The morning after the swarm of tornadoes had passed Zeke decided he should become involved with this new packet program, aprsis32. But in order to communicate, even through the Internet, he needed to enter his pass code, a special series of numbers issued to him from England some fifteen years earlier. But he wasn’t sure he remembered the numbers correctly. Providing the wrong code could create problems that might cause a flurry of emails before it was corrected, so he was trying to recall where he’d recorded those numbers.
In his search he unearth a long abandoned address book. Three-quarters of the entries were crossed out. Some were deceased. Some had simply faded away. But two or three pages from the back, amongst lists of radio frequencies and call signs stood the name Clem Bridges.
Who the hell is Clem Bridges? he asked himself. Not a clue. He considered tossing the book, but a small voice in his head told him otherwise. So he returned it to the bookshelf. But out of sight was not out of mind.
He and Mr. Black were having lunch when he remember Clem was an old guy at Humbug Mountain Inn.
But when was that? Maybe1960. He wasn’t sure. He and Barb were still dating from afar. He at Beale AFB, California and she at home in a small fishing village on the Oregon Coast.
He taken a ten-day Leave and driven to Oregon to spend time with her. Toward the end of their holiday she had to return to her job. Rather than wait around, he decided to head back, taking an extra day along US 101 and tour the Redwood on the way.
It was a few minutes past noon when he ascended Humbug Mountain, so he decided to have lunch at the Humbug Mountain Inn and enjoy the Pacific view.
He was nearly finished with his meal when an elderly gentleman in suit and tie stopped at his table. “May I join you?” the old man had asked. Zeke was taken aback by the request. There were other vacant tables. Why had he chosen this one? What the hell. “By all means.”
Zeke soon learned this was Clem Bridges, the owner. Clem went on to explain that he’d grown up on this mountain summit before US 101 had become an idea. It was a trail for mule trains. This section, Zeke learned, extended between Newport, Oregon and Crescent City, California. His father owned and operated a relay station on this spot. It was a place for the skinners to find fresh mules, spend the night.
Then, about 1910 a road project was founded. Steam shovels began at both ends, digging the right-of-way. But he only remembered the building of the road over Humbug Mountain. They began from the north, cutters and mule skinners supplying wood while others provided water for the steam engine from Pistol River.
This conversation had occurred a long time ago. Sitting in his one room apartment, Zeke tried to recall Bridge’s features, but the years dimmed his memory. He could see only his white hair and beard. What he remembered most was his departure. Leaving the restaurant he walking to the edge of the parking lot and peered the three hundred feet down to the ocean. He could almost see the steam shovel anchored to the cliff by cables lashed to stumps while the fearless operator swung his bucket outward with extra force, hurling dirt and rocks cascading toward the surf.
Time marches on, Zeke said aloud, realizing he is now probably older than Clem was that day and had far fewer stories to tell.