There is a small village nestled in the rolling hills of northern Missouri called Madden. The population has steadily decreased since the railroad pulled up stakes and left in the mid eighties. The local Co-Op, the largest employer in the county is still in operation; buying 300,000 bushels of corn and beans every year. Truck drivers and their families make up the biggest part of the population. During harvest season most of the fathers are busy operating the elevator or hauling grain to Kansas City. Madden is a quiet community, a safe place to raise children.
There are no grocery stores or movie houses in Madden. Along the one block main street; you will find the post office, the Coyote Bar and Grill, Ted’s Texaco station and Nellie’s Antiques. The buildings are in need of repair; a fresh coat of paint would do wonders, but low income prohibits any restoration. Each year the buildings lean a little more, the paint peels away from the weathered walls and the citizens live their lives quietly. They visit when they meet on the street; talk about the price of corn going down, but never talk about the past.
The oldest citizen living in Madden is Nellie Potter. Folks say she is in her late nineties. Her bent body looks much older as she walks with a cane to the post office every day and picks up her mail. She lives in the back of her antique shop with two cats and her memories. Nellie is the self proclaimed historian of Madden and is worthy of the title. She was born in Colfax County and never ventured beyond its borders. Having a sharp mind and sparkle in her eye; Nellie tells the best stories. She is always willing to tell them to anyone that will listen. Her tales will curl your hair and send a faint chill up the spine; even on the hottest Missouri day.
I met Nellie for the first time in 1969; right after my first child was born. I had never heard of Madden until the day I was sent there to pick up a load of corn. Trucks were lined up for three blocks at the elevator; waiting their turn to be loaded. I persuaded another driver to pull my truck forward with each movement of the line and walked the short distance to Nellie’s Antiques. In many ways I have regretted that first visit and the story I heard, but I found and made a good friend.
Walking into Nellie’s shop is the same as stepping into Colfax County’s past. The walls are covered with old paintings representing the progress of farming at the turn of the century. Below the paintings, shelves line the walls holding early utensils used by the pioneer women. Scattered across the room; old farm implements once used to harvest the corn sit on the aging wooden floor. Tucked away in one corner; Native American artifacts are displayed.
Always looking for a new stone to add to my collection I began looking over the dust covered items in Nellie’s collection. She immediately approached me and without hesitation began to tell me a story about each piece she owned. There were dozens of stone axes, clubs and arrowheads lying in the dust. Off to one side I saw something that was rather odd. I wondered why quarter size pieces of concrete were placed with ancient tools of the American Indian.
Nellie noticed my curious looks and said, “Those came from the hole.”
“The hole?” was all I could say with amusement in my voice.
Nellie became quite agitated and concerned. My lack of knowledge and being unaware of the hole seemed to upset her and gave her reason to tell me the story. I patiently listened as she began from the beginning.
In the mid 19th century as white settlers moved west always seeking richer ground to farm, they discovered the land between the two rivers that flow through the middle of America. From word of mouth and the few letters sent back east; more and more families heard about the soil and moved to the fertile valleys. Their settlements pushed the Indian people farther and farther away from their homeland. There were some hold outs that refused to budge. Among them, was a man called Long Nose, who refused to leave his sacred ground.
Many times, Long Nose vowed he would seek revenge on the white man for invading his land. In 1856, drunken buffalo hunters raped and killed, White Doe, the only child Long Nose had. In retaliation, the proud father killed the hunters in their sleep, taking their scalps in the process. Filled with fear and seeking revenge the settlers of Madden captured and hanged the father of White Doe.
Before the noose was tightened around his neck, Long Nose vowed, “I will send a beast and the beast will take your children.” His body was dumped into a hole, deep below the surface of the fertile farm ground and covered with rich soil.
Each year, during harvest, starting in 1857 a young child would disappear from Colfax County. Parents lived in fear just before corn picking time, each hoping their child wouldn’t be chosen. Occasionally a rumor would surface; a sighting of the beast had taken place. A few times, groups of men with guns loaded would scour the countryside, looking for the mysterious monster. A shot was never fired in 93 years.
In the spring of 1940 the people of Madden filled the deep hole Long Nose had been thrown in to with concrete. That fall, the children were safe. No child came up missing after 1939.
Over the next few years, Nellie made a few dollars selling small pieces of the concrete to tourists and telling the story to anyone that would listen.
On long weekends I still drive the 200 miles to Madden to visit with Nellie. I have taken my son with me a few times. He has always enjoyed her long stories even though he thought they were made up, like fairy tales. I know Nellie better than I know most people, she doesn’t lie. I believe her stories.
Last week I got a call from Nellie. With fear in her voice, she begged me to come down for a visit.
“I sure will, Nellie, is there a problem?”
“It’s the hole! It’s almost harvest time and the state of Missouri is widening Highway 59 and they are scraping away the concrete as we speak.”
Prompt: "Tell a beast story." No word limit!