Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Judaculla Visits the Valley of the White Lily
When I was a little kid who spent most of his time pursuing the adventures of Superman, Batman and Captain Marvel, my Uncle Albert would sometimes attempt to distract me with tales about the Cherokee giant, Judaculla.
“You think those funny book people are something? Hell, Gar-Nell” (my name when I was growing up in Rhodes Cove), “none of these funny book people are half as impressive as old Judaculla!” Then, he would launch into an incredible yarn (which I now believe he made up as he went along). “Judaculla could stand in Cashiers and see what was going on in Sylva. He bathed in Glenville Lake and combed his hair with the spine of a giant snake that he killed down in Nantahala. One time, a tribe from South Carolina made him mad because they had invaded some Cherokee hunting grounds up in Glenville, and he picked up a rock and throwed it at them. Killed half of them. You know what that rock was? It is now called Whiteside Mountain!”
It has been sixty years since Albert used to make my mouth hang open as he acted out another chapter of the saga of Judaculla, but I find myself thinking about him lately. In fact, each time I venture up #107 from Sylva to Cullowhee, I imagine the great slant-eyed giant bending over the Balsams as he stares at this latest invasion into his domain.
To Judaculla, all of this “progress” looks like some kind of rampart rash or infection. I watch him as he plucks up several big box stores, sniffs them disdainfully and then flips them into South Carolina. I decide to pull out of the gridlocked traffic, park and give my full attention to the Cherokee giant’s “renovations.”
Now, with one massive paw, Judaculla scrapes the earth from Cope Creek to Cullowhee, dragging all of the brightly colored little buildings and the automobiles into one great heap of plastic, metal and concrete. Then, he pulls up all of the utility poles and using the tangled mass of power lines, he tightly bundles the wreckage and flings it into outer space. Noting that the asphalt highways and parking lots remain, he uses his fingers to scale it up, revealing the imprisoned earth beneath. Judaculla scratches the earth and draws a finger down the Tuckaseigee, causing the water to surge through the freshly dredged channels.
Panicked humanity is running into the woods bordering #107, but Judaculla is indifferent to them. He moves his attention to Western Carolina University where he begins
To grind and knead bricks and stone into a fine powder that he casts to the winds. As thousands of students and academics flee, some still clutching their cups of expresso and tea, the Cherokee colossus hesitates as though he is considering exterminating a few academics and administrators. Instead, he merely smooths the wounded earth and surveys the changes he has created. Then, he rises and walks away, finally vanishing in the dim vistas of the Great Smokies.
What will happen now? I sit for a moment, imagining the return of vegetation and a skyline that is unmarred by buildings and power lines. Eventually, there will be pastures and grazing cattle, a river filled with brown trout. Wildlife returns to the woods and….
I turn to see a Domino’s Pizza car and an angry fellow behind the wheel.
“You are going to have to move, buddy. You are parked in out entrance.”
I crank my engine and search for a gap in the gridlock.
Time to move on.