What do you know about rednecks? Have you listened to that guy Jeff Foxworthy and laughed and wondered if he was just making all that stuff up? Well, where I come from, some folks laugh at that guy because they know it's true and some folks cuss at him because they think he's making fun of them, which he is.
Now, my friends asked me to tell ya'll about an experience that happened to me with a few of my redneck buddies back where I live. By the way, in case you're wondering, where I live is a little town called Dalzell, SC. I once bought a very expensive atlas just because it was so good that it actually listed Dalzell in its index. Anyway, back to the story.
A good friend of mine named Doug Dixon had just turned 16 and gotten his regular license. Doug is a real good "good ol'boy" and just as red-necked as he can be. He owns a truck that he paid for mowing grass and lives in the middle of the sticks in a place called Rembert that only folks from Dalzell knows exists. Doug sometimes has to leave from whatever me and him are doing to go and chase down some hogs or his cow if his parents call and tell him to. But Doug is a real great guy--honest, clean, and he'd give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. I find that a lot of rednecks are like that.
Now my other friend is named Jason, and he's kind of a cross between a red neck and a gangsta', if you can picture that. He's into bass and dressing real nice and all, but his roots, his heart, and his trailer all lie in the country. He knows all about trucks and cars and guns and rap and hunting dogs. Jason is a real unique fella. Jason is 15 but he'll tell you right quick that he's been around the block and that you can take that any way you choose.
As I was saying, Doug had just turned 16 and he was anxious to drive his truck somwhere and do something to celebrate--something real crazy that only boys our age will do. I called up Jason and told him our predicament and he said that he had just the thing and, if we would come pick him up, he'd make it worth our while. Since Jason lives about a half hour out in the country the other way from Rembert, we were a little reluctant, but Jason's insistence and the promise of a night we wouldn't soon forget convinced us.
We rode on out to Jason's house in Doug's big green truck (hey--it may not be the prettiest thing on wheels, but it sure has a great stereo!). It was about 7:30 when we pulled into Jason's yard and the heat of the summer sun was beginning to dissapate a little. Since I was the oldest (19) I had the authority to make Jason sit in the middle while I got a window seat. He seemed very excited as he told Doug to take a left.
"Where're we going? There ain't nothing down this road but Guston Swamp," said Doug very practically. Doug prided himself in knowing all the back roads in the county, and he almost did, too.
"That's right. That's where we're going," replied Jason, sounding as if that should solve the whole mystery.
"You mean the swamp?" I asked.
"Yes, David--the swamp. Come on, I told them we'd be there by sundown."
"Told who? Now, wait a minute--you didn't call up some girls and tell them that you was gonna play a big joke on me, did ya? 'Cause I don't go in for that kind of stuff."
"No-no. Look, let me explain it all on the way. Just go on Doug--trust me, it'll all make sense." Doug obligingly turned out onto the road and headed away from civilization towards the swamp. I'd never hear of this swamp and didn't know much about the area besides the location of Jason's house, but to me a swamp meant muck and mosquitos.
"Alright--here's the deal," began Jason, "you've heard about why they call Guston Swamp that haven't you?"
"Yeah, I heard," said Doug.
"I don't have any idea," I put in, not wanting to be left out.
"Well, alright, I'll tell you. It's like this--a while back, during the depression, there was this out of work miner named Guston. He had been working over in that big mine in Camden--you know the one--but he had been laid off a while back. He didn't have a job or a family, so he moved out here to the swamp and set up his tent. He made a little money whittling things and catching fish. Every other month he would walk down to Camden and sell what he had and buy some supplies. The folks got used to seeing him and he was pretty well known in the town. People always admired his carvings and also his spirit--even when he had lost everything he kept on plugging along. Anyhow, after a couple of years, he stopped coming. After about 4 months of no Guston, some of the local men went to the swamp to see what had happened to him. They found his camp easy enough. Everything was still there--even some molded bread on an old tin plate by a cold fire. Although they looked all over, they couldn't find him. The people was real sad to see him go, and they held a fine memorial service for him. After a few years, people kinda forgot about Guston. That is, until Brad Shannon.
"Brad was a good ole boy--he was born and raised in Camden. He had a job helping at the service station in town. He also worked part time sweeping up at the hardware store. Everyone liked Brad and thought he was a good, hard working guy. He wasn't the type to get caught up with lots of imagination or anything. One day Brad went down to the swamp to go fishing. The fish bit pretty good at this one place he knew, not far from where Guston had made his camp. He left early one morning and didn't come back until late that night, but when he came back he woke the whole town.
"It's following me...coming..after...me," he kept screaming as he lay trembling and white faced in front of the sheriff's office. A crowd had begun to gather and one of the men stepped forward to question him. All he could get out of him was that a light had come from a far off and had came closer until he thought it was someone's lantern across the creek. He called to the supposed person, but the other guy wouldn't respond. This made Brad upset, and he began to yell at the other person and finally to cuss at 'em. After a couple of minutes of this, the light began to glow red and bob up and down. Brad stopped and stood there staring at the light until he realized that it was coming toward him--over the water! The red, bobbing light began to pick up speed and suddenly Brad decided that he didn't want to stick around and see what the thing was and he took off. Well, the thing took off after him and came up right beside him. This scared Brad terribly and made run twice as fast and he ran screaming all the way home. A few of the braver young men went out that night--to impress the girls or something--and they all came back as Brad had."
"Well, that's all very interesting," I said, now a little more nervous, "but how does that relate to us?"
"At a certain time of the month--tonight--I've been told that this light, which a lot of people say is Guston's lantern light, always appears. I've heard all kinds of weird stories about people going down there, and three days ago a couple of buddies called me up and wanted me to join them down at the swamp and see it. One of 'ems been a couple of times, and he says that your truck better be tough and it better have four-wheel drive or it won't make it. Doug--you think this truck'll make it?"
Doug just kinda looked at Jason and said that he could take this truck anywhere Jason cared to go. It was getting dark and I was getting more nervous. I mean, I really didn't believe in ghosts, but there was no use tempting the fates, right?
Well, about dusk Doug pulled off the main road and onto a red clay road, which would have been impassable if it were raining. There were dried up corn stalks in the fields on either side of the road. I had had the impression that this place was going to be a bit wetter, being a swamp and all. There was a reddish tint to everything as the sun had just set. I was glad that we were inside the truck, for outside in the dim light I could make out the frightfull bunches of massing mosquitos that indicated that we were close to the swamp.
The cab of the truck remained abnormally quiet--usually Doug's mouth never stays shut--throughout the ten minutes it took us to get to the gate at the entrance to the swamp. It was just a metal bar on a swing that moved to one side--I don't know why it was there since anyone could move it, but it meant that one of us had to get out into the darkening mosquito-filled gloom. The window seat that I had so prized was not so dear to me as it had been. I looked and try to see what lay beyond the gate, but the overhanging cypress trees made it much darker inside than the cleared land we were in. The headlights illuminated a road that had more craters in it than some moon shots I'd seen and also highlighted the mosquitos. I hoped doug and Jason knew what they were doing. They began to grow impatient, and so, taking a deep breath for I knew not what reason, I threw open the car door and raced to the gate, flapping my arms to ward off mosquitos as I went. Fortunately, I was wearing an old army shirt which had thick sleaves. Although very hot in the extremely humid weather we had, it kept me relatively safe from mosquitos, although I still had to worry about them flying up my nose, in my ears, and into my eyes.
Still flapping furiously, I opened the gate and Doug drove through. I closed it, and then thought better of that and left it open in case we had to make a quick getaway. That was to prove to be about the only intelligent thing I did that night. After re-shutting it, I turned and saw that Doug was having a bit of fun with me by slowly rolling on down the road. I knew what he was up to, but it didn't stop a surge of fear at being left alone in the dark here, and I began to run after them, flapping my arms all the while.
"Hey--that wasn't funny," I said when I had gotten back in the car, "those blood-sucking varments out there could have drained me dry." In response to my complaints my two great friends just sniggered and said nothing. The humor died quickly as we continued down the road, the truck bumping and shaking like a bull. No, actually it felt more like a very cheap roller coaster that tries to give you whiplash. The gloom had darkened until it seemd as if all of the humidity was combining with the night air to make a tangible, foggy mess that would stick to you if you got out into it.
After about 15 minutes we came upon a banged up, filthy, yellow truck with chrome bars on the back and big tires on the bottom. The two guys sitting in the seat looked like they belonged there. They had white teeshirts with blue jeans and slightly used, tight fitting hats on. An older man was standing on the side of the rode holding a shotgun. I wondered for a bit how he could stand being out there with the mosquitos, but upon getting a closer look at his hide, I concluded that it was too tough for the mosquitos to get through.
Doug pulled his truck up behind the yellow one, and I could see that there was another old blue Ford just up the path with a couple of middle-aged men poking their heads out of the windows. They saw Doug get out of the passenger side and seemed satisfied and pulled their heads back into the cab. Jason motioned for me to get out. The other fellas looked at me a little strangely for a second, like I didn't belong there, and then began to talk to Jason.
"You fellas foller along behine us. We'll ride up a little ways to the spot an see if it's ok. When I beep the horn, ya'll come on, ok?" said the older man. Jason agreed and we got back into the truck. This time I let Jason have the window seat.
The other trucks pulled off and we sat in the dark for about five minutes. Jason told me that they were checking out a small bridge that sometimes gave out or got washed away. A beep sounded, kinda small and hushed, and we started off. I know you've seen pictures of haunted woods--the whole Spanish moss, old oak thing. Just a little aside here, I've noticed that people who come from more northerly latitudes have never seen spanish moss. There's nothing more common down here, but it seems that it doesn't grow up north. We have a lot of fun with those people and have a great many laughs, but I don't want you to go away with a false idea of spanish moss. It's a relative of the pineapple, actually, and lives off on nutrients and moisture in the air. Some of the people from up north liked to collect it and use it for all sorts of things, and we generally let them, because the moss is just chock full of chiggers, and chiggers is real fun--on someone else that is.
Well, enough of that. We arrived at the bridge and crossed over and found the other guys. One of them had pulled out some beer and the rest were downing it. I've never seen anyone chug like that before. None of us would drink--although I suspected that Jason only refused because we were there, and so they sat there and "wet their whistles" for a good ten minutes before telling us that it was time to see what could be seen.
I took out my can off Jungle Formula Off and sprayed it all over. The stuff stunk like crazy and I couldn't have worn it in the close confines of the cab, but out here it worked wonders with the mosquitos. We walked along a path that was a little squishy, like walking on a sponge, for about ten minutes. Then the men stopped and began to talk among themselves.
"I hope that I didn't come all the way out here for nothing," Doug began, but he was cut short by the cry of one of the younger men.
"Looka there!" he exclaimed and pointed out across a narrow river that I hadn't noticed before. Now why could I see it now, do you suppose? There was some more light coming from somewhere. Maybe the clouds had passed away and the moon was able to shine through. Anyway, I looked to see what they were so excited about, and could barely discern what looked like someone's lit cigarette away off in the distance.
"These old rednecks are just trying to have some fun with us," I told myself. "One of them slipped off and came around the river to fool us." Still, I glanced around to make sure of where the truck was. I just wanted to make sure that Doug hadn't left his lights on or something. Right?
Well, anyway, the rednecks see this and start to yell and scream at it. It is at this juncture that I realize that these men are drunk. They are drunk and have guns and probably haven't bothered to get their GED yet. Jason started to go up and join them, but--and this renewed my faith in him--seemed to think better of it and stopped. He began to call out, "Yeah, woo-oo!" and other things, though not as loudly as the drunken rednecks by the river's edge. When the men had started yelling, the cigarette light had seemed to bob a little and begin to come closer. I assumed this was because the man was walking towards us. When the men began to curse and get upset at the thing, calling out such things as, "Hey Guston, your #$#% momma wears @%$#@ boots!" and other such mature things.
This, I thought, may be a problem.
Then the light turned red and began to grow.
This, I thought, is not good.
Then I saw that the light was coming over the water. Rednecks have been known to do many things. Walking on water is not one of those things.
This, I thought, is a good time to get gone.
I grabbed Doug by the sleeve and pulled him over where he could hear me over the shouting and cussin.
"Doug--I think that perhaps we should consider making tracks. Those guys are drunk, they got guns, and I don't like the looks of whatever that is."
Doug seemed to consider this and, being able to make up his mind quickly and irrevocably, said, "I think you're right. You get Jason and I'll start up the truck." I went over to where Jason was staring open-mouthed at what had become a bouncing, ever-nearing ball of light.
"C'mon Jason, Doug and I are going for pizza. You're invited."
"Uh, ok, just a sec." I glanced and saw that the ball was halfway across the river. One of the older men had stopped shouting and was edging away.
"Jason, we're going--now!"
"All right, I'm with ya, David," said Jason, who had just done a quick re-appraisal of the situation. Doug had the truck started up and we began to make our way back. The going was slow because of all the bumps and mud puddles and things. It was silent--none of us was quite ready to talk about what we'd seen. I was about ready to try and introduce some comical remark to break the tension when we heard a terrble, sobering scream of fear from behind us. It was quickly followed by several double-barreled shotguns being discharged in quick succession. I looked at Doug and he looked at me and suddenly I was again regretting having the window seat. Doug shifted gears and we took off.
I judged that we were going faster than what was safe. I didn't know much about cars, but I felt sure that the truck wasn't meant to take such abuse as we crashed through puddles and made our way over really bad bumps. I thought perhaps my spinal cord would go through my skull. It was only about two minutes after we heard the shots that a yellow streak flew past us. The older men were in the front with a look of extreme panic on their faces while only one young man was visible in the back. He didn't look panicked or worried, or anything for that matter. Their was a total lack of expression and color on his face. Later I was to learn what terrible thing had happened to his friend before his eyes and how it had driven him over the edge. But right then the sight of that truck and those men driving at twice our speed was sufficient to throw me into panic myself. I urged Doug to try and get some more speed.
I have never seen Doug frightened. Oh, I've known him when he's been scared, but it never showed on his face. When I looked over and saw how tight his jaw was and how he gripped the stearing wheel, I knew that it wasn't a time for comic relief. Jason, however, was reveling in the excitement. I wanted to hit him.
Looking out the front window, I could see the bridge. I felt a sense of relief then--I guess it was the whole Sleepy Hollow, Headless Horseman deal. Anyway, I was again about to make a comic rejoinder when I saw a brightening in the side mirror. I know you've all seen the Jurassic Park scene where the tremors are going through the water. Well, that's how I was feeling then. I was sure something bad was coming. It was.
By looking at how dim the light was, I figured the thing was a long ways off. It wasn't. I smelled something like ozone and suddenly there was a red-orange ball of light at the window. Ok, I gotta admit it--I screamed like a girl and tried to fit in the floorboard. Jason didn't do anything for a moment--just stared at the window. Then he began to mutter expletives under his breath and tried to join me.
"Get us oughtta here Doug!" I yelled. Doug had no need for me to tell him. He floored it and Jason and I slammed backwards. Then we began knocking our heads on the dash, the window, and each other. Thing kept pace. I began to pray under my breath and edge closer to the other side. I tried to avoid looking at it, but when I happened to glance again at the window, it was gone. I had thought that I would be terribly glad if, when I looked, it was gone. However, I soon discovered that I liked knowing where it was. Jason and I began to look around, expecting it to pop out behind our shoulder and go "Boo!"
Suddenly, I became very glad that after Jason and I had crawled out of the floorboard together I had put on my seatbelt. Otherwise this story would have to be told from here on out in the third person because at that moment Doug slammed on breaks and everything flew foward. I started to yell at him and ask him what did he think he was doing when I noticed that it was now about 20 feet in front of us, calmly bobbing up and down in front of the bridge. I couldn't tell whether it was mocking us, daring us to come closer, or warning us to turn around. We sat there, breathing heavily, and wondering, "What next?"
The next thing that happened was that Doug reached around behind his seat and pulled out a shotgun (told you he was a redneck). The thing turned a bright scarlet and began to bob more rapidly.
"Put the thing away Doug, you're making it mad!" Doug saw the sense in this and quietly replaced the weapon. I saw nothing else to do but try and talk to it. Drawing on my knowledge of the times around the Depression, I spoke eloquently to it, telling it how sorry we were and how we felt it's pain. Reminding it that it could gain nothing from tormenting the living. I even felt tears slide down my cheeks as I came to the end of my empashioned speach.
I had seen all the movies, so I knew that now was the time for it to slowly desolve, perhaps with a kind voice thanking me for what I had done. However, miners during the Depression were apparently low on appreciation of eloquence, and the thing expanded to the size of a beach ball and drove straight toward us. I threw open the door and jumped out with Jason on my heels. Doug went out the other side and we made for the bridge. I noticed a disturbing wetness, but didn't stop to delve into the problem more closely. I glanced over my shoulder and saw that Doug's truck had a big, round burn mark on it, but that the thing was nowhere to be seen. I was too the stream now and was about to turn towards the bridge when I heard Doug's voice, calling from the other side--now how did he get there so fast?
I didn't take the time to try and make out what he was saying, but drew the obvious conclusion and dove into the stream. My fingers struck slimy bottom and, thougj my eyes were closed, a great light seemed to pass through the water. I assumed that it was the thin making a close pass. Thankful that it had missed, but still worried, I kicked off and quickly swam to the opposite shore. Jason was in the middle of the bridge shaking his rump and making rude gestures. I shouted at Doug for him to get him away from there and Doug readily complied. He hauled him away from the bridge.
I looked around again for it, but I didn't see it anywhere. Hoping that this time it was really gone, and too tired to do anything about it if it weren't, I joined Doug and Jason on a nearby log. There we sat for four hours until, alerted by another patrolman who had picked up a truck full of crazy, drunk rednecks, a state trooper picked us up. He wanted to go and search for the other guy, but we convinced him to wait until morning. Meanwhile, he took us back to my house where we slept, excuse the pun, like dead men.

David Hunter

[back to verbosity]

This story is entirely the property of David Hunter. Special thanks to David for contributing on such short notice. Please do not reproduce without David's permission. He can be a cranky guy.