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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

A Calamity Jane in the family?
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Friday, July 5, 2013


If anyone was ever born at the wrong time and in mostly the wrong place, it was Aunt Ebb.

Oh, being raised in the mountains was okay, I guess, since she could do pretty much what she wanted and be as tough as they come.

But mountain life suited her only to a point, and really was no substitute for where she should have lived -- the Old West.

All of her vehicles and especially her motorcycle were really no substitute for what she should have been riding -- a horse.

And of all the outdoor and rugged things she did, they were no substitute for what she should have been -- a cowgirl.

Aunt Ebb sort of lived a life of a cowgirl vicariously through all of the western books she read and the western movies and TV shows she loved to watch.

She usually dressed the part with cowboy boots, jeans and a cowboy shirt. She even wore a cowboy hat from time to time.

Some of the happiest times of her life occurred when she was hunting, carrying a rifle or shotgun with a pistol strapped to her side... and a big chew of Beech Nut in her mouth.

Don't get me wrong. Aunt Ebb was a happy woman and was fortunate to live in place and with family and friends who allowed her to be who she was with very little interference.

Okay, they did "make" her wear a dress to church once, but it really wasn't worth the fight and that was the end of that.

I think she burned that "infernal dress," as she called it, and was quick to tell anyone that women were stupid for thinking they had to wear such uncomfortable garments.

Aunt Ebb probably had not thought much about being born at the wrong time and in the wrong place until we had a conversation about it.

At that time, I was really into the idea of reincarnation, one of many spiritual interests I have pursued over the course of my life. The whole concept seemed to make sense. I don't remember what sparked the conversation, but Aunt Ebb and and I talked about it one day.

Of course, she immediately dismissed it as "silly nonsense," which I fully expected her to do. "Coming back, maybe as a bug or, worse, old man Dodrill (the school principal who Aunt Ebb received several paddlings from)," she said. "That would be torment."

She was raised a Christian in the Church of the Brethren. That's what made sense to her and she believed it with all of her heart.

I asked her, just for the sake of conversation, who she thought she may have been in a previous life. Her response was quick.

"Annie Oakley," she said, smiling ear to ear. "Or maybe Calamity Jane."

She had read a lot about both of them and obviously was enamored with the idea of living that kind of life.

She also admitted that, well, she had dreamed about living in the Old West many times, but figured those dreams were from all the western books she read.

What if those dreams were not dreams at all, I asked her, but memories.

As Aunt Ebb would do when she was deep in thought, she paused, lowered her head and kept it that way until she was finished had something to say.

"Shoot a monkey!" she said, eyes twinkling. "You reckon it's possible?"

I told her that, with reincarnation, it sure could be possible.

A few days later, I got a call from my mother.

"Boy, what kind of foolishness have you been putting in Ebb's head?" she said, obviously very upset. "She thinks she may be Calamity Jane. That's the devil's doing, ideas like that."

Of course, it wasn't long before about everybody in the family had talked to Aunt Ebb to tell her there was no such thing as reincarnation. She was the way she was because that's the way God made her and intended her to be.

I am quite sure Aunt Ebb realized there was no use disagreeing or even raising the possibility, so she wisely agreed with them all and dropped the subject.

And we never talked about it again because I soon moved on to another spiritual search, failing to be convinced reincarnation was the answer.

I don't think Aunt Ebb ever really believed she may have been the reincarnation of Calamity Jane, but she seemed to walk with a certain swagger after that incident.

She also strapped a pistol to her side more often.

Without a doubt, she could have been Calamity Jane.

After all, Calamity Jane was as tough as they come, well known for her ability to fight Indians. But she also was known to be kind and compassionate, always ready to help the sick and needy. Just like Aunt Ebb.

Calamity Jane was born on May 1, just like Aunt Ebb.

Calamity Jane was born near Princeton in Mercer County, Missouri.

Aunt Ebb was born near Princeton in Mercer County, West Virginia.


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