The Ghost of Dibble Hollow and Extenuating Circumstances

Most books obtain special status with me by telling wonderful stories. Others become lifelong keepers because they are “family heirlooms” formerly owned by deceased relatives. Other books are appreciated because of how or when they first came into my life.

When I was in the fifth grade my teacher read her students a chapter from a novel every afternoon. I’m sure my mother used to read to me, but I have no recollection of that. Warm memories of listening to a story is limited to being in Mrs. Miller’s classroom.

For some reason I remember The Ghost of Dibble Hollow as being a favorite of the entire class. The non-scary ghost story, written by Mary Nickerson Wallace, and published by Scholastic Book Services in 1965, remained tucked in the back of my treasured memories.

Several years ago I found the book at a rummage sale and purchased it for old time’s sake. At first I was hesitant to read the novel in case doing so shattered my recollections of it being special. The good news is that I enjoyed the book, though if I had analyzed whether each plot twist followed proper logic I would have found fault. But a plain “read” read – just for fun – provided me with a fast-paced story about likable people.

The Ghost of Dibble Hollow begins when 13 year old Elisha Nathanael Dibble Allen – known as Pug – arrived in the village of Smithville with his parents and younger sister. His mother had just inherited Dibble Hollow from her uncle, and the Allen family planned to spend the summer in the ancestral home.

Trouble starts when Pug’s dog chases hens that had escaped from a coop on the back of a truck owned by elderly Eb Smith – a man who is short tempered with everyone, but has a special dislike of anyone with the name of Dibble.

When the Allens get to their new home Pug meets the ghost of young Miles Dibble, who’d drowned 60 years earlier while trying to escape robbers who’d been after the Dibble and Smith money entrusted to Miles and his best friend Eb. Miles’ body had floated down the river, so he’d been buried as an unknown far from home.

The Smith family (including Eb) had claimed Miles ran off with their money, so the ghost needed the assistance of a Dibble boy to find what was lost and clear his name. Miles also wanted to help his boyhood friend, who would lose his home if he couldn’t pay back a bank loan.

Pug soon learns that helping a ghost isn’t easy. Miles had hidden the money to keep it safe from the robbers, but he’d hit his head when he fell into the river, and couldn’t recall just where he’d put it. And when he could give clues on where to look, it became clear that Miles had a dreadful sense of direction.

Pug’s adventure with a ghost wasn’t the only thing happening at Dibble Hollow. His sister had joined forces with Eb Smith’s granddaughter, and the girls were trying to earn money to pay off the Smiths’ debt. And Pug had some run-ins with Ernie Pratt, of the trouble-making Pratt children. Pug’s father suggested that if he could find good in Ernie, and not think the worst of him, the boy might stop causing trouble.

The girls are able to earn a few dollars, and Pug becomes friends with Ernie Pratt. But the money Miles had hidden would need to be found if Eb Smith was to keep the farm that had been in the family for generations.

When Pug finally gets what seems to be the right location of the hidden money he risks Eb Smith’s ire by digging on the Smith land. When nothing is found it takes Pug awhile to realize why all of Miles’ directions are wrong. He returns and asks to dig in a new location, but will Eb’s angry refusal keep Pug from saving the stubborn man’s home?

The Ghost of Dibble Hollow has a happy ending, and a satisfying one, if the reader doesn’t spend too much time pondering whether everything could logically happen. (This without even considering whether ghosts can really work to clear their name by appearing to a person of their choosing.)

I enjoyed my first reading of the book, but doubt I would have chosen it if I hadn’t first heard it read to me by Mrs. Miller. This book has been out of print for decades, so I can’t recommend everyone rush out and read it. But I wanted to share how I’d rediscovered a story that had been important to me long ago.

There is a rhyme that goes something like this:

Make new friends and keep the old, One is silver and the other is gold.

If I interpret “friends” to mean “favorite children’s books” then The Ghost of Dibble Hollow will always have a place as one of my bookshelf companions.