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LAKE COUNTY HISTORY CHAPTER 36: THE HERMIT OF UPPER LAKE (CONCLUSION)

 ‘To the discomfiture of her pride, the woman hermit was obliged to employ a carpenter to build her little four-room band box where she intends to live out her solitary days. The carpenter quit his job, declaring with verbal explosives, ‘I know my trade and I ain’t going to let any woman boss me.’

The poor fool. Miss Rupert was his boss. I’m becoming weary of commenting on the obvious. For a writer to speak of the subject in such unflattering terms, yet seems to know Miss Rupert’s innermost habits and thoughts…? I am beginning to think that writer had a personal ax to grind. If that writer is female, as I suspect, could she be a lover spurned?

‘His (the carpenter) successor held out for a day. The third man managed to keep his temper under control. He was dismissed the moment his work was completed by his eccentric employer.’

Did he expect to be asked to stay for tea? After all this, at long last, Writer ‘X’ gets salvation. She loads on some compliments.

‘Miss Rupert is one of the few women on record, who can hammer nails without disaster to her fingers. She cut all the pine shakes that cover her barn. The low picket fence before her house is as neatly and strongly bound together with wire as any pair of patient hands could fasten. The five acres are enclosed with a fence of pine posts with pine links for bars. All of these posts, that are as tall as the woman who split them, are of uniform size. She dug all the post holes and made brush fences by the hundreds of yards. She pitches her own hay, milks six cows daily, delivers the milk she sells to summer resorts, she raises hay, barley, chickens, and vegetables. For fresh meat, she goes gunning on her own land for grouse, quail, tree squirrel, and young jackrabbit.’

At this point in writer ‘X’s” story, she wanders off into a psychological evaluation of how Miss Rupert chanced to turn out as she was. It’s all garbage, of course, in this Author’s opinion. We are what we choose to be in life.

‘There is one final star in Miss Rupert’s crown. It was her love of James J. Corbett, Prize Fighter and the world’s champion boxer. Corbett was a guest at Bartlett Springs (Chapter 33, Bartlett Springs Fire).

While Corbett was there, Miss Rupert journeyed to Bartlett Springs with a pitcher of her purest cream. She sought the champion on the piazza, where he was surrounded by women. Miss Rupert offered Corbett a glass of the cream. Gentleman that Corbett was, he recognized the offering for what it was. He left Miss Rupert a memento; a gold piece. To the last day of her life, she wore a little buckskin bag around her neck where placed the memento for safekeeping.’

That was a fitting finish to a noble and poignant love story… but there is a sad epilogue.

‘There was a forest fire. Black smoke rolled up the mountain from a careless hunters’ campfire that got out of control. Her home was lost. Miss Rupert worked; a mad woman trying to save what she could. When, at last, the fire was over, she rebuilt the fences and her home.

The fire had filled her lungs and blackened her face. For weeks afterward, she could not speak above a whisper. As men passed her on the road and bowed, she could not answer. They thought her ‘unsociable’. She was only sick unto death from the scorched lungs that had breathed fire that night upon the mountain and she could not respond.’

Miss Rupert may be up there still. Seldom smiling and keeping her peace, alone upon her mountain. I hope so.

Next Episode: Oxen are smarter than you thought

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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