Musings on genre writing, waterfall wandering, and peak bagging in the South’s wilderness areas.
At a certain point, as I got older, I realized this was all bullshit. Yes, some people can become enraged and briefly commit themselves to brutal counterattacks through willpower and a burst of adrenaline. But such episodes are passing and almost instantaneous.
The yarns of mighty heroes battling with open wounds and broken bones and internal injuries are so much farce.
A little over a week ago I took a very hard fall while hiking down a trail in the steep and rugged South Mountains of North Carolina. I didn’t just lose my footing and fall. I fell hard. Some years ago I learned that once you have completely lost your balance and Mr. Gravity is going to have his inevitable way with you and toss you savagely into Mother Earth’s embrace, then the best thing to do is just to let it happen. Don’t brace yourself too forcefully or you’re likely to receive an even more severe injury than otherwise. Merely…fall.
This is exactly what I did in the second I lost my footing and realized that I wasn’t going to be able to get my feet back under me. I went with the gravitational flow.
And when I did meet the planetary mass, it was a rough occasion. I fell–as I said–hard. Also, I did not fall onto soft earth covered in grass, or even in elastic shrubbery. No. I smashed into a devil’s carpet of rocks and small boulders. In fact, my thorax met a mass of quartz roughly the size of my own torso. I recall the breath going out of me with a tremendous ‘OOF!’. And I may have even lost consciousness for a second.
A hiker who had just passed me came running up to ask if I needed help, so I must have been out for a moment before I regained my footing.
Here’s the thing, though.
In the fall I dislocated my left pinkie finger. Almost ten days later and it still hurts. Today I caught it on a cabinet door and pulled it sideways and I think I may have broken it. The pain was enough to nearly cause me to vomit. Yeah. I little pinkie finger. I can’t make a fist. I haven’t been able to make a fist since I fell and discovered my little finger looked like something out of a Tex Avery cartoon. Even after I forced the bones back into their proper symmetry I couldn’t make a fist. The pain is just too severe.
And my chest still hurts where I collided with the rocks. I’m lucky I didn’t shatter any ribs, but the legendary Lady was with me.
The upshot of my ruminations on these relatively minor injuries is this:
You can’t fight in such a state. Forget about it. If I was forced to fight since that fall, I would have been doing so with one hand. And if anyone had punched me in the ribs or chest I would likely have folded up like a piece of soggy cardboard. Ten days later and this is probably still the case. (I hate to give information out to anyone wishing to beat the crap out of me, but the plain and honest truth of the matter is that I probably couldn’t physically defend myself right now. And this is all from a simple fall from over a week past.)
Which brings home all the more to me that each of those tales of the noble Fascist anti-hero duking it out with the bad guys after losing a couple of pints of blood and being slashed and thumped and shot…it’s about as silly and unrealistic as fiction can get.
At some point I decided that I liked horror comics. Probably because I was heavily influenced by horror movies and TV shows. Soon after the titles hit the stands I discovered Creepy and Eerie Magazines. One day in my dad’s warehouse I saw a copy of Eerie #13. The cover utterly horrified me. In fact, it scared me so much that I almost didn’t bring it home. But I did. I took it into my bedroom with the other stacks of comic books that I was reading–everything from Hot Stuff the Little Devil, to Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man, and Kirby’s Fantastic Four, and Wonder Woman by Ross Andru, and Magnus Robot Fighter by Russ Manning…well, there was no shortage of comic book titles in those days.
For some reason I waited until it was dark before opening the cover to Eerie #13. These days I cannot recall the contents of that issue, but I vividly remember the cover art. It wasn’t by any of the artists whose styles I had learned to identify. This was something that I didn’t find particularly intriguing or inspiring–it was just pure, nihilist horror. It was also the only copy of a Warren magazine that I can remember having a word balloon on the cover.
But that cover utterly gave me the creeps. I was afraid to allow the cover art to touch my fingers and I ended up folding the page carefully back to keep that from happening. I do remember reading the contents and then initially putting the magazine at the foot of my bed with the cover down. Eventually I turned out the light and fell to sleep.
Sometime in the dark hours I was awakened. I immediately knew why I had come awake. There had been a sound in the night. A ‘PLOP’ sound. As of something having slid insidiously off of my bed to land loudly upon the floor, perhaps in an effort to get away, or to hide, or to sneak up on me.
I turned on the bedside lamp. I looked down at the foot of my bed and there were the comics I’d been reading–Richie Rich and Stumbo the Giant and Classics Illustrated and Spider-Man, Mystery In Space, etc. etc.
But that copy of Eerie #13 was gone.
My heart froze.
Where was that damned cover art?! I’d put it face down because I didn’t want to see it again. And now it was gone.
It had intentionally crept away!
I sat up in bed and looked down at my good comics. I have an image in my head right now of Magnus, Robot Fighter breaking a robot’s metal neck with his steely hand. I had to know where that goddamned copy of Eerie #13 was! So I sat up, crawled out from under the covers, and looked at the floor at the foot of the bed.
The magazine was not there.
I looked a little farther, toward the dresser, and I still couldn’t see it!
Knowing I’d have to lean over the side of the bed into the unprotected zone where monsters could reach up and grab children and drag them into whatever dimension they used to appear under our beds, I began to build up my stupid kid’s courage. The magazine couldn’t be anywhere but right at the foot of the bed on the side below my window. If it hadn’t slipped straight off, then my foot must have knocked it to the left.
I looked down. It wasn’t there.
Now I was more curious than frightened, so I leaned my entire head and shoulders over the side of the mattress and leaned waaaaaaaaaay over and looked down where the copy of Eerie #13 could not possibly be.
And that red-eyed skull face was staring straight back up at me!
My nine-year-old eyes bugged out. My throat constricted so much that not only couldn’t I scream, I couldn’t even choke on my own fear.
Using what courage I could manage, I hopped out of bed, grabbed a big dictionary that I kept on my dresser and I turned that copy of Eerie Magazine face down and covered it with that heavy Webster’s hardback dictionary and weighted that oversized offering of horror pulp to the floor with the help of matter and Mr. Gravity!
There, you damned revenant! Try to get out from under 10,000 years of language!
Strangely mollified by the thought of the big book covering the illustrated horror tales, I climbed back into bed, turned off the light, and managed to go right back to sleep. Zombie out of sight, out of mind.
Over the next couple of weeks I actually forgot all about the copy of Eerie #13 under my bed. I didn’t look to check. Even my mom forget to come in and sweep under there. Then one day I needed my dictionary to look something up (this being the 1960s and not 2019 when you can look up anything on a cell phone or a wifi computer.) I recalled that my Webster’s was under the bed holding down the offending horror magazine which was, I reminded myself, face down. So I reached under with the bright, yellow sunlight streaming through the window and I pushed away the dust bunnies and brushed off the grey layer on the book and picked it up, knowing I’d only see some advertisement on the back of the magazine.
But of course that blood-chilling artwork was staring up at me, those crimson eyeballs staring right into mine.
I rolled up that magazine, put it into a bag with some other comics, and walked into the front of the house where my mom was reading.
“Here,” I said. “I’ve read these. You can take them back to the store and sell them.”
And it worked. I never saw that copy again.
|Scared the crap out o’ me!|
So far, neither source has mentioned why this strange order of conduct was in effect. So I’ll have to read more material to see if the first sources are wrong. If it was an accurate recording of how things were done on the Japanese side, I want to read more about why it was so.
|Kwantung Army surrendered en masse to the Soviet Red Army.|
ByJames Robert Smith
Ineed to say a few things up front, before I even start this story.
|My mom’s parents. From what I understand, around this time my grandfather was a performing–apparently a singing!–acrobat. Wish I knew more about that act.|
Same thing here. Photos of my mom’s sisters are all packed up except for these two sent to me via Internet some months ago from a wedding many decades ago (1930s?). Here, my mom’s sisters Florris, and Verna.
Musings on genre writing, waterfall wandering, and peak bagging in the South’s wilderness areas.
Originally I had planned to hike a side trail to see a major waterfall on the mountain, but it was closed due to damage from a severe forest fire. So I had to forego that part of the hike and just hit the summit and come back down.
As I stated in my previous blog post, it has been quite some time since I have been on anything approaching a serious hike. This is because I took a job last year that put me working full time and which has kept me from hitting the trails as much as I’d like. In addition, every time I have planned a hiking or backpacking trip to coincide with a day or two off I have been faced with heavy rains. I have hiked and backpacked in rain before, but it’s not my favorite thing to do (to put it mildly) so I cancelled all of those hiking trips.
Thus, my legs especially are in bad shape. Walking around the neighborhood just doesn’t give me the kind of exercise to keep my muscles and tendons in good condition. So, the almost nine-mile hike I took to the top of the mountain and back to the cabin put a lot of stress on those mushy muscles and tendons. Ouch.
But it had to be done. Weather for my next day off (Monday) calls for sun and cool temperatures so I have a hike planned. Hopefully I’ll be able to do more mountain hikes and keep my legs in better shape.
Here then is a brief video concentrating on the bands of low cliffs I passed under on my way to the top of the mountain. Because of all of the rainfall this year, the overhangs had become drizzling waterfalls and the route sent me under the overhangs to avoid getting soaked.
|This is normally just a dry wash. Saturday it was a waterfall.|
|One of the first extensive bands of cliffs you see on the climb.|
|The trail takes you under some of these rocky overhangs.|
|I had to edge in close to the mountain here to avoid getting soaked by this ephemeral waterfall.|
At any rate, we went to spend two nights at Table Rock State Park near Pickens, South Carolina and I finally got in some serious hiking. However, I am so out of shape that I paid for the almost nine miles I put in on the first day. By the time I got back to the cabin my thighs and hamstrings were all cramping and I was in total agony off and on for about four hours.
But…it was worth it just to be able to hike in my southern Appalachian mountains. With any luck the weather will cooperate on my next day off and I can get in some more hiking then.
|Just after we arrived at the park to stay in Cabin #7.|
|At Bald Knob just after hitting the summit of Pinnacle Mountain.|
|Table Rock and The Stool (right) from Bald Knob.|
On the way back to my truck (parked on the ridge along the road you can see), I returned to the top to take in the view. I can never resist the hike to the top of that mountain. Looking down I could spot no one else (it was a Monday and the multitudes who had filled the meadow on the weekend were gone back to Asheville). Best of all, the place was silent. Completely quiet. I couldn’t hear a single human voice, no flutes piping away, and no damned annoying drums. Just the wind and some bird song.
At any rate, I always think of the contrast when I look at this old photo. What a huge difference a couple of days can make.
|The meadow devoid of humans and noise.|