My father and mother decided it was best to keep me from being interviewed by Sheriff Walker and telling him what I had witnessed; human bones removed from the ground that were pulverized and burned only to reassemble themselves as a flaming skeleton that rose from the burn barrel and disappeared into the woods. Not only did my account make me seem a little odd and outlandish but it made my father and uncle somewhat culpable- like they knew they were hiding something.
Sheriff Walker, no brute or bully, did not want to press the issue and get a subpoena and have a social worker present, etc. etc. and all of that, but he did bring his second cousin, Jeb Haskell’s bloodhound along with him. He had heard for years about trained sniffer dogs being used to detect cadavers and human remains, but since the practice would not became common in law enforcement for another decade and a half, the mid nineteen seventies, the sheriff would just have to make do with what he had.
Loretta was an eighty-five pound six year old that Jeb bragged could smell a butterfly fart at forty feet (a claim that would never be verified) and would stay on a trail and bay periodically for miles... and miles... and miles. Her nose was so renowned, not only in the county, but in most of East Texas, that the State police had once enlisted Jeb and Loretta to track a couple of convicts, scheduled to be electrocuted in the “Walls Unit” at Huntsville State Prison a couple of years before lethal injection would become the method of execution.
The fact that the prison was in Walker County and the Sheriff’s last name was Walker had nothing to do with an anything... just a coincidence.
It was Sheriff Walker’s understanding that if a sniffer dog is provided a cloth or some other object that has been contaminated with the chemical compounds cadaverine and putrescine, whatever the hell they are, then that is what they will sniff out. The fact that it requires years of training for a dog to be able to isolate those chemical compounds and respond only to that smell did not deter Sheriff Walker. He had great faith in Loretta’s acclaimed proboscis. And besides, he didn’t have any cadaverine or putrescine. What Walker did have, was access to the morgue and to the general store where he bought a new packet of handkerchiefs still wrapped up in fresh plastic and a chilled bottle of Barq’s Root Beer. He was fond of root beer, especially Barq’s. There had been one of those old tin advertising thermometers for the soda tacked to one of the posts that supported his grandfather’s front porch. And anytime Sheriff Walker entered the general store, he would reward himself with a bottle for the road and some candy corn... he enjoyed himself some candy corn and occasionally those big orange marshmallow peanuts too.
He was not an overly ambitious man but the idea of solving a murder, perhaps several murders that were more than half a century old was appealing. It was certainly a legacy that Sheriff Walker would not mind leaving behind. He did not bring a backhoe with him as he had originally threatened but he did bring several men with shovels and picks and wheelbarrows and a search warrant that enabled him to turn over every inch of soil of the Henderson farm.
And the first place that Sheriff Walker and his volunteers went was to the fence-post that now stood in the hole in the ground where Tru and my father disinterred the ragged fragments left over from Juke Jackson’s life. The second place that the Sheriff and his men went was into the woods; navigating the trail that I had witnessed the flaming skeleton scorch into the brush and tips of the tree limbs.
The Young Woman in White and the boy walked ahead of the sheriff and his men though they could not see them.
There is a misconception that ghosts may only be seen at night. I have since learned that that is incorrect. Ghosts are just as easily and as often seen in the day. And for the most part, go unnoticed because they so resemble the living. They just basically look like normal folk unless their clothing makes them stand apart or injuries levied upon them by the circumstances of their death. And some ghosts, even if they were mangled or beheaded or torn apart by a thrashing machine or burned to death, appear as they would have in life before the violence of their destruction. Another myth is that only mediums and “sensitives” are able to see ghost. No, regular folks often see them- just don’t realize that they are the spirits of the dead.
I can’t say that what that boy of eight years old experienced that day was a couple of spooks waving “goodbye” but they both, the Young Woman and the boy who had appeared in the bathtub next to me turned and looked directly at me and raised their hands a bit as they slowly began to acquiesce the day to those who legitimately occupied it. And I can’t really say that as they faded from sight, they led the men to their long lost mortal remains, but the Sheriff and his men discovered them.
It would be discovered that Apolonia Frozard, aka Paulina Frost, possessed a small amount of African American DNA and she would be given the opportunity to resign or be terminated from her position as a teacher at the school on account of not revealing it to the school board when she was hired.
“It is not because of your Negro and Native American ancestry...” Dr. Stanley, the principal would tell Apolonia, “but because you did not reveal it on your application or in your interview before you were hired.”
And that was grounds for dismissal. Lying about one’s race in their resume or in a job application or interview was actually a much more serious act of malfeasance than it is in the current era. It is and was written into many if not all employment agreements.I would never be in contact with Paulina Frost again, although I made an attempt a few years later because of questions I had about my persistent contact with beings in the dimension of the ethereal. Someone said she got married. Somebody claimed she was actually a lesbian and went back to the reservation to live with her lover.
The day my family drove away from the farm that belonged to my Uncle and Aunt, I looked out the rearview mirror, just as we drove past the mailboxes that marked the property line and saw Hector come running out of the brush and into the road to pursue the car. I had to put my hand to my mouth to keep myself from crying out. I felt so much guilt already about my family being forced to move out of the farmhouse that I didn’t want to say anything or cause any more concern especially since it was about my dead dog.
He stopped in the middle of the lane that our car was in, like he couldn’t go any further and I could see that he was barking but could not hear him. There was an old truck on the road behind Hector that either he didn’t see and hear or didn’t care about; because he didn’t move out of the road. I wanted to scream when the truck came directly upon him but I didn’t.
He dissolved before my eyes as the truck rolled over him.
A couple of years later the farmhouse would catch fire and burn to the ground because of an electrical short in the cloth covered, ancient electrical wiring in the attic. A couple of years after that, once my new sister was born and just a little more than a year old, my mother and I would return to visit and introduce my sister to my mother’s family and we would go to the farm and see the ashes.
It had been determined to be a crime scene and was still being excavated here and there, digging the bones and belt buckles and old shoes etc of folks who had gone missing and considered to be dead when Tru Henderson’s great, great grandfather, PT “Hack” Henderson had owned the land. The term serial murderer or serial killer had not been coined as yet, not until the early nineteen seventies but apparently, that’s what “Hack” was.
I looked for the ghost of my faithful buddy Hector, but he was not there.