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SEARCHING – a Serial Novelle Chapter 9: History, Part I

by Patrick Cabello Hansel
(Author’s note: in the last chapter, Angel met up at Maria’s Café with his high school history teacher, who began relating a neighborhood story from the mid-19th century that he has unearthed during his sabbatical.)

“Between August Ternstvedt’s little house and what became the cemetery was a low piece of ground called the swale. The swale was a worthless piece for kitchen gardens or orchards, and because it was low-lying it wasn’t the first choice upon which to build. But because no one particularly wanted the land, it was a good place to go when you were wanted. Runaway slaves passed through there. There is a legend that refugees from the killings in 1862 stopped one night. AWOL soldiers, people involved in illegal fur trade, women who were fleeing abusive husbands. They would come, they would go, but their spirits always seemed to haunt the place.”

“So where are you talking about—this swale or whatever you call it?” , Angel asked.

Mr. Bussey took a sip of his coffee.

“It’s roughly the area between Bloomington and Cedar, and Franklin to about the railroad tracks—the Greenway today.”

“That’s right where my folks live—on 18th Avenue!” Angel felt a longing, a regret inside him growing.

“Well, and this is where it gets interesting”, Mr. Bussey continued, and launched into the tale again.

“Ternstvedt befriended a man named Matthew Kelly or Matthew Kiley. No one is really sure of his name. He had been in the Army some 20 years, under at least two different names. He fought in the Mexican War—some people say on both sides—was wounded at Gettysburg and fought in the so-called “Indian Wars”. Matthew had seen a lot of killing, had done enough himself, and came to Minnesota looking to settle down. He had a common law marriage with a Mexican woman named Hidalgo, whose first name was, ironically, Lupe, short for Guadalupe…

“Like the name of the infamous treaty between the United States and Mexico.” Angel jumped in.

“Hey, you remembered something from my class!’ Mr. Bussey grinned. “That’s always nice to see.”

“Well, yeah, plus my abuelo Luis and all my people hammered that one into us. It’s when we lost half of Mexico to the United States.”

“Right, a terrible injustice and one that plagues us to this day.” Mr. Bussey continued. “But here’s the really weird thing about this story.”

Señora Hidalgo was descended from a very aristocratic family from Spain, who came to what became Mexico soon after Cortes. They had held huge estates, were provincial governors, founded cities, murdered people, were murdered, the whole bloody history. Padre Hidalgo of the Revolution was a relative. Hidalgos fought and died on both sides at the Alamo, some went back to Spain and their descendants fought on both sides in the Civil War. It is the story of a family divided. Right down to the Lupe Hidalgo who lived in the swale with Matthew Kelly in the 1860’s. Some time in May of 1867, she gave birth to twin boys. One grew up with her and Matthew, the other disappeared. I’ve found letters and diary entries that conflict. Some say that he was taken from Guadalupe by the Hidalgo family still in Mexico and raised there. Some say he died of typhus. And at least two people wrote in their diaries about a young boy named Mateo Kiley, who was murdered a few days before Christmas in 1874, and whose spirit roamed the swale for years and years later.

Mr. Bussey finished his coffee and nodded to the waitress for more.

“Needless to say, this is all speculation on my part. People who lived in the swale didn’t register with the government much, so there aren’t any official records, of course.”

“So she lost half of her family—just like her country lost half of its territory”, Angel said.

“Exactly. I tend to be a little superstitious, so who knows, maybe little Mateo’s ghost is still haunting the neighborhood today”

Well, something sure is, Angel thought. He said “gracias” to the waitress when she brought the coffee, and she replied “de nada, teco”

Teco—what the hell is that?, he wondered, but didn’t have time to think much, as Mr. Bussey began to talk.

“Apparently some of Kelly or Kiley and Lupe Hidalgo’s descendents live around here. Just think how weird that is. One half of the family here.

The rest God knows where.”

“Weird. So were they identical twins—these boys who were separated?”
“Identical except for one small detail. The one who vanished—Mateo—had a small birth mark on his neck that seemed to some people to be the shape of a young owl.”

Angel dropped his coffee and spilled it all over the table. He felt his hand go instinctively to his neck.

“Whoa, Angel, hold on! I’m sure Mateo’s ghost isn’t going to bother you!”

“I wouldn’t be so sure, Mr. B. I think I know exactly where that ghost is.”

Patrick Cabello Hansel, creative & amiable poet, author, dramatist, and pastor (and so, too, Luisa Cabello Hansel) St. Paul’s Lutheran Church – 28th Street and 15th Ave. in Midtown Phillips. Writes a new Chapter for Novelle Searching in each month’s The Alley.
*A new chapter appears every month in The Alley. You can influence the story by contacting the author with your ideas and comments.

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