Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Headless Horseman of Copperas Cove

The chilling wind blew straight through the cracks in the door and flimsy walls of the tiny cabin in the mountains. The four children huddled inside were waiting for the eldest to come in from his expedition. Fear gripped them, because they had heard someone gallop by, again and again.

OK, it wasn’t a cabin, it was a travel trailer. And it wasn’t cold, it was a warm summer night in Central Texas. But there were four of us waiting for my oldest cousin to come back in from the house. Only one was afraid, though. And this is his story.

We were visiting our cousins in Copperas Cove, a small community a short distance from Fort Hood in the heart of Texas. My uncle was a major in the U.S. Army, and they lived in the suburbs. The back yard held their travel trailer, in which we kids hung out to escape the adults. Mike, Shaun and Kevin, along with their then baby sister were the ones that were in and out of Germany over the course of several years. We were the homebodies from good ol’ Texas City. They usually came down to the coast, but something precluded the trek; perhaps their inherent disgust of Texas City water or the brutal humidity. Or possibly it was just that we all needed a change of venue. I don’t know. I was only about eleven or twelve. My sister is nearly three years older than I, Shaun, a year older than her and Mike was two years older than anyone. Kevin would have been eight or so at the time, and while I didn’t mind so much his being there (it kept ME from being the youngest), his brothers quickly became weary of his constant questions and remarks.

Mike had gone into the house to procure some of the Tunnel of Fudge cake that my mother had baked for this reunion. It was her signature baked good. And boy, was it good! Chocolate cake with a melty, gooey core of fudge running through the center of each slice, since it was baked in a bundt pan.

The other four of us waited in the trailer, listening to Shaun’s stories of their adventures in Germany. It was getting late, and as the stories waned, Kevin’s observations seemed to increase. We had the lights out, to preserve the mysterious and semi-private air of our adult-free zone. Shaun began drumming his fingers impatiently on the pillowcase on the front bed. Kevin was on the top bunk, and he became aware of the rhythmic drumming. He asked what it was. Shaun’s voice dropped to a hoarse whisper, and he said, with great drama, “It’s the Headless Horseman”.

That silenced the flow of inquiry and comment from the top bunk. Shaun varied the volume and speed of the “hoofbeats”, softening them to simulate the passing of a great steed. After a time, he would begin again, very softly. “Do you hear that?” “Yeah, I think it’s him...”, all the while, building quickly and to an astonishing volume (for fingers thumping on a pillow). Then they would slow and stop. Right next to the trailer. Shaun’s low voice intoned urgent instructions for the young boy to remain still and perfectly quiet. It worked. Like a spell.

As Kevin lay there petrified and barely breathing, my sister and I stifled laughter till we thought we would explode. I am not sure how we didn’t give away the prank, since the process went on for probably fifteen minutes.

At the height of suspense, Mike appeared at the door, ripping it open with a thunderous “RAAAAAARR!”. To underscore the effect, he had a mouthful of Tunnel of Fudge cake, blotting out most of his teeth, leaving only the impression of fangs or broken, scary daggers.

Immediately following Michael’s bellow, Kevin shrieked, then dove out of the top bunk and grabbed Mike by the neck and clung to him for dear life. “MIKE, YOU SCARED ME!” the normally fearless lad growled at his brother. Mike, on the receiving end of such an outburst, was bewildered and a little shocked himself.

Meanwhile, Shaun, my sister and I were blowing gales of pent up laughter, intoxicated by the serendipity of the cake-mouthed punchline to the headless horseman’s patrol outside.


Sis said...

That was a great story. I'd forgotten about reminds me of how Mike and Shaun once told Kevin that if he pumped the tire pump too many times...he would use up all the air...don't think he fell for it, though.

aA said...

I remember that one, too! It was at Bolivar...

RedontheHead said...

aAron, this is Fantastic but nothing less than what I would expect from you!

Actually the relationship you and your sister have kinda reminds me of the time that I saw my step-mother in the casket. Long before her death we talked about wanting to be buried in red and black. We were both so surprised! My sister and I were late to the funeral, down in south Texas, pouring rain...but they knew we were coming and were waiting on us. We walked in and my stepbrother said, "go ahead and as soon as you view her, they will start." So, with everyone being very quiet and reverent, my sister and I walked up to the casket. I looked at the black, double-knit, long-sleeved, Nehru jacket with bright red poppies on it, turned to my sister and whispered..."That's not the kind of black and red that I want to be buried in."

Yeah, I lost it. I buried my head in her shoulder and laughed so hard I thought I would wet my pants. She patted me on the back and we both could could hear, in the background "oh, my...isn't that a shame, she is so upset...oh my goodness...poor thing...she loved her so much..."

Trying to compose a little, my sister said, "there is a door to our left, we are going to walk through it and get out of here." Again, as we two stepped sideways over to the doorway and out into the hallway, people were still so sorry that I was so very upset. We finally found the restroom and rolled...laughing so hard that I thought we never would get back out. However, after several attempts, which include taking deep breaths and then falling out again when my hand touched the doorknob...twenty minutes later, we were finally able to go back into the chapel, take our seats and get through the rest of the day.

Everyone was so very kind to me that day...and no, my stepbrother nor any of my stepmother's immediate family have ever heard the story.

mmcgar said...


Kim sent me the link for your blog, all very nice stuff. The story of Kevin and the headless horseman had all but disappeared from my filled up hard drive of a memory, the only part I remember is Kevin diving out of the top bunk at me. Typical of Kevin though, when scared, move toward the enemy very fast, the only change in him is the relative force of the attack is now much greater.

By the way, one time in Berlin we had Kevin almost convinced that the only way he could get the "garments" off his back was to strip off all his clothes and run naked through the halls of the hotel. Only the intervention of a parent precluded the streaking event. All goes to give a clearer understanding of the particular personality of "The Kevin."

Send me a note,