When cold weather come on he would tell me to move his chair up in front of the fireplace. He would sprawl out there in the same way all winter long. There wasn’t room for anybody else to get around saw just at the sides. Every time anybody set down he would rare about them killing time. ‘Setting here hain’t buying the baby a new dress nor paying the one it’s got,’ he would say. And he would keep on patting his foot. Whether he was piddling with anything or not.
Sometimes though he wanted us to pop popcorn for him, and we did. We never could pop it to suit him much. He said he just liked to see the white balls go up and down. It did seem like they went up and down just like his foot—fell right into the time. He made us crack walnuts and pick out the kernels for him. One time he got so mad at Amy because she didn’t get the boy’s britches out whole that he grabbed the hammer and hit her on the head with it. He knocked the breath plumb out of her.
That was before she was yet four year old. I though he had kilt her and it near scared the daylights out of me. Barshia didn’t do a thing but set there and grin like a possum all the time I was working with her. Amy still has got the scar on her face. None of us ever told the truth about the scar. We always just said she bumped into the crib door over there.
Barshia said he liked to watch the blaze and see the sparks fly up. Sparks like the color of his hair. And Barshia thought is was pretty—he was stuck on himself. Sometimes the smoke would puff out in the room and he would say ‘Look at it. It comes right toward me. Smoke always follows beauty.’ I guess he was right pretty. But just setting there all day.
—excerpt from “Barshia’s Horse He Made, It Flew”
The Hawk’s Done Gone: And Other Stories
Mildred Haun (1911-1966)
Mildred Eunice Haun’s only collection of fiction, The Hawk’s Done Gone (1940), combines modern realism with ancient beliefs and superstitions, creating a disturbing yet intriguing look at east Tennessee mountain life in the period from the Civil War to 1940. The work consists of a group of stories linked by the narrator Mary Dorthula White and members of several families.
The themes of witchcraft, infanticide, incest, and miscegenation reveal a dark side of the author. But amid the talk of spirits and age-old prejudices is Haun’s use of dialect, mountain beliefs, and songs. The collection is not quite a novel, but is more than a series of stories.
The Hawk’s Done Gone: And Other Stories, by Mildred Haun, Vanderbilt University Press, 1985