The Great Idea
Once upon a time, in the darkest end of the deepest forest, in a small cabin a small boy named Caleb asked his Poppy to write a book. Poppy looked at Caleb and said, “You are a kooky-head. Why write a book when we can have an adventure?”
Caleb said “I WANT TO DO BOTH!”
“Okay,” said Poppy. “You win. I have an idea; let’s have an adventure, then we will write a story about our day. Let’s get started tomorrow morning at first light.”
“OK,” said Caleb, “But I can’t wait. Let’s go now.”
“So you think you’re ready now? Okay, off we go--I just need to get a few things for my pack.”
“I always wanted to see the very center of the forest,” said Poppy. “My grandpa said that if you can ever find the very center of this forest there is a magic pool. If you swim in it you turn in to a fish. As a fish you can swim to the bottom of the pool and if you are very smart and very patient you will find a hidden treasure.”So off they walked in to the forest. Caleb was in the lead, not paying attention.
Suddenly Poppy stopped. “Shhh,” he whispered. “Look over there by the tree--there’s a large red fox. He was hiding just waiting for us to pass.” Caleb looked closer and sure enough he saw the fox. “You almost missed him said Poppy. “When you walk in the forest you need to go slowly and listen to the sounds all around you. Don’t be in such hurry, keep your mind open and you will see many wonderful sights. It is all about focusing or kind of un-focusing your awareness.” On they walked and soon they came to a creek. Caleb walked across a tree that had fallen down. He never even stopped to look down into the water.
Poppy stopped and called him back. “Caleb, look at that shadow just under that overhang--over there--see it moving in the current? That is a rainbow trout and he would make a great lunch for our trip.” Poppy took a long piece of fishing line from his pocket and on the end of it was a small fly he had tied for just an occasion like this. He took his knife and cut a branch from a willow tree. He tied the line to the end of the branch and flicked the fly into the water about two feet in front of the trout. Sure enough as the fly floated near the trout he gobbled it up. Poppy set the hook. It took special care to ease the trout to shore. Caleb pulled the big trout out of the water and smiled as he wiggled in his hands. “Poppy we got him! WOW!”
Poppy and Caleb started a small fire and roasted the trout. It was very delicious. “We’ll save half for later,” said Poppy.”It will keep for a day now that it is cooked.”
After lunch they continued their journey. The path ended.
“Now the hard part begins,” said Poppy. “I don’t think anyone has gone this way before. We will make our own trail. To get to the very center of this forest will be a long journey. We need to be very careful.” And on through the trees they walked keeping the sun at their backs and their eyes wide open. Now Caleb was paying attention. Suddenly, he stopped. “Shush,” he whispered. “Poppy look on that hill.” And sure enough, a large whitetail buck with huge horns walked slowly by with his head down sniffing the ground. “Good sighting Caleb. You’re listening now.”
Up above a hawk screeched and Poppy smiled. “We are on the right path I just know it. In another day or two we could be there.”“I’ve always dreamed about finding the center of the forest it will be good to finally do this. I’m glad you are with me and we can do this together.”
That night Poppy cut some limbs with a wire saw he’d brought in his pack and tied them together with some pieces of leather laces to build a frame. Then he instructed Caleb to lay some pine branches and big pieces of bark across the frame. “This shelter will block the wind and provide a warm and dry place for us to sleep. We need to put a thick mattress of pine limbs and leaves on the floor. Never sleep directly on the ground; you can get very cold from that.” They ate the rest of the trout and some cheese and bread from Poppy’s pack. “The stars are so bright there must be millions of them,” said Caleb. “Do you think anyone lives up there?” “Don’t know,” said Poppy, “but I like to think there may be.”
By the time the sun rose Poppy was up and the coffee was hot. “Ever tried coffee?” he asked. “Nope, but I’ll try it,” Caleb said, bravely.“Yuck!” he said “it tastes like mud.”
Poppy laughed, “Some people would call it that.” “Ready for breakfast?” whispered Poppy “I sure am!” screamed Caleb. “I could eat a horse.” “Don’t criticize my cooking,” said Poppy. By noon they were both tired and ready for a nap.
So they found a grassy hill and laid back to watch the clouds. Poppy took off his boots and rubbed his feet. Caleb took of his boots as well. “What is that smell?” said Poppy. “Must be stinky feet,” said Caleb and they both laughed. “It is very important to keep your feet clean and dry.” said Poppy, “Especially on a long journey like this. Change your socks and wash these smelly things out in the creek. We’ll be back this way in a few days. We’ll leave them here to dry.”
“Ready?” said Poppy. “Just about,” said Caleb. “I just want to be sure the fire is out.” “Good thinking,” said Poppy, ”Really good.”
“Poppy how can you tell we are going the right way?”Caleb asked. “Well I know the center of the forest is due north but don't take for granted the old myths that tell you that moss always grows on the north side of trees. Usually it does, but in damp shady places, it will not be dependable. So when you go in to any wilderness area you must have a compass. See?” Poppy said, showing Caleb the compass. “No matter where I turn, the needle points north. Makes it easy,” Poppy explained.
Hour after hour they walked, always being careful to watch for interesting things to discuss. “Poppy I’m getting hungry. Can I eat these berries?” asked Caleb. “Do not eat any berries, mushrooms or anything else unless you are 100% sure what they are. Being hungry is not as bad as being really sick. Let’s take a break and I’ll show you some easy things to identify that are safe to eat. Cattails are one of the most abundant and best tasting plants out there. Can’t miss those” said Poppy. “Lots of uses and easy to get them. Also see those acorns, you just take the insides of the acorn out, and let them sit in water for a day. Then grind them up, and let them dry out. You can use them as flour, or make pancakes from them.”“Oh boy pancakes!” Said Caleb. “I could eat a pile of those.” “Well,” said Poppy,” we don’t have any syrup but I know a trick with that Maple tree. If you want we can stay here for the day and have them for breakfast in the morning.”
“Poppy I’ll get a whole bunch of acorns,” said Caleb. And he brought lots of acorns to Poppy, who split them with his knife so they could soak. “Poppy can I see your knife?” asked Caleb. “Sure, Caleb, but let me just show you how to handle it first. It’s very sharp. I like a fixed blade so it never closes on your fingers… So hold it like this. Now be very careful and respect that edge. This is not a toy and you need to respect what it is and care for it. A knife can save your life. Say you need to defend yourself from a bear. You can use a piece a leather to secure this knife to a long stick to make a spear. You can also spear fish, quail, and other animals for food. We don’t need to do that now. I have lots of good stuff in my pack.”
“Let’s eat, Poppy! What else do you have in that pack?” Caleb wanted to know. “Well when I was just a little older than you I started a list. Each time I went camping I added the things I needed but forgot. I kept doing it until the time I went camping and I had everything I needed to be comfortable. I still have that list and check it each time I go out. I’ll show it to you when we get back home. Mostly I remember, but I always check because I never want to forget something important. We won’t need a lean-to tonight. There’s no wind no chance of rain. Roll out your pack and let’s make a nice fire,” said Poppy.
Later Caleb asked “Where did you get that rabbit?” “Well,” said Poppy, “When you were out collecting acorns I set a snare.”
“What’s a snare?”asked Caleb. “Well it’s just a fine length of wire or line. I like to use a heavy fishing line because it’s really hard to see. Now you look for a trail through the bushes. Especially heavy cover where there is only one way through. Those are the best. Then you attach one end to a little bent over tree and put a catch on it like this. When the rabbit or pheasant runs down the trail it it slips over their head and, POP!Up swings the tree and dinner is served. Poppy roasted the rabbit over the fire and boiled some more water for the next day.
“Hey by the way always boil water before drinking it. There are little goobers in there that can make you really sick. You’ll be running for the woods about every fifteen minutes and then I’d have to carry you home. You’re getting to big to do that. Caleb, we have a big day tomorrow if we are going to find that pool,” said Poppy. “Get some sleep and no snoring tonight!”
The next morning after acorn pancakes and clean up, Poppy said to Caleb. “Okay, your turn to lead just keep heading north and keep your eyes open. Hour after hour they walked up hills down hills across creeks and under fallen trees. “Hey, remember when you were very little? You used to call those ‘boken tees.’”
“Should we stop for lunch?” asked Caleb. “Up to you,” said Poppy. “We can push on and try to find the pool before dark or stop and pick it up in the morning.”
“I’m having too much fun to hurry,” said Caleb. “But if you want to I can do it.” “No,” said Poppy. “Let’s eat, rest a little then go on a few more miles.”
The next morning Poppy was very excited. “Caleb, today is the day. I just know we are going to find it.” Around noon they came to a open meadow. The sun was shining and it was getting warm. “Caleb, do you see anything?”
“Nope” said Caleb. “All right, said Poppy, “but climb up that tree and see if you can find any sight of water. We must be close.” Caleb climbed to the very top. “All I see is a little stream over the next hill.”
“Good job, Caleb, now climb on down and I’ll teach you something else. Let’s find that creek. Water comes from a source and if we follow it perhaps we’ll find what we are looking for.”
So along the creek they walked. “Lots of frogs here,” said Caleb. “Ever eat frog?” asked Poppy. “Yuck!” said Caleb. “No I am serious; frogs’ legs taste like sweet chicken.” “You can eat all you want,” said Caleb.
For two hours they followed the creek uphill. “Now we are in the real mountains and we just have to be close,” whispered Caleb. “Patience,” said Poppy. “We’ve come this far.” The ground got steeper and steeper and the forest darker and darker. Poppy and Caleb struggled to keep going until they came to a waterfall and stopped to rest.
“Looks like a tough climb to the top,” said Caleb. “Yep,” said Poppy, and off they went. Crawling up the cliff was no easy task and it seamed to go on forever. “Give up?” said Poppy. “Never,” said Caleb. Caleb was first to the top he pulled himself over the last edge and stood up. “Poppy look!”
“I will,” said Poppy “I’m just not as young as I used to be. Well I’ll be! You did it, Caleb. You found the center of the forest and the magic pool. Just let me stand here and take it all in. There were times I never though it was real. Grandpa was such a story teller. But here it is! Come on let’s get wet.”
So Poppy and Caleb ran the last few yards to the pool. “The water is so blue,” said Caleb--colder than a snowball, I’ll bet. Well there is only one way to tell--let’s go swimming! Let’s be like fish.”
“Poppy I’m not sure I want to be a fish,” said Caleb. “Well,” said Poppy, “being a fish may be one of the best moments of your life. Imagine being able swim so fast see clearly and breathe under water. Besides, there is that treasure to think of.
“Well,” said Caleb, “you go first.” Poppy peeled off his clothes and jumped in. “Wow!That’s cold.”
“Come on boy; we’ve got treasure to find.” Poppy took a deep breath and dove down. He was gone so long Caleb got worried and jumped in. Poppy came to the surface for a breath… “Cold,” said Caleb “Cold,” as his teeth clicked together.
“Yeah, but I see something at the bottom and need your help. Take a deep breath and let’s go.” They swam all that way to the bottom there was a box shiny and silver looking. Together they brought it to the surface and just rested.
Poppy “I did not turn into a fish.” “Nope” said Poppy, “But you swam like one. You are all wet. Let’s make a big fire and get warmed up and dressed, then we’ll see what’s in that box.”
Poppy and Caleb sat down and leaned back against a old tree looking out over the pool. “Magic,” said Poppy. “Just magic.” “Open it up,” pleaded Caleb. “Hurry.”
“Boy I’ve waited forty years to see this I just want to take it all in.“
There was a little lock and Poppy wiggled it back and forth. “Caleb, would you get my pack?” At the very bottom of the pack Poppy found a piece of wire, bent it up in a crazy shape and stuck it in the lock. “Nope, not yet,” and made some more bends and squiggles, then tried it again. POP! The lock opened. “What do you suppose is in there Caleb?”
“Treasure.. it’s kind of heavy,” said Caleb barely able to talk. “Come on Poppy, look inside… open her up.” So very slowly, Poppy raised the lid.
“Oh my,” said Poppy. The bottom was full of coins. “We’re rich!” said Caleb. “Well, not exactly,” said Poppy. On top of the coins was another box. “What’s that?” asked Caleb. Poppy reached in and took the small box out. He opened it and smiled. “A knife,” said Caleb. “Why a knife? And a key! Look at it. Wow! She’s a beauty. Wonder how old it is.” The knife was coated in wax and Poppy carefully removed it. The knife had an ivory handle and was sharp as a razor. On the side was an engraving. It said hand-made by Mr. Pepe’ Lightfoot. Poppy just laughed and a tear ran down his cheek.
Funny how things work out. Caleb just looked up at Poppy with a question. “A real treasure, boy, and it is a long story. See those coins gold, solid gold hundreds of them but that’s not the important part. See this knife it probably 150 years old. There was a legend in our family long ago. No one every believed it but me. The story goes far back in our family tree. It was passed down that an Indian once married one of grandma’s grandmas and we have some of that native blood in us today.”
“I wonder what he was like?” asked Caleb. ‘Heard he was a wanderer, a bit of a dreamer, and a wise and wonderful story teller.”
“Just like you,” said Caleb. “Yep,” smiled Poppy, “Just like me. Come on boy let’s get home. We have a long hike back and we’ll talk all the way. Got another story for you.”