Sunday, October 31, 2021

Miss Birdie and Nim Hunter

And here you are again! Came in the house and git you a cheer. I got behind and my spice cakes is in the oven yet. Law, how many Halloweens have we been going to the graveyard together? But hit’s right companionable to have you with me and I’ll not deny, a sight easier on my old bones to ride with you.

Did you see that Hunter’s Moon last week? It was a sight on earth coming up over the mountain and just as orange as could be. It put me in mind of the stories they used to tell of Nim Hunter. Scare the britches offen a body, those ol stories would. 

Who was he? Well, I can't rightly say. Folks said as he'd been a wild young man, bad to loafer around. Hunting and playing dice was the two things he cared the most for--allus had him a deep-voiced hound and rambled round the woods night and day. But he died young and was buried over there in Jewell Hill. Still, folks--church-going, Bible-believing folks-- said he sometimes walked the hills, him and his hound, looking for one last game or for someone to take for company in the grave.

Do I believe that? Law, honey, I been in this old world so long and I've seen so many quare things. . . and one of them things was Nim Hunter hisself.

This was the way of it. Hit was some years back when Luther give us a scare with his heart and I had to take him to the hospital. I didn't like to leave Cletus alone so I took him up to Jewell Hill to stay with Dor'thy till I got Luther settled. I was at the hospital overnight for Luther was acting fractious but at last he was resigned to being there and told me to git on home and quit worrying him. Told me to drive slow and watch careful for it was Halloween and folks out our way was bad to pull pranks like cutting down a tree so's it'd fall acrost the road or some such. Law, they was one time I seen a great old recliner setting in the middle of the bridge with a scarecrow laying back in it, jest as natural. . .

So I left the hospital and headed for home. Hit was  nigh dark by the time I made the turn for Jewell Hill,  rain spitting and the wind slapping leaves against my windshield. And what did I see but Cletus, setting on the steps that lead up to that big white church. He looked like he was talking to someone, and he kept raising up his fist then opening it out like he was throwing something down. But Cletus was bad to talk to himself and play funny games all the time so I didn't think nothing of it.

I pulled the truck up to the side of the road and hollered, "Cletus, come on out of the weather, young un; let's us go home."

He didn't pay me no mind, just went on with whatever game he was playing. I was right aggravated but I knowed it weren't no use hollering again. Cletus could bow up like a mule if you tried to push him. So I clumb outten the truck and went over and sat on the steps by the boy. I was a good bit spryer back then, being only sixty one, as I recall.

"Son, what are you doing?" I asked, putting an arm around him. He was still talking, saying things like "One more," and "My turn," and still doing his hand that a-way.

I hugged him hard. "Cletus!" I said, "let's us go home. I'll cook us up some cornbread and roast some backbone to go with it." Backbone was his favorite--mine too. Sweetest meat on the pig, Luther used to say.

"Bones, Mommy," my boy said, with a kindly wild look on his face. "Nim says I got to roll the bones iffen I want to win my shotgun back. He's got it, see?" and he pointed across the road to a funny little rock house just this side of the graveyard. Seemed like I could see a shadowy something slipping out the door and heading up to the graveyard.

I squinched up my eyes and that shadow begun to look like a tall man, all in black. He was grinning at me and I could see he had Cletus's shotgun over his shoulder. I heard a rustling  across the way where the gravestones are and then it seemed like they was a big blue tick hound, nosing about the leaves around the stones.

They was a full moon on the rise, turning everything all around shining silver and making the last leaves on the trees look like they was dancing.

Cletus was acting like he was bewitched, wouldn't stir, just kept playing at his pretend dice game, for that's what I seen it was.  But as I watched close, I saw, when he opened his hand, just for an instant I saw what looked like knucklebones, white and gleaming. Just for an instant and then they was gone.

So, thinks I, that's what's going on. Reckon I hadn't ought to be surprised, not on Halloween. Well, I've battled with worse back of this. I reckon I can face this feller.


I left the boy setting there, shaking his hands and throwing them dice--or bones, everwhich they was--and stomped across the road and up the steps to meet the man in black. He was a-setting on one of them tall gravestones. Cletus's shotgun was acrost his knees, and he was running his hand over the stock and kindly smiling to himself. He kindly shimmered in the moonlight and it seemed like I could most see through him. I reckon I should have taken care, but I was tired and hungry and getting wet in the cold blowing mist. So I spoke right sharp.

"That's my boy's shotgun you got there, what me and his daddy give him, and I'll thank you to hand it back. Cletus may look growed but his mind ain't but that of a little child. You got no business gambling with him, whoever you are."

The man stood up and grinned at me and now I didn't see through him; I see right through his black suit to his bones. His face, what had been reasonable good-looking was a white skull, still a-grinning. But that was just for a moment and then he was a man again. He bends down and says, "Good evening, Miss Birdie Gentry. What are you and your boy doing over my way on this night, of all nights?"

Oh, what a great chill run over my body when he called my name like that. But I stood firm. "Ain't none of your business, Mr. Whoever You Are. I want that shotgun.

"Name's Hunter, ma'am, Nimrod Hunter. Hunter by nature and Hunter by name. Your boy lost to me, fair and square. But I gave him another chance. . ." He nodded across the way where Cletus was still going at his game. "Yes, a chance to win his shotgun back. But," and he raised a long white finger that looked to be naught but bone, "if he loses, he'll be bound to come and hunt with me forever."

I stared hard at this Hunter and he stared back, his face blinking back and forth from flesh to bone to flesh again. The moonlight was full on him and, buddy, he was a dreadful sight. To stop from trembling I looked away from him to up the hill where a big old hickory tree was lit up like one thing. Its golden leaves hadn't dropped yet and it shone most like the moon itself. Hit's a sign, I thought. And then I remembered a spell Granny Beck had taught me.

Hickory wood'll protect you. Hit can break a curse. You do it of a full moon . . .

It was like Granny was whispering in my ear and I did like she said while ol' Hunter watched me, still grinning and cherishing that shotgun. I turned my back on him and went to that golden tree. I laid a hand on its strong dark trunk and whispered to it what I wanted. Then I broke off a slender switch from a low branch and began to bend it and twist it whilst I whispered the charm: Nimrod Hunter, as I twist and turn this switch, your power is bound but I am free.

Then, like Granny had said I must do, I laid the twisted switch on the ground and thanked the hickory tree. When I turned back, it was just in time to see the black suit, held up by white bones, crumple down to the ground in a great clatter and disappear. The hound was gone too, though I thought I could hear it baying a ways off.

I picked up the shotgun and made my way back to where my boy was setting in the moonlight, his hands still at last and his face lit up with a sweet smile. "Mommy, I was waiting for you. I want to go home. I'm awful hungry."

So we did. Cletus he didn't remember nothing about Nim Hunter and we was never troubled by him again though Dor'thy swears he still walks of a full moon-

Lord a-mercy, now I like to burnt up the spice cakes. Let me pull them out and once they cool, we'll go a-visiting. No full moon tonight so we needn't worry about ol' Nim.


Saturday, October 30, 2021

Back to Shelton Laurel

I took a drive out to Shelton Laurel yesterday. 

The foliage was amazing--pretty much at peak.

The sun, however, was hidden behind low clouds but I still found a lot to photograph. These are a merciful few of the 159 pictures I took.

I poked along, stopping whenever there was a pull off--either to let people in a hurry pass me and/or take pictures.

There wasn't much traffic--except at one point, a clutch of bear hunters in their camo outfits and bright orange caps. Excited dog noses poked out of the dog boxes in the back of their trucks.

I wish I could have gotten a picture, especially of the  truck barreling down the road with one hound standing atop the dog box, busily sniffing the air.

And I should have tried to record the baying of the hounds already loosed, a deep, melodious sound echoing through the valley.

Though I'm no fan of bear hunting, especially as it's done here with radio tracking dog collars, it's as much a traditional way of life for some folks as the pig roast at the VFD.

Shelton Laurel is a beautiful place, fiercely loved by its people.

I was acutely aware of present and past as I meandered up the valley, remembering the events I wrote of in And the Crows Took Their Eyes.

Much that I saw could have been what they saw back then.

I made a call of respect to the chimney that remains of Judy Shelton's house.

And I stopped to photograph the place that some believe to be the site of the massacre.

The clouds kept getting lower and rain was forecast to begin soon.

So I turned around at the Carmen Church of God and headed back home.

Still taking pictures.

So much to enjoy.

So much to love.

Friday, October 29, 2021

More Color--and a Link Worth Clicking

      For 100 tips on do's and do not's if you ever plan to become an Evil Overlord, go HERE. Example: Do not turn into a snake. It never helps.


Thursday, October 28, 2021

Reading Roundup.. as One thing Leads to Another


As always, my reading is all over the place because one thing leads to another. I talked about Unearthing The Secret Garden a while back; that led me to reread Little Lord Fauntleroy.

This novel was wildly successful in its day but I remember being put off from the beginning--first by the frontispiece (below) and LLF's golden curls and over-the-top attire. Things didn't improve on the first page where it was revealed that Cedric (LLF) always called his (beautiful) widowed mother

But I persevered. Cedric is described as the perfect child--enough to make one (this one) fling the book away, but after reading Unearthing the Secret Garden, now I know that this book was written after the author's loss of a beloved son and, in some sense, it was a kind of a memorial. 

The plot hits on a lot of tropes as Cedric finds his way into the heart of the gruff old grandfather who refuses to see Dearest. It's not a book I'd recommend to a modern day child, but I found myself enjoying it as the period piece it is.

I'm still plodding through volume 3 of The History of the English-Speaking Peoples and when I reached the reign of George III, I remembered my copy of Maryanne by Daphne Du Maurier. Maryanne Clark was a high-class, high-living courtesan who became mistress to the Duke of York. She was also Du Maurier's great grandmother. It's a good story, perhaps a bit bogged down in political detail (a very corrupt government in which appointments were bought and sold, not unlike recent history.) I tended to skim through the welter of names to stay with Maryanne. Enjoyable but no Rebecca. Still, it brought to life the period I was reading in Churchill's History.

It's been about sixty years since I read Jane Eyre, but I remember the story. I didn't remember how like a soap opera it is and how the characters do go on. Perhaps it's because I'm listening to it in pre-sleep chunks--15 minutes here, 3o there. But I like Jane, despite her irrational passion for the grim Mr. Rochester. And now I need to seek out and re-read Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, a modern novel all about the first Mrs. Rochester, aka the madwoman in the attic.

It's never-ending.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Fall Colors

A little muted as we've not yet had a frost. Still a pleasure to drive through.


Monday, October 25, 2021

Other Moons


Soon after I posted a Hunter's Moon picture on Facebook a few days ago, they showed me moon pictures I'd posted another year.

I really like these two with the subtle shades and ghostly moon.

My friend Vic, who's an enthusiastic photographer, offered to make a good print of this year's shot (below) and also sent me a jpeg of the same photo transposed to B&W--something I rarely think to try. But I like it--it shows up the mountain layers a bit better.