Suicide Cap by G W Riley - Read Online
Suicide Cap
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A 1930 father and son bear hunting trip goes horribly wrong amid the backdrop and dire legends of the towering mountain Suicide Cap with tragic consequences.
The 1989 maiden test flight of an experimental hover plane sets of a series of events & tragedies amid an alleged UFO encounter that all leads to Suicide Cap where 2 men from different eras find their fate in each others hands.

Published: G W Riley on
ISBN: 9781452409009
List price: $2.99
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Suicide Cap - G W Riley

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Chapter 1 - I

Back Flats Pennsylvania, Nov 1930

James O’Mara quietly makes his way to his son’s bedroom in their small farmhouse to wake the boy from his slumber. The boy awakens quickly, having slept only lightly throughout the night in restless anticipation of this day. They were about to embark on a hunt that the father had only been able to dream about from the days of his youth, and in turn, had infected his own son with the dream of a week long hunt high in the mountains for the giant black bears said by local legend to roam there.

Sean O’Mara, now a strapping tall lad of 15 years had been hunting at his fathers’ side and taking wild game of every description since he was about 8 years old and able to hold a rifle steady enough to shoot accurately. But that had always been in the fields and wooded foothills surrounding their farm, where they were always able to be home in time for supper, or at least before bedtime.

The squirrel, grouse, turkey, deer, and occasional small black bear they harvested, cleaned and butchered were regular staples at the family table and provided meat for the family through many a long winter. The furs and hides from the game were used for various leather projects around the farm, or sold in town for cash. But this hunt was different. It would be Sean’s first hunting excursion with his father that would entail camping out in the mountains away from home for any length of time, yet another sign of his coming of age.

Just in the past year his role in the family had changed in many ways. He had always had his assigned chores to do around the farm such as feeding the chickens, horses and cows, cleaning out stalls and such, but was also required to help his mother and sister wash dishes and with other menial house chores.

In the past year he was allowed to abandon the dishes and household chores, and began helping his father with larger, more important tasks like driving the old tractor to till the fields, helping dig post holes to repair or add new fencing, repairing the horse harnesses and gear, and other more manly tasks.

As long as he could remember, when the family made their monthly trip into the town of Back Flats for supplies he had always been relegated to accompanying his mother and sister on their particular missions in town. First it was into old man Hodson’s general store where they purchased needed household and food items, or traded clothing or quilts his mother had made by hand, or vegetables she had grown, for other goods or cash.

Then it was over to the apothecary shop where his mother sought new medicinal items or new cures for whatever might ail them, and then to the old seamstresses shop where his mother spent, in his opinion, WAY too much time admiring and touching the new linens and dress making materials there.

While they were engaged in this monthly women’s’ work the boys father would be visiting and doing business at the blacksmiths shop, the livery stable, the feed mill, and the general store, then would spend the afternoon sitting with the men folk at the table in the corner of Hodson’s general store smoking cigars and telling tall tales.

Finally, during their last few visits to town, Sean was permitted to accompany his father to all those places instead of having to hang at his mothers’ side. He finally garnered a revered seat at the corner table with the men folk, a sure sign of his rite of passage into manhood.

There, at the revered table, Sean listened to the men’s stories of wars past; battles won and lost during the Great War, general talk of farming, new inventions that were finally making their way to their little hamlet, and of hunting. As the tales of hunts past wound down, the talk invariably turned to the legend of the great mountain Suicide Cap.

It was during these table side discussions that he became enthralled by all the lore and legends of the area discussed in depth, true or not, about ghosts of mountain men and Indian warriors of the past, huge savage black bears, the hostile terrain of Suicide Cap and the inner Cardiac Mountains, and men lost forever to all three. And now, for this hunt, they would be traveling into the very realm of those long gone Indians, ghosts and huge black bears of legend.

Sean’s father returns down the creaky old stairs of the farmhouse to the kitchen and sits down at one end of the long wooden table. He had been up for nearly an hour now, having risen at 3 am to stoke the fire in the old pot belly stove in the corner of the kitchen, get the coffee brewing, and make their breakfast of bacon, eggs, and pan cakes. Within minutes, Sean is dressed and joins his father in the kitchen where they down their hearty breakfast, then make their way to the sitting room for a last minute check of their gear.

The previous evening, the boy had carefully cleaned and oiled his 1873 Winchester 44-40 lever action rifle, to him a treasure handed down from his grandfather to his father, and now down to him. He had used the rifle several times before target shooting and hunting with his father, and had become quite a good shot with the rifle.

Each time he held the rifle he thought he could feel the presence of his deceased grandfather smiling down on him, even though he didn’t remember the man. As his father was finishing up last minute farm chores, the boy had also cleaned and oiled his father’s 1903 Springfield 30-06 bolt action rifle.

James had carried and used an ’03 Springfield rifle for nearly 2 years as an infantryman in the U. S. Army fighting through the trenches and battlefields of France and Germany during the Great War. Through the horror and battles of war, he had become quite proficient and comfortable with the Springfield rifle and knew first hand the accuracy and killing power of the rifles’ 30-06 cartridge. When he saw several for sale as army surplus at old man Hodson’s General Store in town a few years ago, he just had to have one.

Scrimping and cutting corners, he squeezed the family budget for months to save up the $20, and was finally able to buy one for himself at Hodson’s General store. With the purchase of the ’03 Springfield, James handed down the trusty old Winchester to his son.

In the previous few days they had devoted every spare moment between their daily farm chores to gathering a mountain of gear and supplies for this hunting trip. From the original mountain of gear, they then had to pick and choose each item carefully, discarding anything that was not an absolutely essential item.

The weather though, would play a major role in determining just how much gear they would need. A day earlier the weather had taken a turn for the worse, an unexpected early winter storm had arrived with unusually cold air and heavy snows. They could only hope the weather would not cause the bears on the mountain to retreat into early hibernation.

Finally, the night before, they had managed to pare down the gear to a size sufficient for a week of winter survival in the frigid mountains, yet manageable for a man and boy to carry on foot into the mountains. Satisfied that they had accomplished this task, they began stuffing all the gear and supplies into 2 large back packs and waist bags, with their bedrolls and tent halves strapped to the top of the backpacks.

By 5 am, with their gear and supplies secured to the old Harvester chain drive farm tractor, they set out up through the valley toward the Cardiac Mountain range to the north, and their final destination, Suicide Cap.

The Cardiac mountain range was much like any other in the state of Pennsylvania, heavily forested with hemlock, pine, oak, maple and a variety of other trees, interspersed with vast patches of mountain laurel and other undergrowth. Each mountain forming gracefully from the valley floors, gradually rising ever higher from the valley floor with each successive mountain, divided by ever higher and narrowing valleys and gullies that disappeared as the mountains formed into one vast high mountain range.

But that though, is where the similarities ended. Once past the first range of graceful sloping mountains in the outer Cardiac range, each following mountain grew steeper, higher, and more abruptly from the previous mountain, separated only by narrow gullies. Near the center of the inner Cardiac Mountains stood the mountain the local folk called Suicide Cap, based on legend and folklore that it was suicide for anyone to venture there.

Visible for miles around, Suicide Cap stood high and ominous over all the other mountains in the Cardiac range and seemed to have been carved out by a veritable mad man. To gaze at this magnificent menacing monster of a mountain, one got the impression that it belonged in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, rather than in Northern Pennsylvania.

The North Slope was an incredibly long steep jagged rock cliff rising over 1000 feet nearly straight up from the base of the previous mountain. The rock face was harsh and barren, save a spattering of wiry tangled briars protruding out from the occasional cracks in the huge rock face. The remaining sides of the cap were nearly as steep, covered with large thick pine and oak trees, all leaning outward from the steep slopes at irregular angles, interspersed with mountain laurel and small scrub growth.

No one in recent memory had ever been to the top of Suicide Cap, but according to local lore and legend, it was said to stretch for several miles across its peak, covered by the thickest, richest natural wild growth that any man had ever seen. It was said that the Indians called the mountain Ghost Mountain because they believed the ghosts of the braves who ventured there and never returned still roamed the cap.

The legend, originating with the Indian tribes that had inhabited the area in the 1800’s and earlier, claimed the mountain to be inhabited by some of the biggest, meanest black bears to ever walk the earth, endowed with a taste for human flesh. At night it is said, the ghosts of victims past arise to eerily dance with the spirit bears around their ancient campfires well into the night, and then roam the mountain in search of future victims. Men not taken by the bear or ghosts of victims past are swallowed up in the jaws of the great mother mountain.

With each passing generation the legend was fueled by local stories handed down through generations, of men who had ventured to the cap in search of the bears during the mid and late 1800s, never to be seen or heard from again. No one had ever set foot there since then. Many had bragged of future planned attempts to go to the Cap, but none ever followed through. Until now, that is.

James O’Mara and his son Sean wound their way over deeper into the Cardiac Mountain Range astride the old farm tractor. Initially they were able to travel over open fields and through the forest on existing trails and tram roads left over from long past logging operations on the gentler sloping mountains. When the trails and trams faded into non existence in the thick heavy woods, they took a zigzag route, carefully guiding the tractor between and around the trees.

After driving for almost three hours, the increasingly rough terrain and thickening forests finally terminated the usefulness of the tractor as they had anticipated. Parking the tractor in the last small clearing large enough for the tractor, they unloaded all their gear, strapped the bags and packs to their waists and backs, and shouldered their rifles.

From here, they would travel on foot, picking their way through the steep inner Cardiac Mountains ever so carefully. Always in the distance they could see the peak of Suicide Cap. Ever present in the back of their minds was the ominous warning of the legend; few that set foot on the cap ever returned. How could they ever forget the warnings? They had heard it so often during the table discussions at the general store, and ever since they announced their plans for the hunt, from Old man Hodson, Mrs. O’Mara and the others who incessantly reminded them, telling them it was foolhardy to even think of going to the Cap.

Confident though that this was all rubbish fueled by the old legends, the pair pushed on until nightfall, when they finally reached the foot of Suicide Cap, where they set up camp for the night.

Now enveloped with the pitch black darkness of the night, the boy’s mind wandered to the tales of the Suicide Cap Legend. Even though he felt safe in the company of his father, he was still nervous and a bit jumpy, flinching at every little noise that filtered out of the darkness. He began to imagine the Indian warriors slowly emerging from the darkness, at first floating white smoky apparitions, finally forming into their full former human image, a large fire fading into existence in the center of a woodland clearing.

They begin dancing their sacred Indian dances, circling around the fire, as ever more apparitions form there. Soon there are dozens of them, dancing and gyrating as dozens of huge bear merge into the scene, followed closely by grizzled old mountain men and hunters of the past. Hours later the fire dies out as the bear and their ghostly counterparts fade away from the clearing into the night in search of victims. As the images merged into a dream, the boy huddled a bit closer to his father in the tent and fell into a deep sleep.

They awoke the following morning at the crack of dawn to nearly a foot of fresh fallen snow. After digging themselves out of the tent, they cleared an area for a fire and ate a hearty breakfast. James got a hearty laugh as Sean told him of his dreams, and he again reassured his son that the tales of the legend were nothing more than rubbish from the wild imaginations of gullible people.

He continued laughing as they packed up their tent and gear, and resumed their trek. They knew that this day would be the harshest of the trip, even though they would make their ascent of Suicide Cap via the East slope which was the least treacherous. The closely knit Mountain Laurel and trees would at least provide some aid in the ascent of the Cap.

Shortly after resuming their trek, they came across several large sets of bear tracks that passed less than 100 yards from where they’d slept. Following the weaving tracks, the O’Mara’s made their way cautiously up the east slope of Suicide Cap.

As they climbed, they discussed the various theories of why the bears hadn’t bothered their camp as they slept, why they hadn't turned around when the smell of the cooking food drifted over the area, and the possibility that the bear might be going to den early due to the weather. Arriving at no concrete answers, they silently trudged on.

Two hours later, the hunters crested the peak of Suicide Cap. As they climbed, they had noticed the wind gaining velocity, but here at the peak it whipped viciously, stirring up swirling snow squalls. They stopped momentarily in between several house sized boulders a short distance from the crest, huddling against the boulders to shield themselves from the biting wind.

The exertion of the climb up the steep mountainside had caused them to sweat heavily, despite the bitter cold and driving winds, and the wet sweat began to make them feel much colder once the heavy exertion was over.

Shielded by the boulders, they opened their coats and shirts to vent the sweat and dry their upper bodies, then bundled themselves up again for the trek across the Cap. As they made their way across the Cap, the bear tracks became ever fainter until, as they broke into a large clearing, they simply disappeared in the whipping, drifting snow.

The hunters continued across the clearing, straining their eyes to see through the swirling snow. Walking was difficult, as in one place the snow would be waist deep, capturing their legs as they fought to drag them out of the deep snow, then within another step or two the snow would be merely ankle deep creating very uneven, awkward steps.

All the while the vicious wind blew, gusting from ever changing direction from one side or the other pushing the hunters sideways, then at their backs, making it difficult to stay on their feet, and then in their faces forcing them to stop and hunker down with their backs to the wind.

Under the snow was the ever present tangle foot, stringy, looping weeds constantly tangling their feet and tripping the hunters. The biting wind swirled, increasing in velocity with each step, blowing snow into their eyes, making it near impossible to keep their eyes fully open.

Eventually they made it across the clearing to a heavy stand of spruce and hemlock trees. There the wind didn’t seem quit as harsh as it had in the clearing. Continuing on for a short distance through the trees, they came upon a vast gorge slicing through the top of the mountain. None of the local legends or folklore had mentioned such a feature of the mountain.

James commented that had he known the gorge existed, they probably could have located the opening of the gorge from below the mountain, and walked up through the gorge, avoiding the treacherous, difficult climb up the side of the steep mountain.

Too late now the boy thought, thankful that the raging winds had diminished here along the rim of the gorge. His legs were already tired, weak, and burning from the ascent up the steep slope and fighting against the wind, snow, and tangle foot to stay on his feet through the clearing. If the wind had been blowing here as forcefully as it had in the clearing, it could very well have blown them down the short slope to the unseen gorge and over the edge to their deaths.

The hunters stood there for a while in awe of this grand chasm, then decided to head to the right along the gorge rim. As they followed the twisting, winding gorge, they passed from under one stand of trees, through short clearings, then into another stand of various trees, always surrounded by the vast patches of laurel and tangle foot.

The further they went, the thicker the laurel and brush became under the trees. The father edged closer to the gorge wall where the growth wasn’t as dense, while his son opted for the easier more open wooded outside route near the clearing.

Suddenly, without warning, a large black bear stood straight up out of the thick Mountain Laurel mere feet in front of the elder hunter as her cub darted off behind the sow. Protective of her cub, the sow appeared to be in attack mode. Caught off guard and off balance, James quickly shouldered his rifle and fired off a shot with no time to aim as he stumbled back and to his left.

The concussion and recoil of the shot knocked him further off balance and brought an avalanche of snow from the heavily laden tree branches above. He struggled to regain his footing while instinctively trying to chamber another round into the breech of the rifle for a follow up shot at the bear.