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The Monadnock Roar

The Monadnock Roar
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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.

I’ve climbed Mt. Monadnock several times since that day when I climbed it with Eliot, and I’m sure that I’ll climb it again. I don’t think I’ll ever hear the roar, though. Something like that probably happens only once in a lifetime. But I do know that it was real. It was as real as the life of Eliot Elanman — and almost as important.

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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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