The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 9:33 am Thursday, October 4, 2018

“Lizzie Borden”

By Gaye Hoots

The story of Lizzie Borden who stood trial for the murder of her stepmother and father with an ax is a fascinating one. The study of human behavior and an attempt to understand it was the basis for my career in psychiatric nursing. Old historic homes are another interest of mine. My granddaughter, great-granddaughter and I recently made a trip to some of the New England states. We visited the Borden home in Fall River, Massachusetts. It is a beautiful, three-story home in a neighborhood of similar homes. Presently, it is a bed and breakfast inn. We did not take the tour but got pictures of the home. This house and the Borden story still fascinate people after more than one hundred twenty-five years.

Andrew Borden came from a wealthy family but had to earn his fortune. He owned several companies, properties, and sat on the boards of financial institutions.  He did make enemies along the way. The home he lived in was beautiful but lacked the indoor plumbing and electricity that the more upscale neighborhood in Fall River had. He was a frugal man. His first wife, the mother of Lizzie and Emma Borden, died, and Andrew remarried a few years later. The accounts I read of the story stated that Andrew had bought a property that the sisters lived in as adults. There was known friction between the girls and the stepmother, but for some reason, the girls moved back to the family home.

The friction increased when the sisters moved back into the family home, so the girls took a vacation. Upon their return, the girls spent a few days in a boarding house before returning to their father’s home. The move was just before the murders. The girls had learned that their father had bought a home for his wife’s brother and asked Andrew for a similar property. The deed to the property was still in the Borden home. Andrew sold it to them for a dollar and then purchased it back from them at market price. An uncle, the brother of the girl’s mother, was also visiting in the house and had spent the night before the murders. The bedroom he had slept in was the room Abby, the stepmother, was in when the murder occurred.

The Borden family and their maid had a flu-like illness for a few days before the murder. A pharmacist had reported that Lizzie had attempted to buy cyanide the day before the murders. She had claimed it was to clean a sealskin coat. The court did not allow this testimony at the trial. There was no poison in the stomachs of the Borden’s at the autopsy.

On the day of the murders, Andrew and Abby Borden ate lunch together. The girls rarely joined them for breakfast. Lizzie had slept late, and Emma was visiting in a nearby town. The maid, Bridget, was still unwell and had returned to her room to sleep. Mr. Borden left after breakfast to go downtown and did not return until about 10:30. Abby had gone into the bedroom John Morse had slept in and was making the bed when someone struck her eleven times with a hatchet-like weapon. By the time Andrew’s body was discovered, Abby’s blood had begun to congeal and had darkened.

Lizzie told the police she had greeted her father when he returned from town and had helped him take his shoes off before he laid down on the sofa. In the picture of Andrew at the crime scene, his boots are still on his feet. She had told her father that Mrs. Barton had been summoned to check on a sick friend and was not home. Lizzie claimed a note arrived for Mrs. Barton, but the police found no note. Lizzie claimed to have been in the barn and returned to the house to find her father dead. A witness testified he had seen her come out of the barn at 11:00. At about 11:15, she entered the home and screamed that her father was dead, awakening the maid.

When the police arrived, they did not initially suspect Lizzie, a 32-year-old Sunday school teacher. Bridget had discovered the body of Abby sometime after Mr. Barton’s body was found. The police did not search the house at the time of the death. The house was searched a few days later when two axes and a hatchet with no handle turned up in the basement. They never identified the actual weapon. Lizzie’s friend told police that Lizzie had told her someone was threatening her family a day before the murders. She also told police she had seen Lizzie burning a dress a few days after the murder, and Lizzie had said that she had gotten paint on it. The police arrested Lizzie at this time.

The uncle, John Morse, was eliminated as a suspect because of his alibi. A person seen near the barn had an alibi as well. Bridget came under question, but Lizzie was the most logical suspect. Lizzie remained in jail until the trial, which lasted fourteen days. During the trial, the skulls became evidence. Lizzie screamed and became faint when she saw the skulls. The jury found Lizzie not guilty. Lizzie and Emma continued to live in Fall River. They bought a house in the most expensive neighborhood, and although Lizzie was socially ostracized, the sisters lived there until their deaths.

There were many theories as to why Lizzie may have murdered her parents. One theory was that Lizzie was a lesbian and having an affair with Bridget, the maid. Abby may have seen this and confronted Lizzie. Lizzie befriended an actress later in life, and the lesbian issue arose then. She and her sister, Emma, lived in separate homes after this friendship.

Another theory was that Lizzie’s father had sexually abused her. The truth will never be known, but crimes of a violent nature where more blows occur than are necessary to kill are most often personal crimes, committed by someone close to the victim out of extreme anger.

“Leave it on the Wagon”

By Kevin F. Wishon

Years ago as a child, I heard a minister preach out of first Peter 5:7. The passage states: “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” At the time, I understood this was an assurance to God’s children that He cared about their problems and wanted them to look to Him. However, my young mind struggled to understand why anyone would throw a problem at God. Of course, part of my issue was with the definition of casting. Additionally, I was uncertain how a human being could give their problems to God.

As time passed, it became apparent to me that the act of casting was slightly different from throwing things. Finally, I understood that the passage was referring to the heaping up or piling on of our problems, just as they seem to do in our daily lives. Still, how someone could give their problems to God continued to elude me.

In my late teens, I began to get a real sense of the immense problems an individual could face regularly, and the “casting all your care” scripture began to visit my thoughts often. Then one day, an image appeared in my mind. Whether I had seen this imagery in a drawing, photo, or show, I am uncertain. Regardless, I believe this visual was the clear answer to my confusion on the matter.

The image involved farmers of old harvesting hay. As they walked alongside a wagon drawn by oxen, they would toss pitchfork loads of harvest high into the air and onto the cart. No matter how loaded the wagon seemed to be, the oxen continued pulling the burden without a struggle. In this visual, I finally understood “casting all your care” was a mental transfer and not a physical transfer of problems that the scripture was describing. From that day forward, whenever a problem seemed overwhelming, I imagined myself pitching the problem upon that wagon, and then I tried to forget about it.

Of course, like all good habits, it’s easier said than done. Many times after mentally casting the problem, I would catch myself continuing to worry about the matter and would have to remind myself that it was no longer mine. To deepen my shame, sometimes, I would forget about a problem and later realized He had brought the issue to no effect. I always feel regret for not being immediately thankful, when God addresses an overwhelming issue.

As the years have passed, I’ve learned to bring most of my problems to the wagon and quickly. Once an issue is upon the wagon, I can forget about it without much worry. Now you may not have a wagon as a place of relief in your mind, but I am certain you have troubles in your life. I’m talking about all kinds of trouble, whether they be minor ones or the boulder size troubles that we all dread. I hope you will learn, as I have tried, to cast all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

“Puzzling Out Life on a Mission Trip”

By Julie Terry Cartner

Mission trips are not to be taken lightly. First, they are hard work. We get hot, tired, sweaty, and sore. Second, the living conditions are not what we are used to. On the nicer trips we have access to showers, beds and electricity, but it’s not our showers, beds or electricity. And finally, we are not in our comfort zone. We may or may not know all of the people working with us. We are of different ages, genders, beliefs and lifestyles. Plus, we are not living our regular lives or schedules and must adapt for each other. However, the good far outweighs the bad, and by the end of the week, we always realize that the concerns and differences which worried us before the trip are negligible compared to the feelings of success created by completing jobs and helping others.

On my most recent mission trip, I helped put a roof on a house. It was my second roofing experience, both of which, by the way, took place in eastern North Carolina in August! What is wrong with us? Do you know how hot it is on a roof in August in North Carolina? One team member’s shoe melted! That’s right, the sole her shoe got so hot it melted! The first time we patched a large area. We started by removing the bad part, and as most home repairs go, the bad part was much larger than anticipated – large enough that the last day of our trip we were not going to be able to finish during the regular work day. Without any argument, we agreed to buy the extra shingles out of our budget and stay after hours to get the job done. And we did. That’s what we do – we finish jobs.

This time we were helping another group with the roof – and there was only one person in the other group who wasn’t afraid to get up on a roof, so they really needed us. Five of us from my group volunteered to help – one male, four females. Our diverse ages, though ranging from high school age, to college, to young adult, to a not-so-young adult, were irrelevant.  What mattered was that we worked together to get the job completed.

There’s something about sitting on a roof, looking down relatively straight lines of shingles, knowing we were the ones to make it that way, which is so rewarding. We had quickly gotten a system going, one pair starting a line of shingles, then the other pair starting the line above, the fifth person handing up shingles, water bottles, refilled nail guns and other tools. When the first row was done, we moved to the third row and continued, each pair moving up a row until we reached the top.  Finally the ridge cap – cutting the shingles to the right size, then overlapping both sides of the roof all the way down the top. Goal achieved, a leak-less roof. Now, weeks later, after seeing our state get hit by another hurricane, I know we made a difference. I know one homeowner who had a dry house because we helped put a roof on it.

Our group has been lucky enough to volunteer for UMCOR, United Methodist Committee on Relief, an amazing organization that not only organizes the work, but also provides shelter for the volunteers. We stayed in a dorm like facility with bunk beds, a kitchen and bathroom facilities, complete with showers. Not home, but not bad at all.

For many, the hardest part of going on a mission trip is stepping outside our comfort zones. We all know and have worked with most of the others, but we generally have one or two new volunteers, and I always admire their adaptability. We grow in friendship, respect and Christian love throughout the week. We learn to respect each other’s personal boundaries, and always, and yes, I mean always, learn something about each other that makes us value each other even more. We have never walked away from a trip without shared memories, private jokes and a better understanding of each other.

This year, it might have been the jigsaw puzzle. Two girls started it the last night and were determined to finish it before they went to bed. Soon all of us pitched in to help. It’s interesting watching others solve a jigsaw puzzle. Some rely on the picture, others on the shapes of the pieces. Some try brute force but soon have to acknowledge that doesn’t work! For others it’s sheer determination to get it done. Kind of like life. We may all approach life in different ways, but it’s our diversity that allows us all to use our individual skills to succeed – whether it be a crossword puzzle, shingling a roof, or sheet rocking a wall. So at about 12:15 one night, the last night of our mission trip, we put the last piece of the puzzle together. And as I stood there for a second and looked at Woody and Buzz, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head and all the other characters of Toy Story 2, I couldn’t help but think of one of the theme songs, “You’ve got a Friend in Me,” and recognize that each mission trip illustrates that song. Not only does our friendship within the group grow stronger, but we also establish friendships with other groups, the UMCOR leaders and the families we help. Each individual can only do so much, but like the pieces of the puzzle, when we work together, we can create an amazing picture of unity, friendships, understanding and completed projects.