written and illustrated by Joe Sutphin
Now, by no means am I a fanciful thinker, or one to buy into tales of faeries and such, but I have come to understand that there are rare occasions in life when a man may find himself faced with the unexplainable. It was on such an occasion as this that I found myself, a fairly level-headed man, questioning most everything I’d ever known to be true.
I was scouring the east hillside of Old Man McCarty’s farm, early one warm spring morning, in search of American Indian arrowheads. This hobby had been an interest of mine since childhood and I have, to this day, amassed an impressive portfolio of these finely crafted shards of flint and obsidian.
On this particular morning, I had not yet laid eyes on anything of interest other than a rabble of various pebbles and flat stones. However, the joy I have always found in hunting for these artifacts does not come merely in finding them, but in the leisure of walking the hills and fields and taking in the clean, country air. There is such a peace to be appreciated in the natural world.
As I neared the summit of a grassy rise, my eyes scanning over a winding vein of stones, a glimmer of light flashed in my peripheral vision to the right. I knelt down and ran my fingers through the grass to catch sight of the ground beneath. To my astonishment, scattered about the dirt, were a half-dozen or so smooth, blue stones. I gathered them up and shifted them around in my palm. As I did so, the sunlight refracted brilliantly off of the tiny reflective, crystal-like panes covering the stones. They were simply beautiful. I opened my satchel and carefully dropped them inside.
I slowly stood myself back up, old knees stiff and aching from kneeling on the ground. I continued my hike over the peak of the grassy hill and headed down into a small gully, lined on the opposite side by trees and a few large stones. My mind still excitedly pondering over my find, I nearly didn’t notice what was no less than fifteen feet in front of me. I had been glancing nonchalantly toward the trees when my sight was abruptly fixed upon a small… man, if you will, squatting atop a large, flat rock.
The shock sent an instant rush of adrenaline through my entire body. My chest burned as if a hot iron had been pressed against it, nearly taking my breath away. The little man was no more than three or four feet tall, with a broad and wispy beard, pointed furry ears, and two glossy black eyes, almost like those of a field mouse.
He seemed well aware of my presence, yet he showed no intention of running from me. I felt uncomfortable at first and contemplated turning around and getting myself back over the ridge and into the open field as soon as possible. Yet, the creature still gave no hint of alarm. His movements were minimal, but quick and jittery, as with lemurs and other small primates. His hands were cupped together, squirming and tightening their clasp, as the tail of a small rodent hung out from under his palms.
As I rubbed my chin, the little man looked at me inquisitively, reaching his clasped hands forward. I cautiously took one step toward him. As I did so, the little man quickly pulled his hands back close to his side again like a child, his brow rising. His eyes shifted down to the rodent tail still dangling beneath his clasped hands, then focused back on me. He held his hands back out in front of him again and opened them wide, sending a small and beautiful, bright, blue bird fluttering away.
The rodent was nowhere to be seen. Joyous birdsong echoed through the gully.
The little man just smiled at me, then reached his hand down and picked up a glimmering blue stone, just like the ones I had stowed away in my satchel. He put his fingers to his bearded face and, placing the stone into his little grinning mouth, he quickly turned and leapt off the rock and bounded after some small rodent or toad rummaging about the grass under the trees. Then, without a sound, the little man vanished. He was there, and then simply he was not.
I stood amid the gully trees for a moment, trying to gather my thoughts. I then set off for home, the entire journey made in complete, stupefied wonder.
I may never know what it truly was that I saw that morning. I cannot say this creature was mischievous, because I saw no inkling of wrong-doing in its motives, if it truly had any motives at all. He seemed to me to be simply playing, nothing more.
I have remembered him with affection as the Whittler, for he seemed to find joy in taking that which was raw and unrefined and making from it a thing of beauty.