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This story is part fiction and part nonfiction and here is why. Years ago, we lived on a farm that was homesteaded in the 1800's. In the 1970's, an elderly woman and her daughter stopped by one day to reminisce and look around at the elderly woman's childhood home.
Our son, Duane, gave her the tour, and she shared her memories. She pointed out where farm buildings used to be and groves of walnut and apple trees. As her memories flooded back, she pointed to the far side of the pasture toward a row of trees. She told Duane and her daughter about a young brother that was buried there. He fell off the steep barn roof and broke his leg. One end of the bone came out through the skin. In those days, country doctors were a scarcity. Since there wasn't one close by, the family tended the child and hoped for the best. He died of gangrene.
I'm not sure why he was buried on the property, but there might not have been a public cemetery close. Or, maybe the family intended to have their own family cemetery when the first death occurred. The first owners would never have dreamed that a hundred years later the farm would be sold several times to other people that weren't related.
We drive by other family country cemeteries like that in our area. The small burial places are now known as pioneer cemeteries.
The boy's marker had been a wooden one. After it rotted away and the property changed hands, the boy buried under the trees was forgotten. Today I doubt there is anyone left in this area that knows the story. Birth certificates were required or death certificates in the 1800's so nothing was documented about a young boy that died from gangrene.
Since the elderly woman wasn't sure of the grave's exact spot under one of a line of trees, I can't pinpoint where the body was buried. I don't even know the given name of the little boy so I made up the exact location and name.
As for the rest of the story, my husband and I had a large flock of sheep while we lived at that farm which was on a busy highway. One winter, I really did hear strange banging noises at night that seemed to come from the barn. I did grow nervous about going to check the sheep by myself since we discovered a tramp had slept in the hay loft and dropped his lighter.
So there is much of me in the character Ellen Carter except I didn't get a chance to meet Jacob's spirit as Ellen did. My husband, Harold, is the one who solved the mystery about the banging. You will discover the answer at the end of the story.
I do want to thank my son, Duane, for letting me use this childhood picture of him when he was around ten years old. Back in the day when we used film, I forgot to wind the camera to the next number before I took another picture of him. That made the picture double exposed. When I ran across the picture, it made me think of Jacob's spirit standing by the barn. I decided it would make a good book cover.
In 2003, I entered a short story version of Jacob's Spirit in the Arkansas Writer's Conference in the category Grif Stockley Mystery. I was awarded third place.
By writing this story in book form, here is my attempt to keep a little boy's memory alive that I call Jacob.
Synopsis on back of book
Ellen Carter has been hearing banging noise around the barn for months. Her husband, Jack, insists it must be a loose board blowing in the wind, but he hasn't found the board yet to nail down. One evening, he joked that it might be a ghost doing some carpentry in the barn. That suggestion is enough to make Ellen apprehensive when she has to check the sheep at night during lambing time. She knows that Jack is teasing her, but in the middle of one May night, Ellen can't sleep for the banging noises. She got up and looked out a window at the barn. She sees a boy sitting on the ground. He's in pain with a broken leg. By the time Ellen runs outside and around the house, the boy has disappeared. Jack doesn't believe she saw a boy. He says she has been sleepwalking and dreaming. What Ellen thought she saw seemed so real. Was she dreaming or did she really see Jacob's Spirit?
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