Do you think I might be fool enough to run away from heaven if I get there?

October 23, 2008

posted by Caroline Picard, transcribed by Nicholas Sarno and written by Henry Darger

This was originally published in Paper&Carriage no. 3, available here.

Do you think I might be fool enough to run away from heaven if I get there?

I loved to work in the fields. We worked on the farm only in the summer time. During our working days we at night slept in a large place called the Dormitory.
The farm had a regular boiler and engine room, and motor dynamos or other machinery that produced the electric lights.
The farm was supervised by a man whose known name was Allenburger. He had a wife and little girl. They were very good people.
We boys working on the farm were divided into ‘gangs,’ three gangs I believe and under a supervisor for each. Their names were John Fox, Whiliam O’Neil and Mr. West.  He was the cow-bow.
At the approach of late fall we were returned to the asylum which Mr. Allenberger ‘termed’ the bug-house. Bughouse. I loved it much better than the farm. But yet I loved the work there. Yet the asylum was home to me.
While back at the home I received a severe shock.
I got the bad news that my father died at the St. Augustine home.
I did not cry or weep however.
I had that kind of deep sorrow that bad as you feel I could not. I’d been better off if I could have. I was in that state for weeks and because of it I was in a state of ugliness of such nature that every one avoided me, they were so scared.
Even when back on the farm the next summer they noticed a change in me.
They heard the sad news however and did not bother me. During the first of my grief I hardly ever ate anything, and was no friend to any one.
I was even very dangerous if not left alone.
I believe I was at the asylum 7 years and during the summers between that time on the farm.
During the early summer of the fourth year it was June I made my first attempt to run away but that farms cowboy caught me in a corn field, tied my hands together on a long rope and made me run back all the way on the rear of his horse.
The second attempt was successful. I with another boy hitch hiked a freight. He got off at Joliet where he lived. I rode on to Chicago.
After a storm I foolishly gave myself up to the police who had me sent back. I stayed then again for more than a year.
What made me run away? My protestation of being sent away from the asylum, where I wanted to stay, as for some reason it was home to me.
During the early summer of the following year, the sixth I believe it was June two boys working on the farm induced me to run away with them.
We then got an actual work for a short spell with a German Farmer.
It was a job driving to the nearest town with a wagon load of something the farmer sold there.
At meal times, breakfast dinner or supper, he said the Our Father, and sang some sort of a German hymn before we ate. He asked why we did not join him.
We answered we do not know any German.
His son and wife answered some parts.
Being short of working conditions he finally had to let us go, me and a stouter boy. We were paid. He kept the other boy. Excuse me I do not remember their names.
With me giving a part of my money to my stout companion we rode on the Ill. Central to Decatur Ill. I again while there wanted to see Chicago again.
You would not believe it, but I then walked from Decatur Ill. to Chicago arriving early in August. Because of unusual warm weather, and hardly able to sleep I walked also many a night.
I had forgot to mention when the time I gave myself up to the police. I was taken by train the poor house at Dunning town. From there after a month stay I was sent to the asylum at Lincoln Ill.
But this hike to Chicago from Decatur was successful.
I knew her address so I went and took refuge at my Godmothers and after some weeks there she took me to St Josephs’ Hospital which was on Burling and then the street called Garfield Ave.
It now is known as Dickens Ave. I prefer it would have retained its original name as Dickens was an English man, Garfield an American and one of our presidents.
I got a job there as Hospital on floor janitor I worked there under Sister Mary Rose and later under another Sister Dorothy. Sister Rose was prim but good. Sister Dorothy was good too, but you could joke with her.
I worked under each of them until I was there for a little over fourteen years.
The name of the head Sister’s were Sister Cephas and Camilla.
Both were good, but Sister Cephas took sick and died less than a year after I arrived. At the earliest of my time, because of an old injury to my right shoulder, I had to be left handed, with the sweeping broom and other things.
All Sisters scoldings could not change me to sweeping with my right. As my shoulder injury was caused by a fight I did not explain to her. She gave up nevertheless and let me sweep as I please I sure know or knew how to scrub all hall floors and rooms as clean as they would come and all on my hands and knees.
And that was not done that way to humble myself. For under no condition would I humble myself and Heaven keep the one who would dare humble me.
One did and was in a hospital for a year. And some how I got away with it too.
But it was on that score 50-50 as I never exulted myself then either. I do now and how.
As I said before and again will write that also because of my injured shoulder I did really find myself unable to use other certain household articles and the sweeping broom or brush.
In my younger days which I forgot to mention when angry over something I burned holy pictures and hit the face of Christ in pictures with my fist. I wonder would I have the heart to do so now? I can’t say yes or no.
I’ve got an awful nasty temper.
Sometime how or other for a time Sister Rose finding out I came from the home of Feeble minded children thought I was still crazy.
I believed she got the information from Sister Nina who was called Sister Seno by others. My Godmother not thinking of the consequences told her.
The whole hospital full of persons soon knew. I was then called crazy. I had I believe more brains than all combined. None of them I found out ever even knew Geography or History. I did. My spelling, figures and reading and writing was more excellent than theirs.
My finding it out, there are many cities in this country and the old world they could not spell or pronounce. I could.
Berlin and Dresden are still the most beautiful cities in the world.
Berlin is largest next to London and New York City.
As I said before I received admonition from Sister Rose because of my enforced left handedness until I could prove it was impossible with my right hand.
Once in searching for something that got lost from me in a very dark enclosure of the out exit on the ground floor behind the dining room, by which you go outside by the rear, I scared some young woman (she was cowardly and timid anyway) out of her wits accidentally.
When Sister Rose heard of it, by someone telling her she scolded me good, and said she surely believed that I am really crazy.
But I could see that while scolding me she also had a hard fight with herself to keep from laughing over it. Yet afterwards by many, that woman was looked on as a Scardy-cat, and “chicken.”
She quit after that. Several times when scolding me for something, whether I did it or not, she threatened to sent me back to the Lincoln Asylum.
I wished then she had. I felt I was a fool for after all running away. I was better off there and never was scolded. But I knew they would not take me back now, and told her so.
On the Christmas midnight mass, a cold snowy one in December 1909 I received in their chapel my first Holy Communion. I was unable to convince them before then, that I was a Baptized Catholic, but in the asylum, I even then knew all things of the Religion but also in the Asylum, and on the state farm, they never even for us all, showed any kind of religion.
They seemed even Godless even in the School there. The only sign of something like religion was in the Asylums main childrens dining room for us when before and after meals the Our Father was recited by the dining room matron only ending the prayer in the Protestant way.
Or on Sunday some sort of Sunday School where only some hymns was sung by the best singers.
Otherwise no sign of religion at all. She said then I did right to run away. My Godmother had me baptized on the snowy afternoon in St Patricks Church on Des Plaines and Adams Street Chicago.
The way it was there as I told her, you’d think there was no God at all. And at first I wanted to stay there. I suppose they had the idea that feeble minded could not at all understand Religious instruction.
Then why were they to go to school? The School building as I wrote before I believe was over two hundred feet north of the asylum.
And there was an under ground tunnel leading to it from the Asylum to be used only in bad weather. All this I told her. I cant say whether I was actually sorry I ran away from the State farm or not but now I believe I was a sort of fool to have done so.
My life was like in a sort of Heaven there. Do you think I might be fool enough to run away from heaven if I get there? Besides for doing it the third time the officials of the state farm would not take me back.
If I have to go back for a few words again about my stay at the asylum because many things do slip my mind. I’m telling the truth there was a night freeze rain lasting till mid morning of the next day followed by the most terrific blizzard storm I have ever seen before and during my life time, even now.

One Response to “Do you think I might be fool enough to run away from heaven if I get there?”

  1. Great blog! I cannot remember too clearly but I think I found your blog through a link someone shared on Twitter. . I truly love the stuff I have read on your website and plan to keep reading when I get more time. Do you have a Twitter profile?

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