Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Uncle Jerry's Ghost

Jerry Underwood is one half Irish and one half Chickasaw Indian, the son of  irish pioneer Carrie Tuley and Chickasaw Indian Isaac Newton Underwood.  As luck would have it, the irish genes imbeded in Jerry's DNA were recessed by the dominate chickasaw genes of his father.  By nature, Jerry Underwood is 100% indian.

Jerry has spent his entire seventy plus years on this planet in pursuit of the history and lore of the native american culture.  He has immersed himself and those who are willing students in the study of ancient herbs, spiritualism and life styles of the Unconquerable Chickasaw Nation. Throughout the native society he is a renown beadmaker, artistan and storyteller highly sought after for his knowledge and connection to the glory days of a proud nation.

I have been his student, companion and friend for forty years. Jerry and I have built many indian structures, eaten numerous indeginous plants, sweated in lodges, been on vision quest and shared the passion of cultural stories of years long since past. We are connected by blood relatives and shared native backgrounds. He is, in short, my spirit brother and mentor.

Jerry believes, as the old elders once did, that spirits never die. They live in the forest surrounding humans. Those who walk this planet daily fail to see those who have moved into the spirit world because they are too engaged in personal pursuits. In the silent, dimly lit moments of each day it is possible to see the spirits of the dead in many forms.

Jerry Underwood lives in a house on the edge of the woods just outside of the small southern town of Milburn, Oklahoma. He resides there with his white wife and life companion, Eileen. The house sets on the edge of light and dark, filled with departed souls who visit frequently, welcomed by the couple.

Jerry and Eileen accept the visits as a normal part of their life existance.  This can be a little unnerving to their occasional visitors.  Jerry's sister-in-law is my mother-in-law. She spent a night with them a few years ago and had a ghostly encounter that so unnerved her that she is hesitant to speak of them accept to close family.

After a late dinner, she went outside to smoke and a ghostly apparition walked right up to her, stopping across the parking area and glaring at her. She ran into the house and refused to come out until daylight. The Underwoods just laughed and explained that the ghost was an old neighbor who had died many years ago. He was just being neighborly, they explained.

Late June of this year, I stayed at Jerry and Eileen's for three days while Jerry and I worked together on my home in Tishomingo.  My last night there I had my first encounter with the pioneer ghost.

I shut the bedroom door and went  to bed early.  The night air was hot and still as the window fan blew steadily across the four poster bed.   I feel to sleep quickly.

Late into the night I was awakened by a rapping on the bedroom door. It sounded like a broken tree limb rubbing across the entire door.  I lay silently, listening for the sound of a voice.  Was something wrong? Did Jerry or Eileen need help?

I whispered in a low voice, "Yes, can I help you?"

No response. I closed my eyes and tried to go back to sleep. In a moment the sound resumed. I turned on the light and looked around. Nothing unusual, nothing out of place. I talked myself into believing it was the wind coming through my window. Soon, I fell back to sleep.

The time that passed was unknown to me as I slumbered through the night. It could have been moments or hours.  Suddenly, I was awakened by a loud bang on the door as it flew open. The security light outside the window begin to pulsate wildly and a cold chill took over the room.

I raised up in bed and said "Hello? Are you here."

I saw a small white cloud float across the room and go out of the window.  My heart pounded in my chest. I sat up for a long time trying to make sense of what I had seen. Was it the Pioneer Ghost of which my mother-in-law spoke? Was it an unknown spirit Jerry had welcomed into the home? Or was it a trick being played in me by the practical joker in Jerry?

I slowly crept to their bedroom door and looked inside. They were both still asleep.  I looked around for an explanation. I returned to my room and lay awake in bed. The room remained cold throughout the night. At daylight, I arose, got dress and headed for the truck. Sometimes life is just unexplainable.