Aunt Sylvie And The Bear
By Sarah Harrison
I've always been a tad worried about Aunt Sylvie livin' up in the holler by
herself. Don't git me wrong, Aunt Sylvie can take care of herself. The
folks in the town of Spooks Cove have a mighty amount of respect for
her, there ain't an ailment that Aunt Sylvie can't fix with her remedies. The
local folks would rather go to Aunt Sylvie for doctorin' than a city doctor.
For one thing, she don't charge much and her remedies work. The city
folks, who build their fancy summer homes on the ridge tops, snicker
about us ignorant hillbillies and our granny doctors. Imagine, makin'
medicine from leaves and roots found in the woods. Whoever heard of
such a thing in the 21st century? Then they git into their fancy cars and
drive into the city and buy expensive potions called holistic and herbal. I
bet they don't know where their ginseng comes from. I smile every time I
think about Aunt Sylvie's secret ginseng patch up on Whisper Mountain.
The folks hereabouts whisper about Aunt Sylvie being more than a
granny doctor, that's she's also a witch. They say strange things happen
up in the holler during full moons. Aunt Sylvie always said she had the
gift of knowin'. It comes from her Cherokee side. It makes no nevermind
to me what she does during full moons and solstice. That's her affair. I
worry about all those durn animals. There ain't an animal that gets
turned away from her door. Raccoons, 'possums, coyotes, cats, dogs,
they all come to her back door for handouts. She's got half a dozen bird
and suet feeders on her property and now she's dun got a big black bear
coming down to raid those feeders. She stands on the porch and talks
to the durn thing.
"Aunt Sylvie, you need to be careful, you don't want to be messin' with no
bear. There's no tellin' what it may do."
"Pooh, boy, they is all God's creatures and I aim to take care of 'um the
best I can. It ain't no skin off'in my nose to fill those feeders up. Besides,
old Ben ain't gonna hurt me." She said primly.
"Ben? You didn't name it after that silly show in the sixties?"
"Gracious no, I named him after that bear on Grizzly Adams. That Grizzly
Adams was a mighty handsome man, you think?"
"Whatever you say, Aunt Sylvie." I sighed.
One Saturday, I decided to head over to Asheville to pick up some
supplies. Aunt Sylvie asked me to pick up some more suet feeders as
Ben had destroyed her last one. I sighed as I grabbed several suet
feeders off the shelf in the hardware store. No good is goin' to come of
On my way home, I stopped to git Aunt Sylvie her favorite treat, a dozen
Krispy Kreme doughnuts. As I walked into Aunt Sylvie's house, I was
plumb knocked back by the smell. Hell, it was worse than collards
"Aunt Sylvie! What is that horrible smell!" I yelped, tryin' to keep from
"I'm makin' up a big batch of my cold and croup remedy. There's this pig
flu goin' around and I'm goin' to be prepared. I hear tell that it's killed
thousands of folks in Mexico. My granny tole me about the great flu of
1918 and now it's back." She said with a determined look.
"Well now, it's called the Swine Flu and it's a bad bug, but it ain't killed
that many folks. Anyhow, here's your suet feeders and I got you some
doughnuts." I said, knowin' I was turnin' greener by the minute.
"Thanks Jimmy, you sure is good to a frail old lady like me. You want
some Comfrey tea?" She grinned.
I turned and fled the house, gulpin' big breaths of fresh air. "Frail my ass,
there ain't nothin' frail about that ole lady." I thought as I tried catch my
Right around this time, Spooks Cove was experiencing a crime wave.
Seems like some feller was breaking into homes of elderly women. He
was so nervy that he was doin' this while the ladies was home. It had the
whole town spooked, so to speak. There was talk that it was some city
feller, thinkin' we mountain folk were easy pickin's.
I was out huntin' with my best friend Jake the next Saturday. Ok, ok, I
know it wasn't deer or turkey season, but us mountain folk gotta eat.
Them city folks, who make the huntin' season rules, don't give a damn
about us folks who ain't rich and can't run to a grocery store ever other
Jake was talkin' about the break-ins. "I hear tell that the guy puts a
stockin' over his face. Nobody knows who he is. Sheriff Bob is doing the
best he can, but this feller just vanishes like a ghost after each robbery.
The women are all scared and I don't blame them. I worry about my
sister, her husband works the night shift. That big ole dog he got from
the pound ain't no good. He runs and hides under the bed when the
mailman comes by."
"Yep, I worry a lot about Aunt Sylvie. She ain't got no close neighbors
and I'm afeared that she may be next. But, she's a tough ole lady and is a
better shot than I am." I shook my head.
'Well, that ain't sayin' much." Jake said with a grin.
"That so, well the first one to bag a deer gits his beers paid for tonight at
Jasper's Pool Hall."
Boy, did I have one Hell of a hangover on Sunday. I think I agreed to a
venison BBQ the next weekend.
I was driving to work Monday morning when I saw Sheriff Hall's car out
front of Miz Ballard's place. I stopped 'cause I'm as nosy as the next
"Hey Bob, everythin' alright?" I asked.
"Some low life broke into Miz Ballard's place this morning. Knocked her
around pretty good and stole her rings and some money." He said,
looking pissed enough to spit nails. "Doc's with her now giving her a
sedative, but she's OK, just bruised and shook up. It ain't nothin' but
scum that'd knock around a 80 year old lady! I want this guy bad! You
tell Sylvie to be on the lookout, but don't go shootin' at every noise. She
scared the tar out of those backpacker folks last summer."
Two nights later I git a call from Aunt Sylvie. She was talkin' so fast all I
could hear was bear and blood. I run to my truck and must of driven 70
up to the holler. In her driveway I seen flashing blue lights. My heart felt
like it'd dropped to my knees, I was sure Aunt Sylvie was hurt or worse.
As I pulled up to the cabin, I seen the rescue squad loadin' up some feller
that looked like nothin' but a mass of blood and ripped up clothes. He
was gibberin' about monsters and such. I run inside to find the whole
livin' room full of cops. Some were shakin' their heads and the rest
looked like they was tryin' not to laugh.
"Aunt Sylvie, What happened? Are you alright?"
Aunt Sylvie sat there lookin' calm, like she was attendin' a social, and
havin' a room full of cops was nothin' special.
"Of course I'm fine, boy. It's just that Ben ate a burglar."
I heard a loud guffaw from behind me.
"That's right." Aunt Sylvie said proudly. "That durn scoundrel made the
worse mistake of his life."
"What's that?" I said hesitantly, not wantin' to know, but with a sick
feelin', already knowin'.
"Why, he dun git between a hungry bear and a fully loaded suet feeder."
Aunt Sylvie said with a knowin' smile.