Standing your ground is hard when you can’t trust what’s underfoot.
Sorting what’s true and what’s only wished is even harder in a place like Beaverdam, where stories sprout faster than grass on a new grave.
Beaverdam’s children heard tell of the Witch Woman who lived in a ruined cabin, who would cuss you or worse if you dared knock on her door. They were warned of the Snakebit Girl, how the rattler’s fangs struck her pudgy hand reaching into the nest for the hen’s eggs. Rather than tell a soul of her plight, she swelled with poisoned pride, and for her silence she was buried in the sloping graveyard. They knew of the Failed Farmer who lost all in the last depression of the nineteenth century. He sold off his plow horse, but still found necessity for the useless halter: his body was found hanging from a rafter in his empty barn.
But the oldest story was of a curse that lay on the land itself. The first whites who crossed the gap encountered no Indians, but the occasional arrowhead could be unearthed in the black fields by the creek, once dammed by the creatures who lent the cove its name. Besides those napped flints, those first hunters had left behind a legend…
The Half-Life of Home, a novel by Dale Neal (fiction, ’89) is available this month from Casperian Books. Read an excerpt from the first chapter at CasperianBooks.com.