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The 1994 Wolf Moon, Big Stone Gap
Words by Christopher Sloce
Image by Gretchen Gales
*Editor's Note: From Christopher Sloce's new zine Devil's Mouth.
If there’s one thing Big Stone Gap, Virginia is famous for, it’s stray dogs. These stray dogs and their numbers wax and wane with many disappearing in winter and reappearing in spring . Several dogs have served as unofficial mascots for the town, most famously Grinner. Some even refer to spring and summer as “dog season” and winter as “no dog season”. What’s curious is that there’s no explanation where these dogs go. The most notable incident does nothing to clarify this
A young couple, Gilda and Mike Sheehan, New Jersey transplants, were returning from a trip north when they noted the intensity of January’s full moon, round and full in the sky and red. They began arguing, with Gilda insisting this moon wasn’t normal. Mike insisted it was just a full moon.
As they approached Big Stone Gap they heard a howling. The moon seemed to get closer to earth and the car as they drove into Big Stone Gap. As they passed a field Mike thought for just a moment he could see all of the highland cattle in a field with their heads pointed to the sky, facing the same direction.
Once in their driveway they began unpacking and realizing that the noise they heard were howling dogs. They were familiar with Big Stone Gap’s stray dogs. They went to bed, tired from their trip.
The howling grew to a high pitched hum then dissipated. Mike, fed up, insisted he would go outside and see what was going on.
Stray dogs circled their house. Mike watched them and realized the dogs weren’t chasing one another. They were running at top speed.
He went back inside. Gilda could not sleep. She asked what he saw. He said nothing. She asked why he was gone for so long. He said he was just standing outside. She said she knew he was lying. When she opened the window she saw the circle of dogs running around the house.
The couple lay in bed silent and angry with one another. They closed the window. No one slept.
In the morning they woke up and saw their yard was circled with dead strays. Another news report noted a series of dead cattle still standing up in their field.
A few months later Gilda and Mike separated, citing irreconcilable differences.