Friday, March 15, 2013

A Walk in the Snow

*This is a short story that was written when I was homeschooling my youngest son. I used his vocabulary words and wrote the story. I'm glad I found it in my files.

John did a slow circle and scanned the horizon with the binoculars, but he saw no sign of Hunter.  He had been gone for three hours, two hours longer than they had agreed upon.  And the temperature was dropping as darkness approached.

He could see the ocean from here, and a huge iceberg floating near the icy shore.  He had to localize his search to a five mile radius to save time.  To do more he would need help.  He pulled his hood more closely around his head, shouldered the rescue gear he hoped he wouldn’t need and set out toward the mountains.

Half an hour later, John paused and studied the mountain before him.  There was only one way through.  A  crevice in the rock face, just barely large enough for him to squeeze through.  He knew that on the other side was a great valley where the glacier began.  

Once through the crevice, John halted and studied the landscape in detail.  The snowy expanse of the glacier was blinding in the afternoon sun and could wreck havoc on a man’s vision.  He adjusted the visor he wore and was grateful for the polarizing ability of the expensive smoky glass.  Thank God their research grant had allowed them to buy the best equipment.

John planned his next move cautiously.  He knew he must walk carefully. One false step and he could be plunged into a crevasse and certain death.   After an hour of hard walking, he wanted to turn back.  But he was not one to give in easily. He was nothing if not tenacious.   He paused for a moment to again scan the snowy valley and the horizon with the binoculars.   Still nothing.  He marched off toward the north to continue searching for his friend.  

Suddenly, John went very still, listening. Had that been the wind or just wishful thinking on his part. He had only come about half a mile from the narrow pass through the mountain.  He looked behind to see if someone following had hailed him.  He and Hunter were the only researchers but there was a village about 10 miles to the south of their lodge.  However, there was no one in sight.

Then, the sound came again, a thin, high sound off to his left.  He moved in that direction but as carefully as if he were walking on eggs. Snow crunched beneath his feet.  It wouldn’t help anyone if he fell into one of the many crevasses that could be found in glaciers.

He came upon it suddenly.  The white expanse of snow served to exacerbate his ability to see.  A crevasse was dangerous because is was not always easy to see in these huge snow fields.  In fact, if it wasn’t very wide, a layer of snow could cover it and cause a walker to fall in unexpectedly.  One of the members of the previous research team had died from just such a fall.  

“Hunter!”  yelled John.

Again the sound came, and this time John knew it was someone calling for help.  He almost took off running but remembered in time the need for caution.  Sure enough, there it was a crack in the snow about 20 feet across.  He could even see where it looked as if the snow had recently been stirred.  

He removed his gear and dropping to his belly, John slowly crawled as close to the edge of the crevasse as he could get.  He managed to peek over the side and then wanted to shout for joy at the sight that met his eyes.

Hunter was perched on an fairly wide, icy ledge about 15 feet below the surface.  Below that the crack seemed to go on forever, into darkness.  

“Hunter,” John called softly, not wanting to cause any possible cave in of weighted snow.

Hunter started and looked up. “John! Man, am I glad to see you.  Can you toss me a line and get me out of here?”

“I got a line but I have to get it.  Wait there.”  John said.

“Yeah, like I have some place to go?”

John grinned and moved slowly back to where he left the rescue gear.  He pulled out the rope designed especially for mountain climbing and just such emergencies as this one.

Back at the edge of the crack, John looked down.  Hunter sat looking up with a hopeful look.  

“Look out, buddy, it’s on its way down.  I already set a loop for you.  Check it and once you get it secure, I am going to back down and get set.  No sense in both of us getting pulled in.”

John slowly lowered the rope and watched as Hunter caught it, slipped it over his head and beneath his arms and tightened the noose.  Then he caught hold of the rope in a tenacious grip and looked up.  He said, “O.K. Johnny Boy, haul away.”

John again moved back to where he had left his gear, laying the rope out as he went.  Once there he dropped to one knee, braced his other leg in the snow toward the crevasse.  He twined the rope around him so he could pull without it slipping.  

He called out.  “ I am going to start pulling now.”  

John began to pull and for several moment, took in only the slack of the rope.  Then the hard part began.  The rope became taut with Hunter’s weight and John felt the muscles in his back also became taut.  He strained against the weight that pulled at him, slowly pulling the rope toward him.  Each inch seemed to take forever.  Then, when John thought he could take no more, Hunter’s head popped up over the edge of the yawning chasm.  John paused a moment and then with one final tug, Hunter came up over the side and began to crawl as fast as he could away from the crevasse.  Only when he reached John did he allow himself to flop down in the snow, gasping for breath.  Laughing, John dropped down beside him, his own lungs gulping the cold air.  

“Hey Hunter,” John finally said.

“Yeah, pal?” 

“Next time you want to go exploring pick some place warmer.”

“Come on, John.  It was just a little walk in the snow.” Hunter said.

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