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The Ballad of Ezra Miner

July 10, 2012

By Justin Cornille

Ezra Miner moved to the town of Hammond with the intent of revolutionizing the lumbering business. Ezra had opened a new shop called Miner’s Mechanical Concern and after studying the local lumber operation he had built a better mousetrap. Using his training as a watchmaker and a natural knack for problem solving Miner began to make machinery to increase the efficiency of the nearby Loutre logging camp. The loggers were initially apprehensive of Ezra Miner as they thought at first that his goal was to replace manpower with machine-power.

After sussing out the nature of their mistrust after several long nights and many, many rounds of beer Ezra was shocked as his true intentions were nothing of the sort. He began to explain at every chance, to every logger, that what he desired was “a perfect blend of humanity and automation.” Ezra Miner believed that the future brawn of the future would be mechanical but that the heart and soul would remain human. Ezra was bound and determined to lead the charge.

After earning their trust by sharpening and repairing their tools at what everyone agreed were incredibly reasonable rates, Ezra started coming around the logging camp and watching their operation. He would carry with him a small bound journal, making notes and drawing little pictures in it as he asked questions that sometimes annoyed the loggers. They all agreed, however, that Ezra Miner was harmless, even if he did often fail to heed their safety instructions.

It took almost a full year before the contents of Ezra’s notebook began to make sense to the rest of the town. Ezra had devised a very efficient conveyor belt system that could move recently felled logs towards the giant saws at the camp. This was an incredible boon to the camp which up until this time had been relying on water currents to carry the logs downstream.  Ezra’s conveyor system increased productivity greatly and he became something of a local celebrity.

In fact Ezra was so beloved by the time that the residents of Hammond elected to move to Loutre people were surprised and rather sad that he had elected to stay in Hammond. Ezra reassured everyone that their concern was unwarranted as the road between the two was clear and the trip was a mere hour. The townsfolk reluctantly accepted his decision and in time began to look for the smoke coming from the one inhabited building in Hammond on the horizon.

Ezra still saw the people of Hammond, who were now the people of Loutre, quite regularly. He would come into Loutre at least twice a month to keep the loggers abreast of the new machines he was working on to improve their operation and kept his shop open to sharpen and fix tools whenever necessary. It was around this time, with Ezra living alone in the ghost town, that people began to notice he kept a new journal in this one he would make sketches of the children.

This went on for several months before Ezra retired his secondary notebook. Mothers would frequently ask why he was sketching their children and asked if he was making a machine for the children. He would always reply that he was simply trying his hand at something more artistic than the purely functional machines he had been sketching for so long, and remind them that the perfect combination of machination and humanity had always been and would always be his goal.

It was an unusually cold winter when the people of Loutre began noticing a thicker stream of smoke rising into the sky from Ezra’s workshop and home in Hammond. They chalked it up to it being so cold and having to run his furnace at all times to keep warm. It was his decreased visits that aroused concern. Ezra had begun to come less and less. He still made it to Loutre at least once a month but the length of these stays was dramatically shorter than the previous all day visits. It was for this reason that several of the men were convinced by their wives to check in on him.

They were greeted somewhat anxiously by Ezra as he was clearly not expecting the company and seemed off put by its intrusion. He offered them seats by the fire and hot cups of tea for some and whisky for others. The men talked with Ezra for a short time before noticing his new apparent newfound interest in taxidermy. All around them were stuffed animals in incredibly naturalistic poses. The men thanked him for his hospitality and then went back to their homes in Loutre.

After this Ezra’s visits became more common. He once again would spend several days a month visiting the people of Loutre. Now he would bring gifts for the children, small windup toys that would walk or drive or do backflips. Ezra would also bring his notebook and begin sketching again. This time however he would guard his notebook and the sketches therein closely, quickly putting it away when people would attempt to steal peeks at its contents.

The contents of the journal would remain a secret until the following summer. In the spring the townsfolk of Loutre began finding animals torn apart in the woods. They were partially eaten and clearly predated upon but the animal responsible was a complete mystery. There were also reports of what appeared to be wild people in the woods. By this point the Native American population was practically nonexistent in the area and so instead popular speculation was Bigfoot.

The men of the town organized a search but turned up nothing of note until heading to the workshop of Ezra Miner. Once there they found his secret notebook opened. They were horrified at what they saw. On every page from beginning to end were sketches of the children. The sketches began as sketches of the children playing or reading or laying down. As the book progressed however the sketches became more problematic. They began to focus on specific body parts arms, legs, necks, heads all with estimated measurements. The last few pages were unrecognizable as individual children instead they were comprised of anatomical drawings. Skinless bodies covered in muscle and later skeletal frames filled each page. The men waited for Ezra to get home and confronted him.

That evening one of the children, Matthew Daub didn’t come home at dinner time. The town organized a search party and spent the entire evening searching for him. When they found him the men headed immediately for the workshop of Ezra Miner. Parts of Matthew’s skin had been peeled back from his body as though whatever had killed him had also attempted to skin him.

Justice that night was swift and cruel for Ezra Miner. He was lynched from a tree near his workshop, his house was ransacked for proof but all that was found were the notebooks and several mechanical drawings for what appeared to be a clockwork mannequin. Ezra shouted his innocence until the rope tightened and continued trying until his feet stopped dancing.

In time the Bigfoot reports in Loutre occurred with decreasing frequency and were chalked up to old stories told by the loggers. The continued appearance of the dead animals in the woods was chalked up to local wildlife. When the children began to tell stories of their friend Lydia who lived in the woods, the adults chalked it up to their fertile imaginations. What they could not explain away is why sometimes, on very cold nights in winter, smoke could still be seen rising from the chimney of Ezra Miner’s old workshop.

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