Welcome back to Member Monday! Today we feature a story by Writers Forum newsletter editor, George T. Parker. Here’s little more about the piece from George himself.
Author’s Note: This fictionalized story is based upon a true incident on a trail crew in Yosemite. I didn’t see it happen. It was a campfire story we heard from the trail workers leading our crew of an incident that had happened years before.
Over the Hill
by George T. Parker
Hammers clanged on rock. A faint granite dust fog hung low to the ground. Miguel and Bear each worked his doublejack on the weak, weathered, and rotten granite rocks in the trail tread. Neither spoke. They didn’t need to. The borders of the causeway section were finished. All they had to do now was break down the decomposing granite rocks to fill the trail tread, cover the crushed fill with dirt, and this section of trail would be finished. Miguel had been working trails in Yosemite for over fifteen years, had been a trail boss for three of those years, and this marshy section would finally be crossed off his ‘to do’ list. This particular section had been annoying him for a couple of years. This year, this section of high-traffic trail between Yosemite Valley and the Merced High Sierra camp had climbed to the top of the priority list. The rest of the crew worked about a half mile above them, closer to the Merced camp. When Miguel and Bear finished here, they would bump up ahead of the rest of the crew to the next trouble spot on the trail.
It was a hot August day. Miguel and Bear worked shirtless, and their blue jeans carried a lot of Yosemite dirt around with them. Miguel glistened with sweat. A green bandanna around his head kept sweat out of his eyes. Bear’s hairy mass covered up any sweat. His head was bare, but he did occasionally have to wipe sweat out of his eyes with a bandanna he kept tucked into a back pocket. This was the perfect life for Miguel and Bear. They could not imagine any life better than working on Yosemite trail crews in the Backcountry.
As their hammers clanged, hikers rounded the corner below. They appeared out of the trees, three of them. Two guys and a lady. All three of them could have just stepped out of an REI catalog. They sported brand new backpacks and hiking boots. They hiked with the latest style hiking poles. (Ordinary people might call them ‘ski poles’.) Colored piping around the top of the lady’s socks peeking above her low top hiking boots even matched the color of her hiking shorts.
Miguel and Bear saw the hikers right away. They took a quick look around at their work site. Their rock bars, shovels, singlejacks, and other gear were all off the trail and out of the way. They stopped pounding granite and moved to the uphill side of the trail to let the hikers pass through. The first hiker, one of the guys, said “Hi.” Bear said “Hi” as he pulled his bandanna and wiped his face. Miguel said “Como esta?”
The hikers carefully picked their way through the rubble in the trail. After they passed through, Miguel and Bear stepped back down onto the trail, preparing to start swinging again.
The lady hiker turned back to them and asked “Are you guys inmates? You know, like a chain gang?”
Miguel and Bear had been dealing with that question since they were Corpsmembers in the CCC. People often confused them with state prison inmates as they worked alongside California’s highways or state parks. Miguel and Bear were used to hearing that question. This time, though, Miguel had already planned a different sort of response.
Miguel dropped the head of his doublejack to the ground and said “Yeah. Didn’t you see the guard with the shotgun down there around the corner?” He looked at Bear. Bear grinned.
The three hikers stopped. The lady said, “A guy with a shotgun? No.”
Miguel said to Bear “You hear that?” Miguel threw down his double jack and ran up the hill. Bear was right behind him.
The three hikers stood frozen in place and watched the two men disappear through the trees.
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