The County Ledger
Henry Spottswood

Whittlers’ Bench sits by the Recorder’s Office.
You may inspect it during normal business hours.
It’s an inviting sit for good conversation or a doze.
The smooth pine is a carved obituary of old loves.     
A tiny plaque remembers three voters who whittled
and dipped snuff and retailed county history
from the bench at Cochran’s Store.

They accumulated between themselves two
centuries of that history, and polished tales
that became articles of belief. Legends
that no reporter could disprove.

There was Wolf Hill. A topographical oddity,
shown on survey maps, rising above the pines
tall as the fire lookout tower on the Clara road,       
taller than the bank skyscraper in Waynesboro.       
It got the name and feral prominence when a lady
from Chicora said she thought she saw a wolf
lurking in the scrub oaks and red sandstone.

And the wildcat. No one ever saw him. But
it was known that if his scream in the swamp          
woke you at 2 am your blood would curdle.
A logger said he saw signs of a family of Biloxi
camping along Big Creek, living on small fish
and disappearing when locals came too close.
Year after year an eight-foot alligator was spied
near the turnhole where the Masonite land began.   
Two brothers shot off their big toes, the oddest
hunting accident in the books. They cut lumber
for the war effort in a sawmill near Winchester.
Other boys dug one summer on the Martin place
after the big house burned. Martin was a banker,
and they felt he should have buried silver plate
and coins somewhere on his property, perhaps
under the house or out among his pecan trees.
They went back, never let on what they found,
said the dirt was baked like Mexican pottery.      

The time a black coachwhip reared up
and chased Hutto’s mule Rufus to the barn.
The big Clara Gold Rush. Iron pyrites appeared
in the gravel shallows of the Chickasawhay,
west of the bridge where the troll lived.

Calvin Trigg, janitor on graveyard shift
in the county building, gave notice last week.
Calvin said he heard voices on the hall around         
by the Recorder’s Office. Old men talking.

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