THE DENIZEN OF TUMBLE HILLS

Once there was a Sasquatch who lived in Tumble Hills. Where he came from no one knew, not even himself. Most people didn't believe he really existed at all. Had he known about this he would have been glad that they didn't know, or they would have begun organized searches to find him, for putting in a zoo. As it was, he didn't care to meet them and they didn't really know about him, which was much the best way ... until one day, well, after all, when you stand six feet eight and weigh 600 lbs. with feet the size of dinner plates - it's rather hard to be a will o'the wisp all the time even in the dark forest. And so it was with Oomgar.

On that fateful day a father and small boy



and his even smaller sister



entered the forest. As to the small boy's name - you see he had a bad habit of boring into everything that interested him, so that was why, although it's a strange reason and although his real name was Waverley, but that was far too long, he came to be called Weevil.

The real name of Felicity, his sister, was Joanne but you see she sometimes sang just a little bit off key and got the words mixed up - because she was very small - so her mother Nancy and her father John called her Felicity.

As I was saying, Weevil and Felicity and their father John were now in the forest. Mother Nancy had sent them off because it was a nice day and she had things to do in the house and things to do in the garden and Weevil had asked so many questions and Felicity had sung off key so much, well, we all know how it is with mothers and fathers, don't we?

They had all three travelled for miles over trails that twisted and turned, while Weevil was busy darting off in one direction after another, looking behind trees to see what was there. And then it happened. There was Weevil at least 50 yards away into the forest, and his father calling "Come back here this minute Weevil" with Felicity sniffing wild flowers and watching in amazement a may fly in the clearing, as it moved gracefully trailing its enormously long twin tails. But Weevil had seen ahead of him in a low wet patch a sort of footprint, if that was really what it was. Her stood astounded, head down, peering at it. Gingerly he stepped into it, with both feet, and put his hands down to touch it. There was still lots of room for more hands and feet, if he'd had them. "Where are you Weevil?" a voice floated to him through the dark, red-glinting forest air. Weevil crouched and stared. "What is that?" he muttered, out of character. Felicity waved her hand pointing past the mayfly, "Over there" she called to John who was looking this way and that for his errant son.

"I think", said Weevil, talking to the footprint, "you must belong to an elephant that never was, in this wide green forest." But Oomgar was sitting, hunched up against a tree not fifty feet away, all dark brown, like the tree trunk. He had stopped eating the thimbleberries in his left hand, where he was collecting them one by one



so that he could have one nice, large, squashy mouthful.

He had heard the sound and sniffed on the faint breeze the scent of the human family far off, but wise and clever though he was, he had stayed to pick just one more berry, and then another, and then another, for that big mouthful, when, sitting down to watch them wander aimlessly by, Weevil had darted closer. Although Oomgar never put his feet in wet patches to leave tracks, just as his parents taught him, he had reached for one more handful of berries, and then there was a footprint. The blue jays had called to let all the forest dwellers know that people were coming, but for once Oomgar had not heeded them or his own instinct, After all, he himself was not a very old Sasquatch.

The sunlight sifted gently through the glades and corridors of trees, soundlessly in the quietness of the late afternoon. The birds had stopped calling, the squirrels did not chatter, even the wind had dropped. All the wildlife was still there, of course, but silently waiting to see what would happen next.

Weevil heard his father and sister, but faintly, as if in another world. "I wonder" he thought to himself. "If there's another footprint over there" ... He stepped out of the one he was in, forward into the forest again, looking down intently, not even picking the berries as her went. "Or there" he thought, and off he went again, further still into the forest, "or there", and he thought he saw a faint imprint this time.

By now he was twenty paces from Oomgar ... ten paces ... and then, there they were, face to face. Oomgar, dark brown, covered in hair, sitting back against a tree with his mouth full of thimble berries, and Weevil standing, hunting for footprints, looking up towards the head of the young Sasquatch right there in front of him. "Weevil, come back" a voice faintly wafted towards them through the warm summer air, but Weevil and Oomgar could have been on another planet for all they heard of it that day.

"Well," said Weevil finally (for he was a brave little boy despite his pernicious inquisitive habits), "and who are you?"

Oomgar stared at him speechlessly, partly in frustration at having a small boy find him so easily, partly because he spoke a different language.

"Atch," he said in a deep but kindly voice. This was much simpler than "Who are you?" though it really meant the same thing. He could not help smiling at this ridiculously small person, almost a plaything, or a toy.

"Um," he said, holding out his right hand, the one without the berries in it. "Um" meant hello, and Weevil knew because he smiled and said "Hi" and held out his hand. Now Oomgar's hand was at the end of a long arm which hung down almost to his knee when he walked, and Weevil didn't need to come any closer for Oomgar to reach him. Weevil's hand was lost in the great hair-backed hand of Oomgar, although it only had four fingers, one very like an opposable thumb, instead of five, and he could still pick berries very well, thank you!

The distant calling had quite gone away now and in any case Weevil was much too busy studying Oomgar to notice anything else. Oomgar held out his other hand and opened it up. There were two berries left in it which had escaped his last mouthful.

"Thanks," said Weevil, picking the one which was less squashed, and politely leaving the other one for his host.

"Lah," said Oomgar, meaning "thank you too," and quietly pushed the lone berry into his mouth with his free left hand. They still held hands and warm and friendly feelings ran up and down their arms.

"Where do you live?" asked Weevil, now pulling at Oomgar's arm. Oomgar slowly uncurled himself and rose to his full height. His small friend was so far below him

now that they could hardly reach one another, despite his long arms, so he let go and started picking berries again. But Weevil didn't come by his nickname for no reason.

"Well," he said, "if you can't tell me where you live, what do you do? You can't just pick berries all day, can you?" he said, looking at Oomgar's great size. "Do you live in a house?" but Oomgar just kept finding and collecting thimbleberries in his left hand ready for the next juicy mouthful. "Well, if not a house," said Weevil, "do you make one out of tree branches and things?"

Oomgar grunted "uh" just as Weevil's father did when questioned, but Oomgar was thinking: "What do I do now with this fascinating small person, the like of which I have never seen before. If I take him with me, he may lead others to me who will look for him as we do in Sasquatchland. If I run away, he may be lost and not find his way back to where he came from." He could of course hear Felicity and her father searching and calling far away in the distance now, although Weevil could not.

They shared the next handful of Oomgar's berries, because Oomgar saw them so much more quickly, could reach further and didn't mind the thorns catching in the hair on his arms, while Weevilo picked berries slowly because he asked so many questions: "Where do you go in the winter? Do you have a family? Why don't you wear any clothes? What else do you eat? Why don't you have five toes and five fingers?" And so on he went, questioning. Oomgar stopped picking berries, for now he had thought of a plan. He reached down, scooped up Weevil and carried him aloft with both huge hands, perching Weevil firmly on his broad shoulders.

"Hey," said Weevil, squirming a little at first , "What did you do that for?" and he felt just a little scared of the great size and strength of his giant friend. But Oomgar began strolling off quietly between the tall trees. Now in, now out of the slanting sunlight they went, and Weevil had a wonderful view so far off the ground. Oomgar as usual was careful where he trod and there were no more footprints left behind him.

"Where are we going?" asked Weevil, and Oomgar seemed to guess the question because he said "Aah" which in Sasquatch means "home." So they walked past the tamaracks and cedars and hard maples, striped maples and silver birches and yellow birches , ironwood and black cherry, aspens and white pine, white oak and red oak, deeper and deeper into the wild forest. There were tall rocks and short rocks, black rocks and grey rocks and green-with-lichen rocks and here and there a small stream wandered by. The bush was alive with the birds and squirrels, marten and woodchuck, chipmunk and raccoon going about their business again, making criss-crossing sounds through the air as they went. Weevil was amazed. He had never seen so many wild birds and animals before as none of them feared the Susquatch. He almost forgot to ask questions such as: what bird is this? Who is that? Where are we going now? and so on.

At last they came to a large mound of rock and Oomgar climbed easily up part of it to a hanging ledge. At the end was a cleft in the rock face but so similar were the sides that the opening could not be seen easily from the ground, and even Weevil had not spotted it. A sharp turn right, out of sight now from the ground, brought them to an entrance into the rock and here Oomgar let Weevil gently down to the ground. "Thanks, that was great," he said and peered inquisitively into the cave ahead. "What's in there?" he asked. "Do you live there? Are we going in?" Weevil was almost inside before Oomgar, and he found it cool but dry with soft pine needles to sit on and walk on and smelling of cedar and cinnamon. "Where did you get cinnamon?" he asked, but he never did find out about that. "You haven't got any furniture, have you?" he said "but it's nice isn't it?" Gradually he made out, in the dimmer light at the back of the cave, further recesses and thought he could hear far-off sounds much like those that Oomgar had made. And he was quite right, because the rest of Oomgar's family and his parents were right there, back out of sight deeper into the cave.

"Why didn't I bring a flashlight?" mused Weevil as he looked around, restless to explore the back of the cave from beyond where the sounds came. "Don't you have a fire?" asked Weevil, "Howe do you cook your food?" But Oomgar, even if he had understood, was lost in contemplation of his small charge and was working out the rest of his plan. Weevil found some drawings on the rock face on one side of the cave



"Did you draw these?" he asked, but Oomgar was already calling to him because it was time to go. The sun was going down now with a red and golden glow from the skyline to the tree tops over the forest.

"Mm" said Oomgar, uncoiling himself a second time and moving outside the cave again. Weevil followed. "Where to now?" He was ready this time for a lift up to Oomgar's shoulder, and away they went down the rock face in great style. The shadows lengthened and the evening birds, the loons and whippoorwills, began calling. Small mice began rustling under the fallen leaves and the first barred owl hoots were heard. Overhead a hawk cried and then came plummeting down, pulling up again with a great whistling of wings. Not far ahead a blue heron rose slowly from the water and flapped its wide, wide wings four or five times to cross the small lake to its night resting place.

Still Oomgar strode on with Weevil peering this way and that, full of questions. Oomgar, hearing all the familiar sounds around him, and undistracted by Weevil's inquiries, heard, coming closer and closer though still far off, the anxious and near frantic calls of Felicity and her father John. Soon Oomgar with Weevil reached the footprint so unintentionally made and Weevil found himself set down on the ground by the great Sasquatch who without another word rubbed his hand for a moment on top of Weevil's head and then turned and vanished silently into the bush by the track.

At once Weevil began calling out for his father and Felicity because the forest seemed much darker now in the fading light, with himself alone. He ran in the direction he was facing, calling aloud and wondering if the track was familiar and seeing human footprints here and there ahead of him on the way. Soon he thought he heard voices calling, stopped, and heard them for sure. Within five minutes he saw his father ahead down the trail and ran calling in the dusk with all his might. It was a happy and thankful reunion, and Weevil at once began to relate the whole story, convinced he would now be a hero at home and at school.

His sister looked at him witheringly. "Well," she said, "just because you got lost for so long you don't have to make up all that." His father said "If we had been in Western Canada, at Prince Rupert or the Rockies, then that might be different, son." Weevil was almost in tears. He told them both the whole story again; about finding the footprint, the Sasquatch, eating the berries together, the trip to the cave, hearing the others, and the trip back to the trail again. "You do believe me. Dad, don't you?" pleaded Weevil. John put his hand gently on Weevil's shoulder.

"Well, son," said his father, "let's be going home."

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