Set in 1925, Mountain Shadows (written by Lake Placid native Patti Brooks) tells the tale of a poor, young couple, Joe and Alice Devlin, who come to the Adirondacks seeking a cure for the wife’s tuberculosis. Alice is placed in a “cure cottage” in Saranac Lake. Joe, a wiz of an auto mechanic, lands a job in the Lake Placid Club’s garage. Finding that Alice’s treatment costs far more than the Club can pay him, Joe takes up with bootleggers who are running liquor from the Canadian border through the Adirondacks to the big cities farther south.
(Introduction to the excerpt: Joe Devlin has been accosted and left for dead on his walk from NYC to Saranac Lake in order to be with his wife who is taking the TB cure.)
A gray wolf appeared on the side of the road at the edge of the forest. Ears pricked, he raised his nose, testing the air before silently crossing the road to where Joe lay.
“Come, Louie,” A small black-haired man emerged from the woods in the same place as the wolf. He knelt in the road and removed his snowshoes. The wolf cam obediently to the man’s side whining and pushing his big head under the man’s hand. “So, what have you found?” The man followed the wolf.
“Holy Mere,” Jean-Paul exclaimed, blessing himself. The little trapper dropped to his knees beside Joe, throwing off the animal hides he had strapped to his back.
“Comment ca va?” Jean-Paul slapped Joe’s face. Joe moaned and attempted to stop the man. He felt like a dozen bowling balls were smashing around his head. “Ah, bein, you have not left us.”
Joe opened his eyes and a bolt of pain flashed through his head. Bile rose in his throat. He moaned and tried to shut out the world.
“You cannot rest now, my friend, or very quickly you’ll freeze like ice.” Joe opened his eyes again and tried to focus on the man kneeling over him. He saw friendly black eyes in a small boned, weathered face. A red toque was pulled down over his ears. There was frost on his nearly trimmed black beard.
“Not a day for a walk without a coat, no?”
Joe looked down. “I must have been robbed. I don’t remember anything.” He paused, feeling sick every time he shifted his gaze. “Someone stole Mr. Bingham’s coat,” he groaned. “The letter! Mr. Bingham’s letter!” Joe tried to sit up but the ground swirled around him “The letter was in the coat.”
“I’m afraid your letter is with the coat,” the trapper said. “You should be thankful they left you your life, mon ami. Where is it you travel?”
I was hoping to walk as far as Keene before dark.” The cold gripped Joe and he shook uncontrollably.
“You don’t have far.” Jean-Paul undid the antler buttons on his fur parka and took it off. “Put this on and sit against a tree.” he said, helping Joe into the still warm parka and propping him against a tree trunk.
“Move your hands and feet about. I cut a walking stick for you.” Gradually Joe’s belly convulsed less with each movement. He risked opening his eyes again. A cry froze in his throat at his first sight of the wolf looking down at him with eerie yellow eyes.
“You have met Louie?” Jean-Paul returned just then with a stout walking stick for Joe.
“He’s yours?” Joe relaxed. “Looks like a wolf.”
“He is. I shot his mother when she stole bait from my traps. The she wolf left Louie a half grown pup in the forest. I couldn’t leave him there with winter coming on. Like I can’t leave you here.”
With the help of the walking stick on one side and Jean Paul hand at his other elbow, Joe rose unsteadily to his feet. The forest swayed before him. Jean-Paul stayed at his elbow, helping him to the firmer footing of the road.
“You stand still, there. I’ll harness Louie.” Joe leaned heavily on his stick and watched Jean-Paul slip a soft deer hide collar about the wolf’s neck and shoulders. With a few practiced motions, he turned his snowshoes into a travois for the wolf to pull. He stuffed Joe’s meager belongings back in his pack and strapped it and Joe’s bedroll onto the snowshoe travois. The trio moved slowly up the road as a cold, colorless sun fell below the mountains.
“I think something more than your head is hurting, my friend, no?”
“My toes are a little frostbitten.” Joe’s head throbbed and his toes burned. Every painful step sent jolts of pure agony through his head. His belly churned. I’ve lost Mr. Bingham’s coat and the last two dollar I had on earth, he thought.
Joe’s misery was tempered by not have more hills to climb for now. The road followed the Ausable River that cut through the valley connecting Keene Valley and Keene.
Before he was ambushed, Joe had enjoyed the river’s company, finding it a kindred spirit as they both hurried to their destinations. Though it was neither deep nor wide, Joe came to think of the Ausable as a serious river, its cold black water relentlessly working around every rock in its path. It seemed as determined to get to wherever it was heading as he was to reach Alice, no matter how many rocks go thrown in his path.
“A little of my woman’s stew and a warm place to sleep and you’ll feel like a new man. Jean-Paul led Joe off the road, following a path through a grove of white birch. The thought of being warm all over sounded good.
There at the edge of a small stream skipping on its way to join the Ausable, stood a tin roofed log cabin. Joe saw smoke rising straight up from its river-stone chimney. Warm, yellow light spilled from the lone window.
“Marie,” Jean-Paul called. “We have a hungry guest.” The door flung open and Joe saw a small slim woman silhouetted against the cabin’s light.
“Evening, Ma’am,” was the last thing Joe remembered saying before blacking out.
About the author:
Patti Reiss Brooks was born in Lake Placid, graduated from St. Bernard’s in Saranac Lake and, Lake Placid Central and LeMoyne College (Syracuse). She first swam across Mirror Lake at age nine. As a teen, she rode her horse through the Adirondack Fire Trails and learned how to follow the round tin can markers of the CCC trails. That knowledge came handy when she and her dad crashed their single engine Stinson, into Moose Mt on a Halloween night and had to walk their way ten miles out of the woods following CCC markets.
She began her career as a horsewoman at nine when she gave ten cent pony rides at her dad’s business, Santa’s Workshop. She began her career as a professional writer at 16 when she sold an article to a national magazine … for $4.
After marriage, Patti settled on a hundred-acre horse farm in Connecticut to raise and train three children and Morgan horses. She wrote for a number of equine magazines but it wasn’t until 2004 that her first novel, Mountain Shadows, was published. Since then she has published three novels and seven volumes of a picture tour guide to New England Morgan Farms. She is currently working on a children’s picture book. http://www.pattibrooksbooks.com/