It was a Sunday morning after Mass, when the bell rang at Bridget Kenny's home, while friends and familiars were having breakfast. The hostess opened the door, and come across "two handsome boys". The visitors introduced themselves as "Missionaries of the Jesus Christ Church of Latter-day Saints" in a tongue-twister that amused Bridget who was very prone for confusing names and words.
-Oh! "You'r Mormons!" - She exclaimed
- Oh, yes, that's it mam! - One of them answered enthusiastically.
From the kitchen, Minnie, Bridget's elder sister, asked out loud,
- Who's there Briddy?
- The Mormons ... - Briddy replied with a mischievous smile.
- Fling Holy Water at them! - Minnie snapped.
The suggestion seemed funny to visitors who understood the joke that came from the deepest and tried to spy to see who wanted to exorcise them.
So Minnie strode to the front door and without words he questioned them with acrimony:
- What's your name ?!
- Mine? -Asked the most timidly, trying to keep himself cordial.
- Yes, yours! - She insisted
- Peter Maguire ...
- And yours?
- James O'Hara, mam ... -He replied.
- Oh my Holy God! Praised be Jesus Christ our Lord! Both Irish names! .. You should be ashamed to yourselves! .. Go to Church and beg Gods forgiven for your disobedience! The Catholic Church is the only truth one ... Give up sinning and come back to the Holy Catholic Church if you want to save your souls ...- Minnie cried
- But! - Maguire stammered.
- But nothing! Save your souls now before it's late! And it's not a joke, I command you to do it!
-Okay, mam… - O'Hara said with angelic face.
- And do you not forget what I have told you!
- Will do so mam ... Have a good day! – Said one fellow and continued their way, although surely they laughed at the show they had just starred in.
- Good bye! May God and the Virgin Mary have mercy of you! Said Minnie and closed the door, serious and agitated as if she had just fought with the devil himself.
When they returned, the guests were wiping their tears. They looked at each other with amazement, until someone asked with sarcasm where had they left the decapitated heads of the Mormons, so they realized at the moment that the tears were of irrepressible laughter because of the "act of daring" they had just executed. But Minnie felt it was no laughing matter. Very serious and without blinking, she sat down at the table satisfied for have fulfilled the designs of the Lord.
Minnie's tough temper was famous in the community, and if there are souls in grief prowling her grave, surely among them are those of the Mormons.
Maria "Minnie" Kehoe Doyle was born in Salto, Province of Buenos Aires in 1877 and died in Venado Tuerto on October 4, 1959. She married Patricio Rourke Kenny, who was born in 1870 and died on October 6, 1920. They had no descendants and their remains rest in the Venado Tuerto Cemetery.
My cousin Luis, the rake
My cousin Luis had many skills; the most prominent was his persuasive conviction gift. As a kid, he always was hanging around the cafes, clubs and cinemas, which allowed him aware all political and social news.
At that time the parish magazine "La Cruz del Sur" used to published a list of billboard movies with corresponding moral qualification. The ratings ranged from Recommended, Good, Regular, Bad, Very Bad and: SCABROUS! written in capital letters and admiration sign. Parents took the page as reference control of their children, regarding their amusements. One day Luis mother asked him where had he been last night, and he -suspecting how the game was coming on- forward replied very candidly: "Do you know mom that the nuns took their pupils to the cinema last night?" It was the night that the local theatre exhibited a film qualified as scabrous, but Luis convinced his mother it was all the contrary. So the old woman asked to herself: “How could the nuns take their students to see a forbidden movie? It wasn't possible!”
On some occasions, and according to the movie shown, the sisters took the internal students to the cinema, as to distract them during those weekends of imprisonment. Don Manuel Vicente Manzano, Director of a Private School of Male Internships, did it also with his pupils, who usually arrived late and in droves, putting a hellish ball. When the curtain ran to let them in as the function already started, someone would always say aloud: "Shit, Manzano arrived!", which generated a great laugh throughout the room, followed by other very original occurrences. Of course, Manzano’s pupils were not angels and made their roguery.
In other ways, Don Manzano had a little crow on his right index finger, and when he ordered them to line up, he used to say: "Form a straight row as this finger", and of course, the daring ones did it following exactly what was ordered, what caused the anger of the old teacher.
Luis had very religious feelings. So he belived that his vocation was the priesthood; so he entered the Monastery of the Passionist Fathers. Things were going fine, until the “cleansing day” came up, what’s known as 'closed order'. That day the watchman noticed that the new student had a bunch of papers carefully wrapped in a corner of his wardrobe, so instinctively he opened his eyes, pick it up the bunch of papers and untied the ribbon. What he found was an varied contents of perfumed epistolary collection. Luis tried to babble an explanation, but the rigorous monastic discipline give no chance for excuses. How was it possible that an celibacy aspirant received so many letters in a place jealously guarded of all contact with the outside world? Besides, who could write so many letters to a seminarian? An unanswered question, but with undoubted external complicity. It was never known who was this accomplice, but surely was among those who, for different reasons, entered the cloisters for supplies, repairs, or just collect the waste. That way Luis managed to keep in touch with the outside world.
Next day, early in the morning the inquiri began and lasted as long as a "fart" in a basket, because Luis could not answer the inquisitor's questions: "Who were Susana, Marta, María Isabel?..”
That midday, carrying all his belongings, Luis left off to the station with a school guard and boarded a train to Venado Tuerto. Was his vocation was vanished, or was it a merely teenager adventure?
As a young boy he always came to our home and was very close to my sisters Maria and Moira, who were then 10 and 6 years old, he was already 13.
The 9th May 1946 President Edelmiro Farrell opened up National College, so the people flooded the town streets. As my father worked in the railroad he was bound to means of presidential transport, therefore that day he was at service. At that time my brothers were pupils in San Pablo College in Carmen de Areco and my elder sister at Santa Maria in San Antonio de Areco. The only ones at home were Maria, Moira and myself.
The Presidential train arrived past noon and the three of us went with my mother to the railroad square where there were mounted grenadiers on both sides of the parking lot. It’s very little I can remember -as I was only 4 years old- but the image of the grenadiers engraved on me deeply, and the attitude of Doña Julia Raczcowski, our neighbor, who climbed me up the pergola wall so that I could see better. Meanwhile my sisters met Luis and convinced him to take them until the school that was to be inaugurated. After the ceremony at the train station, we returned home, while authorities and people went up to the opening ceremony of the school located in San Martín street.
The girls had not yet returned home when we got there, so while the hours passed on, the bewilderment increased. At long last the three of them apeard, Luis, Maria and Moira, so the mess bursted out. My father kickt hell and devil, but who got the worst scolding was Luis, who's only fault was satisfy the girls wish. Of course, this version was known a long time after, when remorse began to dent my sisters consciousness. Meanwhile, all the responsibility fell on Luis, who as a good knight, endured the reproch without screeming.
When he got a job as motorcars spare parts seller, he became the best friend of his employer, whose lover was the wife of a prestigious lawyer. One day, when his boss was on his way home from long distance, his car broked down, so he phoned Luis for he to go and inform personaly to his lover that he would see her at the next day. So did Luis, but with one diference, that night he slept with the lady and overthrew his boss. Since that day the woman chosed a youngest lover.
According gossips that go arround in abundance, the professional - a fellow entered in years - confessed during large meal table with abundence of ethylic load, that his wife no longer demanded him much sex as before; he ironised: "May be she’s getting old or I’m more vigorous".
Luis must have had his charms, for I have often heard ladies of the Irish community say, "He's a fine man!" I did not see him as such, but of course, ladies have their own tastes and you never get to understand well what their masculine preferences are, but apparently Luis met lady’s required conditions, otherwise he would be a loser, and Luis was not so. What I can say is that he was very supportive. If anyone felt cold, he would give up his coat; he wasn't stingy at all, he would pay for a drink, a coffee, or even a dinner if he had money and If he did’t, it was because he was cut of. Otherwise, everything ran on its own. If he had to take care of a sick person, keep up a wake, Luis was there, ready for what was asked to be done. Of course, this positive side had its counterpart. He borrowed money and forgot to return it. Some of his lenders are still waiting for the returnment while others are playing the harp.
Luis committed many follies, but one of them deserve everyones applause. And not because it was a heroic act, on the contrary, because he fucked one of the biggest and feared town usurers. This situation become catastrophic for his family, as this guy did not fear killing whom cheated him. That’s why he was very feared, and although he never was imputed in any crime, it was said that he had some deaths in his account. Even that in his daily life he was as normal as any other citizen, but he gained dangerous fame, which was enough for not to play dirty with him.
Years later I was told by a friend from Buenos Aires that Luis did not go home in them times, because a creditor had "sentenced" him to death. One day this friend accompanied Luis until San Antonio de Areco, where he was to meet a relative that was on his way from Venado Tuerto. In those days my friend was processing the return of some savings he had lent Luis several years ago and he hoped to recover them. I think he never did, because he got in great trouble with his wife, who warned him over the risk of the issue.
Much more I could say of my cousin Luis, but it makes no sense to dwell on details. Just remembering him as he was, without considering matters that would not enrich the text of the story or the personality of this boy that still today I consider ineffable.
Luis past away on January 8, 1992. RIP