Short stories are at the heart of why Phyllis loves to write. Her father left her a legacy of the art of storytelling.
Apple Valley General Store
Paradise Valley Continued
This is the conclusion of the story of Carter Bascom, which began in the article 'Paradise Valley'.
Apple Valley General Store
Apple Valley had not seen much excitement since Carter Bascom had walked through his Paradise Gateway. Carter had just disappeared from sight. Folks believed he had died, but his body was never found. It had been almost two years since Carter died.
Abe Meeker sat in his chair on the boardwalk in front of his General Store smoking his pipe. Several other men of the village had also taken their usual places in the chairs lined up in front of the store windows. Once in awhile someone told of something new or repeated things they all knew already. Abe seemed to be in another place, thinking about Carter and remembering the day Marcus Colby told them the news.
Marcus, who had gone up the mountain to find Carter, came back to town telling folks "Ol' Carter did what he always said he would. He walked through that Paradise Gateway and his walkin' cane is gone."
"Now how do you know that, Marcus?" Abe Meeker had asked when several town folk stood around the store waiting for news of Carter who had been missing for about a week. "Well, Cub told me, he did." Some men laughed, but stopped when they saw Marcus was serious. Abe put his hands on hips, lowered his head, frowned and looked at Marcus. "You tellin' us that old bear told you Carter walked through Paradise Gateway and disappeared?"
"That's exactly what I'm tellin' you, Abe. Cub whined like a puppy and begged me to follow him. He went up to the gate, stood up and clawed at the post where Carter had hung his walkin' cane years ago. The cane was gone, just like Carter was and Cub was mournin' him." Marcus walked over and took his cup off one of the pegs on a wall, poured himself some coffee and sat down in a chair.
"I'm tellin' you all the truth! Remember now, Carter told us he carved that cane and hung it on the gate post. He said, "When that cane is gone, you'll know I am, too." Remember?" Marcus held up his cup motioning with it towards some of the men. "John? Will? Chris? You all heard him say that many times. Right?" Everyone in the group nodded in agreement with murmurs of "Yeah. He did. I remember."
Several minutes of silence filled the store as men stared into their coffee cups. "Oh! I near forgot something, Abe," Marcus sat his cup on the wood-burner and bent to open his pack. He pulled out a wooden box with a carved lid on it. Above the carving of Carter's cabin and Cub, was 'Abe Meeker - Apple Valley'. "I found this in the cabin on my way back down. I went in to check things out, make sure there were no hot coals in the fireplace and looked around for some clues. This was sitting on a shelf by Carter's carving table. I didn't open it, for it has your name on it." He handed the box to Abe.
Abe held the box for several seconds, staring at the carving on the lid. Very quietly and with reverence he finally said, "Carter told me years ago that when he "walks through" he wants me to take this box. He said I would know what to do with it."
Abe gently stroked the lid and a tear slipped down one cheek. The men took their hats off and bowed their heads as silence again permeated the store. The few women who were there got out their hankies and cried quietly.
Abe sat down and balanced the box on his knees. When he slowly opened it everyone came closer to get a look at what was inside. Right on top was a letter, penned in Carter's neat printing. Abe read it to himself. He got out his handkerchief, blew his nose and coughed a few times to clear his throat. In an emotional tone he said, "Guess I better read this to all of you, since everyone in Apple Valley knew and loved Carter."
Letter to Abe Meeker of Apple Valley
My friend Abe, It is time for me to walk through Paradise Gateway. I won't miss all my friends in Apple Valley, for you all gave me so much kindness and love it is in my heart and will go with me. I want you to have my box of carving tools and the pictures I drew on how to carve different things. I know you ain't a carver, but there is one coming up who is and you will give him this box and all inside.
Carving is from the heart and soul, and that little fella has it within him. Encourage and support him as you did with me.
Many thanks to you and all in Apple Valley for being such good folks to me. Oh! Don't you all worry about ol' Cub. He will mourn me for awhile then be just fine. Seems he is wandering further and further from home lately, maybe he has a lady friend. You all take care and I
will see you in Paradise some day.
Your friend, Carter Bascom
A funeral service was held for Carter a week later. Everyone in Apple Valley attended and many folks from the town of Baxter had come over to honor the memory of Carter. Folks asked why there was no coffin, Abe told them the story of Paradise Gate, ending it by saying, "It is a mystery that for some reason we are not supposed to know."
Carved Wood Bear
Now, almost two years later as Abe and his friends sat on the boardwalk reminiscing about Carter, Abe's grandson ran up the road calling, "Grandpa, Grandpa! Look what I did." Abe caught the little fella and sat him on his lap.
"Now just what are you so excited about, Billy Jack?"
Billy Jack squirmed as he dug in his pocket and pulled out a little piece of wood. "See? It's a bear. I made it myself with my jackknife."
The legacy of Carter Bascom continues.
The first part of this story can be read at the link below. I hope you enjoy the story of Carter Bascom.
- Paradise Gateway
Even animals did not fear or harm Carter. Often men saw bears, deer and bobcats laying around Carter's cabin as he sat outside feeding the smaller critters seeds, nuts and berries ...
© 2016 Phyllis Doyle Burns