The Folklore Project


New York, New York

The Battle of Point Pleasant

By Tim Heaton

Added to my misery is the sun directly in my face. Gnats torment my nose and ears. Mud covers my face and stings my eyes. I am up to my armpits in quicksand. I am trapped. I was on a rescue mission, but as I see the hunters approach from the woods, I know I have failed. Now, the rescuer needs rescuing. I think of the expectant mother just behind me. I can hear her breathing heavily. I murmur soothing sounds so she doesn’t panic, but I am relieved to find she is too exhausted to struggle, and so she placidly awaits relief from the pain of this world.

As I try one last time to free myself from the mire, the hunters notice me and let out a whooping victory cry, then break into a run. It seems dead prisoners make poor entertainment. Now that I have sunk nearly chin-level to the ground, I notice for the first time a discarded skinning knife right before me. Then, I notice another and another across the ground. I realize that the discarded knives are in a ring around me. And bone fragments. Mud and soot-stained bone mixed with pottery chips, splintered wood, and, here and there, teeth. Just beyond the ring of knives and bone, there is another ring of spear points, and then another of arrowheads. From above, it must look like the rings in a pond and I am the stone in the center. It's then I realize that what I thought was just quicksand is actually a reliquary of ground pottery, arrowhead chips, shaft splinters, ashes, and bone. 

The hunters are readying their weapons as they get close. I am too tired to be afraid. Images of my life fly by. My childhood dog fetching stones for our camp, then the day he died — his teeth ground flat from the life-long habit of carrying stones around. The moment I told my father I'd taken his hunting talisman without his permission, then lost it in the forest. My mother's embrace as I left home as a young man. The first time my father told me he loved me. Seeing my wife for the first time and the birth of our first child. My youngest son's ceremony to adulthood. Finally, having relived it all, I succumb to the journey that will end in my becoming just another layer of this reliquary. My head falls heavily into the muck.

I awake between cool, crisp cotton sheets, my head on a down pillow. I'm enjoying one of those near-conscience moments in sleep where one feels pressed into the mattress as if by a deliciously heavy weight. My eyes are open, but I can't move, nor do I want to. In this semi-conscious state, I hear my wife speaking with what must be a doctor. 

“He'll be fine with a little more bed rest. He got very lucky that those hunters saw him.“

“Trying to save a deer from quicksand.” says my wife, as I imagine her shaking her head and tut-tutting.

“He unwittingly camouflaged himself with mud as he struggled to save that deer. Then, he became hypothermic, and very nearly a permanent part of Enid Lake. He's very lucky to be alive”

As I fall into back into unconsciousness, I imagine the Cherokee warriors fighting off the enemy as the defensive line of the village is breached, from arrow to spear, to knife and club — and, in a last desperate act, fists and teeth, until all of the people in the middle of the ring are destroyed.