“It was a dark and stormy night...”
“Aw Jack, you start all your spook stories out like that; least you have for the past five years. You gotta make this story different. You know, jazz it up or something. Make it seem normal, like it could really happen.”
“Normal? You want normal the day before Halloween?”
“Normal? You want normal the day before Halloween?” I countered.
“Aw, you know what I mean, Jack.... Your stories always go into some Never Never land which bears little resemblance to reality. To make it scary you have to make it seem like it could really happen.”
“Who’s telling this story anyway?” I protested to Lane.
I was beginning to seriously wish I hadn’t invited him along on this little pre-Halloween night out in the wilds of my back yard. Lane, by the way, is one of my buds. Him, Tyrone, and Jeremy. All three were represented here tonight, at least physically if not mentally. Tyrone and Jeremy were here but they didn’t seem to be too happy about it. Guess they’re not camping or woodsy types. Tyrone spent his time laying in a big supply of firewood while it was still light out and I think he was trying for a bonfire merit badge or maybe he wanted to melt down the stone barbecue in which it was blazing or something. I could hardly cook over it, everything would have ended up like a crispy critter. Maybe he intended to use it as a signal fire.... you know, something like those huge fires they used to call for assistance in the Lord of the Rings?
Looking at the flames leaping up through the grillwork, I was worried they would jump to the trees around us or maybe melt the metal framework which had been installed a few years ago to replace the old iron supports for cooking pots, all of which had mostly rusted away over the many years. The new stuff also provided a small grill on which we could cook pancakes and stuff. There was also a shallower area where we could set a coffee pot and pans so they’d keep warm if we shoveled some of the hot coals under that part of the grill but I hardly needed them at the moment. Hell, I could barely get near the thing to rescue the coffee pot which I swear had started to glow on it’s own.
“Hey, Tyrone. Don’t you think there’s enough wood on the fire? I don’t want to melt the grillwork.”
“It’s getting to be night, Jack. It’ll be cold and we need to be able to see. You never know what kind of animals might be lurking out there.” He pointed at the trees around us.
“Yeah, see. In that case we should be facing away from the fire, not into it.”
Where the hell was I? Oh yeah. The trees. From outside these few acres surrounded by what was probably the only dense woods remaining for twenty miles you’d never know there was a large clearing here in the middle, unless you saw Tyrone’s signal fire which I swear was getting bigger. The clearing was a great place though and we frequently used it for large family gatherings during various holidays. Well, holidays when the ground wasn’t covered in snow anyway. Of course with Tyrone’s fire snow didn’t have a chance and I fully expected to see grass growing on the nearby dirt by tomorrow morning. Lane continued causing me to revert my attention back to him.
“You’re telling the story. But you still need to jazz it up a bit. Make it interesting.”
“Interesting. This is supposed to be a Halloween story not some campfire girl’s picnic. Jazz it up. Lemme think for a minute then, okay with you?”
“Sure, if you make the story interesting.”
“It’s your story. Don’t ask me, we’re just listening to it.”
“I could’a sworn you were trying to tell it.”
“Nah. I’m no good at telling stories.”
I sighed, my attempt to gently impart my frustration at his insistence that I take my story somewhere I wasn’t prepared to go having also been frustrated. I began the exercise of trying to wrack my brain, or perhaps wreck it, in search of something I could add to my story which would ‘jazz it up’ enough to satisfy Lane while still seeming to be a Halloween story, at least minimally. Nothing was coming to mind. Despite my ability to create stories almost on demand, my mind had completely derailed with Lane’s interruption and demand coupled with Tyrone’s insistence of adding two more pieces of log to the fire. I managed to keep one of them off of it. How he could get so close to the fire to add wood was beyond me. Trying to remove the one piece had me feeling like I was going to burst into flame along with the eight foot stone barbeque.
“Sorry guys, I can’t think of a thing. Not even the story I was going to tell.”
“That’s okay, Jack.” Tyrone shrugged back at me, “I’m not really into ghost and ghoul stories anyway. You got WiFi at the house? If it’s a good modem then I could probably still use it out here even though we’re a three or four hundred feet away.”
“Give it a shot. It’s the only access point out here so it’s easy to find. The password’s Madagascar with a capital M.”
“What kind of gas in the car?”
I shook my head, “Just find it and I’ll type in the password.”
“Okay, be right back.”
He went to his tent and returned less than a minute later while I pondered the possibility that he might yet graduate next year despite himself. Don’t get me wrong. I like my buds but sometimes they could be a little dense, know what I mean?
“Hey Jack, what’s the name of your access point? The only one I can find has a really weird name.”
I shook my head again, “it’s probably mine.” I partially subvocalized.
It was, so I typed in the password and Tyrone was on and playing one of those on-line games mere seconds later.
“Why do you even bother going to an outing like this when you’d rather be gaming?”
My curiosity was getting the better of me. This might be valuable information should I ever wish to get a degree in the psychology of gamers. Who knows, I might have come up with a whole new area of study.
Jeremy took this opportunity to hit the sack since there wasn’t going to be any spook story and he didn’t have his computer with him. Lane opted for the same. I cleaned up for a bit leaving the funeral pyre for the ironware for the last in the hopes it would die down a bit so I might actually see the glow of the metal diminish back to something that approximated cookware. Finally ready to hit the sack myself, I asked Tyrone if he was going to sleep sometime soon.
“We’ll be getting up with the sun so you might want to get some shut-eye.”
I didn’t get any other response out of him so I figured he was good until his batteries died, which couldn’t be all that long. I headed for my tent and the land of Nod myself.
The next morning I was up early. Well, early for everyone else. The normal time as far as I was concerned. Tyrone must have gone to his bedroll at least a few hours ago since the fire had nearly died back to something nearly usable, showing only a few low flames, well comparatively, and a thick bed of moderately hot coals which were still enough to cause me to remain at arms length from the crematorium Tyrone had called a cooking fire. Closer inspection of the coffeepot caused me to wonder if it had always been oval or if that was a new thing. It seemed a little more.... squatty, for lack of a better term, as well.
I poked a couple of small twigs into the coals of the fire since they seemed to still have a lot of life in them and less than a minute later the twigs were burning which allowed me to slowly add some of the smaller of the large pieces so I could get a cook fire going. I probably wouldn’t have needed to do that but I also didn’t want the coals to lose their heat while I had breakfast cooking. As I started some coffee then continued to prep everything else so we could have a reasonable breakfast I mused upon the fact that Tyrone had been at least partially correct, it had been cold last night. Snow likely wasn’t all that far away.
It wasn’t long before the guys began moving around. I suppose the aroma of the coffee and the cooking bacon were what finally got them up. I figured Tyrone got into the food last night after we had all gone to bed. The bacon wasn’t in the igloo chest but was out on the stones of the barbecue, still in it’s plastic wrapper fortunately. Actually that was probably a good thing since it got cold enough it might have frozen the bacon and that would have made it a bit difficult to prepare. The heat from the stones surrounding the fire had kept it thawed. Hell, the heat from the stones had nearly slow cooked all of it. Kind of like an outdoor crock pot.
Lane and Jeremy were out and more than ready to eat in very short order. Once again Lane’s usual lame comments were prolific.
“Hey Jack, gezz man, the house is just up the hill. Why can’t we eat inside?”
“This was supposed to be a camp out, Lane. What would you have done if we were fifty miles off into the trees and scrub?”
“Hey. The only reason I agreed to do this is because it was here. You wouldn’t find me fifty miles off in the scrub or the trees for that matter. I’m a city person, not a hermit.”
“Lane, you disappoint me. Wake Tyrone up would you? Tell him to get his sorry ass out here to eat breakfast.”
“Yeah sure. When did he go to bed?”
“How would I know? He was playing his game so I figure he didn’t hit the sack until his batteries died, however long that would have been.”
“Well, if they were fully charged he probably had four to six hours. He always buys those more expensive batteries so he can use his laptop for more than just a couple of hours. He nearly went bonkers on the plane last year when his factory supplied battery didn’t last more than ninety minutes. Haven’t you ever noticed that the batteries he uses stick out way below the notebook? They’re somewhere near four times the capacity of the ones that come with it.”
Lane walked over to Tyrone’s tent as he was saying all that.
“What the heck? Hey guys, he turned his tent around during the night.”
He walked around to the other side and peered in, “Guys. He’s not in here.”
“He has to be. He wouldn’t have wandered off. Is his computer in there?”
“Lemme check — nah. Not here. His backpack’s gone too. Maybe he went back to the house last night.”
I quickly checked my pockets, “if he did, he couldn’t get in. The house is locked and I still have the key. Jeremy, would you check to see if his car’s still here?”
“Sure. Be right back. Save me a dozen pieces of that bacon will ya? And maybe four or five of the pancakes. Hope you have syrup.” Jeremy trotted off to go around the house down to where the cars were parked. I put another dozen slices of bacon on so I would have them ready when he got back.
“Hey Jack, d’ya think maybe somethin’ happened to him?”
“Something? Like what, for instance?”
I dunno. Like maybe a wild animal got him?”
“Lane, all the wild animals are long gone except maybe for a skunk or two. The city’s grown and pushed them out during the last couple hundred years. Where would they live?”
“Why not in here?” Land indicated this small patch of woods we were bivouacked in at the back of my family property.
“Yeah. Right. Any animal that could drag one of us off without a trace and take the laptop along for the ride would have to be pretty damn big. That would mean the wild animal you’re conjecturing would need miles of forest in which to range for food. If it had been taking people for it’s food all this time there would have been an outcry so loud you would have heard it in the next county.”
“It was just an idea, man.”
Jeremy returned looking grim, “Hey guys. His car’s still here. Maybe he’s playing some kind of practical joke. It is Halloween today, you know.”
“That makes the most sense I’ve heard all day.” I replied.
“Yeah. It isn’t like him all that much but it makes sense.” Lane threw in as the two of us nodded our heads in agreement. It wasn’t like Tyrone. He was Mr. Laid Back as long as he had his on-line computer game. If the net ever went down for more than a couple of hours then I hoped the police department had a nice strong strait-jacket to hold him until it came back up again.
“Maybe he developed a funny bone and this is his first attempt at a serious joke.” Jeremy added to the fray.
“Or maybe he wanted to recharge the battery in his laptop and took it up to the house.” I added.
“I thought you said he couldn’t get in?”
“Maybe I was wrong. I thought I locked the door but I didn’t check everything. Look breakfast is nearly ready so let’s eat, then clean up the area. If he’s here, we’ll find him. If he isn’t then a half hour or so to eat breakfast, clean the area up and make the fire safe won’t hurt anything. We’ll make certain the fire’s out then we’ll check the house first and the property second before we get others involved in hunting for him. If he’s not anywhere around then we can begin to wonder or worry. I certainly don’t want to hunt for him on an empty stomach. Especially if, as you said, he’s playing some kind of Halloween joke.” I didn’t bother to add, ‘that only he would understand’.
“Good idea, man. Lemme get a cup and I’ll go for some of that coffee.”
I filled another pot with water from the spigot installed in the side of the rocks which held the metal framework and grill. I wanted some hot water for the dishes when we did our clean up. The stones were still so warm that the water came out of the spigot hot. Heating it over the coals would bring it up some more but it was already close to the temperature I wanted. At least the pile of wood over in the lean-to was enough to last three or four normal days thanks to Tyrone. Well, three or four days of cooking; not if he came back and wanted another bon-fire. I gave some thought to making him clean the grillwork of all the tar the burning wood deposited on it. That would take a couple of hours to get the job done right and I figured with his fire and now these antics he’d earned at least that much.
What the hell? What’s my large kitchen pan doing there in the embers of the fire? I grabbed the tongs from next to the stones to slowly fish it out of the fire. The damn thing was glowing it was so hot. Good thing it’s cast iron, a left over from the house and it probably was used back in Grandfather’s day if not before. I left it on the concrete pad surrounding the fireplace so the heat could drain away. I figured I’d have plenty of time to get to it later after we learned what kind of joke Tyrone thought he was pulling.
As we finished breakfast I continued to wonder how my pan got down here. It took a bit for me to connect the pan and the bacon then my mind reverted to Tyrone. Okay, so the house probably hadn’t been locked and he went up to get the pan so he could prepare some bacon. I wish he had just wakened me. I could have prepared it quickly and without all the potential disasters he had set up. Speaking of Tyrone, I figured the smell of the food would have enticed him back from wherever he was hiding but we finished eating, cleaned up and then sprayed the fire enough to be certain there were no hot embers. He still hadn’t shown by that time and if he wanted me to fix him breakfast after we discovered what kind of game he was playing, he had another think coming. My pan had cooled enough that I could handle it again. Something about it was off a bit but I couldn’t place it at the moment. I did have a few other things on my mind.
I made a mental note to come back after the guys were gone to clean out the barbecue fireplace so it would be ready for the next time or the winter, whichever came first. Tents and bed rolls were taken down then prepped once again for storage before they were taken to the little shed we had built here in the clearing.
Grandfather had kept telling me when I was a kid, “That would be quite a fall, Sonny Buck.”
The shed used to cover a well before it was capped and hadn’t been in use at least as long as I’d been around. The building itself was newer because when we were kids we used to play near the old one and Gramps had been worried one of us might fall through the old wooden floor into the abandoned well. He had a layer of inch thick plywood laid over the hole, then a double latticework of rebar four inches apart and a ten inch thick layer of concrete poured into the area below, through and above the rebar. That came out to be a ten by ten final floor size and now we kept all sorts of stuff in there including the ride-em mower for the lawn which surrounded the house.
My attention came back to the tasks at hand, “I’ll take care of all this from here guys. Let’s get up to the house to see if he’s there. Unless he climbed the walls I don’t believe he left the property. We would have heard the old gate creaking if he tried to get out.”
“Yeah. What’s with that anyway? It sounds like a gate from out of a horror flic.”
“You get to be well over a hundred years old and see if you don’t creak, Jeremy.”
“He’s gotcha there, Jerm.”
“Aw shut up, Lame. You were asking the same question when we got here.”
“Come on you two. Let’s focus here, okay? The target is Tyrone or lack thereof.” I was checking the house as they followed me around still bickering with each other.
“There don’t seem to be any unlocked windows or doors,” I noted.
“That doesn’t mean anything. He could have locked them after he went inside.”
“True enough.” I admitted as I unlocked the front door and we went in, “Okay, I’ll search the upstairs. You two take this floor and the basement.”
“Basement? What the hell would he be doing in the basement. He likes his comforts. He was probably upstairs in a nice soft warm bed all night while we froze out asses off in those bedrolls on the ground.”
“Jeremy, I don’t know how your ancestors ever made it here from wherever it was they left. Besides, I thought we decided he was trying to play a joke on us. If so, then he’s probably hiding out here somewhere.”
“Good point, Jack. Come on, Lame. Let’s go look.”
“Quit calling me lame. It’s Lane, with an N.”
“Then quit calling me Germ. Lame.”
The two of them began their search while still grumbling at each other. I just shook my head and went upstairs to begin my search in the attic. An hour later, I had finished my search in the attic and the upper floor. No Tyrone. There were six big trunks upstairs and he could have easily fit into any one of them but the straps binding them were still in place and there was no way he could have re-fastened them from inside any of the trunks.
Completing my search I began to traipse down stairs but came to a halt when my mind finally registered the fact that the small table here on the landing was back over to the spot where I had found it when I took possession of the property. I picked it up and moved it back to the spot where I wanted it while my mind went through a number of strange mental gymnastics. All these little things were beginning to take their toll. Why would Tyrone be doing them? If this was a joke of some kind then he was going to an awful lot of seemingly non-related preparations.
Breaking away from my thoughts and looking around it suddenly came to me that the mirror had been moved back as well. Damn it, he should know better than to be rearranging someone’s house. I angrily took the mirror from the old spot along the wall and brought it over to hang behind the table at the location where ‘I’ wanted it to be. I couldn’t find the nails I’d used to hang it there. Nails hell, I couldn’t even find the holes in the wallpaper. Setting the mirror on the floor against the wall, standing back where I could see most of the wall all at one time, I reconsidered my location. It had to be close to that spot so I began looking for evidence of the nail holes for several feet each side as well as above the table. No holes. Tyrone couldn’t have covered them over so well that I couldn’t find some trace of one of them. My hair began to stand on end and for the moment I beat a hasty retreat downstairs where I found tweedle dee and tweedle dum sitting in the living room talking.
“If you two finished searching here and in the basement why didn’t you come up and help me upstairs?”
“We figured you’d be right along. Didn’t find him huh?”
“No. I didn’t find him and neither did you apparently.”
“Nope. There’s one room we haven’t checked though. It’s locked.”
“That’s because I keep it locked. That was one of the stipulations in the will.”
“That you have to keep one of the rooms locked all the time? You know how weird that sounds?”
“Hey. If keeping it locked is all I had to do to own this great old house and the twenty-six acres of property around it then I’ll keep it locked.”
“Are you allowed to go in at all?”
“Sure. It’s just that when I’m not in there it must be locked. Come on I’ll show it to you.”
We walked down the hall to the last door on the left and I fished for the keys.
“Hey Jack, what’s in that room?”
“It’s Great, Great, Great, Great or some such thing Grandfather Grant’s study. I don’t go in here much except to dust and clean a little. When I was just a kid Gramps would let us play in there so long as he was in there. He used to lock it when no one was in it, too.” I opened the door leading to the room and the three of us trooped in to glance around.
“He’s not in here, unless there’s a secret passage or something.” Jeremy quickly noted as he toured the room. “Cool furniture though. And some really old books,” he added as he looked through the built in bookshelves careful not to touch anything for fear the books would turn to dust.
“It’s the original stuff.”
“Cool. Gotta be worth forty or fifty grand then huh? Great furniture. They sure knew how to build furniture a couple hundred years ago.”
“Yeah. Most of it came from Philadelphia. You can still see the maker’s marks. It was brought out here when Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather Grant came West on his way to the Great Plains. He stopped here and met Multiple Great Grandmother Holister. He courted her, married her and they had three kids. They lived here for about twenty years until he got the wanderlust again then they moved nearly five hundred miles further West. Their eldest daughter married one of the Williams boys. That was when they gave him and her this house and the surrounding farm for a wedding gift. That’s how it came to be in the Williams family. We’ve had it ever since. Except we’ve sold off parts of the land to developers. I wish there was still more land around the house than there is now.”
“That explains this painting I guess. Who are these people?”
I glanced at the side of the room where the fireplace had been built as my eyes took in the painting hanging above the mantle before they looked back down at Lane, “That’s them. That’s Grandmother Holister and he’s Grandfather Grant. I guess they were about twenty five or so when that was painted. My Mom told me that painting was made a couple of years after they were married somewhere around a hundred and seventy years ago. Their first daughter had been born by the time that painting was made.”
“Guess that’s where you got your looks, huh?”
Now I was certain Lane’s elevator didn’t go all the way to the top. There was no way I looked anything like Grandfather Grant.
“You know, with a wig and a little makeup you’d look just like this Great, whatever, Grandmother of yours.”
HUH? I turned back toward Lane and the fireplace as I looked up at the painting with my mouth hanging open. In all the time I’d been growing up here I barely paid that painting lip service. It was a fixture which as a kid I just accepted the same way I would the curtains on the windows or the wallpaper on the walls. Now I took a good hard look at the two people in the painting, especially Great, as Lane said, whatever Grandmother Holister.
“You got all your marbles Lane? There’s no way I look like a woman. She was a looker according to Grandmother Fisher, even when she was in her nineties and Grandmother Fisher was just a little girl.”
“I’m fine man. Can’t you see it? The face, the eyebrows, even the complexion. You look like her. A male version maybe but your face is the same.”
I couldn’t see it. Jeremy hadn’t said anything so I figured he agreed with me.
“Jeremy, what do you think about it? Do I look like multi G Grandmother
“I dunno, man,” he said rather absently, “but that dude looks seriously like Tyrone.” His attention had been focused on the man in the painting.
“He should. He’s a Grant just like Tyrone.” I replied with some aggravation present in my voice. No way did I look like a woman.
“No, man. You know that scar Tyrone has on the side of his face where that nitwit tried to cut him in school? This dude’s got it too. Same little twist at the top. This painting could have been made just this last year or two with Tyrone and you dressed in period clothing like they do for those old tyme pictures you can get in the malls sometimes. Now that I look at her though, Lane’s right, you could double for your Grandmother. You’re thin enough that you could look like her especially if you had makeup and a wig on. Where’d you really get this painting man? You and Tyrone cooking up some sort of Halloween joke?”
“Huh?” Now I walked over to the fireplace and began to take a good look at the painting. Having lived with it most of my life, I never paid it much attention. It was always in the background and I had never bothered to give it half a thought. He was right though, the man in the painting did look like Tyrone, even to that slight scar on the side of his face. That began to bother me for some reason so I turned my attention to Grandmother Holister.
“No. No joke.” I began quietly. Something was beginning to raise the hairs on the back of my neck again.
I continued, “But I see what you mean about the scar. That’s got to be seriously weird. I still don’t see the resemblance between me and Grandmother Holister though.”
“You gotta be blind man. Ask your’s and Lane’s sisters to come take a look at it. I’ll bet they’ll tell you the same thing.”
“Oh yeah. Sure. As soon as Lane tells them what to say.”
“Then have them bring a couple of their friends along. I’ll bet they’ll all tell you the same thing.”
“What? That I dressed up like a girl so someone could make a painting of Tyrone and me? You gotta be outta your gourd, man. There’s no way. Come on, we need to check the land before we call the cops about this.”
I was still rankling over them trying to say I had worn a woman’s wedding dress to pose for a painting which I knew had been over that fireplace presumably since some time long before I was born. I doubt anyone would have changed it for a Halloween prank since having it made would have been costly, not to mention I would have had to pose for it. At least I think I would. I could understand someone defacing the old painting to add that scar to the man’s face though. The problem I was having just now was that I was beginning to see the resemblance between me and Grandmother Holister as I gave it more thought. I guess I had initially rejected it out of hand since they were trying to say I had dressed like a woman to pose for the painting. My mind finally came to the conclusion that, yeah, I probably could look a bit like her since we were related — however distantly.
We made one more search of the house top to bottom before we started on the property. A search of the land revealed no clues to Tyrone’s disappearance so I finally dug out my cell phone and made the call. The police told me that unless I suspected foul play there was nothing could be done for twenty four hours. They would send someone out to take a report and if there was no Tyrone by this time tomorrow afternoon then it would become a missing persons case.
Lane, meanwhile had called his sister, Tracy and asked her to call my sister, Caprice and a couple of their friends then all show up here at the house.
“We’ve got ourselves a real Halloween mystery and we would like your opinions concerning it. Tyrone’s gone missing and there’s a weird painting we’d like you to see. Make certain the girls all know Tyrone well enough to recognise him in a picture, okay?”
“If you guys are going to try to scare us we’ll make you regret it.”
“No. Nothing like that sis. We’re just confused and worried and this whole thing is just plain weird. We need some eyes and brains that aren’t tied up with seeing things that aren’t there. We already called the cops but they won’t do anything for twenty four hours on a missing person case.”
“You make it all sound so mysterious. All right I’ll call the girls and we’ll be there as soon as we can. If this is really a joke I’ll make you regret it.”
“If it’s a joke then it’s on us. Not you guys.”
â• â•¬ â•¬â•£
The girls showed up about an hour later. They didn’t seem all that enthusiastic about it. I guess they thought we were going to pull some Halloween trick on them. Their tune changed a little when they saw the painting.
“That’s Tyrone, and that’s you in drag.”
“Not hardly. That’s my multiple great grandmother Holister - Grant.”
“You’re joking. That looks so much like you that if that wedding dress was still around I’ll bet we could make you look just like her.”
My Sister piped up at that point, “that painting was there when I was a little girl. See the little mark in the lower left corner? That’s where Jack hit the painting with one of his toys when Grampa lifted him up to look at it.”
How the hell did she remember that? I didn’t even remember it until she mentioned it just now.
Carol continued her interrogation, “Did you search the whole house?”
“Yep. Upstairs and down.”
“Is there an attic?”
“We searched it and the basement, too. No signs.”
“Would you mind if we do the same?”
“Be my guest.” I offered magnanimously. The guys and I sat down to wait for their verdict.
It was half an hour later when the four of them met back here in the living room then traipsed off together to the attic. Ten minutes after that they were calling me up there.
“You found him? Where was he?”
“No. We didn’t find him but we found something else.”
“Something else? What for instance?”
“That’s what were going to show you. Come on.”
Jeremy and Lane got up to come with me but Tracy said, “No. You two wait down here. We won’t be long.”
The two girls accompanied me up to the attic closing the door at the top of the stairs once we arrived.
“Look over there.” Caprice pointed to several of the trunks I’d been meaning to move out of the attic so I could put in a game room. The girls had one of them open although the loosened straps showed they had looked in the others as well.
“Well. Don’t just stand there, go look at the things we found.” They had a bunch of white stuff draped across the trunks so I went over to look at whatever the hell it was they were talking about. I nearly shit a load right there when I figured out what it was.
“How the heck could that stuff even exist now? It’s been a hundred and seventy years, give or take. Clothing just doesn’t last that long even when it’s packed.”
“We don’t know but the fact is, it does exist and everything is there including the wig.”
“The wig I could maybe understand. Mom and Gram told me that grandmother Holister began to lose her hair when she was in her seventies so she had a wig made. That’s probably it.”
“Okay. That explains why it isn’t made the way they are now. Try it on.”
“Do what?” I almost yelled.
Two of them pushed me into one of the chairs which were stored up here as my sis told me, “Try it on! We want to see how much you really look like great grandmother Holister.”
“I’m doing this against my better judgement. None of you better tell those two yayhoos downstairs about this.”
“We won’t. We just want to see how close you look to the person in the painting.”
“I didn’t pose for that.”
“We know. Your sister told us that it had been above the mantle ever since you were both little kids so there was no way you could have posed for it. We just...”
“We want to see how much you could look like grandmother Holister if you wear the wig and the wedding dress,” Sis said right out.
“What! You’re all nuts. You want me to wear the wedding dress?”
“And the undergarments and all. There’s something going on here and we want to see just how close you can look to being grandmother Holister. This could be important.”
“I certainly don’t see how.”
“Trust us. We won’t tell a soul.”
“Sis, if this is some kind of Halloween prank all you guys and Tyrone have come up with, I’ll make you a bunch of sorry son’s or daughters of bitches.”
My sister looked hurt, “It’s no prank, Jack. We just want to know. We’ll help you get dressed and after we know then we’ll help you take it off and put it away again. No harm, no foul as you’re so fond of saying.”
As much as I was curious about that painting, now I was also totally embarrassed about the thought of wearing a woman’s clothing and wig. That coupled with the near certainty that I didn’t remotely look like Grandmother Holister even though everyone was insisting that I did and that I had an inclination that my acceptance of the idea was due to external influences, had me almost to the point of doing this ridiculous thing just to prove them all wrong.
“And what do I get out of this farce? Say I do this idiotic thing and prove I don’t look the least like her. You’ve still gotten me to wear that stupid gown and make myself a laughingstock.”
“Well.... if you don’t look like her then.... we’ll make certain no one spills the beans about you doing it.”
“No deal. You don’t spill the beans no matter how it turns out.”
“So you’ll do it?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Afraid we’re right or afraid you’ll be made to look foolish?”
“I’m not afraid you’re right. But.... aw hell.... Okay. Let’s get it over with but NO ONE else sees me and that goes double for the guys downstairs.”
I had finally given in when Tracy and Caprice said they would go downstairs to have Lane and Jeremy go on home promising that they weren’t going to stick around very long either.
“We’re helping Jack sort some stuff we found and then we’ll be leaving. Besides, Carol has a heavy date tonight so we can’t stick around too long.”
Ten minutes later the two of them were back upstairs discovering that I was part way into some of the undergarments having reached the point where a corset was being cinched around my waist. It wasn’t taken in all that far since my waist was kind of narrow anyway. The girls had me sit down after that so they could button up the shoes. That bothered me a bit as well because they fit just fine while I had rather hoped they would be ten or twelve sizes too small.
The whole farce continued for another twenty minutes before the gown was dropped over my head and the million or so buttons up the back were being fastened. The shoes had heels of about an inch and a half or maybe two high which I found to be a little difficult to get accustomed to but at least they did fit, which had me becoming more and more concerned that I might really look a lot more like Grandmother Holister than I had been willing to admit, even to myself. In fact, most all of the stuff fit, even the ear-rings which were screw on rather than pierced, for which I was ever so thankful. At least until I took them off later and my ears protested my treatment of them.
The girls helped me go downstairs without killing myself, then on into my room where they did a little cosmetic work before placing the wig on my head. They began to murmur to each other before leading me out of the room to help me down to great grandfather’s study where they had me stand in front of the fireplace while they posed me much in the same manner as our multiple great grandmother had been standing in the painting. Caprice snapped a pic on her cell phone so I could see how it all turned out.
To say it was a shock would be a gross understatement.
Lane had been right. I looked just like Multi-G Grandmother Holister, enough so that I could have doubled for her.
“That’s unbelievable. If she wore that wedding dress back then she had to have caused a scandal.”
That got my curiosity up, “Why’s that? It seems pretty much like every other wedding dress I’ve seen, not that I’ve seen all that many.”
“Maybe now. But not back a hundred and fifty years or more ago. Her shoulders uncovered, and the tops of her breasts showing. Most places they would have run her out on a rail, I think.” Sis continued.
I couldn’t see it. I mean it’s just a wedding dress after all. What’s the big deal with it being.... what did they call it? Uh, strapless? “Strapless?”
“Yes, strapless. You’ve got to remember people were a lot more straitlaced back then. Of course Mom always said Great Grandmother Holister was.... well, before her time? She was into investing and farm and ranching and handled all the financial dealings but sent her husband out to make the actual contacts. She pretty much ran it all and there were a few stories she told to me that made me think Grandmother Holister knew an awful lot that even most men wouldn’t know back then.”
I didn’t know what to make of that. I didn’t remember Mom saying much about Grandmother Holister except that she was a looker even when she was in her seventies. We spent about a half hour down there looking at the painting while Sis continued to snap at least a half dozen pics of me here and there during that time. She even framed the painting itself and took a pic of it.
“Caprice, I hate to be a wet blanket but I’ve got to be getting home to get ready for this evening.”
“Me also.” Antoinette added.
Sis looked at me and then at them, “would you mind terribly if I take them all home? I’ll hurry back and help you out of all that.”
“Nah. Go ahead. I’m okay here alone. I’ll survive until you get back. I’ll probably just sit here or in the living room until you return. Take the key to the front door with you so you can get in without me needing to figure out who’s at the door. That way no one will see me dressed like this. All I’d need is for those yayhoos to come back and find me dressed like this.”
“They wouldn’t know it was you, anyway. Thanks, sis. I won’t be long.”
“Don’t call me that. Just because I’m in this wedding gown doesn’t mean I’m a girl.”
“Uh, huh. I’ll hurry.”
“Okay, Caprice. See you when you get back.”
The girls gathered their things and hurried out. I went around checking the doors and windows quickly to make certain everything was locked then sat back down in the study. I got to thinking about the painting and the clothing I was wearing. There was something not quite right here. The clothes fit too well, like they were made for me and there was no sign they were as old as I knew they had to be, even though their style matched that of the dress in the painting. Hell, the clothes should have been dust inside that trunk. This had to be some kind of a Halloween trick everyone was playing on me, but I was darned if I could figure it out and it had to be costing whoever was doing it a pretty penny. I sat there for maybe another ten minutes trying to decide why they wanted me to dress like Grandmother Holister. I mean Sis was right, I looked enough like Grandmother H. that most of the people who knew me wouldn’t be able to tell who I really was.
A cold breeze blew through the room which caused me to check the windows and then the flue of the fireplace to be certain they were all closed, which they were. It was almost becoming second nature to me to gently hold my skirt and train out of the way. After checking the flue I carefully cleaned my hands so I wouldn’t get the gown dirty. It needed to be preserved for a long time.
After a while I became curious and began examining the desk which I had frequently cleaned of dust but never really looked at very closely. Eventually I found a small hidden compartment which held an old style but really clean and new looking cap and ball revolver and which appeared to be loaded. Of course to be a period weapon it had to be a percussion type.... I went through a ‘duh’ moment. Surprisingly the revolver had the Colt name stamped on it. I laid it on the desk top thinking to ask Tyrone about it. Then I remembered he was still missing as my mind waded through the fog again. I continued my examination of the room. This was the first time I had really looked around in here other than to do some cleaning. I don’t know why I never spent the time to take a good look around. Glancing up at the painting, something seemed different about it but at first I couldn’t place it. It took me a couple of minutes to figure it out. You know how oil paintings slowly attract dust which becomes a part of the painting, kind of dulling it a bit? I knew it had been carefully cleaned by a restoration company maybe ten years ago but there’s just something different about freshly drying paint and two hundred year old dried paint. That little revelation disturbed me a bit and I moved away from the painting to continue my examination of the room as I continued to consider the ramifications of the nearly fresh paint. Again I wished Tyrone would hurry and get back from town.
One of the book cases was a little loose, unlike the other three. I finally found a latch which allowed it to move away from the wall exposing a small compartment behind it in which three rifles were stacked vertically on a shelf. Below them was powder in tins and nearly two or three hundred cast lead balls like those which were used before sealed bullets came along. The rifles were percussion revolver types and also had the Colt factory markings on them. They looked like they had been used a bit but were still in very good shape. The powder horns looked new and by their weight they must still have plenty of powder in them. There were three tools each holding a couple dozen percussion caps as well and those looked to be new. The caps as well as the tools. Closer inspection showed the rifles to be loaded and capped. Again, the caps looked new. I was glad Tyrone had thought to keep the rifle guns loaded. One never knew when Indians might show up or maybe that gang of bandits which the Sheriff had mentioned when he and his posse dropped by the other day.
Something seemed wrong with that thought and it took me a while to figure out that I had to be imagining some of these things. Mostly the conversations. First of all Tyrone was missing, not somewhere in town. Secondly the Sheriff hadn’t been out to the house in years if not decades. Third, town was nearly to my doorstep now, not two miles away like it was in G-G-G-G Grandfather Grant’s time. I shook my head to clear the fog as I heard the snap of the latch which held the bookcase closed then I began looking carefully through the book titles on the shelves. While the books looked old, they no longer seemed so be so ancient to me as they had when I was a kid. A light touch showed me they wouldn’t fall apart so I pulled one from the shelf gently opening it to find it had been hand written for the most part. There was some printing in it but the spellings were difficult for me to get around. The mantle clock struck eight and I began to wonder where Tyrone... I mean Caprice, might be. Surely he should.... she should have been back by now. It suddenly hit me that the mantle clock had chimed and I hadn’t wound it in all the years I had lived here, so.... who did? A closer inspection showed it was running so maybe the chime part had also been wound up a bit and I bumped it or something which set it off. Strangely.... the time was correct.
Light through the windows was waning quickly and I again wondered when my husban.... sister would get back. I began going around the house lighting the oil lamps in the areas we would be using when.... she finally returned.
I first heard the wheels on the road outside and which sounded like they were headed for the barn, it wasn’t long after that when the front door opened and closed again. Moments later my husband entered the room.
“There you are. You haven’t changed out of your wedding gown?”
“I need some assistance with the buttons. If you would be so kind, Sir.”
“Jacqueline, you look positively scandalous in that gown.”
“I know. I thought that poor painter you hired to produce our wedding portrait was going to faint dead away. He never did stop blushing, but he did a good job on the painting.”
“That he did, my dear young wife. When I could get him to keep his mind on painting. I had no idea that I was going to marry a tiger when I met you. You’ve been good for me and while I know farming, you know the managein’ so between us we’re coming out smelling like roses.”
He led me to the bedroom as I turned my back to him and he began to unbutton the long double row that would allow me to finally slip out of the gown once again. Free of the gown and some of the undergarments I turned to help him out of his uniform jacket so we might return to just being two ordinary people raising our family here on the farm. A little later during our devotions to one another, we thought we heard something at the front door for a moment but as we continued to listen nothing came of it. Although I could have sworn for a moment I had heard a woman’s voice calling to someone named Jack but it faded quickly.
Our daughter had been born just this month a year past and I think our next child was likely conceived this night.
The next morning by the time Tyrone was getting up I had already fed her and was preparing breakfast and a snack for him. He worked hard at our farm and the past two years had been good. We had a running surplus which Tyrone traded for some of the things we needed from town as well as sold to Adam Jackson, who then took them upstate along with the things he bought from others to sell to the city folk, so we were both prosperous.
“Good morning my Love.” Tyrone held me close giving me a long, lingering, searching kiss holding me snugly to him before settling down at the table so I could serve him his breakfast. I still blushed when he did that, even after two years and a child. And now, maybe a second one would be on the way.
I turned away to get the skillet of eggs and potatoes which gave me a moment to hide my face and collect myself lest I laugh with joy or he see my blush. Turning back after a moment, I crossed to the table to scoop his eggs and potatoes onto his plate before placing the pan on the stove then returning with my apron around the handle of the coffeepot so I could fill his cup. The preserves I had already brought in from the root cellar were in the jar that was on the table so he could help himself. We still had an almighty number of jars down there.
“Tyrone. I’m thinking we should send some of the preserves to Adam this trip. We can get five cents a jar for the preserves and he will replace the jars for free. We might have near a hundred which we could easily spare. That’s another five dollars.”
He nodded with a mouthful of food then swallowed before answering, “if you think we can spare them then go ahead. He said he could always sell your preserves. If I remember rightly, he makes twelve cents a jar so he would be quite happy to have ‘em.”
I’ll have Jeb bring them up to pack with the things they’re taking to town and add them to the tally.”
He spooned himself two big helpings of sugar into his coffee as he always did and I made a note to add sugar to the list of supplies we needed to get the next time he and I went to town. I returned to preparing his morning snack and the lunch which he would be eating later, while he continued to eat his breakfast.
He hurried today. We had extra help coming and our mare was soon to foal so she needed to be checked. The hired help would be arriving almost any minute so they could work the land and tend the animals while he busied himself with plowing the new acreage he had just opened up this spring. That meant I would need to bring up more from the root celler so I could prepare breakfast for them as well. There’s a lot to do to keep a farm the size of this one going. My poor Tyrone worked from sunup to past sundown. At least he trusted me to keep the books and our accounts paid or collected and up to date. This mornings trip into town by two of the help would take a load of our surplus to Adam. As soon as I could I needed to get out to see how many eggs we could send with the load. I would need to add them to the list and the tally. At fifty eggs to a dollar that could add up to a dollar pretty quickly. We had enough chickens that we were never hurting for eggs, even when we sent so many as a hundred on to Adam to sell.
I noticed Jeb coming to the door with Tom and Jim a half pace behind him and gaining. I put twelve more eggs on the skillet then added enough potatoes for a small army to the pan along with more of the spices and small greens and vegetables I always added to my mix. The eggs weren’t immune receiving a small helping of the greens, finely chopped, and just a touch of onion, also finely chopped, before going onto the skillet. Jeb couldn’t handle the peppers so I kept his eggs separated from the others then added a touch of the chopped green pepper to the others.
~ ~ ~ ~
A great deal of time has passed as it frequently has need to do. Our daughter has grown into a fine young woman and one of the Williams boys began courting her. Tyrone was making noises about moving further West as he had been for the past three years but I think now he finally means it. I took him aside and mentioned to him something about Mr. Colt and his needing investors, or so I had heard.
Tyrone looked at me a little funny before he said, “Is this another of your premonitions, Jackie?”
“Premonitions? Whatever are you talking about, Mr. Grant?”
He gave me a little grin, “And where might I be finding this Mr. Colt and what is it he wants to be making?”
We had a rather productive discussion which culminated in Tyrone sending off a letter. Four months later we had our reply and Tyrone went to see Mr. Colt while I had to run the farm using only our hired hands. When he returned two and a half months later, he brought three rifle guns and two revolvers with him.
“I’ve invested in Colt’s factory. We worked at getting him an order from the Army but it’s only for a thousand of his revolvers. I’m confident that once they have them, they’ll want more. If that keeps up then we’ll get our investment back. I’ve only put a thousand into it so it isn’t like we will be destitute if his venture doesn’t pan out.”
“That’s all right, Ty. I have other investments I’ve been thinking about.”
“Why can’t we call them rational guesses?”
“You?? Rational guesses? Miss emotional here? I think I’d place more faith in your premonitions that I would in most peoples facts, my love. Now, how’s the farm been while I’ve been gone?”
We continued to talk about the farm, several times in fact during the next two months and decided to give it to Amanda when she married. One of the conditions would be that Tyrone’s study be kept locked unless someone was using it and all the furnishings and books we didn’t take with us were to remain in the study and not be sold so we could recover them if and when we returned to retire in town nearby.
It was soon after harvest that we packed up and moved on toward the Plains. Tyrone and I had practiced with those revolvers and the rifle guns for a month before we left. I felt like an army when I used one of those rifle guns during practice. I could hit one of the empty bean cans four shots out of five and barely missed with the fifth nearly every time.
When we finally arrived at the area Tyrone had been told about, we were quick to assert our rights with the claims office. They had little choice since we had paper which confirmed our right to the land we had laid out. During the trip we had used those rifle guns only once in anger and that was when three miscreants meant to rob us since we were driving our wagon alone rather than accompanied by others in a procession. I had been in the back when they stopped Tyrone. He made to go for his revolver and one of them shot him in the shoulder. When they climbed onto the wagon I shot the first one in the head and the other in the chest. I heard another begin riding away as I grabbed for one of the rifle guns. Resting it’s barrel on the driver’s seat of the wagon, it took me two tries to hit him since I wasn’t accustomed to shooting at a moving target. Especially not one which was on horseback and moving at a goodly clip. I was upset that I had wasted a perfectly good shot but Tyrone didn’t seem all that put out about it.
Tyrone wasn’t badly hurt although I thought they had killed him. He had a passel of blood on his shirt and was cussing up a storm but otherwise he was just mad. One of the two I had shot was trying to get up and Tyrone just took the reins in his good hand and we drove off soon passing the one I had shot as he rode away. We found his horse some little distance down the road grazing in a small patch of grass. Either it had it’s fill or the grass wasn’t all that good because after we passed, it took to following us and did so clear into the next town.
I had doctored Tyrone as best I could but we needed a doctor to take the ball out of him. The town’s doctor turned out to be the barber so we had our doubts but he did a good job of it telling us that Tyrone would be good as gold in about a month. Tyrone wasn’t in much condition to say anything since the doctor had given him a whiff of something after getting him liquored up and Tyrone was rather woozy for a spell. I obtained more supplies before setting out for our homestead. It was likely good that Tyrone hadn’t been awake for that since the store keep overcharged us something fierce. I mentioned his prices were some five times more than we had been paying and he simply said the costs of transporting the goods from back East to here mounted up very quickly. I filed that thought away as something about which we might be able to take advantage in the near future.
We settled down on our land and while Tyrone wasn’t in any shape to do much toward beginning our home, I could still cut a passel of wood and did so on some of the more likely trees we had nearby. While I couldn’t make rails by myself, I could still bring down a tree or two and remove the branches for use as shorter pieces as well as firewood. With the help of our horses I was able to begin some turning of the land as well.
Tyrone was up and about very quickly but his shoulder didn’t mend much for a few more weeks. After that it was stiff in colder weather but he made do and by the time the second month passed once he was up and about, we had our first home. It was also the stable which backed up against one wall but it was somewhere to stay until we could build our main house. That didn’t begin right away since the weather closed in and we lost five months to the cold and snow. Winters here were a bit more fierce than back home. I guess it was because it was flat and the winds could get themselves up to a goodly pace driving the weather before them. I still had a problem with him putting too much wood on his fires. He finally learned his lesson when he nearly burned down our lean-to and the stable in the dead of winter.
When spring rolled around we had lost one of the horses but the other was in fine spirits. It was the one which continued to follow us so we finally took it in. Tyrone was doing well and other than some aches he was a whirlwind of action. I had constantly reminded myself of that store keep’s prices, which went up during the winter and didn’t seem to fall back down as much when spring and summer came about.
Tyrone and I spent a sizeable amount of time discussing that very thing when I finally suggested we build our home in the town which wasn’t more’n two miles distant. That would serve to provide us with a nice residence in town as well as offer us a base to begin something which I had been considering all Winter. I began to mention something called the Transcontinental Railroad to him, which wouldn’t be likely to come about for piece yet. Still, it was something to begin considering, especially since, if I was recollecting right, was going to be coming along somewhere around 1865 and that wasn’t all that far away. The discovery of Gold in the Oregon Territory was certain to fuel that need.
We sent a nice letter to Mr. Huntington in Sacramento, promising to add one dollar to his every two if he would help finance Mr. Judah in his railroad project. After all we were well to do but not as well off as Mr. Huntington. As it was, we didn’t need to spend a dollar since Mr. Huntington brought in several others who had considerable money. They started the Pacific side of the railroad gamble.
I mentioned again to Tyrone that, “I would like to start a Fargo business along with a new general store. I think we could offer more to these people at a lower price than that robber who has no competition to speak of.”
“I’ve been considering the same thing. I’d like to start up a bank as well. My Uncle got me into banking a bit when we invested in that railroad back East. It won’t be long before one or more of the railroads will be coming along, it’s just a matter of time. I’m trying to get my Uncle to find out just what Congress intends to do about it all and give me a hint as to the path it’s going to follow. It’d be nice to pick up a bit of land in it’s path and work a deal with the railroad in return for the land.”
“What sort of deal were you thinking, Tyrone?”
“Well, you want to start that Fargo business and a general store.... If I could pick up enough land along the path or in several of the towns the railroad is going to pass through then maybe I could trade that for some services only the railroad could provide.”
“Services? What kind of services?”
“I think I’ll leave that for later. It all would hinge on getting the land and making the trade and there’s no guarantee of that happening. Best you begin your planning for your General Store and Fargo business. You might want to consider a small bank branch in the store as well. It could be off to one side since neither it nor the store will be very big to start. With careful planning and a little effort they could all grow. For now, just begin to decide what sort of goods the store would need to offer and I’ll try to learn the shipping rates the railroad would impose. From the cost of the goods and the shipping costs you could begin to plan your selling prices. If you can’t sell the same quality for less than Evans’ store then there is little profit in starting it up in the first place.”
What he said was true enough but I had information he didn’t.
“Tyrone. What if I could show you the most likely path the Union Pacific will follow when they finally begin their way West?”
He looked at me like I was some kind of a witch.
“Now. How would you be knowing that? Is this another one of your premonitions?”
“Something like that.”
“We’ve made good money on each of the ones we acted on.” He lowered his head as he considered his next words.
“This would be a bit more costly than the others if’n you’re wrong.”
“Tyrone, haven’t our whole lives been a continuing gamble? What would it cost to pick up a hundred sections laid out end to end along a particular path? It won’t be all that much of a gamble since a railroad will need to follow the path of least resistance and if we buy cheap and don’t sell too dear then we can make some money. Then again, what if we bought cheap and just gave them the land, or most of it in return for partial ownership in the railroad plus those services you mentioned? Perhaps at very favorable rates and locked in for some fifty years or so? We could make our money by using the railroad rather than by attempting to gouge them.”
“Wife, there are times when I’m glad you’re not a riverboat gambler. All right, just where are these miles of land you want me to buy up?”
First step was getting a good map. Well, first step was getting a map of any kind. The next was in marking it up to show what we needed to buy and then Tyrone began investigating the path to learn what it would cost us to obtain the land. Nearly a quarter of it was dirt cheap. The rest, not so much. We finally held nearly a hundred and forty-two sections; a hundred and thirty-one square miles and nineteen bits and pieces associated with them.
While Tyrone was handling that I was putting together my letters to our potential suppliers from the information I had gathered from the shipping crates when Mr. Evans wasn’t looking. The crates and barrels of goods he had in his store had the suppliers names on them and I had made note of those during each trip to town so by now I had quite a list. I sent letters explaining what I was considering and requested information as to their prices, quantities and shipping. The bolts of materials were the biggest problem since it appeared they had to be shipped all the way from New York City. That was where our connections to the Eastern railroads came in handy.
It took us a powerful long time, nearly five years, but the general store and Fargo took hold. Our prices weren’t nearly so high as those of our competition and he lowered his below ours very quickly once we went into business. He had hoped to put us out of business by undercutting our prices. We dropped ours to just fifteen percent above our costs and he was out of business in less than five months. We didn’t raise our prices until the winter and even then it was only five percent rather than the nearly fifty percent Mr. Evans had always imposed. We also gave people fair price for any furs they brought in to trade, even during the winter since we could store them and then ship them in large quantity to a railhead some two hundred miles away to be taken by train back East where furs such as beaver and fox were still commanding goodly prices. We weren’t out to gouge as much out of folk as we could, we wanted to make a profit but if our prices were so high that we caused everyone to lose their homes and move on then where would we be?
The railroad came along in 1867, passing by us as it continued West. As I had been telling everyone who would listen, the railhead was some five miles away from our town. Tyrone and I had obtained quite a few acres of land about a mile out from the rails and somehow the town just drifted in that general direction until everything was over there and all that was left here were some old buildings which were slowly returning to the dust from which they had originally sprung.
Our deal with the railroad had our Fargo business pretty busy by the time my Tyrone died. He had reached nearly seventy and had been a ball-a-fire right up to the last. He would have wanted it that way, he never could stand just sitting around. Said it was a waste of time while there were monsters to slay. I never knew exactly what to make of that but it was one of his favorite sayings. Over time we had obtained a second large farm, three houses, one of which was here at the farm and one off in Grantsville some fifty miles away. The Fargo was up and running in nearly twenty different towns and we held stock in four different railroads, seventeen bank branches, twenty five general stores and we were partners in two warehouse ventures plus six combine storage facilities. We even had a mill where we could grind our own flour and right next door was our large bakery which made just about every kind of baked goods you could imagine. We even brought in fruits from all over via the trains so we could make pies and fritters and other things. Got to the point where we were doing so much that the railroad, with a little gentle insistence on our part, finally put in a siding right up next to our bakery so’s they could sidetrack the more’n ten carloads of fruit and produce we received every couple of weeks. We also loaded the cars with grains, furs and beef which were then shipped back to the cities for sale. Someone discovered that slowly releasing carbon dioxide through a pipework in the cars could cause some cooling of those goods held withing which helped to prevent spoilage. We had a plant made which let us capture compressed CO2 for that purpose so we could keep everything fresh while stored and shipping on the train cars.
It wasn’t too much longer before I was getting to be a bit tired myself. I was getting on a bit and missed my daughter and wanted to see her children again so I moved back to the old farm to be with her and her husband. I took most of our clothing and those rifle guns and the one remaining revolver back with me. The other had been lost when Tyrone died. No one could recall having seen it anywhere. For the next few years I had the time to just sit in the study where I gazed upon that old painting Tyrone had some young man paint of the two of us. I still had my wedding dress and most of the clothing which was up in the trunks in the attic. They had been carefully preserved along with all my under things and the shoes which matched the dress. I guess I msut have fallen asleep for a bit since I had this wonderful dream of my Tyrone and how much in love we both had been. As I woke, he held out his hand and I accepted it before we walked out to watch the sun setting in the West. It had been a perfect harvest as usual and Halloween was coming on. I needed to make some pies for when we had our relatives and friends over for the Holiday.
¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤
“So you wish to report two missing persons rather than just one?”
“The first went missing yesterday. That was Tyrone Grant. I saw my brother Jack only a couple of hours ago and when I returned he was gone as well.”
“Perhaps he went out to look for this Mr. Grant.”
“He wouldn’t have done that. At least not until I came back to help him. Besides, his car is still here as is Tyrone’s.”
“Do you suspect foul play?”
“I don’t know. It’s just all so strange. Please, this isn’t a joke. Try to find them.”
“We will. Thank you for the report and I’ll have a case number sent to the address you gave to me.”
Caprice sat down looking at the painting on the mantle. Something had changed but it was subtle. She finally pulled up the images she had on her cell phone and compared those poor details shown behind her brother with that of the painting above the mantle. It took a bit before she realized the heads on the people in the painting had turned. Multiple great grandfather Tyrone Grant and multiple great grandmother Jacqueline Holister were now looking at each other rather than at the painter. She took another photo of the painting as a tear dropped from one of her eyes. Then she got up, walked from the room before locking the door then continued to go out of the house, locking the front door before crossing the porch going down to her car in order to return to her own home where she could begin to consider all of this in familiar, and hopefully safe, surroundings.
The night continued to close in and the weather shifted as Winter gave notice that it was on the way.
It was fast becoming a dark and stormy night....
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The Great Plains were a broad expanse of flat land, much of it covered in prairie, steppe and grassland, which lay west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains in both the United States and Canada. This area covered parts of the U.S. states of Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The Canadian portion of the Plains were known as the Prairies.
The term "Great Plains" was used in the United States to describe a sub-section of the even more vast Interior Plains, which covered much of the interior of North America. It also was a reference to a region of human habitation frequently referred to as the “Plains States” with native inhabitants referred to as the "Plains Indians".
In Canada the term was little used, the term “prairie” was more commonly used in Canada, and the region was known as the “Prairie Provinces” or simply "the Prairies."
Traveling from the East as one approached the prairie they would first come aware of an immense plain consisting of tall grasses. The ‘tall grass prairie’ eventually passed to a region where both the tall and the short grasses were present in varying degrees. This portion of the prairie encompassed about half the total area which had an area of approximately 1,300,000 km2 (500,000 sq miles). The entire region was about 500 miles (800 km) East to West and 2,000 miles (3,200 km) North to South.
Of the two, short grass or tall grass, tall grass claimed the larger area. Grazing and farming depended to a great extent upon the ground and the nature of the grasses present. The Great Plains were eventually to succumb to the settlers who hunted the native animal specie to extinction and plowed the grasses under in order to establish either crop or grazing land for specific uses as they desired. Perhaps half of those native grasses, which supported many forms of life such as the North American Bison which were hunted to near extinction by the mid to late 1800's, had been plowed under by the end of the nineteenth century. It was not much longer, perhaps barely into the twentieth century (1900s) before most if not all of those native grasses had been plowed under to make way for Man’s own use of the land.
The term "Great Plains", for the region west of about the 96th meridian and east of the Rocky Mountains, was not generally used before the early 20th century. Prior to that time the region was almost invariably called the High Plains, in contrast to the lower Prairie Plains of the Midwestern states. Today the term "High Plains" is used for a subregion of the Great Plains.
It is assumed that during the Cretaceous Period (145-65 million years ago), the Great Plains were covered by a shallow inland sea called the Western Interior Seaway. However, during the Late Cretaceous to the Paleocene (65-55 million years ago), the seaway had begun to recede, leaving behind thick marine deposits and a relatively flat terrain the seaway had once occupied.
Paleontological finds in the plains have yielded bones of woolly mammoths, saber toothed tigers and other ancient animals, as well as dozens of other large animals of over 100 lb (45 kg) — such as the giant sloths, some horses, mastodons, and the American lion. These animals dominated the area of the ancient Great Plains for ‘millions of years.’ The vast majority of these animals went extinct in North America around 13,000 years ago during the ‘end of the Pleistocene Period.’
In general, the Great Plains had and still have a wide variety of weather throughout the year, with very cold winters and very hot summers. Wind speeds were often high. The prairies supported abundant wildlife in undisturbed settings. By the end of the 1800s Humans had converted most of the prairies for agricultural purposes or pastures.
The first Americans (Indians) who arrived in the Great Plains were successive indigenous cultures who were known to have inhabited the Great Plains for thousands of years perhaps even so many as 10,000 years. Some of those tribes have tales which were handed down verbally at the time of others who were present and who ‘communicated with the Gods.’ Was that a recipe for alien communication? If so, where did they and their descendants go? Were they eventually rescued? They would have been birthed as humans even if educated as aliens. Those descendants couldn’t ‘take off their skins’ to become aliens again so were they assimilated into the tribes which crossed into the Americas or??? Of those ‘others’ there has been precious little or no trace today. Most of those who were known to have inhabited the plains entered the North American continent in waves of migration, mostly over Beringia, the Bering Straits land bridge.
Historically the later Great Plains were the range of the bison and of the culture of the Plains Indians, whose tribes included the Blackfoot, Crow, Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, and others. Eastern portions of the Great Plains were inhabited by tribes who lived in semipermanent villages of earth lodges, such as the Arikara, Mandan, Pawnee and Wichita.
With the arrival of Francisco Vá¡zquez de Coronado, a Spanish conquistador, the first recorded history of encounter between Europeans and Native Americans in the Great Plains occurred in Texas, Kansas and Nebraska from 1540-1542. In that same time period, Hernando de Soto crossed a west-northwest direction in what is now Oklahoma and Texas. Today this is known as the De Soto Trail. The Spanish thought the Great Plains were the location of the mythological Quivira and Cábola, a place said to be rich in gold.
Over the next one hundred years, founding of the fur trade brought thousands of ethnic Europeans into the Great Plains. Fur trappers from France, Spain, Britain, Russia and the young United States made their way across much of the region, making regular stops at settlements of Native Americans and other fur traders, most especially at the yearly “rendezvous” so named for the French traders and some families which participated in it each year. After the United States acquired the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and conducted the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804-1806, more information about the Plains became available and various pioneers entered those areas. Manuel Lisa, based in St. Louis, established a major fur trading site at Fort Lisa on the Missouri River in Nebraska. Fur trading posts were often the basis of later settlements. Through the 19th century, more European Americans and Europeans migrated to the Great Plains as part of a vast westward expansion of population. New settlements became dotted across the Great Plains as the land was “tamed”.
(information leading to the setting of this story copyright wikipedia and my few history books)
Tale 17 of the "I remember Tomorrow" Anthology.
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The Painting Over The Fireplace - copyright © 2011 by D. A. Trask
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I gave up trying to figure a way to re-post this without placing it on the front page again. The shortened version was posted October fifteenth, 2011 and although early, traded upon the Halloween mood which was just beginning to build. It was not entered into the Halloween story contest.
A bit of a paradox going on here.
Submitted by WebDeb on Sat, 2011/10/15 - 4:06pm.
Without giving too much away. He sort of became his own ancestor. Without his "Great something Grandmother" he would not have existed. Somehow he contributed to his own birth 150+ years later. Perhaps he landed in a parallel dimension or this gives a hint of reincarnation?
Anyway excuse my curious mind. Congratulations on a most entertaining debut story. Out of curiosity, did you intend this to be entered in the story comp? Although it was set pre-halloween I think it could qualify and be a worthy entry.
Submitted by WinterWolf on Sat, 2011/10/15 - 4:07pm.
Submitted by Maggie_Finson on Sat, 2011/10/15 - 4:59pm.
Weird and that's appropriate to the season.
This has a lot more going on than has been shown so far, I can see that.
painting over the fireplace.
Submitted by Anesidoras_Urn on Sat, 2011/10/15 - 7:17pm.
Yes, the story was intended to follow the 'beat of a different drummer'.
So many Halloween stories follow the ghoul, goblin and ghost patterns that it is difficult to come up with something new. This story was written to make use of the concept that the veil is drastically thinned during this time of year and as such many things can happen which otherwise would not.
It isn't necessary that those 'things' be malicious nor that they be something which is detrimental to the human condition, therefore, this story. It hopefully has sufficient mystery in it although I could have written a great deal more, embellishing upon that which I did present but I wanted something short and to the point since I am working on no less than six MUCH longer stories which I hope to be able to begin presenting around the turn of the year.
Thank you for your kind comments.
Submitted by Eric on Sun, 2011/10/16 - 6:08am.
...a very quiet story, and as you said, something a bit different. Interesting scene-setting at the beginning.
Did I miss something, or are the four old guns in the desk and bookcase just there to flout Chekhov's Law? They don't seem like a clue to the time shift since it's still the male Jack who discovers them, even though he hasn't seen them before.
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