The Manure Pit by Ronald R. Van Stockum, Jr.
Art by Steven P. Eilers
With a fusion of biology, geology, and a huge measure of imagination, Ronald R. Van Stockum, Jr. crafts a tale of legend and wonder. “The Manure Pit” is not quite a short story or novella, but rather an elaborate, extended ghost story. It begins as a campfire entertainment for a Scout Troop that is camping out on the old family farm. As narrator, Van Stockum says, “Scare stories are most appropriate in the wild flashes of firelight silhouetting the outline of the tree specters in the darkness. So it would be tonight.” After a night hike, the Scoutmaster begins a tale for the boys and their parents. Through a scientific description of the forest, streams, soil formation, and limestone outcroppings of the area, the master storyteller recreates the history of his ancestors who settled the farm where he now lives. As the troop listens in awe to the legends surrounding “The Manure Pit,” the new Scouts must find the courage to accept the challenge to visit the pit, listen to its sounds, crossover, and join the ranks of the older Scouts. You will cringe in delight as “…a medusa-like mass of scouts and parents ascend the slope, waving flashlights like snakes in every direction…” There is more to this tale, for after the troop packs up and hikes out, Scoutmaster Tony makes his own bridgeover when the voices of the night before return.