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Matt Christopher Adventure Classic
Author: Matt Christopher
2014 Reissue Edition
5"x 8" Trade Paperback
ISBN 978-1-933523-52-1 print
ISBN 978-1-62268-071-9 ebook
It started far below the surface of the eartha huge rupturing.
Slowly it began to spread, sending out vibrations. A giant was awakening
from a long sleep.
Muscles bulged under his velvet hide. His long copper-colored tail snapped
like a whip. The chestnut horse, Red, lifted his front legs and brought
them down gently upon the graveled creek bank.
Jeff Belno, holding firmly onto the reins, looked
back beyond the narrow creek that rib-boned through the valley of trees
behind him. Camp Ga-wan-da and Pointed Rock Pond were out of sight.
His escape route was through the mountains. He
would be followed, he was sure of that, even though here at the creek
his trail would disappear. It would take an expert guide to track him
down in that leaf-carpeted, overgrown jungle.
"Okay, Red. Across the creek," Jeff
said, pulling gently on the left rein.
Red's nostrils flared, and he snorted as he stepped
into the creek. The water was clear, and it flowed swiftly, rising up
over his legs as he started to walk gingerly across. By the time he reached
the middle of the stream, the water was up to his hocks.
Suddenly his right front leg slipped, and Jeff
felt a moment of panic. He tightened his legs against Red's belly.
"Careful, Red!" he said.
He had expected hazardous moments. Not one inch
of the long journey was going to be easy. He had thought about it a lot
during his waking hours, and even during sleep, too, when he had dreamed
about the journey. Creeks, dotted with hidden, slippery rocks; deep ravines;
steep, treacherous gorges. They were all theresomewhere.
He'd meet them, sooner or later. And who was he counting on to get through
them or over them, one way or another? Red. His big, faithful, beautiful
He had had Red for almost all of two years, having
raised him since just a few days after the colt's birth. Red had been
a gift to Jeff on his birthday from his Uncle Bob, his mother's brother
in Ohio. Jeff played with Red and talked to him as he would to a brother.
Jeff's sister, Patty Marie, loved Red, too. But
her love didn't go as deep as Jeff's did. Red was his horse. His alone.
At last the big chestnut trudged out of the creek
and onto the hard rocky shore. Jeff gave a final glance up the creek,
then rode on.
The morning sun blinded him momentarily as it
started its slow climb up over the trees, striking the water with golden
flashes of light. A chipmunk skittered across the path in front of them
and scrambled up a tree. A songbird chirped its melodious song from the
top of a nearby spruce and was answered by its mate from another. The
farther up the mountain Jeff rode, the more evident were the sounds of
birds and animals as they began their day.
Jeff reined in Red and listened for any sounds
besides those of the wildlife around him. He was sure that by now his
and Red's absence from camp would have been discovered. And theyNorman
Dorg, the camp director, and the sixty-odd boys at the campwould
know immediately that he had run away.
Mr. Dorg would waste no time in picking a handful
of the biggest boys and starting a wide, intensive search. He would lead
his party far into the mountains, determined to search until he found
the runaway boy and his horse, or until he had to give up for fear of
Here in the Adirondacks, the largest mountains
in New York State, even experienced hunters had often ventured too far
and gotten lost. Sometimes they were found, nearly dead from exposure
and starvation. Sometimes they were not found at all.
Already Jeff felt the fear of loneliness, and
of losing his way, even though he had a compass and a map. But he had
to make the journey. He had planned this escape for two whole days, having
made up his mind that running away was his only choice. He was determined
not to take the humiliation from Norman Dorg any longer.
told you to put out a fire by stepping on it?"
Jeff looked at him, his eyes wide and anxious.
"There are just two sticks left, sir."
"I don't care if there's just one teeny-weeny
stick!" Norman Dorg barked. "You're going to put that fire out
"Yes, sir," said Jeff, and he ran to
the toolshed for the shovel.
One of the kids behind him laughed.
"Okay, Mitchell!" Norman Dorg snapped.
"You go with him and bring the pitchfork!"
Nobody laughed then.
During most of his
young life Jeff had known that wasn't as smart as a lot of kids. Two years
ago he had been put back from the fifth grade to the fourth, and since
then he had managed to hold his own. But he knew he was a slow learner.
Man, how well he knew. Mrs. Dunning, his teacher, had reminded him of
it at least a dozen times in that painful, formidable way of hers.
"Jeff, aren't you ever going to learn?"
It wasn't only what she said; it was that awful tone she used.
And how many times had his mother and father and
Patty Marie reminded him he was slow? Especially Patty Marie, who sometimes
was as bad as Norman Dorg. But he could take it from her more easily than
from the camp coach, because he wasn't afraid to dish it back to her.
It was different with Norman Dorg. If Jeff had
talked back to him, Dorg would have punished him somehow, he was sure
of it. Jeff had never seen Dorg punish any body physically. Cutting a
kid down with his kind of sarcasm was punishment enough.
He had no watch, but
he was sure it was around noontime when the sun reached its zenith and
his stomach cried of hunger.
He found an open clearing just large enough for
Red and himself to lie down in to eat and rest. They interrupted a mother
rabbit and her three young ones, nibbling on a small clump of grass. The
rabbits hesitated just long enough to see who the newcomers were, then
sprang off into the woods.
Jeff chuckled as he slid down off Red. He was
reminded of the white rabbits he and Patty Marie were raising. They had
six, three males and three females. In about two weeks one of them, Dolly,
would be giving birth to her litter.
He removed the rucksack from his back, then sat
down on a carpet of dried leaves, his back against a tree. He opened it,
took out and unwrapped a bar of candy, and tossed it to Red. Gracefully
the horse leaned down, picked it up with his teeth and began to chew it.
Then Jeff took out a sandwich and bit into it.
Unfortunately, he had no Thermos, nothing that held any juices or water.
That was his greatest worry at the moment; he knew they couldn't go too
far without water. By nightfall he would have to find a spring or creek.
A new sound came from somewhere in the distance.
Jeff paused, the sandwich half eaten.
It was the sound of a low-flying airplane. Probably
Norman Dorg's. He had a two-seater Aeronca Champion which he kept on the
same field where Jeff had kept Red. A flying buff, Dorg hadn't missed
a day of spending at least an hour or so in the sky. It was probably him
in his plane, searching for Jeff.
Jeff felt his chest tighten as he looked up at
the patch of clear blue sky visible through the tops of the trees. Then
he glanced at Red standing in direct sunlight, completely innocent of
what was going on.
"Oh, man!" Jeff cried as he laid the
sandwich aside and sprang to his feet. "If that's Norman Dorg and
he sees us, we're licked!"
©2014 Matt Christopher Royalties, Inc.