Late Summer 1954
West Virginia Mountains
The tall skinny man with the beard was named Odie, and the long haired blonde was his only daughter Rebecca. Odie was 36
and Rebecca was 15 going on 25. They had lived in the old log house for the past ten years, since Odie’s wife was killed
when her car slid off the side of a washed out piece of road during a Summer rain storm. Rebecca had never gone to school
and could not read or write but was very wise when it came to living and surviving in the mountains. Odie had gone to school
as far as the third grade and could write his name and read simple sentences. Odie agreed to let Dad make him some teeth;
payment would be six chickens, dead or alive, a painting of Teddy Roosevelt and a radiator from an old Ford truck that had
not been driven in several years. “ Does the truck run Odie?” my Father asked. “ Don’t know. No gas.”
Odie said matter of fact.
On the second day we were there, Father began the task of making a new set of teeth for Odie. He mixed up a plaster solution,
poured it into large metal molds and pried Odie’s mouth open, forcing them into place while Odie squirmed and coughed
and gagged. “ Hold still Odie, hold still. The plaster needs to set....hold still.” Odie face was turning red
and at one point Dad had to remove the metal molds for fear Odie would choke to death. “Damn Doc, what ya’ tryin’
to do man, kill me?”
It took Father all day to get the impressions he needed from Odie as the two argued and fought through the whole ordeal.
By day’s end, Father had his impressions, Odie was calm and Rebecca and I sat in front of the roaring fire as I read
to her from Dad’s bible. She was amazed at the words I read and stopped me many times asking curiously, “What
That night Dad and I slept in the LaSalle, bundled tightly with home made quilts and blankets, sewn together with threads
from the pussy willow plants that grew all along the moist banks of a hand dug pond that filled with water, inexplicably.
The next morning, Rebecca cooked us a hot breakfast of eggs and chicken, sassafras tea and fried green tomatoes.
A few hours later I got sick and threw it all up, just in time for a lunch of more of the same.
Dad spent most of his day by the fireplace, baking plaster casts, forming teeth out of pieces of soft melted acrylic before
placing them into fresh mud to cool. He and Odie talked for hours by the fire, telling stories, and discussing the bible.
I spent most of the day with Rebecca in the old LaSalle, reading to her and scrawling names and words on a brown paper
bag. Her crystal blue eyes would widen each time she learned a new letter of the alphabet and was able to scribble it on the
bag. Her excitement was a cure for my nervous boredom and soon I began to enjoy our time together. In between learning the
alphabet, we talked of life in the mountains. She was, I imagined, very bored and lonely. There were no neighbors within walking
distance, no radio or television, she couldn’t read, nothing to do. However, Rebecca wasn’t sad. She had a constant
glint of a smile in her bright eyes and her voice was sweet and soft. “ What do you do here all the time?” I finally
asked. She looked at me most curiously. “ Oh, there's lots I do. I swing on the porch and sing for papa a lot.”
“ What else?”
“ Well, I visit with Mrs. Tucker a lot. She tells me stories and stuff...”
“Oh, so you do have neighbors. I didn’t think you did. Where does Mrs. Tucker live?”
Rebecca cocked her head, like a puppy seeking understanding. “ Well....
There was a long silence before she continued. “I ain’t sure where she lives but she comes to visit a lot.
She lives up there somewhere ...” she said as she pointed to a hill that was lined with a wooden railed fence that climbed
the mountain all the way to the top and beyond. Her eyes stared deep into the landscape for a moment before turning back to
me. “ Write Sugar Hill” she said, “ Let me see how it look.”
“Okay” I said as I began to draw the letters, one by one. “What is Sugar Hill?”
“ Oh that’s where we are. This is Sugar Hill right here.”
The sun began to fade and shadows crept into the day. The light faded fast, obscured by the tall trees and heavy brush.
Rebecca got out of the car unexpectedly and said, “ Common it’s time to go in the house now.”
As she scurried toward the house, I got out of the LaSalle and looked up the hill where the old fence meandered out of
sight. The quirky shadows danced as the trees softly swayed in the mountain breeze. In an instant I saw a figure. I stepped
back abruptly, stumbling against the car. It was gone as quickly as it had appeared. I heard the sound of an owl just then
and raced toward the house as fast as I could, bounding over the steps of the porch in a single leap, nearly collapsing once
“What's the matter boy?” my Father anxiously asked. Before I could catch my breath to answer, Rebecca smiled
and said, “ Oh he must just seen Mrs. Tucker.”
While Father and I slept peacefully in the LaSalle that night, we were awakened by the sound of a woman’s voice.
Startled, I jumped up to look out the rear door window. Father was already sitting up, his window rolled down and eyes focused
on the hill where Mrs. Tucker was slowly walking down the slope, ever so slowly, holding on to the wooden fence. A sudden
calm fell over me. I was not afraid at all.
Perhaps it was because Father was there to protect me. Perhaps it was because that the figure slowly coming down the hill
was not intimidating with her long flowing Angelic gown and her slow, graceful decent. “ Is that her Dad?” I asked.
"Yeah, I guess that’s Mrs. Tucker alright."
We watched in silence until Mrs. Tucker stopped about half way down the hill and then turned and began climbing back up
again. In a short while she had disappeared beyond the top of the crest. Father gave me a pat on the head. “Are you
okay son?” “ Yeah, I’m fine Dad. That was really cool.”
"You know son that was a demon don't you?" "Yeah I know...it was still kind of cool though."
We both settled back into the crushed velour of the LaSalle and soon the sun was streaming into the car. A new day was
Dad finally finished Odies dentures. We had been there five days and it was time to return home. School was starting in
a few days and Mom would be getting worried that I would not make it home in time to start the first day. We said our good-byes,
loaded up our chickens into the back seat, put the radiator and painting in the trunk and began coasting back down the mountain
towards home. Odie waved goodbye, smiling ear to ear, his new dentures shining like glass in the sun. Rebecca ran behind us
for a few yards, waving the whole time, Dad’s bible clutched tightly in her hands. I would miss Rebecca. As the years
passed I wondered what ever happened to her and Odie. Father had always said we would return to Sugar Hill to visit them,
and Mrs. Tucker. Somehow the years just slipped away.