A Llama Tale - Adventure's of a 12 year old girl and her llama, Moche
That night, Randy spent a few hours discussing the situation with the Laurel Mountain Counsel. They are elected yearly from all age groups of the community. Everyone at Laurel Mountain lived there by choice. Many residents are well educated with technical backgrounds. Laurel Mountain represents for this section of the wilderness a formal contact with federal and state governments. Randy, like his father before him, was the federal marshal and had many friends in Washington and the military. Industrial representatives, research scientists and miscellaneous individuals were invited to Laurel Mountain to study the wilderness and find solutions to problems that affect the whole country.
Randy continued to the counsel, "This isn't a federal operation, I think these people are related in some way to her father's death and, for what ever reason, she must be a target also."
One counsel woman said, "What could prompt such a large scale operation with a twelve year old girl as the target?"
Randy replied, "I don't know. Probably Eric and Dawn will have an answer to that question but I'm certain Sandy is neither aware of why or the extent of the danger to her."
A thin man with glasses said, "We're two full days from Buffalo Flats if we decide to travel quietly. Why don't we contact the Peterson group over on Orange Ridge. They could be there by late tomorrow and can watch the situation until we get there."
Randy thought and commented, "That's a good idea Pete. Should we also send a message over to Elzo Carro and his clan? They tend to stay off to themselves, but they always lend a hand when it's needed. I have a feeling we=ll be able to locatePaul LaBois over that way too. That will put about two hundred of us there, at the end of two days."
Both the Peterson's and Elzo Carro's clan were mountain folk. Some families had been in these hills for over two hundred years. They didn't necessarily like the intrusion of technology and "city" people at Laurel Mountain but they recognized that many benefits had come to the wilderness as a result of Randy's efforts over that last thirty years.
There was a hospital at Laurel Mountain and health teams went out every spring to check on people before they left their winter camps. There was emergency rescue if it was needed and a communications network that was efficient and available to everyone. Most of all there was Randy Perch. He represented the legal system on this side of the Divide and the mountains were a better place for it. He called on everyone in times of trouble and as a result everyone benefited. They'd come because Randy asked. The Perchs had been at Laurel Mountain before the American Revolution. Randy was considered a part of this wilderness.
The counsel concluded the meeting with all in agreement. Messages were sent to the Petersons and Carros. Paul LaBois had already contacted Laurel Mountain, during the council meeting. Preparations went on during the night for the next day's departure.
Randy's last consultation was with the National Security Service in the Pentagon.
Randy was just finishing his report, "That's it Frank, I think I can make sure no one gets hurt but I'm still not sure who they are. If all goes fine, we'll secure their helicopters without any damage and we'll dump the whole company in the city reservoir just after sunrise in three days. They can swim over to the municipal beach and maybe some of your people can be there to check them out. I think we'll keep the helicopters. We already have two for our emergency response teams but the two big ones will be perfect for the wilderness station that the Canadians have up in British Columbia and the smaller one would work well for Sam Sickler's project down in the southwest."
Frank Cornwall was one of the four Level C-11 Security Coordinators. There were very few classified levels of information that he didn't have direct access to. For seven years now, he had handled the "Wilderness Account" and his respect for Randy Perch was great. "Yes, those are all good suggestions, Randy. I'm not too familiar with Dave Stanford's death but I do know that he and Dawn were very highly regarded here in the Pentagon. I think these are probably right wing federal people. Saints save us from government employees. The largest group calls itself the Foundation for Liberty. I would guess that this is one of their covens just from the number of men and the amount of equipment that is fielded. I could have army troops brought in from Montana but I like your plan better."
Randy asked, "So I have authorization to initiate this action?"
"Yes, I think it'll be a cleaner operation with just your people involved. Take care of yourself. If you do need any back-up it'll be available."
"We'll be alright Frank but thank you and I will remember."
"I know Randy. I'll have my people on the beach to interview this group. Good luck and say hello to Eric for me. I don't believe I've spoken with him for some years now."
I was up early the next morning, but so was everyone else at Laurel Mountain. There sure were a lot of people living there. Moche and I were having breakfast in a big cafeteria. I was surprised that they let Moche in but everyone was very nice to both of us.
Randy came into the room and walked over to where I was sitting with Audrey, that nice older lady, and some other folks. "Still want to go, Sandy?"
"Yes, I think that maybe Moche and I can help." Actually I didn't know what Moche or I could do but I was determined we were going to help.
"Well lets get going then." He looked just like Jack when he smiled except for that missing tooth.
There was no big group of people that left together, just Randy, me and a few men and ladies. We traveled together, Moche too. I learned later that groups of Rangers had actually been leaving all night long. Yesterday, the people at Laurel Mountain had various types of cloth clothes on but now everyone wore leather pants and jackets. Most were light brown but some were grayish brown. Each one carried a bow with those long black arrows that Jack used and they each carried a thin brass sheet that hung loosely on their backs. The brass sheets were about twelve inches wide and maybe two feet long. Each sheet had holes in it. Some looked like swiss cheese, others had a pattern of one type or another to the arrangement of the holes. Randy's brass sheet had just two big holes toward one end.
"What are they?" We had stopped by a small stream to rest and I was sitting by Randy.
He looked up, "What, the thirl?"
"The brass plates that you all carry. Are they shields?"
Now he laughed - he really thought that was funny, "They wouldn't make very good shields with holes in them, now would they!" Then he laughed some more.
"Randy, stop teasing her and show her how we use the thirls." This was the nice blond hair lady that was at the Committee meeting last night.
"Ok, sorry about that." Then he laughed a little more.
Randy smiled and brought his sheet around in front of him.
He handed it to me and said, "We call this a thirl. Hold it in both hands, bend the middle down and then let it pop up."
"What is it?" It made a sound like a hand saw does when you bend it only this sound had a deeper pitch. Randy took the thirl back and bent it up and down with a lazy rocking motion.
"See Sandy, low frequency sound. Put this into your ear and I'll do it again."
Randy handed me a small electronic plug that fit into my ear like a hearing aid. It had a little switch on the end to turn it off and on. Now the sound that came from the thirl was at a much different pitch and very clear.
"What is it Randy?"
"Low frequency sound is too low for humans to hear but it travels through the forest or water for miles and miles at a very low amplitude. The sound you hear without the receiver in your ear is just a low pitch that we can hear with our ears. That sound doesn't travel any farther than your voice would. The receiver lets you hear the very low frequency sound made by the thirl. That sound travels unbelievably long distances. We use the thirls to communicate in the forest."
"The ear plug is a low frequency sound receiver. The system was invented about fifteen years ago by a good friend of your Grandfather, Joseph Three-feathers. Everyone in our quadrant of the mountains have them. There isn't a need for electricity to communicate with them and everyone is within calling range of someone else if they need help for any reason."
"Why do they have different size holes? And why are the holes different on each thirl?"
Randy smiled, "The different size holes and various patterns give each thirl a slightly different pitch, so each one sounds just a little different - like our voices."
"And you have a code, like Morse Code?"
"Yes, let me show you something you'll need to learn before we get to Buffalo Flats. Listen first without the low frequency sound receiver in your ear and then with it."
Randy nodded his head and everyone in our group took their thirls and started vibrating them at once. Nice and easy at first - then faster.
Without the receiver the sound was scary but when I put the receiver back into my ear it was a much different almost musical sound.
"There's such a difference with the receiver in my ear."
"Yes, the forest animals hear it like you do with the receiver in your ear. Notice how Moche isn't upset. But people without a low frequency receiver, if they haven't heard the sound before, usually get frightened."
"Do you ever scare anyone?"
Randy leaned back against the tree and thought for a second, "Every so often, parties of hunters or backpackers will wander back into the deep forest where we live. They don't know we're here, of course, but we always know about them. If they're responsible people and don't abuse the forest or wildlife, we leave them alone. But if they're careless, abusive or irresponsible - I'll authorize a team of Rangers that will surround their camp just before sunrise and then we'll use the thirls. They always get out of the deep forest just as fast as they can. It might seem like a mean trick to you but this way I don't have to arrest them and we haven't exposed ourselves so that more people are aware of our community."
"You think a lot like my Grandfather."
Randy slapped his knee and stood up, "Now there's a compliment if I ever heard one. I think like Eric Stanford. I'll have to tell Eric that one when we see him. We best get going now."
We were on our way again. They didn't run like Moche and I had on the way to Laurel Mountain but I think we covered a lot more ground, very quickly, at a steady pace. Every now and then one of the people with us would stop and use their thirl."Are there other people with us Randy?" "Quite a few Sandy. Here, I have an extra ear receiver for low frequency sounds. Listen for awhile as we travel."
There were thirls everywhere, in front of us, behind and to each side. The low frequency sound is directional so I could actually tell the approximate directions for each unique sound even though I never saw any of the people using them. After a short time, I could even pick out individual thirls by the different pitch their sounds had. There were obviously a lot of Rangers in the forest with us.
We arrived at Buffalo Flats by the end of the second day. Randy had told me along the way about Laurel Mountain's hospital services and the rescue teams that use helicopters.
I had asked, "Why don't we use the helicopters to get there faster?"
"Because they'd know we were coming. This is a surprise party."
"Grandfather told me that they have electronic scanners that are like radar."
"They probably do, but we have really good electronic devices that will fool their scanners. Then we'll coordinate our actions without them hearing us.""With the thirls?"
"Yes, youre catching on well."
We were there now. There was the big open field with the three helicopters. Mom and Grandfather were camped by the largest helicopter and the llamas were scattered around them in a loose semi-circle, some were grazing - some resting. Randy told me that it would be dusk soon and time for action.
Randy spent some time talking with the people who had traveled with us from Laurel Mountain. Then he came over and said to me, "Sandy, I have a plan and we need your help."
He explained the plan to me. In a few minutes I was off with a small electronic gadget in my vest pocket. It would keep me hidden from their perimeter scanners. I had to leave Moche behind in the woods, this would be too dangerous.
Ralph Raulings had just finished dinner and was listening to Captain ODell for the third time that day. Captain ODell was saying, "Sir, we've been here for five days. I don't like this open field and I can feel people watching us."
Ralph was irritable. This operation was not going well and he didn't like failure."That's a little paranoid isn't it Captain. I don't doubt the girl is lost out there somewhere and we may never find her but who would be watching us, the Indians?"
Captain ODell relaxed a little and spoke with a good deal of patience and determination, "I'm not sure Ralph but I think it's time to get out. I've pulled all the teams back to camp tonight and tomorrow morning I recommend that we leave. Fifty men and all this equipment is going to be hard to explain if the military or state authorities spot us.""Ok, I agree. She's probably lost and half dead by now. That's good for the Foundation but a shameful tragedy that just shouldn't have happened. If only Dawn and Eric had cooperated with my plan."
Captain ODell grimaced, "I don't think you can blame that woman for feeling that we're the bad guys."
Ralph stood up abruptly, "I'll take your military advice Captain but I don't care to discuss moral issues with you. You're dismissed and can begin preparations to leave in the morning."
Ralph walked over to the area where Eric and Dawn were camped, "If you can help us find her it might save her life. She's just a child, she can't survive out there and even if she does, the Foundation will still find her. Think about it. Please be reasonable! ....... No? ....... Well, we'll be leaving in the morning and I'll let you go then."
Ralph had turned and was walking away as he finished speaking.
Grandfather said softly, "That won't be necessary, Ralph!"
Ralph spun around, "What!!!"
Mom intervened and smiled, "Never mind Ralph, we'll be ok."
I slowly crept toward the helicopters. I had Mom's gray cloak on. I knew I was almost impossible to see in this type of light and Randy's electronic gadget made me invisible to the thermal, spectrographic and motion scanners that he told me they had guarding their perimeter.
Randy's plan was for me to cut a wire on each helicopter so none of the men could escape. There were six men with guns near Grandfather and Mom. All the other people were in the four or five tents that were off to one side. I was chosen so Max and Olin wouldn't make any noise. The sun had set but there was still that faint light of dusk.
I did the smallest helicopter first. All the doors were open and Randy had drawn a picture in the dirt to show me which wire I should cut with my knife.
I did the middle size helicopter next. It was a lot bigger than the little helicopter but smaller than the biggest one. I had trouble with this one. I couldn't find the right wire so I cut the four or five wires that might have been the right one.
Finally, I wiggled over to the biggest helicopter, on my belly. I slid by Olin on the way, he looked at me and wagged his tail a little but neither of us made any noise. The wire in this helicopter was easy, it was hanging down from under the dashboard - just waiting to be cut. Now it was time for the next phase of the plan.
I slid down by Olin and wiggled under the bottom of the helicopter. Soon I was behind Grandfather and Mom. Their eyes saw me but they were having supper and never looked my way. Grandfather pointed toward Max and Olin with one finger. Why hadn't I thought of that. I slid back under the helicopter to the other side and cut both ropes that were holding the two dogs. Both Max and Olin continued to lay very still but I could see their muscles flex like coiled springs.
I crawled back under the helicopter again and waited.
It seemed to just happen. Noah and the other llamas were up in the blink of an eye and rushing at all six of the guards. The men yelled but it didn't do them any good. The llamas ran right over the top of them. One man hit the ground, rolled over with his rifle and was just starting to point it at Mom and Grandfather when Noah turned again and bit his arm. The man screamed and dropped the rifle. I guess he should have since Noah had ripped off a good part of his jacket and a lot of skin in one bite. Then the dogs were there and all the men froze in their tracks.
Grandfather's voice was very low and threatening, "Drop your weapons or I'll release the dogs."
Max and Olin were poised, motionless, between the men and Mom. There wasn't a sound for several seconds and then the men put their rifles down. About the same time, all the other men were rushing out from their tents with big torch lanterns and their rifles.
That's when it started, Woooo, Woooo, Woooo, Woooo, Wooo, Wooo ......
It was dozens and dozens of thirls, on every side, with the pitch rising higher and higher. I knew what it was and I was still scared.
The bad men had been bunched together as they were running toward Grandfather and Mom's campsite. Just when Captain ODell thought to scatter his troops - the first wave came. The arrows didn't come too close to them, maybe twenty feet, but they made a perfect circle around the whole group of men.
Then the thirls stopped and there was dead silence. The men had stopped running toward Grandfather and Mom. They were talking among themselves.
Then the second wave of arrows came. Ten feet closer and a perfect concentric circle inside the outer ring of arrows.
Captain ODell stepped out from the group of men. He held a rifle high over his head with both hands, turned around in a full circle and then laid the rifle on the ground. All the other men put down their lanterns and rifles after that.
I had crawled out from under the helicopter and was standing by Mom and Grandpa. I thought it was all over but then this man came running out from another tent, strait at Grandfather with a handgun.
He was shouting something. Max turned to jump at him but before he could I pulled out my sling and let the guy have a stone right between the eyes. Nobody was going to hurt my Grandpa, not ever. I had made a good shot because it knocked him right over and out.
Randy made all the bad men take off their outer clothes and boots. I think they must have had a pretty cold night because all they had on were their long underwear. The Rangers had them sit on the ground all night in a big group.
Rangers from Laurel Mountain guarded them with pikes.
About an hour before sunrise the bad men were all loaded into the two big helicopters and the Rangers flew them away. The man I had clobbered with my sling was Mr. Raulings. He had been our friend. He was sent off with the others - he was the only one with a black eye."Randy, where are they going with no clothes on?" I just couldn't imagine where they were taking them. "Off for a swim, Sandy. Then some friends of ours from Washington will dry them out and ask a few questions." "Are you going to keep their helicopters?" "For the winter. We'll fix them up and then send them off to where they'll do some good. The helicopter's have actually been confiscated by the US Government, we're just the resource that will deliver them to their new home." "Who are those men?"
Grandfather was there and he said, "We'll have some long talks about these men this winter Sandy. See their clothing and boots, they all have the same symbol on them. Anytime you see that insignia, it's the same people and you should remember that they're dangerous."
The funny symbol was on everything: their clothes, their boots, the tents and even the guns.
Grandfather, Mom and Randy had a wonderful reunion. Mom knew many of the Rangers from Laurel Mountain and everyone talked for almost the whole morning.
Buffalo Flats was cleaned-up. The guns were broken and then buried in a big hole. The tents and clothing were divided up between the Petersons and Carros. The LaBois clan didn't want any of it. I talked more with Jim as we helped in the clean-up. Nobody wanted the boots so they were buried with the guns.
By early afternoon, everyone's chores were completed and people were leaving the same way they had left from Laurel Mountain - in small groups that just vanished into the wilderness.
Jim and I agreed that we'd meet again and then the LaBois clan and all those beautiful mules disappeared into the trees without a sound. I went back to helping Grandfather and Mom pack the llamas for our own trip home.
The nice blond girl from Laurel Mountain came up to me as Randy's group was getting ready to leave. She said, "We want you to have this Sandy."
It was a thirl. "Gosh, for me?"
"Take these two extra ear receivers for low frequency sound, also. They have a tendency to get misplaced sometimes. You'll be able to hear the larger forest animals communicate and once you learn the wilderness code you can call us on the thirl when ever you're over near Laurel Mountain.""Thanks! Thank you. How will I learn the code?" This thirl looked like a piece of swiss cheese. It had two big holes and four smaller ones dotted around at random. It was a very pretty thirl that I later learned had a very pretty pitch.
The lady laughed, "Your Grandfather and Mom will teach you."
"They know the code?"
She smiled and ruffled the hair on my head, "Silly, Eric built the first thirls, invented the code and then designed the low frequency ear receivers with a man named Joseph Three-feathers. You'd be surprised how smart your Mom is too. You remember to stop by Laurel Mountain and visit us.""Ok. Thanks."
She left to join Randy's group, "See you again, sometime."
Then Randy's group left and we were alone in the big meadow. I had forgotten about the goats but as we were leaving Buffalo Flats they appeared from somewhere and fell into line.
I had given Mom's gray wool cloak back to her. She had wanted me to keep it but I told her I'd rather learn how to make my own. She liked that and smiled.
Moche carried my thirl. He seemed very proud to have something to carry.
We began the trip back to Grandfather's high mountain valley by a new route.
My lessons about the wilderness continued. Grandfather had me figure the routes each day based on compass readings and star information he taught me.
I was anxious to tell Jack and Annie about the Rendezvous and Laurel Mountain.
As we were walking on the trail several days later I said, "Mom."
"That was quite an adventure, wasn't it?"
End of Book 1
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