Andy and Agnes Brekhus were like my second parents. They were dairy farmers and lived about a mile away, near Allen, Washington. Andy and my Dad went through school together, and now he and his wife remained close family friends. They never could have children, and so they loved to treat me as their own son, and I loved to be treated so.
One day Andy and I hiked up Bow Hill, behind his farm. Andy told me that an old hermit lived up there. Of course the idea a boy of twelve had of an old hermit deep in the woods was a pretty exciting one--even a bit scary. Andy assured me that he knew him, that his name was Curt, and that all would be well.
The old, dirt road up the hill through the evergreens and underbrush was long, at least for hiking, but we finally came to a small, unpainted house in a tiny homestead that had not been kept up in decades. Curt came out, looking like any other old man but with unshaven whiskers, uncombed hair and wearing dirty clothes, and talked friendly enough with Andy. He ignored me. Finally Andy introduced us, and mentioned to me that Curt enjoyed and collected comic books, and told him that I had a lot of comics too. Curt politely said to me, "Maybe you and I could trade some comics sometime."
The next day I gathered together a couple dozen comic books I thought I could do without, and rode my bike to the foot of Bow Hill and hiked up to Curt's place. By the time I got there, it was dark. I stepped up onto Curt's front porch and knocked. The door had a window in it, and I saw Curt sitting in an easy chair in his living room, but he hadn't heard my knock. So I rapped again, harder. He still sat there for a moment, ignoring my noise, and so I assumed he was hard of hearing. Finally he got up slowly and walked away into the kitchen. I thought that maybe the back door would be a better bet, so I began to walk around the house. When I rounded the corner, I met up with Curt, outside, with a big shotgun aimed at my stomach! Instinctively I held out the sack I was carrying and yelled, "Comics! I have comics!"
Curt's aim moved to the ground, and he said, "Boy, I almost shot you."
"I knocked on your front door," I said.
"Well," he said, "I heard somethin'. Thought it was someone messin' around. I never use that door."
I then followed him into his house through the back way, and we spent one of my most pleasant hours, talking about and trading comic books with an old hermit in the woods. He had some good ones.
I never saw Curt again after that. I carried my new treasure down the hill by the light of the moon, and Curt died a year or two later. But I'll never forget the experience I had with a man I didn't know, a man who almost killed me, and a man who became my friend, all in the span of a few minutes.
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