Well when somebody passes on in the country it is an event, specially if it looks the least bit suspicious. A few years back the mail man found Cecil DeWalter hangin from his windmill with a note to the Widder Ledbetter in his overall’s pocket. The note declared his “undyin love and devoshun” to her and allowed that if she wuzn’t goin to accept hiz advances that she mite at least take his estate and he thereby willed her hiz property and savins. Cecil had always been a stikler fur detale and he had put down every cow, hawg, or bale of hay he owned in that note, along with his paid-fur machinry and the bank where he kept his poke.
Now some around this part of the county were sayin that kettle smelled like fish becuz he had also writ that none of his kin were to git so much as a plugged nickel from his leavins. As you can imagine there was quite a stir over this deel in that he had sired a purty large famly befur hiz own beloved Sylvia had passed on ten years earlier.
Cecil hadn’t even stiffened up real good before the kids started raisin holy cane and demandin that Sheriff Wardell declare him murdered by no other than the object of his affectshun and the benefactor of his last will and testyment, Ola Mae Ledbetter. The case wuz kinda complycated in that Ola Mae herself wuz in her seventies and in no shape to wressel a rope around ol Cecil’s neck and hawl him up that windmill.
Never the less the DeWalter offspring were pressin Bob Wardell to “do hiz job” and find the evydense showin Ola Mae wuz the culprit. Sheriff Bob had been wearin that badge almost since Truman was swore in and he weren’t gonna be pushed around by nobody, but he did declare a formal investigation and he and Constable Lucas Mulrooney went on out and poked around a bit at Cecil’s farm. Lucas was Sheriff Bob’s nefew and dumber than a sack of rocks but everybody knew that as long as hiz uncle wuz sheriff he would keep gettin appointed to hiz county job. Bob took him along most times to keep him safe from hisself. When Bob and Lucas drove up, Cecil’s kids were standin around the windmill waitin on em. By now each one had a theerey on how it had been “pulled off”.
The oldest boy, Dale, was purty shur the Widder Ledbetter had drugged the ol man with a glass of sweet tea or somethin as they wur standin under the windmill and then jest tied one end of the rope around hiz neck, looped the rope over the top of the windmill platform and tied the other end to the John Deere and hauled him off the ground. Hiz story thinned out a bit when it come time to explain how Ola Mae had climbed up over twenty feet to the windmill and run the rope over the top. Dale allowed she wuz probably a lot more sprite than she looked and maybe on them mega-vitimins or sumthin.
The next theerey come from the second oldest and the only daughter, Violet. As she wuz the only DeWalter offspring to get mostly all the way thru school , she wuz purty cocky and certin that she had put it all together. She reminded Constable Mulrooney how that fella at the fair last Fall had put him in a trance in front of half the county and made him run around that stage on all fours and scratch hisself like a baboon. Lucas said he didn’t recall nuthin like that happenin to him and Sheriff Bob allowed that wudn’t have been much of a stretch fur Lucas no-way. Violet insisted that Bob search Ola Mae’s house fur books on trances.
It cudda been the water or sumthin but it wuz common knowledge that as the DeWalter kids wuz born each one turned out dumber than the last and Sheriff Bob suspected that these theerys wurn’t gonna be gettin much better. None the less he leaned aginst that ol windmill, sighed, and waited fur Cecil’s boy, Neil, to pitch hiz vershun of hiz daddy’s demise.
Neil wuzn’t the youngest but he had been the last to leave home, mainly cuz he wuz felony careless. Prone to stickin his fingers and toes in machinry and choppin what wuz left off with the other tools on the farm, Neil had been forbid by his daddy from leavin the yard or handlin anythin more complycated than the porch swing.
Once Neil’s momma had passed on Cecil coudn’t keep an eye on him no more so he sent him into town to stay with the preachur and hiz wife and they got him a job at the church house sweepin up. Unfortunately Neil’s bein around the preachur and hearin hiz religious rants all the time had kinda clouded hiz smallish brain. So it wuz no surprize when Neil declared the Widder Ledbetter to be possessed by demons.
Neil pointed his mostly fingerless right hand up in the direction of the windmill and explained how Ola Mae had used her unnatural powers to get the rope over the top of the platform. Accordin to Neil, it wud also explain how she tricked hiz poor Ol Daddy into turnin everythin over to her.
The last of the group, the twins Marvin and Larry, kinda stood off from the rest of them. When Neil quit talkin Marvin cleared his throat and said that he and hiz twin didn’t think the Widder Ledbetter had nuthin to do with it. Now this was a different twist and Sheriff Wardell cocked his head over to one side and asked them what they thought might have happened.
This time Larry spoke up and he said that they figured hiz Ma was plenty mad about their Ol Daddy chasin after the Widder and she had come back from the grave and killed him and framed Ola Mae with that note. As such, they figured, the onliest way to make things right wuz fur the court to declare the note a weapon and throw out the will so as Missus Ledbetter’s good name and reputation could be restored. The Sheriff started thinkin the twins mite a been adopted.
With all those clues tucked away in his mind Sheriff Bob and Lucas drove over to the Ledbetter house to speak with Ola Mae.
The Ledbetter farm was neat as a pin and the flower beds in front of the house were in full bloom. Ola Mae had leased the farmland out when her husband had died and she only had to keep up with the little spot around her house. Bob had phoned ahead so as not to surprize Ola Mae and she was sittin on the front porch when they drove up.
Ola Mae Ledbetter sure didn’t look like no windmill climbin killer as she used her cane on her way into the house. Bob kinda worked hiz way into things by talkin about the weather and how purty her flower beds looked. She allowed as how the church group had come out that Spring and weeded and planted her beds and clipped her hedges.
There was a bit of a lull in the small talk and Ola Mae offered them some iced tea. Sheriff Bob said yes, if it weren’t too much trouble, but Lucas was quick to decline. It took her a few minutes to hobble around the kitchen gettin the ice and the glasses ready and Sheriff Bob noticed Lucas eyeing her bookcase purty hard, probably tryin to figur out how to spell “trance” he thought.
When Ola Mae come back into the drawin room with the tea and had a chance to sit down Sheriff Bob told her that he had to look into thangs cuz of Cecil’s death and the note and all. Ola Mae jest nodded her head and kept sippin her sweet tea.
When the Sheriff was finished Ola Mae looked at both a her visitors fer a minit, sighed real loud, then beginst to tell how Cecil had started comin by right after Sylvia had passed on. She said she felt kinda bad fur him cuz now he wuz alone, his kids were no count and he had the farm to take care of by hisself. She said she remembered how hard it had been fur her when Nathan had died with no kids at all to turn to. She went on to explain how Cecil had becum a nuisance over time and she couldn’t git nothin done with him underfoot every afternoon. She had finally told him to leave her be and had quit pickin up the telephone or answerin the door past noon.
Sheriff Bob asked her how long it had been since Ol Cecil had come around and she said he had kept away fur quite a spell but had started back about a month ago. He had been over the very afternoon that the mailman found him hangin.
She had barely got the words out when Lucas jumped to his feet and blurted out “We never said he hung hisself’! He looked proudly over at his uncle jest as Bob smacked him alongside the head. The story had already been in the county paper and on the TV for three days. Bob apologized to Ola Mae and sent Lucas outside to check the tire pressures on the cruiser.
Bob asked her if she had knowd that Cecil wuz thinkin about harmin hisself and she said he used that threat all the time and she didn’t take it fur truth til she heered about it from the very same mail man that found him. Until she saw it on TV she didn’t even know he had left her a cent, nor did she want any of hiz estate. She allowed as how it had been an embarrassment from nearly the beginning and had got worse with hiz death. She jest wanted to be left to herself and let hiz kids fight over the leavins.
Sheriff Bob told Ola Mae that this wuz the last of it as far as the county wuz concerned, thanked her fer the sweet tea, and took hiz leave. When he got outside Lucas wuz still tryin to figure out how to use the tire gage. On the way back into town Lucas expressed hiz keen disappointment in not havin a run at checkin out the “mega vitimin” theery by goin thru Ola Mae’s medicine chest. Sheriff Bob closed his eyes and wondered if hiz sister had ever carried on with one of the DeWalters.
Well, as it turned out, Ola Mae signed over any share in Cecil’s estate and that left it to the kids to figure out how to swindle one another out of what their poor Ol Daddy had worked so hard to git. Dale and Violet teamed up aginst Neal and the twins and even the preachur got in it by tryin to declare hisself Neal’s legal guardian and submittin a bill fer his care.