The Drums, a haunting
The first snowfall ( I wrote this a couple of years ago.)
I am amazed at how fast children grow up. Last night after Sunday dinner with my family, I watched two of my three son's talking as they visited with me in our livingroom. They are nearly the same height, now. There used to be a much greater variation in their height. My oldest is still the tallest. They all have brown hair and the biggest blue eyes. This weekend my youngest attended his first real high school dance. I never get to see him dressed up. It has been a while since we lived in the old farm house and it has been a long time since we heard the drums. Yes, the drums that echo in the mist of the green covered mountains.
For many years we lived on a 3 acre farm at crest of the Helderberg Mountains. Often we would hear the sound of drums flow down the mountainside from an unknown place. For years I assumed that there must be a camp or a retreat center somewhere in those pine covered hills where a host greets guests to a pow wow and share a fun filled weekend dance festival. My boys used to look for the place where the the sound of the drums came from but, it was never found.
One room in our old farm house was always cold. Old farm houses can seem haunted when you are young. There was a book missing for years, one on haunted houses of all things. And then there was the issue about the staircase. We had a corner staircase that climbed to a landing where the stairs ascended left to the second floor. At the top of the stairs a small window exposed a wonderful view of the mountains by day and a sky full of stars at night. This was the scariest place in the house. My youngest would not go any further without the protection of a bigger brother. A wall lamp lit the hallway at this place and would flicker on and off for no apparent reason. After turning the lamp on I would later find it shut off even when no one else was home but, myself. If I left something on the small table at the top of the stairs it would end up missing. The boys used to joke around claiming the house was haunted and I must say there were a number of incidents that occurred without a logical explaination.
One morning I misplaced my house key and I was running late. I had to leave the door unlocked all day. I rushed home after work and found the door locked. Immediately, I called my eldest son on the cell phone and asked him if he came home and locked the door. He responded, " I went back to college...Just like I said I would."
Then, I called my his brother. He insisted he did not come home either. My youngest was with me and to young to own a key or lock a door. I walked around the outside of the house. I tried every window. The house was securely locked tight. Luck would come at last, I thought. I spotted my keys laying near the house in our gravel driveway. I hurried back to the front door and pushed the key into the lock. I turned left and right. The key did not open the door. My little son began to complain. He was getting anxious and tired. It was starting to get dark. Finally, I broke the pane of the small window next to the front door. I pushed my arm through the missing glass reaching for the door knob turning it left and right. Nothing would open that door. I thought of one more scary thing. ..the eyehook lock at the top of the door. But, that made no sense what so ever. How could the eyehook be locked? Sure enough that was it.The eyehook was in and I removed it and opened the door. I started to look around the house. Every window was locked tight and no exit could be explained. But, how could someone lock the eyehook lock and leave. I called my oldest on the cell phone and began checking the house. Everything was locked tight. I had cut boards to the side of each and every window so no window could be lifted from the outside. If they open it from the inside the wood was put back. If someone locked the eyehook...how did they get out? It was a mystery.
Like the time my son was throwing a ball up and down and catching it while I was trying to talk to him. I yelled, " will you stop doing that !". Defiantly, he threw it up one last time. Strange but, right before our eyes he threw it up and the ball never came down! It vanished right then and there! We found it days later in another room. And there was the night the computer came on really loud all by itself. The song came on so loud it startled me. Not only would someone have to turn the computer on but, go to the saved songs page scroll down and pick a song. If it wasn't a missing wet paint brush, a cell phone, or a book there was something else missing. However, the strangest occurrence was the unexplained sound of the drums.
One day I was raking leaves and a nice looking gentlemen came down the street. He asked if I had ever heard the drums and if I knew where they came from. I told him " Yes, I heard them many times. I think they come from a retreat center somewhere in the hills."
He went on to explain that he has hunted and hiked all through the woods up there and nothing is there he insisted. I told him, " My son's say the same thing. But, I know it is up there somewhere because...well I heard it many times."
He replied," Do you want to know what it really is? I mean a lot of people say...well." and then he said, " I guess I won't say but, a lot of people say it is something else." Then he left.
The first time I heard the drums my youngest was a baby. He was about 1 1/2 years old and I heard it was supposed to snow. He was to young to understand winter the year before so, I was looking foward to the first snow. And it came. I looked out the window and announced that it was snowing to the baby. We threw on our coats and rushed outside. I remember holding him and dancing around in the snow. That is when we heard the drums. The baby asked, "What's dat? " I answered, " Drums."
Before we moved to town, I must have heard the drums at least 20 times. One day in early spring when my son was a bit older, I took him hiking up the mountain behind our house. I should have checked the weather report first but, I forgot. It started to get real cloudy. I told him we should head for home. Just as we reached the top of our property a rumble of thunder boomed over the sky. Droplets of rain began to fall. And then the drums. I remember thinking, " I guess the rain is going to wreck the party at the retreat center as well."
The last summer I lived in the farmhouse I spent a lot of time working. One day I went for a drive and saw a garage sale sign. I thought it to be a bad idea because I did not have a lot of money on hand or in the bank for that matter. I pulled the car into a long drive way and noticed right way they were selling books. I promised I would not spend too much money.The first box of books was a collection of about Native Americans. I found that very interesting. There was a book with original artwork by Native American artist Beatien Yazz. It was a wonderful find. The collection costs way too much but, I felt they were well worth it. Later that week I began reading the books. I found one that told the ancient tale of the drums. The story is that many have claimed to hear a lone drummer drumming before a battle. The sound of the drums is the ghosts of Native Americans who were killed sometime during or after the Revolution. The Hodenessaunee celebrated each year with a snow snake festival on the first snowfall of winter. They also held a celebration dance on the day of the first thunderstorm of spring. So, if you are traveling through the western hills of Upstate New York you may hear the sound of far away drums. They are whispering in the wind an echo of pain and sufferring. It is a haunting sound made to remind us of their long history here. The spirits are demonstrating the Native Americans are not gone. Their drums are still beating like a heart somewhere in the distant air.
I don't live in the farmhouse anymore but, I think of the drums often in the fall. And, I also think about why the computer came on all by itself and why the top of the stairs were so cold. Somehow all of this does not scare me. It makes me have a stronger faith. I feel that I know in my heart that we all are not gone when we die. We are only in another place. It is a place where we will have to account for all we gave and all we took. Let's hope one side out weighs the other.
By Joanne Kathleen Farrell
Author of LIberty for the Lion Shield
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