It's been fifty years since my first encounter with the "Tennessee Twig Man," and now I regard him as nothing more than a childhood fantasy. A wish which sprang from my imagination when I could still dream in color. It's unfortunate how maturity whitewashes our kaleidoscope of creativity, then paints us into a corner of our own gray logic.
The "Twig Man," is something I have kept to myself for nearly five decades. I've never told my wife, my children, or even my grandchildren about this apparition. I've never shared how the "Twig Man," and I stood by the waters of Reelfoot Lake and tossed a stone back and forth like two best friends who had just met.
I haven't told them, because I have convinced myself that he was nothing more an imaginary friend. A friend I felt safe with, despite his creepy appearance - and he was an odd sight to behold. Standing there among the cattails, he looked like an emaciated skeleton in search of his rib cage. When his eyes were open, they stared at me like two eight balls balanced upon a pool stick.
Now fifty years later, he's just a sentimental memory from a simpler time, or at least that was what I thought, until last summer.
While I was on a fishing trip the "Twig Man," reappeared. It was mid-morning when I arrived at my favorite fishing spot. I turned off the boats motor and laid anchor in front of a stand of cypress known as the "Ink Well," - A place known for its tall tales, legends, and stories of madness. In the daylight, it doesn't look like much, but at night, strange things loom in the shadows.
Casting my line near one of the stumps, I sat back and waited for a bite. A cool breeze blew across the placid waters carrying with it the stench and fragrance of the marsh. In no time I landed a five pound bass. I reeled it in, admired its beauty, and then released it back into the wild. I had enough fish in my freezer and enough trophies on my wall to last me until next season.
Once again I baited my hook and dropped it in the water. There was no one around for miles, but I couldn't shake this feeling that I was being watched. This was silly, I thought, I had been fishing this lake for years and I had never felt this way until that moment.
The bobber on my fishing line floated motionless, as I turned around and looked behind me. There poised at the bow of the boat was the biggest water moccasin I had ever seen. Half its body was in the water and the other half hung over the side. I hate snakes with a blue purple passion, but I especially hated water moccasins.
Grabbing my paddle, I stood in the middle of the boat and swung it as hard as I could. Unfortunately I missed the snake, and split the paddle in half. The snake retreated under the boat, but reemerged again with its forked tongue wagging. I felt insulted. That little Son of Satan was egging me on and I was taking the bait. I took another swing and missed again, only this time I broke my paddle in half. There I was in the middle of Reelfoot Lake trying to clobber a snake the size of a sea serpent with nothing more than a toothpick for a weapon.
The snake slid the rest of its body into the boat, reared up and hissed, exposing its fangs against its white gullet. If I remained in the boat, I'd get bitten, but if i jumped in the water, I would be in its territory. I didn't favor either of these options.
Before I could decide what to do, an old friend of mine showed up. At first I thought I was dreaming, but there he was. The "Twig Man," had come to my rescue. He rose out of the water, grabbed the snake by the tail, and did something I never thought would happen. Taking both ends of the serpent, he wrapped it around a tree and tied it in a bow. I nearly fell out of the boat. For a long moment we just stared at one another, then like before the "Tennessee Twig Man," disappeared into the muddy waters of the lake.