Posted 10-31-2003 at 05:29:06
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(This is my absolute LAST halloween story, cross my heart and hope to die)
I've been asking around here for as long as I can remember. 'Why is that road going south off of East Main before you get into town, called Bloody Bucket Rd?' That's not it's real name, but that's what everybody calls it. I've had a variety of answers.
I hadn't planned on asking about Bloody Bucket Road today. I wasn't even thinking about it really, even though I had stopped for gas at the Circle K, and the road runs right down behind the store, and I almost never fail to think of it while I'm standing there pumping gas. I mean, what else is there to think about? It's right there in front of you to stare at.
Up by the highway it looks much like any well traveled paved country road, but a hundred yards or so, back into the woods, well that's where the common appearance ends. The further you go south, the trees begin to swallow the road and old oaks on either side, probably older than I am, stretch their branches as far as they can go until they meet in the middle. As a result, even on a sunny day the road lies in deep shadow and I shudder to think what it might be like walking that road on a moonless night.
If you drive farther down Bloody Bucket, you cross a short one lane bridge, then pass through more tree cover for about another three hundred yards and then like being born, you are spat out into the blinding sunlight at the junction of Bloody Bucket Rd and Hiway 64.
I wasn't going that way. I never go that way if I can help it, and certainly not at night. Especially after some of the stories I've heard. I have to go south on occasion, but I just use other roads. Right now I was heading east. Into the store to pay for my gas.
As I approached the big glass doors, I noticed Frank, parked in his wheelchair up by the ice case. Frank is a local fixture. He's a hundred years old if he's a day, black as coal, and as sweet as any human being could ever hope to be. Frank was born and raised in the little town of Wauchula and can tell you at a glance who is related to who, simply by their facial features.
I remember seeing Frank the day after nine eleven. There he sat in his chair, mirrored sunglasses on his gaunt, wrinkled face, an American flag emblazened across every available surface of that chair. He must have spent half of his social security check on flag bumper stickers and cheap little popsicle stick parade flags. Nobody could acuse him of not being patriotic.
Frank is not a beggar, but he is also not adverse to a helping hand. On hot days if you go into the Circle K and you see Frank without a cold drink, well, you brought him out one. If it was early in the morning, you brought him a coffee. Or if you wanted to be really nice and your pockets allowed, you might bring him a coffee and a doughnut.
Today I noted right off that he had a 44 oz belly buster soda so I just greeted him and smiled and grabbed for the door handle. Then somehow, the question came, pretty much of it's own volition.
"Say Frank...do you know why they call that road Bloody Bucket?" I hooked a thumb over my right shoulder, gesturing in the direction of the road.
He chuckled, and then grinned.
"Why yes, course I do." Then his face grew serious. "Ain't nobody 'roun here remembers da story but some of us ol' timers. Lord, I wasn't even born yet, my daddy told me about it."
It looked like I might finally be going to get the answer that I had been seeking for such a long time. I had gotten answers, but none of them rang true and none could be corroborated by more than one person, as everyone would poo poo the last story and come out with one of their own. I was beginning to think that there really wasn't a reason for the bizarre name, but I was willing to listen to one more story.
"Back in eighteen and ninety seven, there wasn't much in the way of doctors out here. Times were hard all over, even harder here, most folks got by on what they could hunt or grow...big families could be a blessing AND a curse, you know what I mean?"
"Yeah, I know what you mean."
"Wasn't no sucha thang as a 'lady' doctor. Most folks knew a lot about how to heal theyself, and midwives took care of most of the baby birthin' and stuff such as that."
I was getting an idea where this story was headed and I didn't know if I wanted to go there or not, but Frank was wound up and there was no way to shut him off, short of letting him wind down on his own.
"There was a woman by the name of Ludmilla Clark. She was an old woman, born on a Georgia plantation, and brought here by her husband when they managed to buy their freedom. She was the one to call on when a baby was on the way. Or if there was....other complications of some sort. She was right proud of the fact that she had delivered over two hundred babies. One evenin' she was called on by the Turner family.
I think that's the first time they figured out what old Ludmilla was doin'. She had took it on herself to 'help' these families by givin' them less mouths to feed, if you get my drift. There for a while nearly every baby she helped deliver didn't make it for one reason or another. By the time she got 'round to the Turners, one of the more well to do families, had the best of everything, no reason for that baby not to be healthy, and it died anyway, well folks started gettin' suspicious."
"Are you trying to tell me that this woman was killing babies!?" A chill ran up my back.
"Well course that's what I'm telling you!"
"Well who KNOWS why. She was sick in the head. Same as folks are sick in the head now. She just slipped her hand over the child's mouth when no one was lookin' and waited for it to stop strugglin'."
He stopped to draw from the straw on his belly buster drink, while I sat there, my mouth growing increasingly more dry by the minute.
"Some folks say she went crazy delivering so many babies but never had she been allowed to keep her own, and by the time she was free, she was too old to have any more of her own. Anyway," he waved one thin hand dismissively, "she would carry these little bodies down what used to be Reinhardt Pass, what you call Bloody Bucket Rd., and bury them back there in the woods beyond the river. And folks just praised her for being so kind and so helpful. All except Mrs. Turner."
"Oh, no! She had heard her baby cry! She knew her baby had been born healthy. It was her third child, an easy birth, Lord I don't think that woman even broke a sweat bringing that baby into the world, so she cursed Ludmilla and called her for the black hearted witch she was and vowed she never would deliver another baby."
"Nope, not once word got around. There was no proof, but she was never called on again."
"That still doesn't explain..."
"The bloody bucket part? I'm gettin' to that."
"That's all right." He smiled then to make sure I understood that I was forgiven.
"Shortly after Ludmilla was cursed by Mrs Turner she went a little crazier. She swore that she couldn't leave a bucket sittin' for more than five minutes that it wouldn't fill up plumb to the rim with blood. Some folks said that it was the blood of all those little children gone by come back to haunt her, the blood was on her hands you see, and she plumb wore herself to a frazzle lugging bucket after bloody bucket down Reinhardt Pass to the river to dump it out and rinse it. They found her there one day. She had fallen exhausted into the river and drowned. But that's not even the odd part."
"Nope. Her husband swore up and down that he had looked into these buckets that she claimed were full of blood and they were as clean as a whistle...not the first sign of blood in any of them, but to ask her, they were full to the top and slopping over with the stuff."
He paused then for another sip from his drink.
"So from now on if anybody asks you about Bloody Bucket Rd, you know the real story."
"Sounds to me like she was done in by her own guilt." I said.
"Can you think of any more fitting way for a woman like her to go?"
"No I guess not."
I walked away with a sadness for all those little souls lost at the hands of a crazy woman. For such a long time I had sought an answer to this riddle. Somehow now, I wish I had never asked the question.
(This is my first attempt at pure and total fiction. It was a lot harder than I expected! I hope that I did not offend anybody!There is a Bloody Bucket Rd and there was a Frank, he passed away last year, but I suspect that if anyone knew the truth it would have been him. I just never got around to asking him.)