A Tale from the Woods, 1840

A truer tale was never told
than this hallowed story from days of old,
having faded into legend and dream
reduced to word, or so it would seem…

Ominous old wind doth call
Nature’s battle cry to annihilate lull
while demons rode moonbeams on high…

a church bell ringing was the sound
that across the land did abound
a cold and blustery late afternoon
in solemn tone of “Beware!”
meeting hushed silence most everywhere.

the sound of the church bell was the sign
that brought worried mothers and fathers to mind
“twas time for one and all to come in.

not of strictness was there concern
but for the lesson they had learned.
livestock torn, dogs vanished in the night
gone with the evening before morning light.

clothes still hanging on the line,
gossip and other tales left behind.
there were no voices of the day
as dusk ebbed its twilight way.
no children’s laughter as they played
while light into shadows slowly decayed.

where were the sounds of love and joy
of happy little girls and boys?
oh no, they could not now be heard,
there were none outdoors to share a word.
every Father, Mother, and child around
inside there homes could be found
waiting for evening to fall…
then waiting for the rooster call
that would signal the rising of the sun
when another day of fear would be begun.

and when the church bell ceased its ominous peal
a distant “crack!” was all that fell.
though worried ears strained for other tones
the wind and silence were all to be known.
and then another, far, distant “crack!”.
through village street and o’er the hill,
countryside and further still
a moment of quiet and then again
another cracking sound echoed in.

now a clearing near the wood,
a farmer outside his cabin stood
with axe in hand and coming down
he split the wood, that was the sound.

but why was he, in all the land
the only soul brave enough to stand
while others in their cabins shuddered
in painful silence, fearful whispers uttered?

George stood alone chopping wood that night
though he knew the tale of the village and of its fright…

it was some weeks back, in this season of storms
a traveler camped in the woods
carrying news from village to village
and selling his wagon goods.

a moon shone bright over a warm campfire light,
then a rustle in the brush that alerted the night.
he awoke from his slumber to the sound of a growl
which could only be an animal on the prowl.

a pair of burning coals
within the shadowed woods’ rim
burned into the peddler’s soul
for the burning coals were focused on him.

he carefully pushed a large, leafy branch into the fire,
flames crackled, spit and reached the sky higher.
a slow moving shadow stalked toward the man.
he pulled the fiery branch in hand,
waving this kindling at the shadow beast
who growled and stood
prepared to feast

suddenly there came from the woods
hungry dogs and angry wolves
staking claim to the hour but for the campfire light
and the flaming shower of burning leaves and twigs in flight.
the man waved the branch about him slowly
at the beasts, then one haunched lowly
as if to throw itself and attack
(perhaps, likewise, would come the pack.).
and leap it did, in fearless flight
to eat the man who faced this plight
till a hot limb of fire stuck down its throat,
chased a badly burned beast away.

a frantic camper hurried now as all beasts turned and were gone.
they had followed their wounded leader into the darkness
but their hunger would bring them back.

as he hastily hitched frightened horses to the wagon
his thoughts roared like a wild wind…
“Fingers, don’t fail me now!”
and his escape from the woods began.

by the time he reached the village that night
a cluttered path of goods lay behind.
the speed and the ruts, the curves and the bumps
had emptied his wagon near bare
… but at least he was still alive.

he knocked on doors but no one answered
a brave, curious few peered out windows
as out of breath his tale was shared
shouting from the village square
of a very large wolf and its family
of wolves and bedeviled dogs.

the moon shone bright but not for long
as storm clouds gathered near.
a sleepless night was had by all
for now they feared their long lost village dogs
would return and seek their blood.

Deep, dark shadows filled a chilled and gloomy night
full of mournful, sighing, winds and cries
as they traveled across the sky

upon that dusky evening we now return
to a farmer chopping wood…

Scout, the large shepherd dog of the homestead
resting by George and the woodpile
suddenly senses danger.
George single fisted the axe and scanned the near woods
a number of angry wolves and dogs emerged, stared, and stood
Scout went after a pair as they ran behind tree and bush
then another about George ran, snapping dangerously close
a sudden burning pain as a beast slashed with daggered limbs
into an arm as it hurried by, it was the ghost of the woods,
the wolf who had swallowed the fire.
the big wolf continued its attack but was grabbed in mid-air,
wolf and man, then and there.
a snarling, squirming, wild eyed creature from hell
snapped, struggled, scratched, clawed, and foamed.
George held only the tighter,
reached for the fallen axe, tried to chop off the head
but the beast nearly slipped away.

the storm in the sky had not yet erupted
though the storm in George’s arms was immense.
try as he might he couldn’t kill the beast.
Powerful as George was, the beast was powerful too.

the confused pack threatened still
but began to scatter

with axe in hand and beast in arms
George hiked a perilous quarter mile to his nearest neighbor.
his kicks on the door were like boom, booming thunder
the door opened slightly, timid eyes peered out.
“Take my axe!
I’ll hold the beast! You chop its head off!”

a devil beast struggled, growled, spit, and snapped.
the door slammed closed.

“Neighbor! Neighbor!” his deep voice beckoned
as sleeting rain and thunder of the night began.
he tried another far neighbor but met the same fate.
rain soaked, body ached, bone chilled, returned home
monster still in his weary arms.

a tired hand clawed deep into the animal’s hide,
slammed beast down hard upon chopping block,
as an axe came down
and a head fell to the ground.

a fire in the sky lit the night
with heavy, crashing thunder
that shook and trembled the very Earth
thunder rumbled loud and long
then slowly faded into the echoes of darkness and dreams.

in the hours that followed, heavy rains lightened
sprinkled unto a misty dawn.

to this day no one knows for sure
what became of the pack of wolves and dogs,
though an apothecary woman gathering kindling and herbs
whispered of a large oak tree, long hollowed at its base
amid a scattering of fallen logs
apparently struck by lightning
and the inhabitants therein- a dozen or so
large, four legged animals lay dead…
they were burned to the bone.

the end

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