News of Grandfather's Death
The farm was known as Sunnyview, and was located just north of the small town of Sherburne Kentucky. Sherburne today is a virtual ghost town, but in times past it has thrived. Sherburne Kentucky was the home of a large flour mill operated by a John Fowler. The brand name of the flour was Sherendale Flour, and the town took on the name of the well known and respected product, albeit morphed over time in common usage. In the 1920s Sherburne was already in decline from its glory days of the nineteenth century, but nonetheless was still a robust small town, and a magnet for social activities of nearby farmers.
The Sunnyview farmhouse as I remember it as a child.
The town of Sherburne is all but gone today, but when my father was a young man it was still a thriving community. In particular, according to his version of things, there was a dance hall on the edge of town that local people would often patronize on Saturday nights.
One simply did not drive everywhere then. Gasoline cost money, and not everyone had a car. A farmer’s son often walked. Walking through the fields of the neighbor farms rather than following the road greatly shortened the distance. It was still a few miles, but easily manageable. Walking home on a warm Saturday night under a bright moon was not considered a hardship.
One such evening my father was walking home across the neighbor’s field and thought he heard someone moving through the grass behind him. Stopping and slowly turning around, he looked back across the field he had just crossed. A very bright, but not quite full moon was high in the sky and there were few trees or other obstructions. There was clearly no one, or thing, in sight.
Chastising himself for an overactive imagination, he resumed walking. Perhaps he had merely heard a fox or other forest creature moving in the grass. Nothing to worry about, surely. Approaching the wire fence marking the Sunnyview property line, he climbed over, wire creaking under his weight. Stepping down on the other side, he resumed his trek, now on home turf. When he was a couple of hundred feet beyond the fence, he clearly heard the fence creak again as if someone following was climbing over it. Whirling around quickly to confront his pursuer, he was surprised again to see no one, nor any evidence of anyone but himself in sight.
This incident upset my father. He was upset to the point where he did not go dancing for a couple of weeks. This was not the first time he had heard strange noises in the country at night. But this event had filled him with a dread, a fear he couldn’t fully explain.
After a couple of weeks missing the Saturday night social event, he decided to chance it again. After all, he hadn’t been hurt, nothing had chased him even. Only some unexplained but apparently non-threatening noises. Pushing his fears aside, he decided to go out again. He had hoped to get a ride home with someone, but when the time came, no opportunity for a ride was available. Taking a deep breath, stiffening his resolve he finally started for home.
The walk started off uneventfully. As he entered the neighbor’s field where the first sounds had been heard, the hair on his neck bristled. He pulled his jacket tighter, and picked up his pace. Soon he thought he heard running feet behind him in the field. Was his imagination playing tricks again? Head down, walking resolutely, he lengthened his stride, heading for the fence, not daring to stop or look behind.
He hit the fence nearly at a run, scampered over in a bound and headed for home at a rapid clip. Just as before, he was sure he heard someone on the fence. This time he clearly heard a grunt as his pursuer struggled to get over the fence. He fought down the urge to break into a full out run, steeled his resolve and turned to look just as he heard a voice call out "Hey, wait up!" Stopping in his tracks, he turned around, heart pounding.
This time, there was no invisible ghost chasing him. It was the neighbor himself, winded, out of breath from obviously chasing him for quite a way. He explained that he had driven to the dance hall hoping to catch him there and bring him home. But he had just missed him. He gave chase, expecting to catch up quickly, and had chased my father for a couple of miles across the fields. He chased him almost all the way home, finally catching him almost at the Sunnyview property edge.
The reason for such extraordinary effort, he explained was that “Your father died tonight.”