In six words, tell your story of the above picture.
I’m not old enough to have watched this show as it aired, but I found it when I was a kid and fell in love with it. If you’ve never watched it you are missing out. Most of the stories are amazing. Here are a few distinct moments in the show’s history.
1. The writer who became an on-screen star
Rod Serling was a star screenwriter from TV’s first “Golden Age” of the 1950s, who became an otherworldly presence on The Twilight Zone. Starting with the words “submitted for your approval,” the square-jawed Serling would suddenly appear on-screen in a trim suit and tie, and often smoking a cigarette, to invite viewers to join him in a place that had various descriptions but was always located “in The Twilight Zone.” His intro for a 1963 episode called “He’s Alive,” about an American neo-Nazi (played by Dennis Hopper) who idolizes Adolf Hitler, is a prime example of the Serling style.
2. Name that genre: Sci-fi or horror or both?
Filmed in black and white and written principally by Serling, the original Twilight Zone aired on CBS from 1959 to 1964. With its stories about ordinary people placed in unusual circumstances, the show was not easy to categorize. It comprised elements of science fiction, horror and the paranormal. One well-remembered episode combining sci-fi and horror—“Eye of the Beholder” from 1960—turns society’s notions about beauty on its head as a young woman prepares to undergo plastic surgery. The episode is famous for its surprise ending: a type of ending that became a hallmark of the show.
3. What’s cookin’? ‘To Serve Man’ serves up surprise answer
Another Twilight Zone episode with a famous ending was the one titled “To Serve Man” from 1962 in which a strange and powerful race of superbeings from outer space comes to Earth with promises to end the strife that afflicts mankind. They even bring with them a book titled “To Serve Man.” But how was Man to be served? The surprise answer was provided in the episode’s shocking ending.
4. ‘Twilight Zone’ scripts were commentaries on contemporary subjects
Serling, considered to be one of the finest writers to ever work in television, won five Emmy awards for writing, including one for The Twilight Zone in 1961. His scripts for the show were often thinly veiled commentaries on the era in which they were written. It was the era of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the threat of nuclear annihilation. As a result, The Twilight Zone dealt with people who found themselves alone in the aftermath of some sort of cataclysm. Burgess Meredith starred in 1959’s “Time Enough at Last,” playing a mild-mannered bank teller who wakes up one day to find himself the sole survivor of a nuclear attack. An avowed bookworm, the character realizes he will now have more than enough time to devote to his favorite pastime—reading the world’s great books—until something unfortunate happens to derail his plan.
5. William Shatner’s most famous role before ‘Star Trek’
One of the series’ most famous episodes dealt with a man who believes he sees a gremlin perched atop an airliner’s wing outside his window in mid-flight. The episode, from 1963, is titled “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” and the actor playing the frightened passenger is William Shatner in his most famous role before Star Trek. Watch him in action here:
6. Fears of all kinds were recurring subjects for ‘The Twilight Zone’
Fear was a recurring theme and subject for The Twilight Zone In another episode that ranks as one of the best-remembered of all of the original episodes, the adult residents of an isolated Ohio town are in constant fear for their very lives because a little boy lives among them who possesses the power of life and death over them. The episode – “It’s a Good Life” from 1961 – features one of the most electrifying performances by a child actor in the history of television. The actor is Billy Mumy, four years before he gained fame as Will Robinson in Lost in Space. When the little boy points to one male resident of the town and tells him he’s “a very bad man,” the phrase became unforgettable.
7. Fears of all kinds were recurring subjects for ‘The Twilight Zone’
One of the show’s earliest episodes – No. 8 in the series, “The Hitch-Hiker” from January 1960 – provides a keen illustration of what The Twilight Zone was often about—literally a “zone” between life and death. “Nan Adams, age 27,” says Serling to introduce this episode. “She was driving to California to Los Angeles. She didn’t make it. There was a detour … through ‘The Twilight Zone’.” In the episode, the woman keeps driving, but she repeatedly encounters the same hitchhiker. Is she alive or dead?
After about forty-five minutes along my trail, I call it mine simply because it ends at my front door and there’s no reason for anyone else to be traveling along it, I come across my usual resting spot on a downed maple tree that’s been resting there long before I came across it for the first time.
If it isn’t the most comfortable dying seat in the forest then it’s damn close and I’ve yet to find its rival. The horizontal trunk is in the perfect state of decomposition; taking on the feel of a firm sponge with its cover of crab moss enveloping it like some glue that binds and providing a supremacy that disintegrates. Laying the pelts at my side I look around just to look.
Too often, we connect with our surroundings for the simple reason to find something. Something is always there; something is always missing, but we can observe the mixture of the two by just looking with no expectations.
I don’t see them, but I can hear the dogs moving back around in my direction because they know I’ve stopped. I wouldn’t say they follow me on these trips to town because they are always out front and just out of sight on either side of the trail, a hidden army that is ready and on call in any situation.
I catch a glimpse of the one I call Snout in front of me about forty yards on the opposite side of the trail. It’s a beagle with those classic black and brown spots on a white background and he got his name because his nose is always to the ground. I guess nothing gets passed that dog as far as scents go. I’m sure Snout is the only purebred among the entire bunch except for Top. Top’s a medium sized German Shepherd that’s as thick as a bear cub, and he earned his name by way of dominance when it came to the pack coming together over the entrails of my kills.
Top and Snout are my two favorites, not because of their pureness of the breed but because of what has to be called personality. I don’t treat them any differently than the other dogs I just think of them differently, and that’s enough for me, and I believe it’s enough for them as well.
It’s almost reminiscent of the adage to keep you friends close and you enemies closer, reversed and tossed upside down.
The other eleven or fifteen or so dogs, I never know how many for sure because there are always more arriving while others seem to vanish, I do have names for them ranging from Jack to Con but of course I never call them by these names and of course they never call me by mine. It’s a fair arrangement as kindnesses go, considering they deconstruct my every morning.
I hear some more scraping around in the leaves off to my left but can’t get a look at them.
After a few sips of Local 88, Walter’s homemade stuff, I grab my bag and head on down my trail. Always looking; always wondering if my dad’s remains are just over here or maybe over there. A needle in a haystack they all say. The only way I know how to reply is that that may be, but the needle is there none the less. And you never know he could still be alive. Still wandering around breathing the same air I do and making his living off of the land he cherished so much and maybe, just maybe, being going lost is exactly what he wanted. I have to accept all possibilities.
Towards the end of my trail and about a good fifty yards before it connects to the road which leads into town is where I always try to split off in a different direction so no worn path actually connects to the road, fairly damn ingenious if you ask me. After all the best security is invisibility and if a passerby along the road can’t see an entrance to my trail then he’s not likely to go wandering off into the forest for no reason; we still have wolves in this part of the country after all.
Choosing my split off point I reach the road and turn left towards town. Back the other way leads to Shepherdsville a good twenty-five miles or more, at least I’m told, as I’ve never had a reason to go there myself; just more bothersome people living their bothersome lives caught up in a rat race to the grave.
I’ll admit I’m part of the race, but I choose to race time instead of the other rats.
The dogs have held back now, they rarely follow me any further once I leave my trail. I’ve often wondered if it’s because they remember the cruelty of the society that once loved them, gave them a home, and then tossed them out into a strange existence where they had to fend for themselves or if it’s because they’re afraid of what they might do to those civilized folks if they got the chance to get close enough.
Fear and revenge are close companions in any man’s eyes.
Why should a dog be any different?
The next bend in the road brings Briggs Street into view with its storefronts huddled tight together on one side and Stolman’s mill on the other. The buildings on the right are covered in planks of curled and twisted boards hammered into place by strong hands that surely earned a meager wage to construct the framework for someone else’s dream to come true. The buildings stand in a wooden contrast to the shine of Stolman’s metal exterior that they say keeps the inside of the mill at a cooler temperature. One side of the road is the past clinging to existence while the other is the future attempting to break through and become the future.
About quarter of a mile before town on the right side of the road rests the Hapsburg Cemetery, a rod iron archway about fifteen feet high stands as a solitary entrance with inch thick poles topped with pyramids and handcrafted vines wrapped and frozen in place that swirl from top to bottom all while more iron creates its gated boundaries. The name of the cemetery is carved neatly into a single piece of oak that has to be five feet wide, two inches thick, and no less than three feet tall and gently sways from the entrance archway as a caution to all that enter that this is cherished ground, ground that belongs to those who should and will be remembered.
I always stop here to say hi to Orville the grounds keeper. A man of at least seventy and built like a thirty-year-old lumberjack. If one was to guess his age they would probably come up with nothing over forty-five. The only age giveaway has to be a hint of silver in his hair. His walk is the purest specimen of self-reliance. His eyes always seem to be deep in thought about what they are gazing upon, as if to say to the world, I accept my place in life and death. Shoulders as wide as a horse always are carried back and proud with the slightest intimation of a regret held back by years of living. His clothes hung to him as if ready burst at the seams. A ratty shirt with arms rolled a quarter of the way up. Pants that have clearly seen better days are weathered from constant work. The only piece of clothing that resembled something fairly new were brown leather shoes that seemed never to show signs of abuse.
Orville was born and raised in Hapsburg and quit the mill long ago when he became sickened at how the town had let the cemetery become so ragged and grown over. His grandparents, his parents, and his sister are all buried within its iron artwork, and he just couldn’t stand the sight of his family being forgotten about. So, he just walked into work one morning and said he was done and then walked down to the jungle of a graveyard and has since turned it into a Garden of Eden for the dead. When all else is being beaten down by the weather, the greenery of the graveyard stands out as if it’s an oasis filled with hope and caring. The towns’ people are continuously amazed at what can be done if one only sets their mind to it. An Eden for sure, a man’s journey towards dedication and willfulness to build a jewel within the dust.
Out of all the people in town old Orville is by far my favorite; the childhood hero type, a Robin Hood for the deceased. A man that knows more than one would guess and hides it to the point of silence and dignity.
I cross beneath the archway and notice Orville isn’t around so I head to the far back left of the land following the stepping-stones evenly placed, neatly trimmed, and hand carved from local sandstone; there I kiss my hand and place it on top of my mother’s headstone. No words are said; none need to be said—what can I say? How would I start? Where would it lead me?
My name is Joseph Tooley, and it was my father Jacob that went missing nine years ago out here in these very woods. No trace has ever been found of him in all that time. And believe me it hasn’t been for a lack of looking. His disappearance was the main reason I moved out to this area and built my cabin. The only other is that after my mom passed I felt no motivation to be a part of society and all the trouble people have to offer. Truthfully though, people don’t like me much and honestly I prefer it that way. Don’t get me wrong there are a few folks in town I get along with and actually enjoy a conversation with now and then. Like old William and his younger brother Walter who runs the tavern on Briggs Street, Caleb the local preacher, who I run into at the tavern quite a bit by the way, Orville the grounds keeper of the cemetery, and Mrs. Beatina who I trade furs with for candles and coffee and such. But other than that the rest are ghosts I try to avoid.
If you’re wondering of any sort of family history beyond that I’ll do my best to pull some details from the mist of memories and the haze that comforts my mind.
The oak tree, till the day I die I’ll never forget that oak tree. A symbol of love and commitment to something bigger than all of us, standing tall and strong in the face of daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly changes.
My parents met in New York City in 1861 arriving from Europe with hopes of a better life, a better life than their parents had, as all those stories go. They told me they met in a rainstorm crowded under an enormous oak tree with webbing branches full of green leaves big enough to catch the largest of rain drops in the hopes of remaining dry. As they told it, they began to talk about their new lives in America, where they were from, and what their plans were.
Mom wanted to become a painter; an artist. Dad said he hoped to become an officer; justice. But, truth be told, as much as they wanted a better life than their parents had they both yearned for the countryside, be it an American countryside rather than a European one but a country life nevertheless. As the rain let up they decided to continue their conversation while walking around the city passing the most popular landmarks but too caught up in their own words to even take stop and notice and from then on never left each other’s side again, getting married not even a year later on the 2nd of June 1881.
Sounds like a happy beginning, because it was, but the city can be a tough place for people whose hearts are outside of its persistent pursuit of an enlightened life and one day they decided to follow their hearts and head for the country with the memory of that old oak tree leading the way.
They settled in Hapsburg, Indiana, a small town in the south-eastern part of the state and populated by about two to three hundred people and surrounded on all sides by virgin forest, where the animals surely outnumbered the town folks by twenty to one, on the 7th of August 1882 where mom worked for Mrs. Beatina and where she made just enough money to have some left over to follow her painting dream and dad at the wood mill where his mind was always someplace else.
A year to the day after they came to Indiana I came along in 1883. I came along just in time for autumn to show its colorful face and bring a new sense of togetherness for my parents. My younger days were great by any standard and I was a happy child if not a little rebellious. I was never much at school and didn’t make it very far, but the one thing that I am grateful to have learned is the ability to read. People say numbers will open the future, but words will let us get there and my parents were not the least upset at my choice to leave school and start working with my father at the local mill.
But as I stated, as these stories go, money got tight, and dad started hunting and trapping to bring in more money. He quickly found he had a knack for this type of effort and most of all he loved being out there in the silence of nature; that’s probably where I got it from. Anyway, with me still employed in the mill dad decided to quit the confining mill and hunt and trap full time and that was the first step down his path of vanishing into the very forest that gave our family so much because some years later on a fall morning dad gets his gear ready and kissed mom goodbye and slaps me on the back and tells me to wish him luck.
That was the last anyone ever saw of dad. A few towns’ folk, including Walter, William, Orville, and Caleb, spent a few weeks looking for him, but they eventually gave up hope and stopped and decided he would return in time. I couldn’t blame them for that; they tried, and they helped. What else could they do? They had their lives to move along in. But, none the less they stopped looking.
I never did.
I searched all of his ‘secret’ spots in and around the pass the now carries his name. Those places where he had the best luck in bringing down the most elegantly furred foxes, fattest squirrels, and the biggest deer the forest had to offer. Places that he would tell me about late at night; they were my bedtime stories that seemed to drift me away into a remote wilderness that had everything a man could ever want if only he knew how to blend in with the forest itself and listen to what the trees and animals were saying by their movements or lack thereof.
From the very beginning, I always promised mom I would find out what had happened to dad, and she would just turn away and smile one of those smiles that held more than I could ever guess. I think she finally gave up hope as well, along with the rest of the town, after five or six months had passed but she would have never admitted to it and her sorrow always came across to me as a sorrow that somehow I was not completely aware of or could entirely understand.
To me mirrors and dreams are the only way we are shown what we try to hide within ourselves.
It was during this time Walter’s Local 88, the best homemade whiskey around, began to play a bigger role in my life; as a companion and an escape, beginning each day earlier than the previous one and each night lasting a little later.
It was my attempt at trying to ease the daily pain of my mother’s loss, my loss, and the courage, or desperation some would call it, to keep looking for some sign of what had happened to my father on that fateful final trip out the door and into the forest. That sea of silent trees that see all but never speak of what they have seen. Some people in these parts call them witness trees because of what they look down upon on the forest floor and hold onto their sights tightly intertwined in the bark and grain and roots and limbs that reach out to tempt every passer-by with leaves of knowledge.
With dad gone I did what I could to help mom with money but it never seemed to be enough, how could it be because my drinking and my searching enveloped me like a hot bath that ultimately drowns you into a desired eternity. Eventually I gave up my job at the lumber yard to give my full attention to those witness trees and trails which meant we had to move to the outskirts of town where people who are slowly being swept aside seem to congregate in small shacks all thrown together as if they were a pile of dirty clothes. Unwanted land filled by unwanted homes built with unusable wood with unsatisfied people living a life chasing the shadow of optimism.
I hated those shacks like one hates themselves after a bad decision that costs more than imagined. Yet I hated them not because of the shacks but because of the way people who didn’t live in those shacks would look at mom and me when we came into town to get our supplies for the week; as little as those supplies became to be over the months.
Four more years passed and mom’s health got bad and slowly she lost her fight, I sometimes wonder if she was even fighting. There’s a saying that goes something like: the only way to win a fight is to walk away. I think mom walked away, and I like to think she won. After she had died, I had to sell most of mom and dad’s belongings to pay for the burial and headstone which read:
May the truth always lie within
I never quite understood why she wanted that saying on her headstone, but, she was always persistent in making me promise her that those words would grace the granite stone that marked her resting place. All she would ever say about it was that someday she hoped I would understand its meaning. To this day I still can’t figure out her intentions but those words burn deep into my consciousness every day at one point or another.
After that, I took the leftover money and the rug that now graces my cabin and moved out past Jacobs Pass and committed my following years to finding out what happened to my father. I was sixteen and on my own.
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