Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Witchy Woman

We have a story on my mother's side of the family: Apparently one of my great-great aunts was something of a seer. Living way back in the West Virginia hills, she didn't have much contact with the outside world. One morning in the fall of 1941, while out picking berries with a daughter or niece or two, she came across a writin' spider's web and upon seeing it, declared that a war was coming, within a few months, and that it would be terrible and last for four years. As I recall it -- and my memory isn't precise here -- there was a further revelation that one of the family's boys would go off to fight in that war, but that he would survive and come home in one piece.

(If you were that boy and you believed in Auntie's predictions, you would probably have thought yourself bulletproof. According to the story, he did go off to war and returned home alive and well.)

Then, one assumes on that fall morning, Auntie and the girls went back to the more pragmatically-important business of berry picking.

(In the south, there are large garden and woods arachnids that are called "writing spiders," from the way they spin, and the story is that if you annoy them, they will write your name in their web and cause you all manner of bad fortune. Big, colorful suckers, these eight-leggers, and save for the heavier parts of the web that are the "letters," the rest of the web can be almost invisible. On a cool morning when you are tromping around in the woods hunting, there is a certain visceral clutch when you suddenly feel this invisible web on your face as you blunder through one. This is followed by a quick hopping about and slapping at one's head to brush the potential hitchhiker off you PDQ. The critters are fairly harmless, but the idea of a big ole spider crawling down the back of my neck certainly used to give me pause ...)

No reason to tell this story, except that I came across a notebook with my family genealogy in it while digging through a shelf looking for something, and as I was looking at the who-begats, had that memory float to the surface. (If family history can be believed, I am distantly related to both Daniel Boone and Edgar Allan Poe ...)

In that notebook, I also came across this:

This is ostensibly a bank of the United States 1000-share note from 1840, and according to my father, was found in my grandfather's personal effects after he passed away. My father thought it was probably valuable, but he hadn't ever looked to see. He gave it to me, and I checked it out.

It's a fake -- a replica that was apparently given away in cereal boxes in the mid 1960's ...

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