Chapter 1: Assessing the Fight

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 4314





Spring, 2000

Wolf echoes from Shady Mountain waned to low notes as personnel entered the courthouse building In the southeast end of Echo Valley.  Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Eliza Hardigan Yoder looked out with tranquility at long, tree shadows on a plush, green lawn and admired the beauty of the flowers growing in the neatly laid out beds.  Her thoughts drifted back and she could almost see the many wonderful volunteer green thumb citizens in the valley and surrounding mountains from all those months ago as they gathered and worked in the park and across the community.  Restoration after the tornado had taken dedicated months.  She turned and looked east, ten miles across the valley toward Castle mountain.  Snow Belle Ranch was a small dot in the distance rising slowly and leveling out at the foothills.

She looked north toward Shady Mountain.  Somewhere up there, Jonus Morse was fighting to save the wildlife and to protect the valley and its mountains.  His hopes for the victory for Al Gore’s principles seemed far in the distance.

It was time to check in with him.  The drive up to the old cabin she grew up in would be a chance to clear her head and perhaps Jonus would be standing watch on the cliff in back of the cabin.

Chapter One


Against the backdrop of the bluest of mountain skies over deep green forest, the tall, thin forest ranger stood on the mountain ledge and surveyed the growing community below.  He moved the telescope across the valley slowly.

“Hello Eliza.”  He said without looking behind him as he continued to scan the scene below him.

“Hello Jonus.  It’s a really clear view today.  See anything new going on down there?”

“Watched your jeep moving from the city buildings and up the mountain road.”

“You’ve been up here watching for a long time.”

“Yes, I could walk that distance in half the time that it took you to get across the valley.”

“I’m sure.  We have a lot of traffic these days with more students and people moving into the valley.”

“Sad to see it.  The landscape has changed a lot down there since I was a boy and running moonshine down to the taverns for the Snow competitor, Rosco Wray.  That Snow clan had their revenge on me and I paid the price for what was an accidental death involving Rosco’s own son.”

“Do you think the development of the land into new homes and businesses is a good thing?”

“I hate to see all the forest disappear.  But it won’t be such a bad thing if the Snows don’t get back in power over it.  They kept it down to a small roar so they could control it.  Now maybe the state government will take more notice of the corruption here.”

He brought down his telescope and turned to Eliza.  She stepped out onto the rock ledge.  He handed her the telescope.

“Take a look through this.  The forestry service bought this for me so that I could scan more territory and get a better view.  It’s really high powered.”

Eliza took the instrument.  “My word, it’s lighter than I thought.”

She stood toward the valley and brought the telescope up to her eyes.  “Wow!  You can see an ant on the pavement down there and all the way across to Castle.  That’s about thirty miles or more across the valley.”

“Yep.  When I was a boy, the valley was more forest and farmland than homes and stores.”

“Yes, I remember those days.  In the last two years since the tornado, our community has worked hard to restore and build.  But seeing this, I think I need to talk more to the planning committee about keeping the environmental integrity safe with more parks, better water quality and protection for the wildlife there.”

“Lots of things are growing up on Serenity Mountain.  Serenity Ski Resort had been growing for years while I was in prison and now more people from as far away as Chicago, Indiana and other states have taken notice of the valley because of the owners of Serenity.”

Eliza stepped back and realigned the lens to zoom in on the city buildings.  She took a deep breath.  “But now the Snows are working hard to retake control of the government.  Their political slogan is to ‘Take Back our Valley’.”

“I know what that means for the Snow family.  Not only have they lost most of the control, but their finances are being depleted.  Their motives are self-serving.”

“Yes, those pompous, narcissistic jerks don’t do anything that will benefit anyone but themselves.”

Jonus turned and started back toward the cabin.  “I have to head back to the fire tower to relieve the ranger trainee on the east side of Shady.”

Eliza followed him.  “Jonus, I came up here to talk about some issues with your son and Bobby Snow.  I didn’t want to phone you.  Also, I’d like for you to come down and meet with Delia and me about a lot of events going down in the valley.  From your viewpoint, you may have information that might explain a few things.”

“I can come down about three o’clock this afternoon if you’re available at your cabin.”

“I’ll make that happen.”

“As for Brent and Bobby Snow, I’ll tell you, I’m working on it.  But if you would like before you leave, you’re welcome to read my journals in on the desk, just lock up when you’re done.”

Eliza watched as Jonus left walking down the road toward the east.

She turned, entered the back door and looked around, adjusting her eyes to the dim light.  ‘Dad never kept the cabin this organized.’  She thought.

She located the journal and sat down at the old desk.

The inside cover read, “I plan on publishing this in a book entitled, “The Final Fall of the Valley Dynasty”.

She began the first page. “The Snow clan felt that they owned the town, because they had been beneficial in getting funds to build the college all those years ago.  Their money earned from the backs of the people in the valley had built the city buildings and the schools for cheap wages and materials.  The college was built to educate the Snow family boys for free and to bring revenue in from outside people who might be supportive of their efforts.  They controlled the enrollment and the employment.  Slowly but surely, the Snows lost their grip on the valley.  That was due in part to the relentless efforts of the Yoders, April Donovan, Eliza Hardigan and Judge Delia Grant.  In addition, the outsiders and some of the valley students would not fall in line with the establishment.  The State Boards of Education eventually moved in on the practices and a more respectable Dean was appointed. 

Before the state moved in and took over and before I was railroaded into prison at 16 years old for supposedly killing Rosco Wray, I had been taking classes at what was then the Snow Valley College on a free scholarship.  The Snows didn't take it lightly that I had been running shine for their competition and dating their daughter. They found a way to expel me.  But I finished my education in prison and I came back to overcome.

The series of books by Jonus Morse had been burned at KKK rallies and denied space in the town library, except for one copy of each in the basement archives where the old librarian had hidden them.  This book will be added to the series and marketed widely.That is true, I know because I have the support of the present government, but the positions are now up for grabs in the next election.  I know I have to overcome my shyness and stand up in order to preserve a good future for my grandson and the valley citizens who have fought so hard for freedom from the evil hold on progress.

When I look out toward the crosses on the two churches toward the center of the valley, I’m reminded of a main reason for the hold on the community.  One church farther to the east toward Castle Mountain is the temple for the Snow and KKK worshippers of snakes and hate and one more humble building embraced by the meek and good Quakers.”

Eliza turned the page to the next chapter.  It was a whole chapter about the religions in the community and the surrounding mountains.  One paragraph described the churches and spiritual climate.

“The Snows had allowed the Quaker church to exist just blocks away from their church, because it kept the meek at bay.  To the west lower end of Serenity Mountain where the beginning of Seneca Mountain joins at the southwest end lake, a small cross adorns the chapel at the Serenity Mountain resort.  That resort is another business that the Snows have failed to take over, but Bobby Snow managed to wriggle private land across from the far east end of Shady and had run a short ski lift up that side and a fancy lodge at the bottom.”

Jonus' last entry told of his spiritual connection with nature.  “With God’s grace, I'm working at the best job in the world, with the animals and in harmony with the outdoors.  After being locked in for most of my life, I now have everything one could ever want, except my family.  With Eliza’s help I now can see my son and grandson whenever I want.  My wife and I are trying to reconnect.   I'll continue to thank God for his mercy and blessings and for any future plans he has in store for me.  I'm sure that he allowed for my incarceration and the burdens that I've carried for reasons I may never understand, but I’ve learned from them.  The heartbreaks have provided me with growth of who I am today and I'm sure I'm  not done with suffering yet, because that's  what life is all about, struggling, suffering, learning and praising God for forgiveness and blessings.  This revelation came to me in prison when I met the chaplain, Indiana Johnson, who had come to minister from time to time.  Reverend Johnson kept in touch with me and just recently wrote that he would be filling the position at the Mountain View Church here in Echo Valley.  I sincerely pray that he'll be able to hold his own against the politics and division of the community.”

Eliza’s eyes glanced to another hard -back book entitled Accounting.  She was surprised to see that the pages were filled with something other than numbers.  The location of the ledge was also recorded.  There were more entries for the cabin ledge than for the Lookout Point further up.  Some entries were blank with the words, “Mist covered over”.  She grabbed a blank piece of notebook paper from the desk shelf.  Pulling a pen from her jacket pocket, she started copying dates, events and names from a page entitled, 'Surveillance from Shady Mountain'.

She pulled out her cell phone when she finished and called Delia.  “You’re not going to believe the record Jonus has of events in the valley and on Shady here.  There are even entries of what is happening out to Castle.  Evidently, he uses his high-powered telescope to spy on everyone.  I’ve copied down all the entries and you’ll be astounded by it all.  By the way, the meeting has been set up for three this afternoon at our cabin.  Can you be there?”

The old judge hesitated and then said, “My calendar is free.  I’ll call April.  As prosecuting attorney, she needs to be in on this.”

“Can we trust her?  She’s pretty tight with Hank Snow.”

“Legally, she should be informed.  I’ll meet with her this morning and see where she’s at with her personal relationship.”

“That sounds good, but let’s wait until after we go over all the evidence and listen to Jonus.  We can fill her in afterwards if she’s above board.”


At the cliff behind the ranger cabin, Jonus looked at the position of the sun.  By the time he got down the mountain, it would be time to meet Judge Grant and Eliza for a meeting on the documents to prevent the sale of state properties to Bobby Snow.

He turned and Dog Two followed him back to the cabin.  He spoke to the animal.  “Stay here and keep watch, Dog.”

He tucked his telescope into his backpack and straddled his mountain bike.  He rode off to the trail leading off past the mountain community road and on down past the college.  He soon had the distance covered and turned into the Yoder cabin drive.

Delia and Eliza were sitting at the picnic table on the long veranda.  Eliza waved as he parked his bike.  “Hello, Jonus.  I’m surprised to see you on the bike.”

“I wanted to make it a fast trip since I don’t have anyone to take the helm while I’m gone.”

“O.K.  Well, I guess we’d better get started.  Come on up and have some tea as we talk.”

Delia filled Jonus in on why they needed to talk with him.  “Jonus, we know that Bobby has been giving you fits since he bought that private land for his lodge and ski run on the east side across from Shady.  We inquired to the state and they faxed us paperwork to present to them the reasons why that land on Shady cannot be privatized.”

Delia presented Jonus with the necessary paperwork for the state and Jonus quickly got busy reading.

As he finished, Greg came out through the patio doors and joined them.  “Hello Jonus.  Good to see you.  I was on the line to the new minister for Mountain View this morning.  Seems he knows you very well.”

“Yes, Reverend Johnson wrote to me about that.”

Delia turned her attention to the paperwork that Jonus had signed as she said, “I have a half-brother from Indiana, whose name is ironically Indiana Johnson.”

That remark got Jonus attention.  “That’s the name of the minister.  What does your brother look like?”

Still with her head down, she slowly answered, “I’ve only seen him for our grandfather’s funeral eight years ago.  But I remember him as being tall, thin with blue eyes and wisp of blonde hair.”

Jonus chuckled.  “That has to be your brother!  What a coincidence.”

Greg laughed.  “More like a God wink.  Perhaps God is sending us a sign that our valley is on its way to unity.”

“That would be a miracle.”  Eliza sighed. 

Delia sat with a big smile.  “Well, whatever it is.  We can use all the help we can get to get that done.”

Jonus agreed.  “Yes, nonetheless, I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  From my position on the mountain ledges, I can see movement through my high-powered telescopes and I can surmise just about what’s happening down here.  Of course, it helps to have Canny filling me in on all the latest gossip.”

They all chuckled.  Greg waved a hand out and sat down on an empty chair by Eliza and facing Jonus.  “And of course, I suppose you’ve got your ham radio tuned in to the police ban.”

Jonus winked at him. “Yep, a lot of amazing stories coming up from the valley.  But the issues with Bobby is best observed and passed on by your local forest ranger.’

Another round of laughter and then Delia stood up.  “Well, the last paper is signed and I’ll get these off to the appropriate office in the state capital.”  She turned to Jonus and shook his hand as he stood and took a step toward her.

 “Thank you, Judge Grant.  I’m ever so grateful.”

“No thanks needed.  This is for the entire community. What happens in the mountains affects all of us.”

Eliza stood and followed behind.on the walk down from the patio.  “By the way, Jonus, I did take the privilege of jotting down the information you have about the events in the valley in your accounting book.  I hope you don’t mind.  If you do…”

Jonus interupted.  “I don’t mind.  I was hoping you’d find that. What do you think?  Is this helpful?”

Delia stopped and turned at the bottom of the steps. “It’s not only helpful, it’s valuable information that we can use to match up with the investigations we have going.  Thank you.”

Jonus stood at the bottom of the last stone step and shook his head slowly.  “Well, I can’t be on the ledges and lookout points every minute.  But I do it as often as I can.”

Delia smiled,  “Yes, thank you for everything you’re doing for the community and for the preservation of the mountains and the valley.  We’re so lucky to have you on our team.”

Jonus smiled one of his rare happy gestures.  Delia reached over and shook his hand. “And now I must get back to the office to close up the day.”

Delia carried the valise up the hill toward the driveway and turned back.  “I’ll keep you informed on this as soon as I hear back.”

Jonus waved and turned back to Eliza and Greg.  “I’m disappointed in Brent’s behavior and his inability to stand up as provider for his family.  I hope you know that I’ve tried to keep in contact with him, but he works overtime to disappoint Canny and I.  Maybe when Canny recuperates and can come up to stay with me at the cabin, we can stand more united as parents.”

“I know, Jonus.  Unfortunately, when they’re on their own, there’s just so much we can do and we can’t blame ourselves for their mistakes.”

Jonus sighed, “I know, but…well, it’s a little too late to teach him better.”

“All we can do is lead by example.”

Jonus face was one of sad rejection; a slight dampness to the tan weathered skin and a whisper of tears from his dark round eyes.  “My example wasn’t so great in the past.  I know he’s using that as an excuse to keep barreling on as his own enemy.”

The feeling of regret for having brought up the example bit richoted and she immediately wanted to explain.  She shook her head and stepped toward him while fighting the urge to hug him.  “What happened to you was done to you, more than at your own hands.”

Jonus shook his head and wiped his eyes with long fingers.  “Yes, but if I hadn’t been moonshine running, it would have never happened in the first place.”

“You were a young teenage boy without proper guidance.”  Eliza was giving excuses, she knew and that was not helping.

Jonus stood straighter and stepped closer to his bicycle.  “It’s never anybody else’s fault, nevertheless, and I have to show Brent that it’s up to him to take responsibility and stop laying the blame on others.  His life is never going to change until he does that.”

Eliza smiled.  “You’re a very intelligent man, Jonus.”

Jonus turned and without another word, he climbed aboard his bike and headed back up the path.

She heard a car engine and turned to watch Greg's cruiser disappear out the drive up on the hill.  'No kiss goodbye?  That's not like you, Greg.'

Eliza turned back and watched Jonus disappear up the mountain trail through the maples. around the lake.  As she started to turn back to the steps, she felt compelled to remain as the familiar characters appeared in the blue mist in the woods.  She smiled and waved at what she logically knew was her illusion.

Submitted: April 29, 2019

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