from the collection of Arthur Vyn Boennighausen
It was Christmas Eve, 1998. We had been camping near a couple of apple trees that were near the foundation of an old homestead on the Reiser's Prarie near the base of Horn Peak in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. The location had been suggested to us by a tall, heavy set older man wearing wide red suspenders standing in the doorway of the Westcliffe town newspaper - The Wet Mountain Tribune. The man struck up a conversation with us as we stopped to pet editor Jim Little's big dog Avalon.
"Are you folks camping in that Volkswagen EuroVan I saw you drive up in?" The old timer asked as I wiped Avalon's saliva from my hand.
"Yes, we like to camp out when we are in this area." my wife Marty answered politely.
"I know of a beautiful camping spot on the Reiser's Prarie that has some interesting sounds that you can listen to in the night." the old man went on. "If you set up camp in just the right spot and put your ear to the ground after Sunset you can hear something interesting".
"Sounds interesting!" Marty replied.
We figured the old man was bored with living in a small community and was pulling our leg to entertain himself; but we were in a good mood, so we let him draw us a map to the location which was about ten miles West of town. He told us he had been a Custer County Commissioner a very long time. We knew the County Commissioners were a serious bunch of fellows, so we thanked the man and got in our van.
As we drove out of Town Marty suggested that we follow the map and see what was out there.
We drove West to where the Prarie meets the forrest and followed the gravel road indicated on the map. Sure enough, we came to a few old apple trees that had managed to survive at an elevation of almost 9000 feet. As the old man had told us, the remains of a stone foundation were still visible near the apple trees.
We set up camp and started a small campfire to off-set the chill wind of the early evening. Soon the Sun set behind the mountains and we climbed into our tent to read the books we had brought from the Westcliffe library. As we lay reading using our headlamps our dogs Shogun and Tai-Chi started to run around in circles and bark loudly. I jumped out of the tent to see if they had gotten into a fight with a porcupine or something.
I discovered that not only were the two dogs agitated but also every domestic and wild animal in the area. Cows were mooing, coyotes were howling, horses were whinnying; my headlamp picked out birds flying around in the dark all around us. A porcupine and a squirrel ran by the tent as the dogs ran around in circles everywhere.
For five minutes all the animals in the area went mad! Then they simply stopped. They did not stop slowly or one at a time. All the animals suddenly stopped making sounds and instantly went back to their normal habits. Our two dogs just lay down on the ground and went to sleep.
The sky was clear and full of stars. There was no wind, no thunder and no lightning. Nothing that I could see or hear could have agitated all these animals at once except for the faintest rapping sound somewhere nearby.
"Hey Marty! Come on out here." I yelled into the door of the tent. "Tell me if you can hear something rapping faintly".
Marty came out of the tent and we cupped our hands behind our ears and listened quietly.
"I can hear something" Marty said. "It is so faint, that I can't tell what it is"
"Maybe we have to put our ears to the ground like the old man told us" Marty suggested.
We both laid down on our sides and pressed our ears to the Prarie soil. The sound was definitely louder but still faint. A rapping kind of sound that was hard to identify.
I had an idea for an experiment to see if the sound was louder in any particular direction. I went to the West side of the tent and pressed my ear to the ground. The sound was hardly audible any more. Same thing happened when I listened to the South and the North; the sound almost disappeared. However, when I walked about 20 foot East of the tent, the sound was definitely louder!
"Rap, rap, rap, rap, rap" we could hear the sound a little better to the East of the tent.
I kept walking East and putting my ear to the ground every once in a while. By constantly moving in different Easterly directions I was able to get closer and closer to the source of the sound.
"Rap, rap, rap, rap, rap" the sound could be easily heard with or without your ear to the ground. In one spot near the first apple tree I could really hear the sound coming from a particular spot in the ground.
"RAP, RAP, RAP, RAP, RAP" the sound came out of the ground when I pressed my ear to the earth.
"Marty, get me a shovel from camp. I am going to see if I can dig down to whatever is making that rapping sound!" I shouted.
Marty brought the shovel and I started to dig near the base of the tree. As I dug down, the sound kept getting louder and louder.
"RAP! RAP! RAP! RAP! RAP!" the sound was really getting loud now. Loud enough to be sort of frightening!
About three feet down, I came to an old headstone that looked like it was from some sort of graveyard. I cleared the dirt away so I could read the inscription with my flashlight. The inscription read: "Do not open until Christmas Eve 1998, by order of the first Custer County Commissioners with the date of Christmas Eve, 1870."
"Wow!" I told Marty. "This may be the first thing that the County Commissioners did when they established the Commissioner's role in this Community in 1870. That was 128 years ago! What would they have done as their first order of business? This may be their very first decree for the Community to test their authority. A way to see if the Community would accept them as Leaders"
By this time, the sound of the rapping was almost unbearable. You could feel the vibration of each rap through the surface of the headstone.
"RAP!! RAP!! RAP!! RAP!! RAP!!" we could hear that awful sound coming from below the warning from the first Custer County Commissioners from so long ago.
I couldn't resist seeing what secret the Custer County Commissioners had hidden out here near this old homestead, so I pried up the stone with my shovel. For 128 years the decree of the Commisioners had been honored and I was going to be the first person to see what they had buried in the ground so long ago!
Under the stone was a small box with a little metal latch. The whole box shook in my hand so hard that I had a difficult time holding on to it.
"RAP!!! RAP!!! RAP!!! RAP!!! RAP!!" went something from inside the box!
With shaking hands, I slid the box's latch to the side and opened the lid. My eyes went wide as I saw what the box contained!
Mouse Click Here To Learn What Was in the Box!!