Beyond the Western
Jake Paxton, Robert Fuller and Cal Bridges were celebrating the grand opening of a new bar and grill called Big Air. The owner was a mutual friend.
They didn’t stay late. They had plans to take the ski bus up to Timberline Lodge the following morning to do some snowboarding.
By noon the following day they were on the mountain. After a few hours of snowboarding on the groomed runs, they decided to find some virgin powder. They ventured higher up the mountain beyond the safe zone to an off limits area. It was risky territory prone to avalanches, but in their minds, the virgin powder was well worth the risk.
They wanted the fun of cutting fresh trails across the face of a huge patch of untouched snow. They had done it before with no problem. Why should this time be any different.
It was one of these fresh cut trails that created the problem. The cut was deep enough to cause a huge chunk of snow to break loose. They had started an avalanche.
Rob and Cal were above it. Jake wasn’t so lucky. He was on the leading edge. He saw it coming and did his best to outrun it. He was no match for the fast moving powder. His luck ran out as it quickly overtook him.
He was buried alive.
His friends frantically looked for him. They called the ski patrol for help. The rescue went on for several hours, but they lost the sun and soon it was too dark to continue.
The following day the rescue had turned into a recovery search. It went on for the rest of the week with no luck. Normally the Spring snow melt would reveal Jake’s body, but there was a hitch. He was too far up the mountain. Depending on how deep he was buried, the snow might never melt enough to recover him.
After several years the authorities gave up expecting to ever find Jake.
Jake Paxton found himself buried in snow. The only thing that showed was his face. The sun was shining bright and the snow was beginning to melt. He managed to dig himself out. No one was in sight. He wondered what had happened to his friends. Had they been caught in the avalanche as well?
He walked back to the lodge and looked, but he couldn’t find them. He reported the avalanche and his missing friends to the ski patrol. They looked at him like he was crazy. “There hadn’t been any avalanches anywhere on the mountain today. There hadn’t been one for over a month.”
They shrugged him off.
Jake didn’t have it all together. He was walking around in a fog and couldn’t seem to get his head cleared. Something wasn’t quite right.
He ended up back in town, but he couldn’t recall how he had got there or how he happened to be standing in front of the Big Air Bar and Grill. He reasoned he might have a concussion and was just not remembering things well. He tried to shrug it off. He went inside to see if his friends were there having a beer.
Jake stood in the doorway and looked things over. It was different. It didn’t look the same as it did the other day. The bartender was a middle aged man. Not his friend. There were pool tables where the dance floor should be.
An old man sat at the bar. He had been staring at Jake since the minute he walked in the door.
“Do I know you from somewhere?” He asked Jake.
“I don’t think so.”
Jake asked the bartender. “Where’s Ed?”
“Ya, the owner.”
“Ed hasn’t been here for…” He looked over at the old man for verification. “What…Ten years?”
The old man agreed. “At least.” He took another long look at Jake. There was something familiar about this kid. He just couldn’t put his finger on it.
Jake picked up a book of matches from off the bar and read it out loud “Big Air Bar and Grill, celebrating fifty years. 2018 to 2068.”
The bartender spoke up. “Celebrating our 50th year here in this same location. You can have those.”
Jake took another look at the matchbook and stuck it in his pocket. He was trying to figure things out. Nothing was making sense.
Still thinking something was familiar about the kid, the old man spoke up. “What’s your name?”
“Jake, Jake Paxton.”
The old mans eyes widened. The name had struck a chord. “The hell you are. Jake Paxton was a friend of mine. He’s been gone for fifty years now. He died in an avalanche on Mount Hood. I was there. So don’t tell me your Jake Paxton.”
Jake studied the old mans face. Thinking he might have recognized something familiar about him. Maybe it was his voice. “Rob, Rob Fuller?” He asked.
The old man almost jumped off his stool. “How the hell do you know who I am? What are you trying to pull here. I don’t know who you are, or what your game is, but I’m not playing. Why don’t you just get the hell out of here.”
“I know you,” Jake continued. You have a girlfriend named Donna.”
“That was my wife’s name and that’s public knowledge. Anyone could have that information.”
Rob got off the stool. He was starting to get real angry.
The bartender stepped in. “I don’t know what’s going on here son, but you need to leave now before I call the cops.”
Jake gave Rob a long look. He was puzzled. How could Rob be so old.
He turned and started for the door. Before he walked out he turned back to the old man. “I am Jake Paxton. We’re friends. At least…we were friends. I don’t know what the hell is going on here either.” He walked out the door and disappeared around the corner.
The bartender had to calm Rob down. “Take it easy, Rob. Man, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“I feel like I’ve seen a ghost. That was too weird. That kid sure looked like Jake Paxton. At least, what I can remember of him, but there’s no way in hell…no way. I think I need another beer.”
The following day, reporters had picked up on a breaking story. A body had been found and dug out of the melting snow on Mount Hood. It had been flown to Portland where it would undergo an autopsy procedure to determine its identity.
Speculation was that it was the body of a young man who died in an avalanche some fifty years ago. His name was Jake Paxton.
The autopsy began by checking the clothing from the body. They checked all the pockets for any form of identification that might give them a clue to its identity. As they were going through the pants pockets the men stopped. One of them got on the phone and called his superior.
“Dave, get in here. We’ve found something you need to see.”
Dave came into the room and the doctor handed him the item.
“This was in his pocket.” He pointed at the item as he spoke. “That’s this year. How can that be?”
“Not sure,” replied Dave. “But I’m going to find out.” Dave needed some answers. He paid a visit to Big Air Bar and Grill. Rob happened to be sitting at the bar in his usual spot.
Dave asked the bartender if he or anyone who frequented the bar knew a Jake Paxton.
Rob spoke up. “I knew him. He was a friend of mine when we were kids. I was with him when he was killed on Mount Hood.”
“You know his body was found two days ago, right?”
“Ya, I heard it on the news.”
“Can you explain something to me?” He pulled the matchbook from his pocket and read it. “Big Air Bar and Grill, celebrating fifty years. 2018 to 2068.”
He handed it to Rob. “ What do you know about this? We found it in his pocket.”
© Copyright 2019 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.