by Ron Whitehead
i’ve always loved true tales of the supernatural. i’ve always wandered through old graveyards. there was a time when i would take dates to graveyards, after a dance or a movie. i’ve had many many supernatural experiences. and not all of them were drug inspired. i’ll never forget Daddy telling me this true story. i included it in my book Beaver Dam Rocking Chair Marathon: Fragments of a Lost Text & The Bone Man Saga (Books I & II):
Just before ten P.M. Sunday night Bone’s Dad walks over and stands beside his son. Bone’s Dad the Coal Miner. His Dad the Farmer. His dad the Storyteller.
I’m goin to the house. I’ve got to go to work in the mornin.
Without blinking he went on.
Tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you five dollars an hour for every hour you last from right now on.
After a short pause
I was standin over there watchin this mess just now and remembered somethin I’d like to tell you. I’ve never told this to anyone other than your Mother.
His voice had a serious almost ominous tone.
According to the results of Amos Peabody’s Standardized International I.Q. and Aptitude Test, Bone’s Dad qualifies as a mechanical genius. Without formal training (he didn’t finish 10th grade) he could assemble and disassemble and reassemble the world’s largest earth-stripping machine, 70 stories high with several million parts and pieces. This he could do singlehanded. Besides being a surgeon he was an operator. He manipulated the monster’s controls with such deftness that, though the stripping bucket could hold and lift several full railroad cars, he could maneuver it down down down and pick up a marble sized stone and not stir dust. He could turn the machine and walk it hundreds of yards on its gigantic duck feet and drop the marble stone into a crystal wine goblet a child held 133 feet below and never crack the goblet. He was a gifted individual.
Bone’s Dad could also repeat, without stopping, thousands of jokes that, due to his shy yet animated storytelling ability, made Bone laugh for days, made him laugh until he cried. But
His Dad was straight as the tobacco rows he planted. He never told a lie, or fabricated a story, so on this warm summer night, when he said
I want to tell you somethin I’ve never told anyone but your mother
without stopping the rocker, with Eve on a chair by his side, Bone sat up to listen hard.
I was born durin the Great Depression. I have many memories about people I knew as a boy. Times, as they were called, were hard, but the man I’m tellin about was a portly gentleman who lived on Rough River. His humble dwellin consisted of two rooms, on a hill, overlookin the river. He was married to a silent little woman who worshipped him. They had no children. His wife was never seen unless he called for her or gave her an order which she obeyed without question.
Day and night he roamed the hills. If anythin was stolen he got the blame, but he paid no mind. He strutted around like a millionaire.
He had a deep impressive voice. He was always optimistic. Had he lived another time he might have been a success. To hear him tell it his fox hounds were always the best. His horse was the fastest and the best at pullin a heavy load.
There was always a boat tied on his side of the river. But he was smart. If he was accused of stealin a boat that showed up tied to his dock he said he had caught it driftin downstream. And maybe he had.
One day he found a nest of duck eggs on the river bank. He put them in his hat and took them home. His wife was sick in bed. He told her since she was goin to have to stay in bed for a while he would put the eggs in bed with her and she could hatch them. She didn’t say a word.
His wife would shine his cracked and worn shoes and iron his shirt so he looked his best. He had straight hair slicked down tight and he bounced when he walked.
He loved to shoot pool. He would saddle his sorrel mare and ride to town Saturdays and stay til midnight. Sometimes the boys turned his horse loose. She would go on home and he would have to walk.
If things got rough enough he ran moonshine whiskey but the thing I remember most about him happened years later.
The phone rang late one cold winter night. Your mother answered it. She said it was for me. She handed the phone to me. It was Happy. He said he remembered when I was a boy. He said he wanted someone to talk to. He said he had been sick and had already died and gone to a place he thought I might call Heaven but he had permission to return and talk to someone about his life and what it was like since he had passed over. For two hours we talked about the other side about the angels and about some people we knew that he had met again.
The next mornin before work I drove to town and asked if anyone had heard from Happy.
His body had been found the day before by Spadge Tooley. Happy apparently had been dead for three days. He died alone in his little two room home overlookin Rough River.
Why did Happy call you instead of someone else Bone asked.
I’ve wondered that for years.
Neither Bone nor his Dad said anything for a long minute.
I’ve got to get goin now. It’s late.
Bone’s Dad had pulled back into himself. He rarely revealed any deep personal emotional stuff. He struggled and suffered keeping those feelings and stories buried.
It was time for Bone’s five minute break.
I’d like to talk about this again sometime Bone said.
Bone turned when his Dad didn’t respond.
He was gone.