The Moss Lady along with the Coach Whip were two fictional charters that roamed the woods surrounding my childhood home. Both were very effective tools used to keep us kids from straying too far or into places we were not suppose to be. The Coach Whip was a snake that, according to my father, had the ability to rise up as tall as a man, wrap around the child, then whip them, with his tail, with no mercy. “He’ll whip you to death, if he gets a hold of you.” I can still hear my father say in the most convincing tone. According to Dad this snake generally hung out in the high weeds of fields long since touched by a plow point. Fields he was trying to keep us out of. Now, The Moss Lady was a different tale of tallness altogether. She was what we called a conjure woman. Someone who could put a root, ( a curse ) , on a child that wondered to far into the woods alone. She lived in the deepest part of the forest, where the canopy was so thick, very little sunlight crept through at all. The rays that did make it through slightly resembled flashlight beams shining through the tree tops. The forest’s floor was covered with clumps of multi-colored Deer Moss, hence the name, Moss Lady. As a kid the last thing we wanted was to get a root put on us, and shrivel up into a piece of moss trapped forever with the strange woman that lived in the woods.
One day my father and uncle were working the fields that bordered the 16 hundred acres of woods where the Moss Lady lived along with every other folk legend thought up by my father. I’d made up my mind that it was probably safe to wander in slightly to the forest and build a tree fort. Surely the Moss Lady would at least let me have a small place in all those woods to play. Borrowing my dad’s hammer I made my way to a suitable spot and started to build. As the afternoon began to disappear, I started to make my way back home. Leaving the darkness of the woods for the open fields of fireflies dancing freely in the warm night’s air was always a nice sight.
Once inside and starting to eat, my father asked a question that stopped me in mid-chew. “Did you bring my hammer back from the woods?” “No Sir,” I replied ever so slowly. “Well, you better go get it, tools cost money.” Flashlights and batteries also cost money, something we didn’t have too much of. So, there I was, wild-eyed, no flashlight, and slowly walking into the darkened woods. It seemed with each step I took the darkness became more and more. The sounds of the night mixed with the creaking of trees up above. I was sure The Moss Lady was somewhere in the shadows that moved in the distance. I wanted that hammer pronto. Finally after searching the ground for what seemed like forever my small hand touched the handle. Thank God, I thought to myself. I immediately turned and started to make my way back home through the darkness. Walking, I thought I heard something behind me, like small sticks breaking underneath someone’s feet. Man, it’s The Moss Lady. I’m not getting no root put on me, I’m out! My skinny little legs made their way out of those woods with the utmost speed, blazing a trail for the house. I was sure I would be able to outrun her. For every time I heard another sound behind me my feet moved that much faster. There was no way I was getting turned into a piece of moss, trapped out in those woods with her. Finally I burst through the door to see my father now with a smile. “Well, looks like you found my hammer…”