I grew up in Skuna River Bottom, and always loved the stories and folklore about it, so I include it in many of the stories I write.
The year was 1900, the place was Skuna River Bottom, near the small hamlet of Old Houlka, Mississippi. The perpetrator, and later a victim was an evil man named, Dod Jenkins.
Dod was born to Katy and Troy Jenkins just after the end of the great American Civil War in the river bottoms that lay on each side of Skuna River. His mother was a God-loving woman, who worked hard to make ends meet for her husband and only child, Dod. Dod's father was an ex-Confederate soldier, who had been severely wounded in the last year of the war. Even though he had fully recovered from his physical wounds, his mental wounds would stay with him to the end of his life.
Troy Jenkins Comes Back From The War
Troy had gone into the war as a hard-working farmer but had returned home to become a hard-drinking bum, who stole from anyone he could, including friends and family, to support his habit. His wife, Katy was not excluded from his evil and felonious ways; he continually found the money she made from sewing and washing neighbors clothes and added to the strife of the family by taking it to feed his alcoholism. This made Troy a perfect father example; one in which no one would want their child to inherit.
Dod Follows in His Father's Footsteps
When Dod was small, Katy took him to church and tried very hard to get him to follow her example, but when Dod grew older, he could see her example included very hard work, which began before sun up and didn't end until late at night, while his father didn't raise a hand to help with the family's needs, but only took care of his own through his lawlessness. To a teenager, who had dropped out of school in the fifth grade, Dod realized he didn't want to have to work hard all his life and began his career of theft and other illegal occupations, including whiskey-making.
Dod Chooses a Victim
He became very adept at determining who had money, and when they had it, as he watched his neighbors toil in the fields all summer, only to make enough from their crops to barely get by, and he also determined, he would make it even harder for them to survive a winter by freeing them of their hard-earned cash. This, he usually did by hiding and watching where they put their crop money when they returned home with it.
Dod had not graduated to violence yet, but he was about to get his cap and gown by committing murder. His victim would be Nathan Williams, an elderly cotton-farmer, whom he had watched take his cotton from the fertile river bottom to a cotton gin in Old Houlka, Mississippi, each year, making several trips as the cotton was picked.
Dod Selects His Area of Ambush
In the fall of 1900, the cotton wagons were rolling out of Skuna River Bottom, headed for the gin at Old Houlka, when Dod decided to make his move. He watched Nathan Williams leave the bottom early in the morning with a loaded cotton wagon, and he decided to hide and wait for his return with his cotton money.
Dod retrieved a crock of whiskey from his still, and chose a heavily wooded area along the wagon road, leading into town, and waited on the return of his prey. As Dod sat in the bushes, drinking his whiskey, he barely noticed a storm brewing; he barely noticed anything due to his intoxication, but stayed alert enough to try and relieve Williams of his cotton money.
Dod Jenkins Perpetrates His Crime
After what seemed like an eternity, Dod heard a wagon approaching, but his drunkenness caused him to forget to put on his mask, and he stepped into the roadway with his shotgun lifted toward the approaching wagon; however, to his consternation, the voice from the driver of the wagon caused him to realize his mistake as Nathan Williams yelled, "What in the land's sake are you doing, Dod Jenkins?" Dod realized he couldn't let the old man leave there alive after recognizing him, so his reply to Nathan was the sound of his shotgun, and he watched the old man fall from the wagon.
Dod rushed over to Nathan and began going through his pockets, searching for his money, but to his dismay, he only found a receipt where Nathan had used his cotton money to make a bank payment on his land. At this very moment, a flash of lightning illuminated the dead man's face, and Dod was startled to see that the lifeless man had a smile on his face.
The Storm Has Arrived
Dod now realized that the storm was upon him, and a flash of lightning and a crash of thunder caused the horses to bolt and run away with the wagon, leaving the outlaw without transportation out of the storm. Suddenly the sky exploded with the most terrifying display of thunder and lightning Dod had ever seen and heard, and he ran into the woods seeking some type of shelter.
He didn't have to run far before he was shocked to see a light, possibly a lantern in the huge hollow of an ancient oak tree. This was the first good luck he had all day, and he smiled as he peered into the tree. The light was coming from a deep hole in the ground, below the hollow of the tree, and to his unbelief, there were steps that descended into the hole.
As Dod slowly walked down the steps, the light, which was an intense red color, became brighter and brighter. He was being pulled toward it like a magnet, and he knew that he could not go back up the steps even if he wanted to; he was no longer the perpetrator, but now he was the victim. Dod's scream silenced the night creatures, as he stared into the blood-red eyes of a horrible creature that he knew was totally and perpetually evil.
A New Morning
As the rays of the sun glistened off the rain-soaked forest, the searchers found Dod, even though they were actually searching for Nathan. Dod's burned body lay in a pile of ash, which was once a tree. Even though he was badly burned, the men could see a look of frozen fear on Dod's face; a face that had seen the devil, himself.
© 2019 Gerry Glenn Jones
Eve Whelan on October 13, 2020:
Good story Gerry, I enjoyed reading this very much.
Gerry Glenn Jones (author) from Somerville, Tennessee on April 18, 2019:
I'm glad you enjoyed it, John!
jOHN LOCKE on April 18, 2019:
GOOD JOB MY FRIEND
Uvond on April 13, 2019:
Loved it. Wish you would put out more.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 13, 2019:
This is another good story, which reveals the dark side of life. The suspense is good and I enjoyed your story Gerry.