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Sunday, January 26, 2020

The granny witch....

       I have found there are actually hundreds if not thousands of native American sites that are not well-known. That aren't on some trail map or marked  by signage in a park. When researching my book on the little Miami, I discovered that many are listed and described in old records in places like county historical societies. They're just not mentioned today.  If it is not a county or state park there isn't much currently available on the internet. This is one of those places mentioned and described in a few books at the turn of the last century than largely forgotten. I often get sidetracked while fishing the river and wander up side creeks looking for fossils, arrowheads, and generally just poking around. It's one of the main reasons I know I'd make a lousy competitive fisherman. Well I wondered up this creek finding the occasional fossil and what I thought might be a nutting stone. A nutting stone is a stone that has shallow depressions worked into the face of it that are perfect for an Indian to place a walnut into and bust open with another rock. I'm sure busting walnuts open was a big deal, after all nuts are full of calories and fats, precious things to a hunter gatherer society. I wondered up a tiny draw off of the creek and emerged onto the flat overlooking the river. There was the earthworks, a small circle maybe 30 feet in diameter surrounded by another circle maybe 60 or 70 feet across. Both were only a couple feet tall and both have mature trees growing on them and I mean mature trees. One big white oak was dying of old age so what's that, four or five hundred years at least. I visited the earthworks a couple more times that year and told my friend Banty about it. Banty gets her nickname from her resemblance to a bantam chicken, tiny and round. Banty is pure Appalachian hillbilly, born and raised in Eastern Kentucky on the Tennessee border, my kind of people. I don't get a lot of people in this world, the vast majority actually, but hillbilly I understand. After all both of my parents family trees are rooted deeply in Appalachia. Well a month or so passed and Banty messaged me. She had told Granny about my find and Granny wanted me to take her to the mounds.  Granny, I ask?  What Granny is, it seems is what I've heard referred to as a granny witch, a hill woman versed in healing, natural cures, and a few unnatural ones. Granny would give me $100 to take her. Okay I'm in, more out of curiosity than for the money though. So we make plans for me to greet meet Granny at a carryout close to the river the following weekend. The morning of I'm sitting in the parking lot of the carryout and an F-150 with Tennessee plates pulls up next to me. Okay that's not a granny, it's a pretty lady about 30-ish in a Allman Brothers t-shirt and jeans and a ponytail. She walks over to the truck and introduces herself. I grab my daypack and hop in her truck. The bed of the truck is covered in cut walking sticks. You know the kind where a vine is growing up a small sapling and the young tree ends up growing around the vine creating a spiral pattern up the trunk. I get in the passenger side and there's a box turtle shell in the footwell and a couple wild turkey feathers are stuffed under the sun visor, bluegrass plays.  Grand smiles and laughs easily, has freckles and has eyes as dark as Kentucky coal. I'm pretty glad I agreed to come. I do the turn here, go left, park here, till we arrive at a pull off where a creek dumps into the river. Granny pulls a pair of rubber boots and a canvas sack out from behind the seat. We set off up the creek. Granny seems in no hurry, like me or any other big kid, Granny pokes along up the creek looking at rocks. We talked easily about natural history and the land. She found several more fossils than I did, three or four staghorn corals, some busted flint and a skull of a small animal. We start up the small draw climbing towards the top. Looking at wild ginger and admiring a jack-in-the-pulpit. I point out a small ginseng plant. Finally we top out and arrive at the earthworks. Granny stops short and looks a while. Then she points at a fallen log and says softly you wait here and I'll get you when I'm done. I sat listening to the birds in the trees and the sound of the wind. I don't normally like to sit and do nothing, except in the woods, I can do that for hours and I soon lost track of time. After a while I glanced over my shoulder and Granny had started a small fire in the center of the innermost ring. She was on her knees doing something with small objects spread out on a cloth. From where I sat I couldn't tell what they were. I turned back around listen to a crow calling on the other side of the river. I felt a touch on my shoulder and there was Granny. She smiled softly, "I'm ready to go".  Granny was quiet on the walk out though she didn't seem upset, just calm. I didn't ask any questions on the drive back to my car and when we pulled up Granny smiled and asked if I would occasionally take her back. I nodded yes as Granny pressed a folded up hundred dollar bill and a small quartz rock into my hand. For some reason I remember the song Stone Walls by Three Tall Pines was playing in her truck, the first time I'd ever heard it. And then she left. And that is my story of my first meeting with the granny witch.