Ghost Town Halloween Story
Sarah and John revisit a ghost town, a Carbons Creek on line story
“Do you think we should do a story for Halloween, John?” Sarah asked her husband of six months. Sarah was the publisher of the Carbons Creek Sentinel which she inherited from her murdered Uncle Jake. John Neilson had been the typesetter. After working together for a long time and both devoted to the little crusading newspaper, they found they were devoted to each other as well. Although neither of them grew up in Carbons Creek, they had both grown attached to the small frontier town that they had put so much energy into.
Sarah put down the pen she was using to edit some copy for John to set up. Looking out the window facing across the main street of Carbons Creek she thought about all that happened since she came to settle Uncle Jakes affairs. There wasn’t too much as she was the only heir. She ended up with the paper, a house, horse and buggy and her little dog named Buddy. John set down the type stick he was working with and followed her gaze. “Well,” he said, “a holiday issue usually goes over pretty well. Wouldn’t hurt to have something a bit lighthearted and festive. What do you have in mind?” They’d been married for a few months now but they felt like newlyweds and they were both a bit older than the average getting married in the post-Civil War era.
“Remember last year when I found that ghost town. I don’t think you quite believed me when I told you what happened,” she said.
“I’ll admit that if anyone but you had told me that story of finding a Civil War soldier about to behead you I would have had doubts,” he said.
Sarah smiled. “You didn’t doubt me then?”
“How could I? You’re usually pretty levelheaded, if unpredictable and buddy was there all excited.”
“The weather is nice for a ride just like it was last year. Let’s go back there. I’ll pack a picnic lunch like I did for myself last year. When we get back we have a big stack of newspaper exchanges to go through, to see what’s happening outside of Carbons Creek.”
“Alright, hopefully we won’t run across any more ghosts of the Civil War.”
As it turned out, the weather was much like the previous year and the ride was similar. They found the mildly warm weather relaxing and the chance to be together away from the newspaper office was delightful. Again, farmers and other folks stopped them along the way and offered them the fruits of harvest. Once again, Sarah had the back of her buggy loaded with vegetables, apples and a variety of things that would take some work to put up for the winter later on. It was good to get to know the people on a personal basis as people who share the same locality. Neighbors, as well as readers.
Sarah was still in doubt as to what the old town was doing there. Maybe it didn’t matter. “John, the sky is clouding up. Do you think a storm is coming? It’s such a nice day; I hope a sudden storm doesn’t ruin it for us.” She looked over at Buddy, who seemed to be getting nervous. “Do you think he senses something,” she asked her husband.
“Dogs do sometimes seem to feel things that we don’t.”
A wind increased and rain started falling just before they reached the little abandoned town. Sarah looked at the building where she had fallen down the stairs the previous year. Once again she felt that something odd was there. Buddy moved closer to her and shivered beside her. Sarah flinched as a bolt of lightning hit a tree and a branch fell in their path. “We better find some shelter until this blows over,” John said.
“I remember from last year there was an old stable near the center of town. We can get the horse and buggy out of the rain.”
When they got there, John found that the door was stuck but managed to pry it open and waved Sarah to drive the buggy inside. They both worked at finding something to feed the horse in the produce that the people along the way had given them. While they were wiping down the horse with some rags they heard a whinny of another horse. Sarah was startled by the sound. John took it more calmly. He looked around and saw another horse in one of the stalls. He also saw a man with a gun.
“Wipe the horse down good,” he said. “I might need him. Mines all tuckered out.”
Sarah had gotten over her surprise and had felt in her pocket for the little gun she always kept there. The gun she called “her lady like revolver.” It was actually a two shot short barreled pistol that fit neatly in her hand but had limited range. I reckon we have a stand-off friend. Who are you and why are you in this forsaken town?”
John went for the rifle in the buggy. The stranger shot at him and Sarah shot at the stranger. Nothing happened. The shots were fired but nobody was hurt.
The stranger looked dumbfounded and holstered his gun. “Don’t reckon I ever had a lady draw on me before,” he said. “My name is Jesse James. My friends and I have holed up here fairly often after the war.”
“Jesse James? The bank robber?” John asked.
“One and the same,” the stranger answered.
“I’ll be…,” John went on to explain that they were newspaper people and they would love to write a story about Jesse James. “Was it you and your gang that burned this town out? “
“When we rode with Quantrill we did some things like that, but not this town. Don’t know for sure. Might have been renegades or even Indians, but wasn’t us. “
Sarah and John shared the picnic lunch with the gunman. The storm let up and both the gunman and the newspaper people rode out of the little broken downtown.
The trip back to town was uneventful. “Let’s stop by the office. I can do a quick write up about meeting Jesse James while it’s fresh in my mind,” Sarah said.
“Alright, I’ll start on that stack of newspaper exchanges while you do that.”
“Sarah’s pen fairly flew across the copy paper. She was on her third page when she heard John give out a groan. Oh, oh” he said.
“What is it John?”
John didn’t say a word but threw a paper that took nearly six months to get to them. The headline read
“Notorious outlaw Jesse James shot to death by one of his own gang.
“Do you think we might be in the wrong business?” Sarah said.
Copyright 2012 Don Hoglund
© 2012 Don A. Hoglund