“Don’t move you little turd,” Jim Bob muttered as he aimed the old .22 rifle at the big red tree squirrel.
“Not bad shooting,” he told himself as he picked up his dinner.
Jim Bob was not familiar with his uncle’s property, as he had only been in Arkansas for two weeks.
The Ozark mountains were a lot different from his parent’s home in Alabama, and he was lying low because the Sheriff was looking for him in Talladega. It wasn’t his fault that Buster Johnson had stepped on his toes and forced Jim Bob to drop the hammer on him. Buster was going to make it, but Jim Bob needed to get out-of-town until this thing blew over. Northern Arkansas was rural and very remote in 1965, and that was the kind of place Jim Bob was looking for.
His uncle knew the reason he had come to visit them and he could use an extra hand at the farm, but he told Jim Bob not to mention the shooting to Aunt Belle. That was how he wound up on a farm in the Ozarks, twenty miles from any town. He had followed a dry creek bed for about half a mile from the cabin, looking for a place to shoot squirrels or rabbits, whichever came first.
The trees were so thick in what his aunt called “the Bo-jacks,” that he could not see more than ten yards on the other side of the creek past the trees. He walked through trees, dropped down into a gully and stopped in his tracks to look at a rock staircase that appeared to be going nowhere.
“What the,” he mumbled as he tried to make sense out of what he was looking at.
The staircase was made out of good-sized rocks and the steps were large flat flagstones. Jim Bob checked the old pump rifle to make sure it was fully loaded before he began to walk up the stairs. Without thinking about it he pumped a round into the chamber.
It was two o’clock in the afternoon and he knew that he was alone in the woods, and there was no reason to be nervous. As he took the first step, the hair on the back of his neck stood up. At the top of the first thirteen steps he stopped and looked around.
He walked the other thirteen steps and looked in all directions and could still find no reason for the steps to be there. The steps turned at a left angle, and went up the side of a small hill. At the end of the steps was a ledge about ten feet wide, by five feet long. He looked at the ledge and wondered why a section of the ledge was cut away, creating a piece about three feet long.
He looked over the ledge and saw a drop of about twenty feet to the ground. Jim Bob didn’t waste any time heading back to the cabin.
“Well, well, looks like we’re having us a squirrel fry tonight,” Aunt Belle told him as he laid both the squirrels on the counter next to the sink.
She had picked a bunch of poke salad earlier that afternoon and was planning on serving the greens with pinto beans, or what Uncle Floyd called Arkansas caviar. Jim Bob was helping his aunt clean the squirrels, when he noticed a big red birthmark on the back of her left hand. The birthmark was shaped like the state of Idaho he thought.
His uncle walked into the cabin at that time and his wife asked, “Where you been all afternoon?”
“I’ve been chasing my tractors all over the county.”
“Chasing your tractors?” Jim Bob asked.
“That’s what he calls his mules. We’re too darn poor to own a tractor,” Aunt Belle told him.
His uncle passed the gravy to him and Jim Bob said, “I was up in the Bo-jacks and I came across an old rock staircase that went nowhere.”
“You best not snoop around there too much, old timers say that area is haunted,” his uncle informed him.
“But why would they have stairs that go nowhere. I looked around and didn’t see any sign of a foundation or any kind of building,” Jim Bob insisted.
“Well, you won’t see me wasting my time around those stairs. They’ve been there since before my grandpa bought this place and I do believe the area is haunted.”
“Me too,” Aunt Belle stated.
His uncle told his wife that he needed to go into town. “You need anything while I’m in town,” he asked her.
“No, I’m all set,” she replied.
“How about it Jim Bob, do you want to ride into Harrison?”
“Sure-thing Uncle Floyd, just let me put my good boots on.”
“Me too,” his uncle said as he went to his tiny room and put on his going to town cowboy boots.
Thirty minutes later as they pulled into the town limits of Harrison, Jim Bob’s uncle told him that he had a few things to do and if Jim Bob wanted to, he would drop him off at the domino parlor and he could shoot pool or find someone to play dominoes with. Jim Bob didn’t know that his uncle had a girlfriend in town, but he wanted to find a telephone.
While his uncle was at his girlfriend’s house, Jim Bob was in the phone booth in the corner of the domino parlor. Freddy LeRoux answered the phone on the third ring and Jim Bob said, “Hey Freddy, it’s Jim Bob from Talladega.”
Freddy wanted to know what Jim Bob was up to. Jim Bob explained that he had a little problem back in Bama and he had to get out-of-town. They had known each a few years before Freddy moved to Minnesota.
“Didn’t you go to some kind of forestry college in upstate New York,” Jim Bob asked.
“That’s right Jim Bob, why do you ask?”
Jim Bob told him about the strange staircase in the woods.
“I doubt if I could help you when it comes to strange things in the woods. I majored in hotel management, but I would love to come to Arkansas. My job is winding down here and I need a little vacation.”
Jim Bob explained that he was staying with his aunt and uncle, and they didn’t have a Telephone. He thought that he could get them to agree to let Freddy stay for a few days, using the excuse that they would be hunting in the woods. He told Freddy that his relatives were acting strange about the staircase and he asked Freddy not mention it, while he was in Arkansas.
“So, if you don’t have a telephone, how am I supposed to find you when I get down there?”
“I’ll call you back in an hour. You figure out how long it will take you to get down here and I’ll get into Harrison, and wait for you at the domino parlor on the main street in the town square.”
“Domino parlor,” what’s a domino parlor?”
“Just like it sounds. Men come in here and play dominoes or pool.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right. You’re in the south. Call me back in one hour.”