouble." Jamie took a bite of fish.
out there with me when she took me for that ride either. I leaned
'til I almost fell off, and she went where she wanted, but we'll try
it. I don't want them to punish me again for not trusting them."
The top rim
of the sun was barely visible over the trees when we made sure the
fire was out, and waded into the ocean, with our belts looped over
our shoulders and our bedrolls on our backs. A dolphin slid up
beside each of us, almost resting on the bottom to make it easy for
us to straddle them, and we were off. We headed generally toward
the south but took a lot of detours on the way. One time, we must
have been at least a mile out to sea. We did not care; we were
having fun. We trusted our dolphins, and we learned to trust them
even more. One time Debbie slipped off and fell into the water, but
she hardly got her face wet before the sixth one picked her up. The
rest of us did not even slow down. Julie's bedroll came untied from
her belt, but the extra dolphin picked it up and carried it almost
to the southeast tip of the island where she threw it up onto the
bank to wait for us. After about a half hour, our dolphins nosed in
toward the shore where Julie's bedroll was, and stopped, chattering
as if they were waiting for us to get off. We did not want to get
off. We wanted them to take us on around the tip but they would not
take us any further in that direction. A couple of times they
turned and went out to sea, and back up toward the cove, but would
not go any closer to the tip of the island.
know something we don't." I realized the sea seemed to be rougher
farther East. "It looks like we walk from here."
why they won't take us around the corner." Jamie reluctantly started
know something we don't." I pointed to the East. "Look how rough
it is close to the shore beyond that point."
looking after us. You can bet it isn't safe around there, or they
would have taken us." Sarah retied Julie's bedroll to her belt.
right," I listened to the sound of the waves in that direction.
"The surf is louder over there. That must be the reason."
who had run along the shore barking, joined us, and we walked on
around the point staying close to the edge of the jungle. As we
rounded the point a hard east wind hit us. The island and trees had
sheltered us from it. It was quite a shock. "Do you think a storm
is coming?" Sarah asked.
think so. Look at the sky. There isn't a cloud as far as we can
see." I lifted the binoculars to my eyes and scanned the horizon.
The sun was well off the horizon, but it was still low enough to
cause a glare in the glasses. "Look at those waves. Those dolphins
knew what they were doing. Can you imagine trying to hang onto a
dolphin if one of them broke over you?"
Jamie exclaimed. "I wouldn't want none of that."
neither!" Julie grabbed my arm as if the wind might blow her away.
difference between this and where we've just been amazing." Sarah
looked at the breakers to the East and turned to see a much calmer
sea to the South.
agreed. "Angry and violent on one side, and peaceful and sleepy on
the other. It's amazing what a few feet of land and jungle can do."
think we're going to walk down this beach, either." Sarah pointed
out the coastline.
gradual wave swept beach followed the jungle for three or four
hundred yards. Then, cliffs rose from the sea, and the angry waves
lashed at them. I considered the high water marks at the edge of
the jungle. It was obvious that the tide was near its lowest. It
had probably just started coming in. "Can you imagine what it will
be like this afternoon when the tide gets up? That wall will take a
"I hope it
doesn't cave in. We'll be up there somewhere." Jamie acted like he
would just as soon go the other direction.
toward the cliffs. "Yeah, and it looks like we might have a lot of
jungle to fight too. We better get started."
on the beach until the cliff starts. I want to see it up closer."
Debbie tried to keep her long brown hair out of her face.
let's stay pretty close to the edge so we can look down on it when
the tide is all the way up." Jamie suggested.
the one who was afraid it would cave in." I questioned his
it ain't goin' to. The tide hits that cliff every day."
days part of it falls into the sea. That's how the cliff was made.
If the world lasts long enough, in a few thousand or million years
this beach will come all the way up to the cave," I told them.
"How do you
know?" Debbie asked.
know," I said slowly, "but I know."
him." Sarah knew she was right, and did not hesitate to say it. "I
know it too. I knew every word he said before he said it, and it's
true. It's really weird to have somebody say what your thinking the
second after you think it."
"I told you
I could think your thoughts." I kidded her.
cannot." She hit me playfully in the belly. "Jesus just told us
both at the same time. That's how it happened, and you know it!"
laughed at us, but they missed out on the private part of the joke.
We stood at
the southeastern end of the cliff, with the incoming waves lapping
at our feet, looking north along the cliff. The water was several
feet deep farther north. Apparently that part of the shoreline was
always underwater all the way up to the cliff.
At first it
was easy climbing where the high tide washed sand over the lower
ledges of the cliff into the jungle, but when we got above the sand,
the jungle grew more dense. I started chopping the underbrush. "I
hope it isn't all like this, or we'll need another week vacation to
get to the north shore. It was nearly noon before we stopped
climbing and the trail leveled off into a slight descent some fifty
or sixty feet above the ocean. I stopped to take another drink from
my half empty canteen. I realized that we had not found a place to
camp, and it was already too late to build a fire unless we went
back down to the point of the beach to camp. It was not over a half
mile from where we were, but by evening, I hoped it would be much
farther. "It looks like we'll have a cold camp tonight, unless we
can find a sunny spot in the jungle."
right. We have plenty of jerky." Sarah lowered her canteen.
it's all wet from riding the dolphins." I started hacking at the
"If it is,
we've got wet beds too. I tried to wrap it and the salt in the
bedrolls so it would stay dry inside the ponchos."
ain't much of a birthday," Jamie growled. "First I get slapped in
the face with a fish to wake me up; then, I have to cut my way
through the jungle at about a foot an hour."
"It was your
idea." I took another whack at some vines. "I was content to stay
at the cave, but you wanted to explore."
you did too." Sarah moved a branch out of the way.
Julie sat down in the trail to look at a new hurt on her tough
foot. "Look how much fun we've had at the lakes, and with the
this ain't fun, an' this is the most important day," Jamie
Jamie." I paused for a few seconds. "You can't expect exploring to
be all fun and no work. That's the fun of exploring, we never know
what is around the next corner, or behind the next patch of
underbrush we cut through."
"Yeah, I do
too." Jamie was having a real pity party. "Just another bunch of
underbrush, and after that there's another bunch. It'll take a week
to break out of this."
get back to work then, or it'll take a month." I started hacking
been wrong. We had not gone ten feet, before we came to a sharp
drop in the terrain. I almost fell into a stream rolling down into
the sea below. It was not very swift, but if I had fallen, I could
have been swept the few feet over the waterfall; and found myself in
the turbulent sea, which was really beating at the foundation of the
was only a couple feet wide and came up to my shins. It looked like
the easiest path to follow. There was not much brush to cut. I
asked Jamie and Sarah to take the lead and clear the path. Jamie
did not like it. He did not think the Most Important Person should
have to cut a trail for the others to easily follow. When I
explained that I wanted to stay back to make sure one of his little
sisters did not get washed over the cliff, he thought it was a good
idea for him to blaze the trail.
stepped into the stream, hanging onto solid vines, and stood not
over six or eight feet from the waterfall behind me. Jamie and
Sarah helped each other into the stream, and Jamie took the lead.
Sarah then helped each of the girls into the stream, and they went
ahead of her. "Hang on to the brush, tightly now." I advised.
the serpentine stream north a hundred feet or more, before we broke
out into the twilight of the jungle. The canopy was so dense
nothing could grow below it for lack of sunlight. We could still
hear the raging surf below, but the underbrush shielded us from the
strong east wind. We climbed out of the water, and sat down to
rest. Jamie was right; we had done a lot of hard work that
morning. If we had thought to turn inland earlier, we would have
had much easier going.
this is a good place to have lunch." Sarah began to unwrap one of
the bedrolls. "Dry as a bone, just as we had hoped."
I filled the
canteens with fresh cool water. It was a good thing we found
the water. Julie's and Debbie's canteens were almost empty. "When
we don't know where the next water is, we have to be careful not to
drink so much, and save the water," I handed them their canteens.
"But I was
thirsty. I got all that sea water in my mouth riding the
dolphins," Debbie argued.
Julie put her canteen back in its pouch.
hadn't found anymore water 'til we got back to the cave you really
would have been thirsty, and so would I. I would have had to let
you drink mine. We all would have been thirsty."
I'm thirsty, I gotta drink." Julie started to cry.
drink just one small mouthful, and see how long you can hold that in
your mouth before you swallow it. That will help you not drink so
remember, Timmy, Daddy used to tell us to wipe off a small stone or
stick and suck on it." Jamie reminded me. "That'll make
the--a--a--spit run in your mouths and help keep you from being so
remember that. It works too. I've done it lots of times when I was
thirsty going to the villages with dad," I remembered. "Thank you,
I used my
bedroll for a pillow and lay back looking at the canopy far above
while I ate my jerky. I could not see even a pinhole of sunlight
shining though. It was kind of eerie, but peaceful, only the sound
of the angry waves crashing against the cliffs below, and the
screams of the birds in the canopy above invaded the serenity of the
mood. After they had eaten, the noise of playful children and
barking dogs was added to the previous ones, but I did not hear
them. I do not think I was asleep, just in a peaceful meditative
mood that blocked out the outside world.
thing I knew a fly or bug of some kind was tickling my nose. I
swatted it away a few times. Sarah began to giggle. I opened my
eyes to see her sitting there with a leaf tickling me. "You've had
it now." I warned, but before I could get up she was gone. I was
up and after her, but she got behind a big tree and stayed on the
opposite side from me. No matter which direction I went she went
the other way. She also had some help from the others who always
took her side in situations like this.
think we ought to call a truce, and move on while we can still see?"
she asked on about our hundredth trip around the tree. "This is the
long side of the island, remember, and we have barely got started."
there's no truce. I'll get even for today and the other day too."
I made about ten more trips around the tree without a glimpse of
her. I could not understand how she could stay out of sight so
long; then, I heard her giggle behind me. "That ain't fair, you
switched trees," I yelled, running after her. She jumped behind
that tree. The others had all the bedrolls, and she switched trees
repeatedly always in the direction we wanted to go. When I realized
I was traveling ten miles for every mile we advanced, I called a
truce, but swore to get even when she least expected it.
claimed the victory. "You gave up. I won. Admit it."
"Not on your
life. I just called a truce. I WILL get even! You'll see."
better not, or you'll be sorry."
Whatcha gonna do about it? You'd better watch out, or I might break
the truce and getcha right now."
wouldn't do that, Timmy, you promised."
"I agreed to
a truce, but I didn't say for how long. We've already had a truce."
better not! That ain't fair." She put a little distance between
going to chase you. I'll just wait 'til you aren't expecting it,
like you did me."
hadn't, you'da slept all day."
asleep. I was relaxing from a hard morning's work."
sounded like snoring to me."
"Oh Yes, you
do!" Came a chorus of four.
"I do not.
I stayed up one night to see."
you're silly! Julie exclaimed. "You know you won't snore if you
stay awake. But you really do snore, and loud too. Sometimes I
have to poke you to make you shut up, so I can go back to sleep."
the one being silly."
ain't either." Jamie took her side. "I wish I'd had that fish you
threw in my face last night. I'da shut you up good."
throw that fish in your face. Julie did"
threw it on me, and I hadda get rid of it."
have to throw it on me, the M.I.P. I sure don't feel like I've been
the Most Important Person. It doesn't even seem like a birthday."
now." I grabbed him and threw him on the ground. "C'mon girls.
It's spanking time. I'll hold him."
fair. You're bigger'n me."
By the time
the girls all got through with him, the backs of his legs were
pretty red. I did not hit him very hard, but I got my eight licks
in, with an extra, one to be good, and a pinch to grow an inch."
fair." He rubbed his behind. "You didn't lick Julie."
"She kept us
so busy all day, I didn't even think about it until the next day,
and then it was too late. I'da prob'ly forgot yours too, if you
hadn't reminded me."
'til your birthday, I getta whack you eleven times."
one to be good, makes it eleven."
hold me down first."
help you, Jamie," Sarah laughed, "won't we girls?"
other two agreed."
better watch it, girl." I made a start toward Sarah. "You're in
enough trouble already."
scared of you." She increased the distance between us again.
better be, if you know what's good for you."
"Huh uh, You
love me too much to hurt me very bad."
guess you're right."
frivolity continued as we followed the ever narrowing stream.
Little tributaries branched off up the hills until the stream was
nothing but a trickle. Splotches of light began shining through the
canopy, and the underbrush was getting thicker. "We must be close
to the top of the ridge." I pointed out the changes in the
scenery. "I wonder where we are. The water's running out. We'd
better fill our canteens. Better still, maybe we ought to go back
down the stream where we've got plenty of water and make camp. I
don't think it's too late yet but I would like to have plenty of
water where we camp."
back the way we had come, but Sheba barked. "You don't have to go
hunting today, Sheba. We don't need any meat. We don't have a
fire." I called her back.
again and started down the hill in the other direction; then
stopped, barked again, and waited for us to follow.
"I hope you
know where you're going." I started after her. "You've never led us
still seemed to be running in a northwesterly direction, but Sheba
led us down hill, traveling almost due north for several minutes.
Then we turned northwesterly until we came to a place where we could
see the ocean through the trees. I was not sure where we were, but
we were not far inland, and were still on the east side. The strong
east wind was blowing through the trees.
After we had
rested there a few minutes, Sheba barked again and continued leading
us along the side of the hill, descending slightly, for at least
another half hour. The canopy was still solid overhead, but we
could see the sea occasionally. When I looked at the compass again
we were traveling due west. "Apparently we're on the north side of
the island. There's a good beach below us."
toward the beach, but Sheba barked, and continued to lead us along
the hillside at about the same level.
We came to a
fairly level place forty or fifty feet in diameter. At the upper
side, a small spring flowed into a rock basin about a foot deep and
ten feet in diameter. Sheba had led us to a good flat place to
camp, with plenty of water. The canopy still covered the sky above
us, but we had a clear view of the sea and sky to the North. There
was some vegetation, but we had no trouble moving around, or
clearing a spot for the bed.
tag. When we tired of that, we tried to play hide-n-seek, but with
eight puppies, you can bet one of them pointed us out every time.
"It would be nice to jump in the lake at home." Debbie remarked.
tomorrow night." Sarah put the last blanket on the bed. "I'm
getting homesick too."
I gazed out
over the ocean. I tried to see the beach, but it was hidden by the
jungle. "It shouldn't take more than a couple hours to get home by
way of the beach, even if we have to walk all the way around to the
west side below the cave. However, it might take all day to cut a
path to the beach. I really want to follow the beach back to the
northeastern corner and see what the eastern coastline looked like
starting to get dark when we ate supper and got ready for bed. It
was eerie under the canopy in the dim light of the day time; but at
night, it was more so. There was not a light of any kind. It was
as dark as the passages in the cave. We went to bed far earlier
than usual. What else could we do in the blackness of the jungle.
There had not been a sound, except that of the surf, for about an
hour when suddenly the fluttering of wings and high pitched squeaks
told us the bats had entered the canopy. It was scary at first, but
we soon got used to their rhythm and fell asleep.
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.