They said it was tradition.

He said it was superstition.

Neighbors watched, sullen and withdrawn, as the Stokes boy painted over the curved symbol on his family’s barn, one that had been there since it had been raised.

His father had carefully repainted it every year, but the Stokes boy was fresh from ag school and knew better.

Two weeks later they found him dead in the paddock. Someting had trampled him to death. The coroner’s report said horses or cows, but the neighbors knew what was a hoof print and what wasn’t.

The day after the wake, the youngest Stokes was up on a ladder, painting the symbol from memory.

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