This is a story about stolen socks, life in the backwoods of Oregon and about a surprise Valentine’s Day discovery.
If you have been following the chapters of my story you know that I lived with my four sons and hubby in a log cabin in the forests of Southern Oregon. We built the cabin by hand from fallen trees and wood we recycled from miners’ cabins.
Our home was simple. We had no electricity and cooked on a wood stove. Our sons did not have computers or video games, but they rarely were bored. They read books, dug ditches and raced Tonka trucks.
As teens they hiked the mountains, careened down steep backwoods trails on mountain bikes and went fishing.
They didn’t care if it was sunny or raining. The outdoors in any kind of weather was an adventure.
I was raised with two sisters so I was unprepared for what it meant to have four active country boys. What it meant was lots of wet and dirty socks.
They had big feet like their dad so we usually bought super sized socks in bulk. By the time our sons were in junior high, their size 14 feet meant mounds of monstrous socks to wash, sort and put away.
As we all know socks disappear. You might think that because we washed the clothes with a scrub board and plunger that we escaped the lost sock problem. We didn’t.
I used to imagine the socks would go where all those missing Tupperware lids were. Now I know better.
Twenty eight years ago I discovered sometimes socks are stolen.
As you may recall from other tales of our life in the woods, we already had a robber Raccoon who had tried to steal my nylons and bra. That winter when my husband socks began to disappear we wondered if Rocky the Robber Racoon was the culprit.
We soon realized that was impossible. Socks were disappearing every night. There was no way that Rocky was getting in the house night after night.
Now you may wonder, as I did, where the socks were before they disappeared.
The first time it happened Bruce told me he left them on the floor by the chair in the living room. The next morning they were gone.
“ I know, I know, I shouldn’t leave them on the floor,” Bruce said. “I figured I could get another day’s use out of them.”
We looked around for them to no avail so Bruce went back upstairs to get a new pair.
The next night and the next night the same thing happened. Bruce left a “one day” clean pair of socks by the chair and in the morning they were gone.
If it wasn’t Rocky, then who?
“Are you sure you didn’t put the socks away,” I asked Bruce.
That met with a scowl.
“I am not senile,” he replied.
Off he went to get a clean pair of socks. That evening he put them by the chair as usual.
The next morning they were gone again. Our supply of clean socks was dwindling fast.
Bruce began to question each of our sons.
“Did you take my socks?”
One by one they assured their pa that of course they did not sneak down at night and take his socks. Their looks didn’t quite imply their pa was crazy, but close.
By the second week of disappearing socks we had searched every part of the house and I had bought two more packs of socks.
The socks kept disappearing.
Bruce was determined to solve the mystery. The socks became bait and we all waited to see what would happen in the morning.
We had breaks in the pattern of disappearing socks. Sometimes a week would pass with no disappearances. Then it would start again.
By week eight socks were disappearing from the sock box as well as by the chair.
We were not happy! There were gritting teeth, suspicious looks and worries all around about each other’s sanity.
Fortunately for all of us Valentine’s Day arrived. We declared a truce.
I baked a heart-shaped cake in my wood stove and for once it looked normal. The boys almost inhaled the cake and were pleased with the games Bruce and I gave them. Of course they also got new socks. I am practical.
Bruce bought me a piano book with 56 Favorite love songs from the 70’s and 80’s.
Oh how I smiled when I opened his gift. I had not played our upright piano for months and the thought of playing beautiful melodies cheered me up.
I hugged Bruce and went over to the piano and opened the cover.
I started to play.
I tried again in a different key. Some of the notes were clear, but many were stilled muffled and the keys were stiff. Some even stuck.
“Oh no, the cold weather has put my piano way out of tune,” I said with disappointment.
I started to gulp and hold back the tears. I so wanted to make music.
Worse, we both knew the cost of a piano tuner was way out of reach.
“Wait, wait,” said Bruce. “Don’t worry; maybe I can fix the piano. It is just a bunch of strings like my guitar.”
I got up and Bruce looked in the upright case at the strings.
“That’s odd,” he said “Do pianos have white padding inside?”
Before I could answer Bruce knelt down at the back of the piano and pried open the backing. His hand went in.
His hand came out with a sock held high.
I started to say “oh my” but Bruce’s hand went in again and came out with another sock.
And then two at a time and then four
And then big handfuls of socks until 84 socks,
four silver spoons, 12 paper clips,
14 shiny erector set parts
and dozens of screws and nails lay in a pile on the floor.
We stood in shock.
“A pack rat,” our son Robin and Bruce said at the same time.
“Oh gross,” my son Toby and I said at the same time.
It was a perfect Valentine’s Day. We hugged and laughed on and off all day about the socks.
I got to play the piano and it sounded beautiful.
We did throw the socks away at my insistence.
“Mom, that’s a waste of money. We could wash them.”
“I know, I know, but the image of the pack rat… shudder.”
As to the pack rat? Our pampered cat must have finally realized her job was also to hunt. One morning soon after Valentine’s Day she brought me a gift of a dead pack rat.
I stifled the desire to shreak.
Instead I said sweetly . . . “Oh Bruce dear, can you come here for a moment?”
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