The origins of the phantom monster truck that is supposed to haunt the roads between Benton and Ebeneezer lays in the social upheaval the Civil Rights movement brought to this area of Mississippi. Radical elements of the population formed chapters of the then powerful White Citizens Council, the white people who had money, took their children out of public schools and placed them in private schools called segregation academies. Benton Academy and their rival Manchester Academy were two such schools.
And of course, the Klan still held massive parades and rallies all through the hill and delta counties to show their support and passion for the cause, they also threatened local leaders and moderates who were pushing for small scale racial integration. Shootings were fairly common too, as were cross burning and attending public lynchings of local civil rights leaders and their supporters even rivaled attending Friday night football down at the local High School.
It was a horrible time, and the scars are still visible. Now according to legend one night a group of four Klan's men were on patrol when their truck swerved and broke over the railing of a bridge that spans Teshava Creek, the trunk plunged into the depths and all four Klan's men were killed in a fiery wreck. I say all of this because I've encountered the phantom truck before. And it's the main reason I hate driving at night.
Now I only remember bits and pieces of that night. But I'll tell you what I remember. I was driving home one night from college. At that time I was attending a local community college, Holmes community college, a small community college located in the tiny town of Goodman, it's about an hour or so drive from Benton. Now to get from Benton to Goodman one must first pass through Ebeneezer. Now the road's between Ebeneezer and Benton are a joke, their narrow country lanes really with barely enough room for two cars to pass. They are dotted with potholes and are often crowded with deer, who love to jump out in front of oncoming traffic.. It's a test of skill for seasoned drivers and a crucible for newly licensed drivers.
And the weather, it was early January and a sudden winter snow storm was pushing in. Now, while snow is rare in Mississippi, it's not uncommon. We get snow about four or five times a year and normally it lasts for about a day or so sometimes even a week before melting into the ground. It was snowing that night and it was snowing hard. Now my car at the time, an older two thousand model had a busted heater, so I was bundled up to the nines. And the only thing on my mind was getting home safe and sound when I pulled out of the parking lot of the dorm room. My grandmother who had become more like a surrogate mother to me since my mom had disowned me five years ago was cooking her famous chicken fried venison's steaks with homemade white gravy and mashed potatoes a meal befitting a queen that night and I wanted me some.
Anyway the snow was really coming down and I was poking down the road, I had just passed the old Ebeneezer general store and a clutter of houses when I looked up into my rear-view mirror and spotted it, a big black monster truck was following close behind me and its headlamps were shining bright. Bright enough to blind me.
At first I thought it was just some hillbilly drunk on moonshine or something. So I speed up a little to give us some room, thinking he's going to zoom on by. But the thing kept riding my tail. The seconds slowly started to turn to minutes and the snow started to really come down, and the truck kept advancing itching himself closer and closer to me. I want to say, I kept my cool and kept on trucking, and the answer to that is yes and no, yes I kept my cool and kept on going, but as time passed, and the lights grew brighter and brighter and the truck got closer and closer I started to feel the first rising wave of panic set in.
I felt an overpowering sense of dread come washing over me. I felt like who ever was driving the truck behind me meant to do me harm. I could just feel it in my bones. And so now in a panic, I missed the turn that would take me home. Now, full darkness had fallen and the blacktop was giving way to gravel, only a quarter of the roads of the between Benton and Goodman are paved with blacktop the rest are nothing but narrow gravel roads that often wash out after a heavy rainfall and remain washed out till somebody raises enough hell down in Yazoo city to get the thing fixed.
And driving on gravel is hell on the nerves, and that winter had been a very wet winter, so like I said before I had to ride the center of the road to keep from dipping into the massive holes formed by the rains of late autumn and early winter. And all the while that truck was getting closer and closer to me, finally it was within feet of me, taking a chance, I looked up and in the rear view mirror of the car, that the driver of the truck seemed to be a ghost for he was dressed in all white, then my face drained of color, those were not ghost those were Klan's men.
Now growing up in the hill country of Mississippi, I had heard plenty of stories about the Klan. My grandfather along with a dozen others had fought to keep the Klan out of Benton when it had threatened to march into town. All of these stories were whispered, and only told late at night when a few of the old timers would gather around and talk after dinner after cups of strong black coffee and homemade pecan pie.
Anyway it was then I knew, that those people had it out for me that if they caught me, I was good as dead. And then noticed that when my blood ran cold, that the needle above my gas gauge was hovering just above 'E' or empty. I felt like my time was running out, like sand shifting through an hourglass, the measure of my life was no longer in years but now in mere minutes. The trunk was now mere inches from my fender and all I could do was take a deep breath and pray, and pray I did, I prayed harder than I have ever prayed before in my life. Now, I'm a lapse Roman Catholic, and a bit of a lapse Episcopalian, but at that time I recalled something from my long ago Sunday School lessons, that was, if you ever find yourself in trouble, all you need to do is focus on Jesus and he'll help you. Or something to that effect.
Then out of the corner of my eye I saw an old sign that read "Teshava Creek Bridge" And I was reminded of an old supernatural saying that ghosts can not cross running water or something to that effect. A few seconds later I could see the bridge, and the trunk behind me seemed to sense my intentions for it was speeding up. I was blinded by the headlights, I took a deep breath and muttered a prayer as I gripped the wheel of my car. I felt the tires go onto the bridge and then for a split second I was blinded, I mean totally blinded. Though I was blinded I could see and I heard the sound of tires leaving the road and a horrible crashing sound below, I smelled burning metal, roasting flesh and heard horrible screams of pain. Inhuman screams of pain. Screams that sounded like the damned of hell yelling out their frustration as flames licked at their flesh and torched their exposed bones.
And then it was over. My car had stopped, I had enough fumes left to pull over to the side of the road. I was alone. And to be honest with you I was frightened out of my mind. Then from around the corner there came the headlights of another oncoming truck. Tired, I just sat there in my car, unsure what to do. Another truck pulled up beside me, a man stepped out. He stopped his truck a few feet from my car, got out and walked toward my window and gently knocked a motion for me to let it down.
I don't know why, but something told me I could trust this man. And so I rolled down my window and the fellow leaned in a little. He was quite handsome, he had blonde hair that was a bit long for a country boy, and the prettiest baby blue eyes I've ever seen on a fellow.
"Evening." He said to me as he tipped his hat up. "I was driving back from deer camp and I saw you parked on the side of the road. Looked like you were having a fair bit of trouble. So I figured I might stop and see if I can't lend you a hand." He said.
"Thanks." I said giggling. "I think I ran out of gas.. and kind of stranded you could say." I quickly added.
"I got a spare can of gas in the back of my truck. Not enough to really do much. Enough to get you to the nearest gas station in Yazoo City. I'll go fetch it for you." He said as he leaned back up and walked back to his truck. True to his word he returned a few minutes later with a plastic jug of gas, and true to his word he filled it up. Once he placed the gas cap back on, I started my car, the needle had gone from 'E' to one fourth of a tank.
"Thank you." I said, unsure what else to say.
"No problem. That should get you to the Yazoo City, I'll follow you." He paused. "Just to make sure you make it, these roads can be bad at night. And this is a rough patch of road too." He paused again. "My name is Michael." He said offering his hand. "Its a pleasure to meet you."
"Kayla," I said reaching out and taking his offered hand it was warm to the touch and the minute I touched it I was filled with a sense of peace. He smiled another smiled and returned to his truck. And with that I started to drive toward Yazoo City. It took us around forty five minutes to reach Yazoo City, I kind of got lost again but Michael helped me find the highway and true to his word he followed me to the nearest gas station once we reached Yazoo.
I remember pulling into the station and getting out, Michael offered to pump by gas for me while I paid. I remember he reached into his pocket and pulled out three neat twenty dollars bills. More than enough to fill the tank. I was flattered to refuse. I went in, paid the clerk and when I returned.. Michael was gone. His truck was gone, everything was gone. It was like he had vanished without a trace.
Well I managed to get home that night and since then I try to limit the time I have to drive at night. But from time to time I still feel like somebody's watching me, watching over me, and on those rare nights when I have to drive at night, I feel like somebody there with me, keeping me safe. I like to think it's Michael.