by L. H. Hall
morning found everyone up before the sun peeked over the jungle.
The canteens were filled. We had each rolled a sheet and blanket,
plenty of jerky, and other things we thought we might need in a
poncho, and tied it up with vines. We were all ready before Sheba
and Prince brought in the meat for breakfast.
field we turned east down the mountain. We did not have any trouble
finding the trail. The open rocky area was like a big funnel
leading down a broad trail into the jungle. Goats were everywhere.
Those we had left behind on the mountain in Goat Field were nothing
compared to the number that were grazing in the forest beside the
trail. The trees were tall and green, but there was no undergrowth.
Apparently the goats kept it down.
Off to the
left, I saw a wild dog, and then another. I said nothing. They did
not look menacing, and I felt no sense of urgency. There was no
reason to alarm the others. The dogs obviously saw us, but did not
appear to be overly conscious of our existence. It must take a
massive herd of goats, to continue to exist with a pack of
wild dogs on an island this small.
As the trail
narrowed, the light dimmed. I looked up and could hardly see the
sky. There was a great canopy above us. Soon it was almost like
twilight. Occasionally we would see a ray of the sun shining here
or there. It was really weird, but it was as beautiful as it was
weird in the ghostly light.
We had been
under the jungle canopy for a half hour, maybe slightly less, when
it began to brighten. I looked up and saw a line of large holes in
the canopy running south. "This must be the line in the tree tops
we saw from the mountain we thought indicated a stream." Jamie
pointed to the openings in the canopy.
where's the water?" I was puzzled. There was just a trickle of
water at our feet. "We should have a lot of runoff. I was sure the
stream from the goat pen would come down here somewhere. I guess,
it could empty into the sea on the north shore."
ran into a hole in the mountain back there a little ways." Julie
pointed behind us to the right.
you tell us?"
you saw it. Everybody else did." Sarah came to her defense.
been too busy trying to see the sky. How far back was it."
too far back, but it was quite a way to the south." Jamie turned,
pointing. "It was just before the valley narrowed."
"I'll see it
next time, I guess. I wish someone had said something."
you, Timmy? We talked about it for five minutes," Sarah assured
"I must have
been in my own private world in this weird place. I've never seen
anything like this before."
spooky, ain't it?" Debbie offered.
descending steadily. The valley had rapidly become a ravine. It
looked like we were in a box canyon. A few paces in front of us,
there was a steep upward incline; but suddenly, the bank on the
right disappeared. The ravine narrowed to no more than four feet,
and made a sharp turn toward the south coast.
It was like
walking into a different world when we turned the corner in the
ravine. The line of holes opened into a wide ribbon of light
shining on a green meadow surrounding a series of lakes, each
emptying into the one below it, like a huge stair way. From our
vantage point, we could not see where the water was coming from, but
we could hear a waterfall to the West. We moved on into the valley,
and saw several streams and two beautiful waterfalls as the valley
opened to the right. Again there was lush grazing and the goats
reappeared. I could not understand why any of them would ever want
to venture off up onto the rocky hillside. The lakes ranged in size
from a couple hundred feet to several hundred yards across. The
goat herd, again, appeared to have kept down the undergrowth.
I could not
imagine why no one lived on the island. It had everything a person
could ask for. The only reason I could think of was its isolation,
but surely one would think that some island tribe would have found
it and settled here.
the first lake for swimming. It was one of the smaller lakes. Its
wide, mostly grassy, beach sloped gradually into the water, and got
deeper until it was over our heads. It was a perfect place for
swimming. There was no drop off in the water.
waterfalls, west of the lakes, fell from a cliff some fifty or sixty
feet high. The first, fell into a shallow pool that emptied down a
steep rocky incline into the lake. The second, the smaller of the
two, after it fell about ten feet, it hit an outcropping of rock
that made it spray out like a veil. It fell the rest of the way
like a constant hard rain into another wide basin, similar to, but
smaller than the Patio at the cave. Then a thin sheet of water ran
the last hundred yards into the lake.
lower end of the lake we found a good place to set up camp. A
reasonably level, grassy area surrounded a dry, flat, outcropping of
rock some twenty feet from the shore. We could safely build a fire
there, if we could find some dry leaves and the sun ever appeared in
the sky. I was sure it was not noon yet and prayed we would be able
to see the sun for a few minutes then.
out looking for dry tinder the goats had missed. It was not long
until we found enough to build the fire. We got everything ready.
The magnifying glass hung around my neck on a braided fishing line
necklace. All we needed was the direct rays of the sun for a few
the bed rolls and made camp. I regretted that we did not have
something to which we could fasten the ponchos to make a tent. I
could see a poncho stretched over some bamboo poles like an Indian
teepee, but I did not think it would be large enough. We would not
need a tent if it did not rain, but you could bet it would rain
before nightfall. The best thing to do was to put all the bedding
into one poncho. Then, if it rained hard, some of us could share
one if we wanted to stay dry. Frequently, we enjoyed staying out
and playing in the rain. When the camping plans were made, we
looked for more substantial wood. We needed enough to keep the fire
burning through the night. We could probably get by without a fire
in the morning, but it would be better to have one and not need it,
than to need one and not have it.
bet, with all these goats around, Sheba would bring us one for
supper, on the other hand, maybe not. The goats did not seem to
mind us, but they kept a weary eye on Sheba and the pups. Sheba
acted like there was not a goat around, and most of the pups stayed
clear of them. Only Buster and Prince needed another lesson not to
mess with the goat kids, and went flying through the air off the
horns of an angry nanny. I realized, then, how the goat herd
managed to thrive with a pack of wild dogs around. They learned
when they were pups not to mess with them. Probably the only time
they would dare to attack one was when they found a young kid off by
itself, and that did not happen often.
"May we go
swimming?" Debbie threw her last load of wood on the pile.
fun." I looked at the sky. "I'm going to wait a little while. I
want to be ready to light the fire when the sun appears." I sat
alone gazing down the terraces below. On either side the terrain
rose from the valley floor. On the West, the grassy beaches rose
gradually for, maybe one hundred to three hundred feet to a line of
cliffs ranging from fifty to a hundred feet, or more, high. On the
East the grassy beaches disappeared into the jungle. There were a
few low cliffs at the higher end of the valley, but the closer it
got to the sea the lower the eastern rises were. I could look over
the treetops at the lower end. Sometimes I thought I would get a
glimpse of the sea beyond them, but I was not sure if it was the sea
or sky. I decided it was probably the sky. It was also possible
the last lake more than a hundred feet below me and nearly a mile
away was the cove, or maybe not. The jungle seemed to close in
between the last two lakes, with what appeared to be thick
undergrowth. I thought it strange that the goats would keep the
undergrowth down every where around the valley except in that one
spot. It was a long way off, even looking through the small
binoculars. I could be mistaken. We'd probably know that in a day
or two. It was so peaceful, I did not care if I ever left, except I
would miss seeing the sun, and the night sky.
The sun was
midway across the little ribbon of sky. I was beginning to feel
quite warm, before I realized the noonday sun, with all of its heat,
was beating down on me. Within seconds I had a flame; a few minutes
later, a good fire was blazing; and in a little over a half hour,
all chances of starting another fire until noon the next day were
gone. I joined the others in the lake, but they were about ready
on jerky and mangoes we had picked on the way down from the cave. I
had thought there would be more fruit here, but there were only a
few mango trees and coconut palms scattered around the edge of the
jungle. I presumed the goats must have kept the smaller trees eaten
off. We had plenty for lunch, and would have all the mangoes we
wanted, while we were in the valley.
a beautiful place?" Sarah threw a mango seed at me.
"I'd give a
million dollars, or more, for it, if I had it, if I could move it to
the coast of Oregon, or even to the Philippines," I agreed. "I
don't think I've ever seen such a beautiful place."
watching the stars come out tonight."
Well, I guess nothing is perfect, except God."
"I wonder if
even the Garden of Eden was this pretty."
is the Garden of Eden." I looked at the terraces below. "It seems
like the whole world disappeared except us, the sea, and this
island. I wonder which tree is the tree of life, and which is the
tree of knowledge of good and evil."
gonna let no snake talk me into eating of that tree," She vowed.
"You'd better find out which tree we can't eat from."
"I don't see
many trees around here we can eat from."
some coconut palms and Mango trees scattered around. There's a
coconut palm right behind you."
only one forbidden fruit tree in the Garden, so coconuts and mangoes
are okay to eat. There are more than one of them."
the Garden of Eden, and you and Sarah ain't Adam and Eve," Jamie
assured us. "They didn't have no kids 'til they left the Garden an'
you already got three."
right about that," I laughed.
the two girls, apparently bored with the conversation, since we had
agreed this was not the Garden of Eden, took off to explore.
imagine the Garden being any more beautiful than this." Sarah
closed her eyes, as if trying to dream.
long as we have to be marooned on an uninhabited island, I'm surely
glad it's this one."
with that, and if we girls have to be marooned, I'm glad you and
Jamie are with us. Of course, it would have been better if it had
been Momma and Daddy."
you and your sisters are with us too, but I wish you didn't have to
know if I ever want to leave this island, Timmy. I'd just like to
have our families live here. Our dads would never have to go to
work. We have everything we need. It would be just like heaven if
they were here."
they would need other people to be happy, and the others would need
somebody else. Pretty soon there would be too many people. It
wouldn't be the Garden of Eden any more. It would be just like
Manila, crowded and dirty."
admitted wistfully. "You're right, but it's such a beautiful
good to give us such a beautiful place."
hadn't been marooned, you'd be just another nice boy I met and
played with for an hour or two at airports, and forgot about. I'm
glad it wasn't like that."
too. You're not just a girl any more. You're special."
especially since that night on the Top of the World, when you put
your arm around me and prayed for me."
feel it too."
There was something special happened that night. I'm not talking
about the experience I had with Jesus. I'll remember it as long as
"I know. I
don't know what it was, but it was special."
everything was the way it ought to be."
way I felt. Like we would be together forever and ever." I
remembered the moment.
nothing could ever tear us apart."
scooted over and snuggled against me, I felt like I could think your
thoughts, dream your dreams, and feel your feelings."
almost like we were one person," she agreed.
"I wanted to
stay there all night, and not ever come down."
"Me too, but
I got sleepy, and I was afraid we'd go to sleep and fall off into
the jungle below."
"What do you
think happened?" She looked deep into my eyes. "Do you
think--maybe--it means that we--love each other?"
know. I don't know what love feels like. All I know is . . ." I
turned around to see what the others were doing. I didn't want them
to hear what I was about to say. They were playing tag by the
little waterfall. "All that I know is that you've been different
since that night. The experience you had with Jesus is part of it,
but I think there is something else as well."
have been part of it, I'm sure He was, but something happened
between you and me. Since then, I don't want to let you out of my
sight, and sometimes, I wish the others would go somewhere, so we
could talk like we are right now. Coming down here this morning, I
wanted to take your arm in mine, and squeeze it, and walk really
close to you. Other times, I wish you would give me a big hug."
"Me too. I
feel like doing that sometimes."
"Maybe it is
too young for that, but I do have special feelings for you that I
don't have for your sisters. That's probably because I depend on
you so much to help me, and I think of them as little kids."
tell them that. Julie's a big girl, now that she is six, and Debbie
thinks she's almost grown too," she laughed.
I laughed with her. "Let's go see what there is to see."
for the kids. The game of tag had stopped, or paused. Jamie was
squatting, looking at something on the ground. "Jamie, look out!"
I screamed too late. A black nanny hit him in the side rolling him
down the hill like a big ball. Sheba had the Nanny by the throat
before she knew what happened, but it was too late for Jamie. He
was lying on the ground, holding his shoulder, crying.
We ran to
him. He was all right. Nothing was broken. He had no cuts, but
his shoulder was bruised.
trying to see if the baby was all right, I didn't see it, and I
tripped over it."
didn't know that," I explained. "She thought you might hurt her
mean to hurt it."
"I know you
didn't, but you can't blame the nanny. She didn't know."
Sheba didn't know either, because when we got up, she and the pups
were still growling and tearing at the dead nanny's throat. "Sheba!
That's enough!" I called.
the nanny, and went to see if Jamie, who was still sitting on the
ground sniffling, was all right.
It had all
happened so quickly. In less than a minute our peaceful
surroundings had changed to violence, leaving a boy bruised and
crying, a beautiful nanny goat dead, and her baby helpless to die
without a mother. It reminded me of how quickly we had been
snatched from our mothers.
sweet." Sarah picked up the orphan, and was cuddling it in her
arms. "She's a little nanny."
down by her mother," I advised. "Maybe she can get one last meal"
help her." Sarah laid the kid by her mother.
thing we can do for her is to cut off her head and eat her for
supper." I said.
we would do, if Sheba had brought it to the cave."
be different. She'd already be dead." Sarah caressed the orphan.
"Besides it's too little to eat. She can't be over a few days old."
Julie put in.
"I think we
ought to just leave her here." Jamie watched the orphan sucking the
last of its dead mother's milk.
"I know what
we can do," Sarah got up excitedly. "It'll work. I know it will."
was ready to try anything, I might talk tough, but inside I wanted
to save the baby as much as any of them.
"We can find
another baby, and put this one with it. Then, you can ask Jesus to
make the mother accept it."
good idea. I think it will work," I contended. "Except for one
you the idea. You ought to be the one to pray for her. Jesus will
answer your prayers as quickly as He will mine."
know what to say."
him what you want him to do, just like you'd tell me. He doesn't
require any special language. It's time you learned to do your own
if we can find another tiny baby lying in the grass." Debbie was
already looking. We all scattered out. "When you find one, stay
away from it. We don't want somebody else hurt, or another dead
nanny because Sheba has to protect us." I reminded them.
one, behind this tree," Julie called after about ten minutes. "It
looks about like the other one, except it don't have a white ear."
I picked up
the orphan that was sleeping, nuzzled against her dead mother, and
called Sheba. "You keep the nanny busy, but don't hurt her." Sheba
stayed beside me until we got close to the hiding place, and she saw
a nanny getting nervous. Sheba began to tease her.
I laid the
orphan down by the other one. Neither roused from its sleep.
"Let's get in a circle around them and hold hands while Sarah asks
Jesus for help."
Jesus," Sarah prayed, "this little baby is just like us, all alone
without her momma to take care of her. You take good care of us, so
please, Jesus, take care of this orphan too. Let the other baby's
momma adopt her and take good care of her. Thank you, Jesus, we
don't know what else to do for her we would."
get away from here," I advised, "and watch what happens."
Sheba," I called when we were at a safe distance.
and tan nanny with a white blaze on her nose, rushed to the babies.
She sniffed at the orphan, then at her own and back to the orphan
again. When she was satisfied that all was well, she wandered off a
little and lay down to chew her cud, like she wanted to ponder the
the dead nanny, while Sarah joined the others in their game of tag,
as if nothing had happened; except, they stayed where they could
watch the nanny and the kids. I took the two hams and gave the rest
to the dogs. They carried, or dragged, it away from camp, before
they started fighting over it.
played, and explored the afternoon away with a constant eye on the
black and tan nanny, with a white blaze on her nose. She never
moved. Even when the afternoon shower came, and we scampered for
the four ponchos, Debbie and Julie sharing one, she did not budge.
Supper was over, and she still lay there contemplating the
situation, keeping an eye on the nest where the kids lay. It was
getting darker. Apparently the sun was setting. Hundreds, maybe
thousands of goats came down from the hills to drink and sleep, but
she did not move. We had about decided that she was going to reject
her own, which had been crying for its dinner for quite a while.
Finally, a few minutes before darkness settled into the valley; she
arose; nibbled a few spears of grass; drank from the lake; and
returned to the kids. She smelled each one of them again, nuzzled
them, and let them eat, one on each side.
Jesus, for answering my prayer." Sarah praised the Lord. "Thank
you so much."
"We have so
much to be thankful for." I led the evening devotions, as darkness
closed in around us. We made our bed close to the fire. Sleeping
together, as usual, Sarah lay on one side with her machete handy. I
was on the other side with mine, and big brother Jamie lay in the
middle. His machete lay within easy reach at his head. Sheba and
her pups encircled us, except at the foot, where the fire burned
brightly. Most importantly, God's blanket of protection covered
us. We lay without fear, looking at the ribbon of stars, talking
until, one by one, the others dropped out of the conversation
without warning. Jamie was the last. He was talking about being
sorry for . . . He never finished the sentence. I lay there for a
long time thinking and thanking the Lord for all his blessings.
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.