Jennifer Ridge: Would you mind starting over now that I’m recording?
Jonathan Connelly: Sure thing.
JR: First of all, please give me your name and tell me I have permission to record you.
JC: MY NAME IS JON CONNELLY AND I WORK FOR PINEBOX PARKS AND REC.
JC: OH YEAH. YOU CAN RECORD ME TOO. ANYHOW, PINEBOX HAS SEVERAL ATTRA—
JC: ATTRACTIONS. WE HAVE THE GOLF COUR—
JR: You don’t have to shout into the recorder. It has a sensitive microphone. Just talk normally.
JC: Oh. Sorry.
JR: That’s okay. Now what were you saying about microphone? I mean, about the golf course?
JC: Heh. We have a very nice 18 hole golf course that is owned by the city. I think the real name is the Dan Travis Golf Course. It’s one of the nicest in East Texas. The school holds a big tournament here every year.
JR: The school? East Texas University?
JC: Yeah, ETU. Anyhow, next to the golf course is the Golan Fairgrounds. We have all sorts of events out there. There’s the annual rodeo, the chili cookoff, the 4-H show and auction, uh… and other stuff.
JR: Someone was telling me there’s a—
JC: OH, and the Swap Meet! It’s the East Texas Swap Meet and Festival. It’s a big deal around here. We hold it every Halloween weekend. The swap meet is like a big flea market out at the fairgrounds. But there’s also a parade through town on Saturday morning, and a carnival, and a beer garden, and a costume contest. And a bunch of other stuff. Then Saturday night they have the Moon Dance. They fence off one of the streets downtown, set up a stage at one end, and charge $20 a head to hear crappy country and rock music. But if you’re single, it’s the place to be. There, or the beer garden.
JR: Sounds… fun.
JC: Yeah, you should come back and see it. Or, hey! That would be a good thing to write for your magazine! Folks from all over East Texas come to the Swap Meet!
JR: I’ll be sure to write about it.
JC: … Uh, what else should I talk about?
JR: How about you tell me some of the things to do outdoors, Jon? I hear there’s a lake, and the woods…
JC: Duh! Yeah! Pinebox is a National Tree City. I’m not really sure what that means. But it’s on all our brochures. We’ve got all sorts of walking trails crisscrossing Pinebox and the university. Some of them go right into the Big Thicket past some historic old homesteads and gardens. If you really want a hike, there’s the old El Camino Real. That’s Spanish for King’s Highway. You can hike it all the way to the Louisiana border. It’s got all sorts of scenic views, campsites, animals and plants.
JR: Jon, that reminds me. I keep hearing people talk about the big thicket. Just where is it?
JC: (snort) Can’t see the forest for the trees, huh? Jen, you’re in the Big Thicket right now! It’s all around us. All these national forests and stuff in this part of the country—they’re all just pieces of one big forest we call the Big Thicket. It’s hundreds of miles big.
JR: Oh. I feel dumb.
JC: You’re not from around here, are you?
JR: Nope. I came here just for this article.
JC: So where are y—
JR: Hey Jon, how about you tell me about some of the other things to see around here? Tell me about the local lakes and parks.
JC: Okay. Let’s see. Uh. Most folks think the Caddo Indian Mounds Park make for the best camping. There’s lot’s of trails to hike on, if you’re into that kind of thing. Then some folks ride their horses in the Burn. That’s a piece of forest east of here that burned up in a forest fire in the 50s or something. Nobody knows what started it, but it’s about 25 square mile where stuff still won’t grow to this day. I’m not really all that into camping though, unless it’s for hunting. Now fishing is a different story. I’m saving up for a killer fishing boat. It’s gonna have–
JR: That’s great, Jon. Why don’t you tell me about the lakes around here.
JC: Oh man, Pinebox has got some of the best swimming, fishing and boating in Texas. We’re just ten minutes from Lake Greystone, about twenty minutes from Sam Rayburn and forty minutes from Toledo Bend. Uh, let’s see. Lake Greystone started out as a natural lake, but during the depression the CCC came through and built a dam and made the lake bigger. Up until the 70’s Pinebox got some of its power from a turbine out there, but the equipment was really old and there was some sort of accident.
JR: Really? What kind?
JC: You know, I don’t really know. Folks don’t talk about it much.
JR: Oh well.
JC: Do you know why it’s called Lake Greystone? See, back when Texas was still part of Mexico there was this governor named Carl Greystone and he–
JR: Actually Jon, someone at the library told me about him.
JC: Really? I’ll bet they didn’t tell you how he disappeared. See–
JC: there had been attacks on some of the settlers. Some people were killed and some just disappeared. Carl Greystone took a bunch of folks upriver into the Big Thicket to track down whatever was responsible. Only, he never came back. Finally his brother took some trackers into the woods after them, but all they could find was some bloody rags and strange prints in the ground. They say the hunting dogs were so scared they ran off the opposite direction and showed up in Pinebox half a day before the people. Bet they didn’t tell you THAT at the library!
JR: You’re right, Jon. They sure didn’t tell me that. So who killed all those people?
JC: You’d just laugh.
JR: No! Tell me.
JC: Promise you won’t laugh.
JR: I promise.
JC: Piney Devil! I said it was the Piney Devil!
JR: The… Piney Devil? I haven’t heard of that. What is it?
JC: Well, it’s just what we call it. Imagine Bigfoot, but sixteen feet tall and with horns. That’s the Piney Devil. The Indians all knew about it and they knew better then to go trespassing. Greystone pissed it off somehow and they all got spanked for it.
JR: That’s really…interesting Jon. But tell me, how do you think his brother got all the way in the woods to find the rags if the Piney Devil was after him?
JC: I knew you’d laugh! Look, there could be all kinds of reasons. Maybe it was just Carl that pissed it off. Maybe the Piney Devil was in a different part of the forest when his brother came through. Maybe the Devil was busy baking Indian pot pie. I don’t know! But don’t tell me it’s not real. I’ve seen it myself!
JR: You’ve… seen the Piney Devil?
JC: Yeah, I seen it. Me and my brother were out hunting one night and uh…I’m not saying anything more. I’m done here. This don’t have nothing to do with a tourist story for a magazine. You’re just laughing at me.
JR: Jon, I’m not laughing at you. I just…
JC: Maybe not laughing, but you’re thinking I’m just a dumb hick. I can tell. Well I’m not. And I’m taking away my permission to record me!
JR: … huh…