His friend, Jim Wester stopped beside him. Jim was a couple of years younger than Johnny, however, the boys hung together because they were neighbors and the only boys that lived along the rural highway that went past their houses.
The boys peered through the summer heat at an abandoned road that poked into the forest, disappearing in a mysterious shadow of darkness.
"Let's go down that road, Jim," Johnny said.
"Wow, you can hardly tell it’s a road, Johnny."
"It's an old county road that has not been used in a long time. It goes through to the road that the Hicks farm is located on."
Jim nodded and replied, "I know where it comes out. The other end is as overgrown as this end is. I wonder why they stopped using it."
"It goes through Laughery Creek," said Johnny. "Old Charley Nudson said there was a little town back there at one time, right along the creek."
"It looks like its open enough to ride our bikes through," said Jim.
"Some of the farmers use it to get to the back of their farms," Johnny said.
"Have you ever been back there, Johnny?"
Johnny shook his head and answered, "Nope. Grandpa was telling me the other day that him and his friends used to go back once in a while to swim in the creek. But they stopped after a while."
"Why did they stop?"
Johnny hesitated, and then said, "He didn't really say. Let’s go on back. I want to see that swimming hole."
With that, Johnny pedaled off and entered the road with Jim in close pursuit.
The burst of speed did not last long. The roadbed began to descend into the creek valley and became a series of rock ledges that the bikes could not negotiate easily. There were briars and roots obstructing their path. They had to stop frequently to lower the bikes down from one ledge to another.
"Apparently the tractors don't come back this far, Johnny," Jim observed as he stopped to survey the abandoned road ahead of them.
"Apparently not," Johnny said in answer. "We are almost down the creek, though."
Indeed, they could see water ahead of them through the underbrush.
The rest of the way down was a bit easier as the terrain leveled out as they reached the creek.
"There is the crossing," said Johnny, pointing to a spot below them. "They slip scraped the banks away. You can see the road continue on the other side of the creek."
Jim nodded as he wondered, "I wonder where the old town was."
"I don't know. Charley said all that is left are stone pillars they used for foundations for some of the buildings and a couple of boarded up old wells."
"The boards on the wells will be rotted away by now, Johnny."
"Uh, huh," the boy agreed as he dismounted his bike. He flipped the kickstand down and rested it on the bedrock slab they were standing on.
"Lets see if we can find it."
Jim extended his kickstand, put his bike beside Johnny’s, and followed the older boy as he plunged into the forest beside the old road. In just a moment he stopped.
"Here it is," he said, pointing to a rectangular configuration of stone pillars that jutted up from the forest floor. There were several other remains of similar type scattered along the old road.
"It looks like there may have only been three or four buildings here," said Johnny.
"There may have been some on the other side of the road," Jim said as he surveyed the area.
"Maybe. We can look later."
Johnny walked to the edge of the bank and peered down musing, "This would be a great place for our summer camp out, Jim."
"It would, but it is a bit hard to get to."
"We can work on the road, Jim. I saw some spots that we can make it easier to get our bikes down."
"That would be a lot of work, Johnny."
"We have all summer, Jim. We usually have our big camp out in August. That gives us almost two months to get a campsite ready down here. Heck, we can camp down here ourselves a couple of times."
Jim nodded and said, "It does sound like fun if our parents let us." His face clouded at the thought.
Johnny glanced at Jim saying, "We can't tell our parents," he said. They won't let us camp down here. We have to keep this place secret. It can be our own little hideaway."
Jim's face lightened as he said, "That would be neat. No one comes here. We can make a secret camp here. But what about your grandpa? We have to ride past his place to get here."
Johnny thought a moment before saying, "We can work down here on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Grandpa always goes into town to see his friend Bill Watson on those days. They spend the afternoon talking and always go out for supper at The Dinner Bell and he doesn't get home until at least seven o'clock. That gives up plenty of time to ride over, get his tools and return them before supper."
Jim nodded and said, "I like that plan. We should do it."
The two boys walked about the abandoned town. At length Johnny stopped on a level area near a huge beech tree.
"We can put the tent up here, on this bank overlooking the creek. There is a pretty good hole there that I bet is chock full of bluegill," Johnny said.
"Yup, we can catch some fish and cook them over the fire. I see a good spot for a campfire on that sandbar. There are a lot of old logs and limbs to use for firewood and we can swim in there when we are done fishing."
"This is going to be a great spot, Jim. I can't wait."
The afternoon was wearing on and the two boys had finished their exploration.
As they got on their bikes, Jim glanced back towards the deserted town and asked, "I wonder why they abandoned this town."
Johnny shrugged as he replied, "Charley Nudson said that something scared the people off. He didn't say what."
Jim shot a quick glance at Johnny and queried, "You mean this place is haunted?"
Johnny, knowing Jim's aversion to all things supernatural, said carefully, "He didn't say haunted. He just said something scared the people off. But that was a long time ago, Jim. This place has been deserted for a hundred years. The log cabins that were here have rotted away and all the wooden structures are gone. Whatever scared them is gone a long time ago."
He glanced at his friend and observed, "This will be a great place for our camp out, Jim."
Jim, with an unsure smile on his face said, "Yeah, it will. When do you want to start working on that road?"
"Tomorrow. I can't wait to get us a path down here."
Their summer project set, the two boys made their way slowly back up the road.
The beech tree near where the boys had laid their plans held a secret of its own. Its innards had, over the many years it stood here, hollowed out, forming a cavernous crevice within it. This crevice, dark and damp, was large enough to hide a person. From this crevice, a figure stepped out and watched as the boys moved off. It watched as they faded from view, listening to the creaking of the bicycle chains as they strained from their labors of propelling the boys up the hill.
The eyes were not happy at this intrusion.
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