THE HANGING TREE IN OUR BACK YARD (A LEGACY STORY)
One of the first confirmations of the ESP in my family that directly involved me was an occasion in my childhood involving my sister Trula. I am sure she was around nine which made my age 6, it was still 1949. We had gone to spend a week with our Aunt “Sib” (Sylvia) and Uncle Chuck in Kansas. Mother and Dad remained at home in Oklahoma.
Three days into the visit we were having a wonderful time and were worn-out each night when we went to sleep. Usually we found sleeping together in a bed was always a test of survival. My sister often had nightmares and would thrash, and talk, and on occasion grabbed my leg and kept pulling and yelling. She held on for dear life while holding my leg saying “Give me back my leg, give me back my leg it’s mine, it’s mine.” She became quite violent when I couldn’t get her awake enough to understand she had my leg. It really scared me and it hurt. Needless to say, I dreaded those nights.
It was unsettling then, that on this vacation night away from home, she grabbed me during the night and shook me saying, “Tweetie is dead. Tweetie is dead.” (Tweetie being her rescued sparrow that lived as one would care for a parakeet.) I became more than a little upset because I thought she was still in her dream, and with my luck was dreaming I had killed Tweetie. I was ready to bolt when she said, “That cat did it. I saw him.” I really didn’t know how to respond but eventually she finished telling me the details, and said that when we got home we were going to kill that cat. She never said which cat, but she said she knew it, and when we got home she’d show me. Eventually we slept again.
Tweetie was a common sparrow but we had “saved him” when he was only a few days old, naked, without feathers to protect him. He’d become dislodged from his nest high up on a billboard along the railroad track. Actually, in adulthood my sister said it was my friend and me who dislodged it when we climbed up to see the nest. I conveniently didn’t remember my culpability in that, but accept it could be true. My sister had a steel-trap memory and she never forgot, anything.
I also am forced to admit it was my sister’s dedication and skill that saved Tweetie. She developed the feeding schedule and diet (droppers of milk and tiny, soft-rolled pieces of bread, gently tamped down his throat between milk from the dropper). She also got credit for getting our mother to allow us to keep Tweetie and raise him.
At that time we lived in the middle house across the railroad tracks on East 9th street in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. There were only the three houses after you crossed the tracks, and the road became a dirt road, and a dead end. Each house was occupied by one of the Godwin families, and our family lived first in the third house, then had moved to the middle house when Aunt Mid and Uncle Delmar moved to Wichita, Kansas the year before.
The middle house had a screened-in back-porch, and while we never had a cage, only a box in the early days, we were able to let Tweetie learn to fly in the screened in back porch and fancied ourselves providing him a “rich man’s cage” because it was larger than an ordinary cage. (Approximately 6’ x 8’.)
Our mother had become attached to the little guy, and with Dad traveling all over the country welding for the union, we girls were on our own most of the time. We had no pets of our own at that time except for Tweetie. Dad had his wolf-hunting dogs and some fighting cocks, but this was our very own pet. We delighted in the antics of Tweetie on the porch and in our house. Mother tolerated the occasional bird droppings on the picture frames and light fixtures. Life had been good and we were content.
When our Aunt Sib awakened us that next morning my sister’s adamant declaration of Tweetie’s fate continued, and then thankfully it was for breakfast. I was always ready to eat. I had already put my sister’s nightmare behind me lost in the pleasures of good food and good company. My cousins Carla and Nancy. As we were sitting at the table eating cereal, the phone rang. Before my aunt answered, my sister said, “It’s mother calling about Tweetie”.
My aunt was trying to speak softly and to talk in a way that wouldn’t alarm us, but it was a landline tethered to the kitchen wall. When she hung up, she couldn’t help but respond when my sister turned to her and said, “Did she tell you which cat did it?”
My aunt was more than a little non-plussed. She tried to play dumb about the topic of the early morning call, but she finally admitted that mother said to tell us about Tweetie but not how it happened. There was no need as my sister told her in detail how, when, where and after making me leave the room, which cat.
When we returned to our home two days later, my sister and I made a bee-line to the back porch just to confirm our worst fears, that Tweetie was gone. True enough, the latch on the screen door was unlatched and that hadn’t been done for a year. My sister walked into the back yard and looked all around. “I don’t see him, but we’ll find him and then we’ll hang him”. I knew she meant that cat.
It was a couple of nights later when all the adults were distracted with a party that my sister grabbed me and said, “let’s do it”. Protesting would not have worked as my sister had a way of pummeling me into compliance when she was determined about something. And trust me she was determined about this.
We had to crawl out the second story window above the screened in porch at night to hunt for the cat. Mother couldn’t know our plan or even that there was knowledge of which cat did it. We slid down the downspout (also called rainspout by some) which tells you how skinny we were not to break it or pull it away from the house. Up to now my sister had refused to tell me which cat it was, telling only Aunt Sib, but now she had the rope and we were going to find that cat.
I had no particular reaction when she identified the culprit. After all, it wasn’t our cat and it killed our Tweetie Bird. I was just as blood thirsty for revenge as my sister. I was, however, more nervous about it being dark with no yard or street lights. I was wondering if you committed murder in the dark if the Devil could catch you easier?
At last we had the rope up over a limb, and though we didn’t know how to do a hangman’s noose, my sister made a slip-knot and we were set. We finally caught the cat which was definitely not a tame house cat, and we had the scratches to prove it. We carried the cat to the hanging tree and decided to pray over it. During that time it almost got loose several times, and again we had the scratches to prove it. Trula shortened the praying and the hanging commenced, and then we really had the scratches to prove it.
In years to come, one of my aunts, Aunt Mid (Mildred) would always laugh and tell this story saying she had never seen two girls with so many scratches on them. She said we had hundreds of scratches from head to toe.
The truth of the matter is, the cat got away. Actually we never saw it again. For most of my life I believed we scared all nine lives out of it, but in my usual hind sight from a more mature perspective, I believe my dad may have decided to “take care of it” since it meant so much to us, and he didn’t want us trying anything like that again.
The greater point of all of this, is that it was the beginning of my education in what turned out to be a family female trait. ESP. My mother, maternal grandmother, sister and eventually myself, had many experiences of varying significance, dealing with ESP experiences. Whenever these occurred in my young life, I was told not to talk about it because it was “of the Devil”. Southern Baptist didn’t believe in ESP unless it was to believe it was of the Devil. So, for the greater part of my adult life when these things happened, I simply referred people to the Bible and told them it was HSP (Holy Spirt Perception) and they could read up on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The truth is I don’t care if it’s ESP or HSP, but I certainly have dozens of stories I could share about these events, and will as time allows in later entries. I told this one just to lay the ground work for those stories to follow. I think the fact that it happened when we knew nothing of ESP (it was Oklahoma in the 1940’s for goodness sake and we didn’t even know the term ESP. We thought it was magic. Granted we thought it was Fairy magic, while our mother and her family thought it was at the very least, “black magic” and/or of the Devil) We had no way to have “dreamed it up” or to have faked it, at that young age, and that speaks to the innocence of the experience. Actually it seemed more for my edification, as my time was coming when I’d have those experiences. My sister’s experience allowed me to see that it was an unsolicited and innocent thing.
Since that first experience, I have struggled with this “gift” but in old age have come to realize it has been a good thing. I find that usually an experience is given and the choice to “deal” with it is mine. I enjoy the times it has helped me in “fun” ways and useful ways, like being able to know where someone is or isn’t, so I don’t have to deal with them or see them if I don’t want too. I cherish that it was relevant in allowing me to give a warning to my son-in-law Lonn, when a disastrous event was going to happen to one of my grandchildren. My forewarning him lessened the severity of the incident as it gave him time to take protective action.
My greatest amazement has been that I have now seen some evidence of this being present in a couple of my grandchildren, so I know it continues. I don’t understand all of the ins and outs of this, whether it is ESP or HSP, but I can tell you it is for real. Just ask the women in my family. And as for the stories I tell about them, I’ve learned the modern term is a God Wink.