Arkansas Stories--Our Mount Everest

The mud pile was about 10 feet high and had been sitting there for about a day.

How could we not want to climb that? I ask you, how many 5 year olds living in the country could resist such temptation. You might as well have sprinkled it with ice-cream and chocolate—that thing was meant to be climbed. I was going to be Sir Edmond Hillary and climb my Everest.

Of course, this grand mountain did not start off as a huge gigantic pile of mud. It started out as fill dirt. My father had taken it upon himself to actually build our own house to live in. I know it sounds very pioneer to some and to others it will sound like very hick. Don’t worry, we didn’t use an outhouse during construction. We stayed with my grandmother until it was livable.

During the weekends and summers my brother and I were drafted to help build the house. It may sound tough now but it is a constant source of pride, who helped build their own house for their mother and sister? And it was nice house, 2 stories and plenty of land. Our nearest neighbor was a good mile away and sold plums on the side of the road. They did not have an outhouse. They had a hole in the woods. I’m not making a good case for the pioneer angle, am I.

My brother and I were drafted to do the various manual labor jobs of small importance required on a job site. Things like stacking bricks, mixing concrete, carrying shingles, stacking wood, picking up broken bricks, and sometime later—caring for the hogs and chickens. I swear to god we were pioneers.

But what kid wouldn’t love to grow up like this? I had acres and woods to play in. I had a older brother to play with and a real fort. When you live out that way, you actually build honest to god forts with structures, turrets and punji sticks. It was great.

But part of building your own house means that you need dirt. I don’t know exactly why, but you need it. I don’t know why we couldn’t just dig up some dirt and use that but instead had to have some trucked in. So it was trucked in and left on our property.

Then the rains came and turned this ordinary pile of dirt into one of my greatest accomplishments of my childhood. 10 feet high, a 20 foot circumference and nothing but glory on the top. That glory would be mine, even though it wasn’t my decision to climb it in the first place.

It was my older brother that decided that today we would cease to be mere mortals and would instead become explorers for the benefit of the Hossman Family. But like any good expedition we needed it to be state sanctioned, maybe get some funding or some grants for supplies.

I was charged with going and asking my father if we could climb this colossal mound of dirt. To a 5 year old, this is a completely legit question. Why would he say no? Has he seen the pile of dirt? Of course it needs to be climbed.

So I went and found my father. He was in the living room and on the phone. Very slowly, and very quietly, I asked if my brother and I could obtain glory.

He said yes.

Sometimes in the pursuit of victory you need to know when to bend the rules and manipulate the situation. Even in my 5 year old mind I knew this.

My father had not said yes to me. My father was on the phone and said yes to someone else. However, I heard the yes and took it as my own. I was now dually protected against any unforeseen consequences of my actions. I could reasonably argue that I had infact come for permission and it had been given. I got the hell out of there as fast as I could, no need to wander around and bring suspicion.

With the sanction in hand, my brother and went to the mountain and came up with a plan. This plan did not include my 3 year old sister. She decided that she would have none of that once she saw where we were going. She’s always been a very independent chick so I guess this is where it started. Besides, that just gives us one more member to the expedition, someone to chronicle our glory.

Now we were three and ready to go.

We started up the great mud pile. It was easy going at first. Then our feet started to suck down a little to far in the mud.

The first person to get stuck was my sister. Being shorter, the mud was already up to her thighs. I wish to that I could say that we went back for her, but we didn’t. This expedition could not afford to lose anytime, my father might come out any second. We pushed on, leaving my sister struggling in vein.

Each step became harder and harder as our feet sunk deeper and deeper into the mud. Each time I pulled one leg out of the mud, I could feel the pressure trying to pull loose my shoes.

Undeterred, we pressed on. The wind was sweeping hard across the Mountain’s arc and provisions were running low. We had already lost one of our party. Then tragedy struck. I tried to pull my foot out of the mud and it wouldn’t budge. The strength of a 5 year old was not enough. I was stuck up to my thigh. My journey was in jeopardy.

I called to my brother. I yelled for help. He looked at me and I could see the decision in his eyes. I too would be left behind. I had been discarded as another victim to the ultimate goal. He was leaving me. I called out louder but he ignored me. Why should I think I was more valuable than my own sister who I had left myself at the summit. This is where my journey ended.

My brother was getting closer and closer to the top. Victory was near, but sadly, it was not to be. He to became stuck and glory was ripped from our hands.

Now what to do? We wait. All three of us couldn’t move and we were no more than 5 feet away from each other. The wolves would come soon and then this tale would take an even more grisly turn. We struggled in vein, there was no hope to free ourselves from the thigh high mud.

The wolves did not come. But my mother did. This was seriously not good and she was seriously not pleased. She saw us stuck and filthy, a mother never wants to see that. Ok, she was a little pissed and we might be in some trouble here.

She had to climb to the top and pull my brother out. Atleast one member of the Hossman family reached the summit. She then did the same with my brother and I. The true unfortunate part of this was that when she pulled on me, my legs moved but my shoes didn’t. They sucked right off my feet, as they did with my brother and my sister.

Years later my mother would explain that these were infact our new shoes that we got for the year. We didn’t have much money back then so this took a financial tole on our family as well. As we didn’t actually discover anything, the money could not be made back through the spice trade with new cultures.

My father came out and I thought for sure there would be licks. I was about to get beat and I deserved it. But my brother, being truly devious and forever prepared, reminded my father that we had asked for permission and he said yes. I then told my story of asking while he was on the phone.

He could not argue with that. He knew that I had asked him something but wasn’t paying attention. I had followed the rules, although I had bent them to my needs. My mom glowered at him. I had found the technicality in the law and it had saved us.

The mud pile was soon dried out and my father made a point to move it very quickly to it’s intended use. But atleast we had attempted the impossible. Atleast we had climbed because it was there. We lost some good shoes on that mountain ridge and they will forever be remembered in the Hossman Clan. God speed Converse, god speed.


  1. Man, my dad would've made me move the dirt pile, find my shoes, and put the dirt back. You had it easy. :D

  2. I have just recently been turned on to your blog (i don't even remember where) and have been enjoying it tremendously for about a month. I've read every entry and check every day as part of my morning routine. This is not like me to leave a comment, being a behind the scenes, shy type...but i have received so much satisfaction from your tales that i feel compelled to tell you so. Thank you so very much for sharing...i enjoy your blogs right up there with the tales of David Sedaris!

  3. Thank you thank you for your kind words. It's always so cool when someone tells me they read this, because get this, I am freaked out by people reading this. How jacked up is that!! I'm usually self concious about this stuff and never showed anyone before. My wife however almost pubilished some of what I've written and suggested that I do this, so here I go. Since you are so great, here is a taste of the week to come: The Vine, The headbanging Daughter, My mother in law, and My fat feet. Enjoy!