The Bones Under the Oak, Part III

Ann Cro
The old blue van with the rusty fender groaned and trembled as Dr. Jack Campbell struggled with the unfamiliar stick shift. The passengers, four girls and two boys, who had been singing an Appalachian folk song about a girl from Knoxville who was beaten to death by her boyfriend and her body thrown into the river, stopped singing and watched Dr. Campbell anxiously. Already the trip had produced a couple of uncomfortable moments—once when Dr. Campbell had taken a curve too wide and almost hit an old Chevy in the opposite lane and, again, when a pickup truck had attempted to pass the van on a blind curve and had almost forced it into the ditch. The moment of trouble passed, however, and the young people began singing again.

The boys and girls were all students at Burney Christian College in Tennessee. Each year their English professor, Dr. Jack Campbell, took a group of students into the mountains to study Appalachian folklore and commune with nature. Campbell normally taught Medieval English Literature at Burney College and considered himself a scholar in the field even though he had never published anything on the subject; but when Middleton State University, just forty miles down the road, inaugurated a program in “Appalachian Studies”, Burney College was not to be left behind. Campbell, as Jackson Snipe Chair of English, an honorary title bestowed upon him in recognition of his years of service to the College, was placed in charge of the program.
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