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The Hawk's Nest

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The Hawk's Nest

A community in the woods

The call came mid morning last summer.

“Ernie do you have someone visiting with a little girl, about 9 years old?”

“No, why?”

“A little girl just showed up at Rick’s and she said her dad and mom are in a log house. She doesn’t know where.”

We live in a community, or neighborhood, that isn’t typical. From our house, we can’t see anyone’s lights. There is only one neighbor past our place so we rarely have traffic and when there is, we nearly always know them. Only the loudest noises of those nearest us get through the woods. After we leave the highway, we only have clear vision of a couple homes along the gravel, tree-lined drive to our place. Yet there are many folks up here.

I know several people who live in this kind of community and most of them say they wouldn’t live any other way. They also say the community may look and feel loosely connected; however it is tight-knit and dependable.

Tight-knit doesn’t mean we are close, that there is a great deal of socializing within the group. There is some, but not a lot.

Yet when the call came that a girl had wandered out of the woods I knew it was a call to action and I was going to see several people I normally only meet on the road.

I called Terry right away but found no clues.

There is an old cabin deep behind us owned by an out-of-state family. They or relatives use it occasionally. When I drove there it looked like someone may be around but no cars and I couldn’t raise anyone.

I headed out onto the main county road. There, I found vehicles of every kind. Trucks, tractors, cars, ATVs, bicycles and a lady on a horse. Claire said someone was working on Wilson’s log house. Jack said he would check it out, see if the girl belonged there.

Rick had called Grace immediately after the girl wandered out of the woods and she came right over. Grace and another neighbor rode up on a four-wheeler with the girl. No one recognized her. She did know her dad’s name. Unfortunately, no one recognized it. The girl with tears making rivulets in the dust on her face said she had been walking on a path in the woods but it all looked different now.  

I told them it looked like someone might be back at the old cabin but I didn’t see anyone. Grace said there is an old logging road across the back of her place and through the woods close to the old cabin. It might be the path in question. She was pretty sure, if someone had a chain saw handy, she could get through on an ATV quickly.

A cell phone rang and we heard there was a car with out-of-state plates on the back roads over the hill; someone was going to see if they had lost a kid.

Grace and a couple others, armed with a chain saw from a toolbox in the back of a truck, left with the girl on the ATV. The crowd seemed to have a few plans now to follow. I headed back toward the old cabin by road, just in case no one was there when Grace got there.

As I approached the cabin I heard a chain saw in the distance behind it. “It must have been tougher going then expected,” I thought.

This time, an SUV with out-of-state plates was there. A lady came out of the cabin. I asked if they had lost a little girl. She was a bit frantic and said yes, had I seen her? Just then a man came out of the woods showing a controlled father’s concern and said he thought they should call Search and Rescue. I said I bet she’s with the people using that chain saw we are hearing and would be here soon.

I asked his name; he gave me the same one the child said was her dad. The mom said she had been driving around on the old roads thinking the girl wouldn’t go into the woods.

I called Al and told him the out-of-state car belonged to the old cabin and I was there with the parents. He asked if Grace was there yet.

“I can hear them close, must have more blow downs then she thought.”

The man headed toward the sound just before the ATVs appeared.

When I saw thm together, there was no doubt in my mind this was a family.

In less then an hour over 20 people literally “came out of the woods” to help a lost little girl. Except for about the first five minutes after she had knocked on Rick’s door the girl was always with at least two adults until she was back with her mom and dad.

Our neighborhood may not be typical yet I bet there are many just like ours where the same kind of action would taken place, and just as rapidly.

Not many folks really live “outside” community any more. Some of us have moved, or stayed out of town because we want the space. We need the solitude of morning coffee on the porch hearing nothing but birds, watching the animals of the forest. Where the lights of the city, or our nearest neighbors, can’t be seen.

Yet community is exactly what we have. We can depend on those nearest us to support each other when necessary, even though we are not socially connected. Many of the people I saw on the road that day I hadn’t seen for several weeks—maybe months—and didn’t see them again for months, yet we all came together when there appeared to be a need.

I certainly do live in a community even if it isn’t a social one. In fact, I live in several communities and sometimes the boundaries overlap.  Social, professional, church or religious, family and neighborhood, all are groups I commune in regularly and can depend on when needed. Just like the loosely connected community where I live.

Sometimes, as I listen to the silence of our woods and watch the wildlife through the filter of the trees, I like to think we are in a wilderness alone, self-sufficient. In truth, I could not survive that way and really, I don’t want to. I need and enjoy community.

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

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