The wind come a-whippin' around the corner of the house last night about midnight with such ferocity that it brought to mind the time me and Vern Cassell was coon huntin' up on Pinchgut. Pinchgut, you ask? Well Pinchgut was a holler that was so steep that the only way to get to the head of it was to go right up the crick bed or else you'll give out. It was up on the mountain from where we lived and it was so steep that nobody could ever farm anything up in there. It was almost too rough to even hunt in, and most people avoided it like the plague.
It was almost midnight, as I recall, and was gettin' down in the fall of the year and me and Vern was out coon huntin'. We'd only been out for a few minutes when we heard the dogs and knew they was on the trail of a coon. We took up the ridge after them, figgering they'd go out toward the spring and the persimmon grove. It wasn't long after being on their trail that we seen they was headin' up into Pinchgut. We knew we was in for a time right then and there, but we also knowed that if we didn't go in after the dogs that Ol' Mag, the lead hound, would stay on the trail until she dropped dead right in her tracks. They wasn't no callin' her off the trail once she was on it, either. Well, we started up into Pinchgut, making our way through the laurel thickets and acrosst downed tree's, until we got right near the head of the holler. We stopped for a minute and listened for the dogs, and wouldn't you know it, halfway up the hillside stood Ol' Mag and the rest of the dogs baying at a big oak tree. We knew they had something treed and we knew we had to try and get up there to them, or else they'd stay there until they barked themselves hoarse or something worse.
Well, me and Vern started up the hillside, grabbing onto saplings to make our way, and having to stop ever so often to catch our breath. That hill was so steep that at one point we noticed we was climbing down the hill but still having to hang onto the saplings to keep us from falling off of it. After about an hour or so, we finally come up on Ol' Mag, and she looked at us like we'd abandoned her because it took us so long to get up there to her. But all was forgiven, all the way around, when we seen what Ol' Mag had treed a big she-coon, she must have been about 50 pounds if it was an ounce, and it had its 8 twenty pound pups with it. Vern got the monkey trembles, he was so excited at the prospect of all that coon, that he lost his balance and took to falling up and down the hillside. He caught hisself about 50 yards down. He told me that I'd better go ahead and shoot 'em down since he didn't think he could make it all the way back up to the tree. So I up and shoot, and dang if that wasn't the steepest tree I'd ever seen, 'cause my shot just went up halfway and got lost, and come peppering back down on me. I tried again and the same thing happened. Then I took to studying on the situation and figgered the easiest way to get the ol' she-coon and her pups out of the tree was to cut the tree. I reckoned I'd chop down that big oak tree and send it ball hootin' down into the holler where we'd collect the coons. I had my hatchet for just the occassion, and I soon set to work gnawing at that tree like a beaver.
About halfway through chopping it down, Vern hollered up the hill at me and asked me if I heard that. I stopped and listened and heard one of the most God-Awful sounds a-comin up the ridge, sounded like Beezlebub hisself a-comin. Then we seen it, it was a white mass of wind a-tearin' out trees and stumps and lifting up leaves and swirlin' them around like you ain't never seen. Me and Vern figgered it was one of them tornadeys like we'd heard about from out west. People had been sayin' that so many people had been going west that the tornadeys was being pushed out of that country and had nowheres else to go but to come back east. Yessiree, it was one of the tornadeys and it was snow white and it was a-bearin' down on us. When that thing got to the mouth of Pinchgut, it cut up in the holler, right along the same route that me and Vern had took earlier. Well, that Ol' tornadey soon figured out that it made a big mistake because the hillsides up in Pinchgut was too steep for it to climb so it stayed right in the crickbed. It made it up to the head of the holler and then it spotted us and took to comin' at us like a banshee on the warpath.
Vern braced for it, but I took to hacking at that tree like nobody's business, and just in time I hollered "TIMBER" and watched that old oak tree fall square on top of that ol' charging tornadey. Yessirree, it killed it deader that 4 O'clock, it did. Thing of it is when that tornadey got kilt, it dropped all that dirt and all those rocks that it had been haulin' inside of it, and it filled in the whole of Pinchgut, I mean to tell you that ol' tornadey quit blowing just like somebody put a warshtub over it. By the time it got done filling up Pinchgut, poor ol' Vern was standing knee deep in prime Kansas cropland.
We was so dumbfounded by this that we had nearly forgot about the ol' she-coon and her pups, but I heard a rustlin' in the leaves and there she stood, grinnin' at me like a kid at a carnival. She knew as well as I knew that after what we had been through together, there wasn't no way neither me or Vern was gonna hurt her, so I just says to her, "Ol' Mother, you'd better get. Ain't nobody here gonna harm you." I do believe that ol' she-coon was dancin' a jig as she walked with her pups out on that new plowed dirt that we got from the dead tornadey, she only stopped to pick up a giant ear of corn, courtesy of some unknown Kansas farmer.
Now you might ask, what ever happened to Ol' Mag? Well, I was saddened to see her get buried in the aftermath of the dead tornadey, but you know what, about a week later she dug her way up out of that holler, up through all that loose dirt, and took out on the trail of that ol' she-coon. I ain't seen her since, but I reckon she's still somewhere up on the mountain trailin' that ol' coon 'cause Ol' Mag never was a dog to give up the trail.
Now that was something, I ain't never seen nothin' like it since but I reckon that wind last night come close to it. Good thing I built me a nice sturdy house out of good oak, or else I'd likely have been tryin' to hang onto the side of Pinchgut holler again instead of sittin' in here by the fire in a fine house on the best farm in Pendleton County.
The Long Trail of Shortia, part 1 of 2
20 hours ago