The Dog Queen
Guest Post by Larry Seeley
America is full of eccentrics. Every city block in New York is probably home to half a dozen. Some are loonies, many are artists, and most are interesting. The greatest difference between a large metropolitan area and a small town is that in the latter, you notice the odd people. They stick out like the proverbial sore thumb and become local legends who contribute to the folklore passed from generation to generation. Our tiny village was no exception.
Country roads, often gravel or dirt and gravel, ran from the center of town to the surrounding farms. One main road (paved and sporting a route number) ran through the center of town and connected us to the city a few miles distant. The houses of decent folks lined this street while the strangest person in town lived on one of the unpaved thoroughfares. A woman I only knew as the “Dog Queen”.
I first encountered her at age twelve while hanging onto the back of a tractor driven by the farmer I worked for, a superstitious man who saw ominous signs in everything. We rode through a field a hundred yards back from her house, and I heard wild barking.
“What’s that?” I asked him.
“The Dog Queen,” he replied, turning his head and shooting me a bleak look. “She’s got a hunnernt and fifty dogs in there. Don’t go up to the house—ever.”
“Why?” A logical question from a twelve-year old. I didn’t mean, “why not go to the house?” I meant, “Why did she have so many dogs?”
The farmer understood.
“Cause she takes ‘em out at night and runs with ‘em. Don’t even come up here in a car. She’ll run you down with that pack of hounds, break your windshield, and they’ll rip out your throat. Same if you try to get near her place.”
“What do you mean, ‘she runs with ‘em?”
“You come up here some night with your Pa. You hear somethin’ behind, and you look. There she is. Runnin’ at the head of the pack. Long hair blowin’ back, red eyes, and howlin’ like a banshee.”
“What’s a banshee?”
“Oh, shuddup, kid.” He turned back to the task of guiding the tractor.
A few years later, after I’d turned sixteen and had my license, I thought about the farmer and what he’d said. I took two friends for courage, and drove down that dark country road at midnight. We had the windows down as we approached her darkened farmhouse. I thought I could hear faint barking.
Like most such structures, the house sat back from the road. We drew parallel with the front windows, and a bright flash, like that from a press photographer’s camera, lit up the glass. I stomped on the accelerator, and we sped off, dirt and gravel flying, everybody cranking up their window and shouting.
“Jesus Christ. What was that?” My friends were shaken.
“Nothing. Pass me a Stroh’s.”
We often carried a case of beer in the back seat—for emergency purposes only. That was long before weed and other substances became popular.
“I saw something,” my buddy insisted. “The flash, then a woman grinning—with blood on her teeth.”
I had told both my friends all the gory details I recalled from the farmer’s conversation and a few I’d invented.
We were half a mile away by now, and I pulled to the side of the road under some overhanging trees. The night was darker than any I’d ever seen. No moon, cloudy, and the air seemed suffocating. A light fog had started to drift into the valley. I rolled down my window and dangled my hand outside.
We heard a dog bark in the distance, and I shuddered, maybe not so cocky any more. From out of nowhere a shape hurtled toward the side of my car and a roaring growl filled my ears. A terrifyingly large dog had taken aim at my hand.
I yanked it back just in time, and the dog crashed into the door panel. My window went up, and I stared into the jaws of hell. What I saw was a red-eyed monster with bared fangs. I turned the ignition and cranked the car, dropped it into first, and tore from the scene, beer spilling on my jeans.
I checked the rearview mirror every few seconds during the three-mile ride back to the town center. Several times I saw something following behind and informed my friends so they could crouch down while I drove them to safety. No sense in all of us dying. I didn’t consider that if the hound had gotten the driver, we were all doomed.
The next day at school, we avoided each other. My dad had smelled the beer on my pants and come down hard. I wanted to pretend that I hadn’t been scared witless, and I’m sure my friends wanted the same.
Years later, I revisited the Dog Queen. This time I had children, nieces, and nephews of my own, and I packed them all into one car and drove them to her house.
Not much had changed. The old farmhouse still loomed dark and large, and the howling and barking lingered in the air—perhaps in part due to the stories I’d told the kids. They sat wide-eyed in their seats, some with faces plastered to the windows, other hiding behind their larger brethren.
I’d dispatched my two adult sisters to the scene well in advance of our arrival, and they were waiting. We pulled over to observe Dog Queen’s place, some of the car occupants already whimpering and begging not to stop. A loud thump on the trunk elicited several screams, and when the car started to shake, pandemonium ensued.
I tore down the road, assuring everyone we were safe. They started to talk at the same time telling stories of what they’d seen and heard. Apparently, the Dog Queen had been just outside our vehicle, along with a pack of raging canines.
We drove home, and the tales grew larger—each child wanting to top the other. By the time we’d arrived at my mother’s house, the story of the Dog Queen had grown to epic proportions.
It became a family tradition to visit her every time we were in town to see the grandparents. First one generation, then another, came to know the legend, and the tale is still told today. You can strike a little fear, even in the hearts of those now grown to adults, if you mention the Dog Queen and her savage pack.
Larry Seeley is a mystery/thriller writer who lives in the mountains north of Santa Fe, NM with his wife, Katie, and their two dozen animals. His two novels include the award winning Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves, published in April 2010, and 17 Degrees North, published in February 2012. His third book, Bridge of the Americas is due out autumn 2012.
For more information, visit www.larryseeley.com.