Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Curse of Buck Mountain

Here's a North Carolina ghost story -- Dalton Hammond


Deep in the hills of western Wilkes County, North Carolina a legend still lives in local folklore, and summons questions which have never been answered to this day.

He was known only as Luther, and was said to be a direct descendant of Daniel Boone who lived a few mountains away in the town now called Boone. Luther called Buck Mountain his home and eked out his modest living as a trapper, trading his deer and bear hides, and pelts from mink and raccoon which lived in abundance on the mountain for flour, salt pork, and tobacco on his semiannual pilgrimages to Wilkesboro. During such visits he often astounded the villagers with his skillful bird and animal calls which he produced solely with his mouth and teeth. He developed a reputation for being able to reproduce the call of any bird or animal on the mountain and the locals looked forward to Luther's entertaining visits.

As settlers began to populate the valley below Buck Mountain they suffered frequent raids on their hen houses from packs of Timber Wolves that came down from the mountain. Even their precious bird dogs were sometimes killed or mauled by the predations. Eventually a bounty was declared on the wolves which Luther found to be an agreeable source of revenue.

On a fateful night in late October a valley settler was awakened by his house dogs who were barking excitedly at a disturbance outside the door of his cabin. Cocking his scattergun, he approached the door and squinted through the peephole. Outside lay Luther, on his side, his rudimentary clothing in rags and wicked bloody gashes streamed across his face. He appeared to be alone. The settler cautiously approached the prostrate body and carefully rolled him over onto his back. Luther was dying, but he opened his eyes which glistened in the moonlight, and croaked his last words which are still being retold:

That night Luther had found wolf tracks up on the mountain and followed them to a small natural cave which was hidden by a fallen tree stump. Inside the den he discovered a litter of eight young wolf pups, alone. Surely the mother and father were nearby, he reasoned. He parted the roots of the stump a bit more for a better look and his heart began to pound furiously at what he saw: Diamonds, dozens of them, were scattered about the floor of the den and he could see even more embedded in the walls of the cave. He picked one up, examined it for a moment in the moonlight, then placed it in his black powder pouch which hung around his neck. As he reached down for more he heard a ghastly bark which became a growl and he suddenly felt his leg being ripped to shreds. He had been found!

All at once there were wolves all around him and he flailed frantically at the nearest attackers with the butt of his rifle as he tried to work his way back down the mountain. Just as he was beginning to fear that he was lost a single wolf made a huge leap, gashing his face and neck, knocking him to the ground. Luther began to slide and roll helplessly down the slope and as he tumbled the growling and howls began to sound farther away.

When he came to a stop several hundred feet later, he realized that the wolves had remained at the den to protect the young. Luther groaned as he struggled to his feet and began to make his way to a solitary cabin down in the valley where the settler found him at the door.

Luther died that same night and the settler buried him in an unmarked grave behind the hen house. Remarkably, Luther had held on to his rifle, which the settler kept along with the powder pouch. When he went to town and traded a fine uncut diamond for supplies, livestock, and corn whiskey the alcohol loosened his tongue and he related the story of Luther's last hours. As the reader might expect there was a lot of searching on and around Buck Mountain for the source of Luther's diamond but the fabled den was never found.

Shortly thereafter on moonlit nights local residents began sighting a dark human shadow working its way among the trees on Buck Mountain. To them, its gait is unmistakably Luther's, and they know he is searching for the Lost Diamond Trove of Buck Mountain.

Now when present-day visitors to Buck Mountain sit on their porches or in their campers and listen to the whip-poor-wills, mourning doves, meadowlarks, squirrels, turkeys and other mountain denizens begin their nocturnal calls, they can never be certain that they're not hearing...The Curse of Buck Mountain.