It was an ordinary day on an extraordinary mountain in the Blue Ridge overlooking the south Shenandoah Valley on the West and the Goose Creek Valley on the East. The year was 2000, the place was Harvey's Knob. The parking lot of this overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway was filled with cars and people, people scanning the skies for a stream or a kettle of migrating hawks. This spot intersected with the Appalachian Trail and this was also the season of hikers, another kind of migrant. A man came off the trial heading North, stopped and looked around bewildered and asked, loudly, "What in the Hell are all these people doing here?" This was our first introduction to Millard, although some say he was preceded by a certain aroma......
The scent was, perhaps, a mixture of hiker on the trail for weeks with limited access to water, and stale, cloth-embedded nicotine, not the only irony of this man from the southeast area of the western part of our state. The smoke keeps the gnats away from the hawkwatchers on those warm, last Summer, early Fall days. But there is the hiker trade-off that might keep you in the gnats: Do you really want to be downwind of Millard? Because of his constant smoking, some people called him Dragon.
Dragon some while ago lost one of his front teeth. He doesn't use it that much, he says, and so he has not replaced it. He notes, though, that the gap seems to bother a lot of other people. "But as I always say: 'A tooth for an eye!'"
The story of Millard's lost tooth is the story of:
The Black Bear and the Northern Goshawk
Millard loved nothing more than bears - he studied bears, he sought bears and once, in a way, he fought a bear. He was following a black bar (as he chose to call them) in the forest in the mountains near the Appalachian Trail in the Catawba area. He knew to stay downwind, but that didn't always do the trick for Millard, as I mentioned previously. This bar, as he called him, took several big whiffs and started to climb a tree wherein some bees, as he liked to call them, had a hive and the hive had honey. Bars like honey and he started to climb the tree. But in the tree also resided a goshawk - a mean hawk whose notorious nest protection aggression has shut down part of the Appalachian Trail in Spring. The goshawk was not about to tolerate a bear climbing near her nest so she began diving at the bar, as he called them, penetrating his head with her sharp talons. The bar gave up the fight early, perhaps from a prior experience, and shimmied down the tree and began running straight at Millard with the goshawk in hot pursuit. Rather than run, as most humans would do, Dillard pulled out his front tooth and threw it at the bar. It hit the bar in the eye. The bar became disoriented and ran off in another direction. Dragon was pretty calm during this episode, but it may be noteworthy that he took one of the few showers of his life that evening.
Some time later, during a lull in the hawk migration, Millard reflected on these events. He noted that the tooth had been bothering him for some time, was loose, and that he had, on occasion, taken it out. He had sharpened it with his Randall made knife also in an effort to get it to stay in his mouth. "That was the only weapon I had", he remarked, "and I threw it where I knew it would do some good! Some people say: 'An eye for an eye', but I say, 'a tooth for an eye'.
Some people think the rock there is named for Millard and this incident: Dragon's Tooth. I'm not sure.
Many might predict that the next story would be about Millard's encounter with the Devil and their game of marbles. But chronologically, the next significant event that I am interested in was his job as Judge Weed. This came about in the county of ShinyMoon wherein numerous Indian tribes had tribulated. Millard had two relatives in this county who were in the legal profession, so to speak, and there came about a time when the docket there became backlogged to a serious and, perhaps, illegal degree. Many serious claims were dismissed because to not do so would be to compromise justice, so to speak. The courthouse was full daily and this also caused problems for people getting to their courtroom causing more charges of contempt and the like.
A meeting of legal people in the county was held to address this problem. It was decided that a traveling judge should be appointed to reduce the docket and to expedite justice and reduce the number of people in the courthouse. Many had people who they thought would be good at this job, but, of course, it came down to politics, the art of screwing everything up. No two people it seemed could decide on the same person. There was much gnashing and passion. Millard's brothers, as a joke, voted for their brother, who many thought was a joke. However, those two votes were a majority and so it was that Millard became a judge. He could not use his birth name because of the connection and the subsequent likely suggestion of politics and general who-do. Since Millard was somehow connected to weeds (another story), his brothers presented him as Judge Weed (originally dillweed [another another story]). After this was decided, the brothers presented the result to their brother and he responded: "No way in Hell!" They then discussed his judge's pay and he responded "Way, brothers!"