January 9, 2013
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Annie May Denman was a prolific author and poet despite being blind from birth. My grandmother told stories of how “Blind Aunt Annie” wrote to her and my great-grandmother almost every week on the typewriter she used to produce books like, Poems: By a Blind Girl of Mississippi and Poem Time. After graduating from the Industrial Institute and College (now Mississippi University for Women) in 1919, Annie wrote an account of her experiences titled, I.I. and C. Echoes, describing the difficulties she faced navigating classes while carrying her typewriter. In the book she also thanks her peers for ministering to her by reading classwork, studies, and assignments aloud.
Although most of Annie’s published works are only available for viewing inside the archive sections of university libraries throughout Mississippi, I’m thankful to still have some of her letters and poems.
For trade, amusement, and at the displeasure of those around her, Annie raised poultry behind her home in Jackson. In this letter to my great-grandmother, Annie shares about her family of geese:
Outside the window now the gander is ringing the bell that I hung on the fence. It was on the back gate, and he kept on ringing it so I put it in a better place, and now he loves it. He is consoled after the killing of the leading gander yesterday. I’ll have to take the bell down and bring it in at bed-time, or he would be ringing it all through the night. I go and call out: “Fibber, is that you ringing that bell, “He will answer close to the bell: “Wank, wank, wank—Well, well, well.” He is a gentle gander. Tomorrow the man will come for the other gander; and then it will be Fibber and Mollie with the bell, their mirror and their tubs of water.
Yesterday I caught the leading wild gander and put him in the little yard by the vines. All day we all worried—he trying to get out, the others going to the gate to talk to him, me just dreading the killing. By night I had indigestion. I had to hold him while the maid next door cut off his head. He cried, and I shivered. Then it was all over, and we had blood on our clothes and faces. I felt like a traitor. The Maid said: “Law, if the police was huntin’ somebody and they saw us, they would put us in jail sure. Looks like us been in a fight. But we would have the dead goose for proof.” She dressed him nicely, the friend who took him paid her a dollar and seventy-five cents for dressing him, He weighed thirteen pounds dressed. at four months and one week old.
Let me know how you are getting along.
I’m thankful for the legacy handed down to so many people through the bravery of my great-great-aunt and for words like these given to my grandmother regarding me and my younger cousins in 1984:
“Demanding grandchildren who thrive in your care
Will bless you some day, and perhaps learn to share
What they are receiving from you, all unknown.
As you will be giving through them to their own.”
Indeed her love of faith, words, family, and poultry continue to trickle down.
What a blessing.
In addition: A couple years ago Michael Popek found Annie’s poem, “From the Heart of a Little Girl” (published by Met. Life Insurance Co.) hidden inside The Light in the East: The Life of Christ and The Apostles by Rev. John Fleetwood. You can view the poem and book on his fabulous blog, Forgotten Bookmarks.