Two Trees and a Boulder

Two Trees and a Boulder

A Story by drcornelius
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Short story about three friends during the depression

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Uncle John had two close friends. You don’t need more than two if they are the right two. Fred and Willie were the right two. The brothers lived next door and had grown up with John; same schools, same friends, same heroes. About the only thing they never shared was girlfriends. The friendship came to an abrupt end after twenty-one years.


The three boys were about twenty years old, give or take a year, just as the Great Depression hit. The whole country was fresh out of jobs... fresh out of money... and fresh out of dreams. Uncle John never had another dream after he turned twenty. It’s not as though life came to an end. It’s just that life wasn’t like the boys thought it was going to be. They had envisioned good paying jobs and all that meant; their own cars, their own apartments. In short, independence. Instead they were living at home with their respective parents and driving Fred and Willie’s dad’s car, a 1927 Ford Model A roadster.


The boys weren’t destitute but money was tight. Fred, Willie, and John pooled their meager funds to purchase an old buzz saw that could be powered off the axle of the Model A. They collected driftwood along the shores of Lake Michigan and pilfered fallen trees from the nearby woodlands to cut up into firewood which they then sold. Depression or not, people still had to have something to burn in their furnaces. Most of the money they earned went to help support their moms, dads, brothers, and sisters. Not much left for non-essentials.


John blamed everything bad that happened after 1929 on the Great Depression. No matter whether it was Willie losing a thumb to the buzzsaw or his dad losing his job or John losing the love of his life, John blamed all of it on the Great Depression. It was in 1931, during that Great Depression that John lost the first of his great toes.


The boys did have their fun. You can only go so far in life feeling “hard put upon”. Even though Prohibition was still in effect, the boys knew where to get some alcohol they referred to as “joy juice”. There was a regular supply on the boat from Chicago that anchored about a quarter of a mile offshore from Grand Haven. They would drive to the shore where a guy in a rowboat would take them out to the larger boat. The stuff was barely drinkable but it did manage to help them temporarily let go of their cares.


There were other harmless diversions as well. They still played their weekly games of poker, with lower stakes of course. There were still dances to go to and girlfriends to hold. Shooting rabbits and pheasants provided both diversion and meat for the table. They lived in West Michigan with its abundance of lakes and fish.

The boys decided one night to go skinny-dipping in one of those lakes. Now, skinny-dipping, in itself, was not a bad idea as a depression era diversion for some guys with too much time on their hands and no money. What made it a bad idea that night was the confluence of four phenomena.


They had been enthusiastically partaking of the refreshments from Chicago. The location was not Florida, it was Michigan. The date was February third. Finally, it was thirteen degrees fahrenheit. 


It had snowed that day.The moon was nearly full causing the fresh snow to sparkle and brightly illuminate the spruce trees across the lake. A slight breeze was rattling the few oak leaves that were still attached to their moorings. Actually, it was a beautiful night, in general, to enjoy the out-of-doors.


Going skinny dipping, or any kind of dipping for that matter, in Michigan during the winter is a somewhat complicated endeavor. John and his friends parked the Model A Ford roadster on the gently sloping bank. They used a rock, kicked loose from the frozen ground, to chock the front wheels. The pulled the four-foot long ice spud out of the trunk and went to work chopping a dipping-hole through the six-inch thick ice.  


The hole needed to be at least four feet square and they would have to cut the nearly five hundred pound block of ice into four pieces to get it out of the hole. Despite the cold, they were sweating by the time they finished chopping the hole and dropping the plug. It was a difficult process involving drinking, chopping, laughing, drinking, falling down, getting up, drinking some more and so on.


When the hole was finished and the clothes were stripped off and thrown in the back of the Model A, the three friends jumped into the freezing water. Oh My God! Water Freezing! Breath Stolen! Genitals Disappeared! After about thirty seconds of this foolishness, Fred and Willie jumped out of the lake, ran up the bank, got in the car and sped off. John was just as drunk as his friends but not so drunk as to be unconscious. He could still calculate that he would be in some major sort of trouble if his friends failed to return in a timely manner.


The lake was about twenty miles from where John lived but only about a half-mile from Wilma’s house-trailer. Wilma was a former girlfriend. The reason she wasn’t a current girlfriend was because she tired of the childish antics of John and his drunken friends. Their relationship ended the night John and his friends burned down her back shed trying to distill a slurry of ground up potatoes into a drinkable form of alcohol.  Anyway, John started walking towards Wilma’s house-trailer. Now, a half-mile doesn’t sound like such a long walk but when you’ve already frozen your a*s off in the lake, you’re buck naked, and it’s only thirteen degrees, a half-mile can seem like an endless journey.


By the time John arrived at Wilma’s place he was no longer capable of rational, or any other kind of thought. His body was focused on survival and nothing else.  Wilma wasn’t entirely surprised to see John at her door naked and freezing in the middle of the night. The instant she opened the door he collapsed his naked body into her arms. Her arms were held out, not in welcome, but to fend him off. But, since he was half dead from the cold, she let him in, stripped off her clothes, and jumped in bed with him to help raise his body temperature. She spooned him tightly with the intent to have as much warm skin contact as humanly possible.  The combination of the alcohol, the shivering of his body, and the delirious state of his mind made John oblivious to the naked potential lying next to him under the blankets.  If he could have formed a coherent thought, it might have been of sex but thinking was way outside of his capability matrix at that point.


John lost one great toe to frostbite in this misadventure. Of course, he blamed it all on the Great Depression. If it wasn’t for that Depression he would have had a job and would have been at home asleep that night instead of being drunk and stupid.


As it turned out though, John was very lucky. His friends, on the way back home from the lake, bounced the car, going just shy of sixty miles an hour, off two trees and one very large boulder. It was never determined whether the cause was a patch of ice, mechanical failure or operator error but Fred and Willie were both killed. It’s not that they had abandoned John on purpose. It’s just that they were so drunk they couldn’t remember how many had been in the car at the beginning of the trip. In other words, they simply forgot about John back at the lake. That was the irrevocable end of the friendship of twenty or so years.


John loved telling this story, about how he lost his first great toe in 1931 during the Great-Depression. He lost his second great toe to diabetes just a few years ago. He doesn’t like to talk about that very much. 

© 2018 drcornelius


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Featured Review

Ha! It's easy to understand why the first story of losing a toe is the preferable one to tell. This is quite a story, I must say. Yep, we sure can't do stupid things while drunk. (During my 20 years of Navy life, I must've drank two or three swimming pools full of beer, and boy, did I do stupid stuff) Another excellent tale, very well written.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

drcornelius

1 Year Ago

Thank you kindly Mr. Dickens.



Reviews

I really enjoyed reading this Cornelius. Great story about a very sad period in recent history. You have great skill in bringing your characters to life in a believable way. John in the end got off lightly minus a toe in view of what happened to the others. You can't beat stories from life as inspiration for writing.
Cheers.
Alan

Posted 1 Year Ago


This is such a nice story. It's quite enjoyable.

Posted 1 Year Ago


what a great story) so nice and attractive)

Posted 1 Year Ago


Funny and too believable to put in the fiction department. "Well you see it was the depression" was the mantra of my grandparents so I have a buy in right away. Hard to conceive of that icy dip, but I'm from Alabama not Michigan.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

drcornelius

1 Year Ago

Cold winters are too long to just tolerate so you have to find ways of giving it the finger. Thanks.. read more
Lol...that was great. I guess luck or whatever you want to call it is all in the timing and the eye of the beholder. Loved this tale!!! Felt like I was thee, but thank goodness I wasn't! Great job!

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

drcornelius

1 Year Ago

Thanks for the feedback. Glad you enjoyed it. Yes, luck is an elusive mistress.
This is a mesmerizing story that held onto all my toes all the way thru. You describe Great Depression era details like you lived thru it & your details match the dire stories my dad told. Your storytelling is so well-done, I didn’t even notice the mechanics of your writing, but it must’ve been good, too, cuz everything reads smoothly. I’ve been involved in similar shenanigans, altho in a much warmer climate. Having so little to do in the country, we often would drink & drive (before it was the huge taboo it is now). A slew of high school friends hit the early demise becuz of this boredom-relieving endeavor. I was lucky to have had so many similar memories, but without any of the dire consequences. Thanks for sharing (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

drcornelius

1 Year Ago

Thanks Margie. I was born at the very end of the depression (1940). It was still very much present.. read more
Ha! It's easy to understand why the first story of losing a toe is the preferable one to tell. This is quite a story, I must say. Yep, we sure can't do stupid things while drunk. (During my 20 years of Navy life, I must've drank two or three swimming pools full of beer, and boy, did I do stupid stuff) Another excellent tale, very well written.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

drcornelius

1 Year Ago

Thank you kindly Mr. Dickens.

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Added on May 17, 2018
Last Updated on May 17, 2018
Tags: depression era

Author

drcornelius
drcornelius

Sarasota, FL



About
Poet, song writer, dream chaser, and retired psychologist. I thrive in the mountains of northern New Jersey during the summer and Sarasota Florida during the winter. more..

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