Daylight seems to break early when you are camping out and getting ready to hunt squirrels the next morning.
I got up at 4:30 a.m. The coffee was already boiling, the eggs scrambled, the bacon crisp. I grabbed a quick sandwich, poured black coffee into a paper cup, and was headed into the forest well before dawn. I had decided to head under the cliffs to hunt this day, and it was a slow, long walk.
We were on Little Lick Campground, away from the noise, far from any traffic, and at peace with my God. I could see what looked like a million stars in the sky. Although it wasn’t a full moon, it was light enough that I felt safe enough to cut off my flashlight and walk by the stars.
I would need my flashlight to go over the cliffs, as one bad step could mean the end of a good day. Finding my way over the moss-covered rock and footholds on the cliff was as easy as walking on my porch, having done it so many times. As I reached the bottom, my flashlight still on, I heard a man’s voice from out of the darkness. “Help, help,” was what he was saying.
I walked over to the man, who was just sitting on a rock. I could make out his outline and asked what was wrong. He said, “Thank God you found me.” I then shined my flashlight into his face and I could see his fear. He had on a red baseball cap and I could tell he was frightened. Again I asked, “What is wrong?” He said, “I’m from Harlan and I have been lost since dark last night. Can you help?”
I finally got him calmed down enough to tell me where he was camped. Big Lick, he said. I told him we were on Little Lick. Our camps were about two miles apart. The road, once he got to Little Lick, would take him to Big Lick. I loaned him my flashlight and told him go up the cliffs where I just came from, and that when he got to the top of the cliff he would see a bridle trail that would take him to Little Lick. He would then just have walk down the main road.
I was going to be walking out around midday so I would not need my flashlight anymore today. I ask him to leave it at our camp. Strange, but none of his hunting party came looking for him at our camp.
I went on hunting and arrived back in camp in time for lunch. I asked the guys if they had seen the hunter from Harlan with the red baseball cap. Every man there said they had seen him in the woods, but that he had not made it to our camp. Just about that time, here came two pickup loads of hunters asking if we had seen him. We told them yes. They never asked us to help look for him and turned and left.
The year was 1968. To this day I often wonder if they ever found the little man from Harlan with the red baseball cap. And what did he do with my four-cell flashlight?