Blessing from a Lynching Tree
Blessing from a Lynching Tree
Blessing from a Lynching Tree
Blessing from a Lynching Tree

Blessing from a Lynching Tree

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Four hooded Klansmen dragged the screaming woman out of her shack. Their leader motioned for the others to bind her wrists. The year was 1949 and the place was a lonely spot a mile from the small town of Castor, Louisiana. <br /><br />

Her crime was…well, there was no crime, not really. Unless being old, black and eccentric constituted criminal behavior. Apparently in the Jim Crow South at that time, it did.<br /><br />

Mama Ju was an old black woman, superstitious to a fault, given to herbs and spells and conjuring; her potions cured the sick and brought peace to the broken hearted. Her acts aroused the fears, or were they jealousies, of her white neighbors who thought of her as a witch. <br /><br />

Three hundred years after the hysteria at Salem, things hadn’t changed all that much. Being accused a witch in the rural south in 1949 brought out the same fear born of ignorance that burned those poor souls so long ago. As always, the Klan was there to help. People called her a witch, but what did that mean? People say all kinds of stuff, that doesn’t make them true.<br /><br />

The hooded leader tossed a rope over a branch of the big tree. A great live oak bearded with Spanish moss, it dwarfed the old woman’s shack and swallowed half the sky. He’d already tied a noose at one end. The old woman screamed and fought like the devil, but she could not match the strong, big men.<br /><br />

“You leave me be, Mitch Connor. Don’t think I don’t know you even with your bed sheet on. And you, Daniel Kane, I knew you as a baby. Cured your fevers more than once.” The men paid her no heed. If her words affected them, their masks hid any expression of guilt or dismay from the others. The men dragged her under the big oak and slipped the noose over her head. She was a tiny, skinny thing built more like a bird than a woman, but she had a strength in her stature, and her eyes held a fire that commanded respect. She set that fierce gaze upon her tormentors.<br /><br />

“A curse on you. A curse on all of you,” Mama Ju snarled.” I tell you to your faces you will rue this act. By all the saints and spirits I tell you your seed will not flourish on this Earth. Your issue will be poisoned and you will harvest only pain from your children.”<br /><br />

She might have said more, but Connor had heard enough. He pulled the rope taught and together the four men pulled mama Ju off the ground, her feet twitched and jiggled a little flutter and then lay still. If she wasn’t a witch in her long years as a healer, she was one when she died. Mama Ju’s curse entered the ears of those ignorant young men and took up residence, sleeping and growing into a malevolent thing.<br /><br />

By all accounts, Anthony Deveroux was the luckiest of the four. He never married and died young. He came back from a short stint in the Navy a broken man. No one knew the reason for his less than honorable discharge but there were rumors aplenty. Homosexuality was the whispered cause and in a town like Castor that was tantamount to a death sentence. Deveroux shrugged off the gossip with the aid of cheap wine and diet pills. He was a familiar sight on the streets of Doyline where he panhandled and slept it off in the park or the drunk tank. He was bitter and unhappy. His brief engagement as the town drunk was cut short by the wheels of a Southern Pacific freight train that sliced the passed out Timms in half. Never having married, it can be said he avoided the curse entirely, but none of the others saw it quite that way.<br /><br />

The remaining three Klansmen, Mitch Connor, Daniel Kane and Errol Haverstraw lived on and while they never again spoke of Mama Ju, they never forgot her words either. Despite the curse’s dire predictions of poisoned fruit and the end of their lines, all three young men went on to marry local girls and raise children after a fashion.<br /><br />

Errol Haverstraw, the youngest of the three, spent a few blissful months with his young bride before the Army drafted him for Korea. Before he left he managed to plant his seed. Juliann struggled with her pregnancy while Errol struggled with the North Koreans at the Battle of Bloody Ridge. He stepped on a mine and blew away his legs and his baby making equipment. Juliann got the news and immediately went into labor giving birth to a baby girl three months pre-mature. The baby was given oxygen and died from oxygen toxicity. The postpartum depression proved too much for Juliann’s fragile condition and she killed herself a few days before Errol returned home. Errol spent his remaining years in the dubious care of the Veteran’s Administration wondering what might have been.<br /><br />

Daniel Kane escaped the draft but couldn’t escape his bad luck. He married Terry Short and settled down in castor working for Terry’s family’s construction business. He learned to operate heavy equipment and made a good living excavating basements and grading roads. He fathered three children with Terry and, from the outside, life looked pretty good. The Kanes enjoyed all the trappings of success...a fine house, swimming pool, nice cars, private schools for the children. Sure they had their problems, what couple doesn’t? They fought about inconsequential things. He drank and lost his temper. After one noisy fight, Daniel stormed out of the house and accidentally ran over his daughter who was playing in the driveway. A year later, Terry and their youngest son were killed in a traffic accident on route 261 when a semi, hauling cattle, lost its brakes. Their last child, a boy of eleven was attacked and killed by a neighbor’s rottweilers. Kane responded to the tragedy by shooting the dogs and the neighbors. He spent the rest of his life in prison replaying the events of that day.<br /><br />

Long before Daniel Kane flipped out and shot his neighbors, Mitch Connor was convinced that the curse was real. As soon as he was able he moved his pregnant wife, Lana, as far away from Castor as he could get. The Connors’ moved to Seattle, WA, where Mitch got into real estate and made quite a success of himself. Lana and Mitch had just one child, Mitch Jr., due to problems with Lana's ovaries they considered themselves lucky to have that. The boy grew up smart and strong and privileged. Since he was an only child he was spoiled and indulged. They poured all their hopes and dreams into the boy. Mitch jr. was an exceptional child, a fine athlete and scholar, he was their pride and joy.<br /><br />

As the years passed, Mitch Sr. began to relax. He found religion and tried to be a better person. When he thought about his past and the awful things he’d done, he felt sorry and prayed for forgiveness. As he aged, he re-invented himself into a crusader against injustice changing both his politics and his racist ideas. He gave generously to charities that benefited black causes and made sure his son embraced the same ideas. He went about as far as a man could in reversing the course of his life and atoning for his racist past.<br /><br />

Mitch Jr. grew into a fine young man. He graduated from college with honors and a young woman he asked to be his bride. Mitch and Lana were ecstatic about the thought of grandchildren. The future looked sunny, Mitch was sure he’d beaten the curse. The past was buried and forgotten just like Mama Ju. That terrible night under the big tree was a memory of which he never spoke and never thought. The world had changed in the 25 years since the lynching,...the civil rights movement, the interstate system, jet travel, a man on the moon. There was no place for witches, curses and all that mumbo jumbo.<br /><br />

Mitch Jr. got married the summer he graduated from college, before starting medical school. For their honeymoon, the young couple decided on a road trip to New Orleans. They took their time driving through Northern California and South to see the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas then drifting East to Louisiana. The trip was leisurely and the young couple were happy and in love. When they crossed into Louisiana something happened to change the mood of the journey.<br /><br />

Call it fate or happenstance, call it destiny, or the power of a dying woman’s words, but the trip across Louisiana brought Mitch Jr., and his wife, East on Interstate 20 to a rest stop just outside of Castor. Mitch knew that his father had grown up there but he had never seen the place. He had little interest in the town but thought he and, his wife, Louise might drive through and tell the old man what they saw. <br /><br />

Louise had been driving when they pulled in to use the rest room. The couple got out and stretched. It was a beautiful morning.<br /><br />

Louise went off in search of the ladies room and Mitch Jr. walked around getting the kinks out of his back. He looked around and saw the tree, a magnificent old live oak spreading its shade over the picnic area.<br /><br />

He stood frozen staring at that tree, transfixed, and knew what he had to do. It was a compulsion; it locked his protesting rational mind in a box and took over his will. He went back to the car and found a length of rope in the trunk. He walked stiffly toward the tree his hands fashioning a slipknot of their own accord. He climbed up on the picnic table and tied the rope to a low branch. People at neighboring tables stopped their chatter and watched in disbelief as the handsome young man slipped the noose around his neck and, without the slightest hesitation, jumped from the table. Louise exited the lady’s room and looked around. When what she saw finally registered she gasped and ran to the dangling man.<br /><br />

Louise screamed and tried to lift Mitch’s weight. A few bystanders rushed to help the hysterical woman. Someone dialed 911 and the wail of a siren could be heard in the distance. It was all too late for Mitch Jr. The paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.<br /><br />

A confused and sobbing Louise called home to tell her in-laws the news. Lana answered and Mitch Sr. watched as Lana’s face went from joy to horror in the space of an instant. Something deep inside Mitch knew what had happened even before Lana put down the phone and told him. <br /><br />

He let out a long wail of guilt and pain. In his ears he heard the sigh of the breeze through a great tree long ago and far away. <br /><br />

Mama Ju had her revenge on all the men! The time span fluctuated the awareness of each man. For some the curse was short lived, as they were affected fast... and for others, such as Mitch he thought he escaped the hex that was put on him.<br /><br />

He undeniably learned and grew from his ignorance, which is what I feel was Mama Ju's intent -- but he still needed to feel the pain and wrath of her curse!<br /><br />

We learned of Mama Ju from a woman named Francis Nylon. She was only a young girl at the time of Mama's death. She witnessed her body go lifeless, and after the rope was cut and her body fell to the ground, Francis ran over to pray at her body.<br /><br />

Francis asked her parents to help do right by Mama Ju and bury her respectfully. Her family respected life, all colors and religions. They came back late at night and took her body to bury it the next day. To bless the body, Francis placed this item in the shallow grave -- to showcase her respect for the tragedy of Mama Ju's life.<br /><br />

When she returned home, the piece that had just been buried with Mama Ju was on her bed!? Francis was scared at first, but then realized that Mama Ju wanted her to have it back. As she grew she realized that the piece was blessed with majestic endurance.<br /><br />

Her kindness toward Mama Ju's body, and loving heart, showcased the allure of blessings through Mama's spirit.<br /><br />

This piece was granted to us just a few months ago after Francis passed away. As she got older, she wanted to make sure someone else would be blessed by this piece -- and she found information on Deedee and contacted her. After bonding with Deedee, Francis willed the piece to her. Deedee okayed the sale of the piece to one of our customers, as she ensured Francis that only a deserving client would get it!<br /><br />

Just as the curse affected those who betrayed her, the blessing honors and implicates amazement upon those who respect and honor her.<br /><br />

This piece holds Mama Ju's blessing and spirit... she will eraticize your body with pure intent that can showcase imperative success, wealth, auric impulsation and enlightened forces of honorable blessing. Your life will prosper with greatness and you will acheive all the desires you have ever fathomed through the pure essential majesties of Mama Ju's "witchery".<br /><br />