Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The Stones

Willie wiped his brow and looked out at the desert. There had been stories as far back as the dawn of time about the desert, the Moonboy Hills and those stones.

It had been said that when the stones started to move the end was coming. Willie always wondered what end these folks were talking about. He had been too long in the saddle to really care about such things now. There were names and places that he had started to forget and well, his end was probably coming sooner rather than later.

Willie guessed there must be a right time for everything.

He remembered when he was a boy and that first evening he’d ridden up into the Moonboys. He’d been arguing with his paw about some nonsense or other. Taking off with his old horse General had seemed the easiest way to resolve things. The first two nights had been lonely and cold, boy could it get cold up there.
On the third night he’d taken shelter in a cave and managed to light a fire. That was when he saw them - the weird carvings on the far wall. 

When he’d asked around town about them, one of those clever college guys had talked about the pre-Clovis people being responsible but Will had no idea what he was going on about. The Professor had asked if Will could take him to the exact place where he’d seen the carvings but Will wasn’t too keen. He just said he’d forgotten. Anyhow Willie felt it went a lot deeper and darker than those Clovis folks, there was something strange about those signs and that was the truth.

Funny thing to tell, he’d never actually shown anyone other than his own family the location of the carvings. In his teenage years Willie had spent a lot of time up in the hills worrying and thinking about one thing or another.
Girls, money, work, you name it he always took his problems ‘to the cave’.

When he met Sarah he’d stopped going up there. Then, when the kids had come along, he’d take them up one by one on his horse to show them the pictures. But they had all grown up and moved away and no one apart from his youngest Brad had kept up any interest in the place.

Recently after Sarah’s death he’d found himself coming back to the place more and more, to think over his life. Things didn’t feel so lonely up there. The kids and their children very rarely came visiting anymore and he’d usually see the clan at some Christmas get-together, then nothing until the following year.

Willie didn’t mind saying it, he was as lonely as hell and wondering if it was time he should be moving on. Life was for the young and he would tell you, he hated getting old. It hurt in every sense of the word. He was tired and it was as plain and simple as that.

Then a couple of weeks ago the stories had started circulating around the place. Over at Jacob’s Rock and in Wall Fire Alley there had been folks talking about the stones, they were moving, sometimes as much as several feet in a night.

Over in Kent County a minister had called it the end of days. He’d seen the stones moving with his own eyes, may God strike him down if he was lying.

Some folks from the big city came and took photos of the stones and they were kind of thinking that the locals were up to no good, perhaps moving them in the middle of the night. But as the good folks of the Moonboys had seen, there were no footprints near the stones. No rope marks. No way, anyone or, anything could have been involved.

Sixty years before the stones started moving when Willie was still a teenager, he had taken a rubbing of the cave carvings. He was sure he still had them somewhere.

After a barrel load of searching one stormy afternoon, he’d found them in the attic, three clear images of the carvings.

The first image was of little rocks sitting on a plain. In the second, the rocks had changed position and they all seemed to have moved or been moved in the same direction. On the third there was a figure that someone in antiquity had attempted to erase from the carving by rubbing over the image with something rough.

It had never made any sense to Willie except there was something peaceful about the carvings and the cave. There was no doubt about it there was a connection between the story that these carvings were telling and the rocks moving.

Willie decided he’d go out to Lazy Boy Canyon and have a look for himself. He’d go at night when the desert was a lot cooler then he’d catch the stones as the sun came up.

He pitched his old tent by an overhang that helped him get some shelter from the frost. He tried as best he could to get some sleep but this wasn’t a night for it.

Just after two in the morning he could hear a scraping not too far from the tent, he guessed it was just another lonely animal out looking for company or food.

He rested a while but around four in the morning the sun rose over the top of the Moonboys and caused the tent to heat up real bad. Willie felt the only place to go was outside and anyway he was eager to see the stones.

Sure enough, there they were, streaks of sand behind them like they had been moving on their own.

Surely that couldn’t have been what he’d heard in the dark of night?
Willie walked over to the rock and all of a sudden he felt a peace come down on him like he’d never felt before.

He bent down and touched the rock and smiled.

A few days later they found the tent but nothing was ever found of Willie.

There was one strange thing that only the wild animals would have seen, the rock that Willie had touched had moved forwards a few feet. 
bobby stevenson 2015

Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Smilers

There had been too many years of this; too many days and months and lives.

What had once been known as the United Kingdom had been run by successive coalition governments. Little groups who ganged together and pushed for their own agendas.

This led, in the end, to compromise – one which pleased no one, and soon became the worst kind of democracy.

Each blamed the other, each found fault with all the others in the gang. It wasn’t long until civil war took place. Anyone and everyone who did not think like them, was condemned to die.

Brothers fought brothers, fathers fought sons until, in the end people were only surviving.

That was until He came. Solomon they called him. He stood tall with his beliefs and Solomon united the country. He told the disparate gangs that they were not to blame. He told them that it was those on the outside that had caused all the problems, all the wars. After all weren’t they family? Weren’t they from the same blood? Weren’t they from the same glorious mother?
And it worked.

People surrendered their weapons for the glory of the family. It was all that mattered, as long as the family survived. Those who would transgress the family, the outsiders, those who did not share the blood – it was they, surely, who were to blame for all the troubles?

And soon the country united under the banner of the Family. One family, one blood.

Those who were not of a like mind were re-educated – no one knew where or for how long, but if they disappeared then they must have deserved it.

And that was when the Family brought in the rule – only those of the same creed were truly happy. Only those of the family were able to smile.

And the re-educators would scan the streets looking for those who would fight the family, those who were not able to smile.

And that is when we found a way to walk the streets, free from the scanners searching for the down hearted. None of us could be happy every day, and that was what THEY were waiting for, a reason to destroy.

But we survived.

"A smile a day keeps the re-educators away."

bobby stevenson 2015

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The Miracle of West Culpepper

In those days, the Blue Ridge Mountains was another world. Very few folks had automobiles back then and the trains didn’t go anywhere near.

The little town was called West Culpepper, and if you had just clambered up from the Shenandoah Valley then you hadn’t gone far enough and if you got all the way to Blacksburg, then you’d gone too far.

It was such a beautiful little place. You know, one of those towns that burrowed into your heart and would stay there for ever. We had gone one summer to visit an aunt just after the war (the Great one that is). My aunt Jemima had moved to West Culpepper when her husband had got a job to help build a road that could take folks all the way into West Virginia; right over the tops of the mountains. Some said that from up there you could see all the way to California.

The troubles all started back in the ‘Twenties. Up until then, the old town had had a run of good luck all the way back to when it was started by an Englishman - who went by the name of Samuel Huntingdon. He had heard of stories of magical creatures which roamed the Appalachians – he never found any but died a peaceful death after a real happy life.

So how did all those troubles get to showing themselves? Well, it began with Jasper Howridge’s farm, his cattle seemed to catch some disease and all of them died real quick. Some folks said that maybe Jasper had brought something back from Europe, on account of fighting in the war over there. Others said it was a curse brought in by the new people who’d moved to Culpepper. Whatever the reason, the cattle were stone cold dead. Some of the other farmers and friends helped burn the carcases – that’s what folks did up there, help each other.

Jasper didn’t have the heart to start again and took to drinking hooch most days. The Reverend Jack wanted to help Jasper and his family, but the tired farmer seemed have put himself on a runaway train and nothing, and no one, was going to stop him.

There was also a good guy in the midst of all this chaos. His name was Slim Jim Cook: ‘Slim Jim’ on account that he liked to eat anything and everything and it showed on his belly.

You see Jim had come to the area to write a book about George Washington and the years he spent surveying in those hills. But the place had got to him and he had settled, never actually writing the book. Something he was always going to do when the weather got better. And yes, the weather got better but that didn’t bother Jim, he just said that since the weather was so nice and the hills so pretty, it seemed a waste to spend in indoors writing. So he read, and read, read everything that he could get his hands on and one of the folks who did catch his eye was that Englishman, Samuel Huntingdon. Jim decided that after his Washington book, he’d write one on that man.

People didn’t need to hear about the Wall Street Crash in West Culpepper ‘cause things had been going downhill for a long time now. Folks helped each other out with slimmest of pickings, but to be truthful the town was dying on its feet. There was only one real doctor and he lived a day’s ride away. In those days, Mother Hitchens saw to births, and deaths – bathing the newly arrived and washing the newly departed. She would only take from the families what they could afford and sometimes that was nothing.

People started talking about leaving and heading south to say, The Carolinas to see what was happing down there. Some families packed up and left and said they’d come back when things were good. To be real honest we never laid our eyes on any of them ever again.

So Slim Jim sat up nights thinking about what to do with regard to the dying of West Culpepper and no matter what came to his mind, there was always a flaw in all of it.

It was just as he was looking out at the moon one night that he asked the good Lord to help him find a way. And that was when (least ways that’s the way he tells it) his notes about that old Englishman Huntingdon fell from his bookshelf – right in front of him. Now whether it was a sign from the Lord or a gust of wind that shot straight down his chimney, we’ll never know, but it got Slim Jim to thinking and reading.

Samuel Huntingdon had only been twenty three years of age when he had crossed the oceans to land in Philadelphia. It was a city that Sam took to his heart as much as it took to Sam. He settled for a few years and worked with the great Ben Franklin in his newspaper office.

It was while he was working there that Sam heard of the magical beasts who roamed the mountains of Virginia, and that was when Sam decided to give up the newspaper business and head south.

Ten years he spent walking those hills, and although he saw many exotic creatures, he never once set his eyes on a unicorn. But that’s not to say he didn’t find magic. Sam had been told of a well that lay just outside West Culpepper that contained water from deep beneath the earth. Water so special that it could cure all a soul’s ills and so, for the rest of his life, Sam walked to that well and drank from it every single day.    

This got Slim Jim thinking who then set out to find the well. Retracing all the steps he could find written about Sam and his travels. Try as he might, he never found the well but this didn’t stop Jim, and so one day he called a meeting at the town hall. Some say it was the power of Slim Jim’s talking or maybe it was just that the town’s folk were so tired and hungry that they’d believe anything - but believe it they did.

Slim Jim told them that he’d found the lost well of Samuel Huntingdon and that the well could cure all their troubles. It wasn’t that Slim Jim really believed any of it, it was just that Jim knew a secret of life, and that was if people believed hard enough, then good things happened. Sure hadn’t Mother Hitchens given her cure-all medication which was nothing more than some water and sugar but because folks believed it, a lot of them got better.

Slim Jim marched them all down to a little well he’d dug out himself. Slim Jim said a prayer for the town and then he took the first drink.

Jim looked to the sky and shouted ‘Thank you’ and then told the people that he felt like a million dollars. So the town’s folk did the same - even Jasper the farmer.

Now I’m not saying that it was a miracle or anything, but the town’s folk went back to that newly-dug well every day and drank like there was no tomorrow.

And do you know what?

People started getting better and luckier and getting on with their lives. Sure the businesses were struggling but with belief people walked further, worked harder and so day by day, the town of West Culpepper and its people got stronger and better.

Not because of what was in the water, you understand. No sir, they got better because they believed in themselves and I tell you folks, that’s the strongest medicine of all.

I thank you kindly for reading my little story.

bobby stevenson 2015