Monday, January 23, 2017

Waiting on Dandelions

I remember when I was a kid that one of the biggest events of late winter was searching for the first dandelion.  Granny always told us that they were a promise of spring and once one was found, it wouldn’t be too much longer before warm weather would return to the mountain. 

I’m sure the search was originally initiated to get the kids from underfoot during the dead of winter, and to give us a purpose.  After the anticipation of Christmastime had worn off, but before the egg hiding of Eastertime, there is a long stretch of cold, hum-drum, and did I mention cold weather.  Nothing to do but chores and hunkering down and waiting for better.  For us kids, that meant go to school, come home and carry in the night’s wood, feed the stock, have supper, do homework, and get ready for bed.  Day after day.  After day. 

The Mouth of Burns Holler.  This is where the first dandelions would always appear.  Granny's old house is visit on the right, the old stone cow barn, long since lost in a flood, stood on the left side of the road.

Then sometime in late February, Granny would holler at us kids as we were walking up the holler road from school and tell us it was getting to be about time for the dandelions to come up.  She always picked an unseasonably warm day to tell us this (which I might add were uncommon in those days).  Now she knew it was still too early for dandelions on the mountain, but she also knew it would give us a sense of purpose just when we needed it most.  Once the word was given, the hunt was on.  We would run to the house and throw down our books and bags, and head out the door.  The chores would have to wait.  In hindsight, granddad and Uncle Wood usually did the chores on the first day of the search.  It was almost as if there was a vast conspiracy to get us kids out of the house.  We knew the first blooms would appear on the hillside between Granny’s house and the old stone cow barn, and she would watch us search in vain for the first bloom.  She’d come out on the porch and talk to us as we searched, “now when you all find a good mess of the greens, I’ll cook us all up a good meal.  Good for the blood, they are.”

Day after day, after school, we would look for it.  On Saturday mornings we would look for it. On Sunday afternoons we would look for it.  We paid attention to the other signs of spring that would give us a clue as to when and where it might be.  I devised a method that when the hog pen started smelling pretty ripe,  it was a sign that dandelions were up.  Somewhere, anyway.   My methodology never really panned out but I swore that it would someday. 

Springtime on the Mountain.  Clothesline, dogwoods, lilacs and a chickenhouse.  We all think of different things when we think of springtime.  This says it to me.

Then one day when we least expected it, there it would be.  The first bloom.  It would be small, gnarled, half-frozen and unopened, but it was the first.  Whoever found it would let out a whoop and everyone would come running.  Sure enough, there it was.  The finder would pick it and we’d all take off for Granny’s house.  Of course, she’d hear us coming long before she could see us, and she would have us some treat made up.  Like molasses candy, or tater candy or something of the like.  It was almost as if Granny knew what day we’d find the first dandelion.  Looking back, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Granny used to look for the first bloom while all of us kids were away at school.  Granny always did love her dandelions.

A good place to find dandelions.  At the right time of year, you can pick a mess in just a few minutes.

Grandmaw's Dandelion Gravy recipe. You put it over dandelion greens. Put about 1 1/2 cups milk in skillet with 1 tsp butter or bacon grease (bacon grease preferred). Then make thickening in another bowl by combining: 2 Tbsp. flour, 1 egg, about 1/4-1/2 cup milk, stir until smooth. Add about 1 Tbsp. vinegar. Add to the milk in skillet. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until it thickens. If not sour enough add little more vinegar to your taste.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ellison Mounts & Pike County

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by Jay Shepherd of the Pike County Tourism, Convention and Visitors Bureau regarding making a post about Pike County, Kentucky. I am always amenable to promoting the positive aspects of Appalachia, so after a few emails back and forth, I was excited to help promote Pike County. Jay then solicited the assistance of local historian, Jessica Forsyth, to write about an aspect of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud that took place in Pike County, Kentucky. Jessica also serves as the Director of Activities and Events for the Big Sandy Heritage Center, a local historical museum located on Hambley Blvd. in Pikeville, Kentucky.



"Ellison Mounts was Pike County’s biggest scapegoat, but also one of the lesser known roles of the Hatfield-McCoy feud. Supposedly the illegitimate son of Ellison Hatfield, Mounts was with the Hatfield boys Johnse and Calvin when they went to the McCoy home on January 1, 1888 and set the house ablaze with McCoy family members still inside. Sarah McCoy and her children ran outside to escape their burning home and chaos erupted. Johnse fired a shot before the signal was given to fire on the McCoys and a gunfight ensued between him, Calvin, Ellison, and the McCoy boys."

"In the panic that ensued, Calvin fired a shot, killing Alifair McCoy. The blame was not directed at him however. Instead, all eyes turned to Ellison Mounts. Mounts, being somewhat dimwitted, probably did not realize the severity of the charges or what would happen to him next."


Ellison Mounts (photo courtesy of Pike County Tourism, Convention and Visitors Bureau).

"At trial, Ellison was convicted and sentenced to be hanged. He and his lawyer tried to appeal the case, but were unable to do so with a jury that had already made up their minds, as most of the county had. On February 18, 1890, Ellison Mounts was hanged on the site of the present day University of Pikeville classroom building. Thousands of onlookers turned out to witness the hanging, but laws stated that executions could no longer be public. Workers constructed a fence around the scaffold to hide the sight from prying eyes. His last words would attempt to point the blame again to the Hatfields. No one had been sent to the gallows in Pike County for forty years, and after Ellison, no one ever would be again. All the other Hatfield prisoners received life sentences in prison."

"The University of Pikeville, then named Pikeville College, erected residence halls and classroom buildings on the site where the makeshift gallows had stood. Today, visitors can read a marker placed by the historical society on the site. It tells of the life and trial of Ellison Mounts, and how the nation’s most famous feud claimed yet another young life well before its time."

The Hanging of Ellison Mounts (photo courtesy of Pike County Tourism, Convention and Visitors Bureau).

I hope everyone enjoyed reading about some of the interesting history that took place in Pike County, Kentucky. I encourage everyone to plan a visit to Pike County in the very near future. Pike County truly offers something for everyone. If you have any questions regarding your visit to Pike County, I'm sure Jay over at the Pike County Tourism, Convention and Visitors Bureau would be more than happy to assist you.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Folks Are Talking

A former feature writer and columnist on the Bluefield, W. Va., Daily Telegraph has released a double CD of oral histories titled “Folks Are Talking” from men and women he interviewed for the newspaper in the 1970s.

Garret Mathews, who moved to Evansville, Ind., in 1987 to write the metro column for The Courier, retired in 2011 after penning more than 10,000 articles on a variety of subjects from a 91-year-old female bootlegger in Princeton, Ky., to the members of a snake-handling church in Jolo, W. Va.

Mathews selected 28 of his early Daily Telegraph stories for “Folks Are Talking.” They include an early United Mine Workers organizer, a horse trader, survivors of coal mine explosions, coal camp baseball players, a child born during the deadly flood of 1977 and a female furrier who carves muskrats while eating peanut-butter sandwiches.

“These men and women are from a bygone era and most are long dead,” Mathews says. “I wanted to record our time together as a way of keeping their stories alive.”
Music evocative of the region that includes southern West Virginia and southwest Virginia is included on the double CD.

Copies of “Folks Are Talking” will be furnished to public and school libraries in the two-state area as well as to historians and colleges and universities that offer Appalachian studies.

“It’s as I point out in the introduction: You just don’t find these folks any more,” Mathews says. “What they shared with me, I want to share with future generations.”

“Folks Are Talking” was featured on a recent interview segment with Joe Dashiell on WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Va. Selections from the double CD are also being played on the public television station in Roanoke.

The double CD costs $17 plus $3 shipping and handling. Checks should be sent to “Folks Are Talking,” c/o Garret Mathews, 7954 Elna Kay Drive, Evansville, Indiana 47715. For more information or to listen to four of the tracks or to order online, go to www.folksaretalking.com

Monday, August 29, 2011

Second Edition of "Goin Up Gandy" Now Available

It has recently been brought to my attention that one of my favorite books, "Goin' Up Gandy" by Don Teter has been reissued into a second edition. Loyal readers of Appalachian Lifestyles may recall the mention of "Goin' Up Gandy" in an old post about The Wreck of the Dry Fork #4. After reading that post, "Goin' Up Gandy" author, Don Teter, contacted me and let me know that the long out-of-print book was soon to be reissued in a second edition. That time has now come. I highly recommend the book and urge all readers of this blog to consider picking up a copy of this remarkable book while it is still available. It is perhaps the single best source of local history for the Dry Fork region and the surrounding areas of West Virginia.

Here is the Press Release:



"Don Teter of Monterville, West Virginia, and McClain Printing Company of Parsons, announce the release of a second edition of his book Goin’ Up Gandy, A History of the Dry Fork Region of Randolph and Tucker Counties, West Virginia.

The 135 page history was first published in 1977, but has been out of print for nearly 30 years. The new edition includes a 20 page index. The book details the history of the settlement of the area, the Civil War period, and the boom times of the logging and railroad industries in the Dry Fork, with extensive footnotes and numerous photos. A map of the area “In the age of steam” is included.

A 1969 graduate of Elkins High School, and a 1973 graduate of Davis and Elkins College, Mr. Teter holds a B.A. in History and Political Science. He has been a West Virginia licensed professional surveyor since 1982, serving as president of the West Virginia Society of Professional Surveyors in 2001, and editing the quarterly publication The West Virginia Surveyor for ten years. Don has done extensive land surveying and consulting work for the Rich Mountain Battlefield Association, the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance, and Historic Beverly Preservation. He is currently on the History Alive! roster of the West Virginia Humanities Council, portraying writer, artist, and Civil War topographer Porte Crayon.

Copies are available from local bookstores, McClain Printing Company in Parsons, or directly from the author at:

Don Teter
HC 86 Box 32
Monterville, WV 26282

or by e-mail at: teterdon@frontiernet.net

When buying directly from the author the retail price is $26.42, plus $1.58 sales tax (total $28.00). When the book is mailed an additional $3.00 is charged for shipping and handling for a total of $30.00."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Belvedere

When I was growing up, I was considered by my family to be the pet pig. This was because I was the baby of the bunch, and for 12 years I remained that. During this time, I was doted on and given free reign of the place, and I got by with a lot more than I probably should have.


Me at age 2. Those pants prove I was at the height of fashion.


I’m pretty sure that I was my granddaddy’s favorite grandchild, and I could get anything out of him or do anything and it’d be just fine. He was so proud of me, he’d tell people, “That boy can drive hen shit to gunpowder.” That’s how good I was.

Now this isn’t to say that the other kids, including my brother who is only 18 months older than I am, were slighted in any way, I’m just saying that I got by with more than my fair share because of my pet pig status.

I remember one time when we lived on the farm, I got a BB gun for my birthday. I was out playing in the side yard and my brother was in the upstairs window, making faces at me. He apparently thought he would be safe from my vengeance, but I proved him wrong when I shot at him through the window. He dodged to the side, but I waited until he poked his head back in front of the window to see if I was still outside. When he did, I fired again, and just like that, another windowpane bit the dust. This continued until I had shot every windowlight out of that upstairs bedroom. As soon as I’d shot out the last one, Jason hollered out, “Mom…Matthew’s outside shooting out the upstairs windows with his BB gun.”

Mom then came outside and investigated the situation and took my BB gun away, and told me I was going to have to pay for those windows, and she was taking by $2 allowance to do so. It wasn’t but maybe a half hour later, and after a long talk with my granddad, that I got back my BB gun. He also gave me $2 and told me not to shoot out anymore windows...and not to tell mother about the money!


Me, my Granddad and my Uncle Tom in 1986. Notice my beaver-teeth pose!

I remember how I used to stay overnight with my granddad and we’d go riding around in his huge red International station wagon named “Belvedere”. Belvedere had a front seat, a back seat and an enormous back end that usually was filled with kids and chainsaws. I know those two don’t mix, but I remember always hating to have to find a seat bakc there so you wasn’t riding up against a chainsaw chain.

One time, when I was about 5 years old, just me and my granddad was coming back from Riverton in Belvedere (by now you’ve probably realized I never missed a trip to the store). At that time, I only knew my numbers up to 100, but the speedometer in Belvedere registered up to 120 miles per hour, so of course I wanted my granddad to sink the needle in the straight stretch going out through Germany Valley so I could see it. However, since I didn't know how to say, “a hundred and twenty”, I instead said to my granddad what I knew, “Go Twelve-O, granddaddy, go twelve-O!”

Well, Belvedere might have registered 120 mph, but it certainly couldn’t go that fast, looking back I doubt that it could have went 120 mph if it was falling straight down a well. Granddad used to have a saying about how much power Belvedere had, he would say “This ol' car couldn’t pull a sick woman off of a shitpot”. I believe that says all you ever need to know about Belvedere!!

Let’s suffice it to say that Belvedere never did go “Twelve-O”.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Erl-King

This is one of my very favorite poems. I can just imagine my German ancestors living in fear of the Erl-king. What better way to celebrate All Hallows Eve than with the German folktale/song/poem, The Erl-King?

Der Elrkonig (The Erl-king)
by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Who's riding so late through th' endless wild?
The father 't is with his infant child;
He thinks the boy 's well off in his arm,
He grasps him tightly, he keeps him warm.

My son, say why are you hiding your face ?
Oh father, the Erlking 's coming apace,
The Erlking 's here with his train and crown!
My son, the fog moves up and down.

Be good, my child, come, go with me!
I know nice games, will play them with thee,
And flowers thou 'It find near by where I live,
pretty dress my mother will give.

Dear father, oh father, and do you not hear
What th' Erlking whispers so close to my ear?
Be quiet, do be quiet, my son,
Through leaves the wind is rustling anon.

Do come, my darling, oh come with me!
Good care my daughters will take of thee,
My daughters will dance about thee in a ring,
Will rock thee to sleep and will prettily sing.

Dear father, oh father, and do you not see
The Erlking's daughters so near to me?
My son, my son, no one 's in our way,
The willows are looking unusually gray.

I love thee, thy beauty I covet and choose,
Be willing, my darling, or force I shall use!
Dear father, oh father, he seizes my arm!
The Erlking, father, has done me harm.

The father shudders, he darts through the wild;
With agony fill him the groans of his child.
He reached his farm with fear and dread;
The infant son in his arms was dead.



Thursday, July 22, 2010

Marked?



It all began on that night so long ago. It was hot when it happened, it was sometime way down in the summertime. I remember it was about the time the crickets start to hollerin’ but before the nights start to get chilly. I remember that I was wide awake that first night because it was too hot to sleep. Me and brother slept upstairs in the little bedroom, and it was there that I first seen it. I was lookin’ out the window upon the moonlit night and watched as it casted shadows over the trees whenever a cloud happened to pass by. It was then that it happened, I see them start to crawling. It was snakes, lot of ‘em, and they kept crawling and writhing all around the sill and even tried to get traction up on the glass. Then a giant yellow snake appeared in amongst all the rest of them and it was clear to me that he was the snake king. I took to hollerin’ for Maw and Paw and soon enough they come runnin’ to find out what was the matter. By that time, brother had run over to the top of the steps as if that in some way would speed up Maw and Paw. When they finally got to me, I told them what I seen, Maw just grabbed me up in her arms and started bawlin’ and mumblin’ out loud about how I was marked. Her baby was marked. That night and every night after that I kept seeing them snakes and they kept comin’ back to the window night after night.

Maw did what she could to keep them snakes away from the window, she put little pots of mint out on the window sill, and she would hang dried snake root inside of the window from the curtain rod. I think she knew that what she was doing was going to be of no use since they were spirit snakes, but she done it anyway. Every morning when we’d get up, those little pots of mint would be knocked out onto the ground below the windowsill, and the pots busted. The snake root would be all dried up and shriveled, and would be as black as coal. After a few nights of this, Maw talked to Granny about it because that was the only person she trusted with this information. If people were to find out that I was marked, I would have a hard row to hoe.

Granny said it sounded to her like I was witched, and that we should see Bromie, the old woman that lived way up on the mountain. It was rumored that she was marked as a child and that she was forced to live up on the mountain, out and away from everybody else, because people was afraid of her and thought her to be evil. Granny told us to go right away because she’d always heard that spirit snakes would keep coming night after night until eventually they got inside and then I would be in real danger. Granny took out a handkerchief and put all manner of stuff in it and tied it up, and said to give it to Bromie when we went to see her.

We left that day about noon and it took about an hour to climb up the ridge to Bromie’s little house. As was expected of callers, Maw started calling out Bromie’s name long before we got to her house so as to let her know we was coming. By the time we got to the clearing that led to Bromie’s front door, she was sitting there waiting on us.

Maw made the appropriate niceties to Bromie and gave her the tied up handkerchief that Granny had prepared for her. Maw explained to Bromie how she thought I was marked and how the snakes was coming to me every night. Bromie, with her eyes slightly squinted, looked at me and then back at maw and said, “Nothin’ much to worry about, as long as they ain’t a yeller one in amongst them.” I blurted out, “there is a yellow one, he’s their king.” Upon hearing this, Bromie looked a bit shocked and muttered, “They must be at it again…”

Trying to be polite about it, as quickly as she could, Maw asked if there was anything that she could do to help me. Bromie explained, “Snakes come to youngin’s a lot, especially in the heat of the summer. They sense a pure heart and if there’s one thing snakes don’t like, it’s that. But that yeller one is what bothers me. That is the boy’s soul snake. They say that everybody has a soul snake out there, but it’s seldom that the soul snake finds its match. When it does it means one of two things, either the soul snake will keep on trying to get to its match until the match dies or the match will be marked as a snake witch.”

I remember being scared to death at what Bromie told us. Maw was too, but she was also smart. She asked Bromie was there anything that could be done to stop it. “Sure is,” Bromie said, “but it ain’t an easy thing to do. You need a snake witch to stop that yeller snake.”

“Ain’t you a snake witch, Bromie?” I piped up.

Blood drained from Maw’s face when I said that, she was just sure that I had offended Bromie by calling her a snake witch.

“I was marked years ago. Young man, I’ll help you because you are pure of heart and I know you mean well. I wouldn’t wish this life on my worst enemy. Besides, I reckon I owe your Granny a great debt for all that she has helped me with over the years. I reckon I would have starved to death long ago if it hadn’t been for her leaving me jars of food and sacks of dried apples and such out in the woods where I could find them.”

“I didn’t know Granny knew you,” I said.

“Nobody knows it. Your Granny does things for me that nobody knows, for if they did, your Granny would be an outcast, too.”

“She’s a good woman, that’s for sure,” Mama said, “I know what people say about you and I knew you lived up here but I never did think about it. I always reckoned you lived up her because you wanted to.”

“I live up her because this is the only place I can live. I can’t live anywhere that would make my life an easy one, for that is when the snakes would return,” Bromie explained.

“What causes this sort of thing. Why are the snakes bothering us my boy?” Mama asked.

“Because they can. You see, somebody long ago witched this whole mountain, and everybody who lived on it and everyone who would ever live on it. At any given time there has to be a marked snake witch that lives on it. There can only be one snake witch at a time, but there is always going to be one that lives here on this mountain,” Bromied added.

Mama asked, “But you said that you were a snake witch, and since you already live here, then why are they bothering my boy?”

“I reckon we both know the answer to that,” Bromie said softly. With her eyes cast down and the gray strands of hair poking out of her old worn-out sun bonnet, “The good book says we don’t know the hour nor the day, but I reckon I’ll come closer to that than most. To be honest, I welcome the death angel even though I wouldn’t wish this life on anyone else.”

Bromie added, “Here’s what we’ll do, you’re going to have to leave the boy with me tonight, you can stay here to if you’d like, but you can’t interrupt anything or say anything once the sun goes down. Now I mean that, you don’t know the things I know so I’m only going to tell you once that if you stay, you can’t do or say anything once that sun goes down until the sun comes up tomorrow morning.”

“I understand,” Mama affirmed, “but I would like to stay with the boy. I’m going to have to go down and tell everybody where I’ll be staying tonight so they won’t worry, but I’ll be back long before dark.”

“Just leave the boy with me,” Bromie stated, “we have work to do anyway.”

I was scared to be left there with Bromie, but I trusted her. She knew my Granny and that meant a lot in my book. We watched as Maw made her way down the path on the ridge, and when she was out of earshot, Bromie turned to me and said, “Young Gentleman, what you say we get to work.”

From an old pasteboard box up on a shelf, Bromie took out a little black book. “This here is the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses. It has everything we need to stop these snakes. Now, I’m going to have to make you sleep in a burlap sack but we need to keep it covered with a quilt at all times. I know it is going to get powerful hot under there, but that is what we need to do. I promise I won’t hurt you and I’ll do my best to see that those snakes don’t either.”

It seemed like a short time when Maw came walking back up the ridge. I reckon it seemed so short to me because me and Bromie had been making plans for that night. She read the books over me, and did some chants, and she tied some roots onto a piece of twine and told me to hang it around my neck. She told me to take off my shoes so I’d be more comfortable, and she took them from me as I pulled them off my feet. It wasn’t long after Maw got back that we ate a bite of supper and waited on darkness to arrive.

That night it was dark. Real dark. There was no moon at all, and there was no breeze to speak of neither. It was stifling. Bromie said, “Yep, they ain’t going to make it easy on us.”

Bromie told Maw to settle in somewhere in the room and to stay put, and remember what she had told her earlier.

Bromie put me in the sack, only my shoulders and head were out of it, and she covered that with a big, heavy quilt. “What keeps out cold will keep out heat,” she said as she prepared me for bed. “Try and get some sleep if you can. It’d be better if you didn’t know what was going to happen anyway.”

I was tired from walking so far that day, and the heat just took it out of me. As uncomfortable as I was, it wasn’t long before I was fast asleep. Maw stayed awake and heard Bromie praying over me, and watched as she opened all of the windows and the door and welcomed in all spirits that was seeking me. Maw said she seen it with her own eyes, it wasn’t long after Bromie started calling up the spirits that a giant yellow snake poked it head in the door from out in the darkness. It looked around and slithered in and toward the bed where I lay.

Making slow, deliberate movements, Bromie made her way toward the open door and she quietly shut it, and one by one, she closed the windows. Then she picked up a large clay pot and loudly started chanting in a tongue Maw had never heard. When she started that chanting, Maw said that ol’ snake just froze in its path and turned and looked at Bromie. She kept right on singing and slowing lowering the pot down to the snake. Just then, the snake reared up on its tail and swayed back and forth. Bromie paid it no mind and kept on with her chanting. The snake began to coil and strike out at the darkness, but Bromie continued her chanting. Then, the snake turned toward the bed where I lay and started coming closer and closer. Bromie kept right on singing, though now a little louder and with more feeling. Maw said she could tell things was getting very tense. Maw said that snake laid its head right down on the foot of that bed but then turned back toward Bromie and that clay jar. Then in one fluid movement, it made a great lunge at Bromie. Just as quickly, Bromie threw up the open jar in front of her and the snake went right into it. Bromie quickly put a lid on it, and with seemingly otherworldly skill, she grabbed up a bundle of herbs of some sort and lit them and threw them into the pot, and then she sat down on top of it.

After a few minutes, and much thrashing about inside of the clay jar, Bromie turned to Maw and said, “I believe that will do it. You can speak now.”

Without saying a word, Maw just lay there, and remained silent. Bromie repeated herself but Maw again ignored her.

Morning came in a few hours and the light of day brought with it some remarkable sights. Bromie was sitting on the front stoop when Maw walked outside. “I reckon you seen things last night that you never hoped you would.”

“Yes,” Maw said matter of factly. “I don’t reckon there is much any of us can say about that.”

“I’m glad you remembered what I had told you. You see, when that soul snake went in that pot and I threw the burning brand in on him, part of that spirit went into me. That is why I am marked,” Bromie continued, “all snakes great and small, spirit or living, can share my body. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is what it is. If you had of answered me or made any movements, that spirit probably would have attacked you, and there wouldn’t have been anything I could have done.”

“Can you tell me why that snake went for you instead of the boy on the bed, since it was the boy it was seeking?” Maw asked.

“Well you see, while you were gone, I had the boy take his shoes off and give them to me. I put the shoes down in the clay pot. I knew that soul snake would get the scent of the boy from those shoes. Of course,” Bromie added, “the boy still had his scent on himself, that is why I gave him a charm to hang around his neck that kills scent, and I had him sleep in a burlap sack that I had gathered chamomile in last month so the burlap also hid some of his scent. The quilt on top is the one I use to lay out my drying herbs in the sun. I never use it so it wouldn’t have people scent on it. That helped cover up his scent even more, and it would have protected him had the soul snake tried to attack him.”

She continued, “I reckon you heard that singing that I done. It is part of being a snake witch. What I done was use those words to put that soul snake into a trance. One it was in the clay jar, I threw in the cleaning herbs which ridded this world of that spirit. You’re boy will not be bothered by snakes again. I just want you to know that what I done wasn’t evil, what I done is straight out of the good book, from the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses. Most people just don’t know where to look for those books. I don’t want you thinking that I was witching the boy.”

“Bromie,” Maw said, “I want you to know that I will forever be indebted to you for what you have done. I don’t think you are evil and I want you to know that you are welcome to visit our home any time that you want. You will always find a plate set at our table for you.”

“Oh no, you mustn’t do that, people will shun you as they have me,” Bromie pleaded.
“I reckon I can invite to my home whoever I want to” Maw replied. “Besides, Granny must set a great store by you to have helped you out all the years as you said she has done, so you must be a good person. I reckon between me and Granny, we can set the old gossipmongers to packing should they ever utter a bad word about you in our presence.”

“I’ll not hear anyone speak ill of you in my presence.” Maw added, “You’ll find that I am loyal to those that are loyal to me and mine, and what I seen you do last night was far above and beyond what I have ever seen anyone do for us. So if you ever find yourself down on our property and see something you want, why you just take a share of it and all will be well. That way, you can still live the way you must and we will be able to begin to repay you for all that you have done for us.”

Bromie just said, “I’d appreciate it. I reckon now that I have done what I done, the snakes will rethink their plans about replacing me with somebody younger. I suspect they’ll come around and aggravate me for some time to come but nothing I ain’t used to. I’ve been marked now, oh, going on 70 years. That’s why I reckon I done what I done. I couldn’t bear the thought of that youngin’ in there having to live like I’ve had to live all these years. Like I said before, I wouldn’t wish this life on my worst enemy.”