Christian Funny

Last Moments on a Mountain

“The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.”  - Bob Dylan

Remarkably, Herb felt better once the decision was made. He could immediately feel the stress and anxiety escaping through every pour. He wished he had figured it all out sooner.

The act would be like one-stop shopping, with everything on your mind resolved in a single outing, one dramatic gesture to satisfy all needs. It became clear to him when he recalled his college course in Logic: “A” will be facing a multitude of insurmountable problems tomorrow. Does “A” continue his nerve-wracking, futile attempts to ward off all these problems, or does “A” concentrate his efforts on the single variable he can control, the problem upon which all other problems depend, that is, Tomorrow?

Answer: If “A” eliminates Tomorrow, all other problems dissipate into thin air. In Herb’s disintegrating world, it was simple math; do one thing, and many bad things go away.

Herb knew what to do, but never having done it before, he wasn’t sure how to do it. He went online and studied his options. His Mother had taught him to list the Pros and Cons of the alternatives when in doubt.

Method- Shoot self


-           Quick.

-           Limitless choices of location.


-  Don't have a gun.

-           Am afraid of guns.

-           Have never shot a gun; could miss and only injure myself resulting in a life even more miserable than it is now.

Method- Run Garden hose from exhaust into car


-           Painless.

-           Not messy.


-           Don’t have a car. ( Car was repossessed for failure to make payments.)

Method- Poison


-           Cheap.

-           Not messy.


-           Possess limited knowledge of the efficacy of poisons.

-           Have delicate stomach.



-           Already have suitable length of rope.


-           Could chicken out.

-           Have always had an aversion to tight collar shirts.

Method- Jump in front of a train


-           Would make the evening news.

-           Would be entertaining to see the panicked look on the conductor’s face as he’s about to hit me.


-           Train schedules are unreliable.

-           Could be problematic for my brother George who believes in open caskets.

Method- Jump off of a mountain cliff


-           Last moments on earth would be exciting.

-           No cost.


-           Fear of heights.

-           Climbing up mountain would be tiring.

Herb was pleased with the results of his research. He had several good options, each of which would bring him the relief he sought. He settled on jumping off a mountain cliff. It had a romantic flair to it, and after all, he lived in the Western Slopes of Colorado.

His selection required no preparation or props. He simply had to hike up the mountain, find a suitable precipice, and jump. Mindful of the temperature change at altitude, Herb put on a nice warm jacket, gloves, and his Denver Bronco stocking cap. He slipped his feet into his best tennis shoes so he could get a good jump.

The climb was bittersweet. Herb chose a location he was familiar with, a mountain ridge just outside Rifle. He had hiked in the area many times with his late father, and he made frequent stops to rest and reflect on better days. The launch pad was perfect- a cliff with a 300-foot drop that would be impossible to survive. His landing area was also perfect- a paved road adjacent to a popular hiking trail. Herb was confident his lifeless body would quickly be discovered, and he found comfort in knowing he wouldn’t become nourishment for coyotes, buzzards, and large insects under a hot sun.

The added years made the climb more difficult, and with frequent rest stops, Herb worried he might not get his jump in before sundown. He didn’t want to miss the breathtaking view as he soared through the air, and he certainly didn’t want to land on some unseen pedestrian below. At one point Herb wished he had packed a lunch.

 Herb arrived at his chosen point of takeoff. A brisk cold wind brushed against his face as he surveyed the surrounding mountain peaks and the scene below. The stunning beauty and soulful serenity of the setting affirmed that his selection of location was ideal for his final opus.

Herb felt relaxed. He considered what his life might have been had he spent all his years up there- no deadlines to meet, no courses to pass, no bills to pay, and no one to break his heart. He knew he would have been happy there.

He inched his tennies to the edge. There was no second guessing, no fear. Herb was committed. His lips mouthed the countdown- ten, nine, eight, seven, six, …

Maybe it was the shrill cry of a golden eagle soaring overhead, or maybe the sound of a nearby evergreen branch rustling in the wind, but Herb’s eyes darted to the left. He saw it immediately, a sheet of paper twisting in the wind, up and down, side to side, gracefully floating in the air, and headed his way.

The mind is a complex thing. As focused as Herb was on the mission, he was curious. How could a sheet of paper be flipping around in the wind in the isolated terrain of a Colorado mountaintop? He put the countdown on hold as the paper came to rest just inches from his feet. Herb could see the shaky handwriting. He picked up the paper, sat down on a nearby rock, and read.

Dear Whoever finds this:

 I need help recovering a treasure that I buried in the mountains many years ago. Meet me in front of the Rifle Library at 9:00 AM on June 21, 2016, and you can have half of it if you help me.


P.S. Bring a shovel.

This struck Herb as peculiar for a multitude of reasons- the mountaintop location of the wandering missive, the unusual content of the message, and the timing- June 21 was tomorrow. It was bizarre. Four seconds left in his life, and he gets a most intriguing and tempting message.

The battles in Herb’s mind were being waged on different fronts. Does he resume his countdown to takeoff at five or does he start over at ten? He was unaware of the proper protocols for the situation. But more than that, what does he do about the peculiar message? Considering the circumstances, how could he possibly care?

But he did. It would at least be interesting to meet the author of the strange message. And…just in case, half a buried treasure might solve all his problems. What could a man only seconds from his death have to lose?


Long white hair, a plaid shirt, worn overalls, a frayed leather cowboy hat, and most of all, a shovel in one hand, suggested to Herb that the man seated on the bench next to the statue of Mark Twain was the author of the mysterious letter.


The old man looked like a sleeping Jed Clampett.

Herb gave it a little more volume.


“Yes, can I help you, Sonny?”

“Are you Sal?”

“Yep. What can I do for you?”

Herb unfurled the message he received at the top of the mountain and handed it to the old man.

“ I found this note up in the mountains. Did you write this?”

Sal grasped the note and held it close to his face.

“Let’s see… hmm… buried treasure… Rifle Library... bring a shovel. Yes, I wrote it.”

“And, what does it mean?”

“I think the note pretty well says it all. Do you need me to spell it out for you, Sonny?”

“If you wouldn’t mind.”

“There’s a fortune to be found up there. I need help. I’m an old man, Sonny.”

“It’s Herb. My name is Herb.”

“You come with me, Herb. Help me. It will be worth your while. ”

“Buried treasure? That’s pretty hard to believe, Sal.”

“Then why did you bring a shovel? My truck is down the street. Let’s go, Herb.”


Maybe the guy was Jed Clampett as Herb felt like he was riding in the truck from the old Beverly Hillbillies TV show. Even with a top speed of twenty-five, with cars zooming past them on the left and the right, every mile was a frightening adventure as the road pavement parameters seemed to be only a suggestion for Sal.

“This here is the mountain… I think.”

Herb’s confidence quotient dropped precipitously.

“We’ll leave the truck here in the fire lane and then hike up to the top of that highest peak you see in the distance.”

“The top?”

The task seemed daunting to Herb, so much so that he was thinking he might be better off as road kill about now.

“The top. You can never be too careful with buried treasure.”

“I guess not.”

“Here, help me with this gear.”

Sal began tugging at bundles of canvas on the back of the truck.

“What’s all that?”

“Our camping gear, and of course, a tent. The tent was Uncle Louie’s before the mountain lion got him. It’s got a lot of sentimental value as Louie made it back to the tent before he died. You can still see the blood stains on the floor.”

It was a tossup as to which was more upsetting for Herb, the thought of man-eating mountain lions roaming the area or lying down in the final traces of life left by poor Uncle Louie.

“It’s pretty rough terrain, and I’m not as spry as I used to be. It’ll be a good day and a half.”

Herb hadn’t imagined an overnight adventure with the old man but figured he might as well follow through with it as he had nothing better to do.

The climb was challenging. They followed the hint of pathways through the foothills for the first few hours, and then they had to make their own trail around trees, rocks, and underbrush. Herb thought the incline got steeper with every step. Perhaps this whole adventure was pointless. An ancient Greek god came to mind.

“Sysiphus”, Herb muttered to himself.

“Not quite, Herb.”

“What’s that, Sal?”

“Sysiphus had a never-ending task seemingly without purpose. You, my friend, are in pursuit of immeasurable treasure.”

“Oh yeah, I almost forgot.”

Herb could only wonder how an old man who looked like a homeless person who had fallen on hard times would know about Sysiphus.

The temperature dropped right along with the setting sun as they reached a spot suitable for their encampment. Sal was a seasoned veteran at all things relating to the great outdoors, and with minimal input from Herb, he pitched the tent and started a small campfire. Herb’s body welcomed the rest while his mind soaked in the pure fresh air and the splendor of the canopy of stars above. Sal could read the room.

“It took quite an artist.”

“What do you mean?”

Sal was two steps ahead.

“Herb, how did you happen to find my note?”

“I was out on a hike, and the darn thing just floated right on over to me.”

“I see.”

The way he said it made Herb feel uncomfortable. There was something in the tone that made him wonder if the old man knew exactly what he was up to at that mountain ridge.

“You said something about an artist. What was that about?”

“Everything you’re enjoying right now.”

“You mean the peace and quiet? I guess.”

“The peace and quiet, the sweet fragrance of the evergreens, a cool breeze, the sound of trickling water in the distance, the wondrous display of the stars, knowing the sun will rise tomorrow, the earth itself, everything, Herb.”

“Oh, you mean the God thing, like it took a great artist or architect to put the universe together. Well, sorry if this disappoints you, Sal, but I’m not a big God guy.”

“I see.”

Again, it was the way he said it. “I see” meant Sal didn’t see, and that although he was confident in his own beliefs, there was no sense in arguing with a non-believer. “I see”, said with such calming confidence, also sent the message that perhaps Herb didn’t know all there was to know about the subject.

 Herb drifted deep into his own world of thought, his mind reflecting on Sal’s words while he kept his eyes on the stars that packed the horizon from east to west and from north to south. Listening carefully, Herb could hear the sounds of water tumbling over stones, and for the first time, he smelled the evergreens that engulfed their campsite.

“Time for us to get a little shut-eye.”

Mindful of mountain lions, creepy things that crawl and bite, and rattlesnakes, there was no way Herb would sleep under that beautiful bouquet of stars. He could only hope they did a good cleanup job after Uncle Louie’s demise.

With the morning dew, everything on the mountain sparkled under the morning sun.

“Morning, Herb. Would you like some beef jerky? My Mother made it.”

His Mother made it?! Oh, my God. Either his Mother set some kind of record for longevity, or beef jerky lasts forever.

“I think I’ll pass.”

“Uh, Sal, just when do you think we’ll get to the treasure? No hurry, I was just curious.”

“Patience, my boy. Good things come to those who wait.”

“Is this starting to look familiar to…”

Herb was cut off by a disturbing cry coming from some nearby bushes.

“What was that, Sal?”

“ I don’t know. Sounded like an animal in distress.”

Herb, afraid of all things furry, especially those of unknown identity, approached the bushes cautiously as the whimpering sounds continued. He pulled a branch aside.

“Sal! It’s some kind of animal. It looks like a ball of fur.”

Sal recognized the critter.

“It’s a marmot, a young one.”

“What the hell is a marmot?”

“I guess you could say it’s like a big gopher, part of the rodent family.”

Sal took a closer look.

“It looks like it’s been injured… probably a coyote or an eagle. Grab me one of those rocks from over there.”

“A rock? What for?”

“I’m going to put the poor thing out of its misery.”

“Jesus Christ, Sal, you can’t just mush the thing with a rock. That’s pretty gruesome. Let me check it out first.”

“You might want to put some gloves on, Herb. I’ve got some in the box on the back of the truck.”

Herb thought better of his efforts at the first snarl.

“Uh… Sal, you’re probably better at this sort of thing than I am. Maybe you could check him out.”

“Sorry, Herb, I’m more of a rock kind of guy.”

Herb bent over the wounded marmot, which was either dying or sensed something people sometimes can’t. He remained peaceful as Herb extricated him from under the bush.

“Holy crap, Sal, he’s looking at me. We should get him to a vet.”

“What?! We’re almost to the top. We can’t go back down now.”

“What do we do?”

“The poor thing is suffering, Herb. If you don’t want me to mush it with a rock, just toss him off the cliff.”

Sal peered over the edge of the cliff.

“Yeah, that would do it. It’s a couple hundred feet and all rocks below. It’ll be quick for him, and you won't have to see it. But hurry up, we’ve got to keep moving.”

Herb felt movement in his arms.

“I think he’s coming around a bit.”

“Come on, Herb. Give him the old heave-ho.”

How many things can go through a person’s mind all at once? For Herb, at that moment, it was everything. Herb stared at the squirming little ball of fur in his hands.

“I can’t do it, Sal. I can’t.”

A perceptive observer might have detected the hint of a smile on Sal’s face.

“Let’s make a nice bed for him and pick him up on the way down… after we get the treasure."

"Uh, Herb, there’s something I need to tell you.”

“What’s that?”

“You’re going to be mad at me.”

“What? Why?”

“There is no treasure buried up there. I sort of made that up.”

“What?!! Why the hell would you make something like that up?”

“It’s kind of what I do, Herb.”

“Dammit, Sal! Are you freaking kidding me?! Who are you? I did all this for nothing?! I should have known all this treasure business was BS.”

“Ok, the buried part I made up, but I did lead you to treasure.”

“Treasure my butt. What the hell are you talking about?”

“You discovered the value of life, Herb. And that’s priceless. ”

The irony was inescapable. Herb looked back down at the marmot. The damn thing was looking right back at him.


“I think your marmot will be comfortable in the little bundle I fixed up for him. He’ll be ok until we get him to a vet.”

“Thanks, Sal.”

Before they headed back down the mountain, Sal walked to the edge of the cliff, pulled a handful of papers out of a leather satchel, and tossed them into the air.

“What are you doing, Sal?”

“Just sending out more invites, Herb. There’s always someone out there who needs one.”



“Is it always a marmot?”

Sal smiled.

“Trade secret.”

Sal and Herb, marmot in his arms, headed back down the mountain as a flurry of sheets of paper fluttered across the valley.


The three gentlemen sitting on the bench in front of the Rifle Library that summer painted an unusual picture- Mark Twain frozen in bronze and holding a book; a white-haired old man holding a shovel; and a laid-back looking fellow who seemed happy just to be there- he was holding a marmot.

March 06, 2024 20:45

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McKade Kerr
13:02 Mar 12, 2024

Great story! I was hooked from the beginning, and I love how it ended. Well done!


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Alexis Araneta
08:03 Mar 07, 2024

Murray, as usual, you wove a brilliant tale with such great flow. I...guessed that there was no treasure (or that the treasure was actually something worth a small amount of money but a treasure in nostalgia points for Sal), but I must admit, I thought it would take a more bitter turn. Great job !


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Mary Bendickson
06:10 Mar 07, 2024

A treasure. Thanks for liking my flood story.


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