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The Monadnock Roar

I rarely lose my temper. But Eliot’s words undid something in me. I didn’t hit him, but I’m sure he thought I had by the suddenness with which I pushed his arms away from his face.

I began yelling. I pulled Eliot to his feet and pushed him past the boulders and into the trees. I never once let go of him; I just continued to push him down and ahead. And all the while, I never stopped yelling.

“Come on, Eliot! Fight! Don’t let anyone or anything take away the greatest moment and the greatest day you’ve ever known! Don’t give it up, Eliot! Please don’t!”

And he didn’t. He fought. He found and strained some sort of energy into his legs and started down, on his own.

I followed him. I remained several yards behind him for fear of breaking the spell. Sluggishly, like a large snail, he lowered himself down the now muddied mountain. Several times he slid, but his large hand always found a root or a rock. More than once, I wanted to help him, to lift him to his feet and have him lean against me, but I didn’t. The glazed staring of his eyes always told me not to. Instead, I’d sit for a moment and wait. And all the time, the rain continued.

We probably had made it about halfway down when we came to the place where the trail was being washed away. It was too late, though, by the time I saw it. I’m not sure if Eliot ever did. Before I could even get the words out, the ground crumbled and rushed downhill, Eliot’s large and limp body going with it.

Eliot had become twisted around and was belly down, his face lifted toward me, his arms outstretched, his fingers separated and oozing streams of mud as he slid farther and farther away. I hurled myself after him. It had to have been at least a hundred yards before we stopped. Eliot was practically buried. I feared he was suffocating, so I clawed and scraped to free him. He began coughing and sneezing away the impacted dirt. Then he lay back in my arms and let the rain wash his face.

We stayed that way for awhile, Eliot cradled in my arms while I listened to his breathing and waited for the sound of voices to come and help us. I remember thinking how sad it was that we had been defeated. There was much we had overcome, much we had accomplished, but not to make it all the way, on our own, was in reality a defeat.

It was then I heard the roar. Eliot swore he never heard a thing. But I know I did. It was the kind of sound that turns hair white. A deep, fierce, almost deafening roast.

I froze, my heart pounding, my mind racing. Then I lifted Eliot, struggled up the slippery incline to the trail, and sat him down on it. I barely remember doing it, but Eliot said it was a practically supernatural feat, and if he hadn’t been there, he would never have believed it.

Then we laughed. A little at first, then uncontrollably. The rain began to stop, and we hugged each other. Then we cried, both of us this time.

After awhile Eliot mumbled something about “finishing the deed,” stood up, and held out his hand for me. I took it and got up. Together, singing the score to Fiddler on the Roof, we made our way down Mt. Monadnock. My son, my friend, and the rescue party were just about to start out when we came into view of the cars.

Two months later my family and I left the halfway house and rented a small cottage in Peterborough, New Hampshire. We could see Mt. Monadnock from our backyard. Just before winter set in, Eliot and some of the others from the house came to visit us. We had a nice time sitting in lawn chairs while looking at the mountain and reminiscing. Eliot had a hard time containing himself as he watched me unwrap the present he had brought me. It was a book about Mt. Monadnock, and it had a pigeon feather in it marking the page that Eliot thought I’d be most interested in reading.

Of course, Eliot was right. It said that although no one had reported having heard the phenomenon known as the “Monadnock Roar” for years, Henry David Thoreau had heard it once during a storm when he had injured his leg and was desperately trying to get down. It said that Thoreau rarely talked about it because people thought he was crazy enough already. It then went on to give some scientific explanation as to what might cause the roar, but I’m sure that Henry wouldn’t have been impressed with that either.

I never saw Eliot again. He died several months later when, in another one of his attempts to be normal, he went off his medications and froze to death in an alley after having a seizure. No one ever found out why he was in the alley.

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Updated Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

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3 Responses to The Monadnock Roar

  1. probyn gregory November 7, 2009 at 2:43 pm #

    I am the only one I know alive now that has heard the Roar. It awoke me and my grandparents at their Jaffrey house on the south slopes of Monadnock sometime ca. 1973. Since I only caught the tail end of it, i can only describe it as a deep, rather mournful sound, akin somewhat to King Kong as he is trapped by the humans. My grandparents were well read and told me that Thoreau had heard it, and I think Pumpelly too, and they claimed it was to do with wind hitting a south-facing canyon just SO.
    Tangentially, I was up on Saddleback Mtn. in Phoenix earlier this year and met a developmentally disabled person on the trail named Eliot, we did the summit and down together, and have stayed in email touch.

  2. Margie Orr March 29, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    What a fascinating story!!!!!!

  3. MaryBeth Garbauskas March 29, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    What a nice story! Where is that mountain, does anyone know?. I

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