I have posted this story on Serpentine Raod blog as part of my meeting 'impassible' obsticles there, but it is suitable here also. Actually, I have tolf this story many times around campfires with appropraite gesturing and animation -- even audience participation in various roles --
I was curious to discover why the pass is described as ‘impassible’, as I have encountered no obstacle not easily circumvented or leaped, and a donkey would have no problems. A cart might not pass to be sure, as I discovered at a bridge called “The Span.” The name was apt in intent, for the seething stream cut deep in the granite, though never too wide. The bridge was nothing now but a pile of broken timbers, mostly swept away in the Spring thaw. A pleasant spot, actually, except that the opposing lip was twenty feet away with anchoring boulders half that below. There were handhold enough for a man to pass, but a cart was something else.
Two carts there were – grinning at each other from sides close yet so far. Two draft horses were likewise hobbled amiably on each side; and a lone merchant sat in the shade, with a strung bow close at hand. We shared a bit of cheese and fruit and I learned of his predicament. Twice each year he and another merchant met at The Span with a cart of goods. The one from the Bay swelled with goods expected at the Abbey, while the upland one returned crafts and specials of the forest. The merchants would trade carts at this point, to return home with their own horses and half the journey, to settle later any difference in value. Alas, nature directed this trade was not to be, and neither merchant was disposed to portage the goods across the defile by hand.
Thus it was that Tom stayed here to guard the goods while Samile returned to the village to hire laborers to rebuild the bridge. However, both had agreed that if a group of willing persons came along, they could be put to work immediately, with a bag of silver ready for payment for those who would trade the carts as planned. “This I will do for you,” offered my portly, crippled self. Laughter was the only reply, but I set myself to the task.
There were two logs of length about fifteen feet that I lashed to the wheels of the cart backed up to the nearside edge, secured of course with sturdy ropes of which there was plenty. The other ends extended into the center of the stream. Next, I climbed up two winsome firs and affixed ropes to the tops. These I bent slightly and secured to the back of the cart on either side. More ropes now led across the gap to the other side, where I borrowed the use of a single horse. Slowly we took up the slack.
The cart would have fallen into the stream save for the lever branches. Instead, the cart rose into the air on stilts – held in brake by the bending trees soon doubled like bows on the draw. The cart quivered at midpoint – then descended slowing to my side to settle without a sound. With the tree ropes bound fast, I freed the cart, towing it to safety with the second horse. Then I moved the other cart into place and again affixed the log supports to its wheels as before. With tethers all in place, my brilliant steed backed up ever slowly, allowing the cocked trees to pull back with steady hand. This cart too rose in the air, hesitated – and dropped slowly to the first side. The amazed merchant would have helped gather up the ropes, but I wished full compensation, knowing full well some poorish folk who could use the silver coins. All of this was quickly done, but a couple of hours delay from my wanderings.
“But what will I tell my friend?” asked he who now had to await the other merchant’s return before he could venture home.
“Always tell the truth,” said I. “Tell then that an old man caused the carts to fly across the stream by magick, for while the use of wits instead of brawn is not magickal at all, the willingness to greet any challenge as done, surely is!”
“They will not believe me!” murmured the merchant.
“Such is often the fate of truth. And you then will be safe to hold this knowledge until another time where it might serve you well. Consider it a gift – and an obligation to use it well.”
It was my gift to sleep well that night.