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The Tye

by MoonWatcher


…………………...……Massey’s Mill was just that, a mill built beside this nothing stream cascading from between The Priest on the south bank and Three Ridges on the north, in this nothing part of the second county named after Virginia Governor and signer of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Nelson, Jr. that would only decades later sport a ski resort, a home that would become the inspiration for a novel that would prompt first a movie then a long-enduring weekly television series about a three-generation family scratching out a living during the depression, a couple dozen wineries, nearly ten craft breweries, several cideries, a couple of distilleries and a waterfall that would claim at least two lives a year from daring youth or foolish old men and named after crab trees, and have a church whose minister had also been the local postmaster serving the community from a small trailer at the T-juncture of two gravel roads descending from The Priest and Three Ridges and converging at the church and a, perhaps the school teacher, in the middle of a nothing part of the state that most horse-drawn wagons and rickety old trucks and old rusty cars simply passed through on their way to market or friends and relatives or colleges in the much larger communities of Charlottesville or Lynchburg or Richmond or Waynesboro or beyond that Walker wanting only to have a family-owned mill as far away from those communities as he could get, half way up the two mountains, fed by this nothing stream, and milling whatever the farmers below were willing or able to bring, be it corn or wheat or barley but mostly corn because in that area in those days corn was a staple not only for food but also for jovial entertainment, and built beside this nothing stream by Walker Massey and named Massey’s Mill because in those days in that part of the state people referred to one another by their last name so one would be called Johnson or Rodes or Perry or Rogers or Rodgers if you will or Richardson or Bedford but only if you were male because ladies regardless of their age from birth to on rare occasion beyond 100 years were called by their first name, but always with Miss in front of it so ladies would be Miss Sally or Miss Mary or Miss Barbara or Miss Hanna, you get the idea and being built up the creek so to speak, that is, far enough up this nothing stream that being any higher up and much of the year there would be too little water flow to turn the wheel attached to the shaft attached to the cogwheel that engages the cog stone that rotates against the fixed stone, the weight of which and the friction from each that grinds the whatever the farmers below are willing or able to bring for milling and so it was at this mill on that Monday when Walker, as was his Monday and Thursday morning fashion went to this nothing stream to check for week-end deadfall that could clog, even stop the wheel attached to the shaft that he saw it, at least it seemed an it, but what was it that was the it that Walker saw he could not at that moment determine but being inquisitive and cautious as he approached, he could only see some red and what seemed like dark blue in this nothing stream beneath the tree shroud that kept sunrays from finding this stream and keeping the water always cool until nearly mid-day when the sun was directly overhead and able to gaze down between towering oaks and then he knew what he saw, a hand, a hand held upright and bent twistedly around a rock and wedged down by a small stone-held tree limb and Walker just stared, angling his head slowly toward the left, slightly and squinting, hoping to see better in the dim morning light, not believing what he knew he was seeing but wishing, even expecting to see some old, warped, twisted plastic sign instead of what he knew he was seeing and knowing then that he had to get help because if it was the it that he in his mind knew it to be, its implications were far too demanding for him to handle by himself so he walked hastily back along the millhouse and across the mill front toward the third house on the right because also in those days family generations stayed close, building another house next to those built by previous family members whenever a family member married or returned home to the holla between descending ridge legs that seemed to straddle the mountain ridge on our side and probably on the other side of the ridge as well and that separated one family holla from another and ensured a family tree could be defined by the holla within which it grew and from which its branches emerged whenever they needed staples they could not provide for themselves or sought opportunities or served in the armed forces, but today there might be another reason to leave the holla and Walker walked rapidly in the early Monday morning haze toward Henry’s house, there to….what?, share is not exactly the word, but at least to seek advice from his brother and sister-in-law if it was the it he knew in his heart it to be then it was far greater than he could, even should, handle by himself and Henry and if not he, then Miss Sally could advise him on what could, even should be done and so it was that on that Monday morning when Walker was just checking the mill wheel for clogs as was his bi-weekly routine that he woke Henry and Miss Sally because Walker knew that if he did not know who it was before it became the it he expected it to be, then Henry or Miss Sally would because there was not any one in any holla for miles in either direction that Henry and/or Miss Sally did not know either socially or on a personal basis and I know what you are thinking, if all men are identified to each other by their last name, then why does Walker refer to his brother by his brother’s first name and that is simple, last name addresses do not apply to members of one’s holla; last name addresses apply only to non-hollawers, and it was Miss Sally who came to the door after several hard knockings and Walker asked if Henry was up so Miss Sally motioned for him to come in and sit a spell and Henry sure would be up, she would fetch him…..then Henry emerged from the back of the house he had built fifteen years earlier and five years before Walker had built the mill, and finished three months before he and Miss Sally had made public both their devotion to one another and their commitments to each other until death and two years before their first child voiced breath into her first gasp and seemingly has never stopped voicing her breath since and Henry still foggy from waking sleep, yawning and struggling for words to ask why Walker was there so early and Walker seeming nervous, sat down or perhaps in the old, raggedy, upholstered chair given Henry by his grandfather shortly after he completed the house for Miss Sally and the house really was for Miss Sally because Henry had been content with his small bed in his old, frequently shared room in his childhood home, but he realized his wife would find the bed too restrictive and far too noisy, for all in the house could hear every creak and twang the aged wire springs would scream throughout the night, every night, every night of every day of every week of every month of every year, of..…well, not for her, not if he wanted to marry her, so, still yawning and rubbing his eyes, Henry asked Walker what was so important that it could not wait until a reasonable hour to discuss, and Walker admitted to himself, if not to Henry and Miss Sally that maybe the cool mountain water that would not see sunlight until mid-day could keep it safe, intact, ok…Walker had no appropriate word for what the cool water could do to relieve the urgency he felt but, nevertheless, he thought he needed to get guidance from Henry and/or Miss Sally and he knew it would be ok to wake them for that guidance so there he sat with Miss Sally on the, what do they call it, settee? and Henry joining her, sitting and looking somewhat awkward on the flat settee and he began to speak “I’m not sho what ta say,” he began and Hanry asked,”whatcha here fo then?” and Walker said “I seen somthin’ and I don’t know what ta do” and Henry of course asking “whatcha seen?” and Henry wondered what Walker could have seen that was so important that they needed to be wakened this early because Henry knew it must have been something this morning, since had he seen it last night and it could wait until morning then it could wait until mid-morning so it must have been something Walker saw this morning, even minutes ago and Walker said, “what’s it ma always says? a picture and something ‘bout a thousand words; so come see, just look and don’t talk?” and Walker stood to leave as Henry and Miss Sally slowly rose and Henry tugging at the seat of his pants, seeming to pull his shorts from between his cheeks because the settee sat flat and his rear had spread and upon rising caught whatever fabric was stretched between the two halves and followed Walker and all three left the third house on the right of the mill and retraced Walker’s earlier steps across the front and down the left side of the mill toward this nothing little stream washing over the waiting, or should that be waving hand twisted around the tree limb, the wrist of which being held in place by a rock and as the three approached the stream Walker leaned his right shoulder forward with arm outstretched and pointed toward it before taking three or four more steps then stopping as neither Henry nor Miss Sally squinting through the morning mist saw anything of note much less worth waking family so early and Walker started walking again toward, then into the water and along side the red and blue not plastic sign he originally thought, even hoped it was and pointed directly down toward the up-reaching hand and Miss Sally brought her hand slowly toward her slowly widening mouth as Henry opened his then squinting eyes below his now pursing brows as he realized what he and Miss Sally were now seeing and Henry said, “is it….is…it what I think it is? is it a joke?” “no joke as far as I know” and Walker motioned for Henry to come closer and Henry clopped his feet heavily into the water and precariously balancing upon loose and slippery rocks and joined Walker, both gazing down at the up-pointing hand and Henry took two more steps alongside the what Walker and Henry now realized was a twisted and contorted deceased body and not what Walker had less than an hour ago naively hoped was a plastic sign snatched from shore by this swollen stream from Saturday’s heavy rain and brought down to the mill, but now Walker realizing that it was not a sign but a body this swollen stream had brought to the mill or to him or to justice or to friends or just to whatever or to wherever or to whomever it could, Walker at present just did not know while Miss Sally still stood on shore with her hand over her widened mouth, teeth seeming to almost grit and gnash together, tense yet seemingly apprehending what Walker and Henry were doing as Walker removed leaves and debris from the contorted body and modestly but politely, even neatly pulled the red and blue dress along the body from above the waist along the exposed hips toward its ankles and then held fast in separate hands both of its feet as Henry pulled free from underneath it first one hand and then the second hand that was twisted around the rock and wedged by a small stone-held tree limb, casting the small tree limb downstream and lifted both arms from each wrist and backed slowly but awkwardly toward the stream edge as Walker stumbled forward equally awkwardly on and over the very same loose and slippery stones Henry had negotiated just two seconds before and after both had precariously reached the edge of the stream and only after both had reached the edge of the stream did Walker ask if either of them had known or remember ever seeing who had been the woman perhaps just Friday prior but now was gone, leaving only it and Henry and Miss Sally, each looking quizzically toward it, squinting as if less light entering their eyes could enable those eyes to focus more on what there was to see and on what had been a face but now seemed to be more of an uncrushed half-face and with closer look seemed to have no head in back but with enough of a face to determined that neither remembered having ever seen the her that may have been somewhere near the mill perhaps just three days ago as now the question that neither of the three wanted to ask, neither was interested in asking, perhaps even each wished to find a way not to ask, “what should we do?” and knowing that, should we do suggested to each of the three before it was asked that they were now intertwined into a situation that neither of them wanted to enter so Walker was the first, “should we tell ma?” and it was Miss Sally who said if they told their mom she would insist on telling Preacher Perry and if Preacher Perry knew he would insist on telling Sheriff Barker and if Sheriff Barker knew he would insist on calling the state police, to make use of their labs and then there certainly would be so many questions to answer and neither of them had answers so Walker and Henry each decided then agreed not to tell their mother, so that was one decision made, but there were more questions and who would answer them; if not mom, then who? why? when?...and Walker and Henry chatted for a few minutes before telling Miss Sally that they had decided to tell no one because they had no answers for anyone and neither Henry nor Miss Sally remembered ever seeing the lady who seemingly had just days before been from somewhere else, not mountain folk, not from any holla either Henry or Miss Sally remembered ever having been in, not from those parts, so Walker and Henry decided—decision number three—to bury it, unceremoniously yes, but buried none the less and with respect and with…ok, a small ceremony as it were with maybe a prayer from Miss Sally if Miss Sally was willing, but no ceremonious marker, no trace, no mention, no discussion, each of the three realizing without saying, that just as she was gone, it was gone….done….and Walker being the compassionate brother did question whether its people needed closure, but Henry said that it would create more opening than closure because no one knew what had happened and it would be more merciful—decision number four—for her to disappear from her family than for it to appear without answers and so it was that on that Monday a hundred yards up the mountain above a mill built beside this nothing stream cascading from between The Priest on the south bank and Three Ridges on the north, in a nothing part of the second county named after Virginia Governor and signer of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Nelson, Jr. and would only decades later sport a ski resort, a home that would become the inspiration for a novel that would prompt first a movie then a long-enduring weekly television series about a three-generation family scratching out a living during the depression, a couple dozen wineries, nearly ten craft breweries, several cideries, a couple of distilleries and a waterfall that would claim at least two lives a year from daring youth or foolish old men and named after crab trees, and a church whose minister had also been the local postmaster serving the community from a small trailer at the T-juncture of two gravel roads descending from The Priest and Three Ridges and converging at the church and a, perhaps the school teacher, in the middle of a nothing part of the state that most horse-drawn wagons and rickety old trucks and rusty cars simply passed through on their way to market or friends and relatives or colleges in the much larger communities of Charlottesville or Lynchburg or Richmond or Waynesboro or beyond that two men buried it and since Massey holla did not receive newspapers from the larger communities of Charlottesville or Lynchburg or Richmond or Waynesboro, neither of the Massey brothers nor Miss Sally ever read nor heard of the disappearance of the wife a neighboring county’s district attorney and it would be decades before hurricane Camille would horrifically wash the unearthed it bones downstream along with the mill and hundreds of other both fresh and ancient its and would be found and saved for identification and still three decades more before DNA testing would verify that in fact the district attorney’s wife had been somewhere up the holla before it decayed and washed down stream because this nothing stream never reveals her secrets…..she simply cascades every moment of every day of every week of every month of every year of every life with never a word spoken……………………..




MoonWatcher has been a teacher of young champions for over 51 years and first started teaching at CVCC in 1978.

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