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Mountain Morse Melody
She was born in the summer of her twelfth year, going home to a place she’d never been before.
Emmeline Walsh had never been to the mountains before, but now stood on a large boulder, arms spread, head thrown back. She was twelve years old, a skinny little thing.
“Em, what are you doing?” burst out her cousin, Laurie. Laurie was only two months older than her cousin and had fire red freckles and hair to match. It curled five different ways, giving her the appearance of Little Orphan Annie.
“I’m the queen.” Emmeline closed her eyes, feeling the breeze through her hair. Laurie gaped up at her, squinting against the sun.
“Why can’t I be the queen?” Ah, jealousy.
“’Cuz I got here first.”
Laurie looked angry, and then her features morphed back into a mask of calm. “Maybe you’ll fall,” she said quietly.
Emmeline opened her eyes. “I won’t,” she said confidently. “And if I do, it won’t hurt, I’ll just fall into the grass and roll a little.”
Laurie shook her head, annoyed, and danced away from the boulder. She was halfway up a tree when Richard Walsh, her father, caught sight of the girls.
“Laurie, what’d I tell you about climbing trees?” he asked sternly. Laurie mumbled something and set her feet back on the ground.
“What about Em?” Laurie pouted. “She’s gonna fall.”
“Yeah.” Em’s brother, Kyle, stepped through the trees. He was six years older than Laurie and Em. “Then I can have her room.”
At that, Em leapt down from off the boulder. “No you can’t!” she shouted, enjoying being contrary. She stopped moving suddenly. “Hey, what’s that?” she asked suddenly, pointing to a tall column of gray smoke rising out of the forest in the shadow of the peak.
“Looks like a campfire gone out of control…maybe a bonfire,” Em’s uncle said, watching the smoke. “People get in big trouble for that kind of thing.”
There was a crunching noise, and the woods where Em’s family had just passed through parted. Two men stepped out, wearing brown and beige uniforms. They sprinted up to the family.
“You folks see anyone come out from that way?” The taller of the two pointed to the place they had come from.
“No one but us,” Kyle said. He went to ask why, but stopped when he noticed the two men were occupied with something else. The taller man took out a small black box-Em thought it might be a walkie talkie. What he said next dispelled that idea from her mind.
He seemed to speak in a code of some kind. He was calling a name that made no sense in English. “Audrey, any sign of fire?” So he was talking to someone else.
“No, not- yes, yes there is. Small column on the Berger campsite.”
The man shook his head. “Thanks Audrey. Signing off.”
Em turned to her father as Bill and his assistant ran back into the woods. “Dad, what were they doing?”
James Walsh, Richard’s brother, turned to his daughter. “They were trying to put out the fire, Em.”
Em shook her head. “With the walkie talkie. He was talking to someone on it in another language…I think.”
James laughed. “That was a radio, Em. He was using a call sign. It’s like a name over the radio.” He continued to explain about the radio as they continued on through the trail.
When Em came home that night, she looked up Amateur Radio on the computer. A good many pages came up, and she clicked on one. Ham Radio, it said. Linking the world together one dot by one dash. She smiled. This was something she was going to do!