Alternate Perceptions Magazine, November 2021
My Encounter with the Fae
by: C.J. Burns-Swanson
This story is one of my first memories. It takes place either shortly before or shortly after my 3rd birthday that would be the last week in June 1980. My mom and I went to West Virginia to celebrate my birthday with her side of the family. We were living in Aberdeen, Maryland at the time so it wasn’t too long of a trip. My mom’s family lives in the small town of Shady Springs in Raleigh County. Shady Springs is nestled in the lush forests of the Irish Mountain. One day my cousin Leonard (at that time he was known as Eugene) decided that he would take me into the woods. I remember he had a rifle on his back…so I’m assuming he was hunting something…raccoon or squirrels most likely. Now why my mom or the rest of the family allowed Leonard to take a 3-year-old into the woods is beyond my comprehension…different era I guess.
So, Leonard took me into the woods and we walked around for a while. I remembered being in awe of how massive it all seemed…then again, everything seems larger to a 3-year-old. I don’t know how long we walked since children have a screwy sense of time, but apparently, I became tired or a nuisance. My cousin Leonard decided to leave me sitting on a log while he continued wandering the woods. Again…really?! You’re going to leave a 3-year-old alone in the woods where there are bears and poisonous snakes. Leonard, before this, used to torment me with stories about bears…which could explain my little fear about bears.
So, Leonard left me alone in the woods. While I sat there for what felt like hours (again, children time). I was starting to become afraid of the animal noises that were coming from deeper in the woods and that seemed to be getting closer. I had no idea how to get back to my grandparents’ house. I was just about to start crying when I looked over at a tree that was about 30 feet away. At the foot of the tree were some little men. I’m not talking dwarf small…more like the size of a squirrel.
These little men were sitting around the base of the tree and were smoking pipes. They wore red hats and had beards. They were looking right at me. They must’ve realized I was frightened over the whole experience. They smiled, and all pointed in one direction. I don’t know why but I decided to follow the direction they were pointing.
It felt as if I were walking a very long time but eventually I returned to my grandparents’ house. I started yelling for my mom. She came outside and was shocked to see that I had come home without my cousin. She asked me where he was, and I told her that he had left me alone in the woods. Needless to say, he heard about that from my mom, my grandparents, and his mother.
It wasn’t until years later that I told her about the little men who had pointed my way out of the woods. It wasn’t until much later when researching faeries that I discovered I was helped by Gnomes or some species in the Gnome family.
Editor’s Note: Used with permission of author from pages of Appalachian Cryptids & Folklore [Facebook].