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The Monadnock Roar

The Monadnock Roar
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I’ve seen men who were possessed before. I’ve seen them in sport, or work, or argument drive themselves beyond their usual capabilities. But I’ve never seen anyone take it to the extreme that Eliot did. Even my son, energetic and already showing signs of the athlete he would later become, found it difficult keeping up with him. Eliot hardly stumbled, rarely even staggered, and if he did, he somehow found a way to compensate for it and turn it into part of his upward force.

He grunted. He gasped. He sweated profusely. But he kept on climbing. At times he scared the others. More often he scared me. I can remember thinking that I was witnessing some sort of bizarre attempt at suicide, that Eliot was truly trying to kill himself.

When we finally cleared the last round boulder and stood at the top, it was shock. Not for us. We were exhausted and quietly elated. The shock came to the other 50 or so human beings who had ventured up Mt. Monadnock that day. I know I would have been awestruck, probably even frightened, if I had been one of them. It’s not every day that you’re suddenly faced with a 200-pound, hairy man with an enlarged head who is jumping and dancing while shouting Jewish blessings into the air at the top of his lungs, especially on the top of a mountain. But they survived it, and soon they were laughing and smiling right along with him.

No one could blame Eliot for celebrating like that. He had overcome tremendous odds in getting himself to the top of that mountain. When I looked at the black clouds reaching toward us from the western horizon. I knew that those same odds were about to turn on us.

The celebration was over. One by one, we started down the trail, the rapidly approaching storm putting new energy into the legs and arms of everyone — everyone but Eliot.

He could barely move. Whatever adrenaline, whatever spirit, whatever passion had brought him to the top of Mt. Monadnock was now spent. Trembling and clinging to a small crevice between two large boulders, he began to cry.

I told my son to follow the trail and lead the others down to safety. I told him to tell our friend what was happening and to get help. Then I hugged him. While watching my son disappear below, I heard Eliot slump to the ground and begin to sob.

I don’t know how much time went by. I know it was enough to allow the thunder to boom, the lightning to flash, and the rain to begin to fall upon us. There was no mercy, in that storm. It lashed out at the mountain, at us, as if to punish. And it succeeded. Eliot whined and whimpered and drew himself into a helpless little egg whose only purpose was in allowing itself to be crushed.

I probably would have allowed that to happen if it hadn’t been for the one sentence Eliot had spoken since the storm had begun. It sort of squeaked out between the arms he had folded over his head.

“I wish I had never come.”

Please Note: This article 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.

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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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