Talking with Zadok, pt. 4

Friday, Jan. 24, 1987
I woke up in a different world than the one I’d woken up in the day before. I was different. Wiser. Aware of things I’d not known or fully comprehended before.

Two hours of interviewing Zadok was a powerful experience.

I got out of bed, switched on the bedroom light, and found my backpack. I made sure my report was safely tucked into its folder. 

Dad was cranky again last night. Really cranky. All during dinner, he was complaining about cows and Mr. Rochester. I’d heard him get frustrated before about stuff at the barn. Especially when cows were sick or dealing with mastitis infections. Or in the summer when he had a bunch of hay reading for baling, and a storm would come out of nowhere and wreck his plans. But I’d never heard him upset about Mr. Rochester. 

The owner of the farm was someone to be respected and spoken of positively. That wasn’t the case last night, though, and it made me nervous to hear Dad talking like that. I could tell Mom didn’t like it either.

I was still energized and excited from my time with Zadok, and I didn’t want to lose the momentum. After clearing the table and helping Mom with dishes, I went to my room to work on the report. Three hours later, I had the first draft done.

I couldn’t wait to hand the assignment in to Mr. Gilman. Not only was it a week early, but it was also so interesting and well written that I probably wouldn’t need to do a second draft. I wondered if any of the other kids in my class had even done interviews yet. Probably not. Well, maybe Heather.

Even though I went to bed late, I was up early, and I decided to use the extra time to read my report one more time. I pulled it out, crawled under my covers, and got comfy.

Then I read:

The Secret History of Comfort Rock
By Lauren Comstock

Everybody knows the history of Comfort Rock.

It was founded in 1779 by Phineas Beardsley. Its one of the hilliest towns in Vermont and got its name from the rocky hilltop settlers gathered on for safety during a giant flood. There’s a big park there today. 

Comfort Rock sent lots of local guys to fight in the Civil War the most of any town in the state. Only one of those soldiers was killed in the war. 

Most everybody knows about things like the three different Underground Railroad places around town including the one under the sick cow barn at the farm my dad runs. And about the part of the boarder with Canada that has three different sets of barb and electric fence on account of Mr. Barker’s herd always going on intertnational trips back in the 1970s.

There’s also places everbody knows. The ones that have been around forever. The general store. The Catholic Church and Methodist Church. The old oil pump someone put up in a pasture to try and strike it rich in the 1950s because he saw a guy a few towns over do the same. 

There’s a lot that goes on around here that most folks don’t know about though. But old Zadok Thompson does.

Zadok lives all by himself up at the end of my road, just him and his dog Smokey. Going inside his house is like a history class come to life, he’s got so much old stuff around.

Zadok told me he’s live up on the hill his whole life. First with his parents and two sisters, then just him and his father after his mother died and his sisters got married. Then just him after Mr. Thompson died back when my mom was still a kid He said he doesn’t get lonely, though, with Smokey around.

Being so old, Zadok has seen Comfort Rock change lots. He said he doesn’t know if he likes all the changes, though.  He remembers when stuff was a lot simpler, not just here, but all over the world. He thinks the way things are now are a lot more complicated than they need to be.

One thing Zadok told me he thinks has stayed the same over the years is that a lot of strang stuff goes on in Comfort Rock and Franklin County, but most people either don’t notice or don’t believe it.

Like the old cave behind my house, which people call the Gin Cave. It’s pretty big, and if you go deep enough in, it branches off in a bunch of directions. Dad told me that some of then end in drop-offs that are bottomless, and Mr. Rochester had the entrance sealed off years ago to keep people from getting hurt inside. Well Zadok told me how the cave got its name. He said back during prohibition, when the goverment made booze illegal, the cave was used by Al Capone’s gang to hide liquor after sneaking it over the border from Canada. A couple of gangsters would stay with the shipments, camping out for a couple days, and then it would get snuck out at night. Zadok also told me that Al Capone used to stay at the Highgate Manor over in Highgate sometimes when he was doing business around here.

I asked Zadok why it was called the Gin Cave instead of the Liquor Cave, and he said it was because the cave was always called the Gin Cave, just with a different meaning, but he didn’t want to say, which doesn’t make sense to me.

Something else I asked Zadok about was Bigfoot. One day I heard Wilson at the store talking about how Zadok claimed he saw a Bigfoot once when he was hunting around the Gin Cave. Zadok got real excited about that when I brought it up, and he told me to hold on. He left the room and I heard him upstairs moving stuff around. He came back down with something wrapped in an old, dirty towel. He sat it on the table and unwrapped it. It was a cast of a Bigfoot print he made one spring about 40 years ago and he found the print it came from over near the Gin Cave when he was building fence in the woods for Mr. Winchester’s father. 

Zadok said he herd back when he was a kid that some sort of strange creature was seen over around Missisquoi Bay back in the middle 1700s when Major Robert Rogers came through. Supposably him and his rangers came across a bear that threw rocks and other stuff at them. Zadok told me it was right after Major Rogers and his men did awful things to the St. Francis Indians in Canada, so probably Bigfoot was paying them back. He also said that Indians around the bay called that Bigfoot bear thing Wejuk, which means “wet skin” There’s also stories like that over around St. Johnsbury Zadok said. But over their the Bigfoot’s called Old Slipperyskin. That’s a pretty neat name.

It doesn’t have to do with Comfort Rock, but its interesting that Major Rogers saw that Wet Skin near Missisquoi Bay since Champ lives in Lake Champlain, and that lady took a picture of Champ down around St. Albans a few years back. I like that maybe Wet Skin and Champ know about each other and maybe even see each other sometimes.

Did you know that Comfort Rock has been visited by aliens? Because it has. Zadok was talking with Wilson about it before Christmas at the general store, about how he’d seen them flying around over his fields stirring up his cows. Wilson was pretty mad about the whole thing and didn’t want to hear it. But Zadok told me it’s true and that theres been others who have seen them around over the years. All around Franklin County, too.

He told me there was glowing balls flying around in Bakersfield back in the 1970s, which isn’t so long ago. And even more recent, there were UFOs in Richford, St. Albans, Enosburg, and Fairfield. Even I remember some of those. I never saw one, but I heard people talking about them. Zadok said its pretty normal. He said if he sits out on his porch for a couple hours on a nice, clear night, something will come along that moves in a way that doesn’t make sense.

I asked Zadok if he ever heard of stuff like werewolves and vampires around here, but he just laughed at me. He said there’s stuff like Bigfoot and UFOs and even ghosts, but monsters aren’t real.

Which reminds me that there were ghost stories, too.

Some of those stories were pretty popular ones. The ones that get told at the school’s Halloween dance every year. Like Hartt’s Bridge being haunted by a big, laughing man with a beard, and the hitchhiking lady on Pike Drive that vanishes when you stop to pick her up, and the ghost party that can be heard sometimes in the town hall basement. Everyone knows those stories.

But Zadok told me others.

For example, that old oil rig I mentioned earlier is haunted. The guy who built it thought for sure he was going to become a millionaire with Comfort Rock oil. Except there wasn’t any and he wound up poor. So poor his house and land got taken from him by the bank. Well one cold and lonely night he wandered out into that field, curled up under the rig, and died. Zadok said the man’s ghost can be heard bawling away sometimes, just heartbroken over the lack of oil.

Another good one is the ghost kid that hangs around during the town’s 4th of July fireworks. Nobody knows who it is, but Zadok said that when the finale is going off, a small, shadowy figure can be seen at the edge of the crowd, walking toward people and holding a balloon, but then the kid never gets there. That one feels pretty sad to me. Zadok also told me he gets the best fireworks view becuase of being on top of the hill like he is.

Zadok said he could go on and on with ghost stories from Comfort Rock and around. He said the Enosburg Opera House has a ghost, and so do a bunch of places around St. Albans. I wanted to sit and listen to all the stories, but I ran out of time. 

I guess that will be for another report.

I’d done it. I’d written the perfect report. I couldn’t wait to get to school.

To be continued …

THE COMFORT ROCK CHRONICLES IS AN ONGOING SERIES OF SHORT STORIES ABOUT A FICTITIOUS VERMONT TOWN, AN AMALGAM OF ALL NORTHWEST VERMONT HAS TO OFFER. COMFORT ROCK HAS BEEN GROWING IN MY HEAD FOR WELL OVER 20 YEARS. I REALLY LIKE THE FOLKS WHO CALL COMFORT ROCK HOME, AND I HOPE YOU DO TOO.

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