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A Family Mystery
by Jim Newton 
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The old wooden wagon creaked and groaned as it climbed up and coasted down the ill-kept and hilly country roads of central Oklahoma. Misty vapors drifted from the mouths of the horses straining at their halters. The night was winter. Icy stars filled the cloudless sky overhead. It was the mid thirties. A deep economic depression blanketed the country.

Quakers…the wagon was loaded with my mother's family…they and their descendants were Quakers. Their destination was the church built by my family to fill the need for a nondenominational church to serve that rural area. My Grandfather and any other person feeling the call were welcome to preach there.

Perched on the wagon's driver seat was my Grandfather, John Carr. Beside him sat two boys, uncles George and Marion, covered with the same blanket as my Grandfather. In the back were the remainder of the ten children and my Grandmother, Carrie, all huddled together and bundled in blankets. The youngest of the children were two spoiled twins; my mother, Leora Faye, and her sister, Leona Flossie.

Only one sibling, Olie, was absent. She had disappeared two months before. Everyone had their suspicions about her absence, but nobody knew for sure. Fear and imagination fueled speculation about her. Communication was slow and meager in the rural areas of that time. Few phones were around the area, and, certainly, no cell phones existed. Therefore, word of Olie was slow to get around.

In rural areas, people needed large families to help run their farms and ranches. Occasionally, to escape the tedium and monotony of country life, children slipped away to find adventure.

Abruptly, the horses' heads jerked. They fought the reins. John knew horses. Without taking his eyes off the horses and the road ahead, he spoke quietly and calmly, "The horses picked up a scent of somethin'."

Turning to George, "Take the reins, son. Keep 'em steady and calm."

John climbed slowly from the wagon. Reassuringly, he whispered to and patted the horses as he peered down the dark road. Something was there. Horses don't play jokes.

Carrie and the children were filled with anticipation. Bobcats and mountain lions were common, but unlikely to attack a group of this size. Of course, to an adventurous mind, the criminal element was a possibility in these tough times. My Grandfather suspected something entirely different.

John walked about fifty yards down the road. George and Marion with their young eyes, kept their Father in sight.

After several minutes, George whispered to those behind, "Dad's comin' back."

John walked to the horses and patted them. "George, keep a tight rein. Carrie, hand me that old sheet behind you."

The tone of John's voice set the mood. The children were whispering to each other as Carrie handed the sheet to him, "John, do be careful, dear."

"The Lord is always with us, Mother. Our trust should be in him, not ourselves."

Turning back to George, John looked him in the eye, "Son, I'm gonna bring something back that is really gonna make the horses nervous. I know you can handle 'em, son." He patted George on the leg.

George knew his Father acted in this manner only in very serious situations. Being the oldest, he was used to being called on in tough situations. Having spent his eighteen years growing up with horses on their ranch, he acted with confidence. Only his Father knew more about horses.

John took off into the night to the area he had visited previously. The boys could only vaguely see him bend over and begin working at something.

The horses were stomping the ground nervously. Their heads twitched side to side.

The minutes passed by as hours for the anxious people in the wagon. Their minds were filled with images that only imagination can produce. Carrie spoke reassuringly in comforting tones to the frightened younger children.

"Dad's headin' back." Whispered George without turning his head. "Whatever it is, he's got it with him."

As John neared the wagon, he walked on the far side of the road to stay as far from the horses as he possible. Passing the horses, he turned toward directly toward George. "George, slide over and let me put this under the seat."

The sheet wrapped object looked as though John was carrying a baby. He placed it under the wagon seat.

Climbing aboard, he took the reins from George. Directing the horses once again down the road, he said only, "When we get to the church, I'll show everyone what I found. Till then, let's thank the Lord for all the blessings he has so lovingly poured upon us."

The wagon rambled slowly into the area outside the church. As he halted the horses, John turned to those in back, "Carrie take the children inside. I'm going to talk with Brother Bennett before I come in." In whispered words to George and Marion, "You boys stay close to your mother and the children. I'm going to need you two to act like grownups. I'll be in shortly."

Carrie and the children joined the other parishioners inside the church. They greeted one another and talked. The talk turned to the mysterious discovery on the road. By the time John and Brother Bennett entered with John carrying the bundle, everyone was speculating about it.

John and Brother Bennett made their way to the communion table in front of the pulpit. John placed the bundle carefully upon the table. He and Brother Bennett looked at each other. Each taking a deep breath, they turned to the congregation.

"I guess all of you know I found this on the side of the road." John tilted his head upward saying, "Please, Father, give us strength."

Slowly, he began removing the sheet. There was no sound to be heard in the sanctuary. All eyes were staring at the bundle.

As the object was revealed, a heart rending scream rang out, "Oh my dear God in heaven, it's Olie!" The object was an arm that had been severed from someone. It appeared to be from a female person.

"It's Olie's arm. Please, no, dear God!" With that Carrie fainted into George's arms revealing the fears she had locked up inside herself since Olie's disappearance.

Pandemonium broke out among the women and children. John and Brother Bennett were prepared. Both men set to work calming everyone down. It was a most difficult task. Eventually, the arm was removed from sight. John led the congregation in a long prayer for the unknown person associated with the arm. But…most felt it was Olie's arm. Didn't it look just like her arm…down to the last freckle?

The arm was buried with pious and tearful ceremony in the cemetery adjacent to the church.

Several weeks passed. The family was adjusting. All but Carrie, that is.

The family was finishing supper when George strode into the room with an ear to ear smile on his face, "We've got a visitor."

It was Olie. She was healthy and in possession of all her limbs.

Carrie smiled and quietly uttered, "All glory to our Lord for granting his mercy."

As for the arm, it remains a mystery to this day.

If you died today, are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven? You can be! TRUST JESUS NOW

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