Of Farms and Ghosts

   The ancient family farm has ghosts.

   Not the silly pop-up-and-boo! ghosts of cartoons, nor the common chain-dragging, moaning ones. 

   The ghosts of the farm are like those old Polaroid photographs, where an image slowly takes blurry form.

   My children can't see them, but they're there.

   I see them when I ride the ATV down the tangled trail to the deep forest that I used to run happily to, where the fallen stone walls still invite delicious invention.

    There, I still see musket-bearing French soldiers gathering berries and storing pelts for the winter. There, I still see brave settlers fending off a fierce Iroquois attack. There, I still see a brave and lonely woodsman hiding from the wrongful law and evil landlords.

    They're all still there, waiting for another young boy to share their adventures.

    And my father's ghost is still at the old farm. My wife can't see it, but he's right there: over by the stand of cedars behind the pond. He's showing me how to find the rabbit trail; how to fashion the wire into a perfect little loop; how to suspend it at just the right height; how to camouflage the perfect snare.

   When I'm brave enough, I go see the other ghost, too. Her.

    I steer the four-wheeler through the barren gravelpit, where the two little astronauts are still courageously exploring, and down the long trail to the barn.

   It's leaning more and more to the east, an old grey building preparing to finally lie down.

   But I can still swing open the large doors I opened every early morning when I had my first job those many years ago. The cows are no longer there; no big, warm beasts shifting restlessly, waiting for feed and milking.

   Cows, I suppose, don't have ghosts.

   Neither does Old Walter. I never see the ancient farmer who hired me, who hobbled painfully through the chores and milking. Old Walter dragged a useless leg behind him for years, and then finally decided to "let the doctors at 'er."

   Ten days he'd be gone, he told his seventy-three year old wife; twelve, at the most.

   Her ghost is still here, although my kids can't see it.

   Mabel's still exactly where I saw her that first Walter-less morning.

    She's still hanging from the old barn's rafter over there; still spinning slowly on the the end of the length of bale rope.



The End

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