A highlight of every summer for Emory and his little sister, Faye, was their special annual visit to their grandmother. At Baba’s house, the kids played by the streams, ate blackberries, watched deer, and ran through the woods to their heart’s desire. This summer, Emory was particularly intrigued by the rumor of a magical Oaf living near Baba after discovering his dad’s Ophir newspaper clippings.
Emory was alert as he explored the streams and wandered through the woods. A flash of light up the hillside began the magical summer he hoped for. A voice floating through the air, the sound of wood twisting in the trees, and a glimpse of a ragged piece of cloth were the first hints of the Oaf. Baba was delighted by Emory’s adventures and urged him to offer a sandwich along with a note to the mysterious being who was revealing itself to Emory.
The Oaf revealed his magic with nature after Emory was mysteriously protected from a mountain lion attack. Baba finally shared her encounters with the irresistible Oaf and his ways in the woods. Tantalizing encounters ensued when Faye arrived and the Oaf slowly befriended the children. The Oaf helped them discover their own personal relationship with nature and their own innate gifts of magic with the plants, trees, and wildlife.
The elusive Oaf sparks the imagination, leaving the reader wishing for more! Captivating from beginning to end, Linsteadt weaves an enchanting lyrical tale of a family’s search for innocence and wisdom through their connection to nature.
—Paula Peach, Teacher/Artist/Musician
—Eric Peach, Author/Teacher
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.23(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Oaf in Ophir
By Daniel G Linsteadt
Balboa PressCopyright © 2016 Daniel G Linsteadt
All rights reserved.
Was That Him?
The sky was powder blue above the hillside of granite outcrops, golden grass, and pine and oak trees whose contorted branches mingled under the high yellow sun. Emory's bare legs tingled in the cool water that flowed in braids through a smooth groove carved into a large white-and-black speckled slab. Mountain blue jays flitted from tree to grass with an occasional raucous shout when a neighboring jay got too close. He glanced to his right at a couple of kids, maybe going into fourth grade and about his age. He wanted to play with them as they screeched with delight while splashing in the shallow pool fed by a gurgling waterfall. Parents looked on with lazy eyes from the small strip of beach where coarse sand accumulated from the hillside. The steep ascent to the main trail above continued onward to a hidden waterfall. The falls, spilling for over thirty feet, had long been a stunning attraction for weekend hikers and tourists who learned of its location from the Ophir locals. A recently built wooden deck reached out over the rocks, where the waterfall's spray created a rainbow. The rushing water flowed into the larger stream just below where Emory rested. Feeling flushed from the sun and with hunger growling in his belly, he sat up, remembering when Grandma would relax next to him on this very rock. I need to get home soon so she doesn't worry, he reminded himself.
A flash of light and sudden movement up the hillside caught his eye. Trying not to blink, he saw a flutter behind a large oak he didn't remember being there before. "Is that you?" he asked, squinting.
The newspaper clippings his parents kept in a scrapbook back home, about an oaf living in Ophir, made him wonder. The many articles told of a magical oaf who was the cause of both concern and mystery for the locals. They described the good deeds that mysteriously occurred after sightings of this supposed homeless man, referred to as the Oaf. His picture had never been captured, but witnesses all said he appeared to be a bumbling man, who was also nimble while prowling their property near the streams.
Emory pulled his legs up into a crouch, ready to spring. Tilting his head to the side while staying focused on the oak tree, he listened for any sounds up the hillside. He heard only the babble of the stream and hikers chatting, but the jays remained quiet in the trees. It's as if something is causing them concern, he realized. He leaped across the spillway and landed softly on bare feet. Scampering up the warm rock, he peered over its ledge.
"Time to go home," a parent shouted above laughter.
"Thank you," Emory whispered, focusing on the ancient tree and wanting another glimpse. "Seeing the Oaf would make my three weeks with Baba magical."
What appeared to be an arm moved from behind the tree. He glanced back at his sports sandals sitting on the rock below and wished they were on his feet. Slipping over the weathered stone bright with patches of orange and pale-green lichen, he jumped from boulder to outcrop. He stopped with one knee touching the brown grass growing among broken branches, rocks, and the creeping myrtle that inched away from the shadows. He moved forward with tender feet and alert ears. The sounds of the stream and people became muted while the creak of branches and the rustle of leaves seemed heightened. Inch by inch, he climbed toward the tree.
"Waaay," floated through the air in a deep, low voice.
The sounds of the flick of fabric and the snap of wood twisting jolted Emory's heart. He sprang toward the tree and pressed his hand against the green moss that carpeted the gray bark. He peered behind the trunk and shouted, "Ouch!"
Breathing loudly, his heart pounding in his ears, he saw nothing. Rubbing his tender heel, bruised from a small rock, he glanced around with the word way resonating in his memory.
"Where did you go?" he asked.
Stepping behind the tree, imagining he was the Oaf, he watched the world down below. He wondered if the Oaf were afraid of what it had become. How silent and different the view must have been over a hundred years ago, he thought.
"He can't possibly move that fast," Emory whispered, peering around.
He studied the tree's creased, weathered bark. A large, gnarled knot swirled around where a branch once attached. "This will make an amazing painting," he said, wishing he had the camera. "Baba and I can paint it together."
He ran his fingers over the bark that weaved around like a wreath and decorated the exposed wood within. "I know you were here, but where did you go?" he asked, hoping the voice would answer. "No wonder your picture was never taken; you're magical, but someday I'll see your face."
Emory tiptoed down the hillside and soothed his soles in the cold water. Jumping to the small island, he slipped on his sandals and backpack while staring at the tree. "Way?" he repeated. "Wwway. Did I hear that right? It was a voice, not the wind; I'm sure of it."
He hopped over the stream and landed on the coarse sand with a crunch. Slipping through tree branches and blackberry creepers and clambering over large boulders, he began the long hike back to his bicycle.
"Baba will enjoy hearing about today's adventure," he said to himself. She liked the oaf stories but said it brought too many tourists to the town.CHAPTER 2
Leave a Note?
Walking briskly in the middle of the narrow trail, as he eyed the dark-green, glossy leaves in groups of three, Emory remembered a valuable lesson: poison oak is awful. After he brushed against it a couple of years back, it had taken his skin a month to heal and longer for his legs to look normal again. Baba said she was the same, sensitive to its touch.
Emory never met his grandpa, but Baba said he could touch it without getting a rash. Baba and his parents didn't talk about him much; they always changed the subject.
The trail widened, but Emory was still wary of the poisonous bush that grew in bunches everywhere. The air was fresh with a hint of pine and the sweet scent of buckeye flowers. The soothing gurgle of the stream followed the trail only part of the way, while the moisture kept the air cool in the hot summer sun. As the trail and stream parted ways, the path became hot and dusty.
Emory loved visiting Baba's house. Three weeks was never enough. For Emory, having time in nature and away from friends was relaxing (and necessary) after the long school year. Back home, there were only rows of houses and apartments. There, the trees and bushes were crammed into tiny yards or neatly placed in the small neighborhood park.
The backpack slipped to the ground as he bent over to unlock his bike: twenty-four, seven, twenty-six, and click. Now the two-mile ride back to Baba's home through rural landscapes of rolling fields and irrigation ditches was before him. Houses were perched on the tops of small knolls or tucked into thick groves of trees. Horses, goats, and llamas grazed in many of the fenced properties. Emory had seen skunks, a fox, turkeys, geese, lots of deer, one donkey, a tortoise, and two great herons, but never the raccoons or possums that came out at night. Today he almost added the Oaf to his growing list.
The piece of cloth he briefly saw behind the oak tree had appeared worn. Somehow it made him feel sad for the Oaf. Living in the nooks and crannies of the open spaces that were slowly going away, like the deer, the poor creature had to eke out a living in rags.
Emory pedaled up the steep driveway of Baba's house, sad to have only a few days left before his parents would come to take him home. The smell of dinner wafted through the air as he leaned his bike against the old outdoor kitchen, now a storage shed. He never ventured in there because of the smell of rats and their long, hairless tails.
"Yuck!" he said with a shiver and walked up the stairs to the outdoor porch that sat up high, like a tree house.
Slipping off his dusty sandals, he looked out through the tree limbs. There was nothing better than sipping one of Baba's mandarin smoothies while watching the hummingbirds flit among the branches or catching a glimpse of one of the Koi rising to the surface of the small pond down below. Sometimes a hummingbird would suddenly hover, fluttering loudly in front of his face, with a look of intrigue. Satisfied he had nothing to offer, it would disappear as quickly as it appeared.
Emory stepped into the house and announced, "I have a great story to tell today, Baba."
"Good," she answered from the kitchen. "Go clean up. Dinner will be ready in ten minutes."
He took off his clothes and pushed them into a heap with his feet, like he was maneuvering a soccer ball. His bed was on the wall opposite Baba's desk, so he could look out the window facing the backyard. He peeked out, hoping to see a deer and her babies foraging, but they were not cooperating tonight. They usually sneaked through in the early morning.
Emory sat up straight and silent at the dinner table, his eyes closed. Baba loved to quietly pray, never asking for anything, but only giving thanks if she happened to speak. She looked up with her loving eyes, breaking the silence. "Dig in! I hope you like it."
"You know I love enchilada casserole — especially yours, Baba."
"So, tell me about your day," she asked.
"I started to read the book you gave me, but I nodded off after a few pages. It was a warm, lazy day, and the sound of the water is always so soothing."
"I understand," she said, taking a bite.
"I'll read some tonight. Anyway, the falls weren't that crowded today." His eyes widened. "You won't believe what happened!"
"Do tell," she responded with a grin.
"I was sitting with my feet in the water — you know, your favorite spot. I was staring at the hillside daydreaming, when I saw it."
"Saw it?" she asked, raising one eyebrow.
"Yeah, the Oaf!"
"So, you didn't actually see him?"
"It had to be him. I snuck up the hillside to where he was hiding behind a tree. A piece of his clothing, from his arm, waved from behind the thick trunk, and he spoke."
"You heard him?" she asked, now with wide eyes.
"What did he say?"
"Wayyy," he pronounced, slowly.
"Only one word?"
"Yeah, but the beginning wasn't clear, so it sounded more like 'way,' I think."
"Maybe he was telling you to go away," she said, with a wink.
"Maybe," he answered, playing with the word in his head to see if that could be right. "Anyway, I think he's a kind and gentle oaf. If he said that, it was because he wanted peace and quiet. You know how people can be so noisy and leave their trash behind. The newspaper stories tell of him being the one who cleans up after everyone during the night."
"That's true," Baba said, stroking her hair back and staring out the window. "So he's hanging out at the falls these days. That's a good place to be. There's a lot of empty space beyond the creek to roam and hide." She turned to Emory with laughing eyes. "Take some food for him tomorrow."
"You think he would eat it?" he asked, liking the idea. "How would I know he eats it and not some animal?"
"You won't, unless you see him."
"Can I sleep there tomorrow night and watch?"
"Not sure that's such a good idea, but fun to think about."
He took a large bite, filling his cheeks.
"Maybe you should leave a note with your name on it," she suggested, holding her full spoon in midair. "Maybe write your address on it."
"You think he can read? An oaf isn't very smart, after all."
She smiled. "Maybe he's smarter than you think — just pretending to be an oaf."
"Oh Baba, now you're kidding me."
She turned her gaze back outside at the large cedar, where a clothesline stretched from the house and often had clothes hanging to dry. "I can pack my favorite sandwich for you to give him." Mischief was in her eyes, not seen very often.
"You want to come with me?" he asked.
"No, I can't walk that far anymore, and it's too hot during the day. I'll leave this mission to you."
"You think he'd like your Swiss cheese sandwich laced with Hatch chili, tomatoes, and lettuce?"
She smiled. "I think he will love it. How can anyone not love that sandwich?"
"Okay, not you, but that's because you don't know what's good for you yet. Someday you will love that sandwich." She pulled him in for a big hug. Pressing her hands over his chest, she added, "Your big heart tells me so."CHAPTER 3
The next morning Emory slipped on his clothes from yesterday and walked into the kitchen. Baba was sipping her morning tea and pretended not to notice him. A white lunch bag and a note pad sat next to her.
"Good morning, dear one," she said.
"Good morning, Baba. Is this for the Oaf?"
"Yes. I didn't sleep well last night, so I thawed out the chili and made a sandwich." She glanced at Emory. "Made one for all of us."
He peered into the bag. "Thanks."
"You get to write the letter, but I had a thought. Instead of an address, why don't you put your name and my name? You know, oafs aren't that smart, so an address wouldn't be of much use."
"You're funny, Baba!" He grabbed the notepad and began to write.
Dear Mr. Oaf,
Baba made you a sandwich. She thought you'd like it. If not, don't blame me. My name is Emory, and I want to meet you. I'm only here a few more days, so please don't wait too long.
Your friends, Emory and Baba
"You think he can read this?" he asked.
"You never know. Maybe, just maybe, he learned to read when he was young."
Emory laughed while placing the note carefully above the sandwich and folded the top of the bag twice. Setting the bag into the backpack, he added, "Wish me luck!"
"Good luck, and enjoy. Please be home a little earlier today. I worry when it gets too late in the day."
Emory pedaled briskly to the falls park, locked his bike, and skipped down the path feeling light and happy. The closer he got to the stream, the heavier his heart felt. The thought of actually meeting the Oaf scared him.
"Maybe he doesn't like kids," he said, gazing at the blue sky through green pine needles. "No, the Oaf always likes kids. He's just a kid in an adult body. That's what I think."
He climbed down the trail and quickly leaped onto the small island, glad it had not been occupied yet. A couple in quiet conversation walked by on the trail above to go see the hidden waterfall. He wondered when it would be the best time to place the bag by the oak tree. He decided toward the end of the day, so no one would see it and take it. He pulled his new book out of his backpack, settled back on the smooth rock, and began reading about wizards and magic.
After reading a couple chapters, he was too distracted by thoughts of the Oaf to enjoy the sorcery within the pages. Excited about the Oaf finding the lunch bag and reading the note kept his eyes lifting from the book. He conjured up images of how he looked — a hooked nose, round cheeks above a large bushy beard that hid the rest of his face except for fat lips, large, laughing green eyes, and bare feet that stepped silently without leaving a mark. They'd play hide-n-seek and sneak up on a family of deer without being noticed.
He placed the book down and waded into the water, then sat under the small waterfall so it massaged his shoulders. He allowed the current to carry him toward the small island, where he swam back to the falls to complete a full circle and did it all over again. Time passed blissfully as he warmed himself in the sun. Occasionally he moved to the shade so others could enjoy the island, but he was always aware of the hillside and the large oak tree. The sun crept across the empty blue sky. People came and went, leaving behind napkins, plastic bottles, and cigarette butts. He placed the trash in his backpack, hoping the Oaf was watching and approved.
Finally, the pool was empty of people, and Emory ascended the hillside. Stopping at the same oak tree he observed the day before, he surveyed the landscape for a good place to set the lunch bag. A boulder sticking out of the grass like a small iceberg floating in the ocean caught his eye. He placed the lunch bag on the stone, glee bubbling in his chest. After taking several steps away, he sat cross-legged and listened to the river, birds chirping, woodpeckers tapping on a branch, and the occasional conversation drifting by. He wondered what the Oaf liked to do during the day, where he slept, and how he stayed warm. He stared at the tree where the Oaf had hidden yesterday. To his surprise, the tree looked strangely different. After studying it carefully, he realized the knot was missing. Rising to his feet, curious if he was at the wrong tree, he hustled down the slope and looked back up, then down, and back up again. He knew it was the right tree; he was sure of it. Scampering back up to the ancient oak, he stood gawking at its gray bark where the knot had been. Confused, he rubbed his hand over the bark, feeling how hard and rough it was.
"Maybe I imagined everything yesterday. Too much sun played tricks on my mind."
"Thhhanks," a voice hushed through the trees.
Spinning around scared, Emory grabbed his backpack and stood perfectly still. "You're welcome," he responded, meekly.
Excerpted from Oaf in Ophir by Daniel G Linsteadt. Copyright © 2016 Daniel G Linsteadt. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1 Was That Him?, 1,
Chapter 2 Leave a Note?, 8,
Chapter 3 Lunch Bag, 16,
Chapter 4 Tree Knots, 23,
Chapter 5 Beaver, 28,
Chapter 6 Close Call, 34,
Chapter 7 Good-Bye, 42,
Chapter 8 Faye, 49,
Chapter 9 Moving Knot, 54,
Chapter 10 Leaf Boats, 59,
Chapter 11 Garbage Can, 68,
Chapter 12 Bees, 75,
Chapter 13 Searching, 84,
Chapter 14 Magic, 91,