This is a personal Irish Setter Story ~ I’ll drink to that is a category that I’m putting this into.
I have family stories that are worth sharing, and honestly fall into a category I like to think of, “I’ll drink to that.”
It’s a good weekend story, and it involves my Great Aunt Ethel. Grab a glass of your favorite wine, and get ready for a great family tale… Or, as in this case, it’s also an unusual family tail.
My Aunt Ethel was a character, to say the least. Her father (my great grandfather) was the governor of the state of Maine in the early 1900s, while she was growing up. A staunch Republican, he also had a soft spot in his heart for unwed mothers, and set up a trust fund. (I later learned this from someone who actually needed funds in Waterville.) It’s a fund for women in that town, who give birth without the support of a man.
Still, he was very stern with his own children. My aunt was quite brilliant. I can say that, because I’ve inherited a few of her books, and the words she’s written into the books’ margins, as she had random thoughts. But, my great grandfather thought she was nuts… pure and simple. Being a bohemian woman in the 1920 and 30s was very risky business.
The books I have of hers:
- The Cat of Bast ~ Occult stories by UK Osteopath, Homeopath, and psychic researcher William Thorner
- Cosmic Forces of Mu ~ James Churchward
- Cosmic Consciousness ~ Richard Maurice Bucke, MD
My great aunt was an esoteric vegan… The things that she did in the 20s and 30s, I was doing in the 60s and early 70s. All the things that would make her Republican Governor father grit his teeth; even today, I’m sure for many Conservatives. I know he did back then. He must have, otherwise he wouldn’t have had her institutionalized, trying to get her “ways” buzzed out of her. Of course, this would involve shock therapy. One of my uncles shared her stories with me in the early 1970s, after she was gone. Uncle Bill was my great aunt’s confidant, and visited her frequently in Atlantic City. Uncle Bill and I spent a lot of time together. He had no children and had great property on Moosehead Lake in Maine with my Aunt Rose. I visited with them a lot. I loved their area for the tranquility, and he just enjoyed having me around…. He’d share his stories, because there was a lot of down time at his spot. Now, I’m handing them down.
It was another uncle who shared this part of the story with me, about her Irish Setter.
One day, bohemian Aunt Ethel had had just about enough of life as she knew it. So, she called my other uncle and had him pick her up in her home town of Waterville. When he arrived, she told him that she didn’t want to ride in his car. She wanted to have him drive her in her own car. She instructed him to drive her south, to Augusta, Maine, where the state metal institution is, and he dutifully just took every turn. She had her Irish setter in the back seat of her car, too… insisting that the dog also needed to go on this trip. Telling my uncle where to go, at each step of the way, they pulled up to the entrance of the state hospital. Aunt Ethel got out of the convertible and announced, “Joe, the dog and the Bentley are yours!” and left to check herself in.
I remember in the early 196os, when her dog ended up with a friend of mine on Minot Avenue in Auburn… My aunt wasn’t ready for a dog, so it had to go. The Bentley went, too, because I never saw it, either. From there, Aunt Ethel found her way to the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She lived her final days in a hotel. Growing up with servants, she probably couldn’t even take care of herself. But I do know that she was very happy with her life then, far away from Maine and its memories. I inherited her books, some Limoges china, a lot of her energy, this great story of her life…. But not the Bentley. Wouldn’t that have been a hoot! Pleases join me as I drink to that, and have a fun weekend.