by Blackbird Knob

Blackbird Knob is not so tall as, say, Hogback mountain.

It’s just a gently extended hump arising from the high mountain plateau, covered with hardwoods—oaks and sycamores and poplars—mixed with an occasional pine. Bathed by the sun’s first light, the eastern face standing starkly against the deep blue sky, Blackbird Knob is impressive. It’s reflection in the still water below the dark woods inspires awe.

The Lord God made me the night owl that I am. At home, I do not see the dawning of a day; I obey that still small voice that, mellifluously, comforts me each morning: “Sleep on, Friend. Sleep on.” Knowing this to be the voice of the Holy Spirit, I obey it religiously.

On the trail, however, that’s a different story. Asleep, encased within my friend, my love—my sleeping bag—I awake each morning out when the rising sun begins to swallow the stars. Others may say that my eye lids cannot close tight enough when those first rays assault the eastern horizon above the trees. But, I know that the real reason I arise at the dawn when in the woods is that the Lord again speaks to me, softly, insistently, whispering: “Coffee!” Of course, as I get older, the insistence I feel may come from a source more internal and less spirit-based, but that (again) is another story.

I sat on a worn sandstone rock facing the Knob, pulled the worn watch cap part-way over my ears, set up the small stove, and filled my two-ounce, light-weight pot from an old Nalgene water bottle. Coffee was calling me, and I obeyed. Shambling, shuffling feet approached from behind, just before the frumpy body of my hiking partner dropped itself in a heap on damp grass nearby and pulled his sleeping bag close around his shoulders.

“Coffee?” he asked.

“Almost. For me,” I answered, looking out to Blackbird Knob and listening for bubbles and steam.

“Not gonna share, hmm?”

“You’ve got your own, and you know it.”

“See if I ever help you out.”

“You don’t.”

“So, this is payback, hmm?”

“Nope. Ain’t worth it.”

“Hmm.” Bubbles. Steam. Little vinyl jar of crystallized coffee…shake-shake-pour.

“Where’s your cup?” Sigh.

Blackbird Knob receded into the brightening sky, but it’s reflection in the water was, if anything, more brilliant…“Where’d you get the water?”

“What do you mean, ‘where did I get the water?’ I made it, of course.”

“No, no. Just hoped you didn’t use any of the water we boiled up yesterday.”

“What do you mean? Of course, I did. Where else would I get the water that made the coffee you’re so eagerly drinking?”

“Christ! Look at all that water out there, and you use up stuff it took so long for us to boil out yesterday!” He swung his arm out toward the…

“Beaver pond, you jerk. It’s a beaver pond. One hell of a beaver pond, but it’s a beaver pond. See? There’s the beaver—b-e-a-v-e-r—lodge over there, on the right. Think on this: giardiasis.”

“So, you’re saying it’s no good? That water?”

“Beaver shit in that pond. Lots of beaver. Why do you think we spent the time and gas boiling water yesterday?”

“Can’t be. Deer drink that water; birds drink that water. You don’t see them sick with jar-, uh, jardiosis, hmm, whatever!”

“That ain’t a pile of Milk Duds you’re sitting by—oh, sitting on, sorry. And, maybe the birds fly swiftly to the nearest statue. I don’t know. But, I know that there’s beaver, many beaver, in that pond. And, I know that I am not drinking that water straight from the source. This much I know.”

There comes a time in every discourse when voices still and silence sets in. Well, that’s true in many cases. Not this time…“So? So, how do you know bad stuff will happen if you drink that water. It’s clear and pure as God made it.”

“God made it; beaver use it. And this is how I know what I know: Germ Theory.”

“Theory? Here we go again. That means it hasn’t been proved. What of it?”

“It’s only a “theory” in the scientific sense that nothing can be absolutely proven, ever. And, what do you mean, ‘Here we go again?’”

“Evolution. That’s what I mean. You went on and on about how evolution is real and how humans come from apes. That’s what I mean.”

“I never said that humans come from apes, and neither did Darwin. If we came from apes, apes would not still exist since apes would be a stage along the evolutionary line. Instead, apes and humans are branches from the same genetic origin.”

“Speak for yourself, but God created humans. Besides, what’s that got to do with germs?”

“They evolve.”

“What? No way!”

Way! Why do you think we have a shots each year for a new type of flu? How do you think diseases like polio and staph and TB and strep come back after we think they’ve been eradicated? How you think AIDS crossed to humans from apes? Think some idiot got attracted to a female ape, and the ape responded?”

“That’s not fair; it’s sick. God created us and apes, and that’s it.”

Pause.

“Got any more coffee?”

“No. I’ll heat up some more water.”

“Give me the pot; I’ll get the water.”

I stood and stretched. “No, think I’m coffee’d out; time to move, anyway.”

Blackbird Knob sighed.

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