Letterbox Name: The Great American Pin-up Series: Mercy
Location: Baraboo, WI
Distance: Approximately 1.5 miles
Once upon a time, there were eight lovely sisters. They were born in Lake County, Illinois, and were raised in an old farmhouse. They grew tall and strong and, though they loved the home in which they’d been raised, each knew that there would come a time when she would need to go out and find her place in the world.
Mirage was unique among the sisters, in that she had not immediately taken to her outdoor home. She’d always seen herself as someone who belonged in the lap of luxury, and so she scoffed at the trees and logs in which her sisters found their homes. But eventually she did find a nice, roomy oak tree near a quaint old town, and it became home to her.
On her visits to see her sister Mandy, she began to learn more about the history of Lake County, and eventually developed a keen interest in the bygone days when the well-heeled made their way from Chicago to the woodlands of Northern Illinois and Wisconsin. She would hike to the places where grand hotels and resorts had once stood, taking in breathtaking views that had been shared by ladies and gentlemen of high society decades before. As she learned more, she traveled more, until one evening she found herself hiking along the top of a bluff overlooking Devil’s Lake.
It had been a long and winding path up stone stairs carved into the rocks in the 1930’s, and she rested at the top of the East Bluff before walking westward toward the lake. The sunset was magnificent from where Mirage stood, and stood silently, enjoying the solitude of the moment. What had been a bustling pathway earlier in the day had become a quiet trail, and the only sound that Mirage heard was the gentle rustling of fall leaves in the breeze.
But suddenly that silence was broken by what seemed like a rush of wind, followed by the sound of a single pair of boots on the smooth stone of the mountainside. Mirage walked to the edge of the bluff, and looked down at a strange rock formation, shaped like a stone doorway. But the geological uniqueness of the place was nothing compared to the young woman who crouched in the center of the doorway, surrounded by the stones. Her red hair shone in the sun’s last rays, and the rising moon brought an otherworldly glow to the tattoos that marked her arms and chest. And still, as strange as it was to see this remarkable woman in the center of these amazing stones, what mesmerized Mirage in that moment was truly beyond belief.
The young woman’s crimson skin contrasted sharply with the neutral colors of the rocks around her. And her horns and tail made it abundantly clear that she was not a local.
As these things began to register, Mirage let out a breath – perhaps the first since she’d first peered down to see this magnificent creature perched on the stones below. That sound as the breath passed Mirage’s lips was enough to catch the attention of the she-devil below, and Mirage felt a sense of panic as their eyes met. She started to instinctively back away, and lost her footing, falling backwards onto the grassy meadow behind her. And within seconds, the other woman was standing over Mirage, smiling wickedly as her tail swayed lazily behind her.
“Who are you, and what is this place?” the young woman demanded.
Mirage gazed up in disbelief. “My name’s Mirage,” she stammered. “And you’re at Devil’s Lake.”
At this, the other woman let out a laugh that echoed across the top of the bluff. “Really? And let me guess. Everyone thinks that it’s a name derived from a rock formation, or from some settlers’ misunderstanding of an old Native American name, right? Seriously, you humans will make up anything to help yourselves sleep at night.”
Mirage listened to this, her initial fear fading into curiosity. “Well, you know my name. What’s yours?”
The young woman looked down at Mirage, then leaned forward, offering a hand to help her up. “I’m Mercy. Mercy Sparx. And I’m not exactly from around here.”
“Really?” asked Mirage sarcastically. “And just where are you from, Mercy?”
Mercy looked hesitatingly at the stranger in front of her, then looked away. “It’s not important. But I need to find a place to hang out for a while and clear my head.”
“Okay,” responded Mirage. “So you don’t want to talk about it. That’s fine. I get the sense that you’d like to find this “hanging out” place sooner rather than later.”
“Yeah,” answered Mercy. “That would be good.”
“Well, why don’t you just…poof? Like you did when you showed up on Devil’s Doorway?”
“Doesn’t work that way, I’m afraid. Once I’m in your world, I play by your rules.”
Mirage grinned at Mercy. “You don’t say. Well, what if my rules include this?” And with that, Mirage took a step back, and began to fade into a fine mist. Within seconds she was gone, then reappeared twenty yards down the path.
Mercy stood with her jaw hanging open, amazed at what she’d just witnessed.
Now it was Mirage’s turn to laugh. “My sister, Raven, taught me a few tricks a while back. Comes in handy. Especially when my legs get tired from playing by the rules of this world.”
Mercy grinned back at Mirage. “Can you show me how?”
“No,” said Mirage. “I mean, I would if I knew how to explain it. But here – take my hand.” Mercy walked where Mirage now stood, and held onto Mirage’s outstretched fingers.
“Where are we going?” asked Mercy?
“Other side of the lake, to the West Bluff. I know just the place for you to hide for a while.”
And with that, Mercy felt herself…dissolving. She became weightless, and rose through the air like smoke. Then, almost as soon as she’d faded, she could feel herself coming back. As she looked around, and saw Mirage next to her, she could see that they had crossed the lake, and now stood on the top of the West Bluff.
“Here,” said Mirage, pointing to a place in the rocks that was the perfect spot for Mercy to hide.
“Thank you so much,” said Mercy, smiling at her newfound friend.
Mirage smiled back. “Any time. Take care of yourself. And I hope we meet again…in less hurried circumstances.”
“That would be nice,” replied Mercy. Then she turned and climbed into her hiding place, where she would be able to look out across the lake and sky, and not be seen until she was ready to be found.
And it would be nice if finding her were as easy as dissolving into mist. But then, you wouldn’t know exactly where to go, would you? Perhaps it would be easier to stick to the rules of this world, and start walking…
Begin at the southern end of the West Bluff Trail. It’s a long, but beautiful way up the bluff. When you reach the top, take advantage of the many overlooks and beautiful spots to take in the scenery. Walk northward along the bluff until you reach Prospect Point. You’ll know it by the rescue station on your left, and the geodetic marker buried in the stones to your right.
From Prospect Point, walk past a bench with no dates, to a bench that, on the day that Mercy hid herself, had no plate at all. In any case, find the second bench after Prospect Point, and count 50 steps northward along the trail. By now, you must know that you’re getting close.
Turn to your right, and climb down to the hollow tree. From there, take a bearing of 250 degrees, and look for a crevice in the rocks. In that space, behind a stone shaped like Minnesota, Mercy is hiding. But don’t worry – she’s always pleased to see a friendly face. Just make sure and re-hide her well, lest she fall into the hands of those who would do her harm…
The Great American Pin-up series is, first and foremost, a celebration of the style, femininity, and fun of pin-up art over the years. While great care was taken to select images that would not offend, it’s worth noting that some letterboxers, including those traveling with younger children, might find the images to be “rated PG”. That said, we hope that you enjoy the images as much as we’ve enjoyed selecting and carving them.
Please note: The stamps are a bit large, and will require a 4”x 6” space for stamping. While the stamp will only require black ink, you may want to bring along a red colored pencil to complete the effect.