One of the phrases that comes to mind when I dwell on my youthful admiration for Robin Hood and his band of merry men was their ability to “melt into the woods.” While roaming through 80 plus acres of forest was a lot of ground to cover, I still felt I was familiar with every tree, rock, and bush. I could disappear if need be.
So in formulating my plan to announce our presence as “Lost Children of Wood”, I was confident in my abilities to pull this off seamlessly. The only loose thread was my brother. Three years younger than me, he was a nice kid with a big heart.
But I still had faith.
When the first vehicle appeared over a small hill, I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. The speck gave off an almost mirage-like appearance as it shimmered in the distance. It could have been anything. I squinted my eyes, ferociously staring down the incoming target.
“Get in your place,” I hissed at my brother. “It’s coming!”
He ducked down in a small dip in the ground protected on either side by thick firs. I had appointed myself the lookout, so was stationed on slightly higher ground to watch for approaching traffic.
The vehicle was coming on strong. I still struggled to identify it. Finally I could make out the huge shiny grill of a lumber truck.
“False alarm!” I whispered. My brother nodded from his hidey hole.
The semi-truck roared by with its heaving load of timber bouncing in the back. This was not our target.
The minutes ticked by. The heat of the day began to build. Mosquitoes occasionally buzzed, but it was still too early for them to be out in droves.
Boredom began to steal over us.
The idea wearing thin.
Just then, I heard the whoosh of another vehicle.
“Move!” I squawked to my brother who had meandered over to dig in a rotten stump. He quickly tossed the stick he was using, and dropped into his pre-determined position.
This time the vehicle in the distance appeared to be moving at a more leisurely pace. That boded well for our plan. We wanted a couple of tourists enjoying the scenery.
“Get ready! Get ready!” I growled. Already I could see this vehicle was indeed a sedan. It appeared grey in color, and very ordinary in appearance.
As the car approached, my brother edged closer out of the woods. With the vehicle just in the periphery of my vision, I motioned to him. We stepped out of the forest and into the shallow grassy ditch crouching down on our haunches.
The car drew closer. When it was about a tenth of a mile away, I yelled “Now!” We stood up, twirled around, and melted back into the woods.
The vehicle slammed on its brakes. The passenger side window rolled down. From the shelter of the trees, we could see the pale oval of a face carefully scanning the side of the road.
The car came to a complete stop. A woman dressed in capri shorts and a sleeveless patterned shirt stepped out. “Frank,” she called back to the car. “I know I saw children out here.” The driver’s door creaked open.
“That’s ridiculous,” said the man apparently named Frank. “We are in the middle of nowhere! There are no kids here.”
“I know what I saw!” exclaimed the woman. “I saw kids! We can’t leave kids out here! They could be lost!”
The woman was clearly in high state of agitation.
Frank joined her standing next to the hood of the car searching up and down the road.
From the rim of the woods, I gave my brother the thumbs up sign. My plan was working.
Then I bent down and rubbed a handful of dirt on my face. My brother did likewise. As the pair ventured a bit further from their vehicle, I popped up allowing a quick glimpse of something.
The woman screeched. “There I saw something!” she exclaimed. I had quickly ducked down again so Frank was clueless.
“I don’t see anything,” he replied irritably. “Let’s go.”
“No!,” she appeared settled in for a good bit. “I know what I saw.”
Frank paced up and down. “Show me,” he said. “I don’t see a blasted thing, and I’m not going to stand all day in the woods.”
The woman eyes' cut right and left. We remained hidden. “Okay,” she said. “But I don’t feel right about this.”
They walked back to the car with the woman still stealing backward glances.
At this point my big-hearted brother decided to take matters into his own hands.
“It’s okay!” he called out in his still high voice (puberty being many years away).
The couple froze.
“Did you hear that!” exclaimed the woman. "A child's voice. It came from over there!"
She began moving in our direction. Her sensible shoes stomping down the ditch. She was oblivious to anything but the possibility of discovering a lost soul in the middle of nowhere.
I shocked by my brother's bold act of treason.
“What are you doing!” I whispered furiously. “Are you kidding me! Why did you do that! We gotta run!” I didn’t wait for his answer. I grabbed his hand and pulled him through the trees in a manner most unbecoming of a devotee of Robin Hood.
I felt rather than saw the couple make a half-hearted attempt to follow. But I was on solid ground and knew exactly how to disappear quickly.
Leaving FFH 16 far behind, my brother and I plopped down behind a screen of young firs. I could hear the car starting up in the distance. Then the familiar whoosh as it gathered speed.
“What were you thinking!” I said as I furiously turned on my brother.
“I felt bad for them,” he replied. “They were worried.”
“We had a job to do!” I said imperiously. I stomped my foot. “They would have told the world! Now you’ve ruined everything!”
“I don’t care,” my brother doggedly answered. “I don’t want to be a ‘Lost Child of the Wood’ anymore.”
I sighed heavily.
(Seriously, kids these days.)
I decided to let him off the hook.
“Okay,” I said. “You don’t have to be a ‘Lost Child of the Wood’ anymore.” I felt I was being most gracious. Then I paused.
And I looked him straight in his eye.
“NEVER tell mom and dad.”
My brother nodded and spit on his hand to signify his commitment to our code of silence.
He held out his hand.
But I had already melted into the woods.
(Carolyn's note: The Cabin Chronicles is an ongoing feature on my life growing up in the Northwoods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Each week I will be posting several new chapters on stories that will surprise you, stun you, and hopefully make you laugh and cry! To read past chapters, go to the heading entitled Blog on the top bar of tswails.com and click on the Cabin Chronicles. Hope you enjoy!)