I'll build me a desrick on Yandro's high hill,
Where the wild beasts can't reach me or hear my sad cry,
For he's gone, he's gone away, to stay a little while,
But he'll come back if he comes ten thousand miles.
Short horror story, written by Manly Wade Wellman and published for
the first time in the June 1952 edition of The Magazine of Fantasy and
The story focuses on Silver John, a protagonist in several of
Wellman's tales. John is an Appalachian musician whose guitar is
strung with silver strings, and since silver is a potent defense
against evil and the supernatural, the sound of John's guitar is
actually able to repel some monsters. John has been invited to a party
by some people who want to hear him perform his songs. After singing a
song about a mountain called Yandro, he is accosted by a wealthy but
shady businessman who is used to getting anything he wants. He reveals
that his last name is Yandro, and Yandro Mountain must be where his
grandfather lived when he was young. Eager to see the site where his
family came from, Yandro hires a plane and flies John and himself out to
Once they get there, they set out for the desrick (a kind of
mountain cabin) at the top of the mountain, and are quickly forced to
walk when the road becomes too treacherous for a car. On the way up,
they meet an old woman named Miss Tully, who tells them about the legend
associated with the mountain, that Yandro's grandfather romanced a
witch named Polly Wiltse, because he hoped to get his hands on the
gold hidden in the mountain. Once he'd gotten the gold, he left and
never came back. Polly, heartbroken, composed the song
about Yandro and enchanted it into a spell that would bring Yandro's
grandfather back to her in 75 years. And though the elder Yandro is long
dead, the younger Yandro looks a lot like him, and ain't it funny that
it's actually been 75 years since the song was composed?
Yandro is now convinced that Polly Wiltse is up there waiting for
him, ready to give him even more gold and riches. but Miss Tully warns
that there are terrible creatures living on the mountain. There are
things like the Bammat, the Toller, the Skim, the Flat, the
Culverin, and the Behinder. But Yandro isn't afraid of them. What's
he got to be afraid of when his family owns the mountain and when he's
about to get even richer than ever?
I don't know if this is considered a great story or not, but it's one
that I love. It's considered one of the best of Wellman's Silver John
stories and perfectly encapsulates everything that those stories should
be about. It uses a lot of Wellman's studies on Appalachian folklore
in the songs John sings, in the dialect and attitude of the
characters, and especially in the monsters it presents. It wouldn't
surprise me if some of the monsters from this story came from actual
folklore -- but it doesn't matter if they do, because it feels like they do.
We can imagine what a Bammat, a Skim, and a Flat look like, because
Wellman tells us -- a mammoth, a Frisbee, and a carpet -- and we
can make guesses about the rest of them -- except, of course, for the
Behinder, which no one is ever supposed to see. We've heard creatures
like this described in books on folklore since we were little kids --
they're only a step removed from the jackelope, the sidehill gouger,
the axehandle hound, or -- especially in the case of the behinder --
the hidebehind. Of course, the jackelope won't stalk you through a
dark forest with a mind to eat you alive...
The story was adapted into a movie in 1972's "Who Fears the Devil?", which was re-edited and re-released in 1973 as "The Legend of Hillbilly John." It was directed by John Newland, with Denver Pyle in a supporting role. It combined parts of "Desrick" with another Wellman story called "O Ugly Bird." It was not considered a very good movie -- I've even heard that it didn't even include any of the monsters.
Look away, look away, look away over Yandro,
Where them wild things are flyin'
From bough to bough, and a-mating with their mates,
So why not me with mine?