Day 10: The Silver Bullet


“The Silver Bullet” an Ozark folk tale from “Sticks in the Knapsack” by Vance Randolph.

“One time there was a man named Moses Talley that had a big family, and he was a great hunter. In the next clearing a gray-haired widow lived with her two grandchildren. She worked a little patch of corn, and they always had a fine garden. She used to nurse the sick, too, and sold a lot of ginseng and other yarbs that was used for medicine. Her name was Ellen Barnes, and she was well thought of all over the neighborhood.

“Moses Talley started out on a deer hunt one day, and run onto a big doe standing in the trail. She stood right still as he drew a bead, and when the gun cracked the critter just loped away. Old Talley didn’t know what to make of it, because he hardly ever missed a deer close up like that. Three days afterwards the same thing happened again, and the big doe just loped away as if she wasn’t even scared. Moses begun to get suspicious about the deer, so he loaded up his rifle with a silver bullet. Next time he didn’t shoot to kill, because he wanted to find out who the witch might be. He aimed at her hind legs, and when the rifle spoke the doe was hurt bad. She gave one big jump, and then went a-limping off through the woods. Moses Talley didn’t hunt any more that day. He just went back home and set on the porch to see what would happen next.

“It was only about an hour, when here come one of the Barnes girls. She wanted to borrow some turpentine, because grandma has fell down and stuck a big splinter in her knee. Moses Talley was a man that would give you the shirt off his back, but he knew in reason that Ellen Barnes must be a witch. When a witch wants to borrow something, it’s better not to give it to her. Because if you let her have anything, she’s still got the power to cast spells on you and your family. So he told the girl she’d have to get the turpentine somewhere else.

“The story don’t say what happened after that, but Granny Barnes didn’t play no more tricks on Moses Talley. When a man once gets the best of a witch, she just lets him alone from then on. Any of these old-timers will tell you that.”

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