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Sure enough, like I thought I seen, there laid an old human skull lookin’ up at me and smillin’ with a toothless grin. You don’t run on to things like that every day, and, to tell the truth, I didn’t know exactly what to do.
I kicked it with my toe some then reached down, picked it up, and looked around tryin’ to figure out where it’d come from. I figured there musta been somebody buried next to that wash a long time ago, and the buck’s landslide opened the grave.
“It were there, John, there where you see that slide. I swear it! You can even see Breaker’s hip prints and saddle marks in the dirt. Do you think the coyotes could’ve dragged it off?”
We searched up and down the wash and in the bushes and the like, only turnin’ up rocks and sand and more bushes. Old John weren’t sayin’ a word while I followed him up the side on the remainder of that game trail where I run into the buck the day before. Dirt and rocks was loose from landslide, but Old John went up like a man with a purpose. There at the top sat the craziest thing I ever seen in my life.
Not two feet from the bank of that high desert wash laid what looked like a fresh dug grave. That’s right... a grave with three big juniper posts makin’ a triangle over the mound of new turned earth. That’s not all, neither. Spread across the middle post hung a brand spankin’ new buckskin shirt with leather fringe on the sleeves and collar, and with half-moons and suns and stars painted all over it.
Now you tell me that ain’t the strangest thing you ever seen... out there a thousand miles from no place, in the middle of the Arizona Strip, where there’s not half-a-dozen people between that place and the Utah state line, and you walk up on a thing like that!
“What is it, John?” I asked, completely dumbfounded.
Old John walked around it two or three times, checkin’ things over careful and not sayin’ a word. He’d squat and look under the poles then get up and stare far away toward Mount Trumble. He’d walk around some more and check things again, then scratch his head and shake it and spit a little. All this time he never touched no part of it even once.
“Do you know what it is?” I was almost afraid to ask.
He started to speak, but it seemed like everything caught in his throat. “Ghost shirt,” he said again. This time it came loud and clear: “Ghost shirt!”
“Ghost shirt?” I asked, puzzled. “What in heck is that?”
He removed his hat and rubbed his hands through his nearly white hair. “Not good... for sure, or somebody playin’ bad trick on us.”
“Where’d it come from? Who put it here? It weren’t here yesterday. I rode right by this spot lookin’ for that stock.”
Old John didn’t answer my questions. Instead, he had a few of his own. “Boy, you playin’ some trick on me?” he said with burnin’ eyes. “‘Cause if it so, be low down and dirty; I don’t take to it.”
“Honest, John. I don’t know nothing about this, other than what I told you. What do you mean, trick?”
“Grave... shirt... stuff?”
“I swear it, John. This weren’t here yesterday. I mean it!” I couldn’t believe Old John’d think I put somethin’ like that out there just to fool with him. “Besides, where’d I get a fancy shirt like that?”
“Not right,” he kept sayin’ as he walked around scratchin’ his head, stoppin’ and examinin’ things, then walkin’ some more. “Well, somebody put it here... or some thing!”
“What do you mean, some thing?” I thought about the buck and the dust devil and the old skull.
Old John didn’t answer. He kept studyin’ the grave.
Finally, he stopped, looked straight in my eyes, not two feet from me, just like he done back at the corral. “Boy, I want some truth. You messin’ over here. Did you pick up skull, take it home or pick up anything?”
“I told you what happened, John. I’d not lie to you.”
“You sure? From slide? Now tell me, boy, if you did. I mean it!”
“Positive. The old skull were all I seen anyway.”
“No time to keep secrets. Tell truth.”
Jim has been an educator and coach in the Arizona schools for over forty years. He is an avid sportsman who loves to explore on foot and on horseback the deserts and the mountains of the Southwest.
The Shadow Walkers is Jim’s newest young adult novel from Wings ePress, Inc. Night Whisper… A Basketball Story has been honored with the prestigious Golden Wings Award. Children Of The Bones will be forthcoming in March.
"This adventure is more than a NIGHT WHISPER. It is a standing ovation for young people who overcome odds. The conversation sparkles; the mystical thread is superb!" -- Phil Mandel, English Chair, Phoenix schools
Night Whisper: "This book has a mystical voice with its lyrical style that weaves a strong mood." -- The Jokker's Lair Studios, literary component
Night Whisper: "Southwest flavor unleashes adventure. What a great sports story about teens... but it is much, much more." -- Jamie Cundiff, agent
The Ghost Dancer, Jim Green’s best yet, and I’ve read them all, takes you inside the mind and heart of a young boy and into the mind and heart of the Arizona high country. It’s an unforgettable tale of courage and just plain pluck. You’ll find open graves, a Chindii, a bone awl, ancient skulls, bad animals, bad people, bad spirits. It’s spooky, thrilling, and told by a compelling narrator, young Skeeter Irons, a boy I couldn’t help but love. Jim’s is a voice that makes Arizonans proud. -- Toby Heathcotte, Author and President, Arizona Authors Association
The Ghost Dancer: A five record selection: Another great narrative by an outstanding story teller. This book, written for young adults, will be enjoyed by all readers who love adventure, suspense, and unforgettable encounters. The words of fifteen-year-old Skeeter Irons, the main character, are at times pure poetry. -- The Jokerr’s Lair Studios
Skeeter and Old John in Jim Green’s newest novel, The Ghost Dancer, might remind one at times of two other famous adventurers. The Grand Canyon to Skeeter is much like the Mississippi River to Huck Finn, and Old John and Ms. Watson’s Jim both become mentors and father figures along the way. The setting is intriguing, the plot intricate, and the characters unforgettable. -- J. L. Cundiff, Literary Agent
Book Publisher: Wings e Press
No. of Pages: 334
Paper Weight (lb): 14.0
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