By: Marlene Ratledge Buchanen | Gwinnett Citizen
By: Marlene Ratledge Buchanen | Gwinnett Citizen
Marlene Ratledge Buchanen

Back near the turn of the 20th century, a family owned a farm that would eventually become part of Summit Chase Country Club. The farmhouse was typical for that period of time, a wooden frame with large front and back porches. It had once been painted white with the traditional “haint”* blue porch ceiling to repel bugs and boogers, all those nasty things that go “bump” in the night.

Something was needed to repel the boogers and haints that were said to roam around and haunt this area. The old house and the well sat to the left of the property’s center and an ancient pecan tree grew to the right. Although it made a rather lop-sided triangle, there was logic to the placement of all three. The original kitchen was built in the center space, so the shade of the tree would give some relief of the cooking and summer heat. The old kitchen burned down many years ago leaving an open spot in the lot. The pecan tree didn’t suffer even a scorch mark and stood tall and proud for many years.

That tree produced some of the best paper-shell pecans around. Those pecans were a great source of pride and income for the family. The smaller children gathered the nuts and put them in bags made out of old feed sacks. Each sack would hold a pound of nuts. The father had an agreement with the local store owner, who would buy the pound bags of nuts and any pecan pies the mother would cook. Those pies sold out almost as soon as he put a sign in the shop window.

People said that old tree must have been bewitched. It produced more pecans than any of the other trees around the community. The nuts were sweeter and plumper, too. But there was something strange about that old tree. When the wind would blow gently through the leaves, people swore they heard a dry, crackling sound, almost like laughter.

One hot, steamy summer night, lightning hit the old tree and split it down the middle. It was flayed open, all the way to the ground. The next morning after the storm, the family looked at the tree and inside, perfectly preserved was an old woman. Could she be in the Enchantress that had caused the tree to produce the beautiful nuts that had sustained the family in the hardest of times? How did she die? Why was she in the tree? No one had answers.

The tree was cut above and below the woman’s form. The family did not try to remove her. She had been in that tree for many years. It had served as her casket then and will continue to do so. The unidentified old woman was buried in the Snellville Historical Cemetery, as it was deemed fitting. People assumed she probably was one of the original settlers to this area and a member of the Evans’ Family, early settlers in that portion of Gwinnett County.

Just as people had remarked about the sound of dry crack-ling laughter when the wind blew through the old pecan tree, people who have been in the cemetery at night swear you can hear a loud crackling of lightning and a cackling laugh.
*also known as haunts and ghosts.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, and events is entirely coincidental.

About Marlene
A retired educator from Gwinnett County Schools. My background is in high school art education and counseling. My husband is a life-long Snellville resident and I have lived here since 1971. We have one son. I write a humor column, Hey Y’all, which is based on observations with a southern influence Gwinnett Citizen. My first book of essays is expected to be published in 2018.