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March 4th, 2004

Dragon Claws?

I failed in my purpose this morning. I brought my digital camera to work with me for the express purposes of capturing two things in digital format that I could share. Both eluded me, so I'm going to fall back on my old standby of written words, and hope to get the evidence later.

First off, I live in a little mud-splat historical town in NC named Hertford. This has three main streets, cut across at one end by the bypass from US 17 that winds in across an antique "S" bridge ( the longest in existence these days). The road reminds you so strongly of the opening credits to the old black and white television episodes of The Andy Griffith Show that I suspect we may live in Mayberry (the town historically credited isn't that far away).

There are a number of very eccentric things about Hertford, and from time to time I will probably write about them here. One such oddity is a very tall black man named simply "Coleman."

Upon arrival in Hertford, especially if one arrives early in the morning, Coleman is an almost certain-to-be-noticed feature of the main "drag". Coleman stands, easily, six feet, five inches. He wears pants slightly too short, and has huge work boots (my own size 12 Docs are dwarfed). He is always well groomed and clean, but let me tell you - he is either a great actor, or crazy as a loon. He has a red baseball cap that appears to have protected his head from years of weather. He walks the six or seven miles from his own town, the next one over, every day to hang out in Hertford, sweeping sidewalks, and wandering. He is a walker.

None of this is all that strange. Here's the thing.

Imagine this huge man walking toward you -- you not knowing him from Adam -- and talking. Not to you, or to anyone in particular, just talking. His voice is very loud, and very deep. Sonorous - I don't use that word much, but it fits. He needs no amplification, even from a very long way off - like the ice-cream truck, you hear him coming, and you just knokw.

He always says the same thing. "She was MY wife. They said I KILLLED . (insert mumble ) HE WAS (mumble). Over and over.

He seems intent on the world knowing a story he can't quite enunciate. He tells it to everyone. If he knows you, or does not know you - no difference. He is a bubble-invader. A six foot five inch bubble invader who bellows about someone being killed. He is a vet, this much I know - and he is well thought of among the townsfolk, but I have yet to meet anyone who has made out the whole story. One day I'm going to go over it with him and try to get it straight.

Trish has talked to him before, and she says if you call him on it you can get him to speak very plainly, though not on the subject of his wife.

One morning, VERY early, I was getting ready for work. Along comes Coleman - no one else in sight. He's booming away, and he sees me. He walks over and stands, booming still, about six inches away from me. I admit, at this point I'm thinking - do I really want to be the one who proves he really IS dangerous? Then I saw he had an unlit cigarette. I gave him a book of matches, lit his smoke, and he wandered off, puffing and bellowing about death and wives....

So this morning I brought my camera to get a quick MPG of Coleman, and he wasn't there. A little spooky, that. I'll keep trying.


PART THE SECOND: DRAGON CLAWS

The second thing is something that appeared after Hurricane Isabel. I have a lot of vivid memories of that - I was caught in the middle of it, the widow's walk tore off the roof of my house and fell in the pool while I stood on the porch and watched. Trees older than my great grandparents would be, if any of them were alive, ripped up and fell. My street was without power for a week, and it was an experience, but I'm not getting into that.

When they finally cleared route 17 back through the Great Dismal Swamp ( It runs for about 12 miles directly along the long coastal waterway that stretches all the wya to Florida )I began the return to work, and life. I have an hour commute either way, and each way I drive through that swamp. All along it there were tree trunks, just sawed off at the edge of the road to make a passage, falling into the swamp on either side.

I took it all in, driving a little more slowly than usual. It's a dangerous, narrow road in the best of times - has a sign at either end proclaiming the number of dead since some year in the 1980s - hasn't been updated in a long time, but the message is clear enough.

So -- here I am driving along, and suddenly, I see something, and I have to stop. I pulled to the side of the road, crossed over to the far side, and stared at the pavement. The edge of the asphalt was scored. Deeply. It wasn't like something crushed it, but more like huge claws had dug into it - about six of them, a huge saurian back foot ripping the pavement in passing.

I looked into that swamp, and I wondered. I still wonder. The trees are mostly cleared, and I know that was probably the mark of the roots of some old tree that was picked up and bodily dragged across the road by the storm, except that I can't picture that. I can't see how it could make the marks. I can't, in fact, think of ANYTHING that could make those marks -- so my mind built a dragon. I want a picture of his footstep before they patch it over. Maybe I'll get it on the way home -- I passed too quickly and in too much traffic to stop this morning.

DNW

Dragons? The pics...sort of

Now I'm both pissed off and convinced the universe is laughing at me. The set of gouged claw marks I wrote of earlier today has been asphalted over. Not being easy to shake, however, I walked a quarter mile, digital Sony camera in hand, to get the following. Keep in mind, these are HALF as deep and large...and the tree shown is leaning directly away from where the gouge marks appear. The tree fell the OPPOSITE way of the storm blowing the rest of the trees.








Life is so weird. I didn't get the pics this morning because the thing I was watching for was gone...but now I found more...so...

DNW

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