Friday, August 27, 2010

The Devil's Marbleyard

The valley rumbles tonight. This summer it rumbles almost every weekend, either from clouds bumping together or sticks of gunpowder shooting skyward....

nothing like it once rumbled, long ago, when native Americans roamed these mountains.  Historians will tell you this was hunting ground, not home to permanent settlements, more than a thousand years ago when arrowheads landed in what are now my garden beds.  But let me tell you the truth....

a tribe once inhabited the James River Face, this ridge overlooking the James River and Arnold's Valley, back before those names existed....
"What's that white scar on the mountain?" asks Virginia.

No scar, it's a field of Antietam quartzite boulders, some as big as trucks and small houses.

"How did it get there?" Virginia wants to know.

...after two years with barely a drop of rain, the residents of the James River Face were ready to move on.  As they gathered their belongings, a couple of missionaries appeared from nowhere.  "Pray with us," said the strangers. 

"Why?" asked the thirsty natives.  "What do we have to be thankful for?"

"These beautiful mountains, the skies, your friends, your families," the missionaries replied.

"The skies bring us nothing but parched lips," said the Americans.  "If your god is so important, ask him to bring us water."

The missionaries prayed.  They prayed and they prayed, but blue skies mocked them day after day.

Finally, the natives had no more stomach to share the little they had with the crazy strangers.  They strung them on wooden crosses, lit a huge bonfire underneath, and began to dance.

Hundreds of feet pounded on the mountainside.  The moans of the people echoed through the valley, bouncing back and forth, louder and louder.  The dancers failed to notice the sky turning gray, darker and darker, until sparks crashed from cloud to cloud and water streamed down their faces.  Under their moccasins, the earth rocked and rumbled, tossed and tumbled, until the mountain fell upon them. 

Even if the God of the missionaries had spoken, he was not remembered.  Instead, the place became known as "The Devil's Marbleyard."

1 comment:

  1. Awesome, the hike and the story. You tell it so well.