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Thompson's Meadow


July 26, 1998

Old Cabin on Thompson's Meadow, 1977You mentioned a cabin up north that we had described to you once. We were wondering what that might have been, thinking perhaps it was some mention of Felix's stone mansion up in the mountains at Frog Lake, a delightful vacation back in '92 or so. I thought maybe it was my tales of a rustic old abandoned wooden house (put together with "square nails") on a meadow off Haypress Creek, outside Sierra City, which collapsed in some one of many severe winter storms in the '70's.

And now my memories go spinning off to '59 when friend Art and I pushed the rusted carcass of an upright piano off a hole in the second floor of that same old cabin, through to the first floor, and didn't tell his Dad for fear of catching hell.

Those were the days when we would sometimes overhear wide-eyed adults report gravely to each other, "It's gone ... all of it, gone", and we would wonder at the time, why the astonishment?

Whatever you call the harp-shaped casing that stretches a piano's strings, that's basically what we pushed, and it was the last crashing note that ever came from that poor old thing.

This probably accelerated the demise of that old cabin, too. In the late '70's and early '80's, after its collapse, campers were still scavenging its lumber for firewood, a board at a time, leaving only the very heaviest timbers. I spent a lot of time along the creek in those years, and maybe it was residual childish guilt which kept me from hauling back the sacred planks for our campfire. Finally, somebody attacked the heaviest timbers with a chain saw, and one year there was just nothing left. You couldn't tell the cabin had ever been there unless you already knew what you were looking for.

And by that I mean: telltale mounds of straight composted woodrot and earth; the different way in which the meadow grasses grow where the cabin once sat; rusted artifacts of stovepipe collars and old hand-beaten angle irons, through which meadow grasses now grow. I still have some rusted square nail fasteners I rescued out of the dirt.

Some maps called it Thompson's meadow, as I recall. I could see that at one time, which would be in our grandparent's generation, someone with limited resources had tried, mainly by sheer physical labor, to develop it into a private summer retreat. I found hand-laid stone sluiceways much higher up the mountain, which might once have carried ironwater from Hilda's Mine down to irrigate the apple orchard in the meadow (two lone apple trees still struggled to survive and occasionally bore excellent sour green apples).

And: you can't reverse the process. This is a law known as Alex's Theory of Piano Entropy.

© Alex Forbes, 1998


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