Friday, October 28, 2016

A Belated Sort of Ghost Story

Compared with the thin-veiled night of October 31, the more flamboyant July 4th doesn’t seem much like a time to expect a haunting. That may be true in normal circumstances, but when you live in Ellis County where you’ve heard stories about the Blue Light Lady roaming rolling hills southwest of Hays, one day is as good as another to encounter disembodied spirits. Our grown daughters still recall the scare of their lives on rise overlooking old Fort Hays.

The little girls’ holiday began with bags of poppers and sulfurous snakes that stained our sidewalk black for months afterwards. After they shrieked at those exploding, powder-filled tissues and lit licorice nib-size buttons that wound into stinky coils, we cooled off at the swimming pool. Later, we cranked ice cream, fried chicken, and baked chocolate cake while my husband patrolled Cedar Bluff. He promised to get home in time to watch Hays’ firework show.

Early July means the sun doesn’t set until after nine, so our sunburned blondes were tired by the time their father came home. Hearing the door open, they wrapped themselves around his legs, hollering, “Fireworks!” He stalled them long enough to grab cold chicken and cake before piling in the car.

Instead of following the highway, my hubs told us he’d drive the back way, south of Ellis. Eventually, he took a dusty country road that eventually overlooked the festivities below our lonely hilltop. A game warden, he’d driven these county roads and knew exactly where we’d have the best view. As neared our destination, a niggling memory inched from the recesses of my mind. I recollected students writing essays about spotting the legendary Blue Light Lady near our targeted parking spot.

Those teenage stories often included realistic encounters with a wandering spirit. Despite suspecting that many such sightings were designed to trigger scared girls to leap into brave boys’ arms, I didn’t want to meet this ghost.

My husband dismissed my concerns with a big grin, and big ears in the back seat begged to watch the show from Blue Light Lady Hill. Apparently, all my loved ones were game to meet a disembodied spirit. I, on the other hand, had encountered a ghost or two and wasn’t eager to hang out with ectoplasm.

We put the car in park just after dusk and lowered windows to catch evening breezes. Immediately, mosquitoes telegraphed every nearby bloodsucking insect, alerting them that dinner had arrived. While smacking buzzing torpedoes, we talked about the nurse who cared for cholera patients at the fort and succumbed to the disease herself. According to the story, she convinced her husband to bury her near the hill where she wandered the prairie every day. All of us were sad to think about her short life, but the irritating drone of invading bugs and the first flashes of early fireworks preoccupied us.

As darkness deepened and exploding diamonds punctuated black skies, my daughters and I stared transfixed at the magic of gunpowder combined with colorful chemicals. Perfectly timing his treachery, our driver cried, “What’s that?”

Our eyes flashed to his corner. Horrified, we spied a monstrous hand covering the windshield. We shrieked like actresses in monster movies. The instigator laughed hysterically. He’d pulled a good one on his gullible girls.

He laid the groundwork by taking us to Blue Light Lady Elizabeth Polly’s old haunt. Then he encouraged our ghost story recollections. In the dark with showers of descending sparkles to distract us, the rascal slipped his long arm out the open window, wrapped it over the glass before him, and scared the peewadlins out of his daughters, wife, and a horde of mosquitoes.

I’m guessing Elizabeth Polly’s ghost laughed heartily at our expense that night. If we’d have quit screaming, we’d have heard her chuckles accompanying sounds of exploding fireworks and droning insects.

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