Peevish Pen

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

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), and several Kindle ebooks.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Terrorists Among Us

The downside of rural living. The following events are from our early years in Penhook.

“Has the war started yet?” my elderly mother used to say in 2001 when I’d wake her up at 6:30 AM to take her first round of medication.

One morning she said, “Every time I hear a loud noise, I think it’s the war starting.”

A few days later, she said, “I didn’t sleep last night for worrying that terrorists would come in and use those fireplace tools to kill me.”

Since the war was technically over, she didn’t ask me how it was going, but she worried constantly. She was terrified of terrorists. Ever since she came to live with me—the day after 9-11, she stayed convinced that terrorists would parachute into the cow pasture across the road. She told me so numerous times in the three years she lived with me.

“Terrorists are not here,” I repeatedly assured her. “There’s nothing that terrorists want in Penhook.”

I lied. The terrorists were already here. For the last three years of my mother’s life, I managed to hide their existence from her.

The terrorists made their existence known in November 1999. Just before deer season, one of them cruised the dirt road in front of our farm, a mile southeast of our house, while my husband was there. He inquired about hunting—even mentioned that he’d once killed a deer right under our dusk-to-dawn light. My husband informed him that our land was posted: “My wife walks here everyday and she doesn’t want any shooting.”

The terrorist replied, “Well, maybe I should get rid of her and make it look like you did it.”

My first death threat.

A few weeks later, that terrorist and his buddies—some of whom were his kinfolk—cruised back and forth along the road. They were road-hunters: redneck slob hunters too lazy to track game. Instead, they waited for it to cross the road. Sometimes, a few cruised with their CBs on while one parked along the roadside. If game wardens were in the vicinity, the shooter had plenty of advance warning. If they saw me walking on my property, they glared at me. How dare I witness their illegal activities. The nerve of me!

After dark, a convey might slowly wend its way around the 3.3 mile loop that connects my house and farm. The lead truck carried the light and another carried the gun. They couldn’t be spotlighting if the light and gun weren’t in the same truck.

Since I kept my horses at the farm in 1999, I made many trips down the road to see if they were safe. Once in a while, a road-hunter would try to run me off the road. The horses, pastured out of sight of the road, remained safe. After all, they didn’t have antlers. They wouldn’t make good trophies.

Through the years, things got worse. In 2000, every time I went down the road to the farm, I’d end up behind a slow-moving road-hunter. He would swerve back and forth across the road so I couldn’t pass. Soon, thanks to CB technology, another would pull up behind me. But they never touched me, and they never turned into my driveway when I did. They kept circling, some in one direction, some in another. No matter which way I turned, one was always in front of me.

By then my horses were pastured in my backyard.

Once, after one of them (a school bus driver!) who’d slowly cruised by the farm and glared at me, drove by for the fifth time in a half-hour, I pulled my truck out of my farm driveway and blocked his path.

“What do you want?” I asked him. “Why are you stalking me?”

He feigned innocence. Why, they weren’t boxing me in—he would have let me pass if I’d only have put on my blinker. This is a public road, he pointed out. They had a perfect right to be there. Later, I learned that—earlier in the day— a dead de-horned buck had been dumped in my hay field. I guess the road-hunters were checking to see my reaction when I found it. My husband found it first and removed it to a remote section of the farm. The next day, I counted thirty-one buzzards circling it. Eventually the carcass was picked clean, but the bones lay there for months as a reminder of the hatefulness and wastefulness of these road-hunting terrorists.

Shortly after I’d confronted that road-hunter, I left the farm for home. Six vehicles circled around the loop. Two vehicles—a truck and a dark SUV—parked just across the road from my main driveway. Would they block me in if I went home? I decided not to turn in at my house and drove instead down to the barn. There I spotted my next-door neighbor—a special investigator for the sheriff’s department—turn into his driveway. I immediately drove there—driving past the two vehicles still parked near my driveway.

I explained to my neighbor why I was afraid to go home. He looked in the direction of the two vehicles—he didn’t recognize them either, so he went over to have a little talk with the drivers while I went down my driveway. Eventually, he pulled over all six vehicles as the others circled. I don’t know what he said, but they left. That day was when I knew for sure that terrorists were indeed among us.

Occasionally they’d drive over our lawn and leave traces that they’ve been there. One of them—so I’ve heard from several different sources— bragged about it at the local store. In fact, he used to drive over the lawn when the previous owner lived here. “He’s just jealous,” one person told me.

In September 2002, a Virginia Department of Transportation employee stopped by the house. He’d gotten a call from one of the county school bus drivers. Our crape myrtle was blocking this driver’s view when he stopped at the stop sign. The VDOT guy said that he didn’t see any problem himself—after all, as you approach the stop sign, you can see four-tenths of a mile down the road on the side where the crape myrtle is, but he had to investigate all complaints. Only three bus drivers go down our road. I’m pretty sure that the complainant was the road-hunter who only stopped for the sign when he was driving the bus—not when he drove his car or truck.

After snipping a few errant branches, I called the Transportation Department of Franklin County Public Schools to make sure my crape myrtle wasn’t in violation of anything. The director told me that bus drivers are supposed to report problems directly to her. Then she’d determine whether a problem existed before calling VDOT herself. Hmmm.

In November 2002, during the first week of hunting season, a long stretch of tire marks appeared on my lawn. The day before Thanksgiving, on the property across from my driveway, a dead and gutted deer appeared hanging from a tree. Every time I pulled out of my driveway or went to the mailbox, I’d have to look at it. Late that night, a bunch of trucks pulled into the darkness. Next morning the deer was gone. Well, I thought, that’s it. Thank goodness it was gone before my mother saw it.

As I walked on my farm Thanksgiving morning, I saw the game warden come by. I hailed her and told her what had happened. After I finished my walk, I drove home. Across from my driveway, four trucks were parked under the tree where the deer had hung. Several men were in the process of stringing up a gutted six-point buck. Enough is enough, I decided. I stopped, got out of my truck, and confronted Mr. Bus Driver.

“I know you’re doing this to annoy me,” I said, “but I can look at this and not be bothered. But this will bother my 90-year-old mother if she sees it. She is afraid of terrorists and she’ll see this as a body. I don’t want her to see this. Will you please take it down?”

“I didn’t know your mother lived with you,” he said. Some of his buddies looked down, possibly embarrassed. “But this is our hunting land! We have permission to be here.”
He refused to remove the deer. He told me I’d have to call the owner of the property. I went to my house and did just that. While I called, the four trucks drove away. The deer still hung.

The owner was there within three minutes. He admitted he’d given the bunch permission to hunt on his land.

“But they don’t have to hang a deer here,” I pointed out. “[Name omitted] has plenty of land he can hang it on.”

“But no one can see it there and admire it.”

“He could hang it at his store, then,” I said. That store was also a game checking station.
The property owner said he’d talk to him. However, the deer—which didn’t have a tag on it— remained hanging.

On Friday I talked to the supervisor for our area. He told me that there wasn’t a law against hanging a dead deer so near the road and another’s property, but—since the deer didn’t have a tag—he’d call the game warden. I later heard that, when the warden appeared at Mr. Road Hunter’s house, a deer tag was produced. The deer hung for three days. Finally, late Saturday night, some trucks appeared in the dark. On Sunday morning the carcass was gone. The chain still hung —and still hangs—from the oak, though. In 2003, a second chain was added.

The Wednesday after the carcass was removed, another tire track—crossing the previous one—appeared in my lawn.

For a while, they left me alone. On March 3, 2003, however, my truck’s rear tires went flat. When my husband took the tires off to repair them, he found two spikes in one tire and one in the other. Since the rear tires were flat, I had to have backed over something on Sunday. I’d backed up in just three places: my own driveway, a neighbor lady’s driveway (when I drove her dog home), and the farm driveway. While my husband took my tires to Sears, he got a flat tire on his truck and had to pull over on Rt. 220 to fix it. Suddenly, this was more than coincidence. Hubby took his metal detector to the farm. He found scattered on our driveway a dozen spikes that someone had no doubt flung from the road.

This time, since actual damage had been done, I called the sheriff’s department and reported the incident. And I gave names of suspects. Of course, we couldn’t prove who did it, but it was doggone suspicious.

That summer, we found Budwiser bottles flung from the road into our hayfields. Usually we’d pick up a couple of beer cans from the road, too, but the bottles were always well into the field where—if we didn’t remove them—they could do some damage to tractor tires when haying started. Or a broken bottle shard could get baled into the hay where an unsuspecting horse might swallow it.

Other signs of terrorism appeared. While I was walking my elderly border collie one Monday night in October 2003, a truck drove past. I was plainly visible under the light at my garage, but I couldn’t see the occupants of the truck. They made loud animal-type noises as they turned the corner. Then I heard a shot as they went past my dog kennel. After checking that my dogs and horses were OK, I called the police and reported the incident. The following Saturday night, again when I walked the old dog, a shot ran out from the road beside my front pasture.

During deer season 2003, the harassment escalated. A series of eight deer hung less than 50 feet from my driveway. One headless one hung for 6 days until it started to rot. I could not take my mother out at all during deer season for fear of what she’d see.

In 2003, her gripe on reality had slipped even more. Several times at sunset, I’d hear her screaming. Instead of seeing a sunset, she thought the pasture was on fire. Other times, if she saw a truck driving past slowly, she screamed that someone was coming to get her. The road hunters often drove by slowly.

Sometimes groups would gather across from my driveway, sit, and stare at my house. That fall, one of my large “Posted: No Hunting” signs at the Bar Ridge farm had 14 bullet holes in it, and the entire sign was stolen the following week.

During the last winter of my 91-year-old mother’s life, I dared not take her out and let her see the hatefulness of these local terrorists. She died in April 2004. I no longer had to pretend that terrorists didn’t exist.

In November 2004, a neighbor lady came to get my mother’s clothes for her church. This lady was subjected to hootings, cat-calls and general noise from the crowd sitting across from my driveway. A young boy—the son of one of them—jumped up and down on the back of a truck, flapped his arms, danced around, and hollered in our direction.

During deer season 2004, mutilated deer parts were also left near the “no hunting” signs at my farm. (Warning: Graphic photos at end of post. I’ve sized them very small; click on them to see enlargements.)

I’d lied to my mother for three years. There really were terrorists among us.

And they’re still here.



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2 Comments:

Blogger Serena Joy said...

Hi, Cousin Peevish. That's the most outrageous case of terrorism I've ever heard of. I do NOT see how you have endured it. It's just unconscionable that nobody can do anything about it. This is just horrible.

5:58 PM  
Blogger CountryDew said...

Gives me the chills. I think you should talk to a state policeman, preferably one who isn't assigned to the area, about what you can do.

8:27 AM  

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