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Chronicles of JW AND THE CREATOR'S DOMAIN
CHAPTER ONE "THE BEGINNING" JW AND THE VISITOR FROM ZAMDAM
By J. W. Blackburn
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 J. W. Blackburn
All rights reserved.
IN THE SUMMER of 1945, my great grandparents moved from Huddy in Pike County, Kentucky, to a small farm in Ohio, near Vinton in Gallia County. The county seat is Gallipolis on the Ohio River. As I recall all those times told to me by my grandfather, JW or Pete (his nickname), he told me stories of when he was just a small boy. He was the youngest of twelve children. The older six were already married when the family left Kentucky for Ohio. Grandfather–I always called him Pappy, I guess because he called his father Poppy and called his mother Mom. Poppy was a coal miner who got crippled working in the mines. He also was a part-time moonshiner, but they don't like talking about that.
I still don't know why they left Pike County and ended up on top of a hill on a 160-acre farm they called Windy Ridge. No electricity, no running water, an outdoor toilet. He would laugh and say, "We were rich." It was a two-seater. To get water, they carried it in buckets from at least a quarter mile away, until they had a well dug. They used two horses to plow the fields and to cut, rake, and bring in the hay for the horses and cows to eat in the winter. The milk from the cows was kept cold by putting the milk in milk containers and lowering the containers in a well at the barn. The water there was not good for humans to drink, if you know what I mean. But it kept the milk cold and fresh; they would sell or trade the milk and eggs to the grocer, who came around once a week. Mom would pick different patterns from feed sacks, and out of those sacks she would make the dresses for the girls; the plainer ones would become clothes for the boys. So it was barter and credit plus what they grew off the land; that was how they got by.
Then in 1946 Uncle Frank, or Rosie, returned one day from checking out the mail. Almost a half mile from the house, he saw something lying beside the road. It was a baby coon. Its eyes were just opening, and it was half dead, so he picked it up and brought it to the house. Everybody called him Rosie, though his name was Franklin, after the president.
"Rosie, why did you bring this coon here? It's almost dead."
"Mom, what would you do, leave it there? No, you wouldn't. You would do what I did."
"Well, then, what are we going to do with it?"
"Let's warm a little milk, feed it with a spoon."
"If it lives, then what?"
"Give it to Pete; let him take care of it."
"Rosie, the neighbor just gave him a pup!"
"Well, if the coon lives, let Pete raise them together; they would make a nice pair."
As he handed the tiny coon to his mom, he turned, laughed, and walked away toward the barn.
"Well, little one, let's see what we can do before JW gets in. I'll warm some milk and put you in a box behind the stove. If the Lord wants you to live, you will live."
After warming the milk, she fed the little coon. "Wow! You are hungry!"
She drank almost three spoonfuls of milk, plus one more went all over her (Mom checked; it was a female). After drying her off, Mom warmed a small towel on the coal stove, wrapped the little one in it, put her in a box, and laid the box behind the stove. It was warm there. Afterward Mom went out to call everyone in for supper.
"Faye, where is Rosie?"
"I saw him a few minutes ago, laughing on his way to the barn."
"Go and ring the dinner bell."
Within a half hour, everyone was at the house for supper. Rosie was looking at Mom, laughing.
"Young man, I should make you take care of that coon."
"What coon? What coon?"
"JW, have you washed your hands for supper?"
"What coon? What coon?"
"Later, young man. Let's eat."
"Peggy, what's this about a coon?"
"Yes, Mom, where's it at?"
"All right, I have a feeling supper's going to be a little late. Grover, your son there picked up a half-dead coon, a baby one, and brought it home."
"Well, is it alive?"
"Yes, it's alive; it isn't dead."
"You know what I mean. Something must have happened to its mother."
"So if it lives, then what?"
"I'll take it."
"No! When it gets old enough, it will be turned loose. We have four coon dogs and a pup; that coon won't have a chance."
"Hey, Poppy, there's a half-dead rat in a box behind the stove!"
"Shirley Ann, it's not a rat. It's a coon, and I hope it's not dead after all this. Rosie, wipe that smile off your face; this is all your doing."
"Ain't it fun?"
"Enough, all of you–let's eat."
"I want to see the coon!"
"JW, I said let's eat. Afterward you can see it."
"Hey, let Pete raise it along with the pup. They would make a nice threesome. We won't be watching him. He'll be too busy raising a pup and a coon."
Poppy looked at Rosie. "I said let's eat."
"What's for supper, Mom?"
"What's for supper? The same as yesterday, but fresh."
As Pappy was telling about the coon, tears would form in his eyes. The coon didn't die. Pete named the coon Minnie because she was small, named the pup Laddie, and raised them both. If you saw one of them, you saw all three; like Rosie said, they made a nice threesome. For the other dogs, the coon was just another member of the family; they all played, ate, and slept together. Pete would take Laddie and Minnie down to the small creek behind the house in what they called a holler. They dammed an area up with stones and had a wading pond. Minnie loved it there, hunting for crawdads; everything she ate, she wanted to wash it first. Pappy said he believed that if you tried to hunt Minnie or him, why, Laddie would tear you to pieces.
Then in August of 1947, it was hot and wet. The dinner bell had been rung, and everyone was in the yard ready to go inside to eat.
"Grover, where's JW? He's not here."
"Junior, Rosie, have you seen JW? "
"Girls, have you?"
"Yeah! I saw him, Laddie, and Minnie going down to the creek. He built a dam so Minnie could play."
'When those three are together ... One of you boys, ring the bell again."
By the time Junior rang the bell twice, Laddie and Minnie came running as fast as they could. Minnie was so scared because she was ahead of Laddie that she ran and jumped on Mom and tried to get under her apron. Laddie stopped and sat under Poppy's legs, whining and staring back toward the barn. At the same time they heard JW screaming a horrible scream. Everybody took off fast. Even Poppy, crippled as he was, kept up. By the time they all got to the barn and the path down the hill, JW was running up, still screaming at the top of his lungs. He didn't see anyone, ran past them till Mom caught him. She had to give him a smack to quiet him, and about then the rest caught up.
"JW, what in the world?"
"Poppy, I saw it. I saw it!"
"What did you see?"
"I saw it! It was huge–as big as this house!"
"You saw something as big as this house? Calm down, boy. We know something happened. For those two"–he pointed at Laddie and Minnie–"would not have left you there all alone."
"I told them to run and get you."
"Well, they ran. They're still scared. Boys, go inside. Get the shotgun and rifle. Hurry! Now, JW, what did you see?"
"It was big!"
"As tall as the horses or taller. It had two legs and arms. Poppy, you're not going to believe me. It had two red eyes as big as my head and butterfly wings."
"No, I don't believe you. And yes, I do believe you saw something that scared the living daylights out of all three of you. Well, I don't know what we're going to find out. Boys, you come with me. The rest of you, go into the house."
"But Poppy, I know where I saw it. You don't."
"No, you're still scared."
"Let me show you; then I'll come back."
"Poppy, at least Pete knows where he saw it."
"Well, okay. You, young man, stay behind us in case we have to use those guns. I don't want to get anybody hurt."
"Well, in that case, Mom, you better come along. You're a better shot than all of us put together."
"Give me that rifle. You girls, go inside. I may be short and slow walking, but I can shoot. Let's go and get this over with. Keep the supper on the stove till we get back. JW, you stay with me. If anything happens, you run. Do you hear?"
"If that's all settled, shall we go? Any more talking, we'll talk that thing into Meigs County."
"Shoot, Poppy, that's just across the forty acres there."
"Rosie, one more word from you ..."
"Yes, sir!" As they all walked down the path from the barn to the holler. "Watch your step. It rained and the mud here is still wet. JW, how do you and the other two stay so clean?"
"We walk on the grass."
"Junior, what are you laughing at? Well, you did ask Pete a question."
"Poppy, there's where I first saw it, at the edge of the creek."
"Where's your dam?"
"On the right side of the path."
"Over here, I found something!"
"Junior, what did you find?"
"Look and see."
"Well, I'll be. Look at those footprints. I've got size eleven shoe, and those prints are fifty times as big as mine or bigger."
"Any claw prints?"
"No, not on any of them. Sort of webs between ... I guess those are toes. The prints stops here."
"What do you mean, stops here?"
"There's no more prints anywhere."
"I told you it had wings."
"Did you see it fly?"
"No, when I saw it, it was already staring at me, Laddie, and Minnie. We saw it about the same time. Laddie started growling, and Minnie climbed up on my back. We all just stared at each other. That's when I saw his wings. I thought it was the devil."
"Did it have a tail?"
"Rosie, one more word!"
"Go on, boy."
"We just stared at each other for a few minutes. That's when I heard the dinner bell. It heard it also; that's when it started walking. No, he wasn't walking, he was just moving through the air toward me. That's when I thought it was the devil and told the other two, 'Go home, get help!' I couldn't believe it. They understood what I said and both took off so fast. When they got up the path halfway, the thing opened its mouth, and I thought it was going to eat me. That's when I started screaming and running as fast as I could. I looked back. It was coming after me. I started screaming louder, hoping you all would hear me. Again, I looked back. It was gone. Where it went, I don't know. When I turned back around, I saw you guys. I couldn't stop. I just kept on running."
"Where's those four hounds when you need them?"
"Up there at the barn looking down at us."
"Rex, Rover, all of you, come on down here."
"Here they come. They're acting like they don't want to come down."
"Rex, all of you. Come here. Peggy, take JW back to the house. We're going down the creek. We'll just go as far as the boundary goes. See if there are any more tracks. You two and the girls, go and eat; we'll be along shortly. Boys, let's go. Rex, come on."
"Well, they're not afraid now. Look at them. Show them the prints. See if they can pick up scent or something."
"Here, Rin, Rex, Rover. Hey, look at Buster. He's off down in the holler already."
"Good. Junior, you take the left side, Rosie the right, and I'll stay in the middle. Keep an eye up in the trees. If it can fly, it may be hiding up there somewhere. Remember, you two start acting up, I'll take my belt off when we get back"
"Poppy, what would something like that be called?"
"I don't know. Well, I know one thing: JW would not make up a story like this and those prints and his dog and coon. No, something happened. Why to him, I don't know."
"Maybe because he's little. To us we would shoot first, then after it's dead, ask it questions."
"Way to go, Junior!"
"Hush, both of you. Do you hear that?"
"That's what I'm talking about. Nothing. No birds, not even a cricket, nothing. It's too quiet; be on your toes. – What was that?"
"I don't know, a high-pitched scream."
"Wait, be quiet. There it is again. It's coming from the lower part of the holler. Down there."
"Poppy, I don't think we should go down there. It's already dark down there, and it's only five. Tomorrow would be better."
"Listen, there it is again. Louder and closer. What the–Let's get out of here. Those damn dogs aren't saying a word."
"No, just their tails between their legs, and going bat out of–"
"Don't say it. Just move. Don't stop till we get to the barn."
"Poppy, are you all right?"
"Here take the gun. It's my leg."
"Here, Junior, help Poppy. Give me the guns. Like Poppy said, don't stop till you get to the barn. I'm right behind you. Go, the screaming's getting closer."
As all three ran, Junior helped Poppy because of his leg, and Rosie, with three guns, brought up the rear. As they reached the barn, the screaming stopped.
"Maybe it's afraid of the light. A vampire!"
"It was in the light when it encountered JW, numbskull!"
"Let's get the horses and cows in before we have supper. After milking keep them in the barn for tonight. Anyway, tomorrow, after milking, we'll turn them out behind the barn, not down there; you can clean up the manure and spread it for your mom in the garden. The fields are still wet from all that rain. I'll go down and see Clyde tomorrow."
"You're not going to tell them what JW saw. They'll think he's nuts. No, they'll think we're all nuts."
"No, Junior, I'll just poke around. You two are staying here. Now, let's go and eat. Don't say anything about the screaming." Within a few minutes they were in the kitchen. "We're back!"
"Your supper is on the table. I saw you at the barn. Did you find anything?"
"Later. Where's JW and the girls?"
"The girls are on the porch. JW's with you know who in the parlor; he won't let them go outside. Those two are still afraid, and the dogs ... I know you saw or heard something; I never saw any dog so scared in my life. So scared they could not even speak, tail between their legs. They're under the porch; I bet they won't come out for a week. See if they will eat any scraps. One thing for sure, the two in the parlor are not eating. JW is sitting on the floor. Both of them are on top of him. Either they are protecting him, or the other way."
"You know something, that dog would fight I believe to the death to protect JW and Minnie. But what he saw, whatever it was, must be one mean son of a gun for him to run."
"But JW told both to run for help, and they obeyed him just like that."
"Well, maybe that's what they did. Boys, let's eat after the girls and JW goes to bed. Me and the boys are going to the barn to check the horses and the cows to make sure they're okay. We will do that throughout the night."
"No, the boys will do that; then you'll tell me what happened down there."
"My leg is hurting."
"After we eat, I'll rub some liniment on it."
"Mom, what do you think Pete saw?"
"Yeah, Mom, he's not eating any loco weed, is he?"
"Shirley Ann, you and Faye get in here!"
"Sorry, Mom, just kidding to take your mind off what has happened."
"Well, you and Faye clean up. I'm going to see how the three in the parlor is doing."
"You know something, Faye? We would have to bury Mom if anything happened to JW."
"No, Shirley, somebody else would have to bury this whole family if anything happened to JW. We all tease him about him and his two companions and Poppy talking about a coon dinner."
"Why, you know he's kidding; he would shoot someone if they did anything to his family. That's including Minnie. He just likes to tease JW."
"Yeah, and JW knows it."
"What did he see down there?"
"I don't know, but I bet he won't be going to his dam."
"You want to make a bet? I bet he'll be back down there tomorrow."
"We'll guess you're right. Let's turn on the radio. Listen to the Grand Ole Opry. Boy, I'm glad we got electric in."
"Yeah, now if they would bring the mail here and also the school bus, at least we wouldn't have to walk to the mailbox or to get on the school bus. I hope this don't get out when school starts. We will be the laughingstock of the school."
"It won't get out if you keep your mouth shut."
The next morning, the boys were milking the cows.
"Junior, how's Bossy doing?"
"What do you mean?"
"This one, I hope she's not drying up. I got less than half a gallon, no more."
"Well, guess both are drying up about the same here. Poppy's not going to like this. Let's keep them in their stalls; they could still be afraid."
Excerpted from Chronicles of JW AND THE CREATOR'S DOMAIN by J. W. Blackburn. Copyright © 2013 J. W. Blackburn. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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