It was a dark and dreary ride home from our duck hunt up near Waubay. We’d left the slough at ‘the pass’ as the sun set. By the time we’d closed the farmer’s gate behind us and turned on to the county road, it was full tilt black out, and the windshield wipers were flippin’ off the evening dew, not in time with the music, but close enough to hypnotize. Over the years, the floorboard on his pickup had rusted thin from the road salt, and the insulation on the cab side had long since worn down to the steel. The sound from the exhaust came up through the floorboard in an assuring hum. It was the perfect hunting truck.
Almost halfway home, the dusty smell coming from the noisy heater that was getting its first run of the year as a defogger, the heat, the yellow glow from the AM radio cracklin’ Farron Young, made us both extremely relaxed.
Suddenly, our dream world moment was shattered by a startling ‘bang’ at the front of the truck.
We jumped so high, our heads hit the roof. We knew what it was. We’d changed a million of them between us. This one didn’t go down slow, so Amos had to do some fancy steering wheel work to keep us from going into the ditch. With his driving skills, and a little luck, we came to a stop at the low spot on Highway 12 even with Punished Woman’s Gulch.
We sat for a moment catching our breath. We both went from 60 heartbeats to 160 beats in a quarter of a second.
Amos turned off the engine. The windshield quickly steamed over from the heat we were producing from our rush.
We opened our doors and got out to look at the right front wheel rim that was now sitting on the ground. Staring in silence, we could hear the wind blowing across the top of the trees. The dew, now turned to drizzle, collected and ran down our faces. We both contemplated what we had to do in this moment of silence.
Suddenly, there was a deep moan trailing to a banshee scream mixed with the wind sounds above us! We both looked up and around, squinting into the wind driven drizzle, straining to see. It was then that Amos smiled and said something about ‘our luck’ getting caught at the bottom of Punished Woman’s Gulch after dark on the night before Halloween! We both laughed dramatically loud at our dreamy imaginations, and to assure ourselves that any nasty entity in the area surely knew it was up against two fearless homeward bound hunters.
He was right! It was the night before Halloween! It hadn’t occurred to me. A shiver ran up my spine which caused the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up. Was it fear or the the chill of drizzle running down my back after being in that warm pickup with all of my hunting clothes on? Certainly, that was it! I put my hood up to keep that chill from migrating down my back and up again.
It is common knowledge that the inhabitants in the village of Marvin, and the farmers that live near “the Gulch” do not leave the inside of their homes after the sun sets, three nights a year, the night before Halloween, Halloween, and the night after Halloween.
Too many strange sights, sounds, and unexplained things have happened near Punished Woman’s Gulch during these three nights.
The legend of the Marvin Gulch, as told, is of a farmer who never allowed his wife, Aaona Hogg to go to town. He kept her isolated on the farm for fear she might get fancy idea’s and spend money or cavort. It said in his ‘good book’, and he’d been taught by his preacher dad, that women are tempted constantly, and need to be kept from those temptations!
For years she endured and kept to the layman teachings of her husband, until one day when a traveling ‘notions’ salesman stopped at the farm while Oolaf was in town. The story goes on to say that the salesman returned to the farm several times after that, …… when Oolaf was in town.
Oolaf returned home one day to find Aaona had run away. The rumor had it that it was that traveling salesman! Go figure! Everyone knew Oolaf’s personality, and that his wife was a very handsome woman after all! It all seemed possible!
Anyway, she left him with a daughter of grade school age named Oona, but he called her ‘troubles’ in public. She would go with him in to town at first. She would be seen here and there once in a while, but by the time she was ready to go to high school, she began to look like her mother. She was so fair; her fearful father would not let her go back to school once he thought the boys would begin to come around. Of course, she rebelled and would sneak out at night to meet boys in what was then called ‘Marvin Gulch’.
Her dad first got wind of what was going on from a conversation he overheard at the local café. One father was telling another father about a local girl nicknamed ‘Ooftha’ that was initiating the local high school boys in the privacy of ‘the gulch’. Apparently her blossoming nocturnal reputation had caused her name to morph from Oona into the more exclamatory ‘Ooftha!’!
The night before Halloween fifty-four years ago, after trying, isolation, corporal punishment, preaching from the book, and even locking her up when he had to leave, Oolaf had had enough. Oolaf Hogg’s anxiety over his daughter’s summer trysts, ate at him which caused his fragile mind to slip the rest of the way into insanity.
Planning ahead, Oolaf lay awake one night late in October. He lay awake brewing and anger, waiting until he heard his daughter’s bedroom window open and then close. With a pitchfork in one hand and his old double barrel in the other, he followed his daughter down into the dampened gulch floor covered with silent, damp fall leaves that lay underneath those tall Elm trees. He followed her to the rendezvous. Once the young couple was melded, ablaze in this nights full moon’s light, he quietly leaned the pitchfork against a tree, pulled back both hammers on his twelve gauge, and fired.
Both barrels fired at once knocking him off-balance and backwards. He lost his footing in the wet leaves, his leg kicked up, and his foot snagged the leaning pitchfork. The flying pitchfork spun full circle up in the air, and then fell perfectly to impale him as he rolled on to his back. He lay motionless, a small trickle of blood seeping from the two tines that had pierced his neck, one in each carotid artery.
In his anger, he had fired both barrels, intending to pull only one trigger, but pulling both. The shots and flash lit up the trees, and shattered the damp leafy silence within the hillsides, finishing with a scream!
The terrified boy ran right out of a shoe getting up the hillside at the far end of the gulch, and into the town. He flew down its two street lamp main street, into the only place still open, a bar, to hysterically tell his story. A group of alcohol fortified men followed him back down into the gulch to find the old farmer impaled by his pitchfork, still defensively holding the double barrel up into the sky in his two-handed death grip, the pitchfork handle parallel with the double barrel, his eyes and mouth wide open in surprise, pitchfork!
The boy took the laughing and beverage reinforced posse to the spot where he had stood with ‘Ooftha’. There was blood on the ground. The leaves had been spun, arranged in a swirl like pattern as if a small devil wind had neatly spun them. There was no sign of ‘Ooftha’.
Through the now dead still air, a disturbed high-pitched scream traveled toward and above the men. All looked up to see an opaque silhouette fly across a sickly, now blood stained, yellow moon. The figure stopped in the full circle moon light and looked down at the men, wailed and sped on.
Following behind that spectre , fleeting clouds suddenly closed in behind as if pulled, and a wind-driven drizzle made those once fortified men instinctively hunker down, fear in their eyes, sweat mixed with the drizzle dripping from their contorted faces. They managed to help each other scramble to the side of the now completely blackened gulch. Then up into the town they scrambled, to the bar where the phone was.
It was going to be a long night for the merrymakers of Marvin. The sheriff and the coroner were called. The body of Oolaf was still there, now blue white in the flashlight light, impaled, ancient double barrel, pitchfork, and eyes pointing to the sky. The entire gulch was searched front to back, side to side. There was no sign of ‘officially’ Oona Hogg, the blood sign now washed away in the drizzle.
This all happened long before Amos and I were old enough to venture into ‘the gulch’, now unofficially called Punished Woman’s Gulch to fortify the adventure as recited by those unlucky enough to have been there.
Although exhilarating in the heat of the summer nights, when we’d take our girlfriends through to terrorize, none of us were so brave as to venture in during those three fall haunting days, the day before, the day of, and the day after Halloween.
All knew on those days, the spirit of Ooftha Hogg would try to abduct any prized, juicy, young men entering ‘Her Gulch’! There were local boys that had vanished, but no one knows where to, and for the official record, just gone!
I didn’t think I was in any danger as I walked down into the roadside ditch to take a whiz while Amos finished with the tire.
Nervously looking around, I had taken two steps down the road side grade to get off the road and to loosen some clothing, when suddenly my untied boots lost traction on the wet, dead prairie grass. I went down that hill ass over teakettle. I only stopped because I’d reached the bottom of the gulch, ‘Punished Woman’s Gulch’!
Disoriented, I only had enough time to look back up toward where I had dropped from, when there came a scream from high and deep within the blackness of the trees. I rolled to gain footing, and my feet slipped on the wet grass. There was now no hope of going up the side hill. I spun back again, gained my feet, and ran into the gulch. We are talking about pure survival mode which dictates ‘move fast in any direction!’ Unfortunately, the only direction I could move was the wrong one, deeper into ‘her gulch’.
A pale colored, ghostly mass came down out of the tree tops, a tail of red plasma mist tracing the path. The scream was as a banshee scream, tearing through to the center of my chest.
She was as he described, salivating, bulging eyes, large, reaching, and coming straight at me. I continued to run the wrong way, at first under her, zig zagging between trees, sliding, leaving a boot somewhere behind.
The attack scream never let up behind me, and was getting closer. I could feel the electricity as her aura came closer. A lightning like strike ripped part of the shirt off my back giving me the inertia to launch myself up the hill in several four legged leaps, over the crest, and past someone’s boarded up building! Onto the slippery hardness of Marvin’s dimly lit one bar street eerily called ‘Church Street’, and more terror.
The street was absent of live humans, but full of screaming and moaning vapors, with their moving shadows from the single street lamp, vapor and shadow, doubling the chaos my frightened brain received through my senses. In the presence of evil power as great as Ooftha’s, I later learned, you will usually find an army of these mean little vapors waiting to suck the left over flesh and blood still hanging from your bones after the entity has had it’s share.
On the promise of this reward, they were all excited, by the screams radiating from the gulch. Now they hovered, stopping to stare at the lone, bloodied, but whole creature that had suddenly appeared at the end of their table. Behind me, within the depression of the gulch, I heard the angry shriek of ‘Ooftha Hogg’ who’d thought she had had just lost a banquet of fear oozing, bloody, gasping me.
I didn’t have the advantage of an open bar full of fortified living people to rescue me. That corner storefront was now dark.
It was me, Ooftha behind me, and them.
As the vapors prematurely closed in for their share, and squeezed me back toward the edge of the gulch with Ooftha’s awaiting tendrils, I caught the sound and headlights of Arlen’s old pick-up speeding toward me from the other end of the town’s three block main street.
He had finished changing the tire, and had found his way onto Marvin’s main street to rescue me! Racing towards me, horn blasting, I could see he was hanging on to the steering wheel with his left hand, left footing the accelerator, and reaching across to open the passenger door so I could dive in.
I didn’t use the door! I jumped, lay out flat, and flopped into the pick-up box. I landed amongst the burlap bags full of duck and goose decoys. Then Amos executed a perfect television style one-eighty!, That flat head six roared out of Marvin in second gear, me hanging on, never looking back.
Amos didn’t take time to shift into third. His foot never let up on the gas until we hit the Hwy 12 pavement. The only reason he let up then was because we were sliding side-ways on the gravel and wet asphalt.
Amos saved my life that night so long ago! I fear that it cost him. I’m not sure he ever fully comprehended what happened. We both had shifted into survival mode, and never quite came out of it. There was good reason!
One of those wet, smelly vapors went through the open driver’s side window, through Amos and right out through the closed window on the passenger side. Another spook hit the windshield right in front of Amos. He put his arm and elbow up to protect himself only to have the apparition fly through the un-shattered windshield, through him, and out the back window, screeching all the way.
There was nary a word said all the way to my house. He pulled up to the curb, I unloaded my stuff, and he sped away.
I tried to tell this story to some of my friends at a bar several months later. I should have known they would all laugh, and think it was another one of my incredible fiction stories. I will admit that I did have a history of story tellin’.
There are only three that truly know what happened that night. Me, ‘Ooftha’ and Amos, and Amos isn’t talkin’. I don’t think he remembers it ever happened. Long ago, his mind sealed that adventure far away and deep. So, if you ask him today, he’ll deny it ever happened. I don’t blame him.
If you have to know, go into the gulch, Punished Woman’s Gulch, on one of those three nights.
Go ahead, check it out!
Ooftha and her friends will be more than happy to dispose of you! Mooahhhh Ahhhhh ha ha ha ha. Ahhhhhhhh ha ha ha ha ………….
Have a goodnight! I don’t anymore.