by Annette Dashofy
I suspect most folks assume that life in the country can be summed up with words like serene, quiet, and peaceful. Murder, mayhem, and intrigue probably don’t enter into the equation. In fact, the only thing mysterious about farm life these days is how anyone makes a living at it. And years ago, farm living was even more tranquil, right?
Even as a child, I loved a good mystery. And from as early as I can remember, I often heard one story in particular repeated in hushed tones. My own family’s cold case. I’ve changed the names to protect the not-so-innocent because newer generations of all involved continue to reside in the area.
My maternal grandmother’s family owned the Andrews farm, two farms over from my maternal grandfather’s family farm. Yes, it was a romance between neighboring farm boy and farm girl, but that’s another tale for another time. When Great Grandpap Andrews died back in the early 1940s, he willed the farm to his oldest son Pete who ran the operation with his brother Charlie until Pete’s death a few years later. Both men were old bachelors and when Charlie took over, a couple of men from a poor immigrant family, moved in as hired help. Other Andrews family members frowned upon the arrangement and the way the Mastro family seemed to be isolating Charlie from his other brothers and sisters. They also seemed to be making all the major decisions for Uncle Charlie, with or without his approval.
Then one day Uncle Charlie was found dead in the barn. The Mastros arranged for a quick burial. Neighbors nagged at the surviving Andrews that an investigation should be conducted. But none was. And while everyone assumed that younger brother Dale and his wife would inherit the farm, when the will was read, Uncle Charlie had left the family property to the Mastros instead.
This all transpired years before my birth, but as a child I remember that anytime someone in my family mentioned the Mastros, the name was spoken in hushed, venomous tones. Not quite a full blown Hatfields and McCoys type of feud, but I knew better than to associate with any of them.
Several years ago, one of the Mastros who had been involved in the suspicious dealings was murdered. My sweet unassuming (grudge-carrying) mother calmly said at the time, “Well, the Andrews farm didn’t do him any good did it?”
No, I can’t quite make the connection either. I guess that’s her way of saying What goes around, comes around. Rural karma.
Personally, even with all we don’t know, I think it makes for a great mystery. Maybe this should be the basis for my next short story. Or even a novel. What do you think? Cold Case: Green Acres.