Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Legend of Ol' Mossyback

And now for something completely different...

I watched the old horror movie Pumpkinhead on television the other day. I have to admit to really liking this movie. I know in some ways it is a typical monster movie where rude and crude teenagers get what is coming to them. However, there is a lot of really creepy atmospheric stuff going on in this movie that you don't see in a lot of other films. The old pumpkin patch cemetery, the old witch that lives alone in the swamp that can "help" you for a price, and, not least of all, the weird kids outside the country store that chant the folkloric poem about "Pumpkinhead".

I don't know if the "Pumpkinhead" poem is real or if it was created for the movie. I do know that folktales along these lines are not uncommon. The whole thing kind of got me thinking about some of the old tales I heard growing up in Southeast Texas. There were lots of really creepy stories. The ghost of Sarah Jane Road in Port Neches, the phantom Civil War battles said to still rage on nights when the moon is full at the site of the Battle of Sabine Pass, and the legendary lights of Bragg Road in Saratoga were all tales that held me transfixed as a youngster. To be honest, they still do. However, the story that fascinated me the most, and the one I thought about the most often while playing in the Piney Woods, was the story of the Raggedy Man or Ol' Mossyback, the legendary wild man of the Big Thicket.

So, inspired by the creepy hick kids in the movie, I decided to try my hand at writing a poem about this legend that people still whisper about today. I'm not much of a poet but my best effort is below. If you decide to comment...well, be kind.

Ol' Mossyback

Way down south where panthers prowl, gators lurk,
And the bayou waters roll black
A nightmare stalks the bogs and swamps
A legend called Ol' Mossyback.

The Karankawas spoke of him in whispers
And they knew too well to stay away
For the tangled thicket belonged to him
As it does to this very day.

Later, the lawless tried to take refuge here
For bravado they did not lack
Most did not last long, however, as they fell prey
To the justice of Ol' Mossyback.

Homesteaders would follow soon
And they, too, would come to know his name.
But their efforts to clear the land and rid themselves of him
Would all end up in vain.

Loggers, ranchers, farmers, oil, and railroad men
All have crossed this Raggedy Man's path.
They trod carefully and only whispered his name
So as not to risk his wrath.

So, if you are ever in the thicket after dark
I hope that courage you do not lack
For those might not be two fireflies shining red
But the eyes of Ol' Mossy Back.


  1. That's a good one!

  2. Delightful doggerel.

  3. My grandmother told me story's growing up. Lived in Saratoga all my life.

  4. Back in the late 60s we were told of Mossyback lurking in the nearby woods every year at a summer camp I went to in East Central Iowa.

    1. No shit, it goes that far back. I remember the older kids trying to scare us younger scouts with that story in the early 2010's. One of the more sadistic ones was spreading corn around our tent one night to attract him.