Save the Date! And 'Letter in the Posthole'!
This is I'm a Cheetah looking innocent, but she's responsible for a lot of the fencepost chewing on our farm! (Can you see some of the evidence?).
'Letter in the Posthole' refers to damaged posts but the story came to my mind because of something I found out a while ago about the name 'Symes'.
Although this is a fictional story, it contains a kernel of truth. Some of you already know that our small horse farm was once part of a much larger farm property owned by the Symes family. 'Symes' is my maiden name. There is no obvious, direct connection and it could just be a coincidence, but it is rather intriguing, and one day I'll dig deeper.
By the way. one of my great uncles, Charles Symes, emigrated to Canada and married here but they had no children.
I hope you enjoy the story!
It's followed by the latest news on the 5th book in the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series! Save the date!
Letter in the Posthole
As we left the warmth and comfort of the house, Martin and I questioned our decision to work on the fenceposts. The chilling wind cut through our jackets, the slanting sleet splattered on our faces, and the grass sparkled with melting ice as we headed to the barn.
We pulled out the first damaged post with ease. Horses like to munch on fenceposts, and the trick is to get them out before they become so thin and fragile that either the horses can break out of the field, or you can’t get enough grip on the post to remove it and replace it. We were pleased that the first replacement post went into the hole as if it had been freshly dug, and we fastened the oak rails securely. Pleased with our success, we decided to continue despite the penetrating dampness. Besides—back-filling, hammering, levering, and lifting were warming us up.
But the next pole was more difficult to remove, and the old farm tractor groaned with the effort as its front-end loader pulled on the chain wrapped around the post. Eventually, the distorted post was released from the soil’s grip. From my vantage point on the tractor, I noticed something muddied and shredded, perhaps material, hanging from the bottom of the post. I turned off the tractor and went to have a look before Martin released the post from the grip of the chain and relegated it to the scrap heap. It was coarse material, but it was hard to identify because of the dirt. Martin said the posthole would need some work to get ready for the replacement pole. He left to fetch the posthole digger. The earth was collapsing into the hole and there were strange bits and pieces protruding from the disintegrating sides.
Martin dug out a clump of earth mixed with what appeared to be some rotting sackcloth. The next held fragments of bone. At first, we thought they were animal bones, perhaps the remains of someone’s favourite horse. But the next lump of earth brought a piece of sacking to the surface that had something wrapped in it. Inside was an old leather pouch that contained folded papers. My hands trembled as I strained to decipher the smudged handwriting on the soiled, wrinkled letter paper. It took only two sentences for me to realize the letter accompanied a body. I shuddered as I contemplated the disturbing reality that someone was buried on our property, and a flurry of questions jostled in my head—the most obvious being: why was the person buried in our field rather than in a cemetery?
Martin called the police.
I returned to my perusal of the shaky writing, some of which was illegible. I turned to the last page and was startled when I read the person’s name: William Frederick Symes. Symes is my maiden name. This curious coincidence made my palms sweat despite the biting wind.
The letter started with a statement that William had asked his good and faithful servant, Orlando, to bury the letter with him. It gave a brief life history. He had emigrated from England with his brother, Robert Charles Symes. They had been part of a large family of eleven children. He married in Canada, but his wife died while giving birth to Donald, their only son. William worked hard on the land he obtained from the government, but Robert was a gambler and swindler and became destitute. William acknowledges there was no love lost between them and he came to despise Robert. He was embarrassed by his behaviour which he believed tarnished the family name.
Robert’s desperation eventually led to a scheme to defraud William out of his land. This was thwarted by William, but he then fell ill and became increasingly sicker. ‘I write this letter on my deathbed with my dutiful servant, Orlando, by my side. I have requested that I be buried on my beloved land near the oak tree which I have watched grow since my son was born, for I have pledged to haunt my brother until his dying day. I believe in my heart of hearts that he has poisoned me with the intention of seizing this beautiful land that I have been the steward of for these past many years. There will be no peace for either of us.’
I had sat down on the wet grass, trying to protect the fragile letter from the damaging weather. I couldn’t stop my body from shaking. But Martin said the police were on their way, so I collected myself and trotted back to the house to make a photocopy before I would have to part with it.
There was a lot of unwanted activity on our small farm over the next few days as the remains of the body were dug up and removed, the area examined and photographed, questions asked and re-asked. The hole was now large enough for about a hundred poles, so we had to work hard to get the fence back in order.
The letter haunted me. I wanted to find out more, especially since the man was named Symes. I turned to the internet, but frustration grew as the computer sucked up large chunks of precious time and delivered only small crumbs of information in return. I was pondering how to improve my results when I received a call from someone who lived in the area, who had read about the find in the local paper, and who claimed to know something of the Symes family. She used to live on the farm next door and her family had been there for four generations.
The story her family told was that Donald shot his Uncle Robert and became a fugitive on the run from the law, wanted dead or alive, and was never seen again. The story didn’t include a motive for the murder. I knew that William had stated in his letter that he had no proof that he’d been poisoned, so Donald likely realized he would be hanged for the cold-blooded murder of his uncle.
I’m the one being haunted by William now—sometimes I believe I can sense his presence. I’m driven to find out more and am relentless in my quest—more so since I discovered through a search of my ancestors that William and Robert were both great great uncles of mine. And what happened to my distant cousin, Donald?
Vicky Earle Copyright 2023
Update on 5th Book
Dying for Money has a cover! But it's not ready for sharing yet. Wordzworth is formatting the interior for both the paperback and e-book versions. I must review their work carefully. Then they will distribute to e-book retailers and to Ingram Sparks so that anyone can obtain a paperback or e-book from just about anywhere in the world.
Now for the important news!! The tentative date for the BOOK LAUNCH is Saturday, June 17, from 1 pm to 3 pm at Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge.
As usual, I will be signing books and reading excerpts.
And there will be treats.
I hope you will join me! You, your friends and family, are all invited.
Watch my blog for more information.
Note: Blue Heron is an independent bookstore and a great supporter of local authors, including self-published ones. And it is a wonderful place to visit.