Edna Running Eagle took pride in never being late to work. The trip from the reservation to the hospital always took anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic and road conditions. The shortest way was from Wellpinit to Ford, 231N to Springdale, then 292 to Loon Lake before getting on 395. Most of the time was spent just getting to Ford.
On Tuesday, 6:30AM she and the boys jumped in the Camaro and hit the road and sped towards Deer Park.
As Sean and Randy got older, they often spent days and nights roaming around an old overgrown, now defunct apple orchard. Edna usually dropped them off there when she went to work and picked them up after her shift. This time they got there early and Edna reminded them.
“I’m off at 4:30 and you two need to be here waiting not later than 4:45. Got it?”
“No worries, Ma.
“Yeah, synchronized our watches with the kitchen clock before we left.” echoed Randy.
As the boys approached the orchard, the smell of wet and decaying leaves greeted them. Both were packing BB guns they got for Christmas. They planned to spend the day hunting for squirrels. The smell piqued their curiosity and added to the excitement of the hunt. Under foot the crunch of twigs and branches sounded like walking on broken glass and made sneaking up on anything impossible.
In the early 1920’s before the depression, an ill-advised investor launched an untimely attempt to plant and harvest a crop of McIntosh apples. The hardy spreading apple trees were expected to be moderately vigorous and bear annually or in alternate years. The investors knew that the fruit grew best in cool areas where nights are cold and autumn days are clear. Deer Park situated on a mostly level plateau seemed to fit the bill. However, promised irrigation plans never materialized. Abandoned and overrun the orchard continued to grow without water, except for rain and snow in season.
After a couple of hours of aimless scouting and roaming with nothing but derelict apple trees for company, Sean stopped dead in his tracks. Randy, following too close behind was brought up short and bumped him. Separating to relieve the tension the bump had created, Randy tried to reconnect.
“Let’s head back.”
“Not yet, OK?”
“Well, shit, Sean. It’s getting colder.”
“It’s February, Randy. Supposed to be cold. There’s snow on the ground.”