The Shack On The Side Of The Hill

Back in the late 1950's we lived in a remote place in Northern British Columbia, where there was neither electricity nor running water. Our neighbors were few and far between, and often the only time we saw them was when we went past their places on our way to town. We met some colourful characters during our time there. One of the most interesting was an old gentleman whom everyone called "Grampa Rice." The story that I am about to tell, in poetry form, is a true story about this "classic" man.

* * * * * * * * *

He was just an old man with a toothless grin, a wrinkled up face and a stubbled chin. His clothes were all tattered, and his house was cold, but old Grandpa Rice had a heart made of gold.

If ever a stranger would pass by Gramp’s shack, he’d rush out to greet him, and he’d call him on back. He’d holler, "Come in friend, set and chat fer a spell." Then he’d serve up some tea, and his stories he’d tell.

His yarns were of the "old times", when first he "came here;" how he’d brought his new bride - oh, he loved her so dear. His eyes filled with tears as he talked of "dear Bell." He buried her there - and a wee babe, as well.

With him in his shack on the side of a hill, lived a mangy old cat, and a dog he called "Bill." He existed on tea and boiled up dried beans, and the odd time he’d stew up some dandelion greens.

He’d say, "Let’s go huntin’ to find us some game." Then old Bill would follow, though the poor dog was lame. If perchance they should spy a jack rabbit or mole, they would stand still and watch it run into its hole. Neither one would attempt to catch, or to kill. They both were alike -- Grandpa Rice and old Bill. The word spread around to the "animal folk" that the pair’s hunting habit were merely a joke.

One day out of nowhere came a massive buck-deer. He held his head high, showing no trace of fear. He watched as the man cocked his rusty old gun. He heard him tell Bill, "Now, this’ll be fun!"

Grandpa Rice, through the sight, looked the buck in the eye, then he lowered his gun, with a long weary sigh. The deer gave a snort as he trotted away; "G’bye Gramps and Bill; there’ll be no meat today!"

Grandpa Rice said, "C’mon, Bill, let’s amble on home. Jist mebby I’ll find you a dried up old bone. As for me, I kin brew me some dandelion tea, and boil up some taters, maybe toss in some peas."

Then on came a winter, of storm after storm. Just nothing Gramps did could get the shack warm. He ran out of tea, had no more dried beans. How he longed for a stew of dandelion greens. So, soon Grandpa Rice became terribly ill. He crawled on his cot beside Cat and old Bill.

  One day- - near to springtime -- a trapper named, Jack, by chance stumbled on to a shabby old shack. He ventured inside to check out the site. He thought that perhaps he could sleep there that night. But there curled together, under a mat, lay a frozen old man, a dog, and a cat.

Jack won’t soon forget what he saw in that place, Old Grandpa Rice died with a smile on his face.

* * * * * * * * *

Now, many years later, in that very same spot, lies a pile of old lumber, and a rusted-out pot. Just stand still and listen, and listen real well. You might hear him calling, "Come set fer a spell." Amidst all the rubble on the side of that hill, lies the spirit of Gramps, his cat, and old Bill.

- Helen Dowd -

[ by Helen Dowd Copyright © 2004, ( -- { used with permission } ]


Inspirational Stories     SkyWriting.Net     All Rights Reserved.