Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ghosts at your front door.

It was late, 2:30 or so in the morning. There was a deep fog surrounding the pillars of the old Hacienda. As the truck lumbered down the uneven gravel drive the lights of the 18 wheeler bounced with each dip in the road, many still filled with water from the recent rain. Trees of poplar stood tall but leafless, like sentinels guarding the way, casting shadows that moved and danced with the bounding and dipping flashes of the headlights creating a surreal scene of ethereal creatures floating and falling, appearing and disappearing as each tree exposed was passed and forgotten.

As the truck passed the last of the tree-lined guards the illuminated structure of the water tower irradiated and glowed and for an instant, the metal cross beams and ladder animated and energized its long legs stepping ever so quickly, only to freeze in place once the lights passed. The fog again obscuring the sides of the truck, its lights now heading straight for the 17-century Hacienda, its arched pillars casting their shadows quickly from side to side as the truck rolled to a screeching stop, its air breaks releasing a hiss of escape and then all was silent.

Petro, the truck driver open his door and stepped first onto the metal grating below the door, his boots, handmade of alligator skins slightly glimmered from the still shinning beams of the headlights that reflected off the terra-cotta tile flooring and the plaster walls.  Petro was delivering his bi-weekly load of ore from a mine near agua-Caliente, a mine that produced a variety of metals including trace amounts of gold, silver but mostly copper. His duty was to drop the trailer, leave his bill of lading and go home.

With the bill in hand, Petro moved toward the opening of the patio, a patio that in the traditional Spanish design surrounded the entire home, encircling the inner chambers with pristine arches and red tile floors, floors that glistened with the glow of kerosene as a polisher.  His boots clipped the tile as he steeped under the first arch.  His eyes were down mostly as he walked toward the massive double doors that led into the inner courtyard of the stately home of Don Edwardo, Edwin Jarvis the owner of the hacienda and president of Kold Kist foods, one of the first companies to freeze cooked foods in the world and supplier of beef from this Mexican ranch and packing house.

As Petro looked he saw a beautiful woman dressed in glowing gowns of the traditional style of old Mexico replete with flowing headdress and ornate hair comb.  He stopped in his tracks and was speechless; this in itself was a wonder for Petro was never speechless. A moment later “who are you” he spoke in Spanish, not rude but a simple inquiry, knowing that the parties at the Rancho San Martin were legendary.  

There was no response, so he stepped closer and asked again, “Who are you, are you lost?”
Again, no response so he stepped closer; as he did the beautiful woman turned, her flowing robes following like the fog that surrounded the area and walked through the massive oak doors and disappeared. 

Petro was no fool, nor was he afraid, his first thought was of some mischief so he ran toward the door and tried to open it, it was locked. He quickly removed his key and opened the doors only to see the same woman standing next to a bedroom door on the far side of the courtyard. Again as he stepped closer she disappeared.

Without pause, Petro rapped on Don Eduardo’s window and in seconds recounted with breathless urgency the events of the past few minutes. They both made their way toward the bedroom door and opened it, Petro expecting to see what he had seen before, Don Eduardo not knowing what to expect.
With the door open they turned on the lights and saw me lying asleep (true story) on the bed situated in the middle of room. My grandfather gently woke me and asked if I had seen anything? “What, seen what?” I asked. He patted my ten-year-old head and sent me back to sleep.

Two days later, the same Petro drove his same truck to the same Hacienda with a similar load of ore. He stepped from his truck and started his walk toward the same massive oak doors. Almost forgotten was the apparition. But this time not only was the woman present but with her a stately gentleman of a young age, dressed impeccably with black waistcoat ornamented with silver buttons, and ornate piping with silver lacing down each leg; his hat large and ornate covering most of his obvious handsome face.  

He called out without pause, “Who are you?” his voice raised in both slight fear and anger. Petro ran toward the door his papers still in hand; he reached the door moments before the two disappeared beyond the massive 15 foot double doors, again locked securely. 

Petro reached to his left and grabbed the rope below the bell that hung next to the doors and feverishly rang an alarm. He jumped again toward the doors and unlocking them and springing into the hallway that led to the open courtyard. When he reached the inner courtyard, my grandfather was out of his room and running toward where Petro was standing and both saw the phantoms standing next to the room where I was once again sound asleep.

Without thinking, the two large men bolted toward the spirits, Petro again yelling, “Who are you?”
As before they disappeared into the room and as before my grandfather, Don Eduardo woke me to ask if I had seen anything. It took me less time to awake but again I had not seen nor heard anything and was again told to go back to sleep. Sleep, however, did not come so easy as before, it took a long time but eventually the cocks were crowing and the sun was ready to show its power.

No one said anything to me about the events of the past few nights and it wasn’t until a tractor was excavating near the rear of the house a few days later, it had gone over a small ditch and was attempting to smooth the area when the tractor fell six feet into an opening, an opening that revealed a long forgotten tunnel.

That same day two tiles cracked right in front of my bed. I told my grandfather, and he had a worker there to repair it within the hour. As he started to remove the tiles, the floor gave way, and with it about 4 square feet or so of tile, all fell within the opening.  

I had been watching the man work; I was actually bored and a little tired as I lay on my bed and watched the worker scramble away from the hole. When the dust settled, we could clearly see the bottom of the pit. The worker had run to get Don Eduardo, leaving me on the bed.

Before they returned, I leaned over the front of the bed and peered into the hole. Despite the fallen tiles I could clearly see two skeletal forms, their bony arms wrapped lovingly around each other. The fancy hat still intact but threadbare, her hair comb held in place, not by hair but by the remnants of the fine silk that still draped over her once beautiful head.

The story goes that 100 years before, this particular hacienda and others in the area were often attacked by local Indians. As a precaution the ranchers built tunnels between the ranches so the occupants could escape if the Indians attacked one ranch or another, escaping into the tunnels to a connected hacienda. It was speculated that the two ghosts were caught in the middle with no way out and died in the very tunnel that was supposed to be their salvation. 

Their bones were left as they were found, the tunnel filled in and the tile was replaced. I moved rooms and no other sightings of these two lost souls have ever been witnessed again.

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