2-27-10 The Secret, Sordid Life of Daniel Cady Eaton
Posted by Sean on February 27, 2010
We interrupt your bat-turned-Batman-turned-goth theme for that blog staple, the work rant.
I work at a company that sells historic documents. Of course, their definition of “historic documents” may differ from yours. Your idea of historic documents may include the Magna Charta and the Constitution of the United States. For my employer, it’s nudie photos signed by Playmates of the Month and baseball cards of players whose entire major league career was three games with the Boston Browns Braves.
Anyway, part of my job is transcribing old letters onto our Web site; that way, customers can read them and decide if they want to buy them or not. On Wednesday, I was transcribing some letters from the 19th century botanist Daniel Cady Eaton, when I came across a paragraph that floored me. It’s so wondrous, I’m not even sure if it’s real. I reproduce it below for your edification and elucidation:
Last evening I brought her three little red lady-apples, and she was perfectly delighted with them. This morning, while with the nurse she ate half of one of them, and bit into another before the nurse knew it. At noon when Carrie & were with her I gave her the bitten apple to play with. At first she offered to bite into it, and I told her ‘No! No! Baby may play with the apple, but not eat it.’ And the dear child played with it half an hour, and never offered to bite it again. (emphasis mine)
History records that Eaton later bought his daughter a puppy and then butchered it right in front of her, and that his daughter grew up to be Ann Coulter.
You have to wonder what else was going on in Eaton’s life, what else you might discover if just took the time to read between the lines.
And since I had a lot of letters of his to transcribe…
Take this other letter from Eaton:
Today Carrie (his wife) & I have been to see a Poultry show- & were much interested- I saw some Light Brahma’s rather larger than mine, but no hens handsomer than one or two of those you brought us- the cocks were rather ahead of mine-
To which I wanted to add: “That’s our life. Poultry shows. Non-stop action and adventure and poultry shows. I was much interested, but I don’t think Carrie was. She spent the whole show out behind the tent taking long pulls from the flask that she’s been carrying in her purse lately, muttering about stretch marks and twenty years of marriage down the tubes and crying. Her loss. Those Light Brahmas were AWESOME. Carrie did seem much interested in the cocks, though, or at least she kept reminding me of how their cocks were rather ahead of mine. I wonder why.”
My dear Father, I am very glad you are well and happy, and regret that Mother has had a series of headaches –
“Carrie has had a series of headaches, too – every single damned night since that poultry show. I wouldn’t complain except that it was over two years ago. In other news, we’ve hired a pool service. Things have gotten a little weird around the house since then. Carrie insists on greeting the pool boy in a black lace teddy and garter belts, then tells me we’re low on milk and shoves me out the door. Also, we don’t have a pool. But it does give me more time to go to poultry shows.”
(T)he all-white cock lost his head this morning in an endeavor to dull the edge of a hatchet
“The heft of the axe… The power of life and death over a helpless animal… The pleading look in the chicken’s dark eye… Then the flat sound of the axe hitting wood! The feel of the blade slicing through vertebrae! The red, the glorious red of the blood! The death throes of the chicken fading, fading, fading… gone… Oh Gooooooood…”
Bessy (his daughter) found a little compass today, & I had to tell her all about it, & she understood enough to tell the servants that it was to find ones way with on the ocean ,& that it pointed to the North Star ‘that stays, while the other stars all go round & round & round & round’.
“I also told Bessy that demons made the needle point at the North Star and that if she wasn’t a good girl they’d come out late one night and rip her liver out of her chest and eat it and then swing her sorry little carcass round & round & round & round before dragging her screaming down to Hell. God, I love doing that. That was even better than the shit I pulled with the apples. The fees for little Bessy’s electroshock therapy and the bribes to keep the servants from reporting me to Family Services are killing us but, still, good times.
Nelly has declined Carrie’s invitation to visit her, saying that she is too sad to see any one- I really feel very anxious about Nelly; she seems to make no effort to control her feelings, &may find herself at last unable to do so.
“Just because she saw her entire family killed in a freak combine accident yesterday doesn’t mean she can mope around like a sad sack and feel sorry for herself. Little ingrate. In other news, Carrie is divorcing me and marrying a test pilot. He benches 350 pounds, speaks seven languages without an accent and wrestles tigers for fun. But I’ll bet his hens aren’t handsomer than mine.”
Many thanks for getting one the postal currency; it is almost impossible to get any but the raggedest and dirtyest [sic] sort here-
“The money that I have… The things that I’ve done for that money, the terrible, horrible, unholy things that I’ve done for that money. I hesitate even to look at it, that greasy, slimy, FILTHY money. My hands are dirty so dirty and I make the water as hot as I can and I use that lye soap that raises blisters on my skin and I scrub and scrub and scrub and scrub but it doesn’t come off! IT NEVER COMES OFF! I can SEE the GERMS crawling on them! The air is thick with their noxious exhalations, like a fetid fog rolling in off a diseased swamp during a dead man’s moon! CONTAMINATED! I am contaminated! I! CAN! FEEL! THE GERMS! INSIDE ME! Crawling through my blood vessels! Dirtying my pristine bowels with their SATANIC filth! Wrapping their grasping, greedy, HUNGRY tentacles around my brain! My hot, sweaty, sticky BRAIN! How can Jesus allow a foul reeking putrid mucus-dripping slime-encrusted vomit-emitting soul as I in His holy sight! Surely he will cut me with his cruel cruel knife and then LAUGH at me! I CAN FEEL HIS RIGHTEOUS WRATH BURGEONING, SURGING, CRESTING INTO A SOUL-BLASTING, WORLD-ATOMIZING STORM OF CLEANSING FIRE! HIDE ME, FATHER! HIDE ME, MOTHER! HIDE ME, SWEET EARTH, FROM THE INESCAPABLE FURY, THE BURNING HATRED AND BLAZING RAGE OF THE LORD! Anyway, if you can get that money to me, that’d be great.”
In January I have 248 eggs – or 8 every day on an average- or from each laying hen ,(14 of them) 248/14 or 18 eggs in the month on an average
“I’ve been doing the same kinds of calculations with my toenail clippings ever since Carrie left me. And did you know that you can eat six live chickens before you have to throw up? Found that out last night. Boy, they won’t be letting me back into that poultry show any time soon.”