The Horse's Grave
Did I go in at night?
And what DID happen to ...all of this.
It all came tumbling down. First some ... (high school age) “children” from the Academy “broke in” through the front porch and a front window to begin having high school style séances in this haunted house. They sat in a circle on the chairs and the floor of the front parlor. They drank beer and wine and smoked cigarettes. They did not “pick-up” when they left. I quickly noticed their first visit and watched with horror as it continued and expanded. I was powerless to do anything. I did “latch” the window they used ...but that failed for they, having no need to consider this blockage to be anything other then an isolated calamity, reopened it once they “got in” “again”. The circle of séance grew larger, the expended refuse was pushed into piles and... much to my surprise... no one ever seemed to ever go anywhere else in the house.
After these parties had gotten out of hand they were noticed. Citizens “heard noise” and “saw lighted matches” in the “night” “in there”. The party children were “caught in the act”. As the house was... “abandoned”, initially no one knew what to do or how to be involved for... no one had a history of what to do; what precedent to ...follow to do... “something”. The “town” became involved. The police “went in” (through the window for... everything was locked). IF, as at the time I feared, my ...obvious to me... entry way was noticed... and I doubt it was... nothing was ever done. I was afraid to do anything to conceal it for that would require changing it... and that could be noticed. I left a hole in the wood pile for all to see. No one noticed it. All of this action was verbalized as local public forum so I had no trouble knowing the “latest” status at anytime for ... “everyone” “knew”.
The town, who had no complaints about the property for... its “taxes are paid”... back trailed the ownership through a trust department of a Boston bank and, right along, “some people” “who own it” “came up” “to see” “it”. They did not stay there. They broke the padlock on the side door into the kitchen and went in. They sealed up the front window. They put a new lock on the side door. They left.
Two months later, in the middle of August, they “came back”. It was made public by word of mouth... that they were “going to clean out the house” for the town said it was a “fire danger”. They planned to take the “good things” out themselves but were ...at a loss... to know how to “get rid of” the “rest of the junk you can’t believe how full the barn is”.
I went to my grandmother and... in a panic... told her “everything” My mother was enlightened forthwith after the disclosure with “He’s been in the house”. Aside from the “cute” crawling foundation hole - Horse’s Grave saga... I received no attention (good or bad) for my... accomplishment. It became very obvious to me that both of these parents had already spent quite a bit of time... scheming as to how THEY could “get in”. With my fantastic affirmation as to the extent of the accumulation hidden from view... these two crones met and muttered above my head to decide that a direct overture offering both money and the “clean it out” “now” service would be... “the approach”.
They were not first. Another antique dealer had ALREADY “offered” “on it”. The good fortune of “no one” being “allowed in” merged with my inventory of contents abilities to such a marked degree... that... my grandmother had the insider insight to be able to “offer” “a lot” up front; “thousands”. That, combined with their displaying me as “willing to help you (the owners) move what ever you want out TOO” sealed, with a two thousand dollar local bank check (final balance due after “we” “see and agree” “on it”) “the deal”.
I began to “clean out” the next morning. It took three weeks, from seven until five, each and everyday INCLUDING the “owners” repeatedly driving “loads back” to Boston (I guess). The final money mechanics were completed very briskly that first morning. My grandmother and mother, in that correct order of hierarchy, “bought” “the rest” and this formed a three tier disbursement that I was very strictly informed to follow. The first tier was the “things they (the owners) want” that were to be separated and moved by them, with me helping, to... that was THEIR PROBLEM; a problem that they resolved by loading directly into their station wagon and... driving “back” to where ever they came from... sometimes leaving “someone” or, as things went along... to leaving ME to “work” “in there” “alone”. “Would that bother you?”
The second tier was “our stuff”; the things my grandmother and mother “bought”. These, I was AGAIN carefully informed, were to be moved “along” to “the house”: “Don’t take TOO much at once but be sure to get the (fill in blank with a specific object they denoted to me EACH MORNING when they “visited” “me” “at work”).
The third tier was “the rubbish” “to be thrown out”. Everyone, on the surface, agreed and expostulated about “how much” “trash” “there is”. This was my first full fledged introduction to “what” and “how” “people” “throw out” “stuff”. I was shocked to a panic at first... BUT... with the very delicate management of my grandmother I LEARNED very well a lasting lesson. SHE would blandly, blindly and BRISKLY stand by while... “GREAT STUFF!” was delegated to be “THROWN OUT”. My first unspoken panic did create an interesting account in my behalf. At the first moments of “piling” “junk” I ... as a physical response... handled too personally… a few items in this RAPIDLY growing pile THAT FIRST MORNING. Seeing this, the owner said, that ... for my help... I was “welcome” (a word I remember very concisely) to “anything” I “wanted” as a “pay” for my work. I made a few... TOO FEW... selections and... slumped around in disbelief that... “all that” was “going to be thrown out”.
It was not. Before mid morning one of my grandmother’s “men” suddenly appeared with a truck and backed it up to the pile I was forming by instruction... “back by the barn”. He walked away and returned in ANOTHER TRUCK that he parked at the head of the yard with it’s empty payload poised right beside the screen door on the side of the porch. He opened this door and... filled the truck rapidly with... bag after ... garbage bag... of the “trash” the family was “bagging up” to “go to the dump”. Then, with the truck full, he drove away.
And came back.
I knew that he was gone by far to short a time to have... driven the ten mile round trip to... the dump. But I said nothing. WE loaded the second truck and he pulled out, first pulling the other truck “to be filled” in behind and... drove away again. Before I had brought out “anything else” he was back, parked by the screen door again. At “lunch”; a “half hour” for me and ...how ever long “they” “want” for the owners... I was clarified as to the destination of the rubbish and ..., well...: “The Abbott’s barn” “is empty” and my grandmother “secured it’s use” so... “not to worry”, “don’t say anything”, “we can’t bring it here (my grandmother’s barn) because they can’t find out” and “Just throw out what ever they tell you to”.
“OK” and that’s what I did... for three weeks. DAY after day, truck load after truck load. Because of the “filth”, “the heat”, the grind of the labor... AND the growing disinterest in the “stuff” after they “get what we want” “out”, the hand of “throw it out” waved ever more often then the “I want that” utterance until, eventually ... as we entered the barn, whole days were spent by ...me alone... “throwing out”... what they told me to each day. Usually the woman in charge would wave her hand at a whole REGION of the barn and say something like “get as much of that today as you can”. Then leave ... me there... all alone... until AFTER lunch... when she’d return “to see” “if” I had “found anything”. “We’ve already taken SIX loads to the DUMP” I’d dutifully report to which she’d say something like “WE’RE GETTING THERE!”. Every ...rarely... now and then she’d “want that” but ... it was half hearted and she... tended to let it sit around the end of the barn for days and then, well, I got rid of it.
Room by room, the house was “gone through”, “emptied” and “cleaned”. I did not assist in this last. “Gone through” was put in trash bags on the porch and PROMPTLY removed. Over and over the family expressed “What a fine job!” we were doing with “getting it cleaned out”. “Emptied” required the removal of the “We want that” and the ... “few things” my grandmother “spoke for” to their designated site of departure. The family’s station wagon went “away” more at first then later and... the male who drove this; evidently the head of household... seem to “not like doing this”. SOON it was “several days” between his drives and they were prefixed with “Are you SURE you want that” and “WHERE are we going to PUT IT?”. This was a great assistance and ...many items in a room to be emptied were “offered” to my grandmother “after all”.
“Yes. I’d be interested if it’s not too dear”.
I add another educational tempest my grandmother inflicted on me. It was a tempest because I ... well... didn’t get it ...at first. Once a room had been “emptied” but before it was “cleaned”; a period of less then one day... my grandmother would show up alone while I was working alone... and “make me” go with her to this “empty” room. There, with astounding regularity, I would find myself running up and down the stairs with “more stuff” she “found”. “Throw it on the (trash) pile” would be ARM LOADS of ...stuff that... “was still left”. BACKS of cupboard shelves, “down-in-under” spaces, closet “overheads”, corners behind doors, “On the hooks”, “On the window sill” and... “under that bed”... STILL “had stuff” that... with a knowing eye that TRAINED ME like a fox cub... in this very delicate (and highly profitable) exercise of “MAKING SURE” “EVERYTHING” is “out”; IS TAKEN; every piece of paper... every nail, piece of “what is it” and every.... “even this?”: “YES! Take it. That’s part of the (fill in with an object like [Victorian carved walnut] “what-not shelf”)”. I DID tempest this education and... to this day be sure to get... “all of it” “out”.
Then it was over. Or, more precisely, “empty”. We even “threw out” the “old firewood” in the bin. I, stick by stick, opened the space of my former tunnel until I stood on the dry, bark and wood chip covered floor looking up at the ceiling of the wood shed. I even found some old boxes with printed end boards for “DAVIS’ PAIN KILLER” and “ATWOOD’S BITTERS” buried at the bottom of the pile. “Worthless” then, I later sold them for twenty dollars apiece and now, could triple the money on that easily. “Underneath the barn” I had free range for I was simply instructed to “get out as much as you can”. I did: “It’s empty” including the old mowing machine that I stored in the yard behind my grandmother’s barn until a man bought it and put it in his front yard as “decoration”.
The barn was closed up and locked. The house was closed up and locked. The people left. The house stood still.
I could still get in. I went past The Horse’s Grave to the back of the barn and turned the stick on the board door. I crawled through the hole in the foundation and stood up in the vast expanse of the empty wood bin. The door to the barn was still open. The closed door to the house was not locked. The barn was empty. So was the house. I only went in again for old time’s sake, I guess. I remember standing up on the second barn floor where I had originally heard “a noise”; where the newspapers (now all stored as “MINE” upstairs in my grandmothers barn) had been. I looked out over the vast empty space. There was nothing there anymore. My grandmother had even made me take the “old floor boards” that had lain across an open space. These were “old” too; taken from the front room when it was “done over” “after the Civil War”. “They match the mantel” my grandmother said, referring to a particularly decorative fan carved fireplace mantel that ...did have the same worn blue paint as the ends of the floor boards. It was another ten years before I fundamentally understood how ... well my grandmother understood “old things” she “found in houses”.
The people who owned the house “tried to rent it” I heard. No one would because... it “isn’t modern” meaning... it ... had no lights and toilets that flushed (I took all the little pictures and calendars tacked up to the inside of the outhouse at the back of the ...wood shed). It sat dormant for a couple of years. Then, to everyone’s surprise, one of the family’s children “move in to it” with “his girlfriend” and were going to “fix it up”. As this was the moment of social movement known now as the post- 60’s “back to the land” period of “hippie” going “underground” of the early 1970’s... the community stared as the field around The Horse’s Grave was mowed and the yard of the home “cut down” to expose the front of the house and... not much else. I assume they looked at The Horse’s Grave but they never did anything to it for the clumps of Lilacs remained “untouched” by this “work”. The house was “painted”, a “new roof”, “electrified” and “a kitchen put in”.
Then disaster struck. Apparently they started to “tear out” the old summer kitchen between the main kitchen and the woodshed. Something, in the night, caught fire. The summer kitchen, the woodshed and... the barn... “burned flat” that night. Everyone looked at the “ruins” the next day and commented on how they “saved the house”. After a while the young couple moved out and the house was “rented”.
Then sold to the renters.
They put aluminum siding on the home, tore down the chimneys, filled in the barn foundation and made a large lawn that ...I would see the father of the family upon... riding on a lawn tractor... around and around in a circle. Evidently they did not buy “the field” with The Horse’s Grave. It remains, to this day, an over grown tangle of weeds that, at mid summer, bend over on to the sidewalk on the street. Stopping there on the street... and looking... way off, one may see a clump of Lilacs that, if one knows, is where one still may find frogs... sitting in the shade of... The Horse’s Grave.