Prompt:Your challenge: Write us a scary or funny story about a grave, a buried body and the bell ringer.I want to know the real story. Did the grave digger sit by the grave? Did the bell ring? Was the body really not dead, or…
“The Bells were Ringing for Papa and Me”
by Heather L Campbell
October 23, 2013
Papa trained us both at an early age to shoot with great accuracy. He would take us hunting when no graves needed to be dug. We also would go to chop down trees to get our needed wood to stock up for winter...and bring it back in our wagon.
As you may have guessed Papa was the caretaker of the cemetery. My older brother Jimmy shared the duties of sitting up at night on-call to listen lest the bill ring from the newest graves.
Papa and Jimmy alternated who stayed awake listening for a bell to go off in the cemetery. One of them sat out there with a shotgun when needed to protect the new open graves from animals. Should a bell ring it could also be that someone woke up and found themselves in a coffin. Mistakes did happen. It would be up to Papa or Jimmy to help the poor soul depending on who was out there.
Papa did this by himself before Mama passed away. When Jimmy was old enough to help out he was eager to for the adventure. Jimmy was able to whistle for Pa if he needed his help to get someone out of the grave. Often when Papa drifted off in our home and didn't hear the bells rang.
When Mama passed away Papa put our family Bible "away forever" but we still went to Sunday services. But when no one was around I would pull it back out and read it. I missed Mama reading it to me.
When Jimmy was old enough he took a job at the Mill. He worked long days. He still helped Papa but not as often. Jimmy had his eye on marrying Betty Lou White. They were sweet on each other. He pined for her as she went off some where for more schooling.
The plan was when she returned he would have saved enough money for them to get married. That is all Papa knew. Their secret plan that I read in one of the letters from Betty Lou, that Jimmy kept hidden, was to head out west with some horses and a wagon. They needed enough money as well for supplies for their journey and new life somewhere else far away. Jimmy had an awful lot of money to have to earn.
Jimmy never knew I found and read those letters. I always put the new one back like it was. I knew Papa's plan was for Jimmy work with him in the cemetery and one day take it over. I didn't want to be the one to break Papa's heart and tell him. Just maybe in time maybe it would not come to pass. (Plus opening my mouth would have been admitting I was snooping around too.)
Papa never said what he planned for me. Mama's eyes shined when she spoke of her father who was Parson of our town before he passed away. I was a baby when Parson Johnson took over the parish. I planned one day to talk to Parson Johnson about making Mama proud of me.
With the way Papa was so angry at God after Mama died I dared not breathe one word about it. So I was more than happy Papa wanted Jimmy to became the full-time caretaker of the cemetery not me. I hoped Betty Lou would find another beau while she was away...or chicken out on this tom foolery of setting out for the West.
Ever since Jimmy started working at the mill, he wanted me to take a shot at it one of “his” nights and sit up with a shotgun by the graves but I really was kinda scared.
Papa would tussle my hair and tell Jimmy I was not old enough nor tall enough yet. Time went by and sure enough Jimmy got a new letter from Betty Lou. Only it broke his heart. She wrote she did find a new fellow and would shortly be Mrs. Edgar Symthe...
Jimmy was as mad as a wet hen about it all. All his hard work to save up enough money to give her what she wanted, to marry her and fulfill her dream and she just gave up on him?
Jimmy made me promise not to wake up Papa ...when he came to my window that night. He had me scramble to get dressed to take his place in the cemetery. He pulled me out of the window so I could go take his place. He was heading for the address on the letter. Jimmy quietly hitched up to horses to the wagon and led them out slowly so Papa would would not wake up in time to talk him out of it.
From where I sat on a stump in the cemetery, it didn't take long for him to get those horses moving fast. I had no idea where he was headed only that it was to go convince Betty Lou not to marry Mr. Edgar Symthe.
I was just as scared of Papa's anger, when he found out Jimmy went out after Betty Lou, as those strange noises I heard that night. I held on to the shot gun as tight as I could in the moonlight. Staying awake was not as hard as I thought. Papa was mad I didn't wake him up almost as mad at himself for not waking up when Jimmy took off. He headed out walking to borrow a horse to ride out to The White's house to find out where Jimmy was heading to.... At least the Mill wasn't open and also no graves needed to be dug.
Papa didn't say much when he came back home... so neither did I. It wasn't long before Jimmy did return with Betty Lou.
It appears Jimmy was in a big hurry to get as many miles between Betty Lou White and Mr. Edgar Symthe... as well as get back before he lost his job at the Mill.
Papa's face went white when Parson Johnson and a few other men came and broke the news to him. They had brought back the horses but said the wagon was destroyed... and neither Jimmy or Betty Lou White made it. So two new graves needed to be dug. The Parson and the other men offered to dig them so Papa and I didn't have to.. said it only seemed right for us not to have to do it.
Papa sat down frozen and did not speak again. He did not move for a very long time. I sat down waiting for Papa to talk but he only shook a little from time to time with his lips firmly set together. Parson Johnson and the men rode back out after they finished..
A day later when it was all said and done, Papa and I sadly set up the bells...and I sat out there for the night...on that stump.
Mixed emotions kept me awake that night. I was angry at Jimmy, angry at Betty Lou White, angry at Edgar Symthe, angry at God, and angry now Papa would want me to take his place one day instead of Jimmy. Angry too, thinking me ever being a Parson was not going to happen. I was crying my brother was gone, crying Betty Lou White was gone, and crying Papa aged so much, looked so defeated and sad how he looked right past me like I didn't even exist. Around and around my feelings went...and I'm not well at admitting I did do some rather loud wailing.
Then the sun flickered through the trees and it rose up for the new day. I heard one bell, then I heard another bell... I stood up to look... and the bells kept ringing and ringing and out ran Papa...as he heard them too...
The bells were ringing because Jimmy and Betty Lou were ALIVE! The bells were ringing for Papa and me to come help them get out of their graves
How everyone thought they were both dead, I don't know because some how they weren't. How they both woke up at the same time, I don't know.
But for me, it was a miracle! Mama was right, God must want me to be a Parson one day. The bells were ringing for Papa and me ... and in time the church bells would be ringing for Jimmy and Betty Lou...