Though it was still early morning, the summer sun made itself known. Ulani was accustomed to hot weather, but not like this. The dry Kansas air seemed electric. The constantly whirling dust devils were an annoyance, blowing dirt in her eyes and making her skin itch, but standing on the side of the road overlooking the sweeping and swaying emerald fields against an endless azure horizon enthralled her. The only experience she had to compare were the times spent on an uncle’s fishing trawler, far out to sea. There, the ocean stretched for what seemed like forever against an equally unending bright blue sky.
Somewhere in the distance, in the fields, once stood her great grandmother Amelia’s family home. Ulani tried to imagine what it might have looked like, but all she could see were black and white photos from history books of farm life on the plains and prairies of middle America. She turned to see if she could see anything down the road. Somewhere, near here, once stood Aaron’s great grandmother Mabel’s family home. She looked the other way, but nothing stood out. Only the ever reaching green fields of soy bean and stalks of early corn.
“We’re in the right spot,” Aaron said, consulting the paperwork the local Grange could supply from their archived records. “Right in front of us was the Wright’s farm, and down the road, that a’way,” he said, pointing north, “was my great grandmother’s family farm. McAdams, it says here.”
Ulani looked at the paper Aaron held. “That name isn’t familiar?”
“Mabel McAdams. Amelia Wright,” Ulani mused.
“Only family names I’ve ever known are Greig and Rimouski,” Aaron shrugged.
“Holokai and Kapalakiko,” Ulani replied.
The two smiled at each other. Aaron continued, “Strange, to think there were people livin’ around here, back when.” He paused a moment. “Not now.”
Ulani shuddered a little. “Death is so weird.”
“No shit,” Aaron said.
“What do you think happened? Dustbowl migration?” Ulani asked.
“Nah. I mean, the Depression, sure. And, the drought was bad in those years, ‘course. But this area wasn’t the dustbowl. A little mercy in that, I suppose. Nah, farming changed, ya know? And, people went broke if they didn’t roll with the changes. Then there was the drought, like I said. And, then the Depression? The woman at the Grange said the train stopped coming through here sometime in the 40s. I mean, folks had to go where they could get work. Little towns, like Severy? Just dried up.”
“Looks like some came back.”
“Yeah. It never really went away, I suppose.”
Ulani giggled. “They got a gas station, right? Nail and hair salon, ACE Hardware? I saw a Real Estate office, and a feed and equipment yard, and a 7-11, so…” Aaron gave a short laugh in reply. Ulani continued, “There are many, many small towns in Hawaii that aren’t much more.”
The new-found cousins stood in silence for a while. Neither wanted to leave what felt like a sacred burial ground, but neither knew what else could be discovered by remaining a minute longer.
A pick-up truck approached, slowing as it came upon them.
“Help you folks?” an elderly man asked. Sitting next to him was a very old woman.
Aaron approached the driver’s side. “Nah. But, thanks. We’re just lookin’ at our old family homestead. You know the area?”
“Sure. Born and raised. This here used to be the Merrill’s farm. Part of FNC now. Twenty or more years, at least. Before Merrill, was the, uh…” the driver turned to the old woman, “Who owned it before the Merrill’s?”
“Wright,” the woman said, briefly glancing out the driver’s side window. As she returned her focus to out the windshield, she caught sight of Ulani.
“You Gregson’s kin?” she asked, pointing a finger at Ulani.
Aaron waved Ulani in, who had not heard the old woman’s question. “The woman asked about Gregson!” Aaron said, excited.
Ulani leaned in the driver’s side window, briefly acknowledging the driver. “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. You know my grandfather?”
“You Gregson’s kin,” the woman stated.
“Amelia Wright married a Polynesian. Had a boy, named Gregson” the old woman said. “Crazy thing.”
“Hawaiian,” Ulani politely corrected. “I suppose it was. It certainly was for my family,” Ulani smiled.
“Girl was trouble, start to finish,” the old woman said.
“How did you know my grandfather?” Ulani asked, ignoring the old woman’s comment.
“Lady asked how you know this Gregson guy, Ma,” the driver said.
“Came looking for Amelia.”
“When was that, Ma?”
The old woman shook her head. “A long while back. Years.”
Aaron interrupted. “You know the McAdams?”
The old woman looked at him. ” ‘course.”
“I’m Mabel McAdams great grandson!” Aaron triumphantly declared. The old woman did not respond.
“Well,” the driver finally said, “Mornin’ to ya.”
The men exchanged hat tips, and Ulani waved. As the driver put his truck in gear, the old woman reached out a hand to stall him. She motioned to Ulani to come back to the truck.
“Gregson was a kind man. A good man. Nothin’ like his Ma. Had his intended with him, time I met him. Pretty gal. You look like the way I remember her. Anyway, he were disappointed he couldn’t find his Ma, but we told him, we said, he oughta bid her good riddance and go on back home to Polynesia.”
“Hawaii. Why’s that?” Ulani asked.
“She were no good! Amelia were no damn good. Be glad you ain’t got none of her in you. I can tell. I can tell you got your grandma’s looks and I knows your grandpa’s good sense. I can see these things. Amelia were no good, and I’m sorry for you ’bout that. Time you leave her be.”
The old woman turned back to staring blankly out the windshield of the truck. Aaron and Ulani made their thank you’s to the driver, and the truck drove off.
Aaron started walking toward his own truck and Ulani followed. A stiff breeze pased through the field, making Ulani abruptly stop. For a brief instant of a single moment, she thought she heard a woman say her name.
Ghosts in the Fields…fini