Fall, 1988—While surveying nearly 800 miles north of the 49th parallel in Canada’s wilderness, time swallowed an abandoned homestead. Vacant sounds that once teemed the soil and timbers—like a still-shot from a ghost town, a lonely and staggered cabin held on from memories of a past love and dead dreams. No sounds of children nor echoes of ranch-work, only a flutter of birds escaping the hollowed rafters broke the silent still as we approached. The crew, focused and shuffling lodes across the the clearing slowly woke the silent void of near twenty years.
Behind the try, a rusted steel barrel leaned un-statuesque, gently yearning for the earth to bring her home. I loosened the ring and pounded off the rusting lid to look inside.
My survey crew was a pretty rough bunch at the time. José, our resident Latino catholic thought it was left by god—for me. He said, (in his Mexican accent) “no matter where you go jefe, no matter how far, Dios lo ve todo, mal jefe!” “It’s probably still there because they ran out of matches”, I fired back. Either way (or maybe another) we were in the possession of the holy bible for the night. We made camp and passed a bottle. Chuck had mothering duties for the day, so he got a fire and some food on the grate as darkness fettered us in a cloudy, moonless night. It was cavern black looking beyond the fire. We faded fast to sleep.
Sounds of thick crows broke the morning silence at dawn. We all stumbled around to get our bearings, stoked the fire and coffee’d up for what was supposed to be a long day, but, curiosity piqued us into a more human task, and by chance, or maybe drawn-in by an unsettled past, we started our day with a quick look around the homestead. Chuck, still half unzipped in his sleeping bag, shouted, “hey boss-man, look at this”. He was thumbing through the Bible looking for a good passage to quote me—he liked disingenuous humor at my expense, but this didn’t seem too funny by the look on his face. Flattening the creases he unfolded a paper in his hand and started to slowly read, like a translator.
“This cabin and 40 acres is claimed by me, Daniel Granger. I came here in the summer of 1964 and built this cabin with the tools I could carry. In ’65 I returned with my wife Carol, our son Eli and daughter Caroline. Abandoning my loves and home is cowardly hard to do, but all that is left for me is to save my own life from one last unknown tragedy. My boy disappeared in ’66. We never found him. He would be 14 today, if this is September 14, the day of my departure”.
“We all came here with a trust in god. I and my colleagues convinced my wife of the lords providence—by faith we would thrive. This book you are holding is the last thing on earth I would impart to a decent man. Its only job now is to hold this note in hopes that it can at least do that until somebody finds it, should I fail to return. While many of the words are poetic and wishful, the promise of healing and signs that follow them that believe with the lords bounties are false premises only an untested fool would believe. You all survive down below because of people. Nothing more. My horse was killed by wolves while he was on the line. Then my hogs. My wife and daughter I love are in deep graves just east of the clearing. I moved them out after the spring thaw to their permanent rest. Look east between the two tallest cedars if they’re still standing. Two small rock piles mark the spots. I leave them here and plan to return as soon as I can. D.Granger,1970″.
Humanity took over our crew. We looked around for the day, found some odds and ends, toys and tools and tack, but nothing of importance—That, lies between the cedars that stand guard. We cleaned up the grave sites and packed our gear for a short move. Another 20 years it will all be forgotten. I took it Mr. Granger got sidetracked, lost, or died in his failure to return—I guess the road home has forks in it too—I’ll see if I can locate this Mr Granger.