Stories & Tales

When it Rains

April 19, 2016
A girl sits in front of a camp fire

Camp storyteller Chuck Stead spins us a tale of April showers

When it rains, the mountain above the village drinks up as much as it can and then lets go of the rest, which runs down in little streams and courses through the village streets. Leaves and old, half-eaten acorns and bits of unknown things sail along these little streams and are then strewn all across Mountain Avenue. Walking in the last of an April shower, we kids study the mountain debris that has come down. I found a piece of a dollar bill. Ricky Cramshaw found two pieces of crayon, a silver one and one that looked like olive green. Dougy found a small, caramel-colored bit of glass and we wondered if it was from a beer bottle or a soda bottle. Cindy Maloney laughed at us in the final sprinkling of rain up on Mountain Avenue.

She said, “Everything you found is people stuff! It all washes down off the mountain and it’s people stuff, not mountain stuff. How can that be?”

Ricky said to her, “Must be from the Motel!”

And yes, it was well known that atop of the little mountain overlooking our village was a place called the Motel on the Mountain. Folks used to come from far and wide to stay there, but the directions said it was in Suffern, not Hillburn. We guessed that when they wrote the directions they figured Suffern was bigger and therefore Suffern got the credit. Truth was we were happy to give Suffern the credit, as we never liked having the motel on top of our mountain. Folks would drive into the village and ask a local how to get up to the Motel on the Mountain. They would point at the motel that was up there and say, “Excuse me, how do I get up there?”

The local would ask, “Well, where is it you want to go?”

“Up there to that motel!” the lost traveler would insist.

The local would say, “Well, what town is that motel in?”

The frustrated traveler would say, “Suffern! It’s in Suffern!”

And then the local would direct the traveler back out of the village and over to Suffern which was further away from the motel.

So it wasn’t unusual for us kids to find things and assume that the ‘people stuff’ sort of things washed down from the motel. Cindy bent over and picked up a delicate little skull, it looked like a mouse skull, the bottom jaw was missing. She said, “Now here’s something that didn’t come down from the motel. This little mouse probably lived right up there under that old tree stump.”

“Or maybe…” Dougy suggested, “…that little mouse did live at the motel and lost his head until the rain brought it down here?”

She didn’t agree. “No”, she said, “this is part of nature and that stuff you guys found is just a bunch of garbage.”

So we were about to throw it all away when Dougy squealed that he wanted our finds. He took the tiny bit of a dollar bill, the two bits of crayons and his own bit of colored glass and held onto to them.

Ricky said, “And what are you going to do with it all?”

Dougy had no idea but he said he didn’t like things being thrown away.

Old postcard of the Motel on the Mountain
Old postcard of the Motel on the Mountain

The rain had pretty much let up and now some sunlight streaked through the scattered clouds. We four started walking in the direction of the river and as we came around to the corner of Fourth Street and Lake Road a big, red Ford sedan pulled up and a man in a white hat called to us.

“Hey you kids…” he said, “…how do I get up to the motel?”

We approached his car and I saw that his license plate was from Florida. I was about to tell him to go to Suffern when Dougy said, “You drive out that way on Mountain Avenue, then turn on Sixth Street and then make another turn to the highway called 17, then you follow that to the motel road, its up the back of this mountain here.”

It was all very well worked out and we were surprised that he told the man the right directions. The man looked a bit doubtful about this so he looked at us all and said, “Is that right?”

We agreed and the man shrugged, but before he left Dougy said, “Wait!”

The man looked at Doug, who then walked up to him and handed him our bits of junk. The man stared at the torn dollar, the crayon bits and the tiny glass fragment in his open hand and he said, “What’s this?”

Dougy said, “You got to bring this back to the motel where it belongs.”

The man stared at Dougy, who looked very serious about this, so the man agreed and took the bits of junk with him. As he drove away I noticed Cindy quietly putting the little mouse skull into a patch of wet grass just off the road.

Yes, when the rain comes in spring things start to happen.