The best thing about my husband, besides his sense of humor and his willingness to make breakfast most mornings, is his stories. He has such a good memory, and his childhood was so different from mine that I am endlessly fascinated and amazed by the stories he tells me.
Take this morning. There we were on the porch, both of us very tired from a busy, busy weekend. He'd gone with me Saturday to the Inland Waterways Festival where I was telling stories, then helped me re-stock our booths at the Antique Mall of Marietta before we took the evening sternwheeler cruise. We were late getting home; it was almost midnight before we got to bed. We were up early again Sunday, me to return to the festival for one more performance, and Larry to go with our son to pick up a hog we'd bought. I bought groceries on the way home so I was a tired puppy when I got here; he'd worked outside, got the hog, and had it in a trailer behind the truck, ready to go to the slaughterhouse.
This morning he was up and out early to deliver the hog (hams, bacons and more on the way soon!). I did pick-up-tidy-up, as the house got pretty cluttered as we ran in and out. Then we sat down with our coffee to watch the rain and talk.
The conversation turned to the eastern timber rattlesnake that had been killed a few miles away. As far as I know it's the first one sighted in our area in about 40 years; the last one was killed about a half mile from our home by a neighbor, in the 1970's. (I am not a fan of killing snakes unless they're threatening me or someone else, and in both of these instances that was the case.)
Larry hates snakes; where he grew up there were many, many copperheads. The area was rocky, with steep hills and plenty of forest. There were abandoned mines and slag piles at mine sites. The slag piles hold heat, and the snakes love a warm rock.
"I remember once I was out in the woods," he said this morning, " and I passed an abandoned mine. It was all caved in inside,and I could hear them, moving around in there. Rattlers, moving and shaking their rattles."
His words painted an instant, vivid image in my mind. Big snakes, in the half-light that filtered in through the brush-covered opening, coiling around and between the fallen stones, eyes glowing...it gave me chill bumps.
|from NY Dept of Environmental Conversation's |
The man returned day after day, and more and more snakes came out to listen, swaying to the music. His playing improved; people down below began to comment on how good he sounded up there, the notes echoing off the cliffs.
One night maybe the man drank too much; maybe he stumbled and accidentally stepped on one of the snakes. Maybe that's what caused the snakes to turn on him, because when he didn't return the next morning and they went looking for him, they found him on the mountain, his fiddle still in his hand, covered in snake bites.
Talk about chill bumps! I have heard that this supposedly happened in West Virginia, but most people claim it happened at Fiddler's Rock, Tennessee. You can read that version on The Moonlit Road's site.
The other morning we were talking about Larry's elderly cousin, who can no longer drive and lives in a fairly remote place in the coalfields. Most of the men in Larry's family were coal miners, so I assumed this cousin was as well.
"No," Larry said, "he never worked in the mines. He was a gravedigger."
"All his life??" I was amazed. I guess I knew someone had to do that job, but never gave it much thought.
"Yes, I guess he retired from it. He was digging graves back when they dug them by hand."
Now I need to talk to this cousin again. I can just imagine the stories he might have to tell.
All of Larry's stories do not spark such dark thoughts! His tales of childhood escapades, like telling everyone he had been bear-hunting and almost caught a giant bear, or stories of hiding in the outhouse, about his pet crow and so many others are hilarious and make my tame townie childhood pale in comparison. I don't think this man will ever bore me.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.