A strange thing happened a while back while I was hiking in North Carolina.

I was hiking with some friends up on the edge of Shining Rock Wilderness in Pisgah Forest between Brevard and Waynesville. As we came up Tennant Mountain, we heard a trumpet off in the distance. A very out-of-tune trumpet. Sounded sort of like a sick moose. Which would have been odd to find down here. But it sounded like that.

We rested on top of Tennant and then began walking toward Black Balsam Knob and Silvermine Bald. Coming up to the top of Black Balsam, through the cloud/fog, we saw a long striped flag waving in the wind. There were about 15 young men, college aged, in black T-shirts sitting around the flag. One of them was reading the Psalms REAL LOUD!!! I think it was Psalm 36.

Every now and then the reader would stop, and another person would blow a shofar, an ancient biblical horn, traditionally made from a ram’s horn. It sounds like … well, a sick moose.

That’s not the strange part.

Over on Silvermine Bald was another group of similarly dressed young men. They were mostly sitting, resting. No flags, LOUD PSALMS, or shofars. But they were part of the group, they said.

Still not the strange part, though.

Off the trail, between the two peaks, in the rough, we saw something move. It darted through the brush and dove behind rocks. We stopped to see what it was. Maybe a young deer, or perhaps a bobcat or mountain lion. They have been seen in this area.

We kept watching and finally saw it. … It was a boy, looked about 12 years old. He had on a pullover shirt and khaki pants. He was not wearing shoes. He had long, brownish/blond hair. And he was hiding, or at least trying to. He kept darting through the brush, like some small animal.

I asked the men in the black T-shirts if they had seen this young boy, and they had, but they said he was not with them. We met several other hikers on the trail, so I asked them the same thing. He was not with any of them. My group stopped and called to the boy, but he would not come out. He just kept getting farther away.

Was he with those guys and they didn’t want us to know? Was he trying to escape from someone? Was he just playing a game with us? Was he a little bit crazy?

There were eight of us ministers hiking together. We just stood there and watched. There were about 25 young men reading the Psalms REAL LOUD and they just watched. None of us tried to do anything more than yell.

And that was the strange thing.

P.S. I called the Forest Service on Friday and they said they would check into it. On Saturday they said they had not found the boy. But the guys in the black T-shirts were back, blowing the shofar, and reading the Psalms REAL LOUD!

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Michael B. Henderson is the minister at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Florence and a member of the Morning News’ Faith & Values Advisory Board. Contact him at fvboard@florencenews.com.

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