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Most of you reading this right now know I don't claim to be a newspaper reporter.
I just like to share a few childhood memories the way I remember them.
For me, the exact dates that stuff happened is as hard to recall as an incumbent's voting record in Washington, D.C.
Talk about being in the right time at the right place, we had been reading “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” about the Headless Horseman who roamed the New England countryside.
You know, that fella wasn’t alone in his quest for a good night’s rest and his missing head.
It happened close to home, too.
Now this isn’t some farfetched ghost story. It’s the truth as close as I know it to be.
It seems there was an honest-to-goodness incident of a Lancaster County man whose head was removed without permission.
Come to think about it, I really doubt if anyone would approve of having their head removed.
For me, it started on one of those Wednesday afternoons in Uncle Harry’s law office overlooking the Corner Drug Store on Main Street.
Now, it’s a given that young boys have a built-in affinity to ramble and, boy, I sure did exercise mine.
In Uncle Harry's spare office was a big wooden cabinet that was supposed to stay closed. Notice I said, “supposed.”
I figured it wouldn’t hurt to peek inside to see what was there. I carefully pulled the door open. Goodness gracious, sakes alive!
Bless Pete, I was eyeball to eyeball with a skull. Sitting there on a shelf was a real bone-head skull. This wasn’t a Halloween decoration from times past left there to frighten a nosy boy.
I was scared, but after looking around to make sure I wasn’t gonna get caught, I reached in there and picked it up.
The left side of the skull was missing.
I made a beeline for Uncle Harry’s office where he was discussing legal business with a client and interrupted their conversation, which was a no-no. For the most part, you didn’t speak to an adult until they said something to you.
But I couldn’t help it. I mean, Uncle Harry had a skull in his office.
I was told to come back later to discuss it, but my reaction sort of got them off the subject at hand. I heard them talking about the skull, but it was in low, hushed tones and I couldn’t make out what they were saying.
The client finally left and I had Uncle Harry and the skull all to myself.
Well, it seems that some years earlier, Uncle Harry defended a fella accused of murder in the shooting death of a neighbor.
Now, Uncle Harry never mentioned any names. I doubt if they would have meant very much to me, anyway.
I was excited that day, regardless of when the murder occurred.
Uncle Harry, a defense lawyer, always said that the most reliable witness was the eyewitness.
Seems that several men swore and declared that the man accused of the crime was standing on the right side of the man who got shot.
Hot weather apparently required the victim to be buried before all the jury deliberations were finished.
“It was unusual, but I talked the judge into digging up the body up and placing the head in evidence,” Uncle Harry said.
It must’ve been a very long trial so they just removed the head from the rest of the body, I thought.
I was hanging on his every word.
Uncle Harry said the skull was absolute proof the defendant he was representing couldn’t have shot the victim from where he was standing.
Between the skull and the sworn, eyewitness testimony, Uncle Harry’s client was found not guilty.
This was real-life courtroom drama stuff, not the kind you see at the picture show or hear on the radio.
“The head ended up with me,” Uncle Harry said. “I never got around to returning it to it’s body.”
Oh, well, nobody complained, I thought.
Uncle Harry died in 1945, after a long illness. We had to remove everything from his office.
His law books were passed on to several young lawyers, but Uncle Harry’s little statehouse desk and the skull were given to me.
That skull was placed on the desk and remained there until my folks moved to Bell Town.
That’s when Mama put her foot down about that skull.
“It is not going in my new house,” she said. “Put it out in the seed house or somewhere else.”
Knowing this was an argument I couldn’t win, I did what she told me to.
But this isn’t the end of the story.
Of course, I was away in the military and missed the excitement the skull caused.
Now, a seed house is constructed so air can pass through its walls.
One Halloween night, Mama and Daddy swore they could see a light coming from inside the seed house, which wasn’t wired for electricity.
And Mama was never one to exaggerate.
This happened for several years until one Halloween night when they were out of town. Daddy said somebody or something pried open the door and made off with some old books and of course, the skull.
I didn’t give it much thought until some years later.
One day, in a passing conversation, about this very time of year, the Bennett brothers – Mr. Jim and Mr. Claude – who lived up on the main highway and Mr. Elmer Bennett, who lived nearby, told me how things changed after Mama and Daddy became their new neighbors.
“Son, we ain’t really never said anything about this to anybody other than your pa, but right after they moved out here, for several years, things got a little spooky at Halloween,” Jim said. “The dogs would start barking for no reason and the cows got all stirred up, too.”
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear you could hear somebody running through the cornfield, causing all this ruckus,” Claude said.
“I told your daddy, things settled down right after that skull got stole,” Elmer said.
You know, I’ve always wondered if the fella it belonged to came and got what was rightfully his.
To this day, I don’t have a clue where that skull ended up.
But if you have it on a shelf in your seed house and see any strange lights and hear a bunch of barking dogs and rustling cornstalks next Sunday night, I’d be careful.
Somebody might still be looking for it.