It was late August, very warm, the air full of busy breezes and the first Katydid's songs. Haying was well under way and I had begged permission to ride up to visit Roxy Buzzard for the day since everyone was too busy to join in any activity that interested me.
Uncle Bert tossed me up onto the unsaddled back of Bucket-head Bess, a docile pony whose intelligence far surpassed her beauty. That was a good thing for otherwise she'd not have known enough to eat, Grandpa said. It took only a short time to trot along the winding woods-path to the clearing where Ox Buzzard had built his sprawling log cabin and established his ever increasing family in a setting as near like his native mountains as he could find.
I put Bess in an empty box stall in the huge horse barn. It would never have done to leave her in the paddock with the horses for they were Shires, gigantic though gentle, and their very size would have frightened Bess into fits. A well-worn path led across a roughly bridged creek and up the hillside to the cabin clearing. The children heard me coming and ran to meet me with cries of welcome.
"Grandaunt's come, Katy," Hannie said as she hugged me and Nimmie added, "She's a witch-woman, sure enough." The other children nodded in solemn, round-eyed agreement.
Roxy came from the house then and scattered the little ones to their chores and play. Though she was only a few months older than I, Roxy stood head and shoulders taller and already had the grave, calm face of a mountain woman. I thought it would be poor manners to ask if her grand-aunt really was a witch and, anyway, I felt that I shoudln't believe there was such a thing. But children do believe even when they think they shouldn't.
"First you must come 'n be acquainted with Grandaunt Roxalinda, then we kin play a spell afore time to set out the vittles." Roxy said as she led me to the kitchen where Clorinda greeted me affectionately from her floury pie-board where she was putting the finishing touches on a Buzzard-size batch of biscuits.
Ox's big armchair stood by the vast fireplace where logs burned even in this warm summer day. Seated there was Grandaunt Roxalinda whom the children called a witch-woman. As I made my manners with great care, for this woman looked more queenly even than the Junoesque Clorinda, Roxy said:
"This be Katy Louise Blake, Ma'am. Her Grannie helped Mam birth the twins and her Uncle Bert Timmons, Paw allows is might nigh as good with horses as himself."
Piercing black eyes beneath heavy brows met my timid glance as I looked up into a handsome face with a large nose, wide, humorous mouth below which a determined chin jutted, and crowned by a coronet of raven-black braids made startling by snow-white 'wings' at the temples. A homespun dress of russet with a white scarf crossed over the breast and tied in the back at an unusually high waist-line, and green leather shoes made this woman appear even more strange. Heavy gold rings hung from her ears and a wide gold band circled her marriage finger.
Grandaunt studied me a moment, then smiled and nodded so that I knew I was accepted and dismissed. Roxy bobbed a curtsy, and I followed her example, before we ran out to play with the others. Our games were quieter that day and Roxy tried her best to keep the tales of Grandaunt's spells and potions from being poured in my ears. Hannie claimed Grandaunt "witched" all her Paw's mares to have twin colts the next year and even Nate, who was next younger than Roxy, told of Grandaunt's "fore-seeing" the place where their cabin was built before Ox and Clorinda had left their old home.
I was surprised to see this magical woman helping set out steaming pans of chicken pie as we answered Clorinda's call to "come set 'n eat." The Buzzards ate hugely, making my own hearty meal look piddling in comparison. I helped Roxy and Maddie wash up, slipping shyly past Grandaunt whenever I couldn't avoid her. Finally she beckoned me to her.
"Be you afeard of me, Sugar? Hev the least-ones told you Grandaunt's a witch-woman?" she asked with a gentle smile.
"Yes, ma'am. They told me so. I'm not afraid but I never met a witch-woman before." was my sturdy answer which drew a smile from Clorinda, a quick thundering chuckle from Ox and an approving nod from the "witch-woman."
"Course you didn't, Sugar. Howsomever, I'm a white witch that makes good charms, not that you'd hev ought to fear. Don't you know a witch-woman can't spell a gal with red hair?"
Then she held both my hands in her two large, warm ones and told me a "fore-see" of my life, ending by saying that I had a special power. I've always wondered what that "power" was.
Grandaunt stayed several weeks with the Buzzards and then returned back across the mountains to her home. She kept in touch and was always available to advise when asked or to instruct when she felt it necessary. Roxy was Grandaunt's namesake and so was under her special care as she discovered a few years later.