(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This modern folktale of the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky begins in the present time with Beth retrieving her drunken husband from the clutches of a local woman of dubious reputation. Casey has made his yearly batch of moonshine and has gone on a two-week bender, ending up at the house of Lil, their nearest neighbor. After a knockdown, hair-pulling fight between the two women, Beth begins the trip home with Casey but has an accident that sends the pickup truck into the creek.

When Beth walks the two miles home to get the mule and some chains to pull the truck out, the story shifts to the past, when Casey’s first wife died the day after they were married from a broken branch that pierced her face and when his second wife was found dead of a broken neck at the bottom of a cliff. A year after his second wife’s death, Casey met Beth, but her mother, Nomey, warned her he was hexed and gave her a charm to wear. After the wedding, Beth saw an old woman with ragged clothes and long hair scurry into the woods near her house. She followed the old woman, who crawled into a hollow log.

When she described the old woman to Casey, he told her a story of something that happened twenty years before when he and a friend were playing in the woods. When he saw his friend hiding in a log with his hand sticking out, he put a ring he had made from a buckeye with his initials on it on his friend’s finger as a joke and said, “I take you as my wife...

(The entire section is 530 words.)