By ROBERT L. MASON
I have heard several people tell this tale, among them again my grandmother.
Once there was an old man who grew queer in his old days, and when he came to die, he asked that a peck of hickory nuts be buried over his head so he could crack them and eat his favorite delicacy when he became hungry.
Two thieves lived in the community, and one night they decided to steal a sheep. One of them was to wait in the graveyard while the other went up on the hillside and picked out a choice sheep and brought it down.
While the rogue waited in the graveyard, he happened to think of the hickory nuts over the dead man's head, and, being hungry, he dug them up and began to crack them.
Two farm boys happened to pass near the graveyard just then and heard the cracking. They went home in a hurry.
"Grandpap," they said, "old man Capshaw is risen out'n his grave and crackin' hickory nuts."
"Nonsense," said the old man, "I don't believe it."
The boys swore that it was so.
"Don't believe it," said the old man, "and if I didn't have this rheumatism that's had me down for the last 10 years, I'd go and see for myself."
The boys considered a moment then said.
"Grandpap, we'll carry you on our shoulders if you want to see it."
"I'll go on your shoulders to show you there's nothing there," he said. And he got ready to be carried on the backs to the graveyard.
When they came near enough to hear the cracking, they walked stealthily and crept very close to the fence and might have seen the grave of old man Capshaw if the bushes hadn't been hiding it.
There was silence for a time and then where was rustling.down the hillside, and the thief with the sheep appeared from behind a clump of bushes. The white sheep, from that distance, loomed up as a ghost and seemed to rise and swell to great proportions before the startled eyes of the two boys and their grandfather.
The rogue who was cracking hickory nuts was unaware that they visitors were near. He stopped cracking when he saw the sheep.
"Is he fat or lean?" he asked.
The spoken word was all they boys needed. They threw the old man down and addressed the ghost.
"Fat or lean, take him," they said and ran for home.
"Boy! I bet that ghost has done got Grandpap," said one of them, as they reached the porch.
"He ain't either," said the old man from inside the house. "I beat you'ns in."
The late Robert Mason, Cannon County Historian, wrote this article which appeared in Folk Tales of Cannon County in 1977.