Medicine Dreams

Medicine Dreams

by Mr. Wayne E. Hanson

ISBN: 9781463697396

Publisher CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Published in Literature & Fiction/Humor, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description

An Oregon logging camp in 1950 can be a harsh and unforgiving place for adults. But for an imaginative child it can be pure magic.

Sample Chapter

An overloaded logging truck hurtled down the steep gravel road, logs hanging on the chains, dust boiling into the trees. Leon Cummins – paid by the board foot delivered to the mill and thus in a hurry – blasted his air horn in the event some early riser was on the road and not paying attention. As his truck and its load of old-growth Douglas fir shuddered around a sharp bend Leon saw a Desoto swerve into the turnout. Strangers on their way to camp, it looked like. He blasted the horn again for thanks and disappeared in the dust.

The Desoto waited for the dust to settle, then slowly edged out into the road, gravel crunching under the tires, past a rusted sign that said “Caution trucks have right of way, use turnouts.” The car accelerated around the curve and disappeared. Dust hung in the air, then swirled as a breeze pushed into the forest. 

The breeze heralded fall’s first storm of 1950 as it swept in from the Pacific and up the flanks of Oregon’s Coast Range. Sunlight, angled low, snuffed out, as black clouds rushed in from the ocean and piled up against the mountains, searching for a way inland. Trees marched up steep ridges, turned ghostly, and then disappeared altogether in the mist. The first drop of rain thudded onto a dusty rhododendron leaf. The tiny globe shuddered down the leaf, a clean but crooked trail behind it. 

Thud. Thud. More drops shook the leaf. Glistening silver trails converged and then disappeared as the rain hissed down, washing clean the leaf as the storm whistled through the trees, plunged through passes and darkened hillsides above a line of cabins along the Coquille River.

The deluge flushed away the shroud of dust, releasing pungent smells of wet earth, bay laurel and wood smoke. Tar-papered cabins strung along the gravel road darkened as the rain thundered on shingle roofs and poured off into the mud. A woodpecker, undeterred in its search for bugs, rattled away overhead.

Wood smoke hovering around metal stovepipes struggled to rise but was battered to earth. Clotheslines sagged with rain-swollen garments. Wooden clothespins stuck up like the ears of foxes.

Inside the cabins, women fried bacon and eggs and shook school-age children awake. A few listened to the radio broadcast of Don McNeil’s Breakfast Club – at least when their radios could pick up the wavering signal from the Roseburg station on the other side of the mountains. A few children annoyed their mothers by marching around the breakfast table banging on cooking pots as McNeil suggested.

Another log truck hurtled through camp, pursued by a hurricane of flying mud and gravel. Cabins shook and gravel rattled off the walls. So accustomed were the women to the torrent of logs flying down the mountain, most didn’t even notice. But the tentative crunch of gravel under a car was different. The sound brought curious faces to small four-pane windows, oilcloth curtains pushed aside. It was an unfamiliar Desoto, and that meant strangers.

Mrs. Viitanen hobbled out onto the porch of the Post Office, a flag draped over one arm. She looked out at the rain, then extended her hand just to be sure. Couldn’t put the flag up in a rainstorm. As she turned to go back inside, she saw the Desoto.

The woman at the wheel looked around nervously at the cabins, the mountains flat-topped by the clouds, and the blackberry thickets, brush and trees growing in wild profusion. She pulled off the narrow gravel road as far as she could, and spoke to someone in the back seat. Mrs. Viitanen adjusted her glasses to try and see who was in the back. The driver looked around once again, then pulled over in front of the Post Office. Mrs. Viitanen hurried inside so she wouldn’t seem nosy.

The gravel logging road followed the old stagecoach road which, until 60 years ago, was the sole link between the interior valley and the coast. The Post Office, a rather dilapidated building, had been a stagecoach relay station. Mrs. Viitanen and her younger sister, both in their 70s, lived in the back rooms and ran the Post Office in the front parlor.

As the driver came in, Mrs. Viitanen tried to look busy.

“Do…do you know a guy named Willy Kirk?” the woman asked.

“Everybody knows Villy,” said Mrs. Viitanen. “You look for him?”


“Is Villy in trouble?”

“No, I’ve got his… his sister in the car come to visit.”

The woman was either afraid or lying, or both, thought Mrs. Viitanen. Didn’t seem like a bad sort, just up to something, that’s all. She’d never heard Willy talk about a sister, or any family at all, come to think of it. Willy never got letters and as far as she knew, he never sent any, but he stopped by on occasion to say hello. She liked Willy herself, but some others didn’t — said he was too quiet, never could tell what he was thinking. Some even whispered that he was dark enough to be a Negro. Mrs. Viitanen leaned toward black Irish or Italian. Mrs. Viitanen and her sister, being Finnish, understood about prejudice.

Few outsiders came through camp. Those that did were lost or trying to get to Roseburg on what – on gas station maps at least — looked like a real road. Others, though, brought trouble, trying to collect money or serve papers. 

Mrs. Viitanen had to make a decision about what to tell the woman and what not to tell her. She could be vague, say she just knew of him, or – as was more to her liking – do what she could to be helpful. She was old enough that she could act forgetful and vague and people might get impatient and go away.

“Oh dear,” Mrs. Viitanen began, “I don’t find my glasses…” But then she stopped and gaped as another woman came through the door and stood unsteadily, leaning against the doorjamb. 

The woman had been beaten, or had fallen down a flight of steps. Both of her eyes were black, her left arm was in a sling, her face was bruised and swollen and her nose, which had obviously been broken, was heavily taped. 

“Can I use your bathroom?” she asked. “I’m sorry to bother you but…” and she raised her shoulders and let them fall in a hopeless gesture.

“Sure, dear,” said Mrs. Viitanen, “you come in here.” She opened the door to the back part of the house and ushered the woman in. In a moment she returned and asked the first woman.

“Villy didn’t do none of this, did he?”

“No. She’s his sister,” said the woman. “Her husband got drunk and beat her up. I’m a friend of hers from high school, just trying to help her out. I thought she could hide out at Willy’s house till she can decide what to do.”

This required more thought. Something was fishy. “She don’t know where her own brother lives?” asked Mrs. Viitanen. “He lives here for five years now.” 

“You don’t understand,” the woman pleaded, “she’s never been here before. Some kind of family trouble or something…” the woman grasped for a plausible explanation.

The other woman returned from the bathroom. “Thank you,” she said to Mrs. Viitanen. “I must look like the wreck of the Hesperus. I’m Mary Knox, Willy’s..uh..sister.”

Mrs. Viitanen’s scales tipped. She decided to help. “I show you ver Villy lives,” she said, “but it’s only a cabin, up on that hill past the rock quarry. He don’t even have electricity up there. He’s at work now, won’t be home till later.” She began to mumble, “Course he won’t mind his sister comin’ to visit. Villy wants to help out. Now where did I put my glasses?”


Mrs. Viitanen put on some galoshes, pulled out an old umbrella and showed the two women the way to the cabin. The three crunched slowly up the path, through a wild tangle of ferns, bushes and rhododendrons. Mrs. Viitanen thought it over and was prepared to clean up a messy bachelor cabin, to make the bed, clear away dirty dishes, shovel out the beer bottles, and do whatever it took to make the place suitable. She was even working on what she would say to the women to help excuse the mess so they would not think too badly of Willy.

The driver dropped the bags on the tiny porch, as Mrs. Viitanen prepared for the worst and pushed open the door. What she found was a neat cabin, everything clean and tidy. Clothes folded on makeshift shelves. Even the windows were clean and the garbage bucket empty.

“Well I be damned,” she said. “Looks like he knows company is coming.” The only thing she found distasteful was a wooden dynamite box full of oily saw chains and sharpening tools, but after all, he was a faller and that was to be expected. Nevertheless, she draped a dish towel over the box and pushed it under the bed.

As they settled the injured woman on the bed and brought the bags inside, Mrs. Viitanen covered her with a blanket, put the coffee pot – which was filled with water -- on an apple box next to the bed along with a coffee mug. She tried to close the open window but it was jammed and wouldn’t budge. Perhaps the fresh air might do Mary some good, she thought, trying to make the best of it.

The other woman said she had to go, she needed to be to work by noon. Mrs. Viitanen said she’d stay with Mary until Willy got home. But Mary told them both not to worry, she’d been to the doctor and just needed a little rest. 

As Mrs. Viitanen was going out the door, the woman called from the bed to please not tell anyone she was there. She didn’t want word to get back to her husband. “Don’t vorry,” said Mrs. Viitanen, “I keep quiet. I bring you a camp cot later for Villy to sleep on.” Then the two women left. 

Falling rain, and the dripping and splashing outside the open window sounded very restful. Glossy bushes bounced and jumped as the rain ran from the roof and poured over their waxy leaves. Mary concentrated on the sound of the rain. It helped push back the ugly pictures and sounds and smells that kept forcing their way into her mind. Nightmare pictures that were so fresh they seemed to be happening all over again.

Excerpted from "Medicine Dreams" by Mr. Wayne E. Hanson. Copyright © 0 by Mr. Wayne E. Hanson. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Mr. Wayne E. Hanson

Mr. Wayne E. Hanson

Wayne Edward Hanson wrote fiction as a sideline while working for 25 years as a magazine writer and editor, and since he retired in 2014 he's writing short stories and novels full time.

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