The Man of the Mountain
by Leslie Hughes
for her Father Lester Montgomery
My name is Leslie Hughes, once upon a time I was known to this world as “Little Les”. When I get the chance I always venture back to that world that knows me as “Little Les”.
I am from the mountains of Virginia. There in those mountains lives a man. When I think of this man, I see a man that’s as tall as the tallest oak that rides the back of Elephant Mountain. I see a man, as strong as the waters that pour over the ridges of that same mountain. This man can be as gentle as the wind that kisses each blade of grass upon this mountain. To me he is the king of this mountain and the light of my eyes. This man is my father … Lester Montgomery.
I grew up running the mountains with my father learning how to survive if I should get lost. Being a silly girl, I thought it was a physical lesson he taught me with each plant he showed me and every test he gave me. Little did I know that these lessons were to carry me through my life not as physical lessons but lessons of the mind and head.
Oh don’t get me wrong there were many physical lessons he taught me. One comes to mind immediately. I was pregnant with my son, nine months to be exact. I woke one night; I had to go to the bathroom as so many expectant mothers do in the middle of the night. I was staying at my parent’s home so that they could watch me and be there for me when the time came to bring their grandson into this world.
I opened my bedroom door thinking of nothing but getting back to the bed so I could lay my weary child heavy body back down. I heard a noise and froze. There laying in front of my door, flat on his stomach, with a rifle in his hand, was my father .
He was dressed in a tee shirt and P.J. bottoms. Something was not right. He was whispering in a soft voice I could barley make out. I heard him say, ..Do you see him, piece Of shit gook, think we don’t see him, ha ha, what do you think? Think we can get him or are there more?
I was scared stiff. I did not move for fear my father would think I was that gook that he was seeing in his mind. In the dim moon light spilling Into the living room from the windows I could see my fathers eyes. They were not the kind, tender eyes I had grown to seek out as a girl. They were the eyes of a man I did not know. In those eyes I seen years of fear, years of fighting, years of loss. I stood at that threshold of fear with my father that night for the better part of 3 hours. I stood rigid, not moving, sweating, heart beating in my chest, while the child inside my body kicked and protested its confinement. I realize the comparison, the link between my son in my body and my father on the floor that night.
My son, like my father was trapped in a world known only to him, wanting out, kicking, living and seeing things only they could see. Protesting against the confinement they lived in, my son being in my body, my father being his nightmares.
So I stood, not moving, watching my father head down on rifle, eyes seeing the past, fingers on a trigger, mind racing. My feet after an hour could no longer feel, the only thing I could feel was the child moving in my body and the tears making their gentle way down my fear stricken face. My back ached with the weight. Still I did not move.
My father called names of men that were with him. He talked of a plan to deal with the situation. His body spoke volumes to me of his fear and regret. Muscles tight, flexed to move in a way only a man trained to do so could. Finally he relaxed, slid back on his belly across the furnace grate. I heard it scratch his stomach up, heard it tear his shirt. He did not notice the blood from the scratches on his torn shirt. Instead he continued to moves slowly like a snake backwards into the trees that his mind had created near his bedroom door. He stood on bent legs dropped his gun to his side and walked into his bedroom.
I think it was at this time I breathed. My body relaxed and I quietly stepped into the hall where only moments before a gooks death was being contemplated. I walked to my father’s bedroom door and there he was. Lying in his bed, no covers on his body, dressed in his tee torn tee shirt and P.J. bottoms. I walked up to him; stared down at this man of the mountain. I see his chest rise and fall as if sleep is all he has known for the past 3 hours. I see that little boy his mother use to see when he slept, I see the man in green with ribbons adorning his chest, I see the man that held me when my heart was first broken by a boy, I see the man that spent a week in his wood working shop laboring over a cradle he had to get made in time for his grandson’s arrival.
Until that night I had never seen the man that lived in a distant land while I was learning my first words. That night I lived as he had that long ago night. That night I learned the lesson of physical endurance. That night I lived where my father lives when he closes his eyes.
I reached down for the covers and gently covered up this man. I kissed his cheek and drank the smell of my father in. That deep rich musk odor that screams “DADDY” to me. When I leaned up I noticed a tear on his cheek. My lips were damp from his tears where I had kissed him. I turned and finally went to the bathroom and made my way back to the bedroom. I laid my body down.
I remember my mother telling me my whole life; “Daddy wakes up at night and walks around, so don’t let it startle you if you should see him OK? And, don’t wake him up girls”. I climbed back out of my bed, went to check on my Daddy. He was sleeping as I left him and I sat up in front of my door the rest of the night. Waiting, watching, I wanted to protect and guard him as so many times he had others in the past.
As you can see this man of the mountains to me is forever the man I look for in my life. He is my father Lester Montgomery. The man I respect more than another living thing or otherwise. The man I look for and look to.
He is my mountain, my wind, and my rain. He is forever .
“ABOVE THE REST”