By Elizabeth Cooper Mike
From the pen of the late Elizabeth Cooper Mike, Kimball Historical Society member, in her book "The Girl From Stickney Hill, Kimball Prairie, Minnesota" (Reprinted with permission of the author.)
"Gotta-an idea," Jack finally said. He crawled out of bed and stood at the bedroom door, his ear cocked in listening. I could hear nothing. He opened the door. Slowly. Its noisy ancient hinges creaking loudly mingled with the roar of the wind. Could we hear any footsteps, I wondered, even if there were some. Jack slipped out into the dark of the boys' bedroom.
In a few minutes he came back dragging Daddy's old Civil War sword. "Here, I'll protect ya with this!" he said, waving the sword around his head. He pulled a chair up to the closed door, took the sword out of its case, and laid it across his knees and sat there waiting, we knew not for what.
Daddy's Civil War sword belonged to his great-grandfather, John William Cooper, a Union soldier who fought in the War Between the States. I sometimes looked at his picture, an old tin-type photograph of him in his uniform, which Muddy kept in an old box of pictures. He had a full black beard reaching down to his chest and heavy hair beneath his Union cap, which I knew meant he was on our side. We didn't know much about him, but we had his sword and were proud that he fought on the side of Abraham Lincoln and the slaves. The back of the picture said he lived to be 90 years old, but he looked very young in the picture.
The sword always hung on a nail in the stairway and we frequently played war with it. It had been handed down for many generations. Its blade was blunt and nicked and very dull and of not much value in a real fight, but that night we felt protected.
We heard a car pull into the driveway. It was quiet outside now. The wind had died down. It sounded like our car, but I couldn't be sure, so we sat with the sword, the flickering light, and covers up to our chins until the folks pushed open the bedroom door.
"What the heck!" Daddy said. "What's going on?" He picked up the sword. "What are you doing with John William's sword?" He slid it back in its case and stood looking down at us.
Muddy said, "What on earth are you kids doing up here, all in the same bed?"
And we told them, talking over each other about the wind and the noises and the back door and especially the footsteps and how scared we were.
Jack said, "I wasn't scared one bit, I had the sword."
So I had to add, "I wasn't too scared. I hooked the back door and I thought to get the matches."
Daddy started to laugh and couldn't stop. Muddy had a big smile and said, "If you kids had been in bed asleep where you should have been and not up making candy, you wouldn't have heard any noises. Didn't you remember it's Halloween and the ghosts and goblins are out?"
Daddy couldn't stop laughing as they led us outside and pointed to the corncrib out by the barn. The clouds had swept the sky clean and there in the starry night and bright moonlight, we could see our old double-seated buggy up on the corncrib ready for a phantom team of horses to pull it away to goblin land.
"I suspect the neighbor boys were out for a bit of Halloween fun," Daddy said. "They have been very busy!" We looked around the yard. It looked like a cornfield with shocks of corn set here and there and even on the porch.
"At least they left our outside toilet alone. I saw a lot tipped over on our way home tonight." Daddy laughed some more. He always did like a good joke, I thought, and remembered the times he told us about his Halloween tricks when he was a kid.
"But how could they get a whole buggy up there," Jack asked.
And Daddy asked back, "How do you think?"
I got ahead of Jack with the answer, I said, "They took it apart, carried the pieces up and put it back together again."
"That's right," Daddy said and patted my head. "And tomorrow morning after I talk to their father, the boys will take the buggy down, piece by piece, and put it back together again."
As the folks hurried us up to bed, I thought, the night wasn't so scary anymore. As I snuggled down into bed and closed my eyes, the stars and moonlight through my window seemed really friendly.
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If you weren't there, you missed a great feast at the holiday potluck with Kimball's Historical Society Nov. 17. Some of those specialties are featured in our keepsake cookbook, always available at Knaus Sausage House and at our events.
Own a piece of history - who's on your Christmas list? Shop at home, look at what shaped Kimball and discover the real Kimball beginnings from the Kimball area history book. Or a set of 10 historic notecards, trivet and commemorative coffee cup. Reasonably priced from $7-$10, these gifts keep on giving and are always available at the State Bank of Kimball during regular business hours.
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