Gramp Wilcox was quite the large landowner. His holdings comprised a square mile of mostly unproductive mountain land. It was left to my father, James Wilcox. Pop willed it equally to me, Bill, and my brother Mark. My brother wasn't interested in the land, so when Dad's estate was settled, he took a minimal inheritance out of the other assets and moved out to Wyoming. Mark was fair and equitable and didn't demand too much, for he knew the property wouldn't pay for itself and I would be paying the taxes. He did reserve the right to vacation there from time to time.
The land had two things that I cherished. There was a great trout brook on the western side of the property that bordered the boundary. The waters rose from a good-sized swamp that was on state land to the north. On the eastern side there was a cabin. Gramp had built this cabin when he came home from the great war. It was built near the top of a bare ridge that ranged north to south the length of the property.
This ridge was high and steep-sided to the west, falling sharply down to the brook and the level valley beyond. This side of the mountain was tree covered with hemlock and spruce and an occasional hardwood. The very top of the ridge was barren of trees, except for low-lying brush here and there. There were huge boulders strewn on top of the ledges. It was a gentle slope to the east from the pinnacle for about 250 yards. Then there was a precipice that fell away a quarter mile to a jumbled cut below. Gramp lost a buckboard over it one time when the wheels weren't blocked and it broke loose.
Gramp Wilcox had rolled and blasted some of the huge boulders that were scattered around and tipped them over the cliff making room for a dwelling. There was some soil in the cracks and indentations in the rock ledge. Gramp had seen the horrors of war and he claimed he needed beauty. He had traveled the woods and transplanted wild flowers around the cabin. He spent much time at the site, mostly alone until Pop was old enough to hang out with him.
Pop was raised by his father, for his own mother had run off with a salesman when he was four years old. I wasn't sure if Gramp was ever married. I never saw Pop's birth certificate so I don't know if he was legitimate or not. It didn't matter, for Gramp seemed to be able to always have a woman around to care for both his needs and his son. He'd keep a woman until he was sick of her or until she was sick of him. This was an understood agreement by both parties before a woman moved in with him.
Pop told me Gramp treated all of these women well. Some stayed years and some left after a few months. The two I remembered were sad to leave, but did as per agreement. The one thing that stood out from all of this was the distrust Gramp had for salesmen. Pop said he figured that Gramp had really loved his mother. It must have been a man selling something he didn't figure he needed but that she did.
The road up to the cabin was steep and winding, utilizing the lay of the land with switchbacks and turns. Gramp maintained it with a two wheeled dump wagon, filling in gullies where water washed away the gravel. It was pulled by a team of horses. Pop used a doodlebug made out of an old tractor and a truck body. For me, I had an old deuce and a half army truck that was built before automatic transmissions. This was stored in a lean-to down on the level land at the foot of the mountain.
There was always work to do on the road in the spring and after a particularly heavy storm. We all swore keeping access wasn't worth it. When the road was passable, and you sat on the deck seeing the sun come up of a morning in the east, you forgot what a chore it was. The same glory was in the setting sun to the west from the top of the mountain.
The biggest difficulty for me was that if you were at the cabin, you weren't near enough to fish in the brook. If you were fishing in the brook, it was a long way up the mountain to the cabin. There was a narrow deer trail that commenced at the brook and wandered up the other side, but it was a difficult trip and in some places you were just hanging on with your fingernails. Not really, but it wasn't a trail you wanted to travel at night.
Mine was the typical family, or so I thought. I had Debbie for a wife, two kids and a job at a feed mill. Debbie worked at a real estate agency and figured her job had just a little more class than mine. I had been working at the mill job for twenty years, and I ran a hammer mill that crushed the grain. The grain went to the mixer where various ingredients were incorporated before going to the pellet machine. We bagged grain for horses and cattle. Not so much for cattle anymore as times changed. That lack was picked up now by small bags of pet food as the country moved from rural to more suburban.
Debbie and I had our twenty-fifth anniversary party last year, put on by our two children. Linda was twenty-three and Bill Junior was twenty-one. I guess you could say Linda was mine and Junior belonged to Debbie. I had looked forward to our first child being a boy, but within a few days of the baby coming home I changed my mind and welcomed the tiny little girl babe into my heart.
Two years later the boy arrived, but I couldn't transfer the affection from Linda to Junior. My fault, I could concede, and maybe I didn't have enough love for both. He didn't lack for love as Debbie made up for it by smothering him. Don't get me wrong, I didn't neglect him. I played catch and went to all of his school functions, but at home he looked to his mother for love.
When I took Junior fishing, which was my passion, he wouldn't put a worm on a hook. When he was older and I thought we might go hunting, his mother took up for him and said it was too dangerous. But Linda--Linda shot an eight point buck two days after she turned fourteen. She even had her picture in the paper. I had the photo blown up to a two by four foot framed picture for a Christmas present to hang in her room.
The two kids developed differently too. Linda was tall and athletic, the same as me. Junior was short and pudgy. I thought maybe this was from the sweets his mother plied him with. He was intelligent though, as he had a vocabulary that wouldn't quit and math was his baby. Two different people with different interests. Maybe a little odd, but the two kids got along fabulously together.
Debbie and I got along fine up until Junior and Linda were old enough to take care of themselves. Debbie then went back to work. She took a real estate refresher course and from then on we started drifting apart. She was out many evenings showing property. She took on an air of thinking she was just a little better than me. I'll admit she kept herself looking fine. Maybe she didn't attract every man, but there certainly were some that turned for a second look.
I supposed this was because her co-workers dressed for work better than I did. I would put on good clothes and take her out either on Friday night or Saturday--sometimes both. We usually came home feeling frisky. As we reached our forties, things slowed down as they do and once a week satisfied me. I assumed Debbie was okay with this as she never seemed to require more.
Our life evolved where I would come home from the mill, take a shower and start preparing the evening meal. If Debbie didn't have a property to show, after dinner she usually went to the phone and talked for hours to some of her friends. I did yard work or messed around in the garage doing a little woodworking. Linda often joined me and we kept up a running conversation about whatever had caught our interest during the day. She and I still were out fishing when our schedules were so that we could.
I had my friends. One was Pete Shackle. He was pushing seventy-five and had been my father's buddy during the Korean conflict. When I was younger, if I wasn't fishing with Pop, I was fishing with him, Linda joining us as she got older. He lived just west and not far from our property and the brook. Often though, Pete, me and Linda just wandered around my land, even up on the steep hillsides. We discovered where a big old sow bear denned up, and when she had a cub we watched her play and teach her little one. The bear hung around for years. I haven't seen her for five or more seasons now. Maybe some hunter shot her.
I had other friends too. Jim and Sarah Fenton, brother and sister, operated a detective agency. They both had partners. Jim was married to a woman named Judy and Sarah was married--sort of. She had a life-time partner, Millie. Jim was a small indiscriminate looking man and Millie was much like him, so they often worked together. Sarah was a striking redhead with a goddess's body to match. She seldom went out of the office on a case, for she was one to be spotted and remembered.
Jim's wife Judy, and I had been in the same class in school. Sarah was a year behind us and we often dated until she decided that men weren't for her. This wasn't until she and Millie, both new police officers, were on stakeout and found each other. Caught in the act, they were given the choice of resigning or being terminated. Jim had gone to work for a detective agency and the owner made room for the two women. When the owner retired he sold the agency to the Fentons, Jim, Sarah and Millie.
Sometimes when I had time off and Debbie or the kids weren't around, I would stop in and bullshit with Sarah and whoever else was in the office. Did I ever think I would need the services of my friends? Not hardly, but you never know.
.... There is more of this story ...