Monday, March 12, 2007

A tall tale

A week or so ago, I sent out a bulletin on Myspace asking my buddies there to leave a real memory they had of me in my comments section (most of my friends in real life reside there and aren’t bloggers) My oldest, Jason Roach, left a comment about a story that I had shelved because I knew no one would believe me, since he’s told it, I might as well share my recollection of it. It hasn’t been told in 15 or so years because I didn’t want all of my friends to think I was a liar. Everyone involved in that story had fell off the face of the earth including Jason and with this story, who would believe me alone? The story is stranger then fiction. A couple weeks ago, Jason shows up out of the blue and shares the story in a comment which brings up this memory which is a 100% true (the comment is posted along with a bunch of other somewhat embarrassing comments about the dark reaches of my past when I used to be a party animal, read them an weep, I’m not deleting them, so there goes my presidential bid).

Back when we were 16 or 17, I used to do a bunch of odd and somewhat crazy things, one of my hobbies was exploring old mines all around northern Arizona and in Prescott, there was this mine call Black Jack mine (I really don’t know the name of it, that’s just what people told me it was called, but I think it was really called the Barbara Mine because the entrance looked like this picture taken 1930’s)

The mine was a literal maze that went though this mountain next to Granite Lake, a ladder that went up a couple hundred feet with side branches and an exit at the top of the mountain, tunnels that scattered off into the distance and pitfalls everywhere. It was one of my favorite places to hang out and was a sure bet to awe anyone who hadn’t seen it.

This one weekend, I gathered, Jason, another buddy Brian Mercer (I don’t know where he’s at but he can now find me by using google) and the last guys name slips my mind and dragged them out there with me. I had this 70 foot length of fire hose which I found at the dump a couple of weeks earlier and had it strung over my shoulder with a plan to use it to swing across the main shaft to some of the side passages (I still haven’t done that) I had been explore because there was a 12 or so feet gulf with lots of air underneath it.

I was such a regular at going to this mine that in reality, I hardly needed the light. I knew were all of the shafts and turns were liked the silence of the darkness which was unlike anything you could find on the surface. On this day, I had my light in my hand but wasn’t really using it, just going by feeling and the sound of my feet.

Walking along like this in the darkness, I heard this “yip” off in the distance, I almost thought I imagined it, I stopped and held up my hand for the others to stop (even before joining the military, I was using battle gestures) and there it was again. One second I was standing there and the next I was running off down the tunnel, my friends probably thought I was going crazy, I skidded to a stop in front of one of the bigger holes in the ground and shining my flashlight down, the tunnel curved so I couldn’t see the bottom from the side so I slithered down onto these railroad ties that were wedged a couple feet below the lip and at the very edge of the beam of light, almost swallowed up by the curve I could see a black shape and a smaller brown shape moving around, I leaned down almost upside down (no I’m not the brightest camper) and saw what looked to be a bear!

My friends had just caught up to me and I said, “There’s a bear down there!”

On top of that black mass (which I hoped was dead) looked to be a puppy and it was making the whining sound I had heard a couple hundred feet away. The next events seemed to happen in seconds, I tied off the fire hose and lowered myself down to the bottom and the thing I thought was a bear ended up being a large very flat dead dog. It looked like it had been there for a while and sure enough there was a puppy, I think it was a German Sheppard mix of some sort. I gave it some water from a bottle of water I had in my bag. That dog was sure happy to see me.

About this time my buddies on top started calling down and asking if I was alright and I told them I had found a live puppy at the bottom of the mine shaft and was bringing him up. My emotions were still going strong and it was strange, clamoring down a mine shaft 50 feet deep without any idea what was really down there, I didn’t feel any fear. Just a drive that I needed to save the dog (save the cheerleader, save the world type thing). I put him in my pack and worked my way out of there and we named him Lucky. My mom wouldn’t let me keep him so Charlie took him home. I’ve told the story once or twice since then but it’s mostly lived in my head.

Thinking back on that story, it’s no surprise that when I joined the Navy, I decided on being a corpsman.

Jason’s memory of the event was a little different then mine, he said the shaft was a hundred feet deep and that they lowered me, in reality, it was maybe 50. I went up and down hand over hand and came up the same way, his memories of the event were a little more twisted then mine because it was the first time he ever went there and to the uninitiated, it can be pretty spooky without the thoughts of dead bears and crazy rescues going on. The walls were crumbly granite and the wood that was holding me up was probably a century old. Crazy? Maybe. But the memory it left was worth it.

Thanks for reminding me Jason.

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