it's hard to believe that it's been over 40 years since i've been to this place. in my mind's eye i can still see the house, feeling the fear and seeing her walk out onto the porch. now that i've been back, i can't seem to get her out of my thoughts and am longing to go back.
growing up in the country with no close neighbors had it's perks as well as it's downfalls. when you did get a chance to go somewhere, it was a big deal. when i was around 6 or 7, i remember going to camp with friends of my parents, their 5 girls and my older brother and sister. going to camp was a big deal. my parents didn't go with us too often, and i spent my time tagging along with all of the older kids, spending hours swimming in the creek, making every meal over a fire and wandering through the woods. it was glorious and i have some really good memories from those times. but then there is the memory of meeting beulah for the first time....
camp was set on a very narrow dirt road surrounded by hundreds of acres of woods. there were no houses that we passed when we walked the 2 miles down to the creek to swim, or when we would walk the 'circle' in the middle of the night (approximately 5-7 miles), sometimes stopping to jump in the creek to cool off, so that left me to assume that we were all alone. i found out differently when one morning the group of us were asked to head over to beulah's house for something. if the pack was moving, so was i, and i followed in line through the thick woods, staying out of the way and listening close to all conversations since i had no a clue of who beulah was. when the word "witch" was mentioned, that got my attention pretty quickly.
a child's imagination can conjure up all sorts of things, but i think that it's pretty safe to say that when the word "witch" is mentioned, it's not a pleasant feeling that you are left with (think hansel and gretel), especially at such a young age. feeling that there was safety in numbers and not wanting to walk the whole way back to camp myself, i continued on with the group. after all, it's not every day one gets to see a real live witch.
when i stepped out of the woods into the clearing, there was the house. "holy crap" pretty much summed up my thoughts. they weren't kidding, were they? this woman was actually a witch! i mean, look at the house! it had all of the makings of a witch's house to my 6 year old mind. it was big, old and dark looking. i was doomed. this was the end of the line for me. i was so scared, but onward i walked because my curiosity was getting the best of me. i was at the end of the pack so i figured that i had a good chance at getting away.
as we neared the steps, the door opened, and out she stepped. a real. live. witch. it's a wonder i didn't lose all bodily functions at that point. she was dressed all in black and her white hair was pulled back into a bun. yep. that's a witch in my book. i have no recollection of what words were exchanged between her and the other kids because i was too scared. at some point i did move....right onto the porch and into her house (probably under a spell). it was a small kitchen that i stood in, with a big old cast iron cook stove. i also remember her offering us something to eat which i wanted nothing to do with. no siree. i was smarter than that. and, i lived to tell about it.
last week, i asked my dad to show me the way back up to camp and to beulah's house. i had thought of her throughout the years and wanted to see the house again, just to see it through an adult's eyes. sadly, the camp had fallen into ruin and is not much more than just a shell. we continued down the narrow road a bit and my dad told me to pull over. all i saw was woods with a small clearing heading up through the woods. we would have to walk from there. a little over 1/4 mile into the walk, we both were starting to wonder if beulah's house had succumb to time and the elements but we continued on, hopeful. almost 1/2 mile from the road, i spotted it through the trees. oh my gosh. i was 6 again, only this time i wasn't afraid. the house looks exactly as i remember it, still standing so sturdy and solid all these years later.
beulah lived and died here. she didn't drive and very rarely did she leave the farm. she is buried beside her parents about two miles away in a small cemetery. obviously, she was not a witch either. from the stories i've heard since my first encounter, she was a very sweet woman. i wish i would have known her....i think we would have been good friends.