In eastern Wyoming snakes a narrow creek along the vacant landscape, its muddy waters barely trickling from north to south parallel to Highway 18 as the area’s few travelers pay it any mind. In the middle of the creek, on a lonely island displayed modestly beneath the blinding sun, sways a single narrowleaf cottonwood tree in the unceasing gales, the only sign of life above the surface of the dull waters.
Old Woman Creek, they call it. Legend has it the locals named it after seeing the ghost of an Indian woman dancing in the moonlight along the banks. They say she still visits the creek during the full moon every month, and some seasoned elders, gray and haggard from the country sun, even say that the creek runs backward those nights.
I’ve never seen the creek reversed, but I’ve seen it dried up, and from the way the locals talk, that’s the old woman’s fault too. She’s haunting us, they say; don’t go anywhere near that river. They say she lives in that cottonwood tree now and she dances on those banks even still.