Sunday, October 26, 2008


Kenneth Roberts was taking the old Springfield road to his new homestead in Arkansas. How sweet the Ozark air felt as it blew past him. The grass was so green, the ground so even for his wagon. As he passed a rugged outcropping, he looked up in the horizon at the clear, blue sky.

Suddenly, there was a thud in the wagon. Kenneth turned to see a dark, dirty man standing in board, a rifle held in his hands.

"What do you want?" demanded Kenneth.

The man didn't answer as he blew Roberts' head off. The body slumped down on the buckboard, and the dirty man kicked it off.

"Tell Saint Peter Alf Bolin sent you."

Stories were told in low whispers around Springfield, Ozark, and Forsyth about Bolin and his gang. Murder Rock was known for Bolin's gang to hide out at and sight and attack their victims. No one was sure how many people had been slain at Bolin's hands.

No one knew where Bolin had come from, at least, if they did, they didn't tell. The old Ozark wives claimed that someone so bloodthirsty could not be human. In their eyes, Bolin was a monster that crawled from Hell.

Only great-great-grandfather Cloud at James River knew where Bolin was from. He'd taken in the poor orphan from New Orleans. He had tried to be friendly to the boy, but any attempt to get on his level had been met with bitterness and anger.

When Alfred was sixteen, one day, he took one of Cloud's horses and rode off. Cloud had no idea what had become of Bolin, until he heard the stories of Murder Rock.

Finally, in 1862, word came that a posse from the Union Army was going to wipe out Bolin's gang once and for all. Cloud's heart soared in the hopes that the terror could be silenced once and for all.

About a week later, Cloud and his wife were quietly enjoying an evening at home when they heard a voice shouting to them.

"Cloud, come out!"

Cloud looked at his wife. That voice made their blood run cold.

It was Bolin.

Cloud walked onto to the porch.

"Cloud!" shouted the hooded man, who stood with two others and two tired horses.

"What is it?"

"Give us horses! And we'll take all the guns and shells you got on the farm!"

Cloud nodded. Maybe, just maybe, if he gave Bolin what he needed, this would help end the horror, Alfred and his men hiding out until the end of their days.

"Why, Alf, don't you know you can have anything on this farm that you need?"

The hooded man raised his rifle and shot Cloud dead, the new widow running to see what had happened. She was the next target and soon fell to the porch.

Bolin looked toward Cloud's stables, but he heard a horse approaching and he and his two companions jumped on their horses and rode away.

It was cold the next winter. Bolin was hiding alone in a cave when a young boy walked in, calling for him. Bolin recognized him as the son of one of his old gang members, Tom Richards.

"What is it, boy?"

"Mama says she got some news for you," slurred the boy. "She wants to tell you up at the house."

Alf nodded and followed the boy to the old cabin. As he entered, he noticed a strange man he'd never seen before.

"Who's that?" he demanded.

"A friend," replied Mrs. Richards. "But I got to tell you about Tom. They got him, Alf."

Bolin sighed and removed his gloves to warm his hands by the fireplace.

"It's too bad about Tom. Can I get some coffee? Thanks. He'll probably spill the beans."

"He did," replied the stranger, as he bashed in Bolin's head with the butt of a rifle.

Mrs. Richards took her son outside as the soldier in disguise continued to beat Bolin. Soon, the soldier emerged, dragging out the body of the man that so many had feared. He positioned the body on the chopping block, neck up. He raised the axe and it quickly fell.

Bolin's head was taken to Ozark, where it was identified by great-great grandmother Cloud, who had barely managed to escape Bolin's fire.

"That's him, and I'm glad to say it," she said.

Bolin's body was buried, but his head was put on display in Ozark, set on a high pole. The citizens were gratified by the gruesome sight.

One morning, the people of Ozark found that the pole had fallen over. The head of Bolin was nowhere in sight.

"Guess the hogs ate it," someone joked.

No one ever discovered the fate of Bolin's severed head.

People began claiming to see a headless ghost at Nickerson Ridge. It would jump out and scare travelers and their horses. While no one's seen it since 1959, some say it's Bolin's ghost, looking for his head.

This narrative is loosely based on legends about Alf Bolin, whose name has also been spelled Bolen and Bolden. No one seems sure of the truth of his life, but the murders he did at Murder Rock and the event of his death are very real. This narrative preserves many of the tall tales I discovered about him. I am including some links to pages about Bolin for further reading. You will notice that not all of their details match up. Not all of the elements could be true.

Link 1
Link 2
Link 3
Link 4

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