"Hot dogs and Rhododendrons"
First of all, I would like to thank Billybuc this opportunity to be a part of the "highly-coveted Billybuc Fiction Writing Contest". Being a rookie to fiction writing, it usually takes a challenge from someone else to motivate me to actually attempt it. So thank you Mr. Holland for the motivation.
Secondly, I think this story may not make any sense to anyone else if you don't actually read "SAM'S LEGACY" the example story that billy used to get us all off on the "write" start (pun intened).
Anyway, here it is, I actually had fun with this, because I did a little research on that area of our country and the history before I jumped in. So, it anything, I came away a little more informed.
The Fragrance of Rhododendrons
As I entered the front doors of the old funeral home, I could smell a boutique of Rhododendrons setting next to the casket of my grandfather. It was a unique, fresh, robust odor. An odor that would prompt me to reflect back to a time that seemed like yesterday. To be more specific, to a particular summer day when I was just a child.
I can still clearly recall that day, as I stood on the sidewalk in front of my childhood home, with a lump in my throat was the size of an apple, fighting back the tears. That old house that my grandfather grew up in some 60 years ago prior, was about to perish forever. In just a few weeks, that house and town that I grew up in would soon be under a large body of water, for the newly built Grand Coulee Dam was soon to be finished, which would change my life forever.
I could still, vividly hear my father in the old shed behind the house, shuffling his way through a small path, cluttered with boxes, tools and what-not, to make his way to the back of it, where my grandfather’s old Model T ford was parked. That is where he kept all of our fishing gear. Getting the last of everything we would need to set off for what would be our final weekend of salmon fishing down on the Colville River.
There were only a handful of towns folk left in the town of Meyers Falls, once the home of nearly 2,000 people. It was a thriving community, home to many loggers and businessmen. There were a number of saw mills and grist mills all around this area. There were plenty of fine homes, schools, churches and even a very beautifully built library. My grandfather and grandmother even owned a general store there. But on this day, the vast majority of them were closed, boarded up, and the most of the towns folk have packed and relocated to a nearby area on higher ground that would soon be called Kettle Falls. Sadly, it would soon be as if this town never existed.
My father was once the owner of the well-known and prestigious Rochester Hotel. One of the finest places to stay in the area. Unfortunately, it had already been demolished. Due to loss of business in the preparation of the new dam, it was one of the first to go. My father was a proud and wise man. Though we had lost the business, he managed to invest his money wisely, that allowed us to muster out those hard times and even endure, at least better than most of the folks.
For now, all that he cared about getting my grandfather and myself into ‘old bleu’, his 37 Ford pickup truck, load up our gear and head west on the San Poils highway to the old rail road crossing, where we would hike another 30 minutes to the south to fine our little slice of heaven, we called Shwan-ate-koo.
I spent many wonderful weekends down there. My grandfather and grandmother had built a tiny, but very cozy log cabin right on the bank that overlooked the Colville River. To stand on its front porch, you was blessed to have a tremendous view of the surrounding mountains that would take your breath away every time you gazed across the horizon. The roar of the rivers water flowing steadilly by was a soothing sound that always made me happy. Happy, in a way that I could never quite fully explain with words, but one had to merely experience it first hand to truly comprehend it. There were simply so many sights and sounds from those days, which will always be embedded into my mind. Even the fragrance of Rhododendrons, that grew wild all along the banks of this river during those summer months that still to this day, sparks memories of my youth and days like that I spent fishing for salmon with my father and grandfather. Even days like this, where my dear old grandfather laid at rest, with those beautiful Rhododendrons perched all around his hickory casket, brings me back to those days with the very fragrance that dominated the countryside. It always makes me smile with images of my dad and grandfather fishing along the river.
After a short service, I walked through the town toward the graveyard just a few blocks away. The annual apple fest was underway, with the smell of hot dogs and cotton candy roaming through the air, I made my way by, looking at all of store fronts and quaint houses that lined the streets. As I approached the graveside, just as they lowered him in his resting place. I stood quietly. I waited until everyone had left, and kneeled down next to that headstone that was next to my fathers (who had passed just a couple years prior). There was an old granite tombstone nearly five feet tall that boldly imprinted the names of my grandmother and grandfather, Sam and Delores Conrad. I wonder just what a wonderful story they had together, one that must be told one day.