that started it all
Grubby and the Pumpkin Bottom Haint’s
Haint (n) archaic rural for spooks, ghosts. As in “Help, help, a haint’s got me”
redneckin Dictionary of common terms
Grubby and the Pumpkin Bottom Haint’s
A cold wind rustled the dry leaves of the oaks that dotted the cemetery hillside as the late 50’s patrol car made its regular run through the area in Phenix City known as Pumpkin Bottom. The fingers of the lower limbs swayed in the breeze, scratching at the sides of the mausoleums on the crest of the hill, seemingly attempting to free the long departed from their internment. Two pair of eyes watched with interest as the patrol car’s lights went out as it made its usual stop at the base of the steep hill. Screened from the sight of passerby’s by darkness and a group of cedars, Grubby Jackson got out and took care of his business. Regular as clockwork
After Grubby pulled out to finish his rounds, one voice spoke to the other in it’s evil piping twelve year old voice “Tie the line tight. We don’t want it coming loose.” “ It’s tight.” the other voice chortled evilly. “Good, lets tie the other end to the cedar where Grubby always whizzes. Walking between the headstones in the moonlight with the other end of the line I asked ’Do you think this will scare him?” Mikie, my erstwhile companion and fellow fiend , said “Sure, ol’ Grubby will just about die from fright when our ghost comes flying down the hill at him. I’ll bet he wets all over himself trying to get away.” “Ok” I said “but I want to clean up the evidence. I’m the one who has to live next to him”
We had spent the week leading up to the great night terrorizing the neighborhood with our tricks before planning on going door to door Halloween night begging for treats. We might have had the concept a little backwards. Grubby had warned us to cut out our foolishness or he would put us under the jail after several ladies in the neighborhood had taken the family sedans to the garage because the cars were making awful noises, noises that were cured by removing the handful of gravel someone had put in the hubcaps. Naturally or perhaps, considering the season, unnaturally, he would become our next victim.
The ghost, an old sheet draped on a simple wooden cross to hold it spread open as it slid down the line was laid out next a cement grave cover at the top of the hill. The plan was when Grubby stopped on Halloween night at the cedars, one of us would make the appropriate spooky noises and the other would wave the sheet at the top of the hill till he noticed it and then throw it down the line. Things had worked perfectly in the trial run with the ghost rocking back and forth , arms billowing as it slid down the line on steep incline.
Everything was going as planned. Now to wait till dark when we would transform into the Ghosts of Pumpkin Bottom and scare the pee out of Grubby.
Priming the pump, we asked Grubby that afternoon about the old cemetery and if there were any ghosts there. Grubby was more than happy to oblige. Fishing his bag of Beechnut out of his hip pocket, he started to put a massive chew in his cheek, then thought better of it. He carefully looked into the bag, fingering the long dark strands of tobacco before putting a wad in his mouth. I suspect it had something to do with his already having heard about old lady Davis finding worms in her snuff can that she had left on the porch swing. Now ready, he launched into the first of several gruesome stories about the ghouls, murders and such that all happened in Pumpkin Bottom. The stories were so graphic, so chilling that they had Mikie and I reconsidering going into the graveyard after dark.
While we went door to door gathering our tributes as darkness settled in, Red, who cut meat for the local butcher, finished up his weekly visit to Chad’s Rose Room and started his walk home. It was only a matter of a mile or so as the crow flies, but Reds path looked more like the crow might have been tipping the bottle with him as he weaved from one side of the road to the other. Taking the shortcut through the cemetery, he stopped at the top of the hill and leaned against a tombstone to support himself while he shook a piece of gravel out of a shoe. Slowly toppling over onto the “ghost” , he dropped the shoe and wrapped himself up in the conveniently left sheet to sleep it off.
Mikie and I were running a little late and it didn’t help things when clouds moved in and it started to sprinkle. We were just starting up the hill, when we saw the headlights of the patrol car turn into the cemetery.
As we climbed the hill, trying to get into position, Red woke shivering in the cold damp night air and drew the sheet tighter around him and let out a low moan as the hangover started to work on him.
“You hear that?” I asked Mikie. “Yeah, it’s probably just somebody’s dog”
Red let out another low steady moan as he tried to stand up. “Doesn’t sound like a dog to me” I quavered in the darkness as the stories of murder and mayhem Grubby had told us about came rushing back. “Me neither” Mikie said in a voice that told me he was remembering the same stories.
Just as we got near where we had left our ghost, Red lurched to his feet with a deep groan and stepped with his bare foot into a bed of sandspurs. The groan went up several octaves into a high screech as he lurched about waving his arms to keep his balance while trying to keep from putting his foot back down. At the sight of the ghostly apparition shrieking and waving its armless arms as it lurched toward us, it became very noticeable to me that it wasn’t Grubby who had to worry about having the pee scared out of him.
We let out our own screams and bolted down the hill. Red, hearing the screams, remembered where he was and started to run to. He was just getting to cruising speed when he hit the clothes line. Tangled in the line, he started to scream “The haint’s got me. The haint’s got me.“ This spurred Mikie and me to even greater speeds as we bolted past the headlights of Grubby’s cruiser trailing the odor of melting tennis shoes and warm urine. Red told people that he could smell the stench of brimstone as the two screeching fiends rushed into the darkness.
Hearing the screams and seeing the blur of our passing, Grubby got out of the cruiser to see exactly what manner of beasts had cleared the service road in a single bound. Red having freed himself from the clutches of the clothesline rushed to Grubby seeking his protection from the haint‘s. Grubby later said that the sight of Red wrapped in that sheet and hobbling toward him through the graveyard almost had him swallow his chewing tobacco for the second time that year. And he was pretty sure it was for the same two reasons.