“Once Upon a Time” had expired. Now, “Every Minute Counts” was in charge, and things were happening faster and faster.
The Old Man of the Mountain was having trouble with his children. They all knew the only job they had to do in this whole wide world was to make sure every little old lady, and every little old man, had a bundle of sticks every morning before the sun came up.
A simple job. So simple, even a child could do it.
But the Old Man of the Mountain kept having trouble with his children. They would behave for a time, then go back to their old tricks of running and playing and laughing all over the mountain. Often, the little old ladies and the little old men went without their bundle of sticks in the morning.
The bundle of sticks were important. The little old ladies and the little old men counted on the bundles to keep them warm all day long. Even during the summer, it was important to the little old ladies and the little old men to have a cheery fire. For many of them, it was all they had to make them happy.
Once a week, the Old Man of the Mountain made sure every bundle of sticks had a very special stick. The wood was made from the finest trees in the forest – trees with colorful coverings and delicious smells. The special sticks would last all week before they burnt up. The little old ladies and the little old men did so look forward to receiving that special stick in their bundles every week.
But the Old Man of the Mountain was having so much trouble with his children. Some times, they didn’t deliver the bundles of sticks to the little old ladies and the little old men. The children would go play instead. It was much more fun to run up and down the sides of the hills and valleys than it was to work for the Old Man of the Mountain.
Every once in a while, the Old Man of the Mountain would turn the naughty children into stones as punishment. But the children just laughed at that – they would simply roll down the mountain side and into the magic river below, and “poof,” they would change back into children.
What was the Old Man of the Mountain to do?
He looked across the valley at the Beautiful Young Woman who was in charge of the children on the mountain to the east. Her children obeyed. Her children delivered their bundles of sticks to their little old ladies and their little old men.
Sometimes, the Beautiful Young Woman gathered her children around her and told them stories. Sometimes, she baked them cookies. Sometimes, all she had to do was smile at her children and they did their chores without a whimper.
But the Old Man of the Mountain didn’t know how to make cookies. He didn’t know any stories to tell. He had forgotten how to smile. The bundles of stick still lay in heaps and piles all around him. The special sticks were not going to make it to the homes of the little old ladies and the little old men.
For the next segment of time, the Old Man of the Mountain gathered up the bundles and brought them to the little old ladies and the little old men by himself. He made sure that every bundle reached the homes of everybody on his mountain before sunrise every morning.
Then, one special day, the Old Man of the Mountain was nowhere to be seen. It was as if he had vanished.
Had he gotten so anxious about the naughty children that in his excitement he had turned HIMSELF into stone? Oh, dear, that would never do.
The little old ladies and the little old men were very, very worried. What happened to their special sticks? What happened to the Old Man of the Mountain?
As of this second, no one knows.
Perhaps he is a stone.
Perhaps he went to visit the Beautiful Young Woman on the next mountain.
Perhaps he climbed up one side of the mountain and rolled down the other side.
Where do YOU think he is?