First there was Grubby and the Pumpkin Bottom Haint’s
Then there was Grubby’s Revenge
Followed by Hattie
Now, may I present
Grubby and the Year of the Great Moogly
Grubby and the Year of the Moogly
Red Owl’s deer skin moccasins slapped against the sand along the wigtacjsji (which roughly translates into where one trips over his guts once in a generation or two because of the return of the Moogly) creek bed as he ran in the darkness. He glanced over his shoulder in fear. He had earned the name “Red Owl” for his daring during the night hours, a time when most Indians of the Creek nation tried to avoid moving alone.
He knew fear now. Not fear of the dark, but fear of that which fed in the dark.
It was coming!
The white hairs of his tribe had told him of “It“, The Moogly, The child, Red Owl, shivered as he hid behind the rawhide smock of his mother when told of the hideous death that awaited anyone who saw its face. Every few generations knew the fear. Where “it” went after satisfying its lust for death in the most hideous manners was unknown. When it was almost forgotten, it returned. Red Owl had seen the face and now was running for his life on the sand that glowed in the soft moonlight of the late fall.
An unseen root grabbed his foot, spilling him into the shallow water. Red Owl rolled over, useless flint knife in hand, to see the great Moogly leap toward him. His death screams sent chills into the wigwams of Red Owl’s band.
Chucpuski Mygutski had fled the tyrannies of his Baltic nation for the Alabama frontier at the beginning of the 19th century. Very few things scared him, but now he was scared. It was chasing him. The Injuns had warned him. The Moogly, they called it. It came, it satisfied it‘s blood lust and was gone till it hungered again. Chucpuski believed that if he could make it across the simple plank bridge that spanned the nearby creek, he would be only minutes from safety at the settlement. Above the sound of his heart racing like a trip hammer and his breath coming in great gasps, he heard it coming. And it was gaining.
He stopped, pulled his knife from his belt and turned to face his pursuer. He only had time to see the hideous face before his head was ripped from his body. The dying eyes registered to the now dimming brain the question “Is that my guts on the ground”
The Myguts had lived in the Salem area for a long time, Johnny Myguts was a descendent of both Red owl and Chucpuski Mygutski though one didn‘t brag to much on having Indian blood, at least in those times. Johnny had fought with the Fifteenth Alabama volunteers at both battles of Bull Run and a host of other battles in the bloodiest war fought on our continent. He survived them all, unscathed. A charmed life, his fellow warriors said.
With the surrender of Lee, Johnny looked forward to returning to his wife and children waiting on the farm near the Alabama town of Salem. When Johnny came marching home, it was fall and the year of the Moogly. The silt soon covered Johnny’s remains and his grieving family finally assumed that he had died in one of the far off battles.
Tales of gruesome dismemberments and horrible deaths became tied to the Salem Shotwell covered bridge that spanned the creek bed of the Moogly though in fact the deaths had been occurring from the time of the first men crossed the creek on a log and even before. They didn’t all involve the Myguts blood line though a fair number did
The last deaths by the Moogly had occurred in 1928.
“Dang battrey“, Grubby interrupted his story to mumble as he walked down the red clay road in the gathering gloom of Allhallows Eve. “This had better not be the start of any of ya’lls dang Hallarween foolishness” eyes narrowing in memory of the last several Halloweens and April fools. And, most any day in-between.
Grubby was my next door neighbor and one of Phenix City’s finest, such as they were during the fifties and sixties. Mikie was my best friend growing up and shared in many of my ill-fated plans. I’m Chuck Myguts, host of redneckin and The Rabbit Journal. And perpetrator of the pranks that if carried out in today’s climate would have given me quite an extensive juvenile rap sheet
Mikie and I knew who would be blamed, not only for the dead battery, but the long walk to AJ’s to borrow Janet, his plowing mule as well. Heck, Grubby would probably blame us for him parking the truck at the bottom of the hill.
We were at that awkward age. Too old to trick or treat without getting the door slammed in our face, but not too young to be shot as vandals if we tricked.
“I’m not surprised that 2 didn’t tell you anything bout all this, Little Chuckie, even though it’s pretty common knowledge. “, Grubby continued, “It was your great, great uncle, Toss Myguts, that died in 28. Awful it was, blood and guts all over the place”
“They told me he got drunk and wrecked his Model A while running shine for the honky-tonks in Phenix City”
“Well, they just didn’t want you to be scared since you were the next Myguts in line to meet up with the Moogly, little Chuckie”
You don’t’ expect me to believe this load do you?
Well, I really don’t care if you do or not, cepting that I thought you oughta know since it’s time for the Moogly to return and we happen to be out here where it all happens. And we got us a dead battery.
I suppose it just your destiny.
By the way, don’t walk so close to me, I don’t want to get splashed.
“Splashed? We ain’t had no rain in weeks, Grubby”
“Ain’t water I’m talking about
It was dusk and our breath made light clouds in the cold air. The temperature was rapidly dropping and not even the feeble light of the setting son provided the illusion of heat. The covered bridge came into sight, dark and foreboding in the gathering gloom. Something scurried away in the hickory leaves that littered the ground. An owl hooted followed by the plaintive howl of, of, of a far off farm dog? Or, maybe, something far more dangerous, far closer?
Grubby eyed the covered bridge where the red clay road seemingly ended in the black mouth of its dull barn red face. The gray light gave it a vaguely foreboding look. The bare dead limbs of the trees clawed at it’s face.
“Why don’t ya’ll go on to AJ’s, get his mule and I’ll cut through the woods back to the truck, and get her ready to pull up the hill?”
Eyeing the gloomy bridge in the gathering darkness, Grubby’s plan, met with a decided lack of enthusiasm from Mikie and me. But before we could formulate an adequate argument that wouldn‘t be met with snorts of derision at the scaredy cats, Grubby had plunged into the thick brush of the former clearcut.
Grubby’s thoughts weren’t on getting to AJ’s or getting his mule to pull us up the hill because Grubby knew that the solution to his broke down truck was as simple as tightening the battery cable he had loosened in order to strand us. No, his main concern was getting to the bridge ahead of Mikie and me. If revenge is a dish best served cold then Grubby was an icebox. This Halloween, the trick would be on us for the multitude of pranks that Mikie and I had pulled on him over the years.
Mikie and I trudged onwards, towards the old covered bridge in the distance.
“Did you hear that, Chuckie?” Mikie asked.
“Cut it out, Mikie. I’m not scared. You don’t think that I believed that load that Grubby was shoveling, do you?”
As we walked down the road, the movement in the bushes kept pace.
“I still hear it, Chuckie.”
“Probably just Grubby trying to get his bearings.” though I was beginning to wonder.
With a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, my thoughts turned to how unlikely it was that I would be getting my first big buck. Or my first anything.
Mikie had no wish to be collateral damage so he knelt down and tightened the laces on his boots so he wouldn‘t run out of them when the time came. He knew that he couldn’t outrun the Moogly, but he could outrun me. That should be good enough.
Grubby might have been able to find himself around the streets and alleys of Phenix City, but without street signs, he was soon hopelessly turned around in the thick brush. With the light rapidly fading into long shadows leaving him no clue as to direction he reminded himself that the tales he had just told weren’t strictly true. But still there had been an awful lot of people that turned up missing in the Salem-Shotwell area and more than a few gruesome mutilations
After a bit, he was stumbling along, pushing apart the cane briars near AJ’s spring. Not far from the truck in distance, the spring was separated from the road by an incredibly thick stand of cane briars in a soggy bottom that we avoided when it was light. You can pretty much figure we wanted nothing to do with the area in the dark.
Grubby paused in the darkness, and listened to the sound of a heavy animal pushing through the brush. AJ’s mule, Janice, was getting her final drink of the night before heading to the barn.
Meanwhile, Mikie and I quickened our pace, trying to put some distance between us and the movement that paralleled us.
A low rumble sent the fear level floating past my bulging eyeballs. With a quavering voice, I called, “Cut it out, Grubby.”
As Grubby reached out to steady himself, straining to see in the dark underbrush, his hand pushed against something warm, yielding. A soft rumbling started under his hand as slowly a leaf winked at him.
“Great Gosh, it’s the Moogly“.
Ricocheting off of trees like a pinball, Grubby left his vocal cords momentarily unattended as he hit notes that are normally associated with ten year old sisters when you drop them into a briar patch in retaliation for putting your basketball into a sewer. The shrill cry melded with Janice’s startled bray
Just as Grubby’s eyeballs started flickering tilt, he burst out on the road at his truck.
Mikie and I heard the screech from deep in the woods.
“Run, the Moogly’s got Grubby“.
The noises kept pace in the brush beside the road. I could have probably outrun them if I had climbed down off of Mikie’s back
The rattling roar of Grubby’s bad tailpipe reached us before the truck raced around the curve throwing gravel into the drainage ditches that lined both sides of the Alabama clay road. We saw Grubby’s stark face peering over bloodless hands that were putting permanent finger indentions as he roared towards us. We only had time to latch onto the side view mirrors as he raced past
A pair of red eyes watched the dwindling taillights, a growl of rumbling disappointment coming from the throat.
Epilogue. “I don’t mind telling you I sure was scared,” Grubby said. “Leastways till I figured out it was probably just AJ’s mule. The reason I driving so fast was I knew ya’ll were scared and alone in the dark. I wanted to pick you younguns up before ya’ll hurt yourself.”
“Well Grubby, you could have slowed down some when you came past us instead of yelling out the window for us to jump on.”
“Say Grubby” Mikie chimed in, where did those marks come from on your truck? They look like scratch marks.
We all gazed in awe at the deep talon like marks till Grubby said “you dang fools that’s where ya’ll were holding on”.
The red eyes flickered in thought as they slowly shut. It’s current home was deep in a hollow among the roots of a hickory tree. The blood and offal of the old mule wasn’t very satisfying. Human was so much better, but it would hold the great Moogly until he returned for his next meal. The next time his chosen prey wouldn’t be so lucky.