The house was once a boarding house for railroad workers, so I am told, as well a private home through the second half of the twentieth century and so far in the twenty-first.
When I go grouse and duck-hunting with my friend G., who has lived there for the decade past, I usually sleep in the enclosed front porch, which is about 8 x 12 feet in size. That room contains a single bed, a desk and chair, a lamp, and a disassembled bookcase — nothing more. (I like that room because I can take my dog outside easily.)
In 2011, I left for the 1,000-mile drive home, went about five miles down North Dakota 200, and wondered where my cell phone was. I stopped the truck and looked — no phone. I went back and with G.’s help searched the 8 x 12 room and the lawn between the front door and where I parked.
“Clarence must have taken it,” he said.
Once home, I went through the truck like a drug agent looking for contraband. No telephone. Nor did it ever appear at G.’s house.
This year, my fifth visit to the house, I kept a close watch on my telephone, and it came home with me safely.
But then I walked into my temporary bedroom and smelled cigarette smoke—a strong smell, as though someone had just finished their cigarette in the little room.
I asked G. about it. He was blasé. He had smelled it, his wife had smelled it, his teenage stepkids had smelled it. (No one in the family smoked cigarettes.)
And I smelled it four or five times more, at odd intervals, not connected with time of day or humidity or anything like that.
G. attributes it to one Clarence Bolz, who owned the house a couple of decades ago. Mostly he haunts the workshop attached to the garage, G. said. Small items sometimes disappear, and now and again G. smells Clarence’s cigarettes.