Goatview Farm - The Saint Report www.goatview.com

 

October 8

Fire!

The summer of 1871 must have been a real scorcher in the midwest because on October 8th of that year, three of the 12 worst wildfires in United States history occurred simultaneously in Peshtigo (Wisconsin), Chicago, and lower Michigan. The Peshtigo fire caused 1,182 fatalities and the destruction of 1.2 million acres of timberland, Chicago's consumed 17,450 structures and killed 250, and the lower Michigan fires destroyed 2.5 million acres and left 200 dead.

Saints celebrating feast days today include Marcellus, Simeon, Pelagia the Penitent, Thais, and Reparata.
Birthdays today include Chevy Chase (1943), Paul Hogan (1939), Jesse Jackson (1941), R.L.Stine (1943), and Sigourney Weaver (1949).

It was a big news day. If Dan Brokaw read this, I'll bet he'd be salivating. Being a newscaster (or a television evangelist for that matter) must give one a somewhat unattractive ambivalence toward natural disasters.

Here is a strange little story from a survivor of the Peshtigo fire:

My father helped pick up the dead and make rough boxes as there were not enough caskets. He put as many as five of a family in one casket as they were just bones. They found people who were not burned at all, just suffocated. Many saved themselves by going in the water with blankets wrapped around them, and some got down in wells and were saved that way. Chickens, sitting in their perches, were suffocated, not burned, and fish were on top of the water from the intense heat. Father said he found a young lady beside a log – she wasn’t burned at all and had such a nice head of curly hair that he couldn’t resist cutting a lock off. He always carried it in his purse and frequently showed it to us. My parents took a family of five who were burned and cared for them until they recovered...Father said he had seen so many terrible sights that he couldn’t bear to live there any longer, so they moved back to Jacksonport and lived there most of the rest of their lives. I have written what my parents told me of the fire of ’71 and I know that all the items are true.

What possessed the man to cut the lock of hair from the dead girl's head? Was it a posthumous rescue of some sort or merely the taking of a macabre souvenir?

Leaving a cockfight about 30 years ago (that's a whole 'nuther story--it was my first and last cockfight), I saw a dead rooster beside the barn that held the arena. Without thinking why, I went over to the bird and pulled out of feather. I still have it. Did it seemed wrong that after such a brave fight, nothing of the creature should be left? Did the saved feather give significance to the death? Maybe the lock of hair did the same thing...a sort of weird amelioration of meaningless waste?

I think too much.

Onward to October 9
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© Marilyn Jones 2000-2008