At first, we didn’t even know they were there. Little things started happening in our idyllic, semi-rural community of farmettes. First it was Old Lady Capshaw down the lane – accusing the kids of stealing her apple pies or reading glasses off her front porch. We didn’t pay it much mind then – she’s 92 and her memory isn’t what it used to be. Chalked it up to her misplacing the glasses or not actually baking the pie. After it kept happening over months, we questioned all the kids – ranging in age from 5-17, across all 7 farmettes – and they all denied stealing anything. Had no reason to doubt them, they loved their old granny Capshaw, wouldn’t’ve done anything to cause her distress on purpose.
Other things started to go missing, and not just off front porches. Hens didn’t seem to be laying as many eggs over the summer, and small items missing from the clothesline. A hammer taken out of Horace Johnson’s tool shed and little Charley Harris’s jr Big Wheel. We were all trying desperately to be neighborly and not blame one another, but it was obvious a thief was in our midst. We’d smile at our neighbors on the street but cast an eye of suspicion after they passed.
They got bolder in the fall – parts being taken out of tractors, locks broken, bags of grain missing from silos, an entire hog taken right out of her pen on the Henderson farmette! And on around Halloween, Charley’s big brother Jimmy was out in the pumpkin patch to collect future jack-o-lanterns one evening and heard a rustling in the corn nearby, then claimed to have seen a shadowy figure running away with a sackful of corn. He used it to scare the little ones, so we only half believed them, until other strange things started happening.
First Jenny Larson, who was 12 years old and never told a lie in her life, said she saw three dark figures near the Johnson barn when she was walking home from the Sadie Hawkins dance at the Junior High, which lent credence to Jimmy’s story. She turned away to ask if her friend Hannah had seem them and then they were gone, but she swears she saw ‘em. Old Man Jones was fishing out by the Snyder Pond - which is way out on the periphery of the community – and says he found a small lean-to under a big boulder with four little bedrolls and a bunch of other stuff, but when he brought some of the other men to scout it out, it was gone. And strangest of all were the...mobiles? talismans?...that started showing up all over the place, in trees, under porches, inside milkboxes and barns – small, crudely-fashioned figures of animals and people whittled from wood or woven from reeds and cornhusks.
That Thanksgiving was tense as we all gathered in our houses, gathered for meetings, took turns walking the parameter keeping watch for any weird activity – and weird activity we did see, but always at dusk, always on the periphery, always out of the corner of our eyes. We tried to keep a watchful eye, but eggs, hens and livestock were still disappearing out from under us, and several folks heard giggles even as they heard quick footsteps taking flight.
As the first snows started to fly, the odd footsteps that led to nowhere started appearing. And early on Christmas morning, young Harvey Weaver and his new wife had gotten up with the chickens to milk the cows and as they headed back to the farmhouse, saw four dark figures leaning up against the fence on the Larson’s north field, watching them. Standing and sitting, lined up against the fence, watching, unmoving, unafraid.
That’s when the kids started disappearing, one by one.
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Day to day thoughts, rants and mental detritus.