The man sat on his porch step staring at houses so like his own: all tidy in their white paint with green trim, surrounded by flower dotted yards behind low white picket fences. Occasionally he took a deep breath. Was he savoring the fresh mountain air one last time—or simply heaving another sigh of resignation? It was hard to tell...
The screen door creaked open. “Well, Jim, that’s the last box,” said the woman as she joined him on the step. “Whenever you’re ready you can put that box in the back of the moving truck. Oh, I suppose I should sweep out the house…”
“Don’t bother, Betty. No one else will be moving in.” Jim stretched, and stood blinking in the early morning sun. “Come, Bet, let’s take a walk.”
“Yes, I’d like one last look around,” Betty said softly. “It doesn’t seem right that after sixty years the Company is going to close down Camp Twelve for good. I’m going to miss this place so much!”
“Well, Bet, I guess the Company figures this old logging camp has outlived its usefulness—just like I have…”
“Now, Jim, you’re retiring from logging—not from life! I know I’m going to be just as busy as ever. Just think…we’ll only be ten minutes from town. We’ll be able to attend more church activities, and you’ll be able to visit some of your old logging buddies at Pop’s Restaurant.”
Jim slapped his thigh. “That’s right! No more hour-long drives to get to town, with half that on gravel,” he said as he waved to a couple loading a chair into the already crowded bed of a pickup truck.
Betty tucked her hand into the crook of Jim’s arm as they came to the end of the row of identical houses. “Jim, I’ve always felt bad that our son had to ride the school bus all that way every day of high school. –And in winter he often couldn’t go at all.”
“Yup,” Jim chuckled, “sometimes the snow got as high as the eaves—or higher! Well, I don’t think Mike suffered much from either situation. Somehow he managed to do most of his homework on that bumpy ride home—and he kept up with his studies when we were snowed in. Look at him now: he’s a rocket scientist in California!”
“Oh, Jim,” cried Betty, pointing to a green building, “doesn’t it break your heart that the Camp Twelve two-room grade school has closed forever? That’s where so many got a great education. –And there’s the cookhouse and the company store--and the recreation hall. Remember all the potlucks, dances, Bingo games, community sings, school plays…”
Jim laughed aloud, “You did like the community life here, didn’t you, Bet! Don’t forget the bowling…”
“How could I forget the bowling? It took forever to play with that Joe Bailey setting the pins by hand. He was slooow!”
“Bet, I’m really going to miss the work—and the guys. See, that’s where the logs were lifted from the trucks and placed on the train. –And there’s the washroom where we loggers went before heading into the cookhouse for more of that great grub. I’ll never forget Cookie Frank’s wild blue huckleberry pie!”
“You know what I won’t miss, Jim: the emergency siren. Every woman’s blood ran cold when it sounded. I was always afraid you were the one injured…or worse…”
Jim and Betty soon arrived back at their emptied house where they quietly picked up the last box and took a final look around. Pausing on the front porch, Jim said, “Just think Betty, after the Company gets through bulldozing the whole camp under, there’ll be nothing left here but salmonberry brush, fireweed and alder trees. After man is done, God’s creation will finish the job of wiping the camp off the map. --Well, let’s go, dear. May as well start settling into the new place…”
“Jim, I want you to lock the front door,” Betty said as she handed him a key.
“Lock the door! There’s never been a need for anyone to ever lock a door in Camp Twelve. –And NOW you want to lock it?”
“Humor me, Jim. I want the house—just like this--locked away in my memory forever. So…lock the door and we’ll take the key with us.”
“Okay, dear,” sighed Jim as he locked the door and handed the key to his wife, “but what will the Company think if they can’t get in!?”
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