Monday, July 30, 2012

Musing Monday: The Legend of Emmaline Tucker

In my last post I mentioned saving my sister from a swarm of yellow jackets when we were kids. This was one of those pinprick moments- an instance in your life that continues to poke at your mind and soul throughout your days walking in the sunlight. I saved my sister from a swarm of yellow jackets after she walked on their nest and then panicked, running in place as they stung her over and over. We were walking along a creek out by Emmaline Tucker's, a wooded area in our hometown. I was on the other side, and dove in the creek and swam to her, throwing her in the creek. When I grabbed her, the yellow jackets washed over me like a wet blanket of sharp needles. My sister was afraid of flies for weeks afterwards. This was a traumatic experience, more for my sister than my brother and I, but the memory of that day still lingers. That hot summer day in Emmaline Tucker's woods.  Let me see if I can capture it for you.

I had one friend most of my childhood, and his name was Roy. We were misfits you could say. I was the shortest. He was the fattest. And together we were best of friends. We did everything together in those magical years between childhood and adolescence, that short span of time between the ages of  seven and ten. We rode our bikes around town- to his house by the park, to my Grandma Hutson's for a snack, out to Sesser Lake to fish or more likely skip rocks across the water and hunt for frogs and turtles along the bank.  But most of the time we went out to the trails in the woods by the water treatment plant. To Emmaline Tucker's house.

The water treatment plant was our headquarters, our sanctuary away from bullies. It had huge gravel piles that the town workers would use for road projects and the like. We would climb them and let our imaginations run wild, pretending the summer days away. One time we found an old piece of plywood and dug out a fort in the rocks, using the board as a makeshift roof which we camouflaged with the gravel. It was our secret hideout. It didn't last very long. I guess some employee found it shortly after we built it and tore it down.But we had another secret hideout. The gravel pits, as we liked to call them, were just the stepping stone to the real adventures out in the woods.

We usually rode our bikes down past Risley's growling dogs to the gravel pits, and then up towards the railroad tracks. They are abandoned now, but back then they were still in use. The trails leading to Emmaline Tucker's house started there.

And what fun they were! Dips and turns and bumps to make any boy of nine years old giddy with excitement. There was one steep slope that ended at a stream bed, and you had to hit the bump at the bottom just right or you wouldn't clear the creek. At another spot one of the trails just ended at a drop off, but there was a tree limp poised perfectly at the point of no return, and we would go screaming up the trail and grab onto the branch, letting our bikes fly out from beneath us some fifteen feet to the ground below where we would have to climb carefully down to retrieve them before moving on. We knew no fear. Nine year old boys seldom do.

But the real draw was Emmaline Tucker's house. It was just an old abandoned house out in the woods. But to us it was an ancient relic. A mystic abode. A witch's house. It was disheveled and falling apart, and it was  amazing that we didn't get tetanus or worse on some rusted nail sticking out of loose and rotting floor boards. We would spend the lazy summer afternoons exploring the ruins of Emmaline Tucker's home, looking for what treasures may lay underneath its dying shell. We were tomb raiders, but we knew the rules of robbing graves, even the one this coffin shell of a house stood on with shaking knees. You never stayed after dark. The witch would come out when the sun went down, or that was the story. We would push the limit to see how long we would last before high-tailing it out of there on our bikes as the last rays of the setting sun shown down in lazy beams like golden fingers through the tree limbs overhead.

 One memory I have of this place, besides the terrible day of the yellow jackets, was during one of those last moments before dusk. We were getting ready to leave. I think it was just Roy and me that day, but my brother may have been there. I remember getting on my bike, and turning my head to take one last look at the place. My older mind wants to say it was just a reflex, something you do when leaving a place. The voice of childhood, which is the more honest voice, reminds me that it was to check and see if anything was sneaking out of the shadows of the house to sneak up behind us. When I turned to look, a loud rustling sound came from an old dead tree that stood next to the house. The largest owl I have ever seen in my life rose out of the top of the hollowed wood and soar off to do its hunting in the oncoming night. It scared the be-jesus out of us, and we didn't turn around until we were well down the road that led back to my house. I can still see it in my minds eye, rising out of that tree and spreading its wings in slow motion amidst the sparkling dust in the rose-colored sunbeams settling through to the ground.

I have dreamed about that memory many times. But the dream is different. Or is the dream the reality? And the memory the dream? That, my lovlies, I leave up to you to decide. But this question has haunted me, and has led to other questions. And they have led me to this story. The Legend of Emmaline Tucker.

What if four children went out on a dare to an abandonned house in the woods, a house supposedly once lived in by a witch?

And what if they stayed too long? What if they dozed in the summer heat and woke up with the last light of the setting sun?

What if it wasn't an owl but a winged demon that rose out of an old dead tree, a female figure with ancient leathery skin and huge bat wings?

What if those same children were attacked as they fled in terror by a swarm of yellow jackets, a cloud of venomous insects that sometimes appeared like the shape of an old woman in a cloak? What if the youngest of the group, the little girl, wasn't just traumatized by this event, but it drove her insane?

One final question, dear hearts. Hold on to my hand. The sun will rise soon, i promise. But what if? What if some twenty years later this little girl who has spent her life institutionalized suddenly wakes up from the haze she was under? What if another young girl is found in Emmaline Tucker's woods, stung to death by some insects. What if it wasn't over?

What if?

This is one of the stories floating around my tentacled mind. Do you like it? Would you like to see it become a book? What events in your childhood still haunt you? Have you used it in your writing? I would love to hear about it!

Come walk along the pier with me, and see the things we've come to see.

Until next time, Make Believers!


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