Before Girls Dreamed of Mt. Everest
We began our hike through tall grass and soon we were crossing through black berry bushes and wild grape vines, but we trudged on, our reward, the crystal clear spring fed waterfall and clear rock swimming hole at the top. The cicadas were so loud and the mosquitoes were swarming to get a taste of our tender flesh and grasshoppers, big fat grasshoppers jumped from one blade of grass to the other. “We might get lost,” Cindy said. “Nope, we can only end up at the top, someone would find us,” I said. “If we do, we can eat grasshoppers.” “Yuck,” I said.
Each leg of the journey became more and more difficult and Rosie cried, she wanted to go back, but Cindy and I told her she was going to have to go alone, because we were going to climb this mountain. We ran, trying to out run the mosquitoes and at one point, I looked down and my legs were stripped with welts from the stinging Johnson grass. We stopped for a rest at the bottom of the mountain, and we began to scream at the discovery of seed ticks crawling on our legs. It took us at least thirty minutes to dust off our socks and shoes and wipe the tiny things off of us and we still missed some, before we could actually start the journey upwards, but finally we were on our way, hot, itchy, and feeling creepy crawly things on our arms and legs.
For the most part, the mountain was a series of rather steep cliffs that were not too treacherous. They were more sloped so that it was easy enough to climb up and there were rocks that jetted out and made for easy grabbing and pulling ourselves to the next ledge. I was first and when I got to the safety of the ledge, I helped Cindy, and then we both pulled cry baby up, and that went on for a couple of hours. Before we made our last dangerous ledge climb, I noticed a huge nest and said, “Oh look, an eagle’s nest.” Well, it wasn’t an eagle’s nest because the farmers had pretty much killed all the eagles with their pesticides and it’s probably a good thing it wasn’t because we would have been too stupid to get a way from the angry mother. As it turned out, it was a hawk’s nest and she had some fledglings, if that is what they are called, and when we started up the ledge, she began to circle around us and dive at us and she was protecting her young, but we were determined and when she came toward us, we swung at her and she never made contact. Her nest was on the ledge, and it was huge, maybe even an old eagle’s nest, but she and more hawks banned together and were diving at us, putting the fear of sharp talons and strong beaks into us, but I just had to look in her nest, and so I did and they were so ugly, those fledglings, and I hurried up and moved on and the mother continued to circle above our heads.
We finally made it to the top of the mountain, not even a half a mile from the water fall. I jumped and danced and yelled, and soon the other two joined in the victory dance. Mom was waiting at Clear Rock with hamburgers and an ice chest packed with cold drinks. As we ran toward the water falls, we began stripping off our clothes, preparing to jump into the water, and Mom was standing there smiling, “We did it,” I yelled.
I jumped into the water and swam to the other side, followed by my friends and we decided there that we could do anything. Rosie said, “Let’s climb Mt. Everest.”
Well that was the first and last mountain we ever climbed together. Cindy was hit by a car on her way to school and lived only a week before her heart gave out. When my mother died, Rosie and I were separated by 30 miles and I never saw her again. The other day, I ran into a mutual friend who told me Rosie was in prison for manufacturing meth. I wonder when she gave up her dream to climb Mt. Everest.
I still can’t look at a soaring hawk without remembering the little girls loaded with our brother’s canteens and pocket knives and rope walking toward the mountain that warm summer’s day.