This all started a long time ago in a small valley up north. It's about a two-hour
drive on the freeway, but the freeway wasn't there back then. Most of the people going
anywhere back then were trappers just passing through. There weren't even any roads, as
the settlers had just started coming over the mountains. There were trails, but you
couldn't take a trail from here to there. You'd have to take a trail part way, then cut
across open ground to another trail to finish the trip. Making trails was easy for the
trappers, but intersections took a lot of work. |
They put in the freeway a
while back, and a lot of roads before that, so if you really want to go up there, you
can, but there isn't much to see anymore. Most of the buildings fell apart years ago,
and trees have grown back in most of the fields. Even the old monkey factory burned to
the ground. There was talk for a while about building a tourist information center for
people from out of state, but there's not much there to interest them.
The first to settle there was the Roberts family from somewhere in New
England. The Danners and Samuelsons came not too far behind, and they had themselves a
little town in the valley. Not a large town, but it was big enough, and it grew as the
The mill was owned by the Danners, and they did well with it.
They stuck to timber, and the Samuelsons became cattle ranchers. It's not easy to ranch
cattle in a forest (too much shade for the grass to grow) so the Samuelsons were always
The Roberts became farmers, growing potatoes, corn, and
whatever vegetables the town store ordered seeds for. They were doing well, selling not
only what they grew, but also being paid by the Danners to log the land, making way for
more fields. The Samuelsons wouldn't permit their land to be logged, thinking the cows
would grow faster in the shade. They were nice, hard-working folks, but not the smartest
people in town.
The families were all settled in pretty well, and there
was talk of a railhead being built near town because of the mill. Cliff Danner, oldest of
the Danner boys, was walking the land looking for a path to put the track on. While
stumbling drunk through the bushes, he heard a woman crying. It wasn't the loud bawling
kind of crying, but the soft sobbing type. He knew there shouldn't be any women on the
property except for his mother and his sister, both named Ruth, so he went looking for
the source of the tears.
He didn't find a woman, but a small plant,
bearing some resemblance to a blue daffodil. A large fern was standing beside it, swaying
in the breeze, and each time the fern brushed the daffodil, it sobbed. Cliff was a drunk,
but even drunk, he was a smart man, so he looked around for more of the crying flowers.
He found two more that were blue and cried, and four that made a whooshing noise like the
breeze blowing past every time the breeze blew past. They were a very light shade of
black, and were growing on the bank of a small stream.
Cliff was pretty
sure he could find the stream again, so he went back to the house, had a few drinks,
filled a small wagon with flowerpots and a shovel, and dragged it back into the woods. He
didn't find the stream right away, (it was a very large piece of property) but he found
some more flowers, a red one that hooted like an owl, a green one that rustled like
grass, and a pink one that made a noise, not unlike the clip-clop of hooves. He dug up a
sample of each, potted them, and put them in the wagon.
He made his way
to the stream bank and got samples of the flowers there. He followed the water upstream,
as close as he could without tipping the wagon over, and found a few dozen more noisy
flowers. He collected one of each until his pots were all full, and then he went home to
satiate his thirst.
Ruth, his mother, told Ruth, his sister, to make a
garden for the flowers. She had plenty of labor to help her. The mill employed most of
the town and was in shouting distance of the Danner home, but she had other plans for her
day. She told her mother that she knew just the perfect spot for a symphonic flowerbed,
so she had one of the hired hands pull the wagon over to the Roberts farm.
The hired hand was a Roberts, so the family wasn't surprised to see him.
Most of the men in the Roberts family worked in the mill when they weren't working the
fields. The matriarch of the Roberts household earned extra money as a piano teacher. She
didn't know how to play the piano, but she had once been taught the violin, making her
the most skilled musician in town.
Ruth had been in love with Francis,
the man who pulled her wagon, for a few years, and everyone in both families knew they'd
be married as soon as they were both of age, which would have been that coming fall. Ruth
told Francis's mother, also named Francis, that she'd marry Francis, the son, if he had
his own house and enough land for her flower garden. Francis, the mother, thought that
was reasonable and gave them a plot of land next to the river.
a big river, but Ruth raised her growing family by the riverside. Over the years, she
took her children boating whenever she could. Sometimes the river would run low and
submerged rocks would damage the boat. The children would play in the woods until their
father came home. Francis kept working at the mill, and would repair his wife's boat
during his free time. While waiting for him to float her boat, she would tend her garden
She was becoming a skilled horticulturist and was growing many
flowers in her garden. Cliff would bring her new flowers whenever he found them, and she
had become quite adept at crossbreeding to obtain a specific sound, and growing new
plants from shoots. Every Christmas, family and friends could count on a potted plant
with a baby-blue flower that giggled like a child.
After the first few
years, the novelty wore off, and the giggling plants found themselves planted around the
home of Bill Felson, a cousin of the Samuelsons, who'd moved to town after his wife died
in a tragic macramé accident. He was a very angry man and didn't like visitors. The only
times he left his home were to work at the mill, to shop which he did every Saturday
morning, and to run around his yard stomping on the giggling flowers.
was one of Ruth and Francis's children who stumbled on the advantages of noisy plants.
Christopher Roberts had traveled into the nearest city with his Uncle Cliff, and after a
few drinks each, wound up in a playhouse. They weren't impressed with the play, thinking
it was far too dreary to be funny, and had too many jokes to be dramatic. Christopher
recognized the potential, and with some borrowed money and a few plants, started his own
The plays all came with sound effects. There were roaring
lions, bugle calls, and even fake laughter and applause should the audience be unwilling
to provide their own. The playhouse prospered, and Ruth's garden grew ever larger as
Christopher's requests were bred and nurtured.
It was a few decades
before the mill shut down. The Samuelsons had sold their ranch and moved away to try
their luck as oil wildcatters in northern Nevada. The Roberts had bought the ranch and
sold the timber on it. Ruth's garden now spanned the property, tended by her
grandchildren. The death of the mill had taken most of the town with it. Only the
Roberts' two farms had stayed. The food was shipped to town by truck, and the flowers
were hand-delivered to any vaudeville theater willing to pay the Roberts' price.
Demand grew as radio stations cropped up. Nobody could get the plants to
grow long outside of the valley, so the Roberts family was making a fortune selling new
ones to old customers. Business was thriving, and there was talk of building a mansion.
When movies learned to talk, the price went up some and the Roberts plowed under their
other crops, growing nothing but flowers of every color and sound imaginable.
There was so much money floating around that valley that the town started
to recover. The war ended that. The army needed sounds for training and took over the
farm. The Roberts tried to accommodate the country's needs, but were pushed off their
land. Before it was over, some egghead out east had built a machine, which made all the
sounds that they were growing. It wasn't very good at first, but by the time the war was
over, everybody wanted the machine and nobody wanted the plants.
still go up there and look around. The flowers are in bloom now, and what's left of the
Roberts clan won't mind if you look around, so long as you don't try to dig one up. If
you should happen to meet one of the Roberts while you're there, be very careful to not
complain about the noise. They're very sensitive about that.
If a man
take no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at hand. - Confucius