“The Witches of Yellowstone” by Kathe Campbell

This story appears in “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Family.”

Witches have fascinated and horrified many in our culture for centuries. For example, one can’t forget Shakespeare’s three witches brooding over a bubbling cauldron in Macbeth and chanting, “Fire burn and cauldron bubble.” And what about The Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West, her face green and haggard and her pointy hat trailing a black veil? This famous witch flew across the pages of books, movie screens and eventually TV sets on her broomstick, cackling and shrieking her terrifying threats to all those in Oz, including the heroine Dorothy and her little dog Toto. Today, witches of all shapes and sizes are alive and well, from books to movies to TV shows and even on the streets of our nation during Halloween trick-or-treating.

When our young family was growing up, Katie, our four-year-old, found an old copy of The Wizard of Oz and begged me to read it to her and her older sister Molly. Written by Frank Baum, the book Katie had found had been my mother’s. With its scuffed cover and crimped pages, the book brought back so many childhood memories. I was tickled my little ones had asked me to read it aloud to them before bedtime.

“Sounds like fun, but only a chapter or two each night,” I happily answered. “Molly, jump in beside Katie. Lights out by 9:30.”

Every evening for several days, both girls sat mesmerized as I animated the words with dramatic flair, allowing my voice to drop and soften in all the right places. The munchkin’s high-pitched monotones kept the girls in stitches, as did my impression of the wailing and screeching witch. My acting was so dramatic that come early morning, I had to suck on throat drops after voicing the entire cast, including the Wizard and Dorothy’s assortment of tag-along compatriots.

On Easter Sunday, one of the major television networks touted the showing of The Wizard of Oz. Our whole family looked forward to the broadcast and we made lots of popcorn for the special event. Watching the opening scenes made me think back to a wondrous time when my own parents took me to see the popular film when it first opened in theaters back in the Dark Ages. Now, with my children and husband, I sat enthralled again, glued to each familiar character, wrapped in the arms of nostalgia I hoped to never forget.

Our kids—son Tim and Katie and Molly—loved the movie. My poor husband somehow missed seeing the movie when it first came out, his family no doubt unable to cough up the change in the throes of the nation’s ghastly Depression. As a family, we viewed every electrifying scene together, enrapt and full of emotion, with the children sprawled on the floor adding their own brand of sound effects. I was glad we girls had read the book together that winter.

Summer brought on pure déjà vu during a family trip to Yellowstone Park. Tim, Katie and Molly toured the thermal water features together. Six years older, Tim held his sisters’ hands tightly, reading the signs aloud as they traveled along the terraces and boardwalks. The three stood paralyzed as the geysers unleashed whooshing, scalding reservoirs gushing skyward then slowly died, leaving rushing rivulets in their wake.

As the boiling aqua hot pools, fumaroles and mud pots spat and steamed, Tim delivered a bewitching incantation by chanting legendary toils and troubles. Not to be outdone, Molly and Katie mimicked the fun as fellow sightseers giggled at their Oz antics. Surprised over their reactions, Katie screeched, “Did you folks see the movie, too?”

Continuing their walk, the kids came upon another mud pot. “Look here at this, you guys,” grinned Tim, “all that yucky, smelly, rotten egg stuff is what the mean old Wicked Witch of the West stirs in her cauldron.”

“Oh, Timmy, there are no rotten eggs in The Wizard of Oz,” Molly said, dampening his fun. But four-year-old Katie believed Tim’s satirical joshing.

The day had been long and we had reservations for dinner that night at the Old Faithful Lodge. Before we entered the lodge, we waited for the renowned Old Faithful Geyser to rumble and spurt, spewing her historic surges of boiling water 145 feet into the air. Tourists, cameras and camcorders were poised and ready, everyone talking excitedly up and down the decked concourse.


Yellowstone’s Old Faithful

Suddenly Katie spied a group of habited nuns sightseeing along the boardwalk. She yanked on Tim’s hand and shrieked in deafening curiosity, “What are those witches doing here, Timmy?”

Tim motioned for her to shush, Molly muzzled her mouth, their father brandished an irritable grin and I wanted to die from humiliation. Uproarious laughter emanated from what seemed to be more than 1,000 onlookers. And my consternation turned to utter relief when the nuns stopped and chuckled politely at our precocious child.

“Katie,” scolded Tim after the nuns had left, “those are not witches. They are the ladies from the Catholic Church. You’ve seen nuns before.”

“No, I haven’t, Timmy,” Katie resounded. “I’ve never seen nuns all dressed up like witches before. They must be the good witches from the north, because they have such nice faces.”

We stood there as a family, smiling over our youngest daughter’s candid observation. Then we laughed again when Katie added, “Next Halloween, I want to dress up as a good witch, just like them!”

Family 250rgbKathe Campbell lives her dream on a Montana mountain with her mammoth donkeys, a Keeshond and a few kitties. Three children, 11 grandchildren and four greats round out the herd. She is a prolific writer on Alzheimer’s and a contributing author to Not Your Mother’s Books, Chicken Soup for the Soul, medical journals and magazines.

Again, this story appears in “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Family.” The book is filled with 60 funny stories that confirm families aren’t always perfect! Purchase this book today from your favorite retailer, Amazon (http://amzn.to/1uWdwES) or Barnes & Noble (http://bit.ly/11HEQLy).

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