The path into the forest was lined with the last wildflowers of the waning summer…. Fall’s tenuous grasp had already frosted the tops of the more delicate flowers, and, the tender trees like the maples and poplars were  conceding to the new season in a glorious display of vibrant reds and yellows that seemed to explode in bunches near the towering evergreens on the forest’s edge.

      The boy walked slowly into the shadows of the monarchs and followed the meandering path, his arms outstretched, his hands brushing the tops of the golden- colored grasses that gently swayed with every breath that the morning breeze imparted, leading the blond-haired youth, deeper and deeper into the mystical land…
      Soon, the path wandered down a small hill and into the forest proper, a stand of giant firs, ancient in appearance… Matty looked into the changing scape- the forest canopy was dense, but, little shafts of golden light, penetrated here and there, illuminating the ground that was carpeted with many seasons of fallen pine needles. The boy walked onto the carpet and his footsteps were silent now. He imagined himself in another time, when the natives of this land roamed these same paths, hunting for game for their families with bow and arrow; peering into the shadows for the glimpse of a whitetail deer, or, listening for the throaty snarl of a big cat… The boy tensed at the thought, and, turned quickly to look at the path behind, just to make sure that he wasn’t the one being hunted… He saw nothing but a pair of red squirrels scrambling for safety in the dead branches of the lower canopy.
        He giggled quietly… Those times had passed, generations before… The big cats, and wolves had moved to the deeper woods, somewhere north of here… Still…  Matty laughed… It would have been so cool to roam these places, musket in hand, exploring and hunting for the everyday sustenance… He sighed… Why did it always feel like time had passed him by??

       Ahead, there was a type of clearing, and, Matty could hear the gurgling of running water… ‘Perfect’, he thought. Water, rocks, acorns, pinecones…. the habitat of his quarry!! He crept along, silently, and, soon came upon a gorge… Large boulders dominated the forest floor now, and, the granite ledge reappeared, jutting in tiers up a steep hill, over which a small stream cascaded, forming little pools on the resulting terraces… The little boy surveyed the magical scene. Delicate waterbugs flitted across the tranquil surface of the tiny ponds and, as he reached the edge of the water, Matty could make out the silvery flashes of a school of minnows that had noticed his arrival and were now heading for the safety of a rocky overhang, where the stream had undermined the ledge with the passage of thousands of years…
         He looked around, and soon spotted a perfect place- a large flattened rock, on the opposite side of the stream, near the treeline… Near the rock was an old oak, and at the base of the monstrous tree was a large hollow, with a pile of loose wood chips; rotted remnants of a fallen branch that had been carried into the void by some unknown creature… Matty guessed that a small animal was building  a nest or maybe just a soft place to safely rest  from  overhead dangers like the red -tailed hawks that hunted this area…
       Matty found a group of half submerged rocks, and, leaping from one to the other, crossed the rambling stream, and reached his destination… He reached into his pocket, and extracted a long string that he had salvaged from the junk drawer in the family kitchen… It was about 8 feet long. Once he tied the slip noose on one end, it shortened the overall length a bit, but, it was still a substantial length. Now, he reached into his other pocket, and pulled out a little, plastic, sandwich bag and grinned at the cleverness of the secret bait- a graham cracker that had been coated with peanut butter, and then, folded on itself to make a kind of sandwich…He took the treat out of the bag and studied it. It was actually a favorite snack of his, so, he hesitated and, then, shrugging his shoulders, broke the cookie in half, and put the spare half in his mouth…He placed the other half in the cave at the bottom of the oak, and, with satisfaction, the blond- haired youth sat down on a large rock, and waited…

        Time passes slowly in the primordial forest… Matty leaned back against an adjacent boulder and slowly, his eyes closed… A gentle breeze caressed his neck and the morning slipped away…

       Suddenly, the boy was aware of a tiny rustling in the leaves near the tree… Without moving, he slowly opened his eyes, and, blinked to chase the sleepiness away… There was a sudden motion to his  right, and, he focused his attention there. Sure enough, a little, striped creature appeared in the fork of a tree, not more than 10 feet from where the boy sat… Matty grinned, as the little animal sniffed the air, it’s tiny nose twitching with delight at the wafting fragrance of the graham cracker treat.

     The quarry was now in sight!! For a full year, since a vacation to Maine had stirred the boy’s fascination, the plan had unfolded… The boy wanted, more than anything else, to make one of these cute little creatures his own, cherished pet. Better still, he wanted to get a mommy and daddy chipmunk together, so that they could do their chipmunk ‘thing’ and bring their world to Matty’s hometown woods. The very thought of these colorful creatures darting about the woods where he played, brought a smile to the face of the little boy.
      He watched now, as the plan unfolded… The chipmunk glanced nervously about, and, seemed to be calculating the distance between himself and Matty, and, then, the distance to the tasty treat and the safety of his nest… That was the key, the boy thought… The nest… Where was it??
      Both boy and chipmunk waited, each surveying the other… The battlelines were formed… Suddenly, the tiny creature vanished. Matty quickly sat up, and positioned himself better… Just as quickly as it vanished, the chipmunk reappeared, this time, not more than 2 feet from the base of the tree, near a small rock. He eyed Matty nervously, and, looked briefly at the tasty delight, then, back at the boy.  In a flash, he darted to the base of the tree, and, sat upright, on his haunches, ready to bolt, at the slightest movement.
      Matty froze, and waited. The chipmunk sniffed the air, one last time, and, in a blur, ran to the cracker, and grabbed the large piece in it’s mouth. Matty jumped, and, simultaneously, the little rodent darted towards the safety of a pile of rocks, with the boy in hot pursuit!! A scramble ensued, and, the graham cracker dislodged from the little mouth, and, with a chirp the creature disappeared, under the front of a pinkish granite ledge… Matty reached the rock, and, got down on all fours and looked under it… He now saw the entrance to the chipmunks lair- a hole just big enough for a little creature, no bigger, camouflaged by it’s sheer simplicity… No visible evidence that a burrow had been dug! Matty had marveled at the cleverness of this in his first encounter with a family of chipmunks in Maine… What they lacked in size, they seemed to more than make up with in absolute energy and resourcefulness. Matty had been fascinated from the first time he saw the creatures in the wild… They were the most beautiful little beings that he could imagine, and, he wanted to bring them home, to bring that joy to his favorite haunts.
     Now, the second part of the plan unfolded… Matty was a bit of an expert in the fabrication of lassos… His secret plan as a boy, was to someday grow up to be a cowboy, and, to travel West to join the last of the cowboys in their adventures on the plains… He had watched every Western that was allowed, and, learned how to make a lasso, using a clothesline rope that had frayed and was destined for the trash… His younger brother had become his lassoing victim many times, even when he wasn’t prepared- once, in the middle of breakfast! Mom had not been pleased…
      Matty positioned his homemade lasso over the opening to the chipmunk’s hole, and took the cracker treat, and placed it about 6 inches from the den opening… Then, he climbed up on top of the ledge, and, with the other end of the string lasso, waited patiently… He suddenly had a nervous thought. Where would he put the lassoed creature?? The worry disappeared, just as quickly, as he realized that he had an ample shirt pocket… He had caught field mice, and kept them there, short term, till a more suitable place could be found… For instance, he knew that his uncle carried a large steel lunch box, that could easily double as a temporary home as well!!
     Content with his plans, the boy held the length of string and waited, peering intently at the den entrance below… It didn’t take long before a little nose appeared at the den entrance, twitching like before… Matty tensed, and held the string, ready to pull the trap tight… The chipmunk seemed unaware that he was above, and, slowly emerged from the den, until his ears were visible. The boy jerked the string, and the noose closed swiftly around the black and white striped head, but, just as quickly, the chipmunk slipped the trap, and vanished, back into it’s den!!  The puzzled boy pulled the noose up to his perch. It was completely closed, and, there was no sign that it had once been a chipmunk collar!! He studied it, and reopened the noose end… Shrugging, he lowered it over the hole again, and waited… It took about 5 minutes, this time, for the creature to reappear. Matty spotted the little, twitching nose, and, within seconds, the rest of the head… This time, tho, the eyes were looking up at him, and the chipmunk seemed to be grinning!! How was this even possible, the little boy thought?? He waited, and waited, and, in a flash, the tiny creature was halfway out of the den… Matty jerked the string, and, the quarry was captured, mid body!! He pulled the string tight, and, started to lift the frantic chipmunk, but, as it came off the ground, it managed a sort of somersault, and, was free again!! It vanished in a millisecond, back to the safety of it’s den…
      The war continued, for the better part of an hour, the boy occasionally managing to snare some part of the elusive creature, but, just as swiftly, losing the advantage to the excited maneuverings of the clever adversary. Finally, the boy realized that the war was lost… He crawled to the den entrance, and, peered down the hole, one last time… Nothing!!  He took the graham cracker treat, and, placed it on a flat rock, in the sunny area, and, put the string in his pocket, and said his goodbyes… There would be no more chipmunk wrangling for that day. A better plan was needed before any of these little creatures would be captured and reintroduced to the woods near Matty’s lair…

     It was nearing noon now, as the blond boy, crossed the stream… As he reached the other side, he felt the urge to relieve himself. He looked around, and, headed for the top of the hill , near the treeline… a perfect place to pee!!  He unzipped the fly of his jeans, and arching his back, aimed for a spot, down the steep dropoff, trying his best to hit a protruding rock, halfway down the slope… He shivered with delight, as the crisp air tingled through his tiny member, and, grinned at the prospect of bettering the distance since his last attempt… Slowly the stream subsided, and, Matty stood, with his eyes shut, for a moment, enjoying the relief and the delight of the little game…

      Suddenly, somewhere to his right, he heard a giggle!! Startled, he frantically pushed his penis back into his cotton briefs, tugging at the zipper of his jeans, at the same time… In his haste, he caught the skin of his rapidly shriveling willy in the zipper teeth, and grimaced in pain… He hopped around and jammed the fly back down… The giggle from the bushes became a laugh, as the embarrassed boy finally managed to free himself, and, pull his zipper closed.
    Red- faced, he turned to his right, and saw the source of the laughter… A young boy emerged from behind a bramble- surrounded tree, grinning with amusement, and, stumbling across the tangled mess of vines and branches towards the open flat area of the hill, where Matty stood. He was dressed in dirty white, worn corduroys that had several holes in dangerously private areas… His shirt was not much better; a red flannel type that had tattered cuffs and looked like it had needed a good washing for weeks.
   Matty noticed the boy’s sneakers, too. They seemed strangely large for the young boy, probably hand- me- downs, Matty thought.
   The boy spoke. “Whattya doin’, killin’ weeds or somethin’??”

        “SSorry, I didn’t see you”,  Matty responded.
        “You weren’t supposed to… see me, that is..” laughed the dark- haired boy. “I’ve been watchin’ you for a while now… if I wanted, I could have stayed hid… you NEVER would have seen me!!”
         “What’s the idea? Why are you spying on me?”  Matty demanded, as the boy walked by and to the edge of the drop- off…
           “Cause, these are MY woods, and, I like to know who’s hangin’ around!”  With that, the boy unzipped his fly and pulled his penis from the opening. “Watch this!” he exclaimed… He arched his back like Matty had done, and grunted for effect. A healthy stream of pale yellow pee exited the tip of the growing member, and Matty watched, surprised for a moment, then, turned away, embarrassed.
          “Man, THAT feels good!! Hey, you ain’t watchin’!! I’ll show you somethin’ real cool, if you watch!!”
           Matty grimaced, and, turned away, and started to walk down the hill, towards the shadows of the tall timbers. “Not really interested in watching you pee! ” he muttered. He shook his head in disbelief… What was wrong with this kid, anyways?? Peeing was a private thing, not some kind of contest, especially when you’ve just met somebody!!  He continued down the hill towards the woods.
          “Hey, wait up!! It’s OK if you don’t want to watch… wait up!!”
          Matty turned to see the dark haired boy, stumbling down the hill, trying desperately to secure his zipper at the same time… “Wait…up!! ” gasped the breathless boy, as he finally reached Matty’s side. “Don’t you want me to show you somethin’?”
         “No!” Matty said, as he turned and walked away.
         “OK, OK… can’t we just play? You know, maybe ‘King of the Mountain’, or somethin’?”
         Matty turned again, and looked at the raggedy boy, whose face was suddenly sad. He started to turn away… “Pleeease…”  begged the strange boy. “Ain’t got no real friends around here…”

          Oh man… thought Matty… I hope I’m not making a big mistake…  He turned, and hesitated for a moment, then walked back to the dirty boy… “My name is Matthew… my friends call me Matty… What’s yours?”
          The boy from the deep woods looked into Matty’s eyes and answered… “My name’s Christopher, Matty….my friends call me Chris..”

          The two friends stood, facing each other, on the edge of the beckoning forest… Something told Matty that his life was about to change…

          Continued in part 3….