From Magic City Morning Star

M Stevens-David
By Martha Stevens-David
Apr 3, 2014 - 5:22:13 AM

I'll never forget the time our cousin Leroy came for a visit. We considered him a "city" kid because he lived three miles closer to town than we did. Leroy really wasn't all that popular with us because he liked to brag so damn much.

If my older brothers, Walt and Jake, told him about a big fish that they'd caught or about a big buck they'd seen, well, old Leroy had a tale that easily topped their stories. We only tolerated Leroy because he was our cousin and mother warned us that if we picked a fight with him, when he came with his mother for a visit, well, you get the picture.

On this particular day, Leroy and his mother had dropped by early in the morning. The summer's day was warm and sunny and it wasn't too long before mother "suggested" that we go outside and find something to do with ourselves. While our mothers settled down to exchange gossip about whose husband had been the worst lately, we meandered outdoors to decide what would be the easiest way to get ourselves into trouble.

We threw ourselves down on the grass in the front yard for a while and argued back and forth about what we should do. Leroy and Walt, being the oldest, wanted some one to go back inside and steal some of mother's cigarettes so they could smoke. Jake voted to go out back of the house and read some of the "girlie" magazines they'd stolen from Uncle Hal's toilet. We talked about going down to the Bangor and Aroostook railroad crossing and find some snakes to put across the tracks. The boys liked to catch the grass snakes and lay them across the tracks with a big rock on their heads and tails and wait for a train to come. That was all right with me because I was afraid of snakes and the more they killed, the happier I was.

Another idea was, that we should go down to Aunt Cassie's swamp and catch some frogs so that Jake and Leroy could have a good mess of frog's legs. Or we could go up to Uncle Hal's sprayer hole and try to sink his raft. Ideas passed back and forth with rejection after rejection.

Suddenly, Leroy jumped up and yelled, "I've got it!" We all looked at him knowin full well that a dim bulb doesn't give off a great light. He prefaced his big announcement with an insult, "Don't you dummies get it? Don't you see old Beaulier's barn over there?" We nodded our heads in unison. Big deal, it had been there all our lives. "Don't you get it, you fools?" He yelled. "We'll crawl through the grass till we get to his barn. Then we'll sneak inside and play in the haymow. I can see old Beaulier cultivating his potatoes down over the hill. No one will ever see us." With that announcement, he craned his neck towards the house, but our Mother and his Mother were sitting at the kitchen table, sharing all the old and new, news since they'd last laid eyes on each other.

We all hesitates and looked at each other. Dad had already warned us that if we went near Mr. Beguiler's property again, we'd be in big trouble. We had already caused Mr. Beaulier so much grief in the past what with pulling up his potatoes, picking his apples and riding his horses. Dad knew that sooner or later Mr. beaulier would reach the end of his patience with us.

Warnings be damned, it was just too much to resist. It was decided that Walt and Leroy would go first, then the rest of us would follow. It seemed like such an exciting adventure. Walt and Leroy would slither through the grass on their bellies until they'd reached a certain point and then motion for the rest of us to follow.

Walt and Leroy got up and sauntered across the dirt road like they were going to pick some of Mr. Beaulier's apples and as soon as they felt confident that our mothers hadn't seen them, they dropped out of sight into the tall grass. As soon as they were out of sight, the rest of us got up and followed. We held our breaths, waiting for the inevitable yell from the front porch asking us just where the hell we thought we were going? But it never came. We crawled on our hands and knees across the overgrown pasture and through the apple orchard until we reached the barn.

Leroy reached up and opened the back door and stuck his head through the door. He listened for a few seconds and then he disappeared inside. Then, he opened the door a little and with a wave of his arm, motioned for us to follow. Since the barn was located across the road from his house, we weren't too scared that Mrs. Beaulier would notice any strange sounds coming from her barn.

In the middle of the barn floor was a huge pile of hay. Leroy let out a wild whoop and threw himself head first into the pile. The neatly piled hay flew in all directions and Leroy thrashed around happily. We all joined in and suddenly Mr. Beaulier's neat pile of hay wasn't neat and it certainly wasn't a pile anymore either. After a few minutes of this, the novelty began to wear off and we looked around to see what else there was to do.

Walt looked up and hanging directly above our heads from the center of the barn roof was a huge strand of rope with a knot in the end of it. In the fall, Mr. Beaulier used this rope to lift the bales of hay from the barn floor up to the rafters on the second floor where it was stored for the winter.

Walt pointed to the hanging rope and said, "Lets climb up into the haymow and put a stick in the end of that rope and make ourselves a swing." We all agreed that, that was a good idea. The rope was attached just right in the center of the barn so that it would swing from one side beam of the barn to the other and give a nice, long ride.

Leroy and Walt pushed and shoved each other in their haste to be the first up the ladder to try out the "swing." Since Leroy was a few pounds heavier and since he threatened to "pound the piss" out of Walt if he didn't let him go first, Walt reluctantly gave in.

Leroy told Jake to stay down below and swing the rope back and forth so that he could catch it. As Jake swung the rope back and forth, Leroy reached out from his perch on the side beam of the barn and grabbed hold of the rope. He pulled it up and then cat-walked along the edge of the beam until he reached the end. Then, he grabbed the end of the rope and slipped a piece of wood through the knot. He then swung his legs over the stick and sat down.

He bounced up and down a couple of times to test the knot and then Leroy turned around and yelled to Walt. "Ok Walt, let her rip! Let's see how far this sucker will go!"  Well, it was then that Leroy made a fatal mistake. He'd forgotten that Walt was still smarting from losing the initial ride. Walt climbed up on the beam behind Leroy, grabbed him by the shoulders and gave him the biggest push he could muster.

Leroy sailed off into the wild blue yonder like a rocket taking off for the moon. He kicked his legs up and down and let out a yell of pure delight. About three-quarters of the way across, the swing turned around and Leroy waved to us with a foolish grin on his face. The next thing we knew, Leroy's head connected with the beam on the other side of the barn. The back of his head made a dull "thwacking" sound and the grin on Leroy's face disappeared like the sun sliding below the horizon. Suddenly, Leroy was traveling in an entirely different direction, straight down! He hit the pile of hay in the center of the barn floor and with a loud swishing sound; old Leroy disappeared from view.

When Walt and Jake, in particular, stopped laughing, they wiped the tears out of their eyes and Walt said that we'd better go down and dig old Leroy out. We scrambled down the ladder and waited for the chaff to settle and then we proceeded to pull Leroy out of the hay.

Leroy was out cold! He never knew what hit him. Walt looked Leroy over and decided that there wasn't anything broken but we weren't too sure about his head. When Walt turned him over, we saw a huge bluish colored lump, the size of a hen's egg, on the back of his skull. Well, Walt reasoned, Leroy was always a little foolish anyway so, if we'd jumbled up his brains a little bit more, it wouldn't be too noticeable.

Leroy was unconscious for more than an hour and when we finally drug him home, we didn't know what to tell our mothers. So we lied and said that Leroy had tripped over a rock and hit his head. It sounded good enough and old Leroy didn't remember the true story anyway.

A few days later, we noticed Dad talking to Mr. Beaulier by the side of the road and when Dad came back into the house, Mother asked him what Mr. Beaulier had to say. Dad replied that he had said something quite peculiar. He said that Mr. Beaulier had spent several days moving a pile of hay into the center of his barn. He'd arranged it so that he'd have room to store his tractor inside instead of leaving it out in the rain. But when he'd gone into the barn later the next day, the whole pile of hay had moved back to where it was in the beginning, spread all over to hell and gone.

With that statement, Dad looked around the kitchen at each of us. We sheepishly looked at the floor and quickly deserted the kitchen. As we went out the door, we heard Dad say, "Mr. Beaulier is a little superstitious. He thinks some kind of ghost or spirit is up to no good at his place."

Mother looked over at Dad and replied, "Off hand, I can think of at least five or six spirits, without trying too hard either, who might have had something to do with it."

Martha Stevens-David

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