Although my family moved all over America, and in parts of Mexico and Canada, we often spent time in Georgia. Dad was born and raised in Georgia. His brother Jack, Jack’s wife Inez and their kids lived in Hinesville Georgia. Grandma (who we called Miss Bonnie) also lived in Hinesville.
We’d drive from wherever we were living to Hinesville, lug our suitcases into Miss Bonnie’s house and then Dad would go pick up our cousins. The grown ups would hang out at Uncle Jack’s and Aunt Inez’s house while we kids played at the little wooden shack on the edge of a forest.
One trip, Bob and I schemed a plan to fake out the cousins. We loved playing tricks on people. It was a way to have control in our lives, since we had no control over moving two to six times a year.
“OK, here’s the deal,” Bob whispered, “I’ll ride my bike down to Collin’s Drug Store. I’ll buy some Kool Pops with our money. We’ll stick ‘em in Miss Bonnie’s ice box. Then I’ll run out and hide ‘em in that old tree with the hollow hole.”
“All holes are hollow, Bob,” I whispered back.
“Just shut up a minute. So then we’ll get all the cousins and Kathi to go with us on The Witch Trail! I’ll head up the line and you be at the back. I’ll say stuff like ‘See the Owl’ and you hoot. Get it?”
I was onto the plan. We’d done things like this in every place we’d lived. Hiding fake Jesse James treasure maps in Wyoming and charging kids a nickle to help us dig the maps up. Leading safaris in Tennessee. Building rafts on the Mississippi, charging kids ten cents to watch us sail down towards the Gulf of Mexico. This was the latest in our long line of schemes.
Dad let our five cousins out of his Bonneville. They all rushed up to us. Bob said “Let’s go on a safari.”
“Lordie, it’s too hot!” cried Debbie.
“Ya’ll, let’s get Miss Bonnie’s sweet tea and bisquits,” Rusty was always hungry.
“Let’s play dolls,” Kim said to Kathi. They were the same age. Kim had all the Barbies, Skipper and Ken. I could not be less interested in dolls.
“Nope,” my brother commanded. “That can wait. This is an Adventure. We’re going on The Witch Trail!”
“Yeah!” I shouted, pumping enthusiasm into the group.
Bob got everyone assembled into a line, then marched onward into the forest. I took the last spot in the group, behind my sister.
“Keep quiet, there could be wild animals. Or witches!”
“Lordie,” prayed Debbie.
“Is that an owl I see in yonder tree?” Bob turned toward the group and pointed high up into the Spanish moss-covered branches. I hooted.
“I don’t see it! Owls claw!!” Debbie was high-strung.
“Shhht” Rusty was into the wild adventure, full force now.
“Will a witch appear? Or will we get Kool Pops?” Bob’s voice rasped.
“Kool Pops?” Rusty was ready for a treat.
I cackled, as witch-like as possible.
“Mama!” cried little Kim.
My sister turned to me, lifting an eyebrow accusingly. She knew my tricks. I held my finger up to my lips & bent down to her ear. “There will be a treat, stay quiet.”
Bob ran over to the old oak tree with a big hole in it. “Is the owl in here?” He screamed as if his his arm were being ripped off. Rusty, Debbie and I ran toward him. “Hellllllllllp” Bob shouted.
“Lordie! Lord! Lord!” Debbie was frantic. Rusty grabbed a stick off the ground and held it like a spear. I huddled with the littler kids, telling them “We’re safe.”
Bob pulled his arm out, his hand holding aloft a box of popsicles. “Kool Pops! The witch left us a present!”
No one asked why on earth a witch would leave gifts in trees for a bunch of kids. Everyone rushed to get their favorite color.
“I want red!” shouted Kathi.
“Me, too” yelled Kim.
We all marched back to Miss Bonnie’s, happily munching on melting Kool Pops.
Thirty years later, my parents were visiting at Jack and Inez’s. All the kids, now grown up, were there. Debbie told the story of the Witch Trail and how she had absolutely believed there was a witch and an owl in that tree. Dad called me on the phone and blessed me out for scaring the kids. I gave my brother a call and he could not believe they had fallen for his trick.
“Lordie, Lord, Lord” I said and we laughed about our wild antics as children.