Ghosts along the Natchez Trace

Dog show hangovers…SUCK!  While the drive to and from a show allows for a lot of one-on-one time with the characters and the plot in whatever novel (or novels) I’m working on, the exhausted hangover from the show does not lend itself to implementing those thoughts and ideas quickly into the latest WIP.
However, on the nine and a half hour drive from my house to Starkville, MS last weekend, and then the four and a half hour drive to a friend’s home in Tennessee and the then five hour drive the next morning I did find myself twisting around the edits Susan needs for Gossamer Dreams.  I must apologize to my traveling companion on this trip.  I wasn’t my usual talkative self on this drive.  I was caught up in figuring out how to manage those edits. 
During the drive Sunday night to a friend’s home in Tennessee, we were on the Natchez Trace.  I would strongly recommend this drive in the daylight because what little I could see in the dark was stunning!  At one point, very close to Collinwood (and I remember this because I was a HUGE Dark Shadowsfan as a kid and my first thought was about Barnabas Collins) while my traveling companion was sound asleep (she did show more dogs than me that weekend), the four-year old little man who went with on this trip because his mom promised him he could go to a dog show was also sound asleep, and my other friend was about half a mile in front of me, I almost went off the road in startled fright.
Standing on the shoulder of the road were about five or six men on horseback, flanked by about fifteen or so more men. 
The first words out of my mouth were “What the ****?” and I did a rubber neck to attempt to see them more clearly.  Who in the world would be out on the Trace in force like that, at nine o’clock at night, in weather just above freezing and in the pouring rain?
It had to have been coon-hunters, I reassured myself, ignoring the way the hair on the back of my neck was still standing on end and the way I was still covered with goose bumps.  Yeah, that was it…coon-hunters…in dark uniforms, and the men on the ground were hunting with bayonet tipped rifles.  Coon-hunters.
When we got to my friend’s house, I asked if there were a lot of coon-hunters in the area.  I was assured there were, but coon season hasn’t started yet.  (That wasn’t helping, BTW.)  And then I got talking with my friend’s husband, who is even more of a Civil War history geek than I am, and he started talking about how the whole state of Tennessee is riddled with battle sites, large and small. One look at a map of the United States reveals how important Tennessee was during the Civil War. The state lay like a protective blanket over the Deep South. Any invasion of Georgia, Alabama or Mississippi certainly would have to come through Tennessee.
I went to bed that night still not sure what I saw, but certain what I had seen was not a group of coon-hunters.  Can I swear that I saw was an apparition, in paranormal parlance a residual haunting?  Were these men so traumatized or frightened that they left a permanent imprint in the very fabric of space and time with the strength of the emotions they felt at that moment?  I don’t know.  I just know what I saw was not a group of coon-hunters, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself that had to be what I saw.

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