by Amanda Cleary Eastep
My grandmother told me she could see their fires at night, dotting the dark rise of the bluff as her family’s wagon passed along the dirt road after the summer church revival.
She told me you could hear their music, too, the strings weaving their way down the wooded hill. Music like joy, but different from the hymns at church where the elders thumped the heads of sleeping children with a doorknob stuck to the end of a long pole.
She told me that when she was a girl growing up in Southern Illinois in the 1920s the gypsies would come through town to trade horses with the men who weren’t afraid of the evil eye or their own Pentecostal wives. And no matter how many times she told me this story over the cluttered after-Sunday-dinner table when I was a child, I never tired of it.
The vision of that hill fed my already restless spirit, which longed for something as wild as gypsy fires…