by Bodwyn Wook
This is the Garden City Roller Mill, a nineteenth century facility for pressing oatmeal.
[this image is from the Minnesota Digital Library — ed]
For years the building was said to be haunted by the agonized and aggrieved ghost of heartbroken twenty-three-year-old Garden City mill hand and farrier Billy Pierce, who was gunned down in 1879 in a savage duel with the nonagenarian Zebediah Whately, of Old New England. It was a brutal contest for the hand of Billy’s faithless betrothed, the nineteen-year-old Eutola Watt of that place, and it was said that old Whately’s suit was abetted by a confederate in the tree-tops, Sioux Indian sharpshooter Pigeon Toe, a sellout to the whites who plugged Pierce in unison with a blast by the tremoring Whately with a horse pistol, in the general direction of young Pierce’s head. Onlookers were horrified that Eutola Watt did not mourn and straightaway married her Congregationalist Methuslah. In September they departed on their honeymoon for the Blue Mounds, on the southwestern Minnesota border of the Dakotah Territory, allegedly prospecting for gold and from whence they never returned. The old dames of the village took cruel and cackling delight for many years in a report that in the keel of the prairie, old Whately there handed over his shrieking bride to a renegade and satanic, ancient, medicine man as shunned by his own people as he was yet hale, the venomous Bull Sack of evil legend. It was supposedly in exchange for ‘snake medicine’, certain magical chants and incantations of hellish import and possibly intended to convey ‘immortality’. There may be something in this. Although a healthy scepticism about all explanations of the unknown is always the best policy, too often as is well known do the palid and nocturnal mentally unwell crowd in on so-called ‘occult’ doings to have their say, neurotically. Nonetheless, according to the faculty of the anthropology department of Mankato’s State Normal School, the recently re-named ‘Minnesota State University at Mankato’, any report from folklore must be given its due. Although the good professors under the chairmanship of Dr Preserved Hurd, formerly of Miskatonic University, are quick to point out that they are referring to possible forgotten herbal or other lore of a materially specific nature, and not to magic spells or ‘any bullshit like that’, as such. Whately made no secret in his time of his interest in techniques of life-extension and, poignantly, Willard Schalow of St Clair, Minnesota, who had been cheated by Whately in a horse trade whilst the latter was yet on his way to Garden City in the Spring of 1879, over twenty years later, in 1901, said that he had ‘seen Whately, the old sonofabitch himself!’ in Mankato, upstairs at the Stahl House, ‘drunk as a lord!’ and that ‘…the old bastard didn’t look a day over eighty-nine, and he had the gals all laughing and giggling to beat Hell too! Now don’t that beat all, by gol!’
Other folklorists of to-day, however, are inclined to dismiss all of this Garden City haunting business as a made-up folk invention of the twentieth century, redolent as all of it is with at least the latent motifs of the pornographic preoccupations of that disgusting latter degenerate and more loathsome, unwholesome, era.
[Bodwyn Wook all text-rights reserved 27 December 2008]