Ghost Story II (Phantom Dog)

October 2, 2008 at 5:40 pm (Ghost, Hiking, Jasper, Stories) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Ghost Dog

I woke up early this morning and thought I’d sit down and word ramble a little while the level in my coffee diminished. A departure from my usual mornings (or whatever passes for morning in our night shifter world!) Usually I rather arthritically moan and groan my way out of bed and move slowly to the coffee pot. I save the leftover coffee from the day before so a first cup can speedily warm in the microwave. As it warms I get the coffee pot going with fresh coffee. I’d like to say that I then stand at the kitchen window and watch the birds busy at the feeders, assess the approach of fall in the first leaves dropped from the three maples that stand by the swing, and generally absorb the nature of the day.

I’d like to say that (and, in fact, I DID just say that), but it would be a winky tinky lie. The truth is that invariably I take my first cup of coffee back into the bedroom where I make the bed. My Granny ingrained this in me so strongly that I will make beds in hotel rooms even when I know housekeeping is two doors down waiting for me to depart, even when we get up through the night for an hour or so during our usually insomniac nights off, even when I am washing our favorite linens that I intend to put right back on. Some of my early memories are of staying with Granny overnight. I’d sleep up in the finished attic. There was a double bed up there that Brother John got, and I had the single bed. It was one that had an old iron headboard. When we would go downstairs in the morning, Granny would ask sweetly (she NEVER raised her voice), “Did you make your bed honey?” She would never ask that if I had. She had this Granny ESP. I would turn around and head back upstairs and the habit has followed me all of my days. This habit (and dare I say others) didn’t stick with Brother John. He used to pay me to clean his room and I think if I lived closer he would STILL pay me to clean his room. (Brother John here… Yep! I’d pay. And pay gladly! And pay often!). Thinking about it, I’m not sure what would have happened if I had ever defied Granny. No one ever did. She never yelled, she never punished, she never argued. The most we ever heard was, “Now you don’t want to make Granny cross do you?” For us, that was like hearing, “Now you don’t want to have single-handedly stuck a knife in my heart or set fire to a house of poor, sick orphans, do you?” There would be no need for water boarding or any other torture methods if Granny was doing the interrogating. That one little statement and the worst terrorist would be on his knees sobbing.

Anyway, digression completed, after the bed is made I usually start right in to the daily house chores and whatever other tasks the day holds. By the time I’ve finished my hips, knees, and ankles are all loosened up and mostly ache free and I have satisfied my little obsessive compulsive soul with ACCOMPLISHMENT. (Uh, yeah. I do have a check off list…)

Oh, another thing. I wake up EVERY morning without fail with a song in my head. And believe me, that song is not choosy. It could be a song I’ve been learning on the fiddle or mandolin, it could just as easily be a commercial jingle, disco refrain, gospel chorus, Scottish reel, classical aria, or hillbilly ballad, my head doesn’t care. (Brother John here… a mild interruption. I too ALWAYS wake up with a song in my head. Must be a family thing). Many times I don’t even LIKE the song and go around begging Sammy to give me another tune, or turn music or the TV on. And, not only do I often not like the song, I never seem to know any more than a line or two of the words, so I get the same tiny piece that I do know repeating over and over. This morning, for example, as I sit here, it’s “Low Rider” by War. “Take a little trip, take a little trip, take a little trip with me.” Oh yeah. I used to play a mental game. Whatever the first complete song was that I heard on the radio after I got into my car to drive to work, would be the predictor of my shift. “Dream a Little Dream”, good. “Welcome to the Jungle”, bad. I finally stopped doing that when I realized that there were not nearly as many songs about nature and flowers and love as there were about cheatin’ slime bags or environmental decay.

Anyway, another digression completed. What I started to say was that October is here. Another season is making its self heard and seen and smelled. And remembered. About four or five years ago I had gotten into jogging. It started when my friend Anita and I started walking and yakking about husbands, work, kids, life, etc. Then we started jogging on the down hills, then jogging on the flats, then the little uphills. Before I knew it we were jogging four days a week, four to seven miles at a shot, and looking pretty fit as a result. (These days I walk, and not as often, and my figure reflects it.) On the days that we couldn’t get together, I would go by myself. This is a little October ghost story about something that happened while I was jogging.

My favorite time to jog was in the evening when the sun was low in the sky. I would try to time it so that I could catch the sunset on the top of Asper Hill first, then again as I rounded back to Knisely Hill. That meant that by the time I finished my usual four and a half mile loop and came down through the hollows, it would be just light enough to see my shoes hit the pavement. I liked the feeling that I was pushing the night back a little with each footfall. Most times I would take Jasper. At the time of this story we had only had him about a year. He was well behaved enough to never stray far, come right away when I called, and not fight with other dogs we might come across. But on this jog I didn’t take him. Archery season had come in. There would be both neighbors and strangers in the surrounding woods, at that time of day just heading out to walk or drive home. Around these parts, dogs who run deer are shot on site by some, and even though Jasper doesn’t have that habit, a loose dog could be conceived as possibly running deer, and shot by some. I’m not coordinated enough to have him leashed and jog at the same time, so I put his very reluctant (bribing with lunch meat was required) butt into the Dog Run. Our other dog at the time was our sweet Jack. Jack had recently developed a bulging vertebrae that was causing him to have tremors in his back legs and some instability, and so couldn’t have gone either. (Jack’s condition was caused by a congenital defect that worsened with maturity, and eventually caused complete paralysis of his back legs. We only had him a year and had to have him put to sleep when he was only three, but he was a good, sweet, wonderful member of our family.) So, I set off alone, to the tune of mournful howling dogs, wearing an orange vest, reflector tape, and carrying mace. My husband (second husband) didn’t like it when I jogged during hunting season because there WERE strangers who would come in to hunt. I argued that they were strangers, yes, but to be hunting on our neighbor’s property I would think the neighbors would know who they were…

The first long leg of my jog was up Asper Hill. Back then I could jog the whole thing. It may not have been pretty and involved panting and sweating, but once I made it to the top I always turned around and jogged backwards for a few paces to enjoy the view. From the top of Asper Hill I could see The Big Buffalo mountain in Newport, seven miles away. I could see Middle Ridge, the next big ridge south of me, and see several lesser ridges with the sun just angling to catch the first leaf changes in an amber glow. As I headed over the top and started down to the plateau on the other side, I smelled woodsmoke as someone burned a pile of brush. The plateau is always one of my favorite places. Secluded, the corn, wheat, and soy fields often have feeding deer, wild turkeys coming up to the high land to roost, a fat groundhog that fed by the roadside, and a fox I had seen four or five times. I headed down into the first small hollow, where a few weeks ago I had seen a magnificent eight point buck standing on the edge of the woods, and took a left onto Buckwheat Rd. This part of my jogging loop has the most traffic and is bordered by houses and corn fields. As I was jogging along I heard a truck that needed some muffler work coming up the road behind me. I got way over to the side of the road. People on Buckwheat tend to drive way too fast. The truck slowed behind me and then came up beside me. I was used to people asking directions, neighbors stopping to rib me a little and tell me to jog faster, so I looked over at the occupants of the truck anticipating a pleasant little break.

Talk about Perry County scary. I live in a county that is still very much rural Pennsylvania and gets a lot of redneck and hillbilly jokes, and some of them are deserved. It’s also a county that has more than its share of artists, musicians, poets, artisans, and intelligent, literate, creative people who still have all their teeth, but the two men I found myself looking at were not examples of the latter. The first thing I noticed through the open window was the smell. A combination of very old sweat and beer fumes was radiating out of the truck. A lot of hunters will hang their hunting clothes outside to get rid of “human” smells. These guys had may have been hanging their clothes outside but if so, had neglected to ever wash them, ever. It was a mossy oak patterned fugue. Archery season was in , but these guys had rifles sitting on the floor and resting on the bench seat in between them. The driver had a few weeks worth of beard that was stained with tobacco juice. He spat out the window, just missing my shoes, and gave me a glimpse of a few yellow teeth, a few brown teeth, and lots of spaces where there SHOULD have been teeth. He backhanded off the tobacco juice that dripped into his scruff, missing most of it, and said, “What you runnin’ from there, missy?” The other guy, younger, long really greasy hair, muscular arms (he had the top of his camouflaged hunting coverall around his waist to show a ripped and stained t-shirt with the sleeves and neck cut out) and a big beer belly. I could see tufts of belly hair straining out of the rips in the shirt. This guy giggled (a nasty little sound) took a swig of beer from the can he had between his legs, backhanded the dribbled beer from his two or three day shadowed face, and repeated, “runnin’ from, he he he.” I would have, had I been a man, been hearing the theme from “Deliverance”. As it was, I felt the sweat trickling down my back become cold, and my mind start to whirl furiously with thoughts. Like, that they didn’t have a scrap of required hunter orange anywhere about them. Poachers. I don’t have much of a problem with food hunters out of season, although the government differs from me on that point, but I just didn’t have that feeling about these guys. The back of the old sea green, primer, and rust colored pickup was full of beer cans. I also thought that I don’t know them, I don’t have my dog, it’s nearly dark, and the next stretch of my loop is very isolated. I’m also calculating the best place to jump off the road and run if I need to, figuring that I am in good shape, they obviously aren’t, I know this area and the people who live here, and it’s nearly dark. I could get rid of the orange reflective vest as I ran and disappear in the woods in seconds. I’m also thinking, that might just be something that only works in movies.

Well, just them a car came along that DID have a couple of neighbors in it. They stopped to chat and my buddies in the truck moved on. The neighbors moved on too and I started jogging again. As I headed down a little hill before I made the next turn on to Knisely Hill road, I saw, around the next bend, pulled off into a field access road, the sea green truck. “Crap!”, I thought. To turn back or bypass Knisely Hill would mean several miles of jogging in the full dark. I also had to work that night and would be late. I said a little prayer and turned on Knisely. About that time I heard paw pads behind me. They were just there all at once, but I did have other things on my mind at the moment and figured I just didn’t notice. Lots of the neighbor’s dogs would come up and greet me as I jogged, but usually with a lot of barking and fuss about it. This dog was silent. I had had my hand on the mace ever since my conversation with the cretins and I turned. Trotting behind me was one of the biggest dogs I’d ever seen, and not one I recognized. He had red fur like an Irish setter, but a big woolly head and deep barreled chest like a Newfoundland. He wagged his tail, mouth open and panting, and I relaxed a little. “Hey boy”, I said. I put out my hand, palm up, in case he wanted to sniff me and be petted but he kept just out of reach. So, I started jogging again and he passed me and started loping in front of me. I talked to him, and he would turn his head and perk his ears up to listen. I was so distracted by this big, beautiful, shaggy stranger that I forgot momentarily my other not so beautiful shaggy strangers until I realized we were going by their truck. The doors opened and the younger guy got out. The driver had one foot on the ground and stood, leaning against the door. Both had beers. “Hey Missy, why doncha come talk a bit?” “He he he, yeah, come talk?” “Aw come on, we’ll give you a beer.” “Yeah, beer.” The younger guy took a few steps away form the truck and I got the impression he was either going to urinate or expose himself right there in front of me. Just then the big red dog crossed over to their side of the road. “Holy crap, lady, where’d you get the DOG!” Young guy backed slowly back to the truck and stood behind the open door. I jogged desperately on, hearing the dog’s paws behind me. Then I heard the truck start up, pull out, and turn (thank you Lord) in the opposite direction. As the sound of the un-muffled exhaust faded away I turned back to my protector, thinking that if he followed me home he was going to get the biggest, juiciest hamburger I could make before I tried to find his owners. There was NOTHING there! Now, it had only been seconds since the creeps had driven away and I had been hearing footpads behind me. I was jogging along a field of soybeans. Even though they hadn’t been harvested the dog was way bigger than they were. Even though it was now dusk, I could see clearly for some distance in all directions as I circled around looking for him. I called, “Hey, dog, red boy.” He was just gone as quickly as he had appeared.

Did I have an angel? Was he a ghost? I asked around over the next several days, thinking maybe someone had guests up to hunt who had brought their dog. I also asked about the sea green truck. And, I changed my jogging times and course for awhile. Sometimes when you need a little miracle, you get one. There have been two or three other times since, when I have been out walking, that I have THOUGHT I heard footpads behind me. Once I was so sure of it I put out my hand in back of me expecting a friendly lick. Nothing. I almost expect to hear a story one day about a big red dog that some old farmer owned generations ago…

Permalink 7 Comments

Ghost Story

September 16, 2008 at 6:39 am (Ghost, Hobbies, Stories, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Today was a gem of a day. We went to bed expecting rain and wind, and got up to blue skies decorated with clouds in amusing shapes (Sammy has seen a kneeling cherub, Abraham Lincoln, and the bearded face of God, I’ve seen a humpbacked whale with its baby, a plucked chicken, and a fat deep sea diver.) Kind of gives you a perspective on our personalities. It’s been a day of reflection and deep laziness as tomorrow is my birthday! The last year of my forties decade, don’t you know. That’s okay, I’m ready for 50 next year. I like who I am, where I am, what I do, and for the most part, what the future seems to hold. Not bad for half my life. I joke that I know I’m going to live to be 103. I based a poem, “When Lydia Was Ten” on this proposed long, long life. We’ll see…

(Brother John here… Speaking of poems… The Beekeeper’s Promise is now in Eydie and Sammy’s poetry section!).

At the moment Sammy is mowing and I am checking out his fine self on the mower. Sky blue bandanna wrapped around his head and all. Our property starts at an elevation of about 200 feet above sea level and rears up to 800 feet at the top. The roughly two acres that we mow include some fairly steep inclines. Mowing on the riding mower requires a knowledge of physics and a lot of guts. I watch Sammy throw his weight from one side of the mower to the other to counter balance the tilt. At a few points he has to literally stand on one side of the mower so it doesn’t tip over. I don’t mow with the riding mower. I am sore afraid. During the years that I was a widow lady living here alone I push mowed the whole damn yard. Not often, understand, and not well. I had waist high yard in places that could have been cut for animal fodder. (Good for bees though…)

Yesterday was another good day of this vacation. We got a load of wood cut and stacked in the woodshed even though the day was again hot and sticky. I worked on my poetry book (my friend Tony had been over to give me computer advice to get things into publishable form) and started looking through the hundreds of photo CD’s that Sammy has taken. The book will also feature his photo art.

I’ve been thinking my September thoughts of arts and crafts. There are quite a few things that I enjoy doing but put aside for the busy summer months. I often make grapevine wreaths using seed pods, ornamental grasses, pine cones, and wild grapevine I collect. I knit quite well, our Granny saw to that, and I make scarves, purses, baby afghans, hats, and the like. I got interested in making jewelry since I rarely leave the house without earrings. At this point I can’t call it a “talent”, I have to settle for “craft” because all I do is buy beads I like, or buy jewelry at flea markets and garage sales and take it apart to make into something else, and just assemble the lot. But it’s fun and I get as many new earrings as I want! This year I made some Christmas ornaments from bead and sequin kits I bought. I have the beads to make my own designs, but I found that finding the satin balls is difficult out of season. And, I indulged myself in a rather “tacky” latch-hook rug for Christmas. Such a soothing craft.

(Brother John here… Eydie and Sammy have added an Arts and Crafts section to their site. It’s very rough right now but will evolve as I have time to format and shape it).

One last thought before I turn my mind toward supper and going through pictures and yet another poem that occupies my brain cells. Brother John will appreciate this. I know it isn’t the Halloween and ghost season yet, and I have several other ghost stories to tell as THAT season approaches, but I’m sure Brother John remembers Betsy. When we were kids we lived with mom and dad in an old brick house in Fawn Grove, PA. Brother John always said the house was haunted, and perhaps he’ll want to add his own stories which are probably far better than mine, but… One night, when I was about six or seven, I had gone to bed. I slept in part of a duo of rooms that would have once been the children’s room and the nanny’s room. Just an archway in between, no door. My room had a doorway to the attic hall, and a doorway to the old nanny’s room. There was a grate in the floor to allow what little heat there was to come up to my room in the winter, and also to allow me to hear the voices of the grownups downstairs after I had gone to bed. It was a warm night. Back in those days I had long, thick, heavy, curly hair that hung down way past my shoulders. Don’t think because I had nice hair that I was a beauty or anything. I was fat and geekish and about as unattractive a child as you can imagine. Well, my hair was heavy, and in the summer it would get hot so I would fling it over the side of the bed and sleep that way. I had heard my brother tell stories of Betsy (and he should tell the stories HERE), but I had never seen or heard anything I could attribute to her. (Like I said, other stories for other times) But on this night, I could hear mom and dad and some of the uncles playing cards downstairs and hear Brother John’s music from down the hall and his room. (Not pertinent to this story, but Black Oak Arkansas as I remember.) I think I was awake. I suddenly felt a small tug on my hair. I was immediately frozen motionless, my head still, my hair still over the side of the bed, and I began to feel hands finger combing my hair, including a few sharp tugs. (I never combed my hair after that first hurried brushing in the morning.) Then, hands, and they felt like small hands, began braiding my hair. I heard someone humming a tune, one I didn’t know but was able to pick out on my fiddle the next day. I can’t describe it better than to say that the hands felt real, but the humming felt like it was coming from someplace else. The attic, my brother’s room, my parents room, the summer kitchen down below. I don’t know. I kept my neck in that panic stricken position until I really did fall asleep. In the morning, of course, my hair was still in the wild disarray it had been when I went to bed. I discounted the whole thing as a dream. Until, of course, a day or so later, when my brother John said, matter of factly, “Betsy says she likes your hair.”

(Brother John here… Our next door neighbor, back in those days, told me of a woman who had lived in our house long ago. It was a sad tale because the woman had been found hanged in what would later be our upstairs attic). After some reflection, my elderly next door neighbor recalled the poor womans name. When she said: “It was Betsy as I recall”, I literally felt chills going up and down my spine).

Permalink Leave a Comment