September 9th was not a special day. Really an insignificant day, not like December 7th or the 4th of July. Why should it be remembered? Well, it was the day that a lone fellow slipped off his horse in the mountains and could not climb back on. He crept down to a bubbling creek and seemed to fall in the water. Who was he anyway? Even if there were a daily newspaper or a TV or radio station—which there were not— almost nobody would even know his name or care that he was missing. Of course no one knew that he was missing, because only a few people knew that he was in town.
He had arrived in late August from out of town, and he was gone before Christmas. But on that day in September, he lay in the creek slowly freezing all alone, and his horse had wandered off. Not a soul was about, and he was too weak to cry out. Yet, on that day he was to become one of the luckiest men on earth, and we are most fortunate. As fortune or destiny or coincidence or luck would have it, a bear hunter was hunting nearby and wandered over to the creek for a drink of water. As he walked over, Anson the bear-hunter thought that he saw a “black something” lying in the creek.
He knew not what it was, so he took down his rifle: grizzly bears were always near by. He approached the creek carefully with his rifle ready. On closer inspection he made out that it was a man in the shadows, half in and half out of the creek-alone and motionless. He turned the body over and saw a human face, barely alive. He ran up the hill to his cabin several hundred yards away and yelled to his cabin-mate: “Jonathan, Jonathan, there is a body down by the creek, hardly alive, but still living. I need help!”
Together the two men raced to the creek and retrieved the body. Their modest log cabin in the wilderness was nearby but not close. But for these two hardy frontiersmen, it was not a huge burden to carry this skinny man up the hill and home. They put him in their cabin, covered his body with grease, and laid him next to a roaring fire.
After a few hours, they tried to sit him up and get him to slurp down some hot vegetable soup. He was too weak to eat, so they simply let him lay by the fire to see whether he would live or die. They had no idea who he was. He was dressed in shabby clothes, seemed to have a bad rash over most of his body, and had heavily stained brown fingers on his smoking hand. He had long, stringy dark hair.
That is how it went for several days. Johnathan and Anson had plenty of other things to do, but the stranger’s recovery became their main concern. Finally, after several days, he was able to sit up and sip some hot soup. Barely able to walk, he tried to thank those two strangers for taking him in and keeping him warm.
Eventually, the stranger noticed that there were other people in the cabin. Jonathan had several children, but they kept their distance from the stranger. They were curious but quite shy about getting too close to him. Eventually, they were invited closer by the stranger who told them stories about animals, pirates, kings, and queens.
After several weeks of kindness and care, the stranger seemed well enough to be taken down from the mountain and returned to where he came from. No, not a penny would these two men accept for his care and keep. Just as well, because the stranger had almost no money to give them.
Today that log cabin is no more. Remnants of the rough, wooden sidewalls are strewn on the grassy slope. Only one thing remains: the stone chimney and fireplace, like a watch- tower standing in the poison oak and berry bushes. If you know where to go and look, you can see that today, even though it looks a little different from what it did in September, 1879, when Robert Louis Stevenson was brought back to life by the two frontiersmen, Jonathan Wright and Anson Smith. The site is close by what is now Robinson Canyon Rd. in the Santa Lucia Mountains, just a few miles from Carmel Valley Manor.
If these two men hadn’t discovered Stevenson lying in San Clemente creek, and nursed him back to health he would never have survived to write “Treasure Island,” ”The Amateur Immigrant,” “Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “Kidnapped,” and “The Silverado Squatters,” and many other wonderful examples of the finest writing in the English language.
Not a special day. Really? What makes your day special?
(Based on a true story, but not exactly.) By Martin Rosen.