July 26, 1998
You 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