The Tale of Bootlegger Bones
The Legend of Sunflower Cottage
Rosemary Amber Ayle was born to one of the oldest families in our country. She was descendant from the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock. She was strong, courageous, kind and beautiful. Through the generations following her ancestors' arrival, a migration occurred bringing her Mother and Father to Reliance, VA in the heart of the Shenandoah River Valley.
Here in Reliance, the Ayles found peace and prosperity. Mr Ayle was a gentleman farmer and watchmaker. His successes at both brought a comfortable lifestyle to his family. When he lost his beloved wife to the pandemic flu of the early 20th century, he turned all his energy to his precious daughter. He built a log cabin with a red tin roof for Rosemary and she surrounded it with sunflowers. Together they picked up the pieces and Rosemary lived a sheltered life under the watchful eye of her father. Mr. Ayle adorned her with fine dresses and jewelry.
Unintentionally, she became the object of every young man's desire in the community of Reliance, because of her great beauty and her wealth.
But Rosemary was content to live on the farm and attend to her doting father. She had no intention of ever leaving and shunned every suitor ….. except for one. She could not deny that she had feelings for one, young Mr. Joe Bordeaux, who lived just one mile up the road. She never admitted this to a soul and certainly not to young Mr. Bordeaux. She pondered her feelings in her heart and remained devoted to her father, never dreaming of leaving her home, Sunflower Cottage Farm.
Mr. Bordeaux, likewise, hid his feelings for Rosemary out of respect. Neither spoke of courtship or love to the other. But those who knew them could see the fondness in their passing glances and soft voices when in each others presence. Surely one day these two would be together.
This is a story of the death of innocence and the conversion of good to evil. This is the tale of Bootlegger Bones who ended our darling Rosemary Amber Ayle in the year 1945.
The events took place on a fateful autumn night when the frost was on the pumpkins and the sunflowers were long gone. It was a cold October evening and there was an ominous foreboding in the air. The war was finally over but there was still evil in this world to be reckoned with. Bootlegger Bones rode his horse through Reliance pulling a wagon full of moonshine destined for the saloon in Helltown only 10 miles away. The horse had been ridden hard for days and gave out, as fate would have it, near the entrance to Sunflower Cottage Farm. This gentile town of good neighbors and honest, hard working farmers would never be the same.
Rosemary had already retired for the evening and Mr. Ayle answered the front door to find the wild-eyed and desperate, dark form of Bootlegger Bones standing there in the moonlight. Bootlegger was aiming a long shotgun right at Mr. Ayle's heart when he demanded the key to his farm truck, his prized, brand new, 1945 REO Speed Wagon.
When Mr.Ayle refused, he shot him down with out even asking twice or bothering to think of the consequences of his cowardly act. He began to ransack the house in search of the truck key. Rosemary was awakened by the horrific sound of the gun shot and the wrecking of her home. She crawled out of her bedroom window in her night gown and ran to the barn where she knew she would find the truck key and then drive away to safety.
It was truly a witching night, October 31, the wind was howling, the moon was full and a storm threatened from the west. Fear was not an emotion that Rosemary had ever known. Barefoot and with eyes blinded by tears, she ran like never before. It was a miracle that the moon lit her way to the barn. She fumbled and found the key in the dark only to turn and see Bootlegger Bones' threatening form in the doorway, just as her father had only minutes ago. Again, he aimed his long gun at the heart of an innocent. He fired, but the gun backfired knocking him to the ground. Rosemary fled into the forest.
Deep into the forest she ran, shivering, cut, scratched and breathless. Finally she fell to the ground and wept. She would not give that evil killer the key to her Daddy's truck for any reason, not even to save her own life.
She lay there quietly hoping that the devil man would not come for her and that she might make it until daylight with out being found. Surely then she could find help. Perhaps even Mr. Bordeaux, Joe, would save her. But alas, she began to hear the sounds of the man who callously took her father's life and was now searching for her. She could hear him tearing at the forest undergrowth and breathing hard, growling and swearing.
Suddenly something changed. The sounds became distant and she began to feel warm. She could no longer see the moon and the stars. She thought for sure that her end was near, but no! She had been covered with an amazing protective magical blanket....it was All Saints Night and the spirits were with her. A community of enchanted creatures who dwelt in the forest near by had been called to her side. They were druids, fairies and wood nymphs. It was their cloaks that covered her and their magic that lured Bootlegger away.
Rosemary waited under the protection of the cloaks for a very long time. The storm came and went without her getting the least bit wet or cold. Many hours transpired and while waiting, she clawed a deep hole in the soft earth where she buried the key. She would not let Bootlegger Bones use her Daddy's truck to escape the consequences of this brutal night.
She decided that she would not return to her home tonight where the devil man still searched. Instead, she would make her way to Mr. Bordeaux some how and he would take care of her, make all of this pain stop and right the wrongs committed against her. She would no longer hide her feelings for him, turn him away or ignore his feelings.
She knew what she had to do now. She had to find Joe. She could feel the love growing within her heart as she longed for him. She felt brave and strong again. With a burst of energy, defiance and foolish hope she threw off the cloaks, determined to run like the wind to the arms of her love who would put an end to this nightmare.
As she ran and ran she felt more and more free. She could see the edge of the forest before her and she knew Reliance Road was just beyond. Once on Reliance Road, she could easily run the mile to Mr. Joe Bordeaux's house.
She didn't even feel the blow from behind that took her life. Bootlegger Bones had been waiting, expecting that she'd try to escape from the woods and knowing that he'd never find her in the woods. He just sat down and waited, easing closer and closer to the sound of her approaching foot steps. His gun might not have shot her; but, it made a dandy club.
Miss Rosemary Amber Ayle was taken from this world on that sorrowful night for no reason. She didn't have the key which Bootlegger sought and he didn't care. He chased her because she ran. He stalked her because she hid. He killed her for sport.
Some say her spirit just kept on running and that would explain how Mr. Bordeaux was awakened that night and, without knowing why, got on his horse and raced to scene of the dreadful crimes.
He raced, on an irrational, unknown mission guided by instinct and fueled by adrenaline, to Sunflower Cottage Farm. There he found poor Mr. Ayle dead in the cottage doorway and his darling Rosemary at the edge of the woods.
When Joe found Bootlegger Bones he was crawling around under the hood of the REO Speed Wagon. He had loaded up his jugs of moonshine in the bed of the truck and would have been long gone to Helltown if he had only been able to find the key.
Mr. Joe Bordeaux was a very fine person who had never hurt a soul before and never would again. But that night he fought with Bootlegger Bones and when the fighting was over, only one man stood up to tell the tale.
Joe never married, he never even fell in love. He lived his days, one mile from the spot where his beloved Rosemary died, until he was a very old man.
Every October 31st, of his remaining years, he was visited by the spirit of his beloved, no longer an angel on earth; but now a tortured apparition. She had become a screaming banshee, transformed by the events of that horrific night, driven by rage and bent on revenge. She was on her way back to Sunflower Cottage to give Bootlegger Bones the ride to Helltown he deserved in her Daddy's REO Speed Wagon.
The druids, fairies, and wood nymphs continue to protect the key to this day. The ghost of Bootlegger Bones will never find it.
But Bootlegger's ghost will be raised from the dead by the UN-dead specter of Rosemary Amber Ayle every Halloween into eternity. His ride of terror to Helltown will never end.