One day in 1964...Spring had come early here in the Far Away Mountains, the land of wild hairy beasts, and brave hairy men. I had led my small party into this wild new frontier by way of the Dead Dog Trail, paddling the whitewater of the raging Hitchikatchee River, and beyond into the land not yet marked on maps. We pressed onwards, into Polecat Pass, where eyes watched our every move, and negotiated the mossy overhangs and vines of Cave Ape Mountain.
A whiskered, barrel chested mountain man of legend in these parts, I had embarked on this difficult journey in search of treasure. Gold...and stuff. Accompanying me on this dangerous quest are my two sidekicks, Lowland Larry and Whipsaw Walter, my woman, the lovely and mysterious Rita, and last but not least, my wolf dog, Whodat. Though not quite as barrel chested and whiskered as myself, Lowland Larry, and Whipsaw Walter have proven to be good trail companions. I had saved their lives once...of course. I remember it was back in '61, sneaking through the Valley Of The Bones one night to avoid waking the cave apes. Lucky for them, Whodat was able to direct me to the tar pit they were trapped in, we just got them out of there before the volcano went up. The three of us have had some wild times around old Fort Buckaroo too. Like that time I had to wrastle that one-eyed grizzle bear outside the Raccoon Saloon, back in '62 I think it was. That bear will think twice about coming into town again, by himself anyways. My woman, the lovely and mysterious Rita, served sarsaparilla's and played hontytonk accordion back at the ol' Raccoon and had hopelessly fallen for the tall handsome stranger from the border country that would wrestle belligerent Old One Eye on a dare. My highly trained wolf dog has been by my side since I rescued her from a den in an eroding river bank during the big flood of '57. The Wolf Dog's legend grew quickly, the mountain natives giving her the name Whodat. Translated from the local Higoochie dialect it means roughly, 'wanderer of neighborhood and neighbors garbage cans'.
Safe passage to the country on the other side of Headless Kid Pass was granted by the chief of the remote Higoochie tribe. The Higoochies guarded the pass and had only recently stopped boiling mountain men in large black pots. My party had been granted access to the rich land beyond after I saved the entire band during the great gopher famine back in February.
Our journey had been a trying one, four years duration it was, and it was Winter for three of those years. It had been uphill all the way from Fort Buckaroo, and it will be uphill all the way back as well, at least until we lower ourselves up the other side of craggy Backward Mountain.
It had been a productive day discovering gold mines and hot pools. My woman, the lovely and mysterious Rita, sits with adoring eyes for her rugged, whiskered mountain man, mending my buckskin jacket after that run in I had with the sabre tooth mountain lion last night.
Lowland Larry and Whipsaw Walter are by the fire roasting fresh wieners caught today and laugh heartily while I regale them with tales of past escapades from the olden times, back before unexplored country got civilised like it is nowadays. Back when a man had to eat snow all Winter. And it was dark all the time. I leaned back against my pack board, took in the fresh air of the remote mountaintop and contemplated the view.
My keen mountain man senses picked up a pending danger, a long legged, stalking, presence...and suddenly, 'WHACK!", just like that, a branch smashed down not inches from me. I straightened up in my desk with a start, and turned my head from the view out the window to the staring faces and giggles of the entire grade three and four classroom. The teacher, Mrs. Crowley, or Old Crow Legs as some of the older boys called her, which I always thought was funny as hell, stood there tapping her wooden pointer on her hand. This pointer got used for many tasks I had found out on past expeditions, like rapping the desks of inattentive 10 year old, hairy and barrel chested mountain men.
Old Crow Legs started in once more,"Robin, if you don't pay attention, how do you expect to keep up?"
Well that wasn't the first time I had been asked that by an exasperated teacher, and it wasn't the last.My buddy Larry sat over in the the next grade and I can see him trying hard to stifle a laugh, he looks much different now without his beard. As does Walter who sits ahead a row, he is looking straight ahead, hoping to avoid getting in trouble by association.
Over a few rows, at the front of the grade four class, Rita stares at me over her shoulder, her gaze one of disgust, then shakes her head and rolls her eyes before turning back to her notebook.
"She looked at me...." I thought to myself, blushing, "...she looked at me!"
Old Crow Legs brought me back to earth, "Now class, including you Mr. Trethewey, please pick up where we left off...".
My friend Larry lived on a small farm down on the flats where his folks ran a few milk cows, and Walter lived down across the tracks close to the border crossing. Together on our bikes, along with my hopeless dog Whodat, had the type of adventures only rural kids and dogs can have. We started school together, and used to be in the same class, ...but they don't get held back.
The old Huntington Elementary School sat out in the farmland that straddled the Canadian side of the 49th parallel near Sumas, and served the needs of the eighty or so rural hick kids in the immediate area. Grades one thru seven, three classrooms with three teachers, the school had been built in 1930 and used sawdust in the walls for insulation. Its one redeeming feature was that the windows were predominately to the north, and to the chagrin of a generation of teachers, I would transport myself away to adventures in the far off range of mountains that rose beyond the Fraser Valley.
Over the years I have thought lots about that old schoolhouse, and not without a certain fondness, but oh how I hated to be there. I looked out school windows until I was old enough to graduate myself, then my real education began. From where I sit here and write this, 50 years later, I can see a high mountain. If I were to go up there with a telescope, I could look south, and on a clear day, with a bit of imagination, I could almost make out the remains of that old schoolhouse in the far away.