After conferring with Mom and Bruce, the cops emerged
from the house and called for additional units. Two more
pair of headlights soon barreled down the road, crunched
to a halt in the freshly oiled gravel and four more cops
piled out. I listened as the deputy in charge described
me to his fellow defenders of the law and public safety.
I was a vicious, possibly insane, eleven year old male,
four feet eleven inches tall with green eyes and short
brown hair. I'd just assaulted my older brother for no
apparent reason and Lord knows what I'd do next.
"Now, we really stand no chance of catching this kid at night. His mother says he knows the land for miles around, but I'm betting he's close by. He's only eleven and he can't have gone far. We'll split up and walk the ten acres of this property calling his name, in a friendly manner. Something along the lines of, 'Dale, we know you're out there and you're scared. We're here to help. Just give yourself up and we'll help you work things out.'"
"What happens to him if we catch him?" one of the deputies asked.
"He's going straight to Remann Hall," came
the reply, "and if the little prick gives us any
trouble he'll wish he'd never been born."
Any thoughts I might have had about seeking an
impartial audience with representatives of the law were
quickly supplanted by a keen desire to reach puberty. I
wasn't about to surrender to those gorillas. I cut east
through the woods on familiar paths, thinking as I went
that "The last time I walked this trail, I still
had a home," and "Just yesterday I was
I traveled about five miles before dawn, meandering,
heading nowhere in particular. The only real comfort lay
in pushing on, it was the one element in life at the
moment I had any control over. I holed up in rustic barn
as a clear, cold dawn broke over Mt. Rainier and the
Cascades forty miles to the east; tunneling into last
year's hay, I slept fitfully.
The world looks altogether different to an eleven
year old fugitive from justice than it does to the
average child. I awoke in the hot afternoon, suffocating
in a cold grey blanket of despair, no longer
invulnerable, just depressed and alone. I had, it
seemed, two choices: live in hay barns forever or turn
myself in. I lit up a Camel sucking the fragrant smoke
deep, blew a few smoke rings, and tried to think
rationally. Thirst was the major problem. Up to a point,
cigarettes dull hunger pangs, but they only intensify
sensations of dehydration. After a furtive exploration,
I located a stand pipe about a hundred yards from the
barn, wound about with vagrant blackberry vines. The
water was rusty, brown, and about the tastiest I'd ever
Green and pleasant lands stretched away in all
directions. The Northwest of my youth was still heavily
timbered. Rural homes and small farms dotted a
countryside which had, for the most part, remained
unchanged since the 1930's. For the next several days, I
wandered aimlessly about this country, sleeping in barns
or other outbuilding and dodging any contact with
humans. I avoided roads except at night, when I could
see a car's head lights long before the occupants could
see me. I dove into ditches and hid behind trees when
ever a vehicle approached. More than once it was a
I ate what I could steal or forage, drank from
outside faucets, sometimes creeks, and temporarily
forsook my long allegiance to Camels, switching brands
to Lucky Strikes, after discovering an unguarded carton
on the front seat of an unattended pickup. They weren't
humps, but after a few days I scarcely noticed the
On day five, I found an aging .22 caliber single shot
rifle resting on rusty spikes above the rough hewn
doorway of a barn. A 500 round brick of Remington Long
Rifle ammunition was tucked away on a the ledge below. I
snatched up both without a qualm, figuring that I needed
them far more than their original owner. Although I
didn't know how to shoot or hunt, this seemed as good a
time as any to learn. I headed for Clover Creek, a small
cold stream which flowed out of higher hills ten miles
or so to the east and down through semi wild tracts of
land where deer and bear still roamed.
Hunting, as far as I knew, was a simple enough
undertaking. One walked through the forest until an
animal was sighted, pointed a gun at it while it
obligingly stood there, and pulled the trigger. I walked
all day, and all the next, and never saw a deer.
They'd been there before, that much I knew because
slightly muddied paths along the creek were rife with
their tracks and droppings. As the sun set on the second
day, exasperation set in and I shouted at the top of my
lungs to no one in particular "Where are you
f__kers, anyway?" About forty yards away a doe and
her fawn, which blended in so well against a backdrop of
tall meadow grass and trees that they had been, to me,
all but invisible, raced away across the clearing and
disappeared into the woods beyond. I would never have
seen them if they hadn't moved, and as it was it didn't
matter, I never had a chance to shoot.
I tramped the woods for two weeks feeling, as a rule,
ever more lost and alone. Finally I just said the hell
with it, I was lonely, tired and running out of smokes.
I headed home. Life on the run had lost much of its
mystique. I cut through the pasture at twilight and
stashed the .22 under some loose boards in our hay barn
along with the shells. Although I couldn't bring it
home, I didn't want to take it back.
Expecting the worst, I stepped into the house
prepared to light out if the need arose but mother, upon
seeing me, merely asked if was all right and if I'd had
dinner yet. I could've done without the split pea soup,
but the brown sugar Kool Aid was of surpassing vintage.
For reasons still unknown, it was as if the past few
weeks hadn't happened.
Not being one to keep track of the futile hours and days allotted to useless human existence, it hadn't occurred to me to check the stats, otherwise I would have known it was Friday, and stayed out
another day. As it was, on the day following my
return to civilization, I took my place in the
congregation of the called and chosen and found to my
shock that in my absence I had become a hero...of sorts.
My peers gathered around me, eager to hear grim tales
of battle and survival in the inhospitable wilds and,
while many were dragged away by future saints who
glowered at me like I was the devil incarnate, a few
remained to hear hair raising (and modestly remodeled)
recitations of my many and varied adventures.
The sermon that day rolled roughshod, as usual, over
worldly religion, history, science and everything else
Herbert hadn't personally authored, and would have been
totally committed to memory's waste basket had it not
been for a cryptic, after services, announcement that
next Sabbath, great news from headquarters would be
announced. The faithful were enjoined to be there.