Thursday, October 28, 2010

The way-better-but-completely-made-up Legend of the Mandy Tree

Back in 2007 I posted a brief story that talks about the legend of the Mandy Tree. It involves a woman named Mandy Holloman, a gardener who was shot to death in her home sometime in the 1920s. Several years later, to the astonishment of the good citizens of Madisonville, the foliage of a tree Mandy had planted out on West Broadway suddenly began to take the shape of her profile. Sometime during the late 1940s or early 1950s, the tree died.

It's an amazing photo and a legend with a lot of potential. But on the whole, I've always felt that what little I've been able to find about the story of the Mandy Tree was pretty dang skimpy. So, in the spirit of Halloween, I've taken the root of the tale and liberally infused it with a heaping helping of bull to embellish the Legend of the Mandy Tree.

In the mid-1920s a man named Sam lived in a shack on the far western side of Madisonville. Sam was a blacksmith who specialized in horseshoes. The location of his shop was no accident. He picked the spot because it gave him equal access to the people in town and to travelers passing through. But also figuring into his decision was a broad oak tree that cast a shadow over the shack, offering some relief from his blacksmith's furnace.

It was hard making a living selling horseshoes at a time when automobiles were starting to outnumber horses. However, it was also a time when men who wanted a sip of alcohol couldn't come by one legally, and Sam soon found that he could use his furnace to heat a still for making moonshine.

Moonshining gave Sam a small but steady income for a time. But before long, Sam became his own best customer. The more he drank, the meaner he became. And the meaner he became, the fewer people would come to buy his liquor. So day after day, Sam would sit drinking in his shed, growing ever more bitter and discouraged, shouting at the heavens and anyone who happened to pass by.

Among those who did pass by several times a week was a young woman named Mandy. Mandy and her family lived nearby. They, too, were feeling the hard times and her job was to fetch water at the spring. Sam knew Mandy and her family. He had watched through the years as she had grown from a little girl who used to walk to the spring with her mother, into a fine young woman. A beautiful young woman, Sam thought.

One hot summer day a drunken Sam saw Mandy approaching as she made her way to the spring. A combination of the heat, alcohol and wanton lust triggered Sam to yell out, "Come over here, girl!" The shout startled Mandy and she stopped. But when she recognized that Sam was drunk, she began to hurry away. But Sam was determined to get the girl. He jumped up and started moving, unsteadily, toward her. Mandy started to run, but caught her foot on a fallen branch and fell. Before she could get up, Sam was on top of her. She struggled, then started screaming. With one hand, Sam covered the young girl's mouth, and with the other he clutched her throat. And he squeezed. He squeezed until her screams - and her breathing - stopped. Then Sam passed out.

It was dark when he came to and saw what he had done. He knew he had to hide the body, so Sam carried Mandy up to the shed, grabbed a shovel and dug a hole beside the oak tree. He pushed Mandy's body into the hole and covered it with dirt.

A day later, a group of men came searching for the girl. Sam told the men that he'd seen her. She had come by, asking if he knew where she could get a horse. He asked her why and he said she told him she wanted to leave town to start a new life. He said he told Mandy she was foolish and the should go back to her home. The group believed what Sam told them. Soon the search for Mandy stopped, with everyone assuming she had just run away from home.

When autumn came, leaves from the oak tree fell and blanketed the grave for the cold winter. When winter gave way to spring, leaves started to reappear on the tree's limbs. As the tree took on full foliage, Sam noticed one moonlit night that it had grown out into a familiar-looking profile. The more the tree began to look like Mandy, the more Sam drank.

One mid-summer night a tremendous storm was developing and the winds were growing. Sam, drinking again, had fallen into alcohol-fogged sleep in the shed. As the winds grew stronger and stronger, what Sam thought was a voice startled him awake. "Ssssaaaammm." He could swear he hear someone whisper his name through the wind. "Ssssaaammm," he heard again.

"Who's calling my name?" Sam shouted. "Who's out there?"

"SSSAAAMMM!," he heard the wind cry.

Sam ran outside and saw the Mandy Tree bending in the wind. "SSSAAAAMMM," he heard through the rustling of the tree's leaves.

"What do you want from me girl?!" he screamed up to the tree.

The wind blew harder. As Sam swayed from drink, he looked up just as the tree bowed over, with the mouth of Mandy's profile opened wide, and came down on him and swallowed him in a great gulp.

The next morning, the sun came up. As the townspeople in Madisonville came out to inspect the damage from the storm, someone noticed that Sam's shack had been toppled, along with the great oak tree that once stood beside it. They searched the rubble, but no trace of Sam was ever found.

The tree was taken to a local lumberyard and cut up. Boards from the tree were later used in the building of several houses that still stand in Madisonville to this day. If your house is one of them you'll know. When the wind blows strong in the dead of the night, listen closely. What you might once have thought were creaks and groans are actually the muted screams and whispers of Sam and Mandy.


nomicrowave1 said...

Loved your embellished story.

Chef JP said...

Long Live The Mandy Tree!

Anonymous said...

The Madisonville newspaper "The Messenger" had an article in todays paper about Mandy and one of her ancestors.Today is the 97th anniversary of her death.

Anonymous said...

She died on July 6th 1915...not in the 1920's.