I’m continuing my look at Manly Wade Wellman’s pulp hero Silver John, the roaming singer and guitarist who fights supernatural forces in the Appalachian Mountains of long ago, sort of like a countrified Orpheus meets Kolchak. He’s called Silver John because of the silver strings on his guitar and the silver coins he carries in his pockets. For more details click here: https://glitternight.com/pulp-heroes/
WHERE DID SHE WANDER? – This short story is set during the time Silver John and Evadare are married. Our hero travels to perform at the Trudo Music Festival, where he got tongues wagging by setting his guitar on fire while on stage. I’m kidding! While there John looks into a local legend behind a song he’s just learned. A legend about Becky Til Hoppard, a woman hanged as a witch in 1849. Her gravestone is regarded with superstitious awe and at her old home – a battered cabin in the woods – Silver John encounters the modern-day remnants of the Hoppard clan.
The three remaining Hoppards, two men and a woman, are all insane and sport green, diseased teeth and bright-green eyes. Our wandering balladeer soon learns that Becky Til Hoppard is still alive, her neck broken from the hanging, leaving her head often falling off to one side of her neck or the other. Becky uses her remaining descendants as slaves to help her remain alive by sacrificing wayfarers like Silver John to the dark fire in her room … and to the green-eyed, coal-black idol she worships.
NARY SPELL – Remember the archery contest that Robin Hood participated in? Well in this vignette Silver John competes in the Walnut Gap Beef Shoot, a rifle contest with an entire quarter of beef as the prize. The contest is eventually narrowed down to just three competitors: John, of course, plus a warlock who uses bat’s hearts and livers in his gun and another warlock who uses the eye-sockets of a human skull as a mold to make his bullets. (I’m a warlock and I’m the NRA!) It will hardly be a spoiler to mention that Silver John, who was the best rifleman in his division during the war, defeats the Black Magick practitoners. Our hero then donates the quarter of beef to the neediest family in Walnut Gap.