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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Walking With Jackie the Ripper

Thursday, November 6, 2003

It's really odd what a person thinks about when walking a dog, or at least it's really odd what I think about when walking a dog. One morning not long ago Jackie started barking at a large, black object lodged in a tree. She went wild over what proved to be a plastic garbage bag which had somehow ended up high on a branch. It did look odd, and I was reminded of a very old snapshot of my Aunt Maggie who late in life always dressed in black. Deep, mourning black.

My great-great aunt got involved in spiritualism in a big way. It was strange how it came about, with her living in the hill country as she did.

Aunt Maggie lived an unhappy life from day one of her marriage to Uncle Nathan, who periodically embarked upon monumental drunks, after which he swore on the Bible, plus his precious mother's grave, that he would never take another drink for the rest of his life. As is often the case in situations of this nature, after recovering from his hangover Uncle Nathan would fall off the wagon, and Aunt Maggie, having put up with such foolishness for a long time, understandably became a nervous wreck, certainly not at all stable. Perhaps this accounted for the fact that she continued to live with him and pretended to believe him when he said he was really trying to change.

Through the years the situation must have gotten pretty bad because at the end of really spectacular drinking bout, Uncle a Nathan sobbed to Aunt Maggie that he would rather be dead than live such an existence as his. Apparently she agreed with him for she fervently supported his decision to sign up for the Keeley Cure, an extremely arduous system of treatment for alcoholics which relied heavily on injections of Bichloride of Gold, now said to be a chemical impossibility. This highly touted cure was well known in its day, but short lived, as was Uncle Nathan, who died directly after finishing his course of treatments.

No doubt feeling somewhat guilty, Aunt Maggie embarked upon a crusade to contact her dead husband. To the dismay of her entire family, she chose a Ouija board, a popular method of communication for use with the dead which she purchased by mail from Sears and Roebuck for less than two dollars, postage included.

After losing Uncle Nathan, Aunt Maggie made her home with various family members who would never admit to being ashamed of her way of life, but they sure didn't encourage a lot of company after sundown when she, garbed in black crepe, began her abnormal conversations with her husband on the other side. Of course the word got out in the community about what she was up to, and it grew to be a family embarrassment, but what could they do except close ranks and brazen it out? Family ties are strong and protective, even to this very day in the hill country.

Aunt Maggie vowed as she neared the end of her days that she would return to the family by means of the Ouija board if they would only make an attempt to reach out and touch her, but as far as I know not a single person ever took her up on it.

The board took up residence in the barn and was never used again. Some say it glowed on dark and stormy nights. Just between you and me, I doubt that it glowed.