It was 1948 and Dave was fresh out of the marines after a four-year term when he and his best friend Roy agreed to go hiking and camping. Dave wanted to spend a few days with his parents first and the day before they were supposed to head out, he got a call from Roy.
“Sorry, Dave, but I think we should wait a while. It’s too far into the rainy season and too dangerous this time of year.”
“Come on, Roy, we’ve been up there so many times we know it like the back of our hands.”
“We’re not teenagers anymore, Dave. I know you’re anxious to catch up on missed time but the mountain isn’t going anywhere.”
No matter how much Dave pleaded, Roy wouldn’t budge.
During his four years in the marines, Dave developed a close relationship with Jesus Christ who became his Savior and Lord through the first few months of training. Nevertheless, like most people, when circumstances change and life gets easier, many of us tend to fall away and so it was with Dave.
It really peeved him that Roy wouldn’t go hiking and after stewing for a few days, he decided to go alone.
Everything he needed was strapped to his back when he entered the woods and started up the mountain. He made a lot of progress the first day, setting up camp by sundown. Halfway through the second day, he was glad he hadn’t let Roy talk him out of going as he was thoroughly enjoying it, but wished he was there to share it with him.
Three days in, he was setting up camp when the wind started to pick up. Realizing he was a good distance up the mountain, closer to the clouds and more vulnerable to lightning, he camped under a ridge, thinking he would be somewhat protected.
However, during the night, he awoke to a raging storm. A wind gust encircled the tent and he scrambled out as it was yanked up and ripped apart. Moments later, rushing streams of water came around the top of the ridge washing him and his supplies down the mountain.
The water had carried him about twenty-five feet when he caught hold of a small tree and he knew it was only a matter of time before the flood would grow with enough force to sweep him off a cliff. With a pleading cry he called out to the Lord for help as he groped at anything he could hold onto. Finally, he grabbed a bush, but it came straight up out of the ground.
The water pushed him rolling and shouting over a slope where he thought he was plunging to his death. But he fell; face down on muddy ground, which knocked the wind out of him.
As he lay in the mud, his prayers for help continued as he begged forgiveness for straying so far from grace. Pushing himself up, wheezing for air, his eyes flew open wide when lightning flashed, exposing a small cave. Then a huge burst of water came pouring off the cliff and he scrambled quickly towards the opening.
The mouth of the cave was a jagged oval shape and just big enough for him to squeeze through. He tried to stare through the pitch black darkness into the cave when a bright flash of lightening exposed the large figure of a man, standing no more than ten feet away.
It startled him and with every lightening flash, he looked him over. The man was primitive looking, middle-aged, average height, bony with long, matted hair and bushy eyebrows, wearing filthy ragged clothes.
At that point, Dave knew that if he left the cave, he would surely be swept down the mountain, but trapped in a cave with a wild man seemed even worse.
However, with every flash of lightening, he could see that the man was equally apprehensive of him. Heart pounding from the shock, Dave swallowed hard and asked, “Who are you?”
The man took a step back as if getting ready run deeper into the cave and Dave shouted, “Wait! I’m not going to hurt you.”
The man paused, and his voice trembled nervously when he said, “Paul.”
Stepping forward, Dave was about to extend his hand when the man shouted, “No!” and backed away.
He stopped, and as lightning flashed across the man’s frightened expression Dave said, “It’s okay, Buddy. I’m Dave. I was camping when the storm forced me into this cave. I mean you no harm.”
They stared at each other for several minutes as the storm seemed to be letting up, but the flooding waters still rushed down the side of the mountain. Dave leaned against the cave wall and asked, “What are you doing here?”
Paul stared silently at him for the longest time. Dave was about to ask again when he said, “Me house.”
At first Dave thought he was a foreigner speaking broken English. “How long have you lived here?”
There was no response.
“Is anyone here with you?”
“How did you get here?”
“Don’t you have friends- family?”
The question was again followed by silence as soft lightning flashed intermittently into the cave. After another long pause he said, “Long time, see Mama- Daddy.”
“What happened to them?”
“Have you lived here alone for very long?”
“Kid? What do you . . . you mean . . . surely you’re not saying you’ve lived here all your life!”
Paul stared blankly then gave a slow nod.
“How often do you go down the mountain?”
His answers were all carefully pondered as if he was searching for words. “No leave here.”
“You’ve spoken to other hikers though, haven’t you?”
“No talk mans. No like mans.”
“Am I the only other person you’ve seen all this time?”
He paused again to think about the question and shortly answered, “Me seed mans walk. Seed fire. Me get fire-stick mans leaved. Make fire. Get clothes mans leaved.”
“And you never tried to talk to them?”
They talked through the rest of the night and Paul talked about how he was seven years old when he somehow lost his parents and had survived alone in the forest. He told of how he hunted and fished using tools and traps. Some of them he had devised himself and others were left by hikers.
Eventually, they each fell asleep and awoke to sunshine, spilling through the mouth of the cave. Dave got up and stepped outside, followed by Paul who looked a little better in the light of day, but still scraggly.
Having spent several days with Paul, Dave couldn’t talk him into going back with him and he cried like a baby when Dave told him he had to go. He assured Paul that he was coming back and it was heartbreaking to walk away, seeing him cry so pitifully, begging Dave to stay. Dave knew he had to get back and was worried about having no equipment or supplies. But he had survival skills and believed he would make it if there weren’t any more storms.
When Dave reached home, he told his family about Paul. A few weeks later, he talked his dad, Roy and Roy’s dad into joining him when he went back to the mountain to try and talk Paul into coming back with them.
Three days of entering the forest, they were in the general vicinity where he had met Paul but he couldn’t find him. They searched for hours as Dave called out to him. The cave was empty. He had packed everything and left. Roy finally talked Dave into going back home.
A few days later, Dave went back alone to the mountain, looking once more for Paul. He was approaching the area where he had camped the night that he met him and Paul dropped out of a tree, landing right in front of him.
“Paul!” he shouted with a laugh. Paul wrapped his bony arms around him in a tight bear hug. It took a minute or so to get him to let go and when he finally stepped away, his face was covered with tears of happiness.
Feeling his loneliness, touched by his joy, Dave said, “I came back and called your name over and over, Paul. We looked for hours.”
Wiping the tears off his face he said, “Scared mans.”
“You were here! You were here the whole time, weren’t you? You were afraid of the others, so you hid!”
Dave spent ten incredible days with Paul and learned that although Paul was a bit primitive, he was very resourceful, cunning, alert, clever, and had more common sense than anybody he had ever known. He even had good teeth. He showed Dave how he’d chew on a twig until it frayed before using it to brush his teeth. Dave wondered how he even knew to brush his teeth and asked him why he did it. He said, “Chewed stick make teeth feel good.”
Sitting in a tree for nearly an hour, Dave watched him stalk a rabbit, catching it with his bare hands. Once he watched him weave vines into a net-like basket that fish wondered into but somehow, couldn’t get back out.
The “fire-sticks” he referred to when Dave first met him were matches he’d found from campers and hikers who left them behind. Animal skins of all kinds lay around the cave where he lived, along with pots and buckets he’d made with woven vines, clay and straw. Tools of all sorts, shapes and sizes he had fashioned and perfected over the years filled some of the baskets while the others held water.
Apparently there was about a 30-day period during mid-winter when he couldn’t leave the cave. There were tunnels leading to smaller caverns where he stored nuts, dried fruit and supplies for making tools and weaving baskets.
One day, Dave was standing by the stream as Paul pulled the fishing basket out of the water. Dave asked him if he believed in God. He said he didn’t know what God was. They sat on a large boulder and Dave told him about how Adam and Eve disobeyed God, plunging mankind into sin and alienating us from our creator.
Paul asked him what he should do and Dave told him about how Jesus loved us so much that he gave His life to pay for our sins. “It’s a gift,” he said, “but it’s not forced on anyone. We have to ask for it. When we do, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and live forever.”
“Give me,” he said.
“You have to ask Jesus.”
“It has to come from you, Paul. God is everywhere. All you have to do is speak and He hears you. He can even hear what you say in your mind.”
“You know, when you’re thinking in your head. The scriptures say you have to believe in your heart then confess out loud that Jesus is Lord and you’ll be saved.”
Paul listened intently as Dave told him about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then he taught him how to pray. Ultimately, Paul received Jesus Christ as his Savior.
By the end of the ten days, they had gotten to know each other pretty good and Paul seemed to understand why Dave couldn’t stay and Dave understood why Paul wouldn’t go back with him. Dave left him with a promise to return in a few weeks for another visit.
However, on his last visit he found Paul lying dead in the cave. Judging from the horrible smell, Dave realized that he had been dead for quite a while but he couldn’t determine the cause. He buried him and covered his grave with rocks.
For several days Dave tried to understand why God had allowed him and Paul to meet, only to take his soul a few weeks later. He couldn’t accept the notion that God used him to explain salvation to him. Paul had the innocence of a child. Nevertheless, it seemed like the only plausible explanation.
Therefore, he knelt at the grave and thanked the Lord for the privilege of meeting Paul. Every year he returned to the mountain to place flowers on his grave until he was too old to make the trip. No one truly believed Dave when he told them about Paul, but I did.