The Myth of Black Pine Forest

This piece stemmed from a writing exercise: incorporate all of the following words into an article, short story, poem or whatever comes to mind. You must use all of the words (in any order) to complete the exercise, but the context in which they are used is up to you. Think about the words for a few minutes before you start to write and see what pictures come to mind - then see if you can weave them all together into a piece of writing.

Hiking through the Montana backwoods on a fall afternoon, Jack discovered more than just the expected foliage changes and crisp yet warm autumn air. Crossing the Black Pine Creek, the banks rampant with gnarled trees and various growths, he stumbled upon a small stone path leading to a clearing in the trees at the top of a hill. Although this route was not new to him, Jack had never seen this path before.

He pressed on, up the steep hill, stone by stone, and into the opening where a tiny cabin leaned slightly to the east at the far edge of the clearing. How bizarre, he thought, pulling a tissue from his vest pocket and wiping the sweat from his brow. An eagle cried as it circled high above and he found his feet moving forward.

Although it was difficult to see through the dirty windowpanes, there didn't seem to be any movement inside the little place. A broken wagon wheel rested against the moss-covered wood pile that was neatly stacked against the front of the cabin near the door, which stood slightly ajar.

"Hello?" Jack called quietly, peering into the dark room, "Is anyone here?"

No one answered.

"Helloooo..." he tried again, slowly inching the creaking door open further. The sunlight poured in just enough for Jack to see a small dust-covered wooden table and a kerosene lamp against the wall. Stepping carefully into the room, he whispered, "Looks like nobody's touched this place for years." He wandered through the doorway and noticed a large coin shimmering in the sunlight on the floor near the fireplace. Jack stooped to pick it up.

"A silver dollar! I haven't seen one of these since I was a kid..." he said to himself. Flipping the coin over Jack discovered that it was made in 1843. He set the coin back into its place and continued exploring.

The sunlight seemed to be fading as clouds rolled by outside. Jack had to squint to see that it was a lovely woman in the picture on the mantel. Wearing a simple dress and a bonnet, she smiled just enough to show that she was a content woman. Her dark eyes seemed to look through him, and he couldn't seem to tear himself away from her smile.

As he set the photo back on the mantel, a large crack of thunder echoed through the woods, and the walls of the cabin seemed to shake in response.

His heart beating just a bit faster, Jack stepped outside, just as the rain started to fall. He considered staying inside the cabin to wait out the storm, when he heard a horse neighing. Puzzled, Jack peeked around the corner and saw a man with a rather large shotgun on a black mare galloping towards him.

"Get off my land!" the strange man bellowed as he pulled the horse to a stop not fifteen yards from where Jack stood.

"I just wandered..." Jack started to explain, but as the man cocked his gun in response, Jack turned and ran as fast as he could through the clearing and back down the stone path.

Trying not to slip on the stones, as the rain soaked him and the thunder roared, Jack didn't pause to look back until after he had crossed Black Pine creek and hid behind a tree. When he did, the man was not following him. And the stone path was not there.

"What the...?" Jack said as he looked up and down the bank of the creek. There was no hill, no clearing, and no crazy man following him with a gun.

The thunder clapped again, and Jack didn't wait any longer to get out of there. He ran back through the woods all the way to the lot where his Jeep was parked. Digging into his pocket to find his keys, he felt a large coin. Slowly, he pulled his hand out of his pocket, and there was the silver dollar.

Scrambling into the Jeep and out onto the highway towards home, he dialed his best friend Bill's number on the cell phone.

"You are not going to believe what just happened!" Jack blurted out, before Bill could even say hello. Jack explained the whole story, and said, "What do you make of it, Bill? What happened out there?"

After a short pause, Bill said, " just had a run in with the ghost of old John Warner, man."


"You mean, you've never heard of the myth of Black Pine Forest before?" Bill said. "Story is...a long time ago, the Warner family used to live out there in those woods. John and his wife Ruth had a son named William, and John used to entertain him with magic tricks. You know, pulling a silver dollar out of his ear and stuff." Bill explained.

"What happened to them?" Jack asked.

"One day, while John was out hunting a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, there was a terrible fire. Ruth had accidentally knocked over a lamp which caught the cabin on fire. She tried to put it out, but it spread too fast and blocked the door so she and little William couldn't escape. The cabin burned to the ground and the two of them died in that fire.

When John came back he found nothing but smouldering ashes and the one silver dollar that he used to teach his son the magic trick.

John was so distraught at losing his family that he rode his horse out into the woods and hung himself from a tree. The horse was found wandering along the creek eight days later."

"Oh man..." Jack whispered, "I had no idea..."

"Legend has it that anyone who has seen the ghost of John Warner has a silver dollar to prove it. And you've got one, my friend." Bill said.

The End

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