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Flash Fiction: A mountain man comes home - Bill's Challenge

Updated on September 1, 2016

Response to Bill Holland's challenge

This piece of flash fiction is my contribution to Bill Holland's challenge to write from photos he provided, including a mountain, barn, old train, and cemetery. He also specified that the word "mountain" be included in the title.

I'm not really good at writing from photos. I took one look at that combination and said, "No Way! I see no association of these photos," but then my muse kicked me in the butt and the idea took on a life of its own.

This mountain is a little taller than the one in my story.
This mountain is a little taller than the one in my story.

The shiny diesel zoomed its way along the tracks through the valleys, and then it made its way more slowly through the winding rails around the mountains. The train passed a series of little towns and wide spots in the road as it cut through the mist that kissed the mountain’s face. Aboard the train was Davy coming home at last to his little community near the top. Davy had been one of the nearly 400 American soldiers who gave their lives to liberate Belgium in 1918 in the Great War.

Davy had lain somewhere in Flanders Fields where the poppies blow beneath the crosses row on row, but he did not lie beneath a cross. He died, a victim of deadly gas, lost somewhere in the muck of war. Location unknown, maybe a poppy marked his spot.

Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields


By Lt. Col. John McCrae

Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915
during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium

Poppies in Flanders Fields

Source

Before 20-year-old Davy enlisted in the Army, he was the pride of Mountainberg. While not of great stature, he was one of the best guards the Mountainberg Cougars basketball team ever had. And being a mountain man, he was a crack shot with a rifle. When a squirrel was so high in a tree that most people had trouble seeing it, Davy could put a bullet right through its eyes. Many times as he left to go hunting, Mama warned him, “Don’t shoot those squirrels in the head, you know your daddy loves the brains.”

The U.S. Army was glad to get such a skilled sharp shooter. At the train station, he gave his mama and papa a quick hug and kiss, but his lips lingered on those of Betty, his high school sweetheart. “Now, you wait for me, Betty, ya hear. Won’t be long, only a year,” he said, as he boarded the old steam train that would take him down the mountain to the army. They planned to be married as soon as he returned from the war.

Then the bad news came that his whole platoon had been the victim of a German gas attack in Belgium, and that he was listed as MIA. “How cowardly! Mustard gas, what a dishonor to our family!” his grieving father had exclaimed. His mother was never the same, and everyone believed that she died of a broken heart from not knowing where her son was. Betty finally gave him up for dead and married his younger brother, Pete.

A farmer plowing north of his barn

Then nearly 50 years later outside Salient one spring day, a farmer was plowing a field just north of his barn and unearthed some human remains. Around the neck was a chain with a rusted old dog tag, but Davy’s name, rank and serial number were legible. Just barely. The farmer contacted the authorities, and the wheels started turning for Davy’s return to his family in the U.S.A.

By that time, both of Davy’s parents had gone on to their heavenly rewards, but Pete was beside himself with joy that his elder brother had been found. Pete had regretted being too young to go to war and wished that he had been the one to die, but today he was elated to be alive. He was finally going to put Davey to rest in the family cemetery just on the outskirts of the little town. The monument was already in place in anticipation of Davy’s return.

Davy was to be buried next to him Mama and Daddy in the old family cemetery.
Davy was to be buried next to him Mama and Daddy in the old family cemetery.

Nearly every able-bodied person in the little town of 259 persons eagerly awaited the arrival of the 12 noon Rock Island that day. They heard its whistle blowing at the crossing of highway 71, only two miles away. Heads turned in the direction of the noise, then hundreds of eyes watched as the train rumbled up the hill. It slowed as it passed the rusty abandoned old steam train that had carried Davy to war and approached the station. Brakes screeched and it came to a halt.

The old train that carried him away

Davy’s coffin, draped in a United States flag, was unloaded. The mayor spoke a welcome for the town’s long lost son. The local high school band played and a parade stood by to escort Davy to his final resting place in the cemetery. Flags waved and the crowd cheered their hero. Pete and Betty hugged each other and cried.

Davy was home at last.

rock Island Line - Lonnie Donegan

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    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 10 months ago

      Thank you, Springboard, for reading and your much appreciated comment.

    • Springboard profile image

      Springboard 10 months ago from Wisconsin

      Wow. I sometimes get into these expecting half dribble. This one was a very well done piece worth sharing. Nicely done.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 11 months ago

      Thanks for your thoughts, Missy. This election really is a lot to chew, and it seems that the confusion is just getting worse. I'nm afraid we've made a bad mistake. I'm glad that you enjoyed my story. I grew up listening to war stories of my Dad's, uncle's and one cousin. My uncle watched the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from a ship in the Pacific. I was surprised when he finally told me about it because he was in the Coast Guard. Glad you stopped by.

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 11 months ago from Florida

      I have really enjoyed reading several of these stories from Bill's challenge. They have been so good; heartfelt stories that make you feel like you know the characters in the story personally. Your story in-particular, gives me a sense of the devastation of war and why I have always been against it. I mean, I know our duties as Americans is to help out in other lands and also fight for our freedoms here, but sometimes it has seemed quite a senseless road to embark on. And now...we have a war brewing in our own backyards with this latest election. Our reputation for peace, freedom, and all who shall be created equal is just not preceding us at this time. What will happen is inevitably, to me, another major senseless war, and not only here among ourselves, but with other countries who we will offend with the new President who we elected to keep peaceful unions with them. I'm sad about that, but I am happy to read this story of yours! It was wonderful, MizB! :)

    • MizBejabbers profile image
      Author

      MizBejabbers 11 months ago

      Thanks, Nadine for your insightful comment. I remember a story when I was a kid about an MIA in the war (WWII, Korean, not sure) in which the man was declared dead. He came home to find his wife remarried. She divorced her 2nd husband and went back to him. Then that didn't last but a couple of years. It was really a sad story.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 11 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Wow fantastic and very well written with a good ending. Yes Davy died but it would have been horrible if he came home years later as a broken man finding his parents gone and his sweetheart married.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
      Author

      MizBejabbers 12 months ago

      Thanks, Audrey, I've discovered that I love writing flash fiction. You'll get your wish. I am touched by your comment.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 12 months ago from California

      So well done! I am so touched by this story! Would love to see more flash fiction from you!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
      Author

      MizBejabbers 12 months ago

      Thank you, Lawrence. I had hoped that everyone would enjoy it. I appreciate your comment.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 12 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      MzB

      This was an awesome response to the challenge.

      I think everyone could relate to the story.

      Lawrence

    • MizBejabbers profile image
      Author

      MizBejabbers 12 months ago

      I'm so sorry about your uncle, Nell. I know that Britain was hard hit, so were your parents civilian or military? My dad and his youngest brother were in the Pacific Theater, and they made it out alive. A cousin was 18, so he went into the Coast Guard. On my mom's side, a younger sister was in the U.S. WAVES. So I heard a lot of war stories growing up. I didn't have any family in WWI, so I don't know why I wrote about it. Thank you for reading and your interesting comment.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 12 months ago from England

      Oh Wow! what an amazing and poignant story. I always find war stories fascinating as my mum and dad were in the second world war, and we lost an uncle in bomber command.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
      Author

      MizBejabbers 13 months ago

      Stella, thank you for reading and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I've heard some people describe my son as "the best guitar player in Little Rock," so I don't know why he didn't play in a band. He was in one about 25 years ago, but he got married and that ended that. We have most of his guitars, including a Fender acoustic and a beautiful red Fender Stratocaster. I get sad every time I look at those guitars, especially if my husband picks one up and plays it. He inherited his talent from my mom's dad, an old-time Ozark musician, and he took classical guitar in college. Just wanted you to know that you have that in common with him.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 13 months ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      I love war stories, and this was a good one. Sorry to hear of your son, God Bless and keep you.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
      Author

      MizBejabbers 13 months ago

      Vespa, I appreciate the comment. I love doing flash fiction.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 13 months ago from Peru, South America

      You rose to the challenge! Your tale kept my attention and is well-written and concise. Very interesting!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 13 months ago

      Thank you, Chitrangada, for such a wonderful reply, and thank you for the condolences. Friends such as you on HP give me the courage to take up challenges.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 13 months ago from New Delhi, India

      A very powerful and inspiring story in response to billybuc's challenge! So far I haven't come across something like this in response. This sounds very close to reality.

      Very sorry to learn about your son --It is a great loss and no words can comfort this. Be strong and may God give you enough strength to deal with this.

      Congratulations for taking up the challenge and you did exceptionally well ! Thank you!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
      Author

      MizBejabbers 13 months ago

      Shauna, I tried, anyway. Thank you so much for your comment.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 13 months ago from Central Florida

      MizB, I'm so glad you took Bill up on the challenge. Never underestimate yourself. You did a fine job of putting a story to the photos!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
      Author

      MizBejabbers 13 months ago

      Thank you, Faith, this is a sad time for us. I'm sorry about the loss of your dad at so early an age. My husband was an aircraft mechanic for planes flying Agent Orange to Vietnam. He has ischemic heart disease and arthritis from Agent Orange exposure from cleaning the tanks on the planes, but the govt. claims he wasn't exposed.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 13 months ago

      Thank you, Flourish, that is such a nice comment. I've never had an MIA in the family, but I know that it must be heart-breaking. I can't stand it when a pet disappears. I wonder about family "second-choice" marriages, too.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 13 months ago from southern USA

      Dear MizB,

      I'm so sorry to hear of your great loss. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

      My dad was in Korea and Viet Nam. He died at an early age of 60. He had Agent Orange and other health concerns. My mother lived to be 84.

      Peace and Hugs

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 13 months ago from USA

      So well-written right down to the details of the squirrel (poor thing) and the dog tags. One of the saddest thing ever is to have a loved one who is missing and presumed dead but you never know what truly happened to them. It prevents closure. I'm glad his family got theirs. I do wonder how many people like his girlfriend ended up marrying a sibling or good friend of the deceased. Beautifully written.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
      Author

      MizBejabbers 13 months ago

      Chris, I appreciate the comment. I've got to read your story, too. You write great imaginative flash fiction.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
      Author

      MizBejabbers 13 months ago

      Thanks, Maria. I'm glad you found my story inspirational. Thank you for your condolences on my son. I've been a little busy lately, but I noticed that you've written one also. I'll have to read your answer to Bill's challenge. And my thanks to Nellieanna, too.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 13 months ago

      Zulma, I appreciate your comment. They deserve our recognition.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
      Author

      MizBejabbers 13 months ago

      Thank you, Shyron, I'm starting to recover, but I know life will never be the same for me.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 13 months ago from Maple City, Michigan

      MizBejabbers, I agree with you that the prompts gave way to a story that has taken on a life of its own. Great job.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 13 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Miz B, Your story brought a lump to my throat - powerful and inspirational.

      I am sorry to learn about your son - sending you prayers and comforting thoughts.

      I'm grateful to Nellieanna for linking this beautiful story to Bill's challenge.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 13 months ago from United Kingdom

      What a wonderful story. Thank you for keeping the memories of these brave souls alive.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 13 months ago from Texas

      MizB. my condolences on the loss of you son.

      Blessings and Peace

    • MizBejabbers profile image
      Author

      MizBejabbers 13 months ago

      Theo, we had to memorize the poem Flanders Fields in one of my English classes. It was always one of my favorites. Thank you for calling my story a "magnificent work of art."

    • MizBejabbers profile image
      Author

      MizBejabbers 13 months ago

      Ventkachari, glad it didn't disappoint you, but I was going for realism this time. I guess all the stories of MIAs coming home inspired me. Thanks for commenting.

      Thanks for the condolences in your second comment. I really appreciate that.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
      Author

      MizBejabbers 13 months ago

      Suzette, I think we do tend to forger WWI. I've had family in every war from the Revolutionary War through Vietnam except the Mexican American and WWI. The ages weren't right or they probably would have been in those, too. Glad you enjoyed it. Thank you.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 13 months ago

      Manatita, thanks, great guy! I like it that you called it "cool."

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 13 months ago

      Bill, what a nice thing to say. I appreciate every word coming from such an expert as you. As I've stated before, I am having to learn to write fiction because most of my writing has been for news with a few feature stories thrown in for good measure. However, I'm getting my skills back as a yarn spinner from childhood. Thanks, friend.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 13 months ago

      Faith, I'm glad you could identify with the sharp shooter. Your dad must have been (be) one heck uva guy. Is he still around or was he in WWII? Mine was in the army WWII, so I have a deep respect for our military. Thank you for your comment.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 13 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very sorry to hear that, Miz. I hope you are okay, coping with that shock. May God rest his soul in peace. May He provide you the strength to bear with the situation.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
      Author

      MizBejabbers 13 months ago

      Paula, Ruby, and John, thank you, dear friends, so much for your complimentary comments. I don't like to combine my thanks to commenters, but my son died two weeks ago and I'm trying to sort his things out and don't have much time. I simply can't yet write about him, so maybe this was a kind of catharsis for me.

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 13 months ago from Washington DC

      I had to find out what you wrote and found a magnificent work of art.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 13 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      A nice story. But, I thought Davy would arrive alive from nowhere in his old age after getting lost in the mountains and forests. Anyway, your ending is also great. His body arriving home at last.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 13 months ago from Taos, NM

      Beautiful story! We tend to forget about WWI and the men who died in that war. What a wonderful reminder of the horrors of that war too. I so enjoyed reading this entry.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 13 months ago from london

      Yet another slant, Miz. I like this. A 'cool'story, if you ask me. Great!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 13 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, I beg to differ with you when you say you aren't very good writing to photos. There seems to be obvious proof right here that you are.

      Thanks so much for taking part. I'll file this away and read it again after the deadline.

      Happy Weekend to you, MizB!

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 13 months ago from Texas

      MzB. your muse was right to kick you in the back side

      Or else the wonderful awesome story from your fan you would hide

      It is so sad that Davy died

      But, glad he was brought home for the town's pride.

      *

      *

      I so glad you joined us, you have made it even harder for Bill to choose.

      Blessings and hugs from me to you.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 13 months ago from southern USA

      MizB,

      I'm thrilled you've participated in the challenge! This is a phenomenal response to Bill's mountain challenge. Obviously, you've woven in the required photos perfectly in your creative fiction here.

      I love your story. It is a delight to read. My dad was a sharp-shooter in the U.S. Army and joined at a very young age ...

      Bill has his work cut out for him. Your response is right up there at the top.

      Bravo!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 13 months ago from Queensland Australia

      MizB, I thought I had already read the best of the best in this challenge, but this story is right up there. A touching and well written story, with your own unique take on the picture prompts. Well done.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 13 months ago from Southern Illinois

      I dearly love war stories and this is one of the best! I got the feeling that this story came from an event of long ago. You utilized the photos perfectly. Well done my friend...

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 13 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      MzB.....Correction: Oh Yes, you ARE good at writing from photos! and a fascinating Flash Fiction to boot! I'm glad your muse gave you a little kick! Apparently she knows what we all do now! Strange thing that muse of ours is.. Always ready to do us proud even when we hesitate!

      So glad you you joined in the challenge. Great song choice too. Bill has quite the project ahead of him.