Don't ever ask Dan the handyman about the ghost of Timber Cove. Once, someone from the management office overheard Dan talking real quiet about what he sees now and then. He was called in and told never, never ever, talk about Earl, ever again. I think they knew that if folks heard about Earl, they would get real enthused about moving out of the park.
It turns out that yes, I was the one that Dan was telling. Since then, Dan told me he would deny telling me a danged thang if I ever said anything about it. My name is Walt, last name Landers, and I enjoyed being a reporter in my Army days, ran the company news letter, and some other reporting duties in my life. So this story was very intriguing to listen to...
There was one afternoon some months ago, Dan stopped his scooter in front of our 73 space. We started talking about things that got done, like those new signs he put up. He asked me if I believed in ghosts. I enjoy telling stories I've read, about what happens to people when they die. He kind of gave me an intense stare for a minute and then lifted his hand to his mouth and coughed to clear his throat.
"Now Walt, I know your gonna say to me, aw, that's a bunch of crap, but, hey, it really happened. You know, well a while back, I remembered my tool kit. I left it off to the side of the club house there, by the garbage cans and stuff. I think I woke up about two in the morning and decided I better get down there. You never know who might find it, and take it on home. So I puts on my shoes and pants and stuff, and decided the walk would be good for me. I tried to move it along, so I was breathing heavy time I got there. I slipped through the side gate and thought, why didn't I bring my flashlight. So I'm squinting to see, and patting around that pit.
A voice came out of the dark, my heart skipped a beat and I think my hair rose up. "That there is a fine set o' tools. I never had no pliers that good in my day..." Well, I tell ya, I was frozen, and couldn't see who was a talkin'. I was shakin' all over, even when I was tryin' to calm myself down. "who..oo..oo is it? You ain't supposed to be back here this time of night..." The voice kind of laughed like through his teeth. "Oh, hey, don't get all huffy on me. I used to think I owned this part. I had a little one man shack right down there, down from your gate." I'm thinkin', that can't be right, this park, this fence has been here for close to fifty years. "hee, hee, I knows what you're a thinkin. No, I was here long afore that. It was back when we was a long way from San Hoe Zay, and followin' the creek here took you to old Mr. Campbell's town. He had 'at whiskey bar there at the bridge. I figgered I died about 1874, oh, wait maybe it was right after that. I remember them folks gathered around waiting to see the Sheriff hang that Jeff Arnold...lets see, maybe that was '74, I got run over by a herd of horses not long after that." Dan had to stop and stare off, remembering what this voice had said.
Dan can see the look on my face, one eyebrow above the other. He says, "I knew it. You don't believe me do ya? Well , I ask this voice, who are you, and could he come over into the street light just real quick. The voice says, 'shure thang, but it ain't gonna help you see me. Oh, my name's Earl."
"Earl? a ghost named Earl?" I, Walt said. I ran my hand through my hair, kind of pressing it down. "Who in the world ever heard of such a chatty ghost?" Dan here, he's trying real hard to make me believe his story. There's no hidden look of joking on his face. He has almost a sorrowful look, hoping I'll believe this.
"Okay. I'll bite. What else did he tell you?" I say, trying to control my skepticism. I'm hoping to write this story, but first, I've got to well, at least a little bit, believe it.
"Thank you, Walt. I kind of need someone to tell this to, and well, that's the feeling I got about this voice, this Earl ghost. He needed someone to talk to. So, I ask him, has he been around here all those years? Earl then goes quiet for a while. I thought, did he not like that question? I'm still looking in the dark to see if I can see his outline or something. Nope. Then I hear a whispering voice. "Well, now, they is pro'ly out lookin' fer me. I done run away, found this hole they use to come back to earth. Them heaven guards, they tell you it's agin the rules. They don't want none o' us spirit souls runnin' around down here."
Dan tells me, matter-of-fact like, "I'm thinking, that sounds like a good rule. Earl could tell what I was thinking, and his cackling old laugh kicked in, "Hee, hee, hee, yessiree bob, here I is! Broke them rules, yep I did." Then, Dan says, "Earl, hey, was there some reason you came back here to Timber Cove?" and he says, "Timber Cove? That's what they call my place now? That's a right purty name. I kinda like 'em cabins you'all built, all painted up and all. Right there, down the piece, your number 94, that's where I kept my old fat sow and her piglets. They was almost ready to be bacon and ham when I got run over. Kept my chickens here where number 3 is a sittin'. Come on, follow mah voice."
Dan tells me, he's glad its three in the morning, and no one's up yet. He felt foolish wandering down the street listening to an invisible voice. Then he says, quoting Earl: "Right here, that rich guy, Thomas Ellstrick, put up his fence. They was milk cattle on the other side, all the way down to the bridge. Made me mad. Whenever I was headin' for Campbell's bar, I had to walk almost in the creek to get past his spread."
Dan says he tries to talk quietly to Earl's voice so nobody at this end gets woke up. "Earl, don't mean to interrupt, but you haven't told me the reason you came back here." Earl goes quiet again. "Hey Dan, you're still alive, you know, a blood and bones human, right?" Dan says, "Dam, I hope so, yes, of course, yeah, I'm "alive". Earl says, "...then listen up, we're headin' to October down here, right? Sometime between now and Hallowe'en, Charlie Riggins is showin' up. I met Charlie up in heaven, and it turns out Charlie was in that horse ridin' gang that runned over me. I was down by the creek here. Charlie swears it was an accident, they didn't mean to do it. They had robbed the bank over there in Santa Cruz. They took all the bags of gold that bank had stashed. When they ran me down, they did stop to see if I needed help, but my soul was already hovering above, ready for the trip. When they saw it weren't no use, I was all stomped to death, they started to mount up. One of the gang said, no that ain't right, we killed this poor guy, we got to at least bury him. Now this is what Charlie told me, they dug a good hole to toss my broken body into, then suddenly could hear the Santa Cruz posse comin' down the trail, through those Los Gatos trees. They was still some miles away. So what they did was throw them bags of gold down in that grave hole with m' body, and cover it all up with grassy sod. You couldn't tell there was a hole dug there." Dan holds up his hand to wherever Earl was and shakes it back and forth to stop his talking. "Earl, did the gang ever come back for them bags of gold?" So, he listens for Earl's voice again. "Nope, now this is really funny. One o' the young'ns, Charlie said his name was Orville, had grabbed some of the gold pieces to fill his pockets. They was plannin' on hangin' out in San Hoe Zay 'til things quieted down, and them posses went on back home. But, it was Ferd'nand that got all drunk and bragged about it, right there at Mabel Bascom's bar. Someone went and told the local sheriff. They was all rounded up, Charlie told me the San Hoe Zay posse joined them Santa Cruzers, and when they found all that gold in Orville's pockets, they knew they had their gang. Ever' one of 'em went to prison and died there. So, now it's up to Charlie, if he can find that escape hatch, he's comin' down to tell me where that gold was buried. He said to hang around my old place, and sometime in October, he hoped to make it.... you know, we cain't take it with us, hell, we don't need it. Someone here, livin' here on my old property is gonna get it. Hey, Dan, if you're out listenin' at night, tween here and Hallowe'en, you might be the one. I guess that there gold will go to whoever hears where it's buried..."
So Dan says to me, Walt, "Well, that's all I can remember that voice sayin, so I'd better get back to work. Got to work on that fence again. Remember, if you decide to put this story in the park newsletter, don't put me in the story." With my right hand hidden, I crossed my fingers and said, "Sure thing Dan."
But I do plan to stay up late, every night in October, hoping to overhear any ghostly conversation that might occur...