The Vagabond Queen: A Tall Tale



I heard about the Vagabond Queen from my Granny. Thought you’d like to hear it as well.

            Bess, the Vagabond Queen, was a big woman. I mean a BIG WOMAN! Taller than dirt and half as wide. She never had one place she called home, as she told it. Except if you met up with her on the road. Or following down the railroad tracks. Or those hard-to-reach mountain paths.

            Home was ever-changing. Think she liked it that way. She followed where her feet went, showing off her toothy pearly whites, day or night, or those in-between moments we all pass through in snippets of dream state. That was just one of the many reasons everyone whose path she crossed liked about Bess. There were plenty of other things to boot.

            Bess always had her a woven Satchel. It was all kinds of bark, sticks, leaves, flowers, and the like all bound together. It was the size of a Steamer Trunk but kinda floppy in places. Never was floppy in the same way or position, as I heard told. The Queen threw it around her shoulders, hanging off to one side or the other. Never seemed to mean much until it did.

The Vagabond Queen walked where she pleased, when she pleased, without a set straight-line plan from point W to point E4. That was her style. Popping up, pausing for a spell, then going wherever “Next” was.

The Great Depression put a crimp in her non-planned routes. Bess always seemed to wind up at a desperate locale with desperate people at the most desperate of times.

Remember when I said The Vagabond Queen was a big woman? Walking into that desperate space had adult eyes bulging out THIS BIG, nearly falling out of their sockets. Jaws dropped, most hitting the ground, some underneath like a shovel. Those were the bigins. The children went the other way.

Fussy babies stopped their fussing, wails changing to coos. Inactive dour kid’s undoured, simple smiles fighting through their downward cast. There was a change that no one rightly could put a name on it. Way Granny told it, she called it Hope.

Bess walked among them, said “Howdy,” and sat down wherever she had stood. If she said anything else, it was drowned out by the clanging of her satchel, resting on her right hip, as she undid the ties.

I’m sure you’ve heard of a corneycopria, but most folks stood stunned, not thinking a bit. Well, their near-empty bellies did the thinking for them. The Queen upturned her satchel and out poured all types of food, fresh, canned, or tinned, daintily onto a blue cloth that had tumbled out first. There was plenty there to calm all the tummy grumbles and more so to last for near a month.

Bess pulled the ties of the satchel up to her left side, then clanged them open again. Salves, ointments, medical, and other necessities, went to those that needed them.

The Vagabond Queen may have taken up a lot of space, but there were always room for others. Everyone ate until they belched or farted, which always made the children roll on the floor with laughter. Anything that could produce music or rhythm was brought out. Then the singing began as the Sun was going to bed. Harmonies created a protective space around them all.

When things petered out, and most of the children were fast asleep, Bess did one last thing before she moseyed on. She shared her song. Everyone awake stopped their whatevers to listen.

This gathering, or the next, didn’t know that The Vagabond Queen’s verses constantly changed. Rhymes came and went. The tune might alter a bit but always came from her heart song. Bess just sang what was needed to be heard in that place and time. Once done, she just nodded her head to the folks and went on her vagabond ways.

Now, there was this other time she ventured to one of those Hawaiian isles just before it blew its top. But, that’s a tale for another time.

C’mon. Grubs on.

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