This tale was told to me by my father so I could learn a lesson.
My father was a rough boy when he was younger, and quite likely to get into trouble. He and my Uncle were usually out causing a ruckus after the chores were done. This was back in the early 60’s when the nation was in turmoil, but they were sheltered in the country in their ancestral lands.
My Uncle had himself a pet pig named Hamlet, and he was a little Chester White boar. Hamlet had been taught to look for mushrooms and wild carrots which the boys called ‘treasure hunting.’ More often than not, it was a reason to go into the woods with their pet and dig around. Sometimes you could find old medicine bottles, buttons, or even horseshoes. Of course these things were usually in disrepair, but the bottles were pretty enough to keep. Hamlet was a good digger and soon began digging up treasures in exchange for cobs of corn and apples.
Now, my father and uncle should have known better. They should have stayed and dug their holes in their own property. They should have kept track of the time. They should have brought some protection with them. But of course, they were young and naive and figured my Pappy could bail them out of any trouble they’d find themselves in.
So they wandered on down to the hollows. The hollows is an area owned by the local game wardens to provide animals a safe place to raise their young and eat. It got it’s name from the huge thorn bushes that grew in the area, with small holes made by deer to get around. It was low to the ground in between ridges, so the ground was often muddy and prone to fog. Everyone agreed to stay out of the hollows so it remained wild and untouched.
A rather spooky place, but it gave the wildlife a safe respite from gun happy farmers.
It was also not a place for young boys to tear up. So of course, they wanted to tear it up. They made to go forward, but surprised when Hamlet refused to take another step. They tried treats and they tried pushing, but Hamlet still refused to go into the hollows. Now of course, my uncle wasn’t going to leave his beloved pig out unsupervised where a coyote or bear could get him. So he fashioned a harness and leash out of some rope and tied it to the pig. They dragged that poor pig into the hollows as he squealed and pulled backwards. He was still a young pig so he could not overpower two boys who were fixing for some trouble.
They made their way through the thorn maze carefully, pulling the pig behind them. There was a light fog on the ground so they had to move slowly, lest there be snakes. The closer they got to the middle, the louder the pig squealed. They were about to turn around to shut the pig up, when quite suddenly, they found themselves in a clearing.
There was a cabin there, risen up on spider-like legs that stretched far up into the trees. The canopy obscured the dwelling and cast dark shadows on the ground. The cabin swayed back and forth on a non-existent breeze. My father realized that if he listened close enough, he could hear the great breaths of a beast breathing. The Cabin’s walls expanded and contracted with each ‘breath’. It was facing away from them, seemingly not aware that the children were there at all.
Hamlet by then had gone quiet, but trembled. He was behaving like there was a predator about and he didn’t want to be seen. The boys were speechless at the time. They didn’t have any idea what they were seeing, or if what they were seeing was real.
My father told me that at that time, he smelt burning wood. Not the pleasant smell of a wood stove, but the acrid black fire that burned from carpet and rubber tires, foul and thick.
My father grabbed his brother and pulled him backwards into thorns along with the pig. Silently, they remained in the thorns and watched, too afraid to move.
The cabin shook on it’s spider legs, turning around until the door was visible. The windows were glowing, as though there was a fireplace within. On the front porch was a woman, rocking on a wicker rocking chair, a butter churn beside her. No matter how quickly the cabin moved, the women just kept rocking, as though she was stuck to the porch flooring.
She hummed softly, her hands folded across her lap, it was almost normal if it wasn’t for the living cabin she was stuck too moving about.
Suddenly, the door flew open and the cabin tilted forward. Skeletons of both man and beast, along with clothing and hair, dropped from the open doorway. It was almost like an owl pellet, with the undigested gunk being regurgitated from the body. Within the open door roared the flames of a hungry fire.
To their horror, the woman on the chair looked out into the thicket, and smiled at the boys.
“Won’t you come in and sit a spell?” Her voice sounded perfectly normal, sweet and innocent.
That when my father and his brother booked it through the thorns. They didn’t care that they were being ripped to pieces by the thorns and burrs. Hamlet did his part in dragging them through the brush as quickly as he could. Eventually they escaped out into the road once again, torn up and bloody, stinging with a thousand tiny cuts.
But they were alive at least.
When they went home and told Pappy, he gave them the both whipping from a switch.
“I knew you boys were up to trouble! Not only that, you’re trying to explain it away with hogwash!”
To this day, he has never went into the hollows and I was bidden to do the same.
I just wondered how the state game wardens missed such a creature, when they sectioned off the land in the first place.
Or perhaps, the area sectioned off, was to keep it IN.