On Tuesday morning of this past week — New Year’s Eve — I received a telephone call from a quite pleasant lady who, after apologizing for calling me during the holidays, said that she had never read anything in my column concerning reincarnation and asked if I was familiar with or interested in the subject. I told her that I was guilty on both counts but had never written a column on it because I did not know how much interest there was among the residents of the Heartland. The story she shared with me, however, was fascinating enough to “test the waters.”

Linda — not her real name — began by stating that she was a 34-year-old divorced mother of two who had grown up in the Ozarks and never lived more than 25 miles from the home she grew up in. She described herself as a “typical country tomboy” who began roaming the fields and woods of the family farm at a young age. Her father noticed her fascination with the natural world and began taking her for what she called “learning walks” that involved sharing such knowledge as edible mushrooms and plants, harmless and potentially-dangerous snakes and insects, and how to read the tracks on a trail or muddy creek bank.

“I lost my first ‘boyfriend’ when I was 15 when he came over on a nice Saturday during the spring and we went for a walk in the woods to a few spots that I knew had produced some nice mushrooms,” she told me. “We were walking down the trail and I picked up a blacksnake that had just shed its skin so it was shiny black. I asked him if he didn’t think it was beautiful and I guess he didn’t, because he suddenly remembered something he needed to do at home and never came back.”

It was on one of the learning walks with her father that the first subtle hint of what has become a lifelong mystery for Linda led her to consider the possibility she had lived before. They were walking across the field when she spotted a speckled king snake — commonly known as a salt and pepper snake in most of the Ozarks — and quickly picked it up. She commented to her father that she was going to take it back to the house and let it go in the yard to keep poisonous snakes — primarily copperheads — out of the yard.

“He asked me how I knew that and I couldn’t tell him,” she said. “I hadn’t heard it or read it anyplace. I just knew.”

King snakes are immune to the venom of pit vipers and do indeed kill and consume them.

Throughout her lifetime, there have been other incidents and situations that led her to wonder if she had lived before.

“If I have drop of Native American blood passed down to me, I don’t know it,” she told me, “but from the first time I saw one in a movie, I was absolutely fascinated with them. The strange thing was that I never felt the urge to study or read about them, because I already seemed to know. Once, when I was about 8 years old, we were watching a TV show and they showed what was supposed to be a Cherokee man wearing a full war bonnet, I got mad and told my folks the actor looked like a Sioux and no Cherokee ever wore anything like that. To this day I have no idea how I knew that.”

The thought of being a reincarnated Native American had never crossed her mind until her parents, supporting her search for knowledge, took her to visit a traditional Cherokee village in Oklahoma when she was 15.

“I was watching a lady weave a basket when a gentleman, who looked like he was at least in his 80s, came over and placed his hand gently on her shoulder. ‘Young one,’ he told her, ‘I had a vision when I looked at you. For a while you did not look to me as you do to others. I saw a young Cherokee maiden about your age, dressed in the way of the old ones. I think the Spirits showed me how you looked in another life.’”

Stunned by his statement, she began a journey of discovery that has now continued for nearly 20 years and will undoubtedly continue until she either finds the answers she seeks or she passes into spirit.

I have reached the limit of the column for this week, but as soon as possible in the coming weeks I will continue describing Linda’s odyssey in search of her apparent past life. There is more to be told, and the story becomes more fascinating the deeper into the mystery she explores.

If you have had an encounter with any type of paranormal or unexplained phenomena, no matter where or when it occurred, I would like to add it to my ever-growing files. Send me a complete account, with as many details as you can. Include your name and a telephone number or email address I can reach you at if I need more information. Complete anonymity, if requested, will be observed if your experience is used for publication. Send accounts and comments to samuptegrove@ gmail.com or call me at (417) 637-6002.

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