The Loggers in Swallow Part 4

The Mayor woke suddenly in the dead of night and he wondered where he was until all of a sudden he remembered the horrors of the day before. He was cold and hungry and very much alone. As he was rolling over in a vain attempt to find a more comfortable position, he looked up and he saw a dim light ahead. Is this the light that everyone keeps talking about, he wondered. Well, he figured he didn’t have a lot to lose so he got up and staggered forward toward the light. He tripped on a few branches, but overall, he was surprised that he could move as easily as he did. The light seemed to be beckoning him onwards. After a few minutes he found himself in the clearing where the light hung. There were many other smaller lights flickering around the clearing and he realized it was one of these he had been following.

The Mayor was absolutely thunderstruck. He couldn’t believe his eyes, but here were hundreds, if not thousands, of small flying creatures which sure looked like the faeries he remembered from his childhood picture books. Was that possible? Were the townsfolk right that this was a special woods and deserved protection? Were the faeries, if that is what they were, the ones who’d made the machinery stop and which had kept him wandering so hopelessly in the woods all day yesterday? His first thought was “How can I make money off this?”, but then he realized that faeries as powerful as these would never allow that.

As he stood there pondering what he saw, he noticed that one faery was in front of him obviously trying to get his attention. She seemed to be asking him to follow her, so he did. It only took about 20 minutes before the faery had led the Mayor to the edge of the woods. He couldn’t believe he had been that close to finding a way out! But he was beginning to realize that if the faeries had wanted to, they could have kept him in the woods until he starved to death. Now that was real power, not the stupid manipulating he tried to do.

He turned to thank the faery, but she was already gone. He then trudged homeward just as the dawn approached. As he reached his house he heard the phone ringing. He hurried to answer it and it was a very angry Scott on the other end of the line.

“Where have you been? What have you been doing? We still can’t cut the trees down?,” yelled Scott.

“I know,” answered the Mayor, “and I don’t think you ever will be able to. I can’t explain it, but the woods are protected. I didn’t believe it until I got lost in them yesterday.”

“What do you mean lost?” shouted Scott. “It is too small an area to get lost in for a whole day! No one is that stupid.”

“I know,” replied the Mayor, “and you wouldn’t believe me even if I told you, but our deal is off. The woods will never allow themselves to be cut down. I’m sorry. I really had no idea.”

“Well, I’ve already talked to the Boss and we’re heading out to a new location he has found,” concluded Scott. “He said to remind you he would be around later today for his money. You’d better have it!”

The Mayor hung up the phone and went to shower and dress. This was going to be a long day. When he had eaten breakfast he headed into town where he was met by Richard, one of the councilmen he had bribed, and Richard’s wife, Ellen. Ellen was very angry.

“I just found $5000 stashed away in the back of Richard’s desk drawer and he said you gave it to him to get him to vote for this silly lumber/housing project. Then he let slip that Steve and Fred had been similarly bribed, so I talked to their wives as well. Is that true?” demanded Ellen.

“Yes,” said the Mayor, “unfortunately it is. I am sorry.”

“Hah,” shouted Ellen. “Thought so! Well, here is your money, all of it from all three men, and Richard and his two buddies are now off the council. They have agreed to resign voluntarily in exchange for no prosecution, and you are no longer mayor either. We don’t want your kind in Swallow.” With that she and a very shamed Richard walked off.

The ex-Mayor (he realized he’d better get used to being called Don instead of Mayor) headed over to the realtor’s office. Frank, the only realtor in Swallow, was just unlocking the door. He looked up at Don and it was obvious from the look that the news had spread.

“Look, Frank, I need to raise a lot of money fast. I need you to sell my home and I have to have an advance of $500,000 by this afternoon,” Don pleaded.

Frank looked at him with great disgust. “What’s the matter? Your new friends going to come gunning for you?”

Don answered, “Something like that. Look you know my home is worth more that that. If I sign a deed giving you the house and all its contents, can you get me the cash. My wife is already at her mother’s and she will kill me when she finds out, but she hated it here anyway. And the way folks feel around here, and I’m not saying they don’t have cause mind you, I need to get out of here now. One night in those woods has taught me a lot, but I wouldn’t expect folks around here to believe that or to trust me.”

Frank looked thoughtful. “Your home is too fancy for most of the folks around here. I would have a hard time selling it and I sure don’t want it. Why did you build such a showy place?”

“It was the only way I could get my wife to agree to move here,” said Don morosely.

“Look, I don’t want you killed or anything. You did a horrible thing, but no actual harm was done to Swallow. You seem to be the one who has been caught. Why don’t we go over to the bank and see if you can get a loan with your house as collateral. And then, why not turn yourself into the sheriff. I’m thinking a spell in our town jail might be just what you need to give yourself the time to sort things out,” suggested Frank.

“Ok,” answered Don soberly, and that is what happened. The bank manager agreed to loan Don the money so he could pay off his bribe that afternoon. The sheriff had him locked up until the circuit judge arrived, and the circuit judge sentenced him to 500,000 hours of community service, an hour for each dollar he’d been bribed with. Don’s wife filed for divorce, and Don realized he wasn’t that upset about losing her. She kept everything except the house which she wanted no part of. The townsfolk gradually forgave Don and helped him turn his home into a B&B for vacationers, and over a lot of years, Don was able to repay the loan.  He put in his hours of community service at the Swallow Community Center, helping seniors and youth, and he was surprised to discover how rewarding he found that.

Every weekend, Don would go hiking in the woods and while he never again saw the faeries, he also never again got lost.

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The Loggers in Swallow Part 3

(Check in the category Light in the Woods for the first two parts of this story and the two previous pieces about this area)

The Mayor headed back into town determined to find Bill, the new science teacher. He was sure that he could get Bill to figure out the answers to this and get the loggers cutting trees. He charged into the boarding house where he knew Bill was staying and knocked on Bill’s door. Bill answered rather sleepily, but then it was just past 6AM. The Mayor said, “I need your help. The loggers aren’t able to get into the woods and we need to get these trees cut down now.”

Bill was rather taken aback by this. He was very new to Swallow so why would the Mayor be calling on him for help. “I really don’t know what I can do,” replied Bill. “As you know, I am new here myself.”

“You can figure out why the equipment keeps losing power when it gets within ten feet of a tree,” shouted the Mayor. “You are a scientist aren’t you?”

Bill thought for a minute. Maybe this was why Sally had taken him into the woods before school started and showed him the light hanging in the center and told him the stories of rescues and faeries and all. He hadn’t, of course, believed any of it, but he had done as Sally wanted and kept an open mind. He had even read the scientific studies which had been done on the woods, and he had discovered many others who were just as bewildered as he. No one believed that there was anything supernatural, but no one could explain the happenings either. Now Bill had to consider the Mayor’s request. “I’m sorry, Mayor,” answered Bill, “but I really have no idea why any of this is happening.”

The Mayor was frantic. “I’ll pay you,” he stammered. “I’ll pay you $1000! Just get those trees cut!”

Bill thought fast. Obviously the Mayor was in over his head and he probably had done something underhanded, or else why would he be trying to bribe Bill. Bill knew that the Mayor hadn’t lived in Swallow for very long. The Mayor had run for office in the last elections a month ago and then he had come up with this money-making scheme right after that. The whole thing smelled and Bill was not about to be a party to any of it. He liked it here in Swallow and he liked Sally and this was his first teaching job after graduating last June and he was lucky to have it. Taking all this into consideration, Bill said, “I am sorry, Mayor, but I simply cannot help you. I have no idea why the machines are stopping, but I would suggest that you consider if the woods want to be cut down and if it is in Swallow’s best interest to have them cut.”

The Mayor was furious. “Do you want more money?”

“No,” replied Bill calmly, “I do not want any money. I simply will not do anything to help you and I have no idea why the woods are stopping you and it makes no scientific sense, but I do believe that it is the woods themselves that are keeping you from cutting the trees.”

“What utter poppycock,” said the Mayor. “I’ll show you all. I’ll go into those woods myself and start cutting them down right around that stupid light. Nobody but a moron could believe all the legends that have sprung up around that dumb light.”

And with that the Mayor stomped out of the boarding house leaving Bill standing speechless in his doorway. The Mayor stopped at the hardware store and bought a new chain saw and then got a can of gas to fill it up. Then he walked out of town and headed for the center of the woods. He found the spot where the light was hanging and he pulled the cord on the chain saw, but it wouldn’t start. He had tested it in town and it started up very easily, but now he couldn’t get it to work at all. He stomped around walking from tree to tree, pulling the cord, determined to cut down at least one tree, but he couldn’t get the saw to work. Soon he realized he was lost. He had moved away from the path from the town, and he now was in a part of the forest he’d never been in before and he couldn’t find his way out. The sun had risen and he knew which direction to go, but every time he headed east he ended up back in the same thicket. Hours went by and the Mayor started to panic. What if he never got out of here? Were the woods really alive? Were they holding him captive? That was just stupid. He wouldn’t believe that, and yet why couldn’t he find his way out? After all, this wasn’t a giant forest. Even walking in the wrong direction, he should get to an edge eventually.

He’d gotten tired of carrying the blasted chain saw and so he left that in the thicket, but hours later when he arrived back at the same thicket, he discovered that the chain saw was gone. He would have thought that he mistook the place, but the end of the starter cord was there, neatly cut from the saw and left where he couldn’t miss it. The message was clear. Someone or something was protecting these woods. Darkness was falling. The Mayor had stumbled through these woods around in circles all day long and it was now getting cold and the Mayor had to admit that he was afraid. He found a log to sit on. He was tired and hungry and he had no idea what to do. For the first time that he could ever remember, the Mayor had no answers. He saw a spot that looked as if it had been a bed for deer and he decided that he would lie down for a bit and rest. Obviously walking around wasn’t working. Maybe someone would miss him and come looking for him. He’d just have to wait for a rescue party. And then he had a horrible thought. Would anyone actually miss him? With that thought shaking him, he fell asleep.

To be continued. . .

The Loggers in Swallow Part 2

(Check in the category Light in the Woods for the first part of this story and the two previous pieces about this area)

The loggers arrived very early the next morning and lined up the bulldozers. As soon as the foreman, Scott, arrived and gave the word, the bulldozers began advancing on the woods. There was no more pretense of doing conservative forest management. The woods were to be leveled and then a housing development would be built on the old forest grounds.

Scott watched as the bulldozers approached the woods, thinking of all the money he was going to make off this job, when suddenly the bulldozers stopped. They hadn’t just stopped. Rather they had turned off their ignitions. What was going on, thought Scott as he walked over to the nearest driver.

“What are you doing? Why did you stop?” yelled Scott.

“I didn”t,” replied a very worried driver. “The bulldozer just stopped on its own.”

“Don’t be absurd,” shouted Scott. “Get moving, all of you!”

The drivers started up the engines again and if they went backwards away from the woods, the engines continued to work, but if they got within ten feet of any tree, the engines just stopped.

As Scott was trying to decide what to do, the Mayor arrived. Scott said, “What kind of funny business are you trying to pull here, Mayor?”

The Mayor looked puzzled. He had only lived in Swallow for a few years. He was using it as a stepping stone to bigger plans, both financially and politically, and while he had heard rumors about a light in this forest, a light that mysteriously helped out those in trouble, he didn’t believe any of it. When he had been approached by both a lumber company and a land developer, each wanting the woods to be taken down, well, it was just too good an opportunity to pass up.

That is when he took the advances from both companies and bribed the majority of the town council so he could railroad through his plans. It all seemed so simple. These people did not understand the ruthless business world. They lived in some sort of magical world. Most of them had been born in Swallow and the few newcomers either succumbed to the mystery of the place or they moved on. It was a golden opportunity for the Mayor. These people were too stupid to stop him, or so he had thought until this morning.

“I have no idea what is going on,” said the Mayor. “I know the townspeople believe in some mystical mumbo jumbo, but that isn’t real!”

Scott replied, “Real or not, something is stopping us. Unless you have some ideas, we are going to go elsewhere for our lumber and you will just have to give back the monies you were advanced.”

The Mayor began to panic! He couldn’t give back that money. He’d used it to bribe the town council members to support him and he’d also had to buy his wife a new wardrobe and a new car to keep her in this tiny town. He just wasn’t going to be stopped by some weird magic. He needed answers and he needed them now. Then he remembered that there was a new science teacher in town. Surely he would have a rational explanation for this. The Mayor decided to contact him right away.

“Listen, Scott,” answered the Mayor, “I am going to get answers for you. I just need a little time. Please, can you give me twenty-four hours?”

Scott thought for a minute, and then replied, “Ok, twenty-four hours, and no more of this namby-pamby soft sell to the townsfolk. No more talk of just thinning the woods. We are going in tomorrow morning and we are going to take all this wood and that is that. You agreed to that, and that is what you are being paid for, so it is all or nothing and if we don’t start felling trees tomorrow, you’d better be ready to return the $500,000 advance or things won’t go well for you at all.”

The Mayor looked very uncomfortable, but he nodded in agreement. Now he just had to find that science teacher–what was his name? Bill, that’s right, and he was not a native so he wouldn’t believe all this garbage and he was a scientist so he would have answers and the trees would then start falling tomorrow. The Mayor was sure that he could get Bill’s help, and if he had to bribe him too, well, then so be it! There was a fortune to be made here, not only from the lumber, but from all the cheap tract homes that would be built. Swallow might be a small town now, but its location just two hours away from Olympia made it a prime spot for cheap housing, and the Mayor planned on making a fortune from both the lumber and the housing. No one was going to stop him.

And with that, the Mayor went in search of Bill.

To be continued. . .

Loggers Arrive in Swallow

Note: this is the third in a series which I have called “Light in the Woods” and you can find the two earlier stories by clicking on that category in the category list on the right side of this page. Thanks!

Bill was teaching his third period physics class at Swallow Regional High School when he heard loud trucks rumbling past on the main street. Since this was a nearly unheard of noise, both he and his students raced over to the windows to see what was going on. The trucks were from Washington Lumber Mills and there were at least five of them.

His students started talking and speculating. Ben said, “Why are they here? We don’t have any trees for them to cut.” Samantha continued, “They can’t have our sacred woods. The light will protect us.” At this the other students nodded in agreement and Bill wondered. He remembered how Sally, the math teacher, had taken him out to these woods the day before school started and how she had tried to explain to him about this mysterious light hanging from a rope in the middle of the woods, a light that glowed when people were in trouble. Sally had gone on to talk about faeries as well, and Bill just couldn’t believe it at all. He thought she was trying to trick him, but in fact she was just letting him know how things were here in Swallow and warning him that if he wanted to stay and to fit in here he had to be ready to accept that not everything could be explained by scientific reasoning.

Bill had pondered long and hard about this and even read some of the scientific journal articles Sally had recommended which had discussed the light and tried to figure it out. The bottom line was that the scientific community thought it was some kind of hoax but they hadn’t been able to prove that or to offer any explanations for the phenomena reported by the community over a period of centuries.

Bill called his class back to order and said that they would have to wait until after school to get the explanations. The students grumbled a bit, but they got down to their assignment anyway. Soon the bell rang and it was time for lunch.

Bill caught up with Sally on the way to the teacher’s lounge for lunch break. He was hoping to have a quiet word with her, but the lounge was buzzing with news. Apparently Washington Lumber had put in a bid to buy their woods and the newly elected mayor had granted them a permit to do some cutting. The Mayor, Don Smythe, was relatively new to the area and he had gotten himself elected by running on a platform which promised to provide more jobs for the citizens of Swallow. The economic downturn had hit this area really hard and so folks were willing to buy into Don’s promises of a quick fix.

But now that they knew his quick fix entailed the cutting down of their woods, they weren’t so sure. Afternoon classes seemed to drag on forever, but finally school was out and Bill and Sally and many others headed out to the woods to see what was happening. The mayor was there trying to reassure folks that trees would be cut within the guidelines of proper forest management, but the citizens were angry. “How dare you bring them into our woods,” they hollered. “You had no right to do that!”

Unfortunately, by the town’s constitution, the Mayor did have that right if he got the support of over half the town council and he had been shrewd when he was running for office to be sure that over half the councilmen were in his pocket. The Mayor had always wanted his own power base and now he had it and he wasn’t going to let a bunch of hot-headed ignorant hicks stop him. He had moved here with the sole aim of taking over the town and becoming an important figure as his way of climbing the political ladder and no one was going to stop him.

“Now, folks, please be calm,” said the Mayor. “This will mean more jobs for us all, and this old forest is a valuable commercial asset which everyone can now benefit from. Today the trees will be tagged and lumbering will commence first thing tomorrow. Please go on home. Your elected officials know what is best for the entire community.”

The crowd started to disburse, with much grumbling, but Bill heard many saying things like, “They’ll be surprised,” or “If they think they can cut our woods, they’ll soon learn differently.” Bill couldn’t imagine what they were talking about, but he had taken Sally’s advice to heart. When he heard things that he didn’t understand, he didn’t scoff, but simply took it in and waited to see what would happen.

The loggers walked into the woods with their bright orange tape and began marking trees. But they kept finding themselves back in the fields leading to the woods. Over and over again, they tried to tag trees, and over and over again, they ended up back in the fields. Finally, the foreman got very angry. He called the Mayor over and said quietly, “I know you had to lie to them to keep them from making a scene, but we can’t go slowly after all. We are just going to have to level the entire woods at once. We can’t be bothered with this tagging nonsense.”

The Mayor looked uncomfortable, but there was too much at stake and he was slated to make a lot of money off this deal so he agreed. “But don’t start until dawn,” the Mayor continued, “when no one is here to see until it is too late.”

The foreman agreed, and the loggers headed out of town for the night.

To Be Continued. . .

New Teacher in Town

Bill and Sally stood in the middle of the forest in a sea of flowers surrounded by trees. They stared up at what looked like a light bulb hanging from a tall branch on just a rope.

Bill asked, “So you say this has always been here? The rope looks as if it is only a few years old, and it couldn’t possibly light up. There is no electricity out here.”

Sally just smiled. “Bill,” she said, “you are new here. You don’t know what it is like to live in a small rural area in the Pacific Northwest mountains. Things aren’t always as they appear.”

“Listen,” said Bill, “I may be new, but I’m a scientist and I know how things work.” Bill had recently moved to the small town of Swallow after graduating from The University of Washington with his Master’s in physics and secondary education. He was to be the new science teacher at the regional high school.

Sally looked at him with compassion. “Bill,” she said, “not everything can be explained. Some things just are. The more time you spend here, the more you will come to realize that. This light has hung here for centuries. It has been mentioned in writings as far back as the early 1800’s. There are lots of theories, but no answers. All anyone knows is that this light always looks as if it has just been hung. It stays here in the center of this wooded area and most of the time it is just as you see it. But if someone is in trouble in the area, the light glows. I have friends who have seen it and who have then been guided out of the forest by what appear to be faeries.”

Bill scoffed, “Faeries! Now I know you are trying to fool a city boy. There is no such thing as faeries. There just has to be a logical explanation.”

Sally looked at Bill and felt sorry for him. She had grown up in Swallow and so she knew about the light and its history. She knew it was powered by nothing known to humans. She believed in faeries and had seen the light from afar on several occasions. But how to explain that to Bill.

“Bill,” answered Sally, “I know all this seems very strange. I wanted to show you this before you started teaching because you will hear about it and folks around here take the light very seriously. It has protected us since this area was founded. We respect the land and all who live here. We have fought off loggers and so called progress. We like things as they are. If you are going to stay here, if you are going to fit in, you will have to be willing to accept that there are things in this world that are just magical and which lack any so called scientific explanation.”

“I don’t know if I can do that,” said Bill hesitantly. He really liked Sally. They had met at the start of year teacher’s workshop. Sally was the math teacher and he thought they would have a lot in common. How could someone who taught math and seemed so sane believe all this.

“I know it is a lot to ask,” said Sally, “and not everyone can manage it, which is why new teachers don’t always last here. But I like you and I want you to have a fair chance. I can give you citations from scientific journals which have tried to explain our light, if you like. You can read all about it. You are not our first skeptic and you won’t be the last. Some have even tried to cut the light down, only to find themselves miles away from here without any knowledge of how they got there. Please, can you just keep an open mind? Folks around here won’t listen to anything you have to say if you start trashing the beliefs we hold dear. Beliefs govern reality and our reality is filled with wonder and magic. I hope you can learn to love it as we do.”

Bill and Sally walked back out of the forest and into town. Bill was staying at the local boarding house and they parted company on the front steps. “You have given me a lot to think about,” said Bill. “I just don’t know. I’ll try, but I have believed in rational scientific explanations for everything all my life. I’m just not sure.”

Sally concluded, “Well, that’s a start anyway–not being sure! Don’t worry too much. Just settle in and when you hear someone say something which you are certain can’t be true, try to stay quiet and breath and just accept that it is true for them. That’s a good place to start. See you tomorrow morning! The first day of school can be both exciting and challenging! Good Luck!”

With that they parted, Sally to go home to prep and Bill to ponder and wonder.

NOTE: This is a story inspired by a photo on the blog Wings Over Water

Light in the Woods

A bulb hangs in the deep woods as it has for centuries, long before electricity had been invented. Those in the neighboring areas could see the light glowing from a distance at apparently random moments. Some folks though knew more. They knew the light shone whenever someone was in trouble. Brenda knew why the light shone because it had saved her life. One winter night two years ago, when Brenda was only 18 years old, she had gone out on a date with a young man named Carl. The evening had been fun. They had gone out to dinner and then a movie, but afterwards, on the way home, Carl had pulled the car off the road near the woods, and made what the books call “unwanted” advances. Brenda got scared and ran into the woods. Carl called after her, but she ran and ran. Soon she was so deep in the woods that she became hopelessly lost. The temperatures were dropping and Brenda was tired, cold, and very scared. Suddenly she saw a light up ahead. She walked toward the light and soon found herself in a grove with a light hanging in the center. As Brenda looked, she saw faeries dancing and they showed her the way home. When she was safe in bed, warm and dry, she thought back to the times in the past when she had seen the light and realized that she heard stories about the lighted woods all her life. The bulb was not lit by electricity but by magic. The faeries help the innocent who are in trouble, those running from danger, those lost in the woods. The light always shines to help those in need. The faeries guide those willing to listen.

This story is based on a photo to be found on Wings Over Water blog