The Murder of Old Solomon the Peddler

 

The peddlar walked the road at night,

his sack his only friend.

He did not mind the lack of light;

He neared his journey’s end.

 

“A peddler’s life is one of woe,

and travels long and cold,

but I have life and health”, thought he,

“worth more than any gold.”

 

Thus ran the peddler’s rambling thoughts

as onword he trod on.

He knew not of the ghastly plan

his simple life to end.

 

John Mason knew the peddler’s worth;

he’d seen the money sack

when once the peddler came to call

and now, he’d called him back.

 

“Come, bring your wares to me,” he said.

“I need some pots and plates.”

He knew Solomon soon would come

although the hour was late.

 

He heard the footsteps on the path

and opened wide the door.

“Come in, come in, my friend,” said he,

and leave the wind’s cold roar.”

 

And Solomon the Peddler came

and stood before the fire

he rubbed his hands before the blaze

as flames leapt higher and higher.

 

“You’re looking rough, old man,” said John.

“You sure could use a shave.”

The peddler rubbed his chin and smiled,

“To Barber John I came!”

 

“Put down, put down, your sack,” cried John,

And sit here in this chair.

I’ll soon remove your cheeks and jaw

of such uncomely hair.”

 

Solomon sat, and then John stood

And stropped his razor keen,

with his first stroke against the throat

he sliced it quick and clean.

 

A river red ran across the floor,

it seemed a very flood,

John paid no heed, but grabbed the sack

and dragged it through the blood.

 

“Gold, gold!” he cried, “and silver too,

enough to make me free.

Bad luck for you, old Solomon,

to put your trust in me.”

 

He finished up the cut he’d made,

the head rolled ‘cross the floor,

then dragged the body through the blood,

and out the open door.

 

Into the river with a splash,

the headless corpse did go,

The head he buried ‘neath the floor.

“No one will ever know.”

 

Some hunting friends one day stopped by,

“Come with us, John,” they called,

We’re off to chase the sly raccoon,

come with us, man. Don’t stall!”

 

They hunted over rock and hill

and to the river’s side;

one man tripped, in the river went

and floated with the tide.

 

“He’ll need to dry, he’ll catch his death!”

Then Mason gave a shout,

“Back to my cabin, men,” said he,

“to let this man dry out.”

 

He poured the coffee steaming hot,

the men all drank it up.

“Mason,” said one, “you knew old Sol?

This here’s one of his cups.”

 

“I never knew the man”, said John,

“Of that I’m very sure.”

“No one has seen Old Sol in weeks.

You sure he wasn’t here?”

 

The door then opened on its own,

the men all looked at John.

“It’s just a loose foundation stone.

I’ll fix it soon,” said John.

 

The men just stared and then they stood,

“It’s time to go,” they said.

John waved goodbye from the open door,

Above Old Solomons’ head.

 

The men returned to Mason’s place

with shovels and a pick,

but Mason was nowhere in sight.

“Let’s get to work and dig.”

 

They dug beneath the cabin’s door

and there beneath the stone,

they found a bag, and then below

a skull, all skin and bone.

 

The cry was raised, the search spread wide

but Mason, he had fled.

Old Sol’s body was never found

to join his severed head.

 

Down along the Little Kanawha,

the peddler roams, it’s said,

Searching, searching on moonlit nights,

still looking for his head.

 

Based on several murdered peddler stories from central West Virginia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About grannysu

storyteller, writer, poet, gardener, countrywoman
This entry was posted in ballads. Bookmark the permalink.

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