101 Stories

with which I follow the road of the Family for a Century

42. Aunt Betsey Speer.

Sister of Andrew J. Speer, Aunt Betsey was a deaf mute. I had some trouble to get Joe Flynn in Leesville to understand who my grandparents were, until I referred to Aunt Betsey. He thought I referred to Big Jack and insisted that our people settled at Winterset, Iowa, but this incident identified us.

There was no opportunity for the education of such unfortunates in those days, so she always had to live a very domestic life, doing simplest house duties and unable to express herself or her world by speech or writing, or to get much from it except by sight and feeling. This, added to her striking white hair and black eyebrows, made her seem weird to us.

The hounds one day stood about her door and she drove them away with a stick. She struck Pearl Speer for some trivial offense and all such insignificant acts were magnified in my imagination. When Lena was born mother took her in to show Aunt Betsey. I held mother's skirts behind, apprehensive of what might happen to the baby. But all these childish fears were unfounded, for Aunt Betsey was a kindly soul.

When, one day in winter, Bennie Shriver came to our house to say Aunt Betsey had had a stroke and was dead, I remember struggling hard to maintain to my own mind the position that of course I liked her and never was afraid of her anyway. But I can remember to this day how queer it was, trying to make yourself believe something that was not true.

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