Tuesday, March 30, 2010

MEMOIRS--Chapter Fourteen--Uncle Reed snaps in the room with the dead pig


Chapter fourteen

Uncle Reed started having a pretty bad time around the time Darrow got killed falling off the School House ledge. He had just gotten home from the mental hospital probably for the fourth of fifth time, and as we were driving through town one day, the whole family having just come from Salt Gulch, Reed ran along side the car yelling at us to stop. We pulled up by the school house. He said, “Have you heard, one of the Moosman twins has fallen off the School House ledge!”

Daddy and Mother tried to calm Reed down and finally were able to find out the boy who fell was Darrow. I didn't know him very well even though he was in my room at school but he was two grades ahead of me. They said he and the other boys went up on the ledge after Sunday school to roll rocks off and Darrow got too close to the edge and slipped off. One of his brothers ran down to try to find him and the other one ran for help. He died in the fall, his blood spattering the pale sand rock ledge in big spots. Everybody said Darrow was a daredevil, always taking chances.
We school children marched into his house the day of his funeral and saw Darrow in his casket, his mother sitting beside him. She was another everyone was worried about might go mad again over this death, as she had been a patient at the state mental, too, more than once. Like Uncle Reed.

Then Lola Jo, Uncle Reed and Aunt Thirza's fourth daughter just seven months old, developed pneumonia. Aunt Thirza came through Salt Gulch and picked up her brother Morias to go with her to take the little girl to the doctor. My cousins always said their mother stopped on Hell's Back Bone bridge and discovered Lola Jo was no longer breathing, so they just turned around and came back.

I didn't really know how Reed handled that death, but it must have been very hard on the whole family. I know Aunt Thirza grieved over Lola Jo for years. She had struggled so hard to keep Carol with the heart defect from catching any germs that would kill her. Now Lola Jo, thought healthy, died in a few days! Fortunately Carol, five, did not take the pneumonia.

Aunt Thirza decided that it was no use expecting Reed to help her make cheese, so she decided to move from the school factory house into her old family home where her brother Merlin, a bachelor, still lived. He and Reed were the best of friends and she had talked to Merlin who said he would help her take care of Reed so he would not have to go back to the state mental. Marion, my six year old cousin, said that her mother had been having her watch him when she had to do something. Aunt Thirza also said that Uncle Reed had such a hard time sleeping at night he kept her awake and she was not getting her rest.

The King family was relieved as Merlin was a gentle man and they thought he would be a big help in looking after Reed. I am sure Grandma King was exhausted with trying to help watch over him when Reed would come down there and move around in the trees preaching to the spirits.
Now comes a time when I have to wonder why some things happen like they do. The next thing that befell Uncle Reed to upset him violently was this, and you are going to find it difficult to believe, too, as I did, because there just doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason for it. Reed and Merlin went to Richfield through Escalante, so the upper road out of Boulder through Wayne Country must have been closed. They stopped in one of the canyons on the way and got out of the car. They were standing beside the road--Mother said they had bought a bottle and were drinking, and a car came speeding around the bend. It somehow swerved and hit Merlin, tearing off his leg! It did not stop but took that part of him as it sped away. Uncle Reed was left to try to comfort his dying brother-in-law and best friend, mangled on the side of the road. The hit and run driver was never caught.
When I heard this story I thought Uncle Reed is never going to get better now. Surely a fragile man like him can only take so much before his mind splits. He'd had more than his share of sorrow and pain with Max dying getting bucked off a horse in a rodeo. But Merlin was not doing anything but standing by the side of the road. Maybe too far out. I don't know.
Well, the very last time, practically, I ever saw Reed, we had come down the lane to Grandma's house and Mother and Dad were down to the corrals talking to the men working there. Marion, Max, and Carol, Reed's daughter with the big hole in her heart, were with us. We children got out of the car and ran up to the old ranch house to play. I even think Margie and I took LaRae with us who was only three. She naturally wanted to play, too. Nobody was living in the ranch house that winter. Grandma had gone to her home in Escalante and insisted Grandpa go with her. When we got close to the house I could hear Reed in there sort of shouting as he often did when he was preaching a sermon to the spirits.

My cursed curiosity compelled me to open the door to try to hear more clearly what he was saying. We started moving inside. I noticed a pig carcass laying on the kitchen cutting table. A long sharp butcher knife was laying beside it.
I looked up and saw Reed coming out of the living room, rushing toward us. He looked mad maybe because we were interfering with his concentration. As though in a slow motion nightmare, I saw him stop by the table and pick up the long sharp butcher knife. Then he turned and came after us with it in his hand.
I started running, I thought to get help. I figured he was the maddest at me because I was more a stranger to him. He didn't see me often, but as I ran I prayed I would not hear a scream if he caught up with one of the children.

I never ran faster in my life, straight to Mother and Dad, stammering out what was happening. After they ran and checked to see if all the children were safe they just turned away and started talking about something else. They did not even go bother Reed. I was deflated. I just did not think they understood how frightening Reed had looked.
If he had just hollered at us, told us to get out, we would have run, but not thought anything of it. It was the fact that he picked up the butcher knife that scared me about out of my wits.
I thought well, I guess they think he didn't kill us, so it was just Uncle Reed acting crazy again. I was wrong. A week later the Sheriff and two other officers came to pick up Reed. Mother and Dad met them, so I was there with them. I saw Reed start to cry as soon as he saw the Sheriff. He sobbed, “I will be good, I will be good. Please don't take me away.” They told him to get ready, so he picked up his oldest daughter Marion calling her his pet name for her, “Punkin” and kissed her good-bye.
Oh, I was so sad, so terribly sad, because basically Reed never came home again. I just did not know if the punishment fit the crime or if Reed was just too sick to be able to handle the onerous gift of his freedom any more---

The header of a dark storm over the ocean is by Connie. Reed in the top photo in his cow punching days. Old ranch house with Grandma and Grandpa King in front. Last photo a couple of years later when we cousins were altogether for the last time at Christmas, before Aunt Thirza had to move to the city with her three girls, Marion, Carol, and Max, to try to make a living without Uncle Reed. Linda, my last sister, had been born.


Missie said...

WOW! I had 8 entries to read of yours until I was caught up. Very interesting!

Connie said...

Oh this just gets better every read...
Poor Reed-wonder if he did something that you didn't hear about since you were little and people kept things hush hush in those days.

Amrita said...

You are a great story teller Gerry

kanyonlandking-annk.blogspot.com said...

I have never heard this complete tale of Merlin's death before. I knew he was killed in a hit and run, but didn't know it was so terrible. That's just too much for anyone.
I have been trying to think just when my only memory of Uncle Reed..a bunch of us ran for some reason out in the garden. He was pacing on the porch yelling and making large movements with his arms as if angry. If the event you are talking about, Gerry, was in 1941, I would have been three...otherwise when? I know I was scared. Did Reed come home for Carol's, Mother's, or Glen's funeral? Too many deaths in too few years. Were those in the hospital allowed home at such times? This entry brought tears.
I think I confused Merlin with the friend who died with poison whiskey..who was that? Uncle Reed had a tragic life and death.

Gerry said...

Uncle Reed's diagnosis of dementia praecox when he was first incarcerated was brought on by drinking poison whiskey which killed his best friend Rodney Baker. This was in 1932 I think. Thereafter he always talked to Rodney in the spirit. He said Rodney told him jokes! No, he didn't come home for funerals. They upset him too much and later on he started accusing the Bishop and others of poisoning them. So they even stopped telling him close relatives died. I don't even think they told him when Carol his daughter died! People became afraid to tell him any more bad news!

Have Myelin? said...

This is fascinating!!!

Have Myelin? said...

This is fascinating!!!

Jeanie said...

What clear lucid memories you have Gerry. How sad about Uncle Reed being poisoned in that way.
There's been so many tragedies in your family. I'm not surprised some found them unbearable!
Kee up the good work of writing it all down for posterity. You have a strong tenacious spirit.
Your life amazes me.
Jeanie xxx

LaRena said...

This is all very sad for all of the family, especially Reed's children. Merlin's death was very difficult for the Hall's too. Such a horrific ending for what I understand was a very nice man. No wonder Reed had such a time dealing with every thing.

It is all very interesti ng to me as I heard Grandma Hall's versions of these stories. Maude was a great story teller also and made all the early happenings come alive for me. i could hardly believe my good luck in having her, when she had such a silent son. I would help her bottle and clean and she would entertain me with all the Boulder stories. They were either very sad or simply hilarious. It's too bad she was not a writer to get her stories down. I always felt bad that she had quit playing guitar and singing by the time I joined the family. I remember her saying how much she liked Merlin. Probably better than anyone in Horace's family.


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