Maui Girl

These stories from Donna Austin come from her rich Maui history and heritage.

20 November 2006

Sugar Cane Mill Smoke Stack

Tony headed for the base of the 80 foot high smokestack. He climbed onto the roof of the lower buildings and found the rope ladder suspended by iron hooks to the chimney’s mouth. He scrambled up the shaky ladder, never looking down. His heart was pumping a mile a minute and hammering a rat a tat tat in his throat. When he reached the 80 foot rim, he looked down into its murky black depths, then, he looked over to the side and saw Tony looking so very small and far away. Tony froze, not because he saw another figure by the bushes, but because the realization dawned, that he was scared. He was more scared than he had ever been in his life. He felt like a rabbit pinned by a light, frozen with fright. Tony just couldn’t make his feet move to a lower rung in the ladder.
“Suppose this rope broke! Suppose the hooks give way! Suppose they do start their furnaces on Thursday! Why did I ever want to come up here? Rose will never know how brave I was and how cowardly at the end. She would despise me more than ever!” Tony thought as his whole life flashed before him.
João, standing below saw that Tony seemed frozen in space and time. He yelled, “Alright, you proved your bravery! Now come on down!”
When Tony still didn’t move, João climbed the lower buildings and stood at the base of the stack. Looking up, he yelled on the top of his lungs, “What’s the matter? Are you all right? Come on down. Don’t look down, look up and take one step at a time!” he coaxed and pleaded.
Heart in his throat, Tony carefully and mechanically lowered one foot and then the other, never once looking at anything but the big gray metal smokestack straight in front of him. It seemed like an eternity before he reached the last rung in the rope ladder and jumped the few feet to the ground.
“Thank God you’re down safely!” sighed João, “For a moment there, I thought I’d have to go up and rescue you and I sure didn’t want to have to do it. We might have both been stuck up there.”
A voice from behind them interrupted this speech. “Well done boys. You certainly have courage!” Both boys turned to the sound of the stranger’s voice and unfamiliar features and clothing.

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