Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Mountain Man

This story is based on a factual event that happened to me while deer hunting with my son on a Tennessee ridge. It still makes me wonder who the "Mountain Man" was but I took liberties with the event to make it into my first writing int the 'Fantasy' realm of writing. I submitted it to a couple of magazines and got favorable reviews but no writing contract.
Unexplained events have always fascinated me so I just had to write this one. I really enjoyed the process of building the story line(s).
Building a story line is a lot like solving a case for a client as a PI. Both processes are result driven have an ending. That's my goal as a writer and as a PI.

What follows is a draft where all grammar has not been edited and corrected. This is about my fourth edit but I still see areas where I could improve with a better word here and there.
Hope you enjoy!!!

The Mountain Man

For most of his life Nick never believed or even considered the possibility of time travel or anything remotely resembling it. In all his life experiences nothing had ever happened to cause him to rethink his beliefs regarding strange happenings. If he was driving late nights he often amused himself listening to the “nut calls” on late night AM radio. Never would he have considered any of what he heard being possible before this particular hunting trip. Some of his long held ideas were about to require rethinking.
In the southern Appalachian Mountains hunting was a rite of passage used by young men to move to manhood. Hunting was lived and breathed from early childhood so outdoor skills were honed to a razors’ edge. This was who you were. Even though Nick’s corporate job kept him inside most of the time he still enjoyed being back in the wild. I guess you could say the corporate world was his living but out here was his life.
His son Jason was also a skilled hunter and a dead shot with a muzzleloader, bow, or a rifle. For a young man less than twenty years old his outdoor skills were second to none. He could track and follow blood trails as good as anyone who had ever grown up in the Tennessee hills.
Since Nick was not a kid anymore he preferred to hunt from either rock ledges or amid heavy brush while his son preferred a tree stand swaying high above the mountain trails.
This particular day as Jason was climbing to his lofty perch in his tree stand; Nick was looking for the best route up the ridge to where he planned to set up. As they gave each other the thumbs up sign he quietly started up the ridge in the pre- dawn darkness. It was a chilly, but not cold, winter morning as he carefully and methodically moved toward his destination. He could hear the distant low hum of large diesel trucks navigating the winding main highway artery in the valley below. As Nick glanced up at the moonless cobalt sky his eyes caught the flashing of a jet liners lights high above the mountain ridge. As he stopped for a moment to catch his breath he imagined the passengers comfortably resting as the “red eye” glided through the early morning blackness.
Nearing the halfway point of the trek he moved through an area that was strangely cold – in fact much colder than he had felt during the earlier part of the climb? This puzzled Nick as he thought that he had never felt anything like that in his entire outdoor experience? He also thought it was odd that during the balance of his climb up the ridge that no trucks were heard on the highway below nor were any more airliner lights noted on the normally active Atlanta/Nashville corridor?? Arriving at his rock ledge he set up and quietly waited for first light on this weirdly strange morning.
With maximum concentration focused on the surroundings he intently watched and listened for deer movement. As dawn broke he sensed a movement down ridge and through his riflescope a nice buck was noted in the distance through the leafless trees. After the monotony of waiting he was glad to finally have some activity. With senses coming to pinpoint edge Nick positioned himself quietly to wait for the right moment to squeeze the trigger and send the powerful projectile on the path toward his trophy buck.
As he timed his breathing for the shot another presence was immediately sensed off to his
right side. At the same instant the big buck bolted into the nearby underbrush. Nick quickly moved his vision to the right to see what had caused the buck to be spooked.
He was startled to see a strangely dressed man standing about twenty feet away.
They must have seen each other at the same instant and both appeared wild eyed and startled to see the other so close by!
Nick’s heart skipped several beats as he observed the man. Two thoughts immediately entered Nick’s mind, “How in the heck did someone get that close to my hunting spot without me knowing it and why was he dressed as he was?”
The intruder was outfitted in worn buckskin jacket and pants with leather moccasins on his feet. He was carrying what looked like an old 50 caliber muzzleloader. His beard and hair were long and unkempt. A floppy wide brimmed leather hat completed his wardrobe. He was truly authentic 1800’s.
He was also seriously checking Nick out at the same time.
As for Nick he was wearing present day woodland cameo with a .357 stainless steel Smith and Wesson in a shoulder holster plus his trusty scoped 30.06 bolt-action deer rifle.
After the initial shock of seeing each other Nick decided to try to break the ice and start a conversation. Nick felt more embarrassment than fear at that moment. Allowing someone to get that close, unnoticed, was something he would not want made public. He would never hear the end of it if that story got around.
They finally nodded to each other and Nick said to him, “Nice choice of outfits. It’s really authentic looking.”
Nick added, “You really caught me by surprise just now – I had no idea that anyone was around.”
The mountain man had breeched a major hunting etiquette rule so Nick spoke in a friendly tone because he knew how some hunters react if you accidentally walk through their kill zones when they are on stand.
He nodded but really didn’t seem to comprehend what Nick was saying.
“That’s a neat old antique muzzleloader you got there.”
Looking even more perplexed and confused, he fearfully stared at Nick’s rifle and sidearm.
As he inched closer to Nick he pointed a grubby finger at his stainless steel sidearm and said something regarding handgun that Nick found to be unintelligible. From his use of language Nick figured this guy was a “few bricks short of a load.” Nick just smiled at the questionable comment and did not even consider a reply.
Nick then asked him jokingly, “Are you up here with a film crew making a documentary or a pioneer movie?
This seemed to totally confuse the mountain man. He didn’t seem to comprehend anything that was being said to him?
Nick said under his breath, “Strange people are not just limited to the corporate world – I guess the woods are also full of them.”
After a few minutes of silence and mutual staring the mountain man gestured and grunted some mixed syllables to indicate that he was heading down the trail.
“Watch for my son in a tree stand down the ridge,” Nick said as the stranger started down the ridge.
Nick received another confused look as the man walked off down the mountain trail.
As Nick watched the mountain man skillfully move down the mountain trail he was wondering what Jason would think when he observed him moving virtually underneath his tree stand?
As Nick was gathering his gear after the encounter he noticed a small hand-made leather drawstring pouch lying in the area near where the man had been standing.
Nick picked up the drawstring pouch and noted that it contained some fresh homemade jerky and a small piece of bread. Evidently the mountain man was preparing to have a snack when they were startled by each others presence. He took the pouch and placed it in his jacket pocket so he could give it to the man if he saw him again on the trail.
On this note he decided to call it a day and started down the ridge to meet his son.
As he arrived at Jason’s location he expected to hear his son describe the mysterious mountain man but he surprisingly did not mention him. As they walked out of the
tree line to their truck Nick finally commented about the strange “mountain man” that he met up on the ridge. Nick told how the mountain man walked down the ridge just past his tree stand location less than an hour ago.
Jason looked at him with wonder and asked what he was talking about?
Nick related the story in detail and Jason firmly stated that, “No one came past me on the trail.”
Nick wondered, “How was this?”
“How could I plainly see someone when my son, who usually sees everything, could not?
They were a long way from the nearest homes and Nick knew most all of the people who lived in the area. This guy on the ridge was none of them.
The thought then occurred that this “mountain man” might not be a costumed modern day hunter.
Could he truly have been someone from a different era?
Even though Nick immediately discounted this possibility – it stayed in his mind.


Later that evening in his study beside a warm fire with a steaming cup of coffee Nick’s mind again was on the events earlier in the day on the ridge.
Now that he was warm and relaxed he would approach this mystery as he did problems in his day-to-day manager’s job. Shouldn’t logic cover the outdoors as well as in corporate life?
Nick’s mind started processing the data and as he always did – he conversed with himself about the problem or mystery in this case.
“Where had he come from?”
“Why was he dressed in early 1800’s attire?”
“Why did Jason not see him when he walked right past where he was on his tree stand?” “What was a logical explanation or, was there an explanation?”
“Maybe the mountain man was a person from another time?”
“Who am I trying to kid?”
“Could time travel actually happen?”
“I believe it more than I did yesterday.”
His mind again wondered, “Why did Jason not see the man?” The man had to walk within a few yards of where Jason was on stand. If the mountain man had traveled to the
present time and Nick could see him – “Why could Jason not see him?”
This thought continued to nag him.
Then he left the questions and just let his mink wander a bit.
“If the mountain man was truly from another time - I wonder what he thought of me?”
Even though the mountain man’s 1820’s attire initially shocked Nick – at least he was familiar with that era’s clothing. Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone movies had made most everyone aware of frontier clothing.
For the mountain man it was an entirely different scene. If he had stepped through a time portal and the first person he saw was Nick – no wonder he appeared shocked and awed as he looked at Nick’s woodland attire, orange vest, cap, 30.06 bolt action rifle, .357 stainless revolver, and a strange accent and voice tone. He had probably never seen anything like Nick in his life!
“Did the mountain man feel fear as he hastily departed the ridge where we met?
Nick wondered what his thoughts were as he went down the ridge to where he expected to see another ‘foreigner.” Nick imagined that he was probably feeling totally perplexed by the whole episode.
As Nick again sipped his coffee and was hypnotized by the rippling flames on the burning wood – another thought literally slammed his mind!
“What if the reason Jason did not see the mountain man was because Jason was not on the ridge when the buckskin clad man walked down the mountain?”
“That was not possible – was it?
“Jason and I left the ridge together. How could he have not been there?”
Nick’s mind then raced back to this morning on the ridge. He remembered the eerie
silence that prevailed during the approximate three hours he was up there.
The sky above was normally alive with commercial jet activity. He didn’t remember seeing one plane or vapor trail after the climb?
The roar of large trucks in the valley below is normally audible – but he remembered hearing none?
As his mind again raced through the morning’s events he then realized that Jason was not on the ridge that morning!
“My encounter with the mountain man happened in the 1820’s.”
“Jason was not on the ridge until 2006!”
“Holy Crap!!”
Nick wondered how he could logically think this thought? As he continued his thinking the realization hit him!
“Am I losing it or what?”
“The mountain man did not pass through a time portal – I did!!”
Nick’s thoughts continued. “This could account for the eerily cold area I passed through on my climb up the ridge?”
“It would also explain why there were no vehicle sounds coming up from the valley.” “There were no vehicles in the 1820’s!”
“Same goes for the absence of airliner activity.”
“No wonder the mountain man was shocked to see me.”
“Probably no other people lived near the ridge at that time.”
“Who knows how long it had been since the mountain man last saw another person? You know he would be shocked to see anyone as alien appearing as I was.”
Nick then thankfully realized that as he backtracked his way down the ridge after the morning of hunting he must have somehow re-entered the present time.
The other possibility to this statement caused him to shiver in fear.
Moments passed as he stayed with this thought.
Then another revelation hit him!
“The Mountain Man’s Drawstring Pouch!!!!!”
He had entirely forgotten about it! His trembling hand dug into his jacket pocket and retrieved the small leather pouch. It should still have venison jerky inside. He clutched the small bag he picked up this morning - or was it over two hundred years ago?
The once smooth leather was now worn and cracked with the drawstring brittle to the touch.
Nick observed that the contents were now just dusty powder where the bread and jerky had previously been.
He again fearfully wondered what would have happened if he had taken a different route back to where he met his son?
“Would I also be dust or would I be lost and terrified back in the 1820’s?”
He then wondered how many times in the past this sort of thing had happened causing “travelers” to be stuck in another “time”?
What a frightening thought to be somewhere and not know how or why you are there?
As he finished his coffee and studied the tattered leather pouch he thought that he would be wise to keep this story to himself.
“People have been institutionalized for less outrageous stories?!”
As tiredness overtook him Nick blankly gazed into the fireplace. He could see that the fire was now only glowing embers.
He was thankful that he was here, or ------- Was he????

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