Monday, November 30, 2009

Meeting the Southern Death Cult

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Chicken Fries recounts an episodic ten days sitting a drilling oil well in Grant County, Oklahoma while staying in Wanda Jackson’s former RV.

Part of the story deals with the drilling of the well while another part expounds on many of the strange happenings going on in the area at the time – happenings that included cattle mutilations, crop circles and a County sheriff that seems to know all about it.

The story includes a midnight meeting with Ralph and Goldie, two people Anne and Eric suspect of Satanism. The reality is something quite different but still quite unusual. Here is an excerpt from the story Chicken Fries:

Hearing the throaty exhausts of a Harley pull to a stop outside the RV, we waited, listening to someone scrape their boots on the stair ramp leading up the door. Then footsteps –

Anne made a face as I opened the RV’s door. “Come in,” I said.

Ralph was not alone. A woman he introduced as Goldie his soul mate accompanied him.

Goldie had long blonde hair decorated with pink, azure and purple beads, and had big expressive blue eyes. She wore a leather-fringed jacket beaded with the same colors, along with American Indian totem signs. She seemed like a sixties flower child that had put on twenty pounds in the seventies to become the quintessential earth mother.

Ralph also wore a matching leather-fringed coat. For the second time since meeting him, I saw him without a hat or helmet. His dark hair was also long, draping almost to his shoulders and I could see that he was much younger than I had previously thought. Pointing to the built-in seating around the stationary table, I invited the Sonny and Cher look-alikes to join us.

“Would anyone like a beer?” I asked.

Ralph and Goldie both nodded so I brought a round of Coors from the RV’s little refrigerator before sliding in beside Anne. The lighting was dim. When Goldie began rolling a joint on the tabletop, the atmosphere became suddenly surreal.

The hallucinatory odor of burning pot permeated the RV as Goldie lit the joint, took a deep drag and then handed it to Ralph. After taking his own pull from the joint, he passed it to Anne. She took a hesitant puff and quickly passed it back to Ralph. Ralph shook his head and nodded in my direction.

I’m a non-smoker and no fan of the effects of marijuana, but I could already see the big picture. If Ralph and Goldie were going to impart their knowledge of Satanism and cattle mutilations to us, they first wanted us to join them in a simple illegal act.

Anne’s eyes grew large as I took the pencil-thin joint, drew a deep lungful of the smoke and held it for a long moment before blowing aromatic smoke rings toward the RV’s ceiling.

“Like it?” Goldie asked. “Home-grown from our own private patch.”

Goldie was grinning, as was Ralph and Anne. I soon realized that so was I. When I arose to get us more beer from the refrigerator I almost fell on my face.

“Creeper weed,” Ralph said. “It takes a while to catch up with you, but when it does –“

Anne lit a candle, put it in the center of the table and turned out the lights. Along with the pungent odor of marijuana, rising smoke and flickering candle light, all we needed was a little heavy-metal music. We made do with the chorus of crickets and tree frogs outside the RV. Finally, Ralph spoke.

“Word is going around that you’re meddling in things that aren’t your business.”

“Is that why someone tried to kill me the other day?”

“No one tried to kill you. That was an accident.”

It unnerved me that Ralph knew what I was talking about, even if it were an accident. The pentagram and dead chicken weren’t accidents,” I said.

“The boys was just trying to warn you to mind your own business.”


“Or nothing. They didn’t mean nothing by it,” Ralph said.
“We wouldn’t turn you in, even if you are Satanists,” Anne said.

Goldie laughed and rolled her eyes. “We’re not Satanists,” she said.

“Sheriff Arch called you Satanists. If he’s wrong about that, then what are you?” I asked.

“We worship the moon, the stars and the cycles of the earth and planets,” Goldie said. “Some people call us pagans.”

“Pagans?” asked Anne.

Warming to the conversation, Goldie spoke up and said, “It’s the oldest religion in Oklahoma, and maybe the world.”

It was my turn to ask, “How could you possibly know that?”

“Because of the excavations at the Spiro Mound sites in southeastern Oklahoma. The site was the hub of religion and government for prehistoric Indians for thousands of miles. The religion is connected to the Druids and Stonehenge and is likely the world’s oldest religion.”

Ralph droned in. “Like the people at Stonehenge and Spiro, we still celebrate the cycles of the earth and stars.”

“You worship cycles?” Anne asked.

“We worship the universal pulse that controls everything,” Goldie said. “We call ourselves the Southern Death Cult, after one of Spiro’s branches. Some of the followers are part of the Buzzard Cult.”

“How many followers are there?” asked Anne.

“Thousands likely,” Ralph answered. “No one exactly knows but there are branches all over the world.”

“And what about cattle mutilations?” I asked.

“We naturally get blamed for lots of things we don’t do. Sometimes coyotes kill cows in these parts.”

“What about the removal of udders and sexual parts with almost razor-like precision? How could a coyote, or any other wild animal, do that?” I asked.

“Bacteria,” Ralph answered. “It’s a proven fact that if you leave a carcass outside in these parts, bacteria will remove those parts in a matter of hours.”

Anne caused my heart to skip a beat when she asked, “Yeah, if you aren’t Satanists, then how do you explain your use of human sacrifice?”

The looks on both Ralph and Goldie’s faces told me that Anne had offended them. Like experienced diplomats, they both took deep breaths before speaking. Before answering, Goldie rolled another joint.

After making a production of lighting it, she took a deep drag before passing it to Ralph. Ralph took his own deep drag and I could see by the expression in his dark eyes that Anne’s comment had not made him happy. This time, when he passed the joint to Anne, she also took a long toke, as did I when she handed it to me.

As a Vietnam vet, I am far from a virgin when it comes to drugs. I like beer, but that doesn’t mean that I have never sampled the weed. This weed was different. By my second puff I was stoned. I stifled a giggle when I observed the hurt expressions on Ralph and Goldie’s faces.

“The Southern Death Cult doesn’t practice human sacrifice,” Ralph finally said. He giggled himself when he added, “maybe a chicken or two, but nothing more.”

At this point, Anne began laughing uncontrollably and Goldie, Ralph and I soon joined her. I staggered up to the refrigerator and got us more Coors.

When I returned with the beer I asked, “If you don’t practice human sacrifices then why have a name as ominous as the Southern Death Cult?”

“We couldn’t have made that one up if we’d tried. Southern Death Cult is the original name the Indians used. No one really knows why.”

“So why all the secrecy if you’re not really Satanists?” Anne asked.

“Oklahoma is the hub of the Bible Belt. The only Southern most of our neighbors understand is Baptist. What we came to tell you is you got a problem with the well.”

“What kind of problem?”

“The spot you are drilling on is hallowed, an old Indian burial ground.”

“Are you sure? I never found anything in the literature. How do you know?”

“It’s been passed down and there’s a curse against anyone ever making use of that spot of land. You’re drilling almost the exact location.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and neither could Anne. “What should we do? We’ve spent too much money to quit now.”

“This ain’t about money. It’s about sacred land. You got to make amends.”

“Or what?”

At this point, Goldie’s facial expression went from a pretty smile to an angry frown. Standing from the table, she said, “Seems like we’ve done all we can, Ralph. Let’s get the hell outa here.”

“Now wait a minute,” Anne said. “My father was a Baptist minister. You can’t just come in here and tell us that you’re members of a cult called Southern Death and that you are descended from Indians that believe in cycles of the universe and expect to convert us in one fell swoop! Tell us what it is you want us to do. At least respect us enough to give us a chance.”

Anne’s tirade caught them both by surprise, as well as me. Goldie and Ralph exchanged glances and Goldie resumed her place at the table. I went to the refrigerator and got us more beer. Then I said, “Now, please tell us what to do.”

Ralph drank some beer and leaned forward in his seat. “All right,” he said. “If you’re really serious, this is what you need to know.”

I know now that Ralph and Goldie are not Satanists - they’re Pagans. Pagans exist everywhere, even here in Edmond. It’s been many years but, since it is autumn again, a mystical time of the year, maybe I’ll just take a drive to Blackwell and see if they’re still around.


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