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This is my longer interpretation of a story I heard once about one of the tall, rock pillars you can see at Pedestal Rock Scenic Area in the Ozark National Forest (pictured above).  

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An old man once told me this story, so you know it must be true. A long time ago, when the Ozark forests were a lot bigger than they are today, and when there weren’t all that many folks living out in the hills and hollers, there was a man, his wife, and their son up on a mountain near the town of Pelsor, AR, which is now called Sand Gap. The man’s name was Albert, his wife’s was Margaret, and their son was named William, but the family always just called him “Cub”.

One day Albert got up early and went out into the woods to hunt for some game. He left Margaret and Cub at home alone, but the two of them were used to that sort of thing. As the day grew Margaret started her chores around the house while Cub worked out in the garden. Soon Margaret stopped as she heard a crow cawing up in the old pine tree next to the cabin. She took no notice of the sign, but just kept on working.

By the afternoon Cub had fallen into a fever that couldn’t be broken. He shaked and sweated in his sleep and couldn’t talk a lick. Margaret didn’t know what to do for him, but soon heard a whistling out on the trail outside the cabin. She ran outside to see if the stranger could help, and met with ol’ Mr. Green headed home. Everyone around knew Mr. Green was a witch, but nobody dared call him that to his face. It’s said he could kill a mule just by staring at it, and stop a rain with the wave of his hand.

“Mr. Green! Help my son!” Margaret yelled to the man. The old man came into the house and started brewing up a broth in an old clay pot that he sat down on the hot coals. Then Mr. Green whispered some word over Cub, and placed his old wrinkled hands on the boy’s forehead. Soon enough he nodded and said the fever was broken. “Has anyone come to see the boy?” Mr. Green asked. Margaret just shook her head knowing it was only Cub and her at the house. “Well then have him drink that broth for supper and he’ll be fine.”

Margaret agreed then showed the old man out of the cabin. As was tradition she didn’t thank him for his services and no money was exchanged, although folks always used to leave food outside his cabin door as a sort of payment.

Margaret fed the boy the broth, and pretty soon it looked like he was getting better. His shaking stopped, and he could talk again, so Margaret took it as a sign that the remedy had done its job.

The next morning Margaret and Cub woke up early for their chores. Margaret worked at the stove cookin’ up some cornmeal porridge while Cub went out and worked in the garden. Again Margaret stopped as she heard a crow cawing up in the old pine tree next to the cabin. This time she went outside, and looking up into the old pine tree saw a great black bird flying toward the mountain. She ran over to Cub who said he was feeling faint and should lay down. Margaret rushed him back to the house just as he started shaking and muttering just like the day before.

Just then she heard a whistling coming from the trail outside the cabin. Margaret rushed out of the house and spotted Mr. Green out on the road again. “Mr. Green! Help my son!” she yelled.  Again the old man came into the house and started brewing up a his thick, brown broth in that old clay pot that he sat down on the hot coals. Then, just like before, Mr. Green whispered some word over Cub, and placed his old wrinkled hands on the boy’s forehead. Soon enough he nodded and said the fever was broken. “Has anyone come to see the boy?” Mr. Green asked again. Margaret thought and thought and shook her head because she knew it was only Cub and her at the house. “Well then have him drink that broth for supper and he’ll be fine.”

Margaret showed the old man out of the cabin again, before turning to Cub who was already recovering.

The next morning Margaret and Cub woke up early for their chores. Cub had fully recovered from the fever and went out to fetch water from the spring on the mountain. Margaret told him to hurry back, feelin’ something inside that told her something was wrong. As she worked sweeping out the cabin Margaret stopped as she heard the crow cawing again up in the old pine tree next to the cabin. She ran outside and looking up into the old pine tree saw that big ol’ black bird flying toward the mountain again.

When Cub got back to the cabin he was all cut up and his clothes were torn to shreds. Margaret sat him on the bed and asked him what had happened. The boy could barely talk and began to shake and shiver. Margaret thought he would shake out all his teeth he was shivering so hard. She couldn’t really understand what he was saying, but was able to make out something about a big black bird swooping down on him on the mountain.

Just as Margaret started to worry about her son, she heard a whistling from out on the trail outside the cabin. Margaret rushed out of the house and spotted Mr. Green out on the road again. “Mr. Green! Help my son!” she yelled.  Again the old man came into the house and went to brewing up his broth made from piles of leaves and twisted roots in that old clay pot that he sat down on the hot coals. Then, just like the days before, Mr. Green whispered some word over Cub, and placed his old wrinkled hands on the boy’s forehead. Soon enough he nodded and said the fever was broken. “Has anyone come to see the boy?” Mr. Green asked again. Margaret thought and thought and shook her head again. “Are you sure?” Mr. Green asked, then Margaret told him about the crow she’d heard, and the black bird that swooped down on Cub on the mountain. “Why didn’t you tell me that before?” Mr. Green asked, but Margaret just replied that she never thought nothin’ about no big black bird. “Well then have him drink that broth for supper and he’ll be fine.”
“What about that bird?” She asked the old man.
“I’m gonna go hunt it down over on the mountain.”

Margaret nodded then showed Mr. Green out of the house. “Don’t worry about that bird anymore, and don’t follow me.” the old man said before starting up the mountain.

Margaret watched as Mr. Green disappeared into the forest. Back inside the cabin Cub was feeling better already and Margaret hoped that the remedy worked for good.

That night as Margaret cooked at the stove, and Cub played with his toys by the lamplight, the door opened suddenly and Albert walked inside the cabin. Margaret was delighted to see her husband, and Cub his father, but the two of them began to worry as the man, white as a sheet, sat shakily down next to the fire. “What’s the matter?” Margaret asked the man.
“I just seen the strangest thing.” He said, still shaking.
“What was it?” Cub asked.
Albert said that he had been trailing a deer down toward the creek when all of a sudden he heard a shouting and hollering coming up from the caves on the mountain. He ran over thinking’ a man had hurt himself but then he spied ol’ Mr. Green and some other bearded man yelling and hollering at each other. The other man shrunk himself down into a black bird and tried to fly off but Mr. Green turned himself into a big coyote and the bird by its wing and nearly pulled it off. The black bird flopped and bled in the dirt. Then Mr. Green ran up onto the bluffs and started a-stompin’ and a-jumpin’ and bringing rocks down off the mountain. He must have brought half of the mountainside down onto that bird. And when the dust cleared Albert looked over and there was nothing but a big pillar of rock standing up where that black bird was flopping around. He looked around for Mr. Green but couldn’t spot him, but he said that on his way back he thought he heard a coyote howling from up by those caves on the mountain, but he couldn’t be sure.

From then on the family told the story about that pillar rock and how Mr. Green had helped their family. No one saw the old man after that. But every now and then, when the moon shines full and bright you can hear a lone coyote howling from up near the caves on that mountain.