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Okay, I've officially been stuffed now for about a month. Thanksgiving was indescribable - we had a huge lunch celebration with family, and had more food on the table than anyone could possibly eat. Tami had been cooking for 24 solid hours - with my mouth watering all that time - and of course, we woke up Thanksgiving morning with the smell of turkey in the air. Sitting down at the table and looking at all the food around me, I felt like one of the more decadent Roman emperors at a feast. We have a lot to be thankful for, though, and with all of the food, parades and football that surround the holiday, we were careful to remember how wonderfully we've been blessed with family and friends. Of course, after that it was only a week or so until the Christmas parties started, each one being an orgy of food that tried to out-do the last. It seems like we've been attending a dinner party every couple of days... I am DEFINITELY going on a diet in January!
To begin with, I've been sick a bit since we last talked. Although I'm well now, my voice was gone for a week or so. Before that, I had a couple of days that I felt terrible: a fever, sore throat, and general, overall achy feeling. As it turned out it wasn't Swine Flu or anything serious, just a bout with an upper respiratory infection. As I got better, that's when my voice began to fade, until I was finally unable to speak above a whisper. Now, I love local legends and lore - for example my granddad said that if it rains and the sun's shining, it will rain at the same time the next day. An old friend of the family swore that if a storm was coming, you could take an ax and sink it in a stump in the direction of the clouds, and it would split the storm and it would miss your house. Along those lines, when a friend heard that I was sick, she sent me a home remedy in a half-pint Mason jar... it was pink, and kind of looked like milk that someone stirred with a red crayon. I was supposed to sip on it all night, but when I opened the jar it nearly knocked me over. It smelled like a combination of grain alcohol, peppermint, lemon, honey, and other things that I couldn't identify. Tami wanted to ask exactly what was in it, but I advised against it. Although I was pretty sure that all the ingredients came from our local grocery (and one or two from the beverage shop right around the corner from it), I didn't want to know about any other, old-family additives that might have come from the Caddo swamps... or Lord knows where else. I did take it, and I think that it helped - I'm still waiting to see if I have any strange side-effects.
When Christmas was approaching, everyone in Jefferson started decorating in full force. A few weeks ago everyone met up at Lions Park and decorated the Christmas trees that each family had adopted. It was festive - there was coffee and cookies, holiday carols playing, and friends & neighbors working side by side to decorate. The spirit of community is just one of the things that I love about Jefferson. Now for the weird part... by accident, I have suddenly acquired the reputation of being an electrician. It started when a friend called me because the electricity wouldn't come on at the park where the trees were set up on the day before the decorating party. He called me because I have the keys to all of the locks at the park, including those on the circuit boxes. I went up there, we ran the electric circuits, and saw no reason why the power wasn't working. My friend was getting out his cell phone to call the mayor, when I noticed a smaller circuit box that we hadn't checked. I unlocked it, threw the one big breaker inside, and everything roared to life. I shut the box, and as I was walking away he said, "How'd you do this - that's incredible." I just shrugged and explained, then went home to get back to work. On the day of the decorating party, though, one of the electric plugs shorted out, knocking out the electricity for all the trees on that circuit. People were scrambling to try to get an electrician out to fix the problem. While I don't have those credentials by any stretch of the imagination, I quickly saw that the situation could be fixed with a screwdriver and pocketknife, so I said, "Well, let me take a look at it and see what I can do..." I found the shorted wire, cut about three inches of it out of the circuit, hooked everything back up, and suddenly all the power was back on. Everyone was amazed, and all I could think was that with two very remedial tasks, folks were looking at me like I was an electrical genius - when I have absolutely, positively no ability in that regard at all! Lord help me, if someone calls me with a serious question about electricity, I have no idea what I'm going to do...
Okay, let me be clear that I try not to immerse myself in dark omens, but the other day I was downtown and looked up at the old fire tower that is now a cell tower on the east side of the city, and sitting on top was a huge, black vulture... it looked as if it were staring down on the city of Jefferson. Of course, we've been in the high school football playoffs for a couple of weeks, and right after I snapped this picture, we lost the next game. Was the vulture a harbinger of doom? Well... of course not. The team that beat us won state last year, so we can't be too upset about that. The band just landed a wonderful victory at contest, so things are actually rocking along well for the city. We had lots of visitors during the holiday season, and the town seems to be prospering. It's just that the writer in me looks up at a sight like my dark, feathered friend staring down at the city, and has to think, "Hmmm..."
Now for some very special news - we are delighted that celebrated artist Lewis Barrett Lehrman painted The Grove in a watercolor. While you'll find the original hanging in the house, you can see a copy of it on his home page "The Haunted Studio" at www.hauntedstudio.com. I think that Mr. Lehrman captured the house perfectly - along with a few of its resident ghosts. Be sure to look around at some of his incredible paintings. Two of our favorites are "Tilted Angel" and "Thirteen Spooks, Maybe More." The Halloweenist is his monthly ezine, which I subscribe to... there's always a ghost story, info on his latest paintings, and just a lot of fun. His website is well worth exploring, and when you next visit The Grove, you may find more of his work - he's an artist that I would love to start collecting.
The house has been decorated for Christmas tours all during December, and we enjoy the festive feeling in the air. Patrick Hopkins, who owned the house before us, tells us that one of the first things that he did was to decorate it for the holiday season back in 1989 - the house hadn't had a Christmas in several years, and it seemed to make the place come alive. We feel that way every year, from the formal Victorian tree in the parlor, to the family tree in the den, to the basset hound tree that we always put up to celebrate our dogs... and all the decorations in between. It is a time of year that we absolutely love, and we've had a great time sharing it with all of our visitors this season.
One interesting thing about Jefferson to me is that the longer I've lived here, the more people I meet, and the more ghost stories that I hear. Take for example the shops in the historic downtown district - walking along any of our city blocks, I probably know the person who owns any store that you could point to. Oddly enough, many of them have confidentially shared their ghosts stories with me. Since many of the buildings date back to the 1800s, I think that you'd be hard-pressed to find one without a supernatural side. For example, one shop has a window display that you literally have to move a heavy case to access; it's something that they rarely change. When the owners open up in the morning, though, there is often one particular canister that has been turned around to face the opposite way. Inside, signs are taken down from displays and placed neatly against another wall, and other little things happen on a regular basis, as if the ghosts were coming in after the owners are gone to do a little re-arranging. In another shop, interior doors are locked and unlocked over the course of the evening when the store is closed, and several other businesses report that footsteps are common when no patrons are inside. Most business owners wouldn't dare admit to these things, but because Tami and I own The Grove with its long history of ghost stories, they somehow seem to think that it's okay to share them with me... and I love it!
Just like the shop owners and their stories downtown, it's the little things here at The Grove that seem to be the most common. For example, after a tour this past month we had a young lady that told us her story just before she left. When the group was in the game room, she first felt someone tugging on her jeans. She looked around to see who it could be, but there was no one there. A moment later the back of her blouse felt like someone was pulling on it, so she turned around again, this time giving a dirty look to whatever unseen person might be back there. Apparently it worked, because nothing else happened to her for the rest of the tour. Statistically, more things happen to women than men, at least in the middle part of the house, which (as I've observed many times before) makes us wonder if we don't have an active guy spirit or two who still have an eye for the ladies. They never do anything threatening - it's always just a flirtatious encounter.
If you've been reading the GroveZine for any length of time, or if you've take the tour of the house, then you know that there's one corner in the front parlor that is, well, a little eerie. Two different psychics have identified it as one of the most active places in the house, and things happen up there more than anywhere else in The Grove. Some things are a little disturbing, and there are stories about it that I will probably never be able to tell. On the tour, however, it's usually just a normal corner of the house. It's been an interesting month, though. On one tour I had a lady walk through the front door and make a bee-line over to that corner; after I told my stories about it, as we were walking to the dining room, she said, "I knew that there was something odd about that corner - I felt it from the moment that we came in." For some reason, people have been especially sensitive to that corner lately. Two young ladies who were on another tour casually walked over there as the rest of us were moving on to the dining room, and both shuddered and squealed out because suddenly it became very - and uncharistically - cold there. The parlor corner never ceases to be intriguing.
And finally, we had a visit from an old friend this month. In the GroveZine archives over the years you'll see an occasional mention of the scent of cigar smoke in the house, as if someone had walked through puffing on a stogie. We don't allow anyone to smoke in the house, so it's very interesting when it occurs. It's been quite a while since it's happened, though - long enough that we start wondering why it stopped. This month, however, Tami was sitting on the couch in the den watching television and enjoying the lights of the family tree, when it was if someone walked in smoking a cigar. It was there for several moments before fading away, but there was no mistaking what it was. I'd give anything to find out which former owner smoked cigars - Mr. Stilley, the original owner, Mr. Young, the town's most successful barber, or one of the other people whose names appear on the deed chain for The Grove. We may never know, but whoever it is, that person must have wandered in to enjoy the family tree, with ornaments spanning 31 years of marriage, and even back to both of our childhoods. Whoever it was, we hope that he liked it!
When we talk again it will be New Years - the holiday season will be behind us, and 2010 will here. As always, I hope that whatever celebration that you hold at your house was wonderful. The GroveZine has a diverse readership, so allow my fondest wishes that whatever you celebrate... Christmas, Passover, Quanza, Eid, Winter Solstice, or any reason to feast and celebrate life... is not only an enjoyable time, but I hope that it was magical for you and your family.
Okay, off for another turkey sandwich - between Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house, there's still so much left over!
You know that I usually write non-fiction about history and the supernatural, but on a few rare occasions I like to dabble in fiction. I recently contributed to a new anthology of vampire fiction, which I've enjoyed being a part of. The book has some outstanding stories in it. To find out more, just Click this Link.
If you'd like to check any of my books, you can find them at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon.com, or
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