Of its origins: 1929
Sutters Journal: Entry 10/22/29
It is unknown of the whereabouts of the strange item I possess, before it reached the Midwest region, so I can’t tell where it came from originally, but only how it got here, into my hands and why I chose to hide it, instead of pursuing its true potential. Although I was young and strong at the time, I was still too naïve…and never brave enough. In the spring of 1909, just after the last of the U.S. troops left Cuba since the Spanish-American War. “All thanks to number 26.” My great-grandfather said to me. I didn’t know what he meant at the time, but through the years and after learning a bit about politics I caught on. My great-grandfather and great-grandmother were caretakers of the 4th Avenue cemetery, the only cemetery around the community in those days; it was just east of here in Moline Illinois. My great-grand father Joel Bell Sr. sat me on his knee one night, I was ten then and he told me that in the early 19th century towards the Midwestern plains of the United States, along the banks of the Mississippi and the Rock River not more than twenty miles from where I here sit, was the beginning rebellion of the great Indian warrior Black Hawk against the early frontier settlers.
“It was in 1832 to be exact.” He said. I still remember. He went on to tell me that The Sauk & Fox Indians with a tribe in the thousands had proved to be more than worthy opponents. Black Hawk led over one thousand Indian warriors to the front lines of war. General Lee was forced to summons more troops from Chicago to assist Fort Armstrong against the Indian insurgency. On route from Chicago to Rock Island Illinois, only a couple hundred of the General's one thousand troops would survive the frigid journey, along with the nasty Asiatic cholera outbreak. I remember seeing a small smile along my great grandfather’s face when he said that Abraham Lincoln himself may have been a part of that small regime, to make the laborious trip that helped General Lee draw the Indians back from Fort Armstrong and into Southern Wisconsin. He continued to tell me that Black Hawk was eventually captured and in late 1832, a peace treaty was agreed upon giving the people of yellow earth a good portion of Eastern Iowa territories. It was a great victory for everyone in this area and abroad.
He told me that in 1837, in early October the great Black Hawk passed away.
My great-grand father told me he was 17 years old when he heard of Black Hawk’s death. He said that about six years after that point he was approached by a man who proclaimed to know Black Hawk’s wife “Singing Bird”. I remember him squint his eyes at the time trying to remember. “I was 23,” He told me, rubbing his rough hands over his brow. “23…without a pot to piss in.” He moved his hands down to his chin. I could tell even at ten years old that something wasn’t right with great-grandpa Bell, in his head. His eyes were always blood shot and his right leg always had a small shake to it. But the story he told had an innate truth to it. I could see in his eyes that although his memory going forward was terrible, when he looked back in the past he seemed to remember things easier; his eyes would gaze to a different place when he spoke of this.
“The man was tall and stunk of tobacco and urine.” He told me. “I can still, almost smell him…I offered him a chance to bathe in my father’s barn at the time, but he was stubborn.” I don’t know why those words he spoke stand out to me now, writing this in this journal twenty years after the fact, but they do. I remember that Bell sat me down from his knee and asked me to stay here while he smoked some “Bacco.” He stepped into the other room closing the door to just a little crack and continued to tell me the story through the door.
It had a pungent odor coming from it, he continued, it was enclosed in a pouch made from an animal’s stomach. Great grandpa Bell’s father was irate with him for bringing such a thing home and the fact that an Indian had given it to him, enraged him even more so. He had told him to take it out back of the house and throw it in the fire pit. Of course he listened to his dad and did what he was told. Luckily it had been raining over the last few days and his dad hadn’t been able to burn anything. So Bell emptied the pouch keeping what was inside and placed a medium sized stone in it instead. He snuck the piece inside and up to his room.
Great-grandpa Bell didn't actually hand the piece over to me directly. He told me he had buried it in the 4th avenue cemetery, after he thought to have discovered it held some kind of power. He didn't quite understand exactly what the power was, but he knew it was not something he wanted to dabble with and that he should have listened to his father and burned it.
Almost immediately after removing it from within the animal stomach pouch, he began to have strange visions and bizarre nightmares. What frightened him the most was an appearance of strange man, or being that approached him. "He, it, said many weird things to me, whispers, chants, things I cannot repeat, your too young." He told me. "It wore a velvet lavender cloak, long and hovered with these eerie, dark green eyes…"
“Whatever it was, it wasn't human,” Bell said. “It was as real as I here pinch you now!” He finished, eyes flared and pinching my forearm. A little too hard I remembered. With-in 6 days after bringing the strange piece up into his room, both his Mother and Father had been brutally murdered by a man with an axe. “The man was never caught.” He mumbled, lowering his head almost in tears. “I never knew whether the piece given to me had something to do with what happened or not.” Soon after their burial, he had come down with a severe fever and broke out in blistering hives. He said he had been near death, as well. “I wasn’t taking any more chances with the thing, I mean my parents were killed, I had seen these strange visions and now I had become quite ill.”
With little strength he took the heavily-scented charm up to the top hill of the cemetery, overlooking the city and Mississippi afar and buried it about 2 feet down in between the headstones marked CARPENTER and KING. He said there was no real purpose or reason of the place he had put it, only that he wanted it as far away from him as possible. He was hesitant about putting the piece in the same grounds in which his parents had been buried, but made sure that he had placed it nowhere near them, as they had been buried along the bottom portion of the cemetery that had been divided by the newly constructed brick road that connected the two towns of Rock Island and Moline together.
Had my great-grandfather not been dealing with spat's of dementia he would have probably never told me the story, I had thought. I don’t think if he had been sane he would have. I don’t think his intension was to tell someone ambitious enough like myself, so I can then turn around and go up to the spot he buried it and unearth it. But I did. Well after Bell’s death and only after becoming a part of the clergy, did I remove it and buried it again behind these church walls. Just in case the item had haunted the cemetery grounds it had been placed. I had felt uneasy about that for years.
Its safe here, God protects it now…
Sutter closed his journal and placed it in his top dresser drawer. He would continue his journal entries the following day like clockwork.
He just never took notice enough to realize the strange shadows that nested in the darker corners of his room...waiting in patience with its evil beguiling grin's. I will have fun with this one.
By Michael Mowder, Jr. 2002
Illustration w/added effects:
By Michael Mowder, Jr. 1994, 2011