1966 – Silver Falls Washington
Jake fixes his stare out the front window of his dad’s old clunker of a pickup truck. Past the filth of a neglected window, looking further down the highway towards a spot near the horizon, the road seems to disappear into the unrelenting shadows of a thousand majestic pines. Each spire contending for the touch of the sun’s warm rays.
It was an old truck, a classic of an ancient time long ago. A 1942 Chevy if Jake remembered correctly his dad’s many mentions of his baby. Any reasonable speed was out of the question, so to Jake it felt like it took nearly forever to reach any of the those distant points he observed. Frustrated, Jake shifts his fatigued stare out the passenger’s side window. Maybe somehow he thought, they would get to their destination faster, as life did seem to whip by at a more dizzying speed. Though what was before a winding road with beautiful pine trees and luscious undergrowth funneling him to his ultimate destination, was now a wash of blurring green and brown hues. It reminded him of the time he rode the spinning top attraction at the playground. Nausea set in as he kept trying to find his mom off in the distant crowd with the other mothers. Each rotation pressing heavy on his brain and equilibrium brought him one step closer to puking off the side of the ride.
Looking out the window and recalling these childhood memories of years ago makes young Jake dizzy and ultimately sick to his stomach. He decides he might try rolling down the passenger window and hold his hand outside instead, pretending it was a jet plane, like his father used to fly in the war. Maybe the distraction would be enough to pass the time. But it was a chilly May morning in Washington State, and Jake knew his father would protest the cold biting air cooling his morning cup of coffee, so the window remained closed.
Young Jake begins to let his mind wander off to thoughts of his home and his room back in Southern California with his mother. His parents divorced a few years back when he was only six and this summer would become the first instance his father would spend any real time with him, outside a day or two on the weekends for a birthday or a holiday type event. Jake missed his mother terribly, even if it only had been a few days since his father and him had traveled out of California and into Oregon and eventually Washington State.
Being awake on this long trek into the woods was going to be hard for Jake to bare, so he closes his eyes and curls himself into a comfortable position on the cold cracked vinyl seat of the truck and drifts off to sleep. Memories of his mom, his things, and the cool ocean breezes ushering the way.
Cool crisp air rushes into the cabin of the truck. Jake pops up. His dad stands at the door, his rifle slung over his shoulder, coffee mug in one hand while extending the other for Jake to grab. Jake rubs his eyes as he tries to focus his attention on pulling himself out of the semi-slumber conscious state he is in. He adjusts his Angels ball cap and wipes a bit of cold slobber from his cheek.
Jake couldn’t believe he had slept almost the entire distance from his dad’s apartment. Located in the town of Silver Falls Washington, nestled amongst the foothills of Mt. Daniel, Jake’s father had lived in the tiny one room apartment since his divorce. He had recently purchased an old cabin with two extra rooms a few miles up the north face a couple months earlier in a last ditch attempt to show his wife’s attorneys that he didn’t want to lose all parental rights to his son. This cabin was his means to reestablish a relationship with Jake and to show he was really trying to be the dad Jake deserved, and not simply the boys father.
“Alright Tiger, we’re here,” Jake’s dad whispers as he holds his hand out for Jake to grasp. Jake pauses a quick moment as if needing to remember he didn’t actually need his dad’s help for anything. Not after all these long years without the aforementioned fatherly guidance. Jake decides he didn’t want to give his father the satisfaction of being there for him in this instance and jumps out of the cab of the truck by himself. Jake lands awkwardly on a slick patch of moss growing on a flat stone protruding from the earth and lands squarely on his rump. The impact reverberates through his bones and a slight tear wells up in his eye, but he couldn’t nor wouldn’t let his dad lay witness to this momentary weakness. It would most certainly give his dad reason to rub it in his face, an I told you so type moment if there ever was one. Instead he holds back the instinct to complain and rights himself quickly, brushing his moistened pant bottoms with his hand.
Atop a small peak of just one of many hills, the forest laid out before them, untouched, vast, and like nothing Jake had ever seen. He found the sight both terrifying and awe inspiring. A barely audible “Whoa” seeps out from under his breath.
Large Evergreen trees seemed to roll on and on forever. So deep and unending, Jake’s eyes could only focus on a section at a time. He could only really see out maybe four or five miles, then at which point reality ceased and a distinct line separated nature and what looked like what he could only describe as a cheap oil painting. His grandma had such a painting hung on her wall in the living room. It was much more underwhelming.
Jake was impressed, but he would never give his dad this satisfaction. His father would have to really work for it this time. To often Jake came second.
“Frank, are we going to spend the entire summer in the mountains?” Jake knew not to complain, but rather dance around the point he was trying to make without coming straight out and saying it. His mother called him a clever child for mastering such an adult skill at such a young age. His father was blunt and too the point. Jake must have learned it from her.
“No son, just a couple days of fresh air, peace and quiet.” His dad responds, never pulling his gaze from the majesty as he saw it that unfolds before him. “And please call me Dad”. No doubt a sentiment rooted from Jake’s uncontested years with his mother, his dad thought to himself.
Jake however looked up directly at his father, watching for signs of falsehood or hesitation in the answer to the question he would ask next.
“Then back to the city Frank, huh. Back to moms?”
Jake’s father kneels down and embraces him in a bear hug. His face showing nothing but love and compassion, while his heart hides the pain of rejection inside. It is all too easy to slip back into a self-absorbed condition and scold his son while bad mouthing his ex. This wasn’t a natural state for his father, but he was trying. He had too. He couldn’t lose his son.
“Hey now, you’re all mine until the end of the month city boy.”
Jake throws his head back and goes limp, playfully acting. “Let go Frank, you’re going to squeeze me to deattttthhhh.”
Jake and his father spent the next few hours walking through the beautiful landscape of the Pacific North West. Giant pines and Redwoods sored hundreds of feet into the air, appearing to lean to the center as they disappeared into the low hanging clouds far above. Their majesty juxtaposed against the lush frailty of ferns and other various undergrowth far below. Jake jumps over moss-covered logs of fallen giants as his father forged a trail ahead. Small spring fed rivers would appear from nowhere, flow a few hundred yards and disappear again under the lush growth. Jake’s father points out interesting objects from fauna to various woodland creatures that appeared and gave his best guided tour speech. Beyond the corniness of its delivery, his father had spent many years as a hunter and his entire life as an outdoors man, so he did know what he was talking about. Jake does enjoy it.
The two emerge from the darkness of the tree line and step into a wide clearing. Having been shaded for the last couple hours, Jake has to cover his eyes with the back of his hand, guarding his agaped pupils from the harsh glaring light. His vision soon begins to normalize, shades of gray and earth tones colors slowly wash back in like the tides. What reveals itself shortly thereafter as the whitewash of intense light slowly dims catches him off guard, and he calls out.