"Night on Old Baldy"

by Grant Carrington

    "Night on Old Baldy" was published in WEIRDBOOK 14 (1979), edited by W. Paul Ganley. $3.00

    The inspiration for "Night on Old Baldy" was the Holy Modal Rounders' version of "Spring of '65" in Good Taste Is Timeless (Metronome Records MD 1039, 1971). The title is a play on Modeste Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain.

    Jim Garvin lay in the grass on the top of Old Baldy, watching the clouds floating by, making animals and castles out of them as he had as a child. Below him, the splendor of the North Carolina October mountains spread out in a crazy quilt of reds, oranges, browns, and yellows, with the occasional dark green of a pine for contrast. The small brown spire of the Methodist Church in Jim's home town of Jackdaw Valley was barely visible if you knew just where to look.
    A hawk wheeled in the air over one of the other peaks and the scratching of autumn birds and their calls formed a muted background to Jim's musings. Far away, a crow's cawing echoed over the valleys.
    It had been well over ten years since Jim had been home during autumn. He had gone to college in September of his eighteenth year and that had been followed by seven years of school, culminating in a Ph.D. in entomology, and then he had gone to work in a laboratory near the South Carolina coast. Other than summers and holidays, the only times he had been home were for his mother's funeral a few years earlier and that of his father only six months ago. But he had never been home in auutmn before. He hadn't realized how much he had missed the cool brisk promise of the season until now. All his cares and worries seemed to have flown away like ghosts on the autumn breeze here on top of Old Baldy. Even his father's death seemed natural and inevitable and perfectly acceptable: his father had had a good life and he had known many mountain autumns.
    At last the chill air of evening replaced the mere briskness of the autumn afternoon and drove Jim, sweaterless, back down the mountain, past the deserted mill pond at its base by the road, to his sister's home. The walk felt good and he was glad he had stopped off on his way back to the lab after the American Entomology Society meeting. But he wished that he didn't have to drive back the next day; he wished he could stay a little longer.

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