Promise Made and Kept

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My father-in-law, Elmer Clifford, was a man of strong character. He was always  occupied but never too busy to repair a broken toy for his grand children or a piece of furniture  for me. The noise associated with his work kept us always aware of Pop’s presence.

We lived on a remote ranch seven miles southeast of  Custer, South Dakota, our homes separated by a wooded hill. During the summer of 1958 Pop added a lovely room to his house. Perhaps he saw the envy in my eyes as I watched his house grow.

“When harvest is over  I’ll build a dining room on  your kitchen,” he promised “You’ll have it for Christmas.”

Whatever Pop promised was a  certainly I made curtains and selected furnishing from the catalog…. but Pop  didn’t  live to fulfill his promise. He was fatally injured in a  tractor accident on July 18, 1958, and died six days later in  Lutheran Hospital, Hot springs, South Dakota.

Soon after his funeral the pounding began. I was  transplanting lilacs when I heard the steady beat of hammer on  nail coming from the  direction of Pop’s building . I dropped the shovel and hurried to investigate. The pounding stopped  abruptly as  I reached  the gate  that divided the property.

The building were in  full view twenty-five feet beyond the gate. I searched the premises and found nothing disturbed.  Nevertheless,  the pounding  continued, day after day. Then I began to notice the horses pastured near Pop’s  place  were acting strangely.

They would stare toward his house,  snorting and shying, then bolt to the  far end of the pasture where  they kept a nervous watch on the buildings. I searched again for  a possible intruder.  A few days later my son Rhett and daughter Patty came running into the house, breathless and obviously frigthened.

“What is that pounding up at Pop’s? Patty demanded. “There isn’t anyone there,” Rhett added, awe softening his voice.  Now I couldn’t  blame the pounding on my  own overactive imagination.

“I think Pop is trying to tell us something,” I said.

That evening  we told my husband Walter what we had heard. I insisted that he  move Pop’s new room and attach it  to our kitchen. It would be the same as if Pop had added  the dining room for us.

Once the  project began the  mysterious pounding  stopped.  Christmas dinner was served in the new  dining room. Pop’s promise was fulfilled and his spirit set free of earthly commitment.

Mecia Clifford

 Custer, South Dakota

 October  1969

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