A Rockwall Pumpkin Patch storyteller’s tale
As a boy I went to visit my granny and granddaddy in a small town called Pageland in South Carolina. My granny was named Annie and my granddaddy was named Boyd.
I was very fortunate to have spent almost every summer in Pageland as I grew up with my granny and granddaddy. I loved helping on the farm, fishing in the ponds around Pageland, working in granddaddy’s store and eating watermelons.
My granddaddy had a sister called Leo who was married to Theron Mangum. Aunt Lee, as I called her, was a sweet lady that makes me recall lying in bed sucking on a bottle of coffee.
When I got older I was told that Aunt Lee would make me a bottle of coffee flavored with Karo syrup and cream. As a baby that was my favorite way to go to sleep. I remember the smell of starch on her pillows and the warm bottle of coffee that was very comforting to me as a baby.
Lee and Theron lived on a farm. There was a cherry tree in the front yard that had the sourest cherries I’ve ever tasted. And as you faced the front of their house way off to the left were two trees that had the muscadine vines growing all over them. I remember a time when my Uncle Tommy, my brother Donny and I picked almost a bushel of them to make jelly. I think we probably ate as many as we picked. The muscadines were so sweet. We were so sticky that Aunt Lee made us strip down and hosed us off before she would let us in the house.
Near the two trees was a huge pear tree. Donny and I would climb the tree, pick some pears and sit in a crook between the trunk and a limb and eat. Just the thought of eating those sweet pears makes me want to wipe the juice off my chin.
As you walked up the drive way along the left side of the house there was a well with a large covering that Donny and I played marbles under. Behind and to the right of the house was a large patch where Theron grew tomatoes and behind the tomato patch was a large white barn.
In that barn lived a monster that my Uncle Theron captured!
Donny and I ran into the barn to play. We had played in the barn before and there were so many things to do.
On this day Uncle Theron had two saw horses that were new to us. We got some burlap bags and made some saddles. We looked for something to make a bridle with and found some wire and twine. We tied the two together and made two bridles and rode those horses for miles and miles.
Aunt Lee called us in for lunch so our journey had to end. We sat down to pineapple sandwiches with sliced cheese and ice tea that she made all the time.
After lunch we HAD to take a nap! Boring!
I awoke to the sound of a truck coming up the drive way, hit my brother to wake him up and said, “Uncle Theron is coming, let’s go!”
The truck was a delivery truck and not our Uncle. Aunt Lee told us to go get the wagon and take the packages to the barn.
That was great because we had some horses to ride!
Between the two of us we pulled the packages to the barn and unloaded them where Aunt Lee told us. That’s when we saw the ladder nailed against the wall. It was funny, neither of us had seen it before or we would have climbed it. There’s not a tree or ladder that doesn’t need to be climbed!
I went first, being the oldest and fastest and at the top I saw a large room. It was huge! There were several bales of hay near the front where the door was but nothing else. Talk about a disappointment.
That’s when we noticed a long hallway going down the center and a door on the right side of a wall. Donny ran over and pulled on the handle but couldn’t get it open. It took both of us to finally get it unstuck. The room had a bunch of lard cans, kerosene cans, stacks of lard can lids and some rendering pans. That’s all, nothing really interesting.
We started down the hall and noticed a door on the left, opened it and it was empty. The rest of the left side of the hall was a long corn crib filled to the top. But the right side was empty.
That’s when I noticed something in the shadows near the back of the empty corn crib.
The sunlight was filtering in, creating a yellow orange light shining on something that was large and dark. It was shaped like a man but it was almost black.
As we got closer we could make out huge black eyes and a long gnarly nose, and a mouth that seemed like it was open.
I yelled, “Let’s get out of here!”
I told Donny not to tell anyone about the monster because it may be a secret. Uncle Theron may be keeping it for some reason. But that night before we went to sleep we decided to go look at it again in the morning.
When we got up Aunt Lee wanted to go into town so we went with her. We got back to the farm after noon.
Aunt Lee fixed us a pimento cheese sandwich and iced tea for lunch. When we finished lunch, Donny and I wanted to go to the barn right away. We had decided to get a closer look at the monster.
Naptime interrupted our plans. I couldn’t sleep. As my head rested on the pillow, I could hear the swishing sound that I always heard when I couldn’t sleep. Swish, Swish, Swish. Back then I thought it sounded like wheat blowing in the wind as I lay on the ground looking at clouds. When I got older I was told that it was the blood moving through the blood vessels in my head. I still like to think of it as wheat.
Finally I heard Aunt Lee rummaging around in the kitchen. I shook Donny and said, “Let’s go!”
I ran as fast as I could to the barn. I waited for Donny to catch up and as soon as he entered I went up the ladder. To be on the safe side I waited until Donny was up before I went down the hall.
We silently walked down the hall toward the monster, staying on the other side away from where the monster was kept. We watched him for a long time. Sweat started to drip off of my face as the heat and excitement made my heart race.
The monster was dark and seemed to be hairy. Something swirled around its head and sometimes it looked as if it moved, but I wasn’t sure. His eyes seemed to look directly at me, but then they didn’t. Donny whispered to me, “Why doesn’t it move?”
I didn’t know what he was talking about because I thought it did move. I whispered back to him, “Let’s get something to throw at him.” But before I got the words out of my mouth, Donny yelled, “It’s moving,” and we ran back to the front of the barn and hid behind the first room, looking around the corner towards where the monster was kept.
It didn’t bang against the walls like all monsters are supposed to do. It didn’t make any sounds or anything.
When my aunt Lee died, Donny and I forgot about the monster in the corn crib. We had other interests – until one summer when Uncle Theron asked us to clean out his chicken coop.
As we walked to Theron’s farm from my granddaddy’s farm, Donny remembered the monster, so we decided to see if it was still in the corn crib.
As I climbed the ladder, I thought that the barn wasn’t as big as it was and it wasn’t as dark as I had remembered. Donny suggested that we get some sticks just in case. So we found some wood and decided to use the wood like a bat.
As we walked down the hall I didn’t see a monster. The room looked empty. The slats that covered the doorway were gone and Donny said something about the monster escaping.
It was a dress maker’s dummy with my uncle’s army uniform, gas mask and helmet.
It looked like a monster! But that was years ago!
By Bill Watts of Rockwall.
Bill is a former teacher who enjoys teaching children and telling tall tales. As a member of the Friends of the Rockwall County Library he is volunteering his time at the Original Rockwall Pumpkin Patch where he relates his adventures with children and adults. Join him as he presents a story called ‘My Pet Rattle Snake’ on Saturday, October 19th.
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