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The Woman Who Married an Owl by Anne Virginia Culbertson

The following is the complete text of Anne Virginia Culbertson's The Woman Who Married an Owl. The various books, short stories and poems we offer are presented free of charge with absolutely no advertising as a public service from Internet Accuracy Project.


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Warning: Be aware that this classic short story contains language that may be very offensive to many readers.


The Woman Who Married an Owl by Anne Virginia Culbertson

THE WOMAN WHO MARRIED AN OWL

by Anne Virginia Culbertson


When the children got home from the nutting expedition and had eaten supper, they sat around discontentedly, wishing every few minutes that their mother had returned.

"I wish mamma would come back," said Ned. "I never know what to do in the evening when she isn't home."

"I 'low 'bout de bes' you-all kin do is ter lemme putt you ter baid," said Aunt 'Phrony.

"Don't want to go to bed," "I'm not sleepy," "Want to stay up," came in chorus from three pairs of lips.

"You chillen is wusser dan night owls," said the old woman. "Ef you keeps on wid dis settin'-up-all-night bizness, I boun' some er you gwine turn inter one'r dese yer big, fussy owls wid yaller eyes styarin', jes' de way li'l Mars Kit doin' dis ve'y minnit, tryin' ter keep hisse'f awake. An' dat 'mines me uv a owl whar turnt hisse'f inter a man, an' ef a owl kin do dat, w'ats ter hinner one'r you-all turnin' inter a owl, I lak ter know? So you bes' come 'long up ter baid, an' ef you is right spry gettin' raidy, mebbe I'll whu'l in an' tell you 'bout dat owl."

The little procession moved upstairs, Coonie, the house-boy, bringing up the rear with an armful of sticks and some fat splinters of lightwood, which were soon blazing with an oily sputter. Coonie scented a story, and his bullet pate was bent over the fire an unnecessarily long time, as he blew valiant puffs upon the flames which no longer needed his assistance, and arranged and rearranged his skilfully piled sticks.

"Quit dat foolishness, nigger," said 'Phrony at last, "an' set down on de ha'th an' 'have yo'se'f. Ef you wanter stay, whyn't you sesso, stidder blowin' yo'se'f black in de face? Now, den, ef y'all raidy, I gwine begin.

"Dish yer w'at I gwine tell happen at de time er de 'ear w'en de Injuns wuz havin' der green-cawn darnse, an' I reckon you-all 'bout ter ax me w'at dat is, so I s'pose I mought ez well tell you. 'Long in Augus' w'en de Injuns stopped wu'kkin' de cawn, w'at we call 'layin' by de crap,' den dey cu'd mos' times tell ef 'twuz gwineter be a good crap, so dey 'mence ter git raidy fer de darnse nigh a month befo'han'. Dey went ter de medincin' man an' axed him fer ter 'pint de day. Den medincin' man he sont out runners ter tell ev'b'dy, an' de runners dey kyar'd 'memb'ance-strings wid knots tied all 'long 'em, an' give 'em ter de people fer ter he'p 'em 'member. De folks dey'd cut off a knot f'um de string each day, an' w'en de las' one done cut off, den dey know de day fer de darnse wuz come. An' de medincin' man he sont out hunters, too, fer ter git game, an' mo' runners fer ter kyar' hit ter de people so's't dey mought cook hit an' bring hit in.

"W'en de time come, de people ga'rred toge'rr an' de medincin' man he tucken some er de new cawn an' some uv all de craps an' burnt hit, befo' de people wuz 'lowed ter eat any. Atter de burnin', den he tucken a year er cawn in one han' an' ax fer blessin's an' good craps wid dat han', w'ile he raise up tu'rr han' ter de storm an' de win' an' de hail an' baig 'em not ter bring evil 'pun de people. Atter dat, dey all made der bre'kfus' offen roas'in'-years er de new cawn an' den de darnse begun an' lasted fo' days an' fo' nights; de men dress' up in der bes' an' de gals wearin' gre't rattles tied on der knees, dat shuk an' rattled wid ev'y step.

"De gal whar I gwine tell 'bout wuz on her way home on de fo'th night, an' she wuz pow'ful tired, 'kase dem rattles is monst'ous haivy, an' she bin keepin' hit up fo' nights han' runnin'. She wuz gwine thu a dark place in de woods w'en suddintly she seed a young man all wrop up in a sof' gray blankit an' leanin' 'gins' a tree. His eyes wuz big an' roun' an' bright, an' dey seemed ter bu'n lak fire. Dem eyes drord de gal an' drord de gal 'twel she warn't 'feard no mo', an' she come nearer, an' las' he putt out his arms wrop up in de gray blanket an' drord her clost 'twel she lean erg'in him, an' she look up in de big, bright eyes an' she say, 'Whar is you, whar is you?' An' he say, 'Oo-goo-coo, Oo-goo-coo.' Dat wuz de Churry
kee name fer 'owl,' but de gal ain' pay no 'tention ter dat, for mos' er de Injun men wuz name' atter bu'ds an' beas'eses an' sech ez dat. Atter dat she useter go out ter de woods ev'y night ter see de young man, an' she alluz sing out ter him, 'Whar is you, whar is you?' an' he'd arnser, 'Oo-goo-coo, Oo-goo-coo.' Dat wuz de on'ies wu'd he uver say, but de gal thought 'twuz all right, fer she done mek up her min' dat he 'longed ter nu'rr tribe er Injuns whar spoke diff'nt f'um her own people. Sidesen dat, she love' him, an' w'en gals is in love dey think ev'ything de man do is jes' 'bout right, an' dese yer co'tin'-couples is no gre't fer talkin,' nohow.

"De gal's daddy wuz daid an' her an' her mammy live all 'lone, so las' she mek up her min' dat it be heap mo' handy ter have a man roun' de house, so she up an' tell her mammy dat she done got ma'ied. Her mammy say, 'You is, is you? Well, who de man?' De gal say 'Oo-goo-coo.' 'Well, den,' sez her mammy, 'I reckon you bes' bring home dish yer Oo-goo-coo an' see ef we kain't mek him useful. A li'l good game, now an' den, 'ud suit my mouf right well. We ain' have nair' pusson ter do no huntin' fer us sence yo' daddy died.'

"'Mammy,' sez de gal, 'I'se 'bleeged ter tell you dat my husban' kain't speak ow' langwidge.'

"'All de better,' sez her mammy, sez she. 'Dar ain' gwine be no trouble 'bout dat, 'kase I kin do talkin' 'nuff fer two, an' I ain' want one dese yer back-talkin' son-in-laws, nohow.'

"So de nex' night de gal went off an' comed back late wid de young man. Her mammy ax him in an' gin him a seat by de fire, an' dar he sot all wrop up in his blinkit, wid his haid turnt 'way f'um de light, not sayin' nuttin' ter nob'dy. An' de fire died down an' de wind blewed mo'nful outside, an' dar he sot on an' on, an' w'en de wimmins went ter sleep, dar he wuz settin', still. But in de mawnin' w'en dey woked up he wuz gone, an' dey ain' see hya'r ner hide uv 'im all day.

"De nex' night he come erg'in and bringed a lot er game wid 'im, an' he putt dat down at de do' an' set hisse'f down by de fire an' stay dar, same ez befo', not sayin' nair' wu'd. Dat kind er aggervex de gal's mammy at las', 'kase she wuz one'r dese yer wimmins whar no sooner gits w'at dey ax fer dan dey ain' kyare 'bout hit no mo.' She want son-in-law whar kain't talk, she git him, an' den she want one whar kin arnser back. She gittin' kind er jubous 'bout him, but she 'feared ter say anything fer fear he quit an' she git no mo' game.

"Thu'd night he come onct mo' wid a passel er game, an' she mighty cur'ous 'bout him by dat time. She say ter husse'f, 'Well! ef I ain' got de curisomest son-in-law in dese diggin's, den I miss de queschin. I wunner w'at mek him set wid his face turnt f'um de fire an' blinkin' his eyes all de time? I wunner w'y he ain' nuver onloose dat blankit, an' w'y he g'longs off 'fo' de daylight an' nuver comes back 'twel de dark.'

"'Oh, mammy,' sez de gal, sez she, 'ain' I tol' you he kain't speak ow' langwidge, an' I 'spec' he done come f'um dat wo'm kyountry whar we year tell 'bout, 'way off yonner, an' dat huccome he hatter keep his blankit roun' him. I reckon he git so tired huntin' all day, no wunner he hatter blink his eyes ter keep 'em open.'

"But her mammy wan't sassified, 'kase hit mighty hard ter haid off one'r dese yer pryin' wimmins, so she go outside an' ga'rr up some lightwood splinters an' th'ow 'em on de fire, dis-away, all uv a suddint." Here the old woman rose and threw on a handful of lightwood, which blazed up with a great sputtering, and in the strong light she stood before the fire enacting the part of the scared Owl for the delighted yet half-startled children.

"An' w'en she th'owed hit on," Aunt 'Phrony proceeded, "de fire blaze an' spit an' sputter jes' lak dis do, an' de ooman she fotched a yell an' cried out, she did, 'Lan' er de mussiful! W'at cur'ous sort er wood is dish yer dat ac' lak dis?' De Owl he wuz startle' an' he look roun' suddint, dis-a-way, over his shoulder, an' de wimmins dey let out a turr'ble screech, 'kase dey seed 'twa'n't nuttin' but a big owl settin' dar blinkin'.

"Owl seed he wuz foun' out, an' he riz up an' give his gre't, wide wings a big flop, lak dis, an' swoop out de do' cryin' 'Oo-goo-coo! Oo-goo-coo!' ez he flewed off inter de darkness." Here Aunt 'Phrony spread her arms like wings and made a swoop half-way across the room to the bedside of the startled children. "An'," she continued, "de wind howl mo'nful all night long, an' seem ter de gal an' her mammy lak 'twuz de voice of po' Oo-goo-coo mo'nin' fer de gal he love."

"And didn't he ever come back?" said Ned.

"Naw, suh, dat he didn'. He wuz too 'shame' ter come back, an' he bin so 'shame' er de trick uver sence dat he hide hisse'f way in de daytime an' nuver come out 'twel de dusk, an' den he go sweepin' an' swoopin' 'long on dem gre't big sof' wings, so quiet dat he ain' mek de ghos' uv a soun', jes' looks lak a big shadder flittin' roun' in de dusk. He teck dat time, too, 'kase he know dat 'bout den de li'l fiel' mouses an' sech ez dat comes out an' 'mences ter run roun', an' woe be unter 'em ef dey meets up wid Mistah Owl; deys a-goner, sho'."

"But how could they think an owl was a man?" asked Janey.

"Well, honey, de tale ain' tell dat, but I done study hit out dis-a-way, dat mo'n likely de gal bin turnin' up her nose at some young Injun man, an' outer spite he done gone an' got some witch ter putt a spell on her so's't de Owl 'ud look lak a man an' she 'ud go an' th'ow husse'f away on a ol' no-kyount bu'd. Yas, I reckon dat wuz 'bout de way. An' now y'all better shet up dem peepers er you'll be gittin' lak de owls, no good in de day time, an' wantin' ter be up an' prowlin' all night."


~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~

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