Five Alive

The Lookout

Chapter 18

by L. H. Hall

Living Water at the Oasis
Living Water at the Oasis

Five Alive
Chapter 18

The Lookout

Monday morning we rose early and prepared to leave. Sunday afternoon I had reread Mr. Wilcox's journal about the lookout at the top of the mountain. We had all been anxious to go up there to explore, and to see if the observer had left anything up there. We also hoped we might see some ships or another island. We had provisions packed to last us until Wednesday evening if Sheba did not bring us anything. If she did, we could stay indefinitely. Mr. Wilcox had mentioned a crater filled with water near the lookout. He had spent many nights up there.

We started out through Goat Field, as we had come to call it. Then keeping an eye on the peak, we began to climb in that direction. Sheba seemed to sense where we were going when we started to climb out of Goat Field. We had to slash our way through jungle in some places, and were fully exposed to the hot sun in others. More than a few times, Sheba refused to follow us, and barked for us to go with her.

Mr. Wilcox had written that it was about a three-hour climb. I thought it would take us until about noon, but the sun was well into the western sky before we reached the final steep ascent on the southwestern slope. Sheba had led us around the mountain on the north, east and south, so we were on the back side of the mountain from the cave. The last hundred feet was solid rock. There were no trees, no grass, no shade, just rocks on top of rocks. In some places it looked like we could just sit down and slide over the rocks and jungle below right into the ocean.

Mr. Wilcox had been right. There was a crater filled with water, a lake, maybe four or five hundred yards across. Around the crater was a reasonably flat apron thirty to a hundred feet wide on three sides, but Jungle lined the western rim of the lake for a short distance. On the opposite side of the lake, the mountain rose another fifty feet, or so.

The very top, was a semi-level area some eighty feet in diameter. A huge flat rock, fifteen feet wide, thirty feet long, rose abruptly another six feet near the northwestern edge. Under the rock was the shelter the observer had built. Actually, he had not built it as much as he had dug out under it. The small room under the rock overlooked our patio and lake. Less than ten feet in front of the shelter the mountain dropped at least two hundred feet to the jungle below. I could see why Sheba had led us around the mountain.

"I don't like this place!" Sarah shivered when she looked down over the cliff. "I hope none of us walk in our sleep"

"We've got to be really careful," I stressed. "I don't want any running or playing out here. If you want to do that, do it on the other side of the shelter. If you slip and fall there, the lake will catch you."

"I hope none of the puppies fall off." Debbie worried.

"Me too!" Julie concurred.

The shelter was small. It had not been meant to house a family. I could not stand up straight in it. The floor, two feet below the entrance, was fairly smooth, but uneven. Rocks were strewn everywhere. It was like the back wall had caved in, and spread out on the floor nearly to the opening. "Mr. Wilcox must have slept in the very front, or curled around the pile of rocks at one side." I observed.

"All these rocks have to be cleared out of here before we can go to bed tonight," Sarah declared.

"The first thing we have to do is to get some wood for a fire," I asserted. "I've been thinking it might be better to sleep outside."

By the time Sheba left for her afternoon hunt, we had made the three trips to the jungle and had a good supply of wood carefully laid between the shelter and the edge of the ledge in front of it to keep us from accidentally getting too close to the edge.

"Can we swim in the lake?" Jamie queried.

"Before we do anything else, I want the rocks thrown out of the shelter," Sarah demanded before I could answer. "I don't want to sleep outside. Do you see those clouds in the east? It's gonna rain."

"Lets get the rocks out," I said. "Then we'll see about swimming."

There was not room for all of us to work without hitting each other, so we took turns, two at a time. Sheba came in with a rabbit about the time it was my turn to rest. I cleaned it, and Sarah set about cooking it.

"Hey, Timmy, c'mere." Jamie's voice came from the cave.

"Yeah? Whadaya want?"

"Look! I moved this flat rock and there's some stuff under it. Here's some binoculars, and a big telescope, and a bigger pair of binoculars, some more K-rations, another poncho. Hey, there's something wrapped in it. It looks like a fishing pole, and here's hooks an' something all wrapped up in wax, like was on the machetes. I think maybe it's fishing line. Here's another machete, and another poncho. It's got a couple blankets wrapped in it."

"Is there anything else?" I asked, hoping for a gun and some ammunition.

"Just another canteen and one of those things we eat out of. It's got the tools in it, too; and, there's one of those little shovels, but it ain't much good. Its all bent up."

"There ain't no gun?"


We took the stash outside to examine it. It all seemed to be in good condition except for the spade. "He must have used this to dig out this shelter." I threw it over the cliff.

"Man! You can see forever with these!" Jamie exclaimed, holding the larger binoculars to his eyes.

"Yeah!" Sarah was looking through the others. "It looks like I can reach down there and touch those white caps in the ocean."

"I wanna see," Julie tugged at Jamie's arm.

"Me too," Debbie reached for Sarah's.

"I want to see this telescope." I set it up on the attached tripod. "I'll bet no ships or planes came past this place that he didn't see with this." I scanned the horizon which looked like it was only a few feet away, but I saw nothing but water. "I thought surely we would see something when we found this, but there's nothing! Nothing in this world, but us, this island, and water." I left the scope, dejected. "Nothing but water!"

The next day we spent hours looking through the glasses, but not just at the sea. We also examined our island. It looked like a giant clam shell with a big bite taken out of the curved edge, and bent more at the point in the center of the back.

Our cave was on the northwest corner, looking out over the waterfall we found the first day. To the right, from our view point, the north beach, where we had landed, ran almost straight east for quite a long way. I could not tell how far. I guessed it was three or four miles. Then, it turned southeast. I could not see the beach on that side. It looked like the ocean came right up to the trees. I surmised that coast to be a cliff like the one at the waterfall. That side of the island was a little longer than the north side. Then, there was a fairly sharp point where the shoreline turned abruptly, and ran in an arc back to the northwest point below our cave.

About a third of the way from the southeast point, there was a cove which ran inland, northward, about a quarter the width of the island at that point. The cove was egg shaped with the small end of the egg pointing seaward.

The eastern and southern slopes of the mountain seemed to be more gradual, but also, in general, more thickly forested. Between Goat Field and the west coast there were five ridges and four valleys, or ravines. Probably the easiest way from Goat Field to the western shore, north of the cove would have been to go around the cave, and down the trail we took to the beach.

There was a line in the top of the forest running north from the cove, like there was a break in the jungle, nearly to the northern ridge. The northern ridge actually started above our cave, and ran parallel to the coast, almost all the way to the southeastern point.

Goat Field was a wide rocky slope, south of the northern ridge, maybe, a half mile wide at the top. It started on the mountain, and descended a mile or more in a narrowing valley before it disappeared into the jungle halfway to the line in the treetops.

Southeast of the line in the treetops running inland from the cove appeared to be a valley. It was really impossible to tell for sure. All I could see was the tree tops.

I could not see any water for the goats, but when it rained there must be a runoff down the rocky slopes into the valley in the jungle. I assumed the line in the tree tops might be a river, emptying into the cove. It was even possible that the little stream running through our goat pen might run into the valley. I could not be sure.

We examined every beach, every valley, every outcropping of rock, hoping to see some sign of human life. There was nothing!

We repeatedly turned our glasses to the horizon in every direction, and the thousands of square miles of water, but found nothing. We scanned the skies hoping to see a plane. That, too, was without success.

Dejected, I slumped to the ground, my back against the north end of the shelter. We were all alone in the world. When that big wave washed us off the wing of the airplane, the rest of the world just ceased to exist. Nothing existed but our little family, the sea, and this island.

I was about to ask God if He existed any more, but then, all the miracles that had saved us flashed through my mind and I knew He existed. We were not alone. I was not alone to take care of our family. I knew that God was right there beside me to lead and direct me all the way. "Thank you for reminding me, Lord," I prayed. "I know I couldn't have gotten this far alone. You were with me all the way. I'm never alone. Your word says that you will never leave me nor forsake me. Help me, Lord, never to forget that again. Help me always to remember that you won't ever ask me to do something that I'm not able to do with your help, and that you will always make a way of escape. I can't imagine how any good can come from us being torn from our homes, and marooned on this island by ourselves. I know your word says, 'All things work together for good to them that love God, and to them who are called according to your purpose.' I believe it. I know you have a good reason."

I felt so much better. I sat there quietly weeping, not from sadness; but thankful the Lord had reminded me that I had someone to turn to. It was like someone was there with me, or inside of me. He said, "It is for your parent's, for the Jennings', and for your sakes this has happened. I'm working things out in all of your lives that you wouldn't understand. Your parents need this trial; the Jennings might throw their lives away, if it weren't for this; and there is a special calling on your lives. Your parents couldn't prepare you for it. Don't be afraid. I'll take care of you, and when the time is right, your parents will find you; but don't look for it soon."

"Can you tell me when?"

"No. The time is not yet determined."

"Did you give Julie that dream about her parents?"

"Yes. Everything she told you is true."

"Their parents are alive and safe, and they are going to have a baby?"

"Yes. They'll have a boy. Your parents are safe also, and they will have more children."

"The kids will never believe this."

"Don't tell them. Keep it to yourself for now."

"Will you talk to me like this again?"

"If you will listen."

"It sure makes me feel better. Thank you."

I sat for a long time waiting for more, but it was like someone had flipped a light switch. There was no more. I sat there a while longer, wondering if I had imagined it. It was so real. He said things I had never considered, or even thought about. I was sure it was the Lord. I felt so much better than I had since the day we crashed.

Sheba nuzzled me, panting and whining to tell me that she had brought the evening meal.

"Timmy," Sarah blurted "look at what Sheba brought all the way up here."

"A goat!" I exclaimed. "How are we going to take care of that up here?"

"We can't. We'll just have to waste it."

"It should still be good tomorrow. We can save some for breakfast, if she doesn't go out and get something else. I don't like to waste good food. I've seen too many kids going hungry. I think of them every time I see someone throw food away."

"We can't take it back with us. I'll roast enough for us to have for lunch tomorrow too."

"You and the pups are going to have to help us eat this, Sheba. Don't you go hunting in the morning, either. We've got enough."

"Woof," she barked one time, looking at me as if she understood everything I said.

I skinned it, took the two hams and left the rest. "That's yours and the pups'."

Sheba barked twice, and the pups tore into the meat like savages, while she sat back and waited. When the pups were finished, she dragged what was left to the jungle side of the lake and ate.

The lake was not a very good place to swim. There was not any shallow water, and only one place on the rim to climb out easily, but we went in for a while.

I decided to try out the fishing pole. This must be a good place to fish or he wouldn't have stashed the gear up here, I thought. The line on the reel was rotten, but Jamie had been right. The wax package contained a large spool of fishing line in good condition. I restrung the reel, and used fat from the goat for bait. I let the hook settle slowly into the water. Before the bait had dropped more than ten feet, I got a strike. I pulled out a fish as long as my forearm and twice as big around.

"Hey, Sarah, want some fish?"

"We just had supper." She sat down on the rim near me. "We've got more than we can eat now."

"Yeah, but we haven't had any fish since we've been on the island."

"Maybe we can fix one for a snack, but not one that big."

I released the fish, and returned the bait, which was still on the hook, to the water. I repeated the action seven more times before I finally, caught one that Sarah thought was small enough for our evening snack. "We don't even need you up here, Sheba," I patted the dog lying beside me.

She raised her head and whined.

"Shame on you." Sarah splashed some water in my face. "We always need Sheba whether she brings us food or not."

"Oh, I'm sorry, Sheba. "I hope I didn't hurt your feelings."

She whined again and licked my hand, as if she were accepting my apology.

I turned to the binoculars one last time for the day, hoping, but not expecting to see anything, as the sun sank low in the West. I continued to look long after the stars came out. There was no moon. It was a dark night. Any light in our field of vision would be visible. There were no lights. That did not surprise me after my afternoon experience. A light, a ray of hope that would fizzle, would be cruel. I knew the Lord would not let that happen.

Sarah and I were awake long after the others fell asleep. I could hear her on the other side of the family. "Let's sit up a while, Sarah."

"I was just thinking the same thing." She followed me out of the shelter.

It was a beautiful night. The moon still hadn't risen, but the stars were out in all their brilliance. I helped her up onto the rock covering the shelter.

We sat in silence for a long time. Finally Sarah spoke, "Here we are on top of the whole world under a beautiful sky; but I feel like I'm in the world's deepest dungeon, with rats gnawing at my insides."

"I know how you feel. I was like that this afternoon until I had a long talk with the Lord about it. He reminded me of all the ways He's helped us and blessed us, and I knew we weren't alone. I know there is a good purpose in all this. We just have to be strong and look to Him for comfort. We don't have anyone else to turn to. He's here with us, just as much as I am sitting here with you."

"I wish I could believe that as much as you do. It would help a whole bunch."

I put my arm around her with my hand on her shoulder and prayed, "Lord God Almighty, I ask you, in Jesus' name, to let Sarah feel your presence the way I do sometimes. Help her to know just how real you are and how near you are to her. Please, Lord, comfort her heartache, and fill her with your love and joy."

"Oh! That feels so good! It felt like a warm breeze just blew into me from every side, and filled me up like a balloon. I think I'll just float away in a minute." She moved closer and snuggled up to me. It was the first time we had ever been close to each other, or even wanted to be, but I had a strange feeling it was the way it ought to be.

"Feel better?" I knowingly asked the ridiculous question.

"Oh, yes! I feel like I'm really on top of the world, without a care in the world. I don't ever want to come down."

"Now can you believe that Jesus is here with us, and has everything under control?"

"Yes! I hope He never leaves me."

"He won't. He promised, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' We have to accept that as a promise to us. That's all there is to it. We won't feel all warm and glowie inside all the time, like you do now, but He will make His presence known when we need it. All we have to do is ask Him. However, we have to believe that He is with us, and thank Him for being there, even when we don't feel it."

"Timmy, I'm so glad you teach us about Jesus. If you didn't, I don't know what would happen to us."

"You need to read the Bible yourself, and ask Jesus to teach you what it means. I'm just a kid. I make mistakes. I might teach you wrong. Jesus won't ever teach you wrong. Then if I am wrong about something, you can straighten me out."

"If Jesus teaches both you and me, how come He doesn't teach us the same things?"

"Because we're not perfect. We have different thoughts, and when we read, the same thing, it might have a different meaning to you than it does to me. You think it means one thing, and I think it means something else. I'm sure we should, but we don't ask God the meaning for every word. Our own thinking gets in the way of his teaching. Like I told Julie the other day, we have the God given right to think what we want. If I want to think white is green, and black is red, God's going to let me. He might send somebody to straighten me out, but He won't force me to change my mind."

"How do you know all this stuff?"

"I have been taught about the Bible all my life. My mother used to read the Bible aloud to me, and tell me Bible stories before I was born. I used to go to the villages with my dad and listen to him. However, very often, I don't know the answers. I pray a quick prayer, and the explanation comes out. I learn the answer at the same time you do. A good example of that is what I just told you about us thinking different things if Jesus teaches us both. He teaches us the same things, but one of us may pay closer attention than the other. I never had thought about it before, so I prayed and listened."

"How do you know it's right?"

"First, I trust the Lord to help me, and I expect Him to do it. Second, what I say answers the question, and finally, it seems to be a reasonable answer; and if necessary it agrees with what I know the Bible says. That doesn't mean I can't make a mistake sometimes."

"I wish I could do that, and be so confident."

"If you ever need to, you will; and when you do, you will be confident."

We sat in silence after that for a long time looking out over the world beneath us. We really were on top of the world both physically and spiritually. "I'm getting kind of sleepy," she whispered, as though she didn't want to break the mood. "I think we ought to go to bed."

I was getting sleepy too, but it was so nice sitting there in the starlight. I wanted it to last forever. Not another word was spoken that night. We jumped down, and crawled into the shelter on opposite sides of the family.

Sheba did not go hunting the next morning. We had a leftover breakfast, and got ready to descend the mountain. We spent a couple of hours getting the terrain fixed in our minds. We scanned the horizons again and saw exactly what I expected to see: water, water, water, everywhere water, but I did not get depressed, nor did Sarah.

She was obviously still basking in the Sonlight of the night before. She had awakened singing, "Jesus Loves Me; this I know . . ." She must have sung what she knew of the song through twenty times before breakfast. I was beginning to wish the song had never been written when she changed to "Jesus loves the Little children, All the children in His care . . ." I was happy for her. She reminded me of the happy, playful, little girl I'd met in the airport in Manila, only much, much older.

I looked at the other kids. They also seemed much older.

No. As Sarah and I had talked a couple of weeks earlier, we could never go back to being "just" kids. We still loved and needed our parents, but we needed them on our terms now, not on theirs. As Sarah had said, "The longer we stay here, the less I'll want to be rescued." It was not that I liked it there, I certainly did not like the responsibility, but every day we became progressively more of a family.

It had to be God who had helped us mature, to think, to talk, to act more like grownups, putting the needs of the others above our own desires. There was no other way we could have survived.

When everything was ready, and everyone knew what he or she had to carry, I looked around again. Jamie and Debbie were scanning the horizon for the last time; hoping to see something I knew was not there. We were taking everything of value back to the cave. We had seen what we had come to see, and had gotten everything that Mr. Wilcox had left us. I could see no purpose in ever making the climb again. Some of us had pretty heavy loads for our sizes, but after stopping to rest and have lunch, we made it back to the cave by mid-afternoon.

After depositing my load in the cave, I went into the goat pen to make sure everything was okay there. The goats actually acted like they had missed me. All but stinker came up to be petted. Stinker still would not let me get that close. The others could walk right up to her, but not me. I had only been in the pen a few minutes when the others joined me. The nannies' bags were full. We got a supply of milk for the family.

Sheba barked to let us know that she was going hunting. I looked at the sun. "She's leaving early." I turned to see her disappearing down the path with Buster. "Well, Debbie, it looks like Buster's going to get his first hunting lesson."

Copyright © 1995
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.

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