Monday, November 12, 2012

The Haunted Hanna School, Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana

Previously, Ella Mae Quicksilver and her daughter, Averil Jean, saved Freddie James, a notorious card shark, from a mob lynching in Nocona, Texas. A few nights later Averil saw her star and they headed to Louisiana.

 Early one fall morning, as they drove through the Red River Town of Natchitoches, Louisiana, Averil suddenly awakened and gave her mother instructions to the west side of the town by the river.           
      On a quiet tree-lined street Averil pointed to a large Victorian house with a “rooms for rent” sign. They parked and went to the door, welcomed by a tall, severe gray-haired lady who offered quarters on the second floor. The landlady, Ethel Moore, was the cook at the nearby Hanna School and in need of an assistant, offering the job to Ella Mae.
      Averil Jean was accepted at Hanna in the sixth grade, being placed in Mr. Hennery’s class, who quickly took to the bright, pretty child. The other children welcomed Averil, but kept their distance, sensing her difference, wary of their new classmate .
       All went well for a few weeks, but then Mr. Hennery began keeping Averil after class to bring her up to speed. He was intrigued by the raven haired girl, with the heart-shaped face, high cheekbones and cupid lips.
       One afternoon he closed the door and went to Averil’s seat, taking her hand. Mr. Hennery was medium height, balding with watery eyes and large lips. He stood there looking down at his pupil with a wicked look on his glistening face. Averil fixed the teacher with her green eyes.
        Mr. Hennery felt a tingling as he stared at the girl’s strange countenance, which seemed to emit an amber aura. Then suddenly a blinding beam shot from the girl to him, radiating throughout his body and searing him from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. Mr. Hennery wanted to run, but was rooted. He breathed in and out, gasping. His eyes widened as his lips puckered and he expelled his malevolence into the quiet classroom. He watched the dark cloud float out of the windows into the afternoon quiet.
        Regaining his composure and without a word, Mr. Hennery turned away and left the class room. He was pale and shaking, but he felt a tremendous relief, as if a terrible and heavy load had been lifted from his back. No longer would he need to seek, to keep the girls after class.
       Averil Jean watched Mr. Hennery go. She knew he would no longer trouble the vulnerable children in his class. Quite the opposite, he would offer his hand in sincere help.
       Suddenly she was aware of a presence in the empty classroom and turned to see a woman in white standing in the back. She was quite lovely with blond hair and blue eyes, the belle of the ball fit nicely.
       “You and your mother need to move on to Myrtles. Fix the wrong there, and then bring me justice.” The woman said.
       That night Averil Jean went to her mother and told her it was time to move. Ella Mae never argued, never questioned, and by the end of the week they were on their way to the Myrtles Plantation in Alexandria, Louisiana.
        Of note, Mr. Hennery went on to become Louisiana’s teacher of the year.
        Regrettably, the repeated appearance of a woman in white hovering in the halls at Hanna terrified the children and unnerved the teachers. The Parish was forced to abandon the school.
        Natchitoches has offered attractive terms to the real estate community for the redevelopment of Hanna School. But so far, there are no takers.   

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Nocona Boot Contract, Nocona, Texas

Previously, a stranger visited Ella Mae Quicksilver in Roswell, New Mexico.  Months later Ella Mae gave birth to a green-eyed, six-fingered girl, Averil Jean Quicksilver. One night when Averil was six years old, she pointed to a twinkling night star to the east. “There,” Averil said and Ella Mae knew it was a signal to continue her journey.

After crossing the dry and dusty Texas Panhandle on an early summer evening, Ella Mae sought  refuge in the small town of Nocona, Texas. On Main Street she found a quaint bungalow advertising rooms. She knocked on the door, but no answer. Little Averil had wandered over to the small “Trading Post” next to the house and gone inside. The little girl called out to her mother for help. Ella ran to the shop and was startled to see a thin woman balanced on a stool, a rope around her neck, the end tied to a sturdy beam. Averil was balancing the stool and whispering to the distraught figure.
     “Not now. We have plans for you.” Averil said to the woman as she regained her footing on the stool. Ella Mae helped her down and they went to her bungalow where Ella  made tea and asked for a room.
      In the morning over coffee, Peggy Ann explained she had lost her husband and daughter to the deadly flu. She had proved immune and survived. Peggy had put stock in working at the town's boot factory, but that day Nocona, long famous for making cowboy boots,  had lost a critical new contract. Peggy Ann spiraled into depression, losing her last hope as she was to have a position in the plant. Thus, the rope over the beam in her closed Trading Post, another bitter disappointment.
      Ella Mae thought to move on, but her daughter, Averil, insisted they stay for awhile. There was nothing in the sky Averil Jean told her mother. And besides, she related, there was work to be done in Nocona.
      Days later Freddie James drifted into town on a stormy summer night. He sought refuge in the Misty Times Saloon, where Peggy Ann helped out in the evenings.
      Peggy Ann introduced Freddie to the boys who were playing cards. Freddie joined the game and soon cleaned out the circle. The boys were uncommonly drunk as they were still depressed from the news that the U.S. Army had awarded their new boot contract to a firm in Minnesota. Nocona Boot had been banking on the business to revive the small Texas town.
      It was the mid-1930s and Europe was stirring, so there was a modest effort to upgrade the U.S. Army. Boots were a first step. The loss of the contract hit the town hard and Freddie, a natural card sharp, found the besotted boys easy pickings, which added to their woes. Tempers flared when Freddie pushed back, gathered his stack and announced, “time to go".
      The boys hustled Freddie outside, lassoed him and tied him to the back of a truck that had been bought in anticipation of the boot contract. They planned to drag Freddie to the town line. Peggy Ann ran out and pleaded to let Freddie go.
      Hearing the commotion in the street, Ella Mae and Averil peeked out of their door. As the truck dragged Freddie past them, he tripped in a pothole and fell, hitting his head on the curb. The boys and Peggy Ann looked on in horror as Freddie slowly raised himself.         
       Gathering around Freddie, their faces were flushed and voices slurred, the boys were convinced they were delivering the grifter panhandle justice, seeing themselves as judge and jury.
        Peggy Ann tried again to reason with them, bring with to their senses. But the bad news, the ensuing drink, and Freddie’s sleight of hand fueled their fury. The boys headed back to the truck intending to resume their dragging.  Before Ella Mae could react, Averil slipped out from behind her mother and went quickly to Freddie’s side.
       The drunken men paused and gaped at the little girl with the six digits, a thumb and five fingers, not sure if it was a blessing or a curse. They watched silently as little  Averil bent and undid the chain, freeing Freddie who rubbed his head and blinked at the quiet crowd. Without a word ,but a nod to Averil, Freddie shook off his chains and ran down Main Street, vanishing into the dark.
       Staring angrily at the little girl,  they were startled by her sudden strange glow, and the compelling look in her glittering green eyes struck them mute.           
      “The Good News is coming and you will profit.” Averil said to the boys, and then hid behind her mother.
      The next day a shock. The Army informed Nocona that the boot award to Minnesota had been reversed due to irregularities.  Nocona Boot was given the new contract. Could they produce 500,000 pairs the first year?       
       Peggy Ann was asked by plant management  to undertake public relations and liaison with the U. S. Army. The town was cautiously optimistic, perhaps their luck had turned.
       Ella Mae stayed on, sitting on the porch every night and watching the sky. One evening Averil said she could not sleep and joined her mother.
       “There it is.” Averil said from her mother’s lap. And Ella Mae nodded, seeing the star to the east. Time to go.
        In the Texas Panhandle, folks often make a pilgrimage to Nocona, Texas to visit the Trading Post which stands empty. It is an odd reminder of times gone by and the strange little girl who changed the town’s luck.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The 1927 Roswell Incident, Roswell, New Mexico


Previously, Ella Mae Quicksilver divined in the stars that she should leave Heber-Overgaard, Arizona and go east to Roswell, New Mexico. Ella Mae’s car broke down in Magdalena, New Mexico where Jessie Long befriended her. But Jessie harbored a fearsome presence in the back of his house and Ella Mae quickly resumed her trip.
     Ella Mae arrived in Roswell and her “sense” took her to a small, oddly shaped stucco house for sale on the northwest side of Roswell. There she settled in, avoiding the curious neighbors. In 1927 Roswell was a farming and ranch town, blessed with the Union Pacific railroad and a salubrious climate.
     Small town rumors swirled about Ella Mae, including a scandalous story of the death of her parents in a shootout during a Colorado bank robbery. Stories spread that the newcomer traded at the bank in gold nuggets, supposedly from Arizona's Lost Dutchman Mine.
     On a warm evening Ella Mae was at her kitchen window and glanced out at the dirt road that ran past her white stucco house. To her surprise, a stranger was walking down the road and she expected the man to walk on by. She gasped as the man turned into her gate and headed up her walk. He glanced over at the window and Ella Mae‘s eyes widened as he reminded her of that movie throb, the one with the narrow face, jet black hair and obsidian eyes. Ella Mae had never seen a man so handsome.
     To Ella Mae’s shock the man walked right in the door, pausing to look at her. He was dressed in a white shirt, a chocolate tie and a black suit, reminding her of those evangelicals that go door to door.
     Inexplicably, the stranger moved in to the 2nd bedroom. When Ella Mae asked about his suitcase, he waved her away. Blessed with striking Latin looks, the man spoke in a lilting voice that was almost a song. But he rarely spoke, even when they sat on the porch sipping tea in the cool evening.
     In the mornings after breakfast, he would walk down the road. The minute Ella Mae took her eyes off him and then looked back, he was gone. She had no idea where he went each day or what he did.
     One evening over a simple dinner, she asked where he came from. He stopped, eating, put his fork down and hesitated, then told her he came from far away, a very different place.
     “You mean Akron, Ohio? Where they make the automobile tires?” Ella Mae ventured.    
     The stranger made a face and went back to eating. She could assume he was not from Akron and her sense warned her not to pursue the subject further.
     Another time he mentioned he was a scout, surveying the Roswell area. And Ella Mae thought it must be for some business back East. Perhaps some kind of food processing, which would make sense with the railway coming through Roswell. But her intuition told her no logical response would be forthcoming and in her heart she did not want to drive him away.
     In the evenings, they would retire to their respective bedrooms. Ella Mae would pause and look at the handsome stranger. She was twenty, never had a boy friend,  never even held hands. The man would nod at her, his face passive, and then disappear into his room. Ella Mae would sigh, wondering.
     One night Ella Mae was in bed and she opened her eyes to see an angel standing beside her, holding out a hand with a glowing capsule. Ella Mae opened her mouth and the hand placed the capsule on her tongue.  She swallowed and suddenly felt a twinge, then a jolt, next a shock as if someone had jabbed her in the stomach.
     Ella Mae awoke with a start and was surprised to see the stranger standing at her side. He was looking down at her and for the first time there was a faint smile on his lips. Ella Mae was surprised to see an amber glow radiating from her body. Was she dreaming... a dream within a dream?
     The next morning over breakfast, she wanted to ask him if he had come to her room. But before she could speak, he announced he was leaving. His survey was complete. He thanked her for the hospitality and wished her well, saying that from time to time he would check in on her. That he would be back.
     Ella Mae wanted to protest, but his sharp look quieted her. He got up, nodded and went out the door. She sat at the table in confusion, then jumped and ran to the window. But, of course, the stranger was gone.
     A few months later Jessie Long phoned, liking to remain in contact and called from time to time. He mentioned he was going to Socorro, New Mexico and was thinking of driving on to Roswell. Would it be okay?
     For the first time, Ella Mae told Jessie about the stranger who had stayed with her a few weeks in the guest bedroom. Jessie was agitated, but she assured him this was just someone who was a friend and there was no romance between them.
     Jessie calmed down and confirmed he would drive over the next week. Ella Mae agreed and then added.
     “Just so you know, Jessie. I’m pregnant.”

Monday, July 9, 2012

Our Lady of the Mountain, Magdalena, New Mexico

Previously, Mary and Johnny Quicksilver were fatally ambushed in 1924 during an attempted Telluride bank robbery. Their precocious daughter, Ella Mae, successfully took over the antique and bake shop, Enchantment, in Heber-Overgaard, Arizona.

One summer evening Ella Mae Quicksilver was on her shop porch after a violent thunder storm crackled through the area. She stood gazing at the sky and saw a shooting star falling to the east. Suddenly a beam of light enveloped her, riveting her as if she were struck by lightning.
     Ella Mae fell back in her rocking chair. She knew it was a sign, a signal to move on. That week she sold her antique and bakery business, packed essentials such as her mother’s gold nuggets in her her 1926 Ford touring sedan and drove southeast through Showlow to U.S. Route 60.
     Just outside of Magdalena, New Mexico her car stalled and she coasted into the drive of a modest ranch set perpendicular to the two-lane road. It was early evening and she knocked on the door, which was opened by Jessie Long Mansell, a wiry, leather skinned rancher in overalls. Ella Mae explained her  touring car had broken down and asked for assistance.
     Jessie invited Ella Mae in and appraised his visitor, a slender young woman with high cheekbones, dark eyes and long black hair, clearly Indian blood, perhaps Apache. Jessie offered Ella Mae a room for the evening, saying he would look at her car in the morning.
     Over dinner, Jessie explained he lived alone in the front part of the ranch, saying the back portion was closed and Ella Mae should not venture there. He said he had lost his wife and children in an Indian raid a few years back, one of the last Mescalero Indian ventures into the area, which was now peaceful.
     Strangely, the young girl of Apache descent and the old rancher clicked, seemingly comfortable with each other. Ella Mae was bright and also had the “gift”. She sensed she would be safe with Jessie Long. Still, a black cloud seemed to hang over the homestead. There was something strange in the forbidden back of the house. Occasionally Ella Mae heard a snarling voice and scratching, perhaps a dog, a wolf?
     After dinner they sat on the front porch in rocking chairs  gazing at the Magdalena Mountain, the angelic face seemingly carved in the form of the biblical Magdalena, our Lady of the Mountain.
     Ella Mae told Jessie she was heading east and would stop in Roswell, as she had a dream that her future was there in that ranching and farming town. Jessie Long scoffed saying she was better off in Magdalena with its mining of gold and silver.
     Their discussion was interrupted by another car that swung into the drive and a tall, attractive redhead emerged along with the driver, a medium sized, dark-skinned man with a U-shaped face and a nasty turned down mouth.
     The surly looking man pulled a revolver while the redhead gazed at them with an evil smile. The man demanded Jessie Long’s gold and money. Ella Mae thought of her treasure, which she had secreted under the back seat of her touring sedan.
     Of course, Jessie protested the intrusion, saying there was no gold and little money. But the man waved him away, while the redhead went inside and rummaged through the house.
     After a few minutes, the woman emerged and shrugged with palms up, but noted the back half of the house was sealed. The man frowned and asked Jessie Long for the key. Jessie said a key was hanging on the wall, but added:  “You don’t want to go back there.”
     The man laughed,gave the revolver to the redhead and then he went to the back of the house and opened the door. There was a moment of quiet, then voices. The man shouted and shouted again, hoarser the second time. A few seconds of quiet followed, and then the man screamed.
     Ella Mae felt an icicle prick her heart. Jessie Long looked down at his shoes and sighed. The redhead went stiff, pointing her gun at the inside of the house, then back at her captives.
     It was if the man’s screaming went on for hours, but it was over in seconds and the three of them stood in the quiet. The night bird’s song stopped, even the owl in the cottonwood tree and the insects were shocked into silence.
     Without a word, the Redhead put the revolver in her bag and retreated to the car. She asked Jessie to crank the Model T, warning of the “kick back”. Jessie Long obliged her and the redhead screeched out of the drive, heading west into the black night.  Ella Mae was wide-eyed as Jessie returned to the porch. He paused at the steps and looking up at the ashen Ella Mae.
     “Don’t ask.” Was all Jessie Long said.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Enchantment Shop, Mogollon Rim, Heber-Overgaard, Arizona

Previously, Bo Savage saw Lilly's apparition in the Verde Valley mists. Evening Star, who had sealed Max and Lilly in her gold mine, escaped along the Mogollon Rim.

 Mary Maude, a young widow formerly known as Evening Star and of Yavapai-Apache descent, came to Heber-Overgaard in Eastern Arizona and bought an abandoned general store. She traded in antiques, baking tasty pies and delicious snicker doodle cookies
     Prospering in her small shop which Mary called The Enchantment, she became a mysterious fixture in the Heber-Overgaard area. No one knew where Mary Maude came from, or where she got her yellow nuggets.
     One rainy afternoon Johnny Quicksilver, of unknown origins and a tall, lean man dressed in black ,came to town and stopped at Mary’s. The two clicked after Johnny sampled her snicker doodles and tasted her pie. He lingered and Mary Maude fell in love with Johnny, who happened to be a notorious Colorado bank robber.
    The two of them settled in at Mary's shop. Johnny disappeared from time to time taking his “trips”. One evening Johnny returned to the Enchantment after having stopped at the Red Onion Saloon to down a few. He shared his take with Mary and told her about the new piano player at the saloon, a fetching woman in white who could play and sing like a bird. Immediately Mary went stiff and recalled the woman in white among the pines on the Mogollon Rim.      After Johnny had fallen asleep, Mary donned her cape and walked to the Red Onion. As usual voices were loud and tinny piano chords floated on the chill night air. She went in, going to the end of the bar where the owner, Bub, was toting up bills. She sidled up to Bub and gave, asking about the new piano player, the pretty lady in white.
     Bub scratched his bald head and blinked. There was no new piano player. And no lady in white.
     A few years later in the early 1920s Mary joined Johnny on a bold plan to rob the San Miguel Bank in Telluride, a bustling Colorado gold town. Mary and Johnny died in a furious shootout during the bank robbery. It was an ambush as the sheriff had been tipped in advance by the new piano player that he was courting, a Miss Lilly.
     Johnny and Mary are survived by their gifted daughter, Ella Mae Quicksilver. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Savages, Mile High Saloon, Jerome, Arizona


Previously, Evening Star caught Max and Lilly together in her Yavapai-Apache gold mine and sealed their fate.

Bo Savage owned and worked the bar at the Jerome Mile-High Saloon. Bo's world collapsed when his wife died suddenly, causing Bo to take to drink.
       His world brightened when Miss Lilly, an alluring piano player, walked into the saloon one day and offered to play the piano for food and board. As Miss Lilly settled in each evening, Bo's fondness grew and he became convinced that she was singing her love songs for him, and only him.  
       But then Lilly ran off with Max, a prospector married to an Apache Indian Princess, who  knew the location of the fabled Yavapai-Apache gold mine, also known as the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine.
        At night Bo would sit on his back porch overlooking the Verde Valley. After a bottle or two, he would swear he could hear Lilly calling him on the night winds, pleading for Bo's help.         
       One evening a neighbor saw Bo leap from his chair, wave his arms as he called, -Lilly, what yellow mine?
       Bo cupped his ear and swayed in the night breeze. He peered into the darkness seeing a vision in white among the Valley mists. Then Bo tripped, toppled off the porch head first and fatally broke his neck.
       Lilly and Max were never found. And Evening Star, the Apache Princess, vanished.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Lost Dutchman Mine, Dead Horse, Arizona

Max Bueler and Evening Star, a woman of Yavapai-Apache descent, lived on a mesa outside of Dead Horse, Arizona.
       Handsome Max prospected, but they survived on nuggets Evening Star gathered from her ancestral yellow mine.The location of the mine was known only to her and Max.
       Years before a drunken Dutchman had stumbled upon the mine, taken some nuggets, but to protect his fined, he claimed his nuggets came from a remote mine in the Superstition Mountains, southeast of Phoenix.
       One evening Max stopped at the Mile High Saloon, washing down a few with Lilly, the new piano player, who was curious about Max's gold nuggets and she plied Max with drinks and hints of delights to come.
       Later in the week, Evening Star rode to the  ancestral lode and saw two horses tied to a Pinon Pine. She heard familiar voices and echoing laughter inside the mine where Max and Lilly were gathering nuggets. Visions of San Francisco finery and high society danced in Lilly's mind.  Max thought only of the alluring Lilly. As they hugged in the shadows, Lilly slipped her stainless steel hunting knife from her thigh sheath. Max dreamily whispered in Lilly's ear and in response, she sank the 6" blade into Max, just under the ribs, angling up to his heart.
       Max reared back with a roar and Lilly stood wide-eyed as blood dripped from the serrated blade. Instinctively, Max drew his pistol and fired a shot into Lilly, and then he dropped dead. At that moment, boulders cascaded down and blocked the entrance to the mine. Lilly stumbled to the sealed entrance, clawing furiously at the rock, calling out hysterically and clutching her nuggets to her chest.  Bleeding profusely, she fell prostrate in the swirling dust.
       Enraged and panting hard, Evening Star stood above the mine with her fulcrum tree limb and howled in despair. She clamored down and inspected her handiwork, satisfied that a casual traveler wouldn't notice the sealed entrance. The Yavapai mine was in a remote canyon between the Black Hills, tucked back in a sage-blocked draw and left no tell-tale tailings. How the drunken Dutchman had stumbled into the mine was always a puzzle to the Yavapai-Apache.
       Later that evening in the dead of night, Evening Star packed her essentials and a cache of nuggets and left her beloved cabin above Dead Horse. She rode east along the Mogollon Rim to start a new life. As she traveled, the wind whistled in the stately Ponderosa Pines causing Evening Star to pause. In the half-moon light she glanced a figure in white, as if someone was there amongst the pines singing a mournful tune and calling her name.
      Was it just the wind?
      Or was it Lilly?