Allendale: A Shunned House Part 17

As for me, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was more than a long string of bad luck—that something was causing the evil in the house. I began at one not only to review the evidence, but to do my best to collect more. I travelled immediately to the Tennessee State Library and Archives, hoping to discover a history of the land further back than the history of the county reached. Perhaps there were local Cherokee or Creek legends.

But the history seemed much as I already knew. The land was ours since it was deeded to my namesake as part of a Revolutionary War grant. I studied maps showing known Native American archaeological sites, but there was nothing to indicate that we had made a mistake worthy of a family in a Stephen King novel by building our home on an old Indian mound.

But it was while digging through the Native American history of the area that I came upon something that struck my curiosity—a letter from Timothy Demonbreun, a French fur trader who lived in the area before Nashville was settled. Demonbreun had addressed the letter to the French authorities at Fort de Chartres, but it had obviously never reached its destination. Instead it wound its way through history only to have been tossed into a box of thing marked “Sumner County Lore” though there was nothing in the letter to immediately suggest that it belonged among those items.

I was intrigued by the coincidence of a French letter among Sumner County items. And I grew more excited as I read the letter and realized it relayed a story similar in fact to those I had become so familiar with.

Jean Deraque et la plupart de son groupe de chasseurs (deux fils, ainsi que quatre Indiens) sont morts de la maladie familiale des Deraque. Seul le benjamin, Joseph Deraque, vit toujours, mais il est très affaibli et languissant. Je l’ai ramené en ville pour voir s’il peut être sauvé. Nous avons enterré les corps sur une falaise inhabitée un peu en amont, et les Indiens comprennent bien l’importance primordiale de ne pas perturber le site.

My French was perfunctory at best but an online translation rendered the following: “Jean Deraque and most of his hunting party (two son, and four Indians) died of the disease of family Deraque. Only the youngest, Joseph Deraque, still lives, but it is very weak and languid. I brought him into town to see if he can be saved. We buried the bodies on a deserted cliff a short distance upstream, and the Indians understand the importance of not disturbing the site.”

That was all the letter said on the matter. But that phrase—“de la maladie familiale des Deraque”—remained with me. Demonbreun wrote of it so casually, as if the authorities would have no question of what the malady of the Deraque family was. And was I reading too much into things to see an implication that the authorities would be familiar with the necessary burial customs one must take when dealing with someone who suffered from this malady?

I found many people in Nashville who could tell me at least some tales of Joseph Deraque, sometimes called DuRat, but the name “Jean Deraque” opened no doors in Tennessee. His life in our fine state escaped the notice of local historians. The only tantalizing clue the State Library and Archives could give me was a crudely drawn map, attributed by some historians to Joseph Deraque and by others to Timothy Demonbreun purporting to show the approximate locations of French hunting camps in Middle Tennessee. There certainly was one marked Deraque located near the water on our side of the river up by the present location of Gallatin, but whether it was where Allendale stood or whether I could even trust the map, I cannot say.

In the end, I had to travel to Fort de Chartres to find some record of the Deraque malady, and what I learned there sent me home to immediately examine the basement of Allenwood with a new and excited minuteness.


Knee Thoughts

In the past few weeks, I have learned important things about my right knee. There are only a certain amount of pain-free steps it can take. The pain-free steps never come when you are first walking on it. Once it’s done taking those pain-free steps, it will get even with you for taking them. Oh, how it will get even.

There is a certain kind of pain that my right knee can toss off that isn’t very strong, like half a shitty menstrual cramp, a quarter of what a migraine can do to me, a flavor of pain you’d barely qualify as pain, really. I mean, it’s about on par, if not a little less than a stubbed toe. And my knee doesn’t have this pain very often, mostly when I haven’t moved it in a while, but, when it comes, I can taste metal in my mouth and it makes me so nauseous.

Of all the pains my knee has taught me about, this one scares me the worst, because all the other pains feel like “pulled something,” “strained something compensating for the pulled something,” “something’s tender right there.” The almost painless pain that makes me want to throw up from the taste of it? It feels like a wiring problem, like I have done something to a nerve in the knee. I also suspect this because it is usually accompanied by a feeling like the front of my shin, down by my ankle, is burning.

It feels like the kind of ugly pain that might not leave even after everything is fine.

I Never Think Romney is Doing as Bad as Others Think

I watched a little bit of the debate last night and I was glad to see Obama back on his game. But I just don’t know if it’s because we have Haslam here or what, but I never think that Romney comes off as bad as other liberals think he does. I mean, I disagree with him. But there’s some way in which I feel like we run around all “And now people will see what a slime-ball he is!” But he doesn’t really come across as a slime-ball, in general.

He comes across like a boss. And to me, that’s what it comes down to. If your feelings about bosses are that they are, in general, competent people who’ve worked hard to get where they are, and who maybe are sometimes a little out of touch with the struggles of people who work hard but haven’t gotten that far, but who are, in general, well-meaning, I think that’s how Romney mostly comes across.

If you feel like bosses think they’re better than you, what, with their fancy educations and all, and that they will say anything to get ahead and that they don’t understand what your life is like, then I imagine that’s exactly how Romney comes across.

How big the disconnect between his concerns and yours appears and how much that bothers you has less, I think, to do with him and more to do with how you feel about guys like him you already know.

There was one moment I am most curious about the implications of. Was I misunderstanding or did he claim he was the pastor of a church for some years? There aren’t Mormon pastors. They don’t use that word. Now, I don’t know if it grates the way someone calling themselves a Lutheran priest might grate–which is to say, it sounds wrong, but you can imagine an audience in front of which a Lutheran pastor might describe herself that way in order to bridge a gap in understanding if the people she was talking to only had experience with priests–or if it grates the way someone calling themselves a Baptist priest might grate–which is to say, there’s no fucking Baptist minister in these here United States whose calling himself a priest and, if one did, his congregation would be creeped out and pissed.

But I did wonder what Mormons made of that.

The women in a binder thing was hilarious. But I feel like this blogger says all there is to say about it, “I’m not at all worried that Romney organizes his women in a giant binder. It’s probably just a Mormon thing, because you know how they are about genealogy.” (The very next part of the paragraph I’m quoting is even funnier, but I didn’t want to steal two punchlines.)

The most troubling thing was this idea that we could reduce gun violence through marriage. First, violent crimes in this country are way, way down. Second, most of the parents of the famous spree killers folks are fretting about were married.

Neither a vagina nor a wedding ring a magic. I can’t make a baby into a killer with the power of my unmarried vagina and a little piece of gold doesn’t prevent it.

I know it’s a big change, but it is very important that people be able to choose who they marry and to not be pressured into marrying someone terrible just because a child is involved. It is better for everyone–including the child–that this change has been made.

Anyway, I thought Obama did great. I thought Romney did less than great, but not so bad that he frightened off likely Romney voters and I think it’s not necessarily going to be an easy victory for Obama. That frightens me, but I think that’s the truth.