Tuesday, March 23, 2010
When I was a child in the summers we spent in the Catskills, my Mother and I would occasionally ride up the valley road to the ramshackled house where we would buy eggs from Mrs. Black.On the way back to our house, we would rip her to shreds with our sharp tongues.Did you see her plaid men's shirt that was held closed by a big safety pin?And she had no shoes!She walked through the chicken manure in her bare feet with it squishing between her toes.Yuck!She never went to church and her house was rumored to be wallpapered with the New Your Daily News.Shall I go on?
In 2005 , I stood at Mrs.Black's grave on a hill that overlooks the peaceful town of West Kill and whimpered my apologies.I now know the whole story and It's a wonder that I can get out of bed.
I have met and talked to some of the people who actually lived in the Spruceton valley back in the '50s.There were many farms and people did live there all year round.When they were kids, they knew Mrs. Black.They said that she was the most loving and kindest person they had ever met(but she didn't go to church!)She always was glad to see the valley children and made them feel special.
And then there was her life with Mr.Black.He used to beat his farm animals.Of course, he was a drunk and when a cow knocked over a bucket of milk,he beat her bloody with the milking stool.The kids witnessed this and were horrified.It gets worse.
Mrs. Black was delighted when she found out that she was pregnant with her first child.Since Mr. Black was away alot working on the railroad, he determined ,in his drink sotted mind ,that this could not be his child. After it was born, he took it from her and gave it to a relative and since Mrs. Black couldn't drive , she had no way to leave the valley. After that, when he did leave , he would chain her in the basement 'til he got back.You don't believe this? This was the forties after all and we never know what goes on behind doors do we ?
In the '50s, my Mother told me that Mrs. Black had breast cancer and refused to go to the hospital.This was not true as I have her death certificate.She had surgery, contracted pneumonia and subsequently died.Her child never knew her.
I hope that Mrs. Black was unaware of what we thought of her.To me, her grave is holy ground and I had to go there.If I visited all the graves of people that I have judged, I would constantly be on the road.
I don't want this good woman forgotten.Bertha Black you lived a saintly life with your chickens.