On this side of Jacobs Pass, so called for the old-timer Jacob Tooley who went missing in these woods some time ago, I wake up every morning in my cabin some six miles out of town, a good distance to keep those refined types out of temptation.
Out of sight out of mind they say, there might be something to that.
Maybe—just maybe, sort of like a blind man whose hearing has been fine tuned.
And what do I get in return?
A pack of wild dogs that those cultured folks acquired for pets but then decided they no longer wanted and then chased out of town to fend for themselves and onto my doorstep. Damn those civilized folks and damn those dogs. But honestly, to hell with those ‘civilized’ folks because they give up quicker and easier than these damn dogs ever would, and I’d go to hell and back with those irritating dogs before I would with any of those damn cultured people—it’s a fine line; a fine line indeed.
Somewhere in those words the concept of respect swings in the direction of those dogs.
Sitting up I feel that familiar cold that these tired wooden planks share every morning with the soles of my feet.
Familiarity can be nice sometimes and at others nothing short of irritating.
Rubbing my eyes I can tell the iron stove in the far corner has lost all its embers and ceased to care one way or the other about it. I knew I should have placed a few more sections of wood inside last night as I was finishing off the last few sips of whiskey, but with a little whiskey in the body the air never seems as cold as it rightly should. Oh well, always something to kick yourself about even if you think you’ve done everything you can. However, the whiskey has the charmed ability to make that feeling go away. That charmed liquid has many abilities that only present themselves to an open mind and a willing soul.
Standing up, fighting gravities nonstop presence, the floorboards creak under the weight of my thinning frame as I make my way towards the stove to bring the blasted thing back to life again. With the sound of opening the heavy black soot encrusted door, the dogs once again erupt into a fantastic blur of yelping, snorting and scurrying that hits my ears like hammer to anvil.
That reminds me; I need a drink.
After placing a few slivers of scrap wood among last night’s ashes along with a few strips of an old rag I grab the tin of matches off the shelf above the stove and finger one out and put it to its purpose. With a flame jumping around, I add a few thicker pieces of the chopped cedar I keep inside and shut the iron door, leaving a small opening to let some air flow through. After making sure the thing is going good enough to leave it to its own devices I head for the door and stop close enough so I can hear what’s going on just on the other side: stillness greater than moving, silence greater than stillness and pure silence an impossibility.
They’re out there as sure as I’m in here; all involved waiting for the morning ritual or annoyance depending on which side of the door you are on.
Slowly, I unlatch the rusty latch and brace my weight as I swing the door open and jump out screaming which sends at least eleven dogs running in eleven directions as if the great game has begun and there’s no possible outcome in which they lose. With a sly smile pulling at my dry lips I slip back inside and pour some water from the bucket near the sink into the coffee pot and set the pot on the edge of the stove, checking the flames inside and shutting the contraptions door.
Waiting for the water to warm I head to the one cabinet that holds my lover, my teacher, my friend, and my most trusted enemy all confined in the swirled hardened mixture of heated and then cooled sand that sends light curling in its own preferred way; whiskey, carelessly waiting in its bottle.
Opening the door, I’m surprised to see that there is only one full bottle left. I grab it in disgust; given it’s the kind of disgust that comes with getting what you want but knowing you’ll have to dodge the angels of heaven to get more, weaving my way through them I grab my coffee cup and I pull the cork and fill my cup about half way.
Ah, the first taste of contentment to bring in a new day. I take another sip and check on the coffee pot again; a few more minutes are needed, and I walk over to my chair that sits about four feet in front of the stove front.
Sitting down I look around at home sweet home. It’s not much; a fifteen by fifteen foot cabin I built with my hands from trees that once stood around where my home now sits. Two windows, one facing south the other west, didn’t place one on the east side because who wants to see that damn sun destroying the solitude of night. The ceiling reaches about six and a half feet, and the only door belongs on the north side. The roof leans at a forty-five degree angle, or at least as close as I could get it there, towards the south, away from my door, to let the rain fall off onto the downward slope of land that begins its descent at the edge of my flat plot where my home rests and constantly settles closer to its ultimate incorporation back into the landscape.
As you walk in you will find the stove in the closest corner to the right along with my overstuffed chair that offers the most comfort for miles around. In the far corner to the left is my cherished bed where I spend as much time as possible dreaming the dreams this world can never offer; realities of existence that will never be mine once my eyes are open, a universe in its self. Just to the left of entering you’ll find a sink with shelves above that hold my limited dishes and a stand where I keep the bucket full of water which I retrieve from the creek which is about a five minute downhill walk from the back of the cabin. My comfort cabinet hangs nailed to the wooden wall to the right of the sink where a crown of thorns would surely fit nicely on top. There’s another small stand next to my chair where a few candles and the latest interest of a book rest; this week it’s another Sherlock (1887) adventure where attention to detail always defeats the slyest of the sly. Next to my bed is a book shelf that is waiting for the inevitable collapse brought on by the combination of one of my nemeses, gravity, and one of my greatest pleasures, books.
When one doesn’t have the desire to travel in three dimensions, one can always travel in two.
In the middle of the room lays a rug that my mother left me when she died eight years ago, it is the only sophisticated piece in my entire home. One of those handwoven wool rugs from Europe that must have graced the room of some high society snob who never appreciated it. It’s about five feet by six and a beautiful thing to behold with its dark burgundy tuffs shadowing the deep green vines that glide their way around in a perfectly random pattern that is nothing short of amazing and splendor; it’s one of the two family attachments I have held on to.
Other than a single lantern and a few more candles here and there that’s pretty much it, nothing to brag about but nothing to be ashamed of either; bragging and shame, both nothing more than two sides of a worthless coin trying to be spent in a foreign country.
The coffee water is ready now, and I take my last sip of whiskey before pouring some hot water into the cup and dipping the twisted rag full of coffee grounds into it. Letting the grounds fuse with the water, I grab my pipe and cup and head out to the porch and sit down on my other chair made from a single piece of tree trunk, backrest, and all.
That thing must be one hunrded and eighty pounds or so; glad Caleb was around for that one.
Filling the pipe and taking the first puff I catch a glimpse of a few of the dogs that never seem to be very far away.
It’s a strange relationship the dogs and I have. I can’t say I’m glad to have them around because of the racket they make every morning but they do make a great early warning system for anyone and anything that comes within a half mile radius of my secluded home. We’re not cozy with each other; I don’t attempt to hurt them, but I don’t let them get too comfortably close to the cabin either. They get the entrails of the deer, rabbits, squirrels, foxes, and beavers that I’m lucky enough to kill for food and use for trade in town for this and that but mostly their hides bring in the money I need for that numbing happiness called whiskey. That great liquid that changes objective reality; and that my friend is not subject to debate. I don’t think the dogs would disagree, with the entrails that is.