As the year progresses, Cricket becomes extremely ill. Her condition sets into motion a chain of events that will ultimately, unite a community, bring redemption to a neglectful father, and will forever, change the lives of those closest to Cricket.
The Lookout Tree will delight your senses as it takes us back to a time when joy could be found flying through the air in an old tire swing, riding a bike with a friend on a dirt-covered, country road, or lounging lazily under the shady leaves of a giant oak tree.
This simple story of love and friendship will put a smile on your face, tug at your heart strings, and when it is finished, will make you want to go back to the beginning and start all over again.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.40(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Lookout Tree
By J. Scott Romig
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2009 J. Scott Romig
All right reserved.
Chapter OneNew Life in Pleasant View
I remember the first time that I met Cricket. It was a blistering hot day in June of 1978. Her real name was Elizabeth Ann Mitchell, but everyone in the small village of Pleasant View called her Cricket. At first glance, there really didn't appear to be anything special about Cricket. In fact most people in town considered her to be (oh dear, how should I put this tactfully?) annoying and a tad bit simple.
You see Cricket didn't have a filter; you know that filter that prevents you from saying everything that you are thinking? Well, Cricket had no such restraints. She said whatever came to her hyperactive, little mind. Today, I suppose that we would say she was suffering from autism and perhaps ADHD, but in 1978, most people were simply not familiar with such labels. All I knew, at the time, was that Cricket was simple, impulsive, easily agitated, tender-hearted, and honest. Almost honest to a fault. And as I grew to know Cricket, I learned to love and respect her for each and every one of her most unique character traits.
Yes, Cricket was ... different and the truth was that most people had a difficult time understanding and interacting with her and as I stated before, most people found her annoying, but for me, Cricket would touch my life is such a way that Iwould be changed forever.
But before I talk about that, let me tell you a little about myself and how I came to live in the sleepy, small town of Pleasant View, Illinois. My name is Addison Jane Dawson, but you can call me Addy; everyone else does. I was named after my great grandfather, Addison Jay Dawson, who spent most of his life as a missionary in the outback of Australia, ministering to the aborigines.
I was born in the small town of Rensselaer, Indiana but we didn't live there for very long. In fact, I don't really remember anything about Rensselaer because we moved from there when I was only a year old.
My father worked as a mechanical engineer designing aircraft engines for Bristwell Aeronautics, a company that the government contracted to build fighter jets for the navy. Bristwell had nine different design centers located all around the world. By the time I was ten years old, my dad had worked at seven of these facilities. So, needless to say, we moved a lot.
In the spring of 1978 we had just finished our second year of living in New Braunfels, Texas, a small community just north of San Antonio, and I loved it there. It was sunny and warm all year around. My school was exciting and fun, and I had two of the best friends a person could ever hope to have, Tammy Cortez and Odelia Solana.
The Guadalupe River ran right through the middle of New Braunfels and during the summers Tammy, Odelia, and I would float lazily down the gentle stream on an inner tube to the town of Gruene, which was about two miles or so away. Once there we would toss our inner tubes up on the grassy slope of the river's edge and stroll into town.
The village of Gruene, Texas was a postcard community. There was only one street that wound through the town and it was lined with a diner, two or three antique shops, a novelty store, a soda shop, and, of course, Gruene Hall which was and still is today a dance hall. We girls would spend our summer days hanging out in front of the soda shop, eating ice cream, and making memories. We would laugh and play and run and then at the end of the day, we would go back to the grassy slope, pick up our inner tubes, and make our way back home along the path that ran next to the river. I still consider those two years in Texas as some of the fondest times in my life.
So, as you can imagine, I was nearly devastated when my father came home, sat me and my brother Chance down at the kitchen table, and told us that we were moving.
"What?" I shouted impulsively, startling my mother who was setting the table for supper. "What do you mean?" I asked in disbelief, glancing quickly at my mom for her reaction to this pronouncement and then back to my dad.
"Calm down, Addy," Dad said, raising his hands defensively. "I," he started then pausing and catching my mother's eye before looking back to me, "I mean, we have wanted to talk to you kids about this for a couple of months now and ..."
"You mean you've known about this for a couple of months?" I interrupted quickly, jumping to my feet and leaning over the table. I could feel my face flush with anger.
"Watch your tone, Addy," my mother said sternly, her eyes glancing at me with a look of warning that only a mother could give. "Give your father a chance to explain, then you can give your input."
My mother, Margaret Ann Dawson, was a kind and gentle woman, but she could be stern if our behavior required an adjustment or at least I thought she could be stern. The truth of the matter is that I never really was brave enough to find out what would happen if I ignored her 'advice' to 'watch my tone.' So I obediently sat back down and crossed my arms, to show my hardened displeasure with the entire circumstance.
"As I was saying," my father started again, "I know that I have had to move this family a lot over the years and I know what a hardship it has been for you. As soon as you get used to a school and make friends, we move and you have to start all over again."
"I don't mind moving, Pop," Chance said taking an apple from a bowl of fruit that was sitting on the table. "I don't really like it here. It's too hot. I want to move back north where we get some snow every once in a while." He rubbed the apple on his shirt and took a bite. His cavalier attitude only enraged me more.
"Why don't you shut up, Chance!" I yelled without thinking. "You don't care about anything ..."
"ADDY!" my mother said firmly, "you will sit down and keep quiet until your father has finished. And you have just lost the use of your bicycle for a week for your rudeness. We don't say 'shut up' in this family. Do you understand?"
I crossed my arms again and looked down at the table with a scowl. "Yes," I mumbled.
"Now apologize to your brother," my mother ordered. Even though I wasn't looking at her, I could feel her eyes piercing me.
Chance leaned back on his chair and put his arms behind his head and with a snide smile on his face, he said, "Yeah, Addy, let's hear it."
"Knock it off, Chance," my mother said. "You're just making things worse."
"Mmm, srry," I mumbled in an angry whisper.
"What's that?" Chance asked leaning in over the table. "I don't think I caught what you said. You're going to have to speak up if you want to repair the damage that your inconsiderate comment did to my feelings." He then leaned back into his chair, and took a bite of his apple again and with a smirk on his face, waited for my apology.
My eyes teared and I wanted to cry, but I wasn't going to let him or this entire situation get the better of me. "I said, I'm sorry. Do you feel better now?" I asked furiously, livid by the smug look on his face.
"Oh, much better," Chance said sarcastically. "But I think you could use a hug," he got up, moved around the table, and wrapped his arms around my head.
"Get off of me!" I shouted, trying to push him away.
"Ah, but my wittle sister needs attention ...," he said mockingly as he clenched me tightly and shook me side to side. "I think Addy is feeling neglected." His taunting infuriated me but there was little I could do as his arms kept my head in his vice-like hug.
Chance was older than I was and much stronger. He was fourteen and I was eleven and he had always treated me as if I were his brother instead of his sister. He never passed on the opportunity to wrestle me to the ground and put my face in the dirt or slap me in a head lock and give me a noogie. He was your typical bully brother and he relished the role.
"Alright, that's enough, Chance," Dad said with a chuckle. "Leave your sister alone."
Chance released me, but not before he could suck his pinky into his mouth then stick it into my ear.
"Knock it off, dork boy," I shouted, using the sleeve of my shirt to wipe my ear. Chance moved back to his seat and sat down.
Mom had gone to the kitchen and returned with a cooking mitt on her hand. "Dinner will be ready in a few minutes," she said moving to stand next to dad.
"Okay, let's get back to what I was trying to tell you," Dad started. "Like I said, I know that moving so much has been tough on you guys. I know that going from school to school can make it difficult to find and keep friends, but I am at a point in my life where I am looking for a change. I have worked for Bristwell ever since I graduated college and frankly, I want to move on to other things." Dad stopped for a moment, took a drink of his iced tea, and then resumed. "Grandpa called me a couple of months ago and asked me if I would like to take over the farm."
"Why would Grandpa ask you that?" Chance asked with genuine interest.
"Well, he's getting up there in age and he said he wants to retire. He has always wanted to take your grandma and move down to Florida and I guess he feels he's in a position in which he can do that," Dad said directly, looking carefully to me then to Chance to assess our reaction. "What would you kids think if I purchased Grandpa's farm and we moved to Pleasant View?"
Chance and I said nothing and the room went still. I remember experiencing a difficult time trying to process what my father was asking. Not only did he want us to move but he wanted us to move into Grandma and Grandpa's house. None of this made sense to me at all.
We all sat there saying nothing. The tension was thick. My parents waited wondering what our reaction would be, and Chance and I sat there wondering how we should respond. After what seemed like an hour, but was probably only two minutes, Chance spoke up.
"What are you planning to do in Pleasant View, Dad?" he asked with confusion. "Bristwell have a plant there?"
Dad smiled softly, "No, son, Bristwell doesn't have a plant in Illinois. I am going to quit my job."
Mom's face twitched slightly at these words but she maintained her gentle composure.
"You're not serious?" Chance asked with a chuckle. "I mean ...,"
"I am serious," Dad said. "I want to take over Grandpa's farm and become a farmer. It is actually what I have always wanted to do. It's what I grew up doing."
And that's how it happened. Within two months we had sold our house, Dad bought Grandpa's farm, and we were headed out in our Country Squire station wagon to the wonderfully dull village of Pleasant View.
I remember looking out the car window and appreciating the turn of the century, white, two-story farmhouse as we drove down the dusty dirt road that led to our new home. I had been in the old house several times in my life. We made visits to see our grandparents on holidays and whatnot, but now, for me, just knowing that house would be ours to live in made the place look somehow different to me.
"I want the upstairs bedroom that faces the barn," Chance said as if he were claiming the North Pole as his own.
"That's fine with me," I said acting as if I didn't care. "That's the barn that has the pigs. I just hope the smell won't be a bother."
"The smell of the pigs won't bother me," Chance said smartly.
"I'm not talking about you being bothered," I started as I looked back out the window. "I am hoping that your smell won't bother the pigs."
Chance didn't know what to say so he responded to my snide remark with a sharp punch to my arm. For me, the silver dollar-sized bruise was a worthy price to pay to shut him up.
We pulled into the driveway and I got out of the car, grateful for the opportunity to stretch. The farm was just as I had always remembered.
The empty white house stood silently against a backdrop of rolling corn and soy bean fields. The mid-morning sun rose slowly over the horizon casting shadows on the side of the fading red barn as the large oak trees filtered the soft morning breeze. On the back part of the property sat a couple of pole barns. These were the buildings in which Grandpa kept the tractors, combine, and other farm equipment. The backyard looked as you would expect, complete with a two wired clothes line, an outhouse, and a large lump of grassy earth that covered a cellar where my grandmother used to keep her canned goods.
I spent the rest of the morning following my father around the property as he inspected the barns and the equipment. The moving truck came later that afternoon and within three days we had almost everything moved in and Mom had the place looking and feeling like a home.
Saturday morning I woke up feeling lonely. I missed my friends. I had to do something to occupy my time or I was going to go mad.
The town of Pleasant View was about three miles up Well Spring Road, which was at the intersection of our half-mile long dirt driveway. I decided that I wanted to ride my bike so I went outside to find Dad to see if he would let me ride into town. I went out to the garage and grabbed my bike and then headed out to the pole barn.
Dad was up on the tractor bent over the engine with a wrench in his hand. I found the entire scene almost comical as I have never seen my father do work of this nature before. We had always lived in town and the most casual that I had ever seen him dress was when he took off his tie after coming home from work. But here he was in a pair of blue jeans and a throw over shirt, working on his tractor like a boy with a new toy.
"Hey, Dad," I said walking with my bike up to the tractor. He stopped what he was doing, looked around until he saw where I was standing, and let loose a big smile. I could tell immediately that he was in his element.
My dad's name was Phillip Michael Dawson, but everybody called him Pip. I'm not sure why they called him that, but I do know that I have no recollection of anyone ever calling him Phillip. My dad was an athletically built man. He had short dark hair, piercing blue eyes, and a smile that showed all of his perfectly white teeth. Mom always said that Dad's smile made the girls swoon. That was information that I really didn't need to know but there you have it.
Anyway, as I stood there looking at my dad, I could tell that he had the weight of the world lifted off his shoulders. For the first time in my life and with just one look, I saw that my dad was finally doing something that really made him happy.
"How are you doing, honey?" he asked wiping his hand on a tattered red rag.
"I'm doing fine," I replied automatically. "Do you think it would be okay if I rode into town?"
Dad hopped off the tractor. "Pleasant View is about three miles away, Addy, do you want to ride that far by yourself?" he asked with some concern.
"Sure, why not? I mean I used to walk over to Gruene from New Braunfels all of the time," I said shrugging my shoulders as if riding three miles was no big deal.
"Yes, but you were always with your friends," he said tossing his wrench into the toolbox.
"Yeah, well, I don't have any friends here," I said looking down at my feet and feeling a little sorry for myself.
I looked up and said, "I'm bored."
Dad moved over and put his hand on my shoulder. "Okay, sweetie, but be careful and be back in time for lunch."
"Thanks, Dad," I said. I turned my bike around and hopped onto the seat and prepared to leave.
"Addy," Dad said stopping my departure.
I turned and looked back.
My father stood there silent for a moment. His smiling face softened and suddenly he looked sad. "I'm really sorry that I moved you from your friends," he said.
An unexpected surge of guilt poured over me as I stared at my father. I suddenly felt silly for making such a stink about moving. "It's okay, Dad. I'll be fine here," I said trying to sound reassuring.
Dad smiled gently, "Be careful, honey."
I rode out of the pole barn and headed out to the front of the house, then down our long dirt driveway towards Well Spring Road. The sun was shining brightly in the blue morning sky and a gentle breeze caused the newly-sprouted corn leaves to flutter. As I pedaled toward town, a new sense of freedom fell over me and I actually looked forward to starting my new life in Pleasant View.
Excerpted from The Lookout Tree by J. Scott Romig Copyright © 2009 by J. Scott Romig. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Contents1. New Life in Pleasant View....................1
3. Hurt Feelings and a Chance Meeting....................19
4. Animal Farm....................27
5. A Church, A Barn, and Danger on a Dirt Road....................35
6. Cadence, Calvin, and the 4th of July....................43
7. The Lookout Tree and One Stormy Night....................53
8. Rescue at the River....................63
9. A Special Gift Revealed....................71
10. A Day at the Zoo....................81
11. On Thin Ice....................89
12. A Quilt, Shackles, and Unwanted News....................99
13. A Father's Redemption....................109
14. A Night with Friends....................117
15. Swan Lake....................125
16. Honor from a Bully....................135
17. Goodbye to My Friend....................145
18. Epilogue: Years Later....................157