After the Fact: The Witch on Peach Street

My sister Micki and I had to walk along Peach Street on our way to and from Central School, the once-upon-a-time only school in our home town. The street intersected a collection of original log cabin-style homes that had, in earlier times, been assigned to staff at a boys’ ranch. Only one faced Peach Street and it was well known in our circles that a witch lived in that house. We’d heard that she drank Aqua Velva, a popular men’s after-shave cologne, and surmised that the stories about witchcraft must have been fact.

That the witch had shoo-ed us away from her yard one afternoon with the broom she’d been using to sweep leaves from the walk only added to our conviction.

It wasn’t until I entered high school that I met Peter, who was an odd duck himself, but certainly not a troll despite having a mother who was a WITCH.  While Mrs. MacDougall probably didn’t drink Aqua Velva, she was an alcoholic who seldom left the house. Peter’s dad, Duncan, was one of the people instrumental in creating the first atomic bomb. He was working more than he was home during those early days and Peter would have been starting school, so Mrs. McDougall probably had lots of time on her hands and nothing to do with it. She didn’t look like a witch, but Sleeping Beauty didn’t think the apple peddler looked like a witch either, and you know how that story played out.

Over the years, Micki and I cautioned our children and grandchildren about the witch if we happened to pass the house on Peach Street on the way home to see mom. I made a point of showing my great-grandson, Jacob, the house where the witch lived: I don’t think kids nowadays are quite as gullible because Jacob wanted an introduction.

Most of the buildings that made up our town when Micki and I were in the first few years of elementary school are gone, including our first house and Central School, but the log cabins remain. The witch’s house has been through a few owners but still retains most of the original exterior. It’s as though the witch just stepped out for a toddy at the new brew pub in town. I think only the folks who lived in our town back then know why the homes in the log cabin “subdivision” are called, “Bathtub Row.” The rest of us, whatever “style” our government-issue houses, had only those “tin” shower stalls that accommodate one very skinny adult or two very small children while the cabins had bathtubs.

I have been accused, on more than one occasion, of being a witch, and I have known a few real witches in my time.  They weren’t particularly “magical” but they had a disposition befitting someone who might be universally disliked. If you’ve read the Frank Baum “Oz” books, you’ll know that there are good and bad witches. Glenda The Good was kin to the Wicked Witch of the West. Or maybe it was East. The one who was crushed under Dorothy’s falling house “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Earlier this week, I went to the Alamosa Sr. Center and sat between Harvey and Gatha while we all had our morning “cuppa”. Our conversation got around to witches, Halloween being just a few days away, and Harvey pointed out one of our local “witches” who’d just come through the door. There are a few witches living about but I won’t mention names: it could cause a flood of houses for sale. Come to think of it, I noticed a “for sale” sign posted on my neighbor’s house just recently.