|Graffiti on Old Alton Bridge|
To me, halloween is an excuse to indulge in creepy ghost stories and, frankly, morbid curiosity. For this reason I took my dog on a special excursion up to the eastern Cross Timbers in Denton County. We were going to see the Goatman's Bridge.
|Colby ain't afraid of no goats|
There are conflicting reports of the origin of this bridge's specter. Most versions of the story say that a successful goatherd named Oscar Washburn was lynched from the bridge by the Klan in 1938. The klansmen found the noose empty after throwing Oscar over the edge. Enraged by his presumed escape, they crossed the bridge and slaughtered the man's wife and children. Legend has it that if you cross the bridge after dark you'll see the glowing red eyes of a demonic satyr menacing you from the other side. The Goatman is hunting the klansmen who murdered his family, and those descended from the klansmen are cursed to be hunted unto death.
Fortunately, there seem to be no historic records of an Oscar Washburn or of a lynching from the bridge. While there was racially motivated violence in the surrounding area at the time, Oscar Washburn and the Goatman seem to be nothing but a cipher standing in for the guilt felt for all those unjustly persecuted during the racial tensions of the 30s .
Another entity also said to reside in the haunted forest resembles the Mexican legend of "La Llorona", the weeping woman who haunts rivers, steals lost children (especially those that disobey their parents!), and marks for death all who hear her. As is so often the case, ruffians attracted by the dark stories cause more trouble than any ill-tempered apparition. The area near the bridge is littered with empty shotgun shells, blown out signs, and broken glass. The local Master Naturalist group has a standing clean-up date on November 1st, putting the park back in order after the unauthorized Halloween night festivities.
|Small red arrow pointing to sneaky clump of sericea|
established along the trial. Grr.
Today the park winds through dry meadows surrounded by scrubby post-oak, cedar elm, hickory, and hackberry forests. It's early autumn in the eastern Cross Timbers, and heath aster, goldenrod, sneezeweed, eryngo, partridge pea, broomweed, and agalinis still bloom. Mothers were taking halloween-themed pictures of their small children on the bridge. It's a little macabre when one considers that the bridge is famous for an apocryphal lynching.
|I have low expectations for this buckeye's longevity|
I only walked the first few miles of Elm Fork trail. There are many more miles and trails to explore . Perhaps someday I shall come back to view more of these well-used paths-- during the daytime, of course.
|Hickory Creek and Old Alton Bridge|
|Virginia creeper begins to senesce|