(This photo was taken Saturday as DirtMan and I canoed through the box culvert under the interstate. We rowed eight miles. When we got here the water rolled and we kicked back and enjoyed the flume ride…upon the return, he had to push us through it because we made no headway rowing against the current!)
“Regardless of the shadows that cross the moon to make it appear less than it is, to the moon, it is always full. So it is with us.” – Buddha
As a child I was petrified of the dark. We lived in a huge house on a hill, and often there were attempted break-ins. My mother used to pour flour at night to test our theories behind the barking dogs, ratting doorknobs, and cut window screens. Sure enough we’d wake up to find boot prints all over the porch. I wasn’t afraid of the people trying to break in. My daddy was massive and muscular. He owned a gun and wasn’t afraid to use it. I felt safe from intruders. What I feared couldn’t be seen.
No, it wasn’t monsters of my imagination. My grandmother who was quite religious often warned us of the devil and his demons. She told us they couldn’t hurt us in the dark. I insisted on a night light. Though I eventually slept in the dark, it was well into my adulthood that the fear vanished.
Relatives always told stories about my grandmother’s house being haunted. I got antsy when the sun set at her house. I refused to EVER spend the night there….And then the day came I had to…
My grandmother had been sick so my father insisted my cousin, Cindy, and I spend the night with her. Big Mama lived a mile uphill from us, at the base of the mountain. We lived in the middle of nowhere. Bobcats and bears roamed the woods at night. Dogs howled and owls hooted, not to mention the noises of all the other animals. Cindy and I were spooked. Not only were we a mile away from the nearest human with weird noises penetrating the walls of the house, we did not even have a telephone.
We packed lots of snacks and a radio with intentions of staying up all night long. Big Mama settled in her room downstairs while we were upstairs. We chose the bedroom because we when we opened the curtains we also had the light of the outside lamp. Now you bet we rehashed all those stories about the peg leg ghost and swore to each other we could hear him coming up the steps and down the hall after us. The old house moaned and groaned and whispered into the night. Rats scratched and scurried in the walls and bats and wind hit at the windows now and then. We were so fearful we prayed our way through our waking hours. When we were so tired we couldn’t keep our eyes open we decided to drift off with the light on.
Cindy’s fingernails dug into my arms and the bed squeaked as she shook me back and forth. “What?” I asked groggily. Then I noticed the light in our room was out. I swore I heard Cindy’s knees knocking as she scrambled out of the bed and turned the light back on.
“Hear that?” The stairs creaked with footsteps. Thump. Thump. Thump. They came down the hall. Rattle. Turn went the doorknob. I covered my eyes and Cindy let out a blood curdling scream. I opened my eyes to see Big Mama standing in front of us.
“I was just checking in on you, too.”
“You scared us half to death,” I said. She laughed and switched off the light. Cindy and I pleaded with her to let us keep the light on. She didn’t want to waste electricity; besides there was plenty of light from the lamppost outside at one window and enough light emanating from the front porch light and the moon from the window on the other side of the room.
We huddled and curled up in a ball in the center of the bed. We swore to each other we’d heard ghosts. We wondered how Big Mama could live in this haunted place all by herself without neighbors or a telephone. We began to wonder if we could even trust Big Mama…we wondered if the ghosts would get her to help them do away with us. We took the tales told to us and spun them to new lengths and endings. Though in reality we never witnessed a single paranormal moment, we rewrote the story of Big Mama’s haunted house.
We awoke to a crowing rooster and a fully sunlit room. “Sheeeew, we made it to daylight!” We hugged and smiled.
Big Mama said she was feeling well. She made us a big country breakfast of biscuits, bacon, and eggs. She laughed at our silly night time antics which we, of course, denied and offered to stay with her anytime.
As walked down the hill to return to our homes I told Cindy, “I sure hope she never asks us to spend the night again.”
“Me, too.” Cindy said. We organized our tales and stretched the truth to the max between us. After all, we needed a good story to entertain the family.
Who is more foolish, the child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light? ~Maurice Freehill