Cousin Kat and the Axe-Murderer

axeIt’s not what you think. They were good friends. The Axe-Murderer had played the piano at Little Pearson Methodist Church for years. She never missed a service, but let me start at the beginning, the part where Cousin Kat took us to visit her.

I’d heard of Cousin Kat, my mother’s first cousin all my life. Though even Mother had never met her namesake, we’d had letters once a week from her all my life. She was the eldest daughter of Grandma’s brother, Ed. Grandma had written Ed’s wife, Aunt Winnie, ever since Grandma left Virginia as a bride. Ed died and left Winnie a widow, with seven children under twelve. Grandma kept up with them, writing at least weekly. As soon as Cousin Kat got old enough, she started writing. Though none of us met Cousin Kat till she came to see us in the 1960s, with so much correspondence having passed back and forth, we all felt like we knew each other.

She was an eccentric delight, always upbeat and chipper. On one of our first visits to Cousin Kat in Virginia, she took Mother and me to services at the Methodist Church Grandma had attended. It was lovely, simple and likely unchanged since Grandma was a girl. After the services and dinner on the grounds that followed, we met everyone in the tiny community, most of whom were our relatives. Cousin Kat made a special point to have us spend time with Miss Betsy, a shy little lady who didn’t have a lot to say. As we left, Cousin Kat offered Miss Betsy a ride home, like always.

Sweet, little Miss Betsy lived a couple of miles up the mountain in a lovely shady glade in a little white house looked like something off a postcard from heaven. We had coffee and teacakes, admired the old pictures of the precious little redheaded children over her mantle as she remarked, “That little ‘un was my baby Peggy. The boy was Tommy. We had a terrible tragedy when they were little, but I can’t remember much about it.” That definitely put a damper on the visit. Then she brightened as she pointed out a recent picture of a handsome young man with a wife and four children. “That’s my son Pete. He lives in D.C. with his family. They’ll be here next weekend.

We all admired Pete and his lovely family. As we headed home, naturally I wanted to know more about the terrible tragedy Miss Betsy alluded to. Cousin Kate, remarked, “Well, people around here are pretty hard on her about that, but I always believe in letting bygones, be bygones. Betsy was always a good girl, just kind of ‘high strung.’ She really got notiony after she had her babies. Dave had to put her in the State Hospital Mental for a few weeks after she had Tommy. She had some trouble for a good while after Peggy was born, too, stayed in the hospital awhile, then Dave brought her home, thinking she was okay. She was still feelin’ purty low, but able to take care of the kids and house.

Pete was in school by then. He come home and saw blood in the kitchen an’ Tommy under the table. He run an’ got Dave from the field. Dave come runnin’ in an’ Betsy hacked his arm with the axe as he came in the door. They got the sheriff out there to take her back to the State Mental Hospital, but before they took’er, they let’er get out the kids’ burial clothes. She’d made Peggy the sweetest little yellow and white-checked dress and made Tommy and Pete matching blue suits. It just about broke my heart!

She stayed in the hospital a long time. They gave her a bunch of shock treatments. After a few years she got out and came home to live with Pete and Dave. Dave died a few years back. Pete comes back to visit sometimes, but don’t spend the night or leave her with the kids. She don’t remember nothing now, just tiptoes around like a ghost. She never has anything to say, unless somebody talks to her first. Don’t nobody around here have much to do with Betsy. I thought it might help her to see somebody new. “

I have to admit that was an interesting experience, but hoped we hadn’t intruded on sweet, sad Miss Betsy, God Bless her and her family.

31 thoughts on “Cousin Kat and the Axe-Murderer

  1. Linda,
    The thing that struck me is the love of the husband for the wife even after this tragedy. These days couples give up and divorce if they don’t like the partner snoring.
    Those times were different. And though I wish Betsy had had better treatment and had been diagnosed earlier like she might have been had she lived now, there were positives in living in that age too.


  2. This poor lady obviously had other issues that complicated the norm which now days may be identifiable as we have become so much more aware of different forms of mental disorders. Soooo sad.
    Post delivery(Baby Blues) depression can be quite severe in some. When my daughter had her fourth child, her first girl no less, she bottomed out. She said, I should be happy but I’m not. She looked at her daughter in disgust and was very critical about her chubbiness and swarthy-ness. (Her boys are fair). I suggested she talk to her midwife and get help, which she did immediately. They put her on medication and everything leveled off fine. Mikey is now a beautiful 11 yr old and they are best buds. When Mikey was two or three, she called me up one day and said, “She likes to shop!”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I can’t even imagine the pain of losing a child, but by your own hand ? How does one ever recover from that ? Tragedy well-told, Linda. But you’re right…it’s hard to hit the “Like” button on this one. Thanks for sharing. ☺ Van

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my goodness, how tragic. But Cousin Kat and your representation give humanity to someone who would be regarded as a monster instead of someone in desperate need at a time of no help. Kat was a remarkable person to show such compassion and your writing is remarkable.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Something that struck me about this post is the kindness of your “Cousin” Kat (e). I’m glad she took the time to show you a little bit of real forgiveness.
    Lovely, if extremely scary story. PPD needs to be known.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. mandy says:

    I have no words today, Linda. Your stories leave me scratching my head–not only the story but the writing. For many years I kept the boxed set of Little House on the Prairie on my book shelf. Once a year I pulled it down and started from the beginning, absorbing myself into the lives of the family, the landscape. Someday, I want to own the boxed set of lbeth. I’m not kidding!

    Liked by 3 people

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