Julie sat in the back seat with her twelve-year-old brother, who annoyed her most of the time. Ten-year-old Julie swirled her stringy brown hair through her fingers and wished for curls. Today her parents, Ray and Sandy, were moving the family from Syracuse, New York to the small town of Moravia.
Julie snapped at her brother, “Knock it off,” as Tommy kept nudging her leg with his dirty sneakers.
“Quit being a downer,” Tommy said. Everyone always raved how much he looked like their dad with his wavy brown hair and slender build.
“Alright, you two. It’s been a long drive, but we’re almost at our new home,” Their mom said.
“Mom, how big is the place we’re moving to?” Julie couldn’t wait to explore the farm. They passed more farms than she ever imagined existed in New York State. She even noticed an alpaca farm.
Her mom, a petite athletic woman, explained that the farm was a 100-year-old renovated farmhouse set on four acres of land. The farm had two large barns and lots of room to plant a garden. The property experienced hard times, including a fire that destroyed the third barn.
Ray turned right on a long narrow driveway. Julie sat up straight and craning her head around her mom’s seat, tried to see up ahead.
Wow, she thought. Look at all those trees to make forts. She glanced at a pond on the left, surrounded by long grass and cattails. “Oh, I hope fish are in the pond—and ducks,” Julie whispered to herself. “Maybe this isn’t such a bad move.”
“Okay, kiddos, we’re close,” Ray said.
Tommy’s energy was on overdrive, “Hell, yeah.”
“Watch the language,” Sandy said as she glanced at Ray with a grimace.
Ray approached the end of the driveway on the left side of the house but veered off in an abrupt maneuver to the left. He kept driving over the side lawn and passed a big apple tree. He continued driving toward the back barn.
Sandy grabbed the dashboard, “What are you doing?”
“Dad, what’s wrong?” Julie asked. Her confusion turned to concern.
“Dad!” Julie kept yelling.
“Ray, what the hell are you doing?” Sandy screamed as the car bounced through the yard. “Have you lost your damn mind?”
Ray slammed his foot on the brake, stopping the car, opened his door, and jumped out. He ran down the overgrown trail leading to the barn. Stunned, everyone waited for Ray to return. Julie’s heart pumped so hard she thought it would burst out of her chest. She’d never seen her dad act like this before.
Ray jogged back to the car, stumbling over a fallen branch. “I could have sworn some guy walked from the house to the barn.”
“We should call the police,” Sandy said as she held her right palm to her forehead.
Ray sat, staring straight ahead for a second and thought about the research he’d done before purchasing the house. He wondered if he was allowing the rumors of ghosts to influence his imagination.
“No. Remember, honey, this property is old, and the ghosts of the past might still live here. He didn’t look like someone that is even part of this century. Ray immediately regretted saying that.
Sandy’s jaw dropped, and she leaned forward, laughing. “I thought you were kidding,” Sandy said. “And that’s supposed to make me feel so much better?” She couldn’t believe how flippant he was. Since when did Ray believe in ghosts?
“Ghosts? I love it here already. So freaking cool,” Tommy said.
“What did he look like, dad?” Julie asked.
“Like an old farmer with a straw hat, honey. He wore faded denim overalls with patches on the knees. He could be the original owner a hundred years ago. But maybe I was seeing things.”
Sandy rolled her eyes and mouthed the words. “Stop.”
Ray researched the farm at the local library before buying. He said nothing about the rumors surrounding the place. For years the townsfolk talked about how the old farmer’s spirit still resided on the farm. As Ray scrolled through microfilm, he came upon an article describing the farmer and his wife. Eli and Stella Eicherman were the original owners. Eli, with the help of some neighboring farmers, built the farm from the ground up. Stella had several miscarriages leaving the couple childless. The animals became their children, and one cow, in particular, Eli adored. He named her Molly, and she followed him everywhere whenever she had the chance. Stella died young. It wasn’t clear how she died, but the most popular rumor had been of a severe case of influenza. Stella’s death left Eli to manage the farm alone.
Ray still couldn’t believe he might have seen the ghost of the farmer he read about. At the time, he figured he’d wait to see what happened once they moved in before telling Sandy about the rumors. Now, after this strange occurrence, he knew he’d have to explain everything much sooner. Ray hesitated to tell Sandy the story of Stella’s spirit, attaching itself to Molly, the cow. Many people in town swore Eli’s unusual attention to Molly was because of Stella’s spirit.
A week went by, and things had come together. Most of the furniture was where Sandy wanted it, and the decorations pleased her. The house had four bedrooms, and all the bedrooms were upstairs except one. They made the downstairs bedroom into the office and library.
Ray told Sandy some of the rumors surrounding the old house and property the first night they moved. He didn’t want to freak her out too much but was pleased that the stories proved real. Sandy stood in the kitchen and felt the creepy crawlies travel up her spine. She stared out the kitchen window over the sink, looking out over a very dark corner of the property. A barn had been there but burned down with all the cows inside. She felt a chill and crossed her arms to rub her shoulders.
As Sandy stood staring out the kitchen window, Julie ran into the room.
“Mom, can ghosts talk?”
Startled, Sandy held her right hand to her chest as her heart fluttered wildly. “Geez, Julie. Don’t sneak up on me like that. Why would you ask me about ghosts? I think your Dad is filling you with crazy ghost stories.”
Julie shrugged her shoulders and skipped to the refrigerator to get a snack. “I don’t know. I just wondered.”
Sandy turned her back to the sink and leaned against it. “Wait a minute. You asked for a reason. C’mon, spill.”
“It’s just that there was this old man over near the apple tree. He kept saying he was looking for his cows.”
Alarmed, Sandy ran to the window. “What? Is he still out there?”
“No. He disappeared,” Julie said. “I’m not afraid of him. He seems nice.”
Then Tommy ran into the house yelling, “Mom. Look what some old guy gave to me. He said it was a first prize ribbon for his cow Molly.”
Sandy couldn’t endure anymore. “Alright, that’s it. I’m locking the doors, and everyone is staying inside until your dad comes home.”
Julie and Tommy protested, but their mother wouldn’t budge on the subject. She didn’t tell them that she heard a man calling out for Molly the night before. Sandy had been in the kitchen when the voice called for Molly. Since they hadn’t yet met many of their neighbors, she thought it was one of them calling for a child or a pet. Sandy went outside to help but realized it was Eli, the farmer, who was calling out for Molly. He stood near the burned down barn. Eli stared back at Sandy and smiled. It freaked her out, and she ran as fast as she could to the front of the house. Shaking, she opened the front door, tripped over the doorstep, fell and bruised her knee. She locked the door. “I’m not so sure I can handle this,” she said to herself.
That night at the dinner table, they discussed the old farmer. Ray thought it was cute that Julie and Tommy were open to the concept of ghosts. He didn’t tell Sandy he’d seen Eli several times. He came face-to-face with Eli. The farmer smiled and stretched out his arm to shake hands.
“You know, Sandy, I think the farmer wants to feel needed,” Ray said. He waited for a look of disapproval. Instead, she looked confused.
“Needed? What does that mean?” Sandy said while shaking her head.
Julie let out a half squeak, half giggle. “He needs cows.”
Tommy let out a loud laugh and said, “Yeah, and we’ll name one, Molly.”
“Seriously, Ray said, we could get a few cows and pen them up near the back barn, where I keep seeing the old guy.”
“You’ve seen him again? Why didn’t you tell me? You know I don’t like secrets.”
Ray nodded his head, “Yeah, he saw me too. So, what do you think? Should we get some cows?”
Sandy sighed. “Well, it is why we bought this farm; to raise chickens and pigs. I guess adding a few cows wouldn’t hurt.”
Julie leaped from her chair and started jumping and yelling, “Yes, yes, yes, we’re going to have cows.”
Tommy started jumping with Julie, and Ray winked at Sandy in approval and smiled.
“I know it’s crazy, but we have a ghost as a member of our family,” Sandy said. She found it amusing, sat with her arms folded, and shook her head.
The next few months Ray and Sandy transformed their four acres into a mini-farm with twelve chickens, one ornery rooster, four pigs, and three cows. Of course, Tommy named one of the cows, Molly. Not a day went by that the spirit of the farmer missed visiting the three cows. It surprised them that Eli and Molly seemed to know each other.
Julie said if Tommy could name the cow, then she should name the farm. Therefore, she did; she named it Molly’s Farm. The townsfolk also adopted the name Molly’s Farm when giving directions to tourists. The farm had made quite a name for itself. It became part of the Halloween tradition to drive by the farm. Townsfolk and tourists hoped for a glimpse of the ghost of an old farmer tending to Molly, the cow. Ray and Sandy vowed to keep the farm in the family. They held a yearly Halloween festival on their property to bring in some extra revenue. The farmer didn’t seem to mind that he was the main attraction, and neither did Molly.