The Magnificent Weeping Willow Tree

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
....dead men tell no tales......

Submitted: July 14, 2012

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Submitted: July 14, 2012

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We could hardly wait for grandpa to take his place on the old rocker from where he would recite to us yet another one of his stories. And as I thought on it, I was filled with anticipation.

He finally sat himself down, put his spectacles on and snuggled back into his padded rocker. Tonight's story was entitled, The Magnificent Weeping Willow Tree. And so he began by going back to the time when he, his father and mother had first moved to this area. There weren't too many "white folks" (European settlers) then, he said. They were mostly native people and they had chosen this area because it was a fertile land good for harvesting crops.

However, the settlers began to arrive in larger numbers now and the natives delegated to move elsewhere because of the uneasiness and frequent skirmishes that would arise between them and the new settlers. I was still quite young, grandpa said, about the time my father befriended an old native man who said that he had remained behind because he would not have survived the long grueling journey to a new settlement. He gave my father valuable advise on how to cultivate the land, which in turn my father paid him either with monies, or with crops. Then the old native man told my father of a passage way and of two tribes who were forever contesting it. This passage way lay between a precipitous dormant volcano of jagged rocks and ridges on the one side, and a raging river, formed from the melting snows of the mountains, on the other. The rapid waters of the river made it impossible to traverse, and the jagged cliffs on the other side presented a very dangerous obstacle. This was why the passage way was so important. The only other option to pass was to go around the volcanic cliff. Bitter feelings and constant bickering escalated between the tribes as to who had the right to the passage way. They could not reach a satisfactory agreement and so a battle ensued. There was much loss of life, as well as much grief and sorrow. The two chiefs finally decided to come together in peace and decided that the passage way, a place of much blood shedding, would be proclaimed sacred ground. All the dead would be buried there. This passage way would not be threaded upon hereafter. During the first seven years of observance a majestic weeping willow tree thrusted upward from the sacred ground. Its magnificent hanging strands encompassing the whole of the passage way. The natives had come to look upon it as a living memorial.

The years passed and the settlers kept coming in. Many were becoming tiresome of the necessity to go around the cliff. The settlers began to expound on the credibility of the "passage way's" presumed sacredness, insisting that it was not true at all, that it was just an "ole wives tale", not worthy of belief. If it was true, why had all the natives moved on to other settlements. Some settlers even went so far as to suggest to the heads of the township, to uproot the tree altogether and unobstruct the passage way.

However, the heads of the township decided against it for now, because of some occurrences relating to the passage way which had not yet been satisfactorily put to rest. Several people had been found, as if strangled, on that very passage way. There was evidence of marks around their necks as if they had been lynched. But, so far, all the bodies had been discovered on the ground. They could not attribute them to the natives however, because they had longed since moved to settlements elsewhere. Once a year though, those within the tribes who were better off, would return for a three day pilgrimage. Security was tightened during those days, and the merchants would somehow come together to shed their prejudices, and make them feel welcomed for the time being, in order to garnish their visitors monies and valuables. Other than on these occasions, there were no natives remotely near this area.

On the other hand, however, the relatives of those apparently "strangled" victims demanded justice, but the heads of the townspeople had nothing. To even suggest that they had somehow managed to strangled themselves on the very strands of the willow tree and had caused their own demise, would not only add fuel to the belief that this was indeed sacred ground with a curse to anyone who violated it, but they would become a laughing stock to the people and promptly be tossed from the elected office. For this reason, the heads of the township had long since begun to refer to it as simply the"passage way" with no inference to it being sacred ground. In this manner, after the older and wiser generation passed away, it would be forgotten. It would then be easier to deal with the "passage way" and finally uproot the obstruction, namely the vengeful and gargantuan weeping willow. But for the time being, they needed to find a scapegoat to get these people off their backs. Trying to pin it on a native now, would be bad for business as the pilgrimage was too close at hand to risk a boycott. They were going to have to go into their own stock for this one. Maybe a drunk, misfit, or a has-been, their demands far outweighted the need for just another vagabond. The only other option was that they had somehow managed to strangle themselves on the strands of the weeping willow. It became increasingly obvious that they were going to have to find a scapegoat and blame him for all the occurrences. In the meantime, everyone was forbidden to cross through the passage way. Steel fences of barbed wire were erected, and guards posted on both sides to avert any future strangulations. The relatives could now be told that the culprit had been caught and was to expire at a public hanging of which they were invited to attend. After a few days of quiet, they began to plan for the upcoming pilgrimage and how to make it a financial success. All merchants would be taxed according to what they bought in. There would be zero tolerance in this matter since it was for the advancement of the township.

The pilgrimage festivities had proved to be such a success that the heads of the township tabled a motion to extend future pilgrimage festivities to a week long event, thereby increasing their revenues two fold. However, the majority of the towns people voted it down, saying that perhaps now would be the time to clear the passage way and rid themselves of that eyesore and bring to end this "ole wives tale" nonsense. The heads found themselves once again having to bend to the demands of the townspeople. They would hold a town meeting to inform them that the tree would be uprooted, and the passage way cleared to accommodate incoming and outgoing commerce. Early the next morning the task of uprooting the tree began and had been finished just about dusk. Afterwards the tree and all its parts were very unceremoniously "tossed" into the raging river.

Later that evening the townspeople and the heads were triumphfully celebrating all of their days accomplishments. The head speaker was just about to make a toast, when suddenly, the volcano blew it top. The subsequent tremors rattled the saloon so, that the fixtures began to rain down on the townspeople. They ran to the doors and fled outside. Upon looking skyward they saw flaming rocks and lava being tossed into all the surrounding areas. They began to flee away from the bursting flames which were now descending on them. Most of the people were able to run and clear themselves from the falling debris, however the buildings shook and trembled and many fell as they were hit by the flaming rocks. The turmoil lasted about twenty minutes. After all was said and done, most of the damage had been confined to that part of town that was closest to the volcano.

The next day the people went to view the passage way. It was now a pile of stewing rubble. The whole passage way had been covered with hugh jagged rocks from one side to the other. The townspeople returned with their heads hung low. Now began the task of rebuilding what could be salvaged, and tearing down what had been totaled. It took about 10 months to rebuild the town. The annual pilgrimage for the native people to return was now about one and a half months away. The heads of the township again brought up the idea of extending the event to a week long affair taking into consideration that every year had been more profitable than the last. They also needed the monies now more than ever. This time around the majority of the townspeople were in agreement, and those who were not, need only look upward to remind themselves not only by the now and then rumbles from beneath, but also by the still billowing smoke signals issuing from atop the open crater ever since that fateful night when all hell broke loose. And if that were not enough, news had just been received, that an even more formidable and prolific weeping willow was tearing its way through the jagged rocks which still blocked the passage way. After a sudued silence, the head speaker spoke out to the townspeople, well, maybe it's not such a bad idea to make it a week long festival...................at least, until this generation passes away.


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