I grinned at her uncanny ability to recognize my ‘poker face’. Initially I tried to explain my hair-raising experiences with logic and scientific rationale but she wasn’t having it.
“You saw a ‘haint’, didn’t ya!”; She grinned.
For the briefest of moments I tried to keep up the pretense but she cackled at my thinly-held facade. When I could no longer deny the likely scenario, I cracked like an egg. It actually felt good to confess the whole thing to someone who wasn’t judgmental or a skeptic. Mrs. Harding listened with rapt attention. I could tell the ‘ghost story’ made her day.
With warm enthusiasm, she helped me cross-reference county death records with landholder listings. We came across an unfortunate case of a ten year old boy who had fallen from a high tree limb in 1879. The child was named Jeremiah Brackett and had unfortunately died a couple days later from head injuries. His family actually lived a quarter mile from my property but the tragedy seemed the most likely candidate for my ‘creeping shadow’.
“Why would a young boy be climbing a tree at dawn?”; I pondered. It made no sense to me.
Mrs Harding thought about my question for a few minutes before responding with an astute answer. “His restless spirit probably climbs that same phantom tree all of the time. It’s only at dawn that you can actually see him.”; She concluded.
Once again her clever logic proved very helpful in forming a valid theory about my benevolent visitor. I sat at the research desk a moment; lost in deep contemplation until Mrs Harding guessed my thoughts.
“Just because your ‘haint’ isn’t malicious doesn’t mean you feel comfortable with him climbing that ol invisible tree in your study, does it?”
She couldn’t have surmised my worries and fears any better. “Mrs Harding, you hit the nail on the head; but what can I do?”
She thought long and hard for several moments before a huge grin came over her face. “The next time you see his shadow climbing up the wall, address him by name. Tell him to get down out of that tree before he gets hurt or his Mama will give him a swift whippin’! You have to be stern. Boys can be stubborn.”
I arose from the chair and thanked her for the sage advice. I vowed that I would set the restless spirit of Jeremiah Brackett straight, so he could end the endless cycle and find eternal peace.