|TITLE: The Ghost of Kale Adams|
By Leola Ogle
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“You’re always watching the mountain, Daniel. What do you see there?” asks the nurse, Ellen.
“The mountain has secrets,” I answer.
“Um, so I hear. My boys say it’s haunted by a man driven to live in a cave because of a broken heart. Now his ghost wanders the mountain crying for his lost love.”
I laugh, my body trembling with the effort. I am delighted that the legend of Kale Adams lives on. “It was stubborn pride that drove Kale Adams up that mountain to live in a cave, not a broken heart.”
“You knew him?” Ellen pulls up a chair beside me.
“Tell me. I’d love to know the story.”
I was ten when I met Kale. Everyone knew the stories about a man who had roamed the mountaintop for twenty years. Children whispered spooky stories of a fierce ogre who lived in a cave. My older brothers said he didn’t exist, but my friends and I believed he did. It was rumored that many had searched for him, but no one found him or his cave.
One summer morning my friends dared me to climb the mountain alone in search of Kale. I was the scrawniest one in the group and often the butt of jokes. I set out to prove my bravery, although I really was terrified.
Heart pounding, I journeyed for an hour, jumping at every sound. Then a storm rolled in that crescendoed into thunder, lightning, and blinding rain. I slipped, stumbled and became disoriented. Then I fell and hit my head on a rock.
I came to in a cave with a bearded man roasting a rabbit over a roaring fire. “I have to go home,” I whimpered, terror making my voice crack.
“When it’s night and the rain’s stopped. Can’t have you knowing the way back here. Your head hurt?”
“Yeah.” Then I shook my head when offered a hunk of rabbit meat.
“Better eat, boy. You’re lucky I found you. Bet you were looking for me, huh?”
I took the meat. “Thank you. My parents will be looking for me, you know.”
“That right? Who might they be?”
“Charlie and Sarah Jones.”
Something flickered in Kale’s eyes, or maybe it was the fire’s reflection. “What do town folk say about me?”
“Nothing,” I squeaked, my mind conjuring ways to escape.
“Don’t lie, boy.”
“Uh, they say you’re a monster or a ghost. Some people don’t believe you’re even here, that you ran off to the big city cause your heart got broken. People have looked for this cave, but can’t find it.”
“Yeah? I pray no one finds it. And I didn’t leave cause my heart got broken. T’was my pride sent me scurrying up this mountain. Pride keeps me here. Pride’s an awful thing, boy.”
Curiosity was driving out my fear. Kale didn’t look mean or scary – just a bushy beard and ragged clothes. Besides, he rescued me, didn’t he? “I don’t get how pride can do those things.”
“Well, I hope you never do. See, boy, I was the smartest, best-looking, best at everything in town. I was best at horseshoes, plowing a field, book learning, racing a horse, and getting the prettiest girls. I couldn’t stand to lose at anything. Heck, I even strutted around about how my daddy and me helped bring the railroad to town. Then I hooked me the prettiest girl in Colorado. But she left me and married the new school teacher. I thought folks were mocking me, whispering behind my back. So here I am. I reckon it wasn’t my heart that was broken, just my bull-headed pride.”
“You could come back, Kale.”
“And have people laugh. Nope. Won’t go back. Don’t tell you saw me either. Hear me, boy?”
When night fell, Kale led me through a narrow opening covered by vines. He took me just far enough to make it on my own. The town had been looking for me. I told everyone about Kale. They looked for the cave, but couldn’t find it. Some said I lied.
But I knew the truth. Kale and the cave were there. And it was my daddy who stole my mama from Kale.
I’d like to believe pride keeps Kale’s ghost roaming that mountain.