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The Bottomless Pit
By
Kevin Sean Kelly

It was early fall, the leaves were all the colors of the rainbow.   Arthur and Frank lived in center city Philadelphia.  They belonged to an inner city group of boys that were regarded by others as not "Cool".  They didn’t steal things, went to church with their family and never had a run in with the police.  Their parents were related.

Arthur’s mother and Frank’s mother were sisters.  Both were of Irish descent and had married brothers, who were of Italian descent.  This combination of parents made for a large extended family of cousins that looked so much alike, they were often mistaken for each other.  But the family "LOOK" was unmistakable.  Any of them walking down the street could be instantly recognized as "A Renaldi".

Both fathers were hard working city firemen.  Both moms stayed home to care for the very large family.  The inner city was their whole life.   Neither family earned enough money to afford vacations.  A car trip to the Jersey coast was considered a luxury.  They had spent the summer in the city and suffered as city kids do with the fumes and heat.

An English teacher at their school, had started a writing project. He had asked the students to select a partner and as a team write a one thousand word essay.   The subject was left up to them.  The boys, being in the same class together and almost the same age teamed up and met at Frank’s house.  The subject they selected was "The Mountains To The North".  Neither one had ever been there, but had heard of the beauty of this deep wilderness area in northern Pennsylvania.   Over one million acres of state forest referred to on all maps as, "The Endless Mountains".

They toiled for the two weeks allowed to them, writing and rewriting what they imagined this place to be like.  They wrote about the trees in color, the deer they had never seen, the beautiful mountain trout streams and the trout they had never tasted.  The essay completed was submitted on the day assigned and they waited patiently for the result.  They were the only team to receive an "A+" and their paper was posted on the bulletin board at the entrance to the school.

Bill Sullivan, also a city fireman, knew the family. He had his only child also in this school.  During a "Teacher/Parent conference he stopped when he saw the names on the bottom of the essay and read it, as he and his wife were leaving.   Bill’s wife was a doctor and the family was quite well off.  They had a summer cabin in the mountains that these boys wrote about.  It sat on top of a mountain and had a breathtaking view of the valley below.  He didn’t work in the same firehouse as did the boys fathers, but knew how well regarded all of the Renaldi children were.  He called one night to the firehouse the both fathers were assigned and got hold of Arthur’s father.  He mentioned that he had read his son’s essay and asked if he had also, The father owned up to the fact that he had helped them with details of the mountains, since he was there once on a hunting trip as a guest of a friend.  Yes he read it and thought it was nice.  Bill told him of his place in the mountains and asked if the both boys would like to spend a weekend there with his family.  He also invited both sets of parents to come along.  A weekend was arranged and Bill picked up all of them in his station wagon on a Friday morning.   Bill contacted the school principle to arrange an excused day off for both boys and his son.  All the men put in for the day off, and Bill’s wife had no office hours that day.  With the car packed to the roof, they started the four hour drive, arriving before noon.

The cabin sat on four acres of private land, that was completely surrounded by state forest.  It was reached by a dirt road that wound it’s way up the mountain through dense hardwood forest.  They had electric power supplied by generator.

No phone, and it was heated by a "Franklin" wood stove, The gas stove in the kitchen was hooked up to a propane tank.  The water was supplied from a well that had a pump hooked up to the generator.  The nearest neighbor was seven miles away.

Both Arthur and Frank were in heaven.  The smell of the forest lingered in their nose.  The cool clean air blowing through the trees enchanted them.   They never realized the dangers that all this wonder hid. They were soon to find out.

Saturday morning dawned bright and clean.  A wonderful breakfast was followed by a tour of the grounds. Mr Sullivan pointed out the two four wheel all terrain vehicles that he and his wife used to run the deer trails over the mountains.   Frank inquired if it would be possible for he and Arthur to use them to see the forest.   Never thinking of the fact that he was turning two sixteen year old city kids loose in an environment they knew nothing about he agreed.  He showed them both how to operate the four wheelers and pointed out the best area to go to see all they wanted.  A lunch was packed and off they went.  When they had not returned for supper Sullivan and the fathers drove the fire roads to find them.  All they found was two four wheelers parked off the side of the road, their engines dead cold.  They called, honked, looked for footprints till it started to get dark. Sullivan drove to town and called the fire rescue brigade.

When told the exact spot the vehicles were found the chief became very alarmed.  This area was known as "Sink Hole Marsh" and was dotted with deep sink holes created by the receding glaciers. Some were so deep a rock dropped into it would not be heard to hit bottom.  If they fell into one of these the chief said, "we won’t find them alive".  The area was to dangerous to start a search at night.  They had fire trucks run the fire roads blowing their horns, hoping the boys might hear them.

At two a.m. Sunday morning my phone rang.  It was the State Police calling. You and the dogs are needed at "Sink Hole Marsh".  I inquired about the call out and was informed it was two sixteen year old city boys lost on the mountain.  Two boys required two dogs, since they may have split up.  I was on site at four AM waiting for dawn to arrive with Chief and Sunny and my friend Bill West, a Mohawk Indian.

The dawn came slowly. As it did Bill a native American man tracker started to look for "Sign".  We needed to determine which side of the road they were on.  The dogs indicated that their scent was on both sides. About twenty yards to the north side he found a small stream, A small rock had been turned over and there was a footprint on the far bank.  We started the dogs at the footprint and they followed the stream downhill till it cascaded into a sink hole.  Our hearts sank only for a moment and we breathed a sigh of relief as the both dogs turned right and continued down hill.  We saw "Sign" as we went along A foot print here, a broken branch there, the lunch bag.  We found where they had spent the night.  They had built a small camp fire and slept next to it on the ground. The trail was fresh and we started to shout their names.  From deep below us and below a cliff to our left a shout came back.  We looked down and there they were.  We shouted for them to stop walking and the dogs led us to the winding trail they had taken to the bottom.   Chief knew he had found them and licked each with great joy.  I looked at my "Topo" map and got a fix from my "GPS".  Another fire road was about three quarters of a mile back the other way and we headed for that road.  My radio signal was blocked by the cliff and it wasn’t till we reached the dirt road that I was able to get through to base camp.  The chief sent a truck and carried all of us back. It was 2 pm when we started back home.  Two more rescues to be added to Chief’s record.  Four parents relieved and a re-educated Mr. Sullivan.  The boys comment about the whole event,

"THAT WAS A ""NEAT"" NIGHT"!!, AND HOW THEY WERE ABLE TO BUILD A FIRE. Asked where the matches came from by his father, Frank admitted he has been smoking for almost a year.

Copyright(C)- Kevin Sean Kelly-2001-All rights Reserved

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