I was five years old. Pa had repeatedly warned me and Aaron never to go into the hoodoos, but Aaron easily persuaded me, his younger brother, to go play hide-and-seek there with him. I’d never seen the hoodoos up close, and this sounded like a great adventure to me.
Aaron somberly warned me to “look out for the hoodoo-men” as we penetrated ever deeper into the twisting rock canyons. “The hoodoo-men’ll get you if you don’t watch out!” Aaron whispered, causing a thrill of fear to run through me. I bravely armed myself with a hoodoo-whacker stick, just in case any hoodoo-men tried to sneak up on us.
The rocks were cool to my touch, 'cept where the sunlight hit them, and they were layered in fantastic, swirling shades of white, pink, red, and yellow, like great big mounds of taffy. The rocks cast weird, disorienting hoodoo-shadows—one moment we boys would be in bright sunlight, and the next moment in inky blackness. Our voices echoed off the spires and down the winding, narrow passages, scaring me even worse.
“Shh! The hoodoo-men’ll hear you!” Aaron warned me.
At last we paused and Aaron whispered to me, “All right, now you go run and hide, and I’ll try to find you!”
I hitched up my young courage and ran off down a side passage, deeper into the hoodoos. Soon I found a small cave under a big rock outcropping. I crouched down there and waited patiently for Aaron to find me. And waited, and waited…
After what seemed like most forever, I thought I could faintly hear my brother’s voice, but it sounded real strange to me:
“Benbenbenbenben wherewherewherewhere areareareareare youyouyouyou…”
I was still playing hide-and-seek, so I retreated even deeper into my cave and waited quietly. And waited, and waited…
Soon the shouting stopped. I kept waiting, but Aaron din’t come. I waited some more. And he still din’t come. By now, I was getting real scared. What if Aaron don’t come for me? I thought. What if no one finds me? What if the hoodoo-men get me?
I watched the cave opening for what musta been hours, as the light and dark patches in the canyon slowly shifted. It was real quiet in the cave, ‘cept for the sound of my breathing. I was just screwing up my courage to head outa the cave so’s I could find my own way home, when I heard gravel crunching and saw a figure slowly moving through the shadows towards the mouth of the cave. All I could see through the opening were his feet and legs.
It’s a hoodoo-man for sure, I thought, terrified. Aaron, please don’t let him get me…
I covered my eyes and crouched down, hoping this would make me invisible to the hoodoo-man. I grasped my hoodoo-whacker stick more tightly, just waiting to strike.
Then I heard a voice at the mouth of the cave that said, “Well, hello there! Come here my little friend. Don't be afraid.”
Somehow the voice seemed to settle me down, so I opened my eyes and looked out. I saw a man crouching down at the mouth of the cave, gesturing for me to come out. In a scaredy little voice I said, “Are you a hoodoo-man?”
The man laughed, and his voice echoed up and down the canyon. “No Benjamin, I’m not. I’m here to take you home. You can come out now.”
I hesitantly dropped my stick and climbed out of my tiny cave. Then I stood up and gazed at the man, who was still hunkered down facing me. He was wearing a white linen suit—unusual, for Fort Kanosh. He had light auburn hair, a rather large nose, and the most piercing, light blue eyes I’d ever seen. He took me by the hand and said, “Come, your parents will be worried! I shall lead you home.”
Something told me that I could trust this stranger, so I obediently followed him back along the twisting maze of passages.
Suddenly we came out of the hoodoos into the bright sunlight of Amber Valley. I squinted and looked, and in the distance I could see my Pa running towards me from the fort, with Aaron close behind. I let go of the stranger’s hand and ran to them, and Pa scooped me up and hugged me.
“Pa, are you mad at me?” I said, anxious but relieved to be safe at last.
“No, son, just glad t’ see you. How’d you find your way outa’ the hoodoos?”
“That nice man there found me an’ led me out,” I replied, pointing over my shoulder.
“What man?” said Pa.
I turned round and looked, but the man was gone. Vanished…
Ever since that day eight years ago, I’ve wondered who the man in the white suit was, and where he went.
I never even got to thank him for saving me, I thought. And it took a real long time for me to forgive Aaron for getting me lost in the hoodoos, too—even after Pa gave him a thrashing.