Here’s what I remember:
My father was a boy scout leader. He and other troop leaders, whose names I don’t recall although his brother Dale may have been among them, took the boys out one night into the forest. Picture a group of 8-10 year old boys walking among the trees with their little flash lights in their little blue uniforms with yellow neckerchiefs. Twigs cracking, leaves crunching, small rodents rustling. An owl hooting, a coyote howling.
They came to a clearing and the boys settled down and gathered around. My dad began the story of the Mule Skinner of Buzzard’s Holler.
This was back in a time when a mule was worth more for it skin than it was alive. This old man lived deep in the woods with a bunch of cats in a little house where he’d skin mules. Every two weeks he’d go into Munfordville to the market to sell the skins.
One week, he didn’t show up. After another missed market, someone decided to go and check on him.
They found him dead. He’d been dead for awhile. So long in fact, his cats had eaten his face and fingers and toes.
Picture again the group of little boys with their little flash lights. Picture them hanging on every word. Hear the silence as my father finished the tale. Only soft night time forest sounds. And then….a small “meow.”
Now hear the screams and picture the little bobbing flashlights running through the forest. Dropped bags, trips and falls and skinned knees, laughing men.
One of the leaders had circled around behind the boys and waited until the tale wrapped up before giving a little, “meow.”
Here’s what’s next:
This was another favorite story. It has hyper local flavor and the thought of the poor little boys and their bobbing flashlights has always amused me. And it’s a story within a story.
I doubt I’ll ever be able to verify the story of the muleskinner. But I can verify the story in the forest. I know I’ve seen a picture somewhere of my dad with the boy scouts. I need to find it and start reaching out. If I’m lucky, I’ll find one of the little boys in his blue uniform and yellow neckerchief and bobbing flashlight, and he can tell me his version.