Monday, August 31, 2009

Amanuensis Monday: The Accident in Transylvania

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue transcribing the tape my grandfather, Martin Deutsch, and his brother, Ted Deutsch, recorded in 1977. Back in October of 2007 I posted a couple entries describing a horrific accident that claimed the life of one of my grandfather's brothers back in 1908 or 1909. In my description, I included brief transcriptions from the tape, though I summarized much of it. The full transcript follows.

Recently I learned of an alternate version of the story with some dramatic differences. I'll discuss this below the transcript.


Martin: August 24, 1977 and we just finished the other side of this tape and got through with what we think is the place or the area where we came from near Cluj or Kolishvar and I think we might start on another subject. Possibly to decide how we came from there – how did we come. How was it decided. How was it arranged. There’s quite a story in that background. I was about five and a half years old, I think, when I came around. You were ten.
Ted: I was 11.
Martin: You say you were 11. You say you were born 1902?
Ted: Yeah
Martin: I was born in 1907. Anyway, there were several months in there where the differences make up the one odd extra year, I guess. To start with, before we come away, I think its important to establish how many were there in the family. There were actually six kids. Six kids.
Ted: Well, let’s see. There were five boys, no four boys and two girls.
Martin: And of course father and mother. The seventh in the family was of course born in the United States. That’s how it arises. But before the six there were seven in the family, until the accident, which I think we may as well cover that now. What was the basis of that accident? Ed and the seventh member of the family born there. Armin A-R-M-I-N? Is that what you would call it?
Ted: Yeah, Armon, A-R-M-O-N.
Martin: A-R-M-O-N? You say A-R-M-O-N?
Ted: Yeah.
Martin: And how old was he? And where did he come in?
Ted: He was two years older than I.
Martin: He was two years older than you, so he might have been born in 1900?
Ted: 18…yes. About 1900.
Martin: In that case, do you think that Jean was born before him? How long? Was she the oldest?
Ted: Jean was the oldest, and she was born about 1899.
Martin: I think that would establish it as 1899 although there is some thought that it should be 1900. And I’m not sure just what happened there.
Ted: Because mother and father were married in 1898.
Martin: 1898?
Ted: Yeah, so she was born in 19…1899.
Martin: It probably is true because they sure didn’t miss any periods inbetween to get seven kids.
Ted: That’s right. Armin must have been born in 1901 or 2. No.
Martin: He could be 1901
Ted: 1901
Martin: And Jean could be 1900, but it would have to be a stepped up operation to get it done.
Ted: 18 months.
Martin: Yeah. Well, anyway, when that accident happened, I don’t recall the details of it. Do you have pretty good…
Ted: When the accident happened I was only I would say about six years old
Martin: So I would have been between two and three years old.
Ted: But I recall the accident because I was involved in the accident.


: You were involved.
Ted: I was there at the time. And I saw.
Martin: You were the oldest one there?

[note: Armon was the oldest, if their sister, Jean, had left with the parents.]

Ted: Yeah, that’s right. It happened that Dad always carried a gun when he went out of the village. He carried a gun with him because you travel through the mountains
Martin: Highway robberies
Ted: Not robbers, but
Martin: Hunting
Ted: Protection. Not not hunting, Protection from wolves.
Martin: Animals.
Ted: There are wolves around when you cross the mountatins. He always had a gun
Martin: A revolver. A pistol.
Ted: A revolver or handgun. For protection. Not from robbers, but he did run into wolves. Wolves run in packs and you never know when they will attack you. Especially if you camp at night.
Martin: I wondered about that and how a gun got into the house.
Ted: If we camped at night, if we camped he always kept a fire going, but he always had a gun also.
Martin: So it’s wolves you were mainly afraid of. The wolves were around there for
Ted: Plenty of wolves around.
Martin: Goats and Sheep, were there a lot of sheep there?
Ted: Yes there were a lot of sheep in the mountains. So this day he didn’t go very far, he left the gun at home. When he left his home he had a chiffonier. And in there he locked up the bread and locked up any other stuff the kids might take. And his gun. So he forgot to lock it this time. We were there, Armon and I. And I think somebody else, but I don’t recall.
Martin: Ed?
Ted: Ed was there.
Martin: I suppose I was there too.
Ted: You might have been there too. Ed was there, and Armon. So Ed. I went to the Chiffonier. It was open so I went to get the bread. If it was locked we couldn’t get the bread, but if they left the key open, we’d go in and look for bread.
Martin: Something to nibble on
Ted: Yeah, so we found a gun in there. We didn’t know what the hell it was. I thought it was a plaything. Armon was older than I and I don’t know if he knew what it was. But he wanted…he took it away from me.
Martin: He was older
Ted: And showed it to me. And then Eddie got it, and he was looking at it. He thought it was something to whistle in because the barrel was there, and if you blew your breath in there you could whistle.
Martin: I see
Ted: So he tried to whistle into it.
Martin: Oh, into the barrel
Ted: Yeah, he held it up against his mouth like that and suddenly the damn thing went off and it went through his upper jaw and through his nose. It came out thorough his nose.
Martin: I see. I wondered how that all happened. I see now from your explanation.
Ted: That’s exactly what happened. He wanted to whistle. What the hell did we know about it? Anyhow. Because Armon was the oldest and
Martin: taking care of him
Ted: he was supposed to know better. But what the hell did he know. seven or eight. He couldn’t have been more than seven or eight years old. So he got scared because Ed was bleeding and there was no doctor around there to take care of it. Nobody knew what to do. Anyhow, after awhile, Dad and Mother blamed him, and he got scared and he got depressed that he was to blame for the entire thing.
Martin: Depressed and distressed and afraid I suppose
Ted: Afraid and for a couple of weeks he wouldn’t eat properly.
Martin: Do I understand he hid out somewhere where he wasn’t
Ted: He hid out where nobody
Martin: Where nobody could find him.
Ted: He was depressed in every way. He wouldn’t eat right. Finally about a month later he passed away.
Martin: That’s really something
Ted: He was just scared. He was just scared stiff. It actually wasn’t his fault.
Martin: He died of fear or something like that. It wasn’t his fault other than he was afraid he’d be blamed. He was blamed.
Ted: Eddie, Luckily he wasn’t hurt much. Its
Martin: It’s amazing
Ted: He always had a spot around his nose where it came out.


Martin: It’s an amazing accident the way it happened. It went through his upper palate and through his nose and out.
Ted: He didn’t take the thing in his mouth, he just pointed it this way where you’d blow into it.
Martin: Oh, yeah
Ted: That’s the lucky thing. If he had shot himself in the mouth…
Martin: And it was amazing he recovered completely because actually it didn’t bother him except for a slight….
Ted: I don’t know how mother … when Mother came home he was bleeding a lot but they took care of that.
Martin: That’s amazing
Ted: That’s the story
Martin: So there were actually six of us after Armon died. I have a very faint recollection…because I was possibly between two and three years old at the time myself. I was possibly three lets say. And I might be able to have that memory about it. I remember a coffin in the house when he died. I remember that. But I don’t have any other recollection at all except a coffin in the house.
Ted: We had the coffin, and he was buried on the mountainside in a cemetery there. Buried in the cemetery over there. Of course in those days the pallbearers carried the coffin all the way to the cemetery.
Martin: For a short distance anyway, there were of course no hearses
Ted: It wasn’t more than two blocks, the entire distance.

A couple months ago Ted's son mentioned in an email that he had heard a dramatically different version of the story. His father had told him as a child that when Eddie pulled the trigger, the bullet went through his lip, ricocheted off the wall, and then hit and killed Armon.

Two completely different versions - both originating from the same individual. Everyone in the family alive at that time is now gone, so except for the tape, everything is second-hand. About a week ago in a phone conversation my mother asked Jean's daughter for the version of the story she heard, and she recalled Armon dying from depression/starvation as well. She also recalled being told Armon had hid in a kiln, which is probably the clay oven Ted mentioned earlier in the tape, and may have only been used infrequently or seasonally.

While she corroborates the story on the tape, it doesn't explain the story Ted told his son. I can create some reasons he might have fabricated the more dramatic version. (To reinforce the lesson about how guns are not a toy; Maybe he was uncomfortable with explaining what could be considered suicide.) But these are just hypotheses.

I've created a chronological index to these weekly transcriptions I've been posting since February 16th.

If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post below, or in the comments.

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