Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm a retired teacher turned writer. Ferradiddledumday (my Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story) and Stuck (my middle grade paranormal novel) are available from Cedar Creek Publishing.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Upright Burial & the Fire

The burning bush at the end of my bottom driveway is in full flame now. But this entry isn’t about my red bush. Read on.


Early yesterday afternoon, our doorbell rang. A stranger wondered if we knew the whereabouts of the grave of an ancestor of his—a man who had been buried standing up. My husband went with him down the road to show him where the old cemetery was. Most folks in these parts are familiar with the story of how Burwell Law was buried standing up. In fact, a year ago last May, Rex Bowman, a reporter from the Richmond Times Dispatch, wrote a story about it. Rex also included information about Hainted Holler, which is just down the road from me.

Anyhow, we had a nice visit with the Taylors from Virginia Beach, who were happy to find out that the story Mr. Taylor’s grandmother told him was true. Plus the Taylors like horses and dogs. It’s always nice to visit with folks like this.

Yesterday evening, though, wasn’t so pleasant. The local redneck brothers (hereafter identified as RNB1 and RNB2) decided to have a fire—a big fire!—on their property across the road from my driveway. In late afternoon RNB2 (identified in an earlier post as Mr. RN) mowed the grass that was long overdue for mowing. His buddy (the school bus driver in another earlier post) was there for a while. About dark, they built a fire under some aged oaks and near an old building that’s the most historical place in the neighborhood.

I was inside and missed the beginning, but when I took Maggie out around 7:30 to do what dogs do, the flames lit up all round. The rednecks in attendance had even parked fairly close to the blaze. Well, no one will ever accuse them of being overly intelligent.

Later, when Maggie and I went out again, the trucks were gone but the fire was still visible from my house, 350 feet away. And the wind was coming up. The fire was blowing toward the old building. They couldn’t be so stupid to leave an untended fire, could they? That’s illegal.

I checked with a neighbor on the other side of the fire to see if she saw anyone there. Nope, she didn’t. And this fire was less than 200 feet from her propane tank and less than 250 feet from where her family’s vehicles were parked. I called the sheriff’s department and talked to the dispatcher who said she’d call RNB1.

About 15 minutes later, I saw headlights of a truck backing out of my upper driveway. Then the white truck went to my bottom driveway, pulled in and backed up. I cut on the deck lights. the truck went to my husband’s shop beyond the pines, turned around, and came back. By that time, I was on the deck, so the truck came back to the upper driveway. RNB1 asked, “Are you the one who reported the fire?” His speech was so slurred, I had to ask him to repeat what he said. When I understood his question, I said I was. I mentioned leaving an untended fire was against the law.

He seemed to think the fire would go out and it wasn’t a problem. “I can see the fire from here,” I said, pointing at the plainly visible fire. “I assume you’ll do whatever you have to do to put it out,” I added. I knew the property had no water supply. Then I went in. I wasn’t about to stay in the dark with someone I suspected of being three sheets to the wind—especially someone who has harassed me before.

Because of his slurred speech and his past actions, I figured I’d better report his being on my property. Once again I called the sheriff's department.

Later, I heard the sound of a tractor across the road. Apparently he’d figured out how to extinguish the fire. Still later, I heard the tractor in my driveway; then the beeping of the tractor’s horn. This time I snapped on Maggie’s leash and took her with me.

When she saw RNB1, she emitted a low growl. Then she glared at him in the way that border collies have mastered. She didn’t leave my side. From where I stood, it looked as if the fire was out.

RNB1 wanted me to go over and check that the fire was indeed out. Under the dusk to dawn light at the end of my driveway, I could see RNB2’s truck. I had no intention of getting near him, or being caught in the dark with both of them.

“You once told me to stay away from your property,” I reminded him. “I have no intention of trespassing on it.”

“You can stand in the state road, then,” he said.

Yeah, right. Then I reminded him of a few of his past harassments. He backed his tractor out of the driveway and left. My dog and I went inside.

Around 10 p.m. a deputy called me—the same deputy I’d talked to about the ruts left in my lawn.

“Is this related to the other offense?” the officer asked.

“Probably,” I said.

The next morning, my husband—standing in the state road—checked the fire. “It’s out,” he said. “Looks like they were burning tires. That’s how they got such a big fire.”

The dark area to the left (from the tree and to the left edge of the picture) is where the fire was. The two telephone poles in the background are on my property. The one to the left is 50 feet from my house. The one to the right (just left of the building) is at the entrance to my driveway. The small building closest to the front is indeed an outhouse. After all, this is rural America.



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