Sunday, October 25, 2009


As I drank the last of the last Yuengling I heard a squirrelly voice call across the parking lot, “Them cliffs are called “Indian’s Jump”. Used to be a Gas station here called that.” I walked up to this 60-ish white guy sitting in his retiree car, on the far side, “Isn’t that restaurant down the road called that?”
“No! No! The gas station was right here, this fruit stand’s been here for over thirty years, but the gas station’s closed down - all boarded up. You can drive a road up from behind those houses to the top of them cliffs, you seen them?”
“Yes, my friend and I were climbing on them today.”
“You can drive to the top, you bin that a way? They say some Indian was being chased and jumped off them cliffs. There are some caves back there too, you can walk in them, I ain’t been there but they are there.”
“That’s interesting, we didn’t see any caves but we were up on the rocks.”
I noticed a small dog in the back seat, eating what looked like the remains of a hamburger and fries off the front armrest.
“There is a cave right in town, you know the Methodist church, there is a cave runs right under it starts in the back. Tunnel goes right under the church. You can go in with ropes and all. George Washington’s cabin is right across the street, you been there?”
“No we haven’t been in town much, just walked up to the base of the cliffs from this end of town.”
“General… is buried in town[i], with a big cannon mouth-down sticking up, you seen his grave? Lots of battles here during the war, as kids we found an old cannonball in our yard and all these people go around with these machines looking for old bullets near the church. Man from New Jersey scattered his ashes over the cliffs.”
I didn’t say anything but he continued, by way of explanation, “See he was born here but he told his New Jersey wife to scatter his ashes over here so this plane was flying around those cliffs.”
His wife walked back, laden with groceries, got in the passenger side and took over, “Lived here all my life and never been up there.”
“You should go, they say there is a road that takes you up all the way to the top.”
“Is that factory up there still working?”
“I think so.”
“They say there is a nice view from up there.”
“Yes it was a nice view when we climbed up to the top.”
“The’re snakes there, rattlers.”
“Yeah? My friend has been climbing there for two years and not seen any. We did see this beautiful orange and black turtle though.”
“Copperheads too, but I’d rather a rattler than a copperhead, you know what a copperhead smells like? Smells like an old cucumber, that’s what.”
“If I smell an old cucumber there I’ll be sure careful.”
Now the husband interjected, peeking across through his wife’s window, “I ain’t much for this spelunking but I was in Texas, where Elvis is buried, Elvis Presley.”
The wife asks, “You heard of Elvis, you born in this country?”
“No, I wasn’t.”
“Don’t look like it.”
Don’t doubt it, with an empty beer bottle in one hand, grey bandana tied over longish straight black dirty hair, limping across the parking lot holding an ice-bag to my torn hamstring with the other.
“But I’ve been here fifteen years.”
“Oh so then you know about Elvis.”
“Yes, I’ve heard of Elvis, I listened to his music back in my country, in fact I saw him there.”
Pleased smile, “Oh you did?!”.
“Just a couple of years ago.”
“I thought he was dead?”
“So did I. Goodbye, my friend is waiting.”

[i] No major War of Secession battle was fought in Cumberland and I couldn’t find any record of any general having died there during the War, though two Union generals were abducted by Confederate Rangers before being safely returned to their local fiancées. The only reference I could find to a War of Secession general buried in Cumberland is to Brig. Gen. C.M. Thruston, who died there during peacetime in 1873 and is buried in Rose Hill cemetery, which is not near any Methodist church. Only Generals who died on the battlefield were honored with a mouth down cannon half-buried at the spot.

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