By Eve W. Engle

The dogs rule in our house. They are fed first, allowed in our bed, have their own bed in the guest room and sneak up onto the sofas when we aren't looking. Maxie, short for Maximus, is a Golden Retriever/Great Pyrenes mix, Sammy is a Black Lab/Border Collie mix. His full name is Samuel L. Jackson after one of my favorite actors. Both were abused and rescued from their former owners. They get cookies every morning.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Indiana Farm Boy at 100 - A Trip to Granny's House and the Death Bell

When my father was four years old his family was living close to relatives, including one of his grandmothers. Nina, his mother, needed to send someone to "granny's house", and for some unknown reason decided little Frank would be given the responsibility. She called to him and said for him to put on his coat and head to his grandmother's house. So Frankie did exactly as his mama had told him to do. He put on his coat and headed out.

Now, I have no idea how far this grandmother lived from the Engle's, or whether she was an Engle or a Temple. If she was Nina's mother then the family must have been living somewhere in southeastern Indiana since Nina was from Vevay on the Ohio River. If she was an Engle then she would have been further north, closer to Anderson Indiana. The name of the granny, the distance, and the purpose were never clear. Only that my father was only four years old, and that he had put on his coat as his mother had instructed. Since the coat is part of the story, and we are talking about Indiana, it must have been chilly, maybe even cold with snow on the ground.

Imagine his granny's surprise when little Frank arrived and she told him to take off his coat only to reveal that he was STARK NAKED underneath!

Another story about the Engle boys involved two old ladies and a bell. One year, as the boys were growing up, their parents moved with them into a rambling farmhouse. "Next door" there lived two old women, a mother and daughter. One day they heard the neighbor's bell pealing loudly and unceasingly.   Grandpa Engle sent his boys to investigate. But the boys had different ideas. For one thing, they were not from the area, so they didn't know the two old women very well. They were also afraid of the old ladies of the house. The oldest was in her 90s, wrinkled and toothless and appeared to the Engle boys to be an old crone. The daughter, in her 70s, wasn't much better. They procrastinated as long as they could until their mother had had enough. Nina gathered her purse and headed with the boys in tow to find out what was the matter. When they arrived they discovered the ancient woman was pulling the bell rope. Her daughter was dead.

Now in those days you washed and dressed the body yourself. There weren't funeral homes and directors in every town. You would get the deceased presentable and leave them on the bed until the undertaker, or someone else, brought a casket and hauled the box with the body in it off to a church (or directly into the ground if there wasn't a church available. Usually someone would sit up all night long with the corpse until the next day so that there was time to prepare for a funeral. This was called a "wake". When Nina arrived with the boys she helped as much as she could, but someone had to stay to take care of the old woman overnight until the undertaker could get his wagon and pick up the body the next day, and she had other things to take care of. The boys were left to take care of the old woman.

The Engle boys were no wimps. Though they were skinny and small (except Lee, who was always at the top of the growth chart) they were strong and tough. They were used to farm work and fighting one another. But old dead people scared the dickens out of them. They spent the entire night awake, terrified of the ghost of the woman, or maybe even the devil himself coming to get them. Even after 45 years my dad could remember just how terrified they all were. For whom did that bell really toll? It tolled for them!

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