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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.
Custer, South Dakota