Moments We Wish to God Had Never Happened

By J. Bradley Minnick

At too early an age for anyone to forget, Old Man Brine tells us the reason for the town’s name. “Salt,” he says, “was the last place on earth God created. He loved it so much, He salted it down to preserve it.” 

The Old Man sits on that porch of his across from the Brine Fields. His soft voice crawls through the air and appears on our front porches as if manufactured by some invisible magical invention. His tales start at 7:30 p.m. sharp. If you’re late to your front porch, you might already have missed the best parts.  

The hermit was a nasty hard-drinking old fool who lived with his wife in a run-down old shack at the base of Red Rock Mountain. One day the hermit came home early from trapping and found his wife and the one true love she ever had playing cat and mouse. The hermit beat them both to death with the same shovel he used to bury them. Then, he wrote their names with the tip of the bloody shovel into the base of Red Rock. Legend has it that the hermit stayed in that shack for the next thirty years. Those few times a year he came into Salt for supplies, he would stumble over his long beard, always carrying a long shovel as a walking stick. 

And then one day he just up and disappeared. Vanished without a trace. Folks say that they’ve seen him at night standing on top of Red Rock Mountain inscribing the names of his wife and her lover into the face of the man on the moon. And, every March 10th on the cold-spell nights when the air turns crisp, the hermits voice rings out as the sun sets just over Red Rock Mountain illuminated by an immense orange eye. Beauty I cannot describe.

In Salt, we measure out our lives in tales, trying to discover where we’ve been, find out how far we’ve come, and determine how long we have to get where we need to be. The Old Man’s tales spread out across the Brine Fields at sunset, whisk through Salt Flats at dusk, hover over the Salt Pond like a slow-stirred evening fog, and settle, damp and mottled, like torn bark from the black walnut tree that hangs over the top of the Muck Dam at night. Tales find you on front porches, catch you in doorways on Main Street, and even perk-up your ears while you doze. Accompanied by Brine’s solemn voice, each tale is stacked one upon the other and rises toward Red Rock Mountain until it becomes a revised-again legend and reminds us of moments we want to forget, but can’t; moments we’d thought we’d forgotten and moments we wish to God had never happened.  

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J. Bradley Minnick is a writer, public radio host and producer, and a Professor of English at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He has written, edited, and produced the one-minute spot “Facts About Fiction,” and Arts & Letters Radio, a show celebrating modern humanities with a concentration on Arkansas cultural and intellectual work and can be found at He has published numerous journal articles and fiction.


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