Editorâ€™s Note: â€œCracks in the Cloudsâ€ is a piece of creative non-fiction. All of the events in the story are true. This is the first part of an 8-part series that will run weekly in the Collegianâ€™s Verve section.
I think Iâ€™ll always be scared of the dark.
My neighbors said they could hear the dead Indians play their drums at night. Their drums strapped with cow hide and held by wood.
Most of my neighbors in Bellvue believed in ghosts and old spirits. My neighbors were old. They wore cowboy hats and waved with two fingers when passed on the narrow dirt road.
My mother wore hats of straw, and I wore baseball caps and bare feet. I drove a tractor at 13 and shot my cedar-stocked rifle my grandpa had given me to pass the time. My dad said it was the most accurate gun he had ever shot.
I was 7-and-a-half years old.
I thought about the ghosts and spirits when I walked into my house at night or when I heard the television outside from the den.
Iâ€™d pretend it was something in the dark, beyond the fence whispering. Iâ€™d stand on the deck my father made for my mother and stare into the empty, silent pasture. Iâ€™d listen as best as I could.
I never quite knew what I heard, yet the darkness and all its quiet always found a way to scare me. Standing on the deck Iâ€™d sense something in the air; I would turn around as quickly as possible and run inside the house, panting, with my eyes wide and mouth open.
Iâ€™d step onto my motherâ€™s tiled entry way and stare past the rocking screen door waiting for the darkness to collect at the doorframe. My eyes were big and my hands were always sweaty.
Part of me wanted to see something. I wanted to see or feel something crawling towards me through the tall grass, collecting me, folding me onto my heels.
When my father felt that I took our home for granted through my complaining about the chores and long drives to school he would say: â€œThe last Indian fight in this region took place 300 yards from here, on the cliffs and next to the stream. The U.S. cavalry shot their guns from the rocks and the Indians rode in on their horses with their bows and arrows from the east. Now we live here.â€
He would say this while looking over the rolling hills of ankle high grass.
The Arapahoe and Ute have fought on my property. Their blood filled the cracks in our soil in 1863. Their role in the Colorado war was considered minor. The U.S. cavalry ended their fight in three months.
Teepee rings could be seen on my land, along with arrowheads buried in the dirt and old rock buildings throughout the Kremer Indian Hills property made by the cavalry and Indian tribes.
Some considered the brutality of the cavalry to be almost genocidal. Indian families were massacred for no reason. Commanded by Lt. Col. William O. Collins, of the 11th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, is to blame for the Indian hauntings.
His brutality left the souls of Indians to weep.
My father claims he has woken up early in the morning to the sound of horses stampeding through the valley. Opening his curtains he would see nothing.
My neighbor to the north of my parents claims he saw campfires on his property at random hours of the night. He says that he heard Indian drums frequently.
My neighbors Joan and Mary, who lived west of me, claimed to see men in loin cloths sprinting through the fields at dusk, jumping downed logs, holding knifes, bows and arrows, running towards nothing.
Joan had a keen sense for the supernatural and always shared her interest for it with me. She was a hard woman. She smoked cigarettes everywhere she went. Parliaments were her favorite.
To this day, whenever the smell of a Parliament catches my senses, Joan will run into my mind with her deep wrinkles and wild cough. Her lips would smack on the cigarette and her eyes would water as her chest heaved.
Mary was the prettiest of the couple. Her mothering nature always made me feel at home. Her neighborly hugs were soft and firm. Her chest would envelop my head and push my brown hair into my eyes.
My parentâ€™s relationship was strongest with them.
I never exactly understood until later in life why our homeâ€™s landscape was so beautiful.
It scared me at night; all I did during the day was worry for the night. It crept in fast in the winter and slowly in the summer. It would fill the space between walls. It would sadden the landscape, like turning the lid on a glass jar.
The earth cracked so hard in the summer that you could get a tractor tire stuck for days.
When cars passed our ranch, the dust would hang in the air for hours. The ends of my lips would collect enough dust that it would look like I was eating mud.
Instead of city cries and police sirens filling our empty hills, the sounds of grasshoppers in the grass, magpies and cattle occupied it.
I could shoot my gun in any direction as long as it wasnâ€™t at my twin sister. My mother made pies and sat them on the windowsill.
My father worked with leather gloves and had a high-pitched â€œHeeee-yaaaaaâ€ when calling the cattle in at night.
We were earthy folk.
Staff writer Lucas Dean FiÅ¡er can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.