THE TIN CUP CLAN’s final Preface

After the UMP-TEENTH revision, I think we have settled on the preface for The Leech Cemetery Witch. What do you think? Does it make you want to read the book? Does it sound mysterious enough? Does it make my butt look big? I need some feedback; I’m dying here.

PREFACE

Our adventure began many winters ago when the “grey” moved into our tiny town. None of us knew where it came from or when it arrived; it was just “there,” violating everything with its “nothing.”

We lived in a typical coal-mining town nestled deep in the Tennessee mountains, and as with most towns in coal country, time was slowly but surely passing us by. We didn’t know why; perhaps the “grey” made us invisible, no one knew for sure.

The stores and buildings seemed well aware of their fate. Death was slowly reclaiming them, clawing at the bricks and mortar as he dragged them back into the ground. On quiet days you could almost hear a mournful sigh float through the hollows and hills.

In one way or another, we all felt it, a “fading” of sorts. Fading seems to be a good word, and the grey little town was well and truly “fading” into history and memory.

That’s where we began our epic journey, just a small group of boys fighting that “grey.” Our little band of brothers included my three meddlesome friends and me. Meddlesome, yes, but tried and true every last one, and unbelievably, the school bully who, with time, came to realize we had a lot more in common than any of us ever thought possible. Together we would come to be known as “The Tin Cup Clan.”

Our tale begins with exchanging some homemade liquor, a foolish “double-dog-dare,” and an old forgotten cemetery. (complete with a not so forgotten witch) Stir in a hollow gravestone guarded by a ghost dog, add the legend of a long-lost baby, finish with a pinch of murder, and you got yourself one heck of a mystery.

Oh, let’s not forget a thin scruffy old janitor, mysterious to his marrow bones; he knows a great deal more than he’s telling. The mystery swirls around his person like smoke from a pipe. Ol’ Bill will have a profound influence on our story, and, as I look back through the eyes of an old man, I realize he changed the course of our entire lives.

So, pull that chair closer to the fire, sip your hot cocoa, and join us as we follow “The Tin Cup Clan” and the mystery of “The Leech Cemetery Witch.”

WOPERDINGERS and ALLSTARS (Life brings us both)

I’ve been promising to write this story for some time now, just been waiting for the right time. But today is a special day, well..in our little corner of the Universe anyways. You see, today is my birthday, a small feat for most adults but given my situation I rather make every one count.

The morning greeted me with grey skies and wet weather. I peered out the window and let out a long low sigh, “hope this wasn’t how the rest of the day was gonna be” I thought to myself. There was work to be done, the house wasn’t finished and I dreaded the thought of working on it.

Sandra (bless her heart) began her morning by getting an early start on the Birthday dinner. All my favorites, beef roast, green beans mashed taters, yeast rolls, caramel cake and all.

By eleven o-clock I had all but forgotten about the glum weather. Actually feelin’ a bit content…then the phone rang.

A pleasant lady greeted me before introducing herself. She was calling from my doctor’s office. It seems my last scans had revealed some worry-some spots on my right lung. They wanted to get me in for additional scans and formulate a plan of action. Just like that, the proverbial carpet was jerked from under my proverbial feet. I’ve been playin’ this morbid game of whack-a-mole for nearly four years. A couple of moths ago the latest cancer was found on my pancreas, and the resulting radiation burned me up. Now the lungs? Well…I didn’t get much work done the remainder of the day. The big “C” was chewin’ on my brain. And speakin’ of which brings me to the little matter of the afore-mentioned “Woperdinger.”

What’s a “Woperdinger” you might ask. Well my friends, sit back and permit me to enlighten you with a little mountain folk-lore. Here a little snippet from the book.

“Just what is a Wolpendinger anyway?”  

         Chapter 33

The five of us walked to the downed fence. There it was, a footpath in the mud. The big light shining down the path made it look like a tunnel through the woods. Briars and brambles were thick as lumber along both sides.

Branches protruded into the path, looking like gnarled fingers, ready to grab who-ever might walk by. We could hear the creek roaring louder as we walked further. Big David’s light our only means of sight lit the path like a train in a tunnel.

Suddenly we beheld a sight that made our blood run cold.

Just beyond the cover of the trees. Just forty or fifty feet from holy ground we saw it. Thinking about, dreaming about it, hearing about it was one thing. But seeing it was different. Seeing it in the dark on a stormy night was entirely something else.

Our eyes strained in the dark, desperate for a clearer view. Just then a distant bolt of lightning lit up the sky. We all fell silent as the grave, fearful of what might hear us. I felt a morbid sensation of accomplishment tinted with large amounts of pure mind numbing fear. There was no color, no grass grew around the grave. Instead weeds and gnarled thickets spread around the stone. At some point, some-one or some-thing had placed stones around the grave. Clearly marking the boundary for others to see.

We all stood there, frozen in the wind and rain until one of us broke the silence. Who’s goin’ first? asked Chucky.

Not me shouted Stick, that place is chocked fulla’ Wolpendingers just waiting fer us. Waitin’ fer every last one of us, I can almost see their eyes lookin’ at us now.

WHAT?! Screamed Chucky, and you thought now, in the middle of the night, in a graveyard, at a grave owned by a witch of all places was a good place to bring somethin’ like that up?

Surely to God you don’t believe in those bedtime stories do you.

Stick was instantly defiant. And you don’t? he screamed back over the thunder. Everybody knows they’re real, everybody. They’s just a waitin’ fer the first one of use to get close enough to that brush then “whack” gone forever.

Big David had finally reached the end of his tether. With a jerk he turned to face the shaking redhead, his big hands were noticeably shaking as he aimed his light at Stick’s face.

Now look here friend: I’ve had jest about of this nonsense. Keep it up and yur about to find ye selves without a light to walk by. Besides. they’s no way I’m a gonna set my foot on unholy ground.

Ya see…a Woperdinger is a mythical creature of German decent, (or as best I can figure). And seeing as a great many Appalachian folk are of said German blood, the ol’ Woperdinger legend invariably followed. Legend has it this varmint is an ungodly mishmash of any manner of creatures, a good example might be the famous “Jack-a-lope.” But to us kids…well we just knew there was always one in the woods in the deep dark of night just waiting for one of us, dragging us away kicking and screaming to an untimely death. Our folks did little to dispel such rumors, using it instead as a means to keep us home at night. A gnawing fear of the unknown planted firmly in our brains.

Now lets get to those All-stars.

Some fifty-odd years ago the coolest (can I still use the word cool) of the cool kids strutted around in a pair of high top Converse All-stars. Of course I was never able to have a pair but that didn’t stop me from dreaming about those shoes. They were the very essence of cool, every thing from the laces and badge to the squeak they made on the varnished gym floor. Yep I wanted, no needed a pair…but I never got any. Until today!!!

Yep after fifty seven years, four children, seven grandchildren, four mortgages, countless cross country moves, and a nose weary and sore from being held against the ol’ grindstone. My daughter placed a birthday box on my lap, not just any box mind you, oh no. But a box emblazoned with that all to familiar star. Yep sure enough, I lifted the lid to find a brand new pair of high top All stars.

In a split second there I stood in all my glory, grey beard, plaid shirt, worn Liberty overalls, and a sparkling pair of navy blue sneakers. Yea…not the teenage picture I had in my head either. Que that phone call I mentioned earlier.

See where I’m going with this yet? Yep, you guessed it, on the other end of the line that ol’ Woperdinger got me. I mean reached right through the line and took hold of me. That gnawing fear of the unknown. Now I’m not saying it ruined the rest of my day, naw sir. The day was great, after all I got a lot to be grateful for. But it was there, chewing at the back of my mind, as I sat there eating caramel cake, it was there. As I enjoyed the beef stew, it was there. As I wiggled my toes inside my new All-stars it was there. Even when I talked to my grandbabies, it was there.

Friends… be careful of those Woperdingers. No they may not steal “all” your joy in life, but somehow they seem to have a knack for taking the edge off of it, dull the blade so speak. That gnawing fear of the unknown. Yes, Yes, I’m still a bit scared of ’em, but I’m learning (however slowly) to put them in their place. Our boy Stick was scared to death of ’em, but David, (being the voice of reason) snapped him back. Please…if you do anything, find yourself a “David.” Find that one person or group of persons to ground you, keep that “gnawing fear” at bay. Life’s too short as it is, no point worrying about what Woperdinger may or may not be hid just beyond sight, or in the shadows.

Me? Well I reckon I’m ready for what may just be out of sight. I spose I got little choice at this point, but I’m ready. I don’t expect to get shed of the unknown or times when the fear seeps in and you shouldn’t either. The secret is kicking it back into those shadows where it belongs, oft times that means we gotta have some help. For now I’ll just keep kicking, after all… I got me one heck of a pair of shoes to kick it with. And…quiet a few “Davids” to keep me grounded. Bring it on

Once again “The Tin Cup Clan” thanks you for your time. Lord knows there so many other things you could be doing and we are honored that you chose to spend some of it with us. If I may ask a favor; please share these stories with family and friends, leave a comment (we like those) and talk with us a bit. A like and follow would be great as well. GOD BLESS and see you next time. The Tin Cup Clan.

Is there really a “Normal” family?

As promised, here is the first in our visits with the boy’s families. I thought big David would be a good place to start since his family serves as “home base” for our boys. As a child I knew a big David, and his family was very similar to the David in the books, and yes, I envied him quiet a bit. They didn’t have money, didn’t live in a fine home, didn’t drive new cars, or go on vacations, but they had each other and that was enough.

Those things don’t make a family, and most certainly don’t make a happy family. My granny would say, “blessed be nothing, no trouble at all” and “better a peaceful penny than a stricken dollar.” I think you’re gonna find this true with all the boys, but by the end of the book, one of them will have to learn this the hard way.

Do you see your family in big David’s? Great, then that’s your normal, soak it up, enjoy it as you would sunshine on a summer day. If not… well hang around for Stick’s family, maybe you just might see yourself in them. They’re a bit different than David’s, after all…there is no universal “normal,” each one is custom made. What matters is what we do with it.

Excerpt; Chapter 6 “It ain’t much but it’s home”

The next stop the bus makes is big David’s. He lives at the end of a long steep dirt road in a small timber house built by his Pa.

Locals know the hill as Owen’s ridge. His family has lived up there for generations. He shares that little house with a whole passel of brothers and sisters. I think there may be as many as ten of ’em but I cain’t swear to it. I reckon the whole bunch get along just fine.

No matter the weather, the yard is always full of bare footed kids of all ages. I don’t think a man could sling a dead cat without knocking over at least a couple of ’em. All of ’em laughing and yelling, running and fighting, screaming and crying. There’s an odd sense of joy in that house. Joy that’s seldom found in other households. Joy that with a bit of embarrassment I have to admit; I’m a great deal jealous of.

David’s ma sells some of the finest butter, buttermilk and bacon on the planet. That’s where ma gets most of our eggs. The ol’ boy’s dad’s pretty cool too. When he’s not in the hole chasing coal, he’s out there playing right along with his kids. Laughing and running, playing and screaming. It pains me a great deal to watch them, I cain’t help but wonder what my life would be like if my pa were still around. As I watch ’em I think about that a lot.

Excerpt: Chapter 28 “The worst lie I ever told.”

I was the first there. When David opened the door; puppies came rushing out; yappin’ and  jumping all over me.

They ain’t gonna bite friend; they’s just gittin’ to know ye is all. Come on in and make ye self at home. I walked through the door and into utter bedlam.

It was a big living room by any standard. A long well-worn couch sat in front of a large picture window. Clear plastic was stretched over the windows; sealing out the cold. Home-made curtains with pretty flowers hung gracefully; framing the glass like a picture frame.

Next to the couch sat a small simple table. The only thing on it was a large family bible. It was clear that it had been passed down through countless generations. The cover was tattered around the corners from use; while loose leaves of dog-eared paper covered with all manner of dates and notes poked from the sides. A faded and  frayed crimson ribbon was laced through the pages and served as a book-mark.

Standing with great prominence was the woodstove. A huge “Warm-Morning” sat on the brick hearth. A tall pile of split wood stacked neatly to each side. The entire house smelled of burnt hickory and oak; no wonder big David smelled the way he did. The smell of the wood combined with the intense heat of the stove soaked into my bones; making me sleepy and comfortable.

They was kids from floor to ceiling, all of em running and jumping, laughing and playing. It didn’t seem to faze his ma, not one bit. She came over, drying her hands on her floral apron before wrapping me in her arms with a big hug.

How ye doin’ young man? We’ve just finished supper, but I’ll heat ye up somethin’ if yer hungry.

No thanks ma’am, I eat before I left the house. Ma says it’s nobody else’s job to feed this bottomless pit but her. But if you don’t mind, I sure would like to call her and let her know I’m OK.

Phones right over there. Make ye self at home. David said his friends was comin’ by fer a visit. He’s sure been excited about it. Her comment made my conscience bother me a bit; causing the pangs in my belly to start up again.

I called ma to let her know I was there and found myself a seat on the couch (between two puppies). It was soft as a feather bed and I sank down into it as I sat. I just…sat there for a spell; enjoying the heat, the serenity, and the aroma of the wood while letting the worries just melt away.

I understood why David acted so. Even with all the noise and commotion I felt at ease; at home even. His ma had the same easy grin as he did, and the same easy nature. His brothers and sisters climbed on him like he was a set of monkey bars; and he seemed to love it as much as they did.

It seemed all too soon, but a knock came at the door; dragging me back to reality.

David stood up, looks like that’ll be the fellers. The dogs exploded though the door the second he opened it.

I heard a ruckus on the front porch. Good God we’re bein’ attacked by a pack of rabid lassies. Git down dogs I ain’t got no hot-dogs in my pockets.

Chuckie’s panicked voice was unmistakable. The two of em, Chucky and Stick tumbled into the living room in a pile; puppies nipping at their britches, and licking the boy’s faces.

Big David was grinning from ear to ear, even showing some teeth. Aw… They’s just gittin’ to know ye is all, ain’t no use in gittin’ ye drawers in a bunch.

I gotta have em in a bunch cried Stick, if I didn’t those hounds would pull em right off me.

Chucky was already standing in front of the stove, his backside turned to it while he rubbed his tail.

Ain’t nothin’ like a hot fire, my tail is soaked to the bone. Stick kept runnin’ me through mud holes the whole way here.

What? I didn’t do no such thing. Just cause you cain’t ride don’t mean you can blame everybody else.

I interrupted they’re little quarrel. That’s enough guys, yun’z gotta call yer folks so’s we can be on our way. We’re burnin’ daylight.

David looked worried. You sure you wanna do this friend? I mean, they ain’t no shame in not goin’. Heck, I’d wager ol’ Mark ain’t even gonna show up.

I’ve gone too far to back out now. Side’s, if he does show and we ain’t there, I’d get a poundin’ fer sure.

What ’che gonna tell my ma? He asked.

Oh… I ain’t thought of that. I got up and went to the kitchen.

David’s ma was sitting at the table; checking a pile of soup beans before she put em in water.

Excuse me Ma’am.

Stick forgot a couple things at his house; we’re gonna run down and git em if that’s OK with you. We’ll be back shortly.

OK she replied (with out looking up from those beans), but you boys be careful. Ya hear?

I could tell she weren’t used to being lied to. She never batted an eye at my excuse. As I turned and walked back to the guys; I felt all kinds of dirty and those pangs were back in my stomach.

Light was beginning to fade as we walked out on the front porch.

As always Thank You for choosing to spend just a little of your time with The Tin Cup Clan. I know there are a lot of other things you could be doing. A like or a share would be greatly appreciated, so go a head and make my day. Until next time…

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