Monday, February 12, 2007

The discussion had started with Scott in the truck one day. I'm not sure exactly how the subject matter turned to the pre-birth "marking". I think I was asking if he had heard about this imaginary birth defect mentioned in Catherine Marshall's Christy. I wanted to know if any of the superstitions regarding births had survived from that time.

One of Scott's cousins (all of Scott's relatives will be called 'cousins' since I'm not quite sure how to describe exactly how everyone is related to Scott) was "marked" by a mule. Her mother, while pregnant, had to crawl under a barbed wire fence to escape an aggressive mule. His cousin was born with a mule shaped birthmark on her lower back.

Scott tells me another cousin who was born retarded who was "marked" by a horse. This was a much more severe "marking". The mother was frightened by a horse while pregnant. The baby was born with a mane of sorts. A narrow stripe of hair that grew down the spine.

I brought this topic up a woman I visit yesterday. She knew about Scott's relatives' markings and was able to fill in some blanks Scott had in the telling of the tales. She also related a tale of a woman she knew who worked at an orphanage. One of the children in her care was white from the waist up and black from the waist down. The parents had abandoned the child since it was so severely "marked". This had the ring of truth and I think I recognized a mosaic twin in this story.

An acquaintance's grandson is "marked" on his legs with port wine birthmarks. She isn't sure how his "marking" occurred but it is assumed that something scared his mother when she was pregnant.

These sorts of superstitions surrounding birthmarks, deformities and retardation were commonplace and widely accepted in the nineteenth century. But they are still regarded to be fact here.

Finally, as she warms to the topic, she relates this fantastic, grotesque tale. She loves any sort of story dealing with birthing.

Her face gets her serious storytelling look. It's a sort of look that goes with speaking in a half-whisper, even if we are the only ones in the room.

"Were this woman that lived down the holler. She lived with a German Shepherd."

Yikes. I know what's coming. I don't want to hear this.

"And I want you to know...she got pregnant by that dog!"

She is quite enjoying this tale. She looks outraged.

"When that baby were born, they had to kill that dog to get at her. It were born looking like a dog. It died."

"Oh, no!" I say. "You know that can't be true."

She gives me the stock phrase that is undeniable proof that the story is indeed true.

"I swear! It were in the paper. You can look it up!"


  1. Maridmitch said...
    Wow, great stories, Rosie. Are you reading Christy right now, hence the curiousity on marking?
    Rosie said...
    Hey Maridmitch,

    I read Christy not too long ago. There was some mention of something called "liver ill" or something like that. A baby dies in the book from what is essentially a diagnostic test for this imaginary defect. I've been collecting a few stories about marking here but this was my first post trying to describe some of them. I think I've barely touched the surface on this topic. Needs more research.
    busybusymomma said...
    That's very interesting to me! I'll watch for more posts on that. A friend of mine has a baby (now toddler) with a mark on her head... it turns out she is missing her corpus callosum.

    Your goat herd sounds interesting! Do you have any good resources on breeding them to be hardier? My mom has lost three does, one during pg, another one day postpartum and one a few months later. The vets around here treat goats as 2nd class animals so she has quite a time getting good care for them in a crisis.
    Maridmitch said...
    I think the baby was "livergrowed."
    Treatment was to touch the baby's head to its heel. The baby's neck broke and it died.
    Rosie said...
    Hey BBM,

    I'm working mine up from grades for hardiness. I've also got one farm doe of undetermined ancestry I'm using who can live on air. Her fore udder attachement is good but her rear is not and well...she has a Gary Larson udder with too many teats. And she's polled. But she's thowing kids with proper teats.

    Purebred Nubians have the highest rate of digestive problems of any of the dairy breeds. But when you cross them, they get much hardier. It takes a few generations to get them from Saanen/Nubian crosses back to American Nubian.

    It sounds like your mom is having problems with toxemia, ketosis and /or hypocalcemia. These are usually dietary, but I think some does are just more prone to such problems.

    My goat Yoda, Betsy, reads the blog, so maybe she'll have more wisdom on this.
    Anonymous said...
    Parasites and metabolic problems are the biggest killers of goats.

    Since it is really warm and wet here most of the year, I worm mine more than a lot of folks do- and I use 2 to 3 different wormers at the same time, as per UT in Knoxville. A -zadole (white wormer), an avrtmectin (Ivomec) and generally pyrantel (Strongid for horses). Does with lots of kids in them or are not getting the nutrition to sustain a pregnancy- calcium, etc.- can get toxemia and ketosis just like humans do. They need more food in the last stages of pregnancy and it (forage/hay/minerals) 'must' be kept in front of them 24/7. Worm right after kidding, check their eyes for pale membranes and worm if they are not pink. Do fecal testing.

    Feed more hay/forage than grain- that is a mistake that lot's of folks make.

    Goat Yoda
    busybusymomma said...
    Thanks Rosie and Goat Yoda... I'll pass that along to my mom. She suspected toxemia, retained placenta and parasites respectively. She feeds them grain, but IIRC only a small amount twice a day when they're pregnant and milking.

    They have some Tannenburg (the grand matriach of the herd is supposedly 50/50) in them but each generation has been more nubian and less hardy.
    seejanemom said...
    I actually read this the day you posted, but thought I couldn't SPELL hemangioma, even though I have a LOVELY one at the top of my left arm about the size of a baked potato. When I was born , it was a strange patch of skin that in the forty eight hours after became this thing that (STILL THE SIZE OF A POTATO, because they don't grow, the patient does)overtook my tiny arm.

    In every photo of my childhood, I like to joke..."Who's the butcher's kid?"...becasue while it was the SIZE of a potato, it was the COLOR OF A CALF LIVER. Yep. Had to fight for my lunch money on the playground over that thing, yessiree. But now that I am fully grown , it is pale as skin color and resembles a botched skin graft or the last remnants of a burn. I can go weeks and forget I have it.

    I blather on because I actually have a great aunt who believed that my grandmother (her sister)had twisted my mother's arm before I was born when she found out Mama HAD to marry my father. And that old BITCH would never let ANY of us forget it.EVER.
    Rosie said...
    Poor Jane. You were marked by a 'tater.

    I actually have an albino spot in the middle of my back. Not sure what that means.
    belledame222 said...

    i was going to say something wrt the birthmark-superstitions, but i got distracted by the "pregnant by a dog" bit and now i forget what i was going to say.

    well, it makes life more interesting, i expect, with such goings-on..going on.

    it's true we don't get enough magic and wonderment, most of us. and frankly maybe we wouldn't be all as hung up on penny-ante celebrities if we told ourselves more of that kind of story.

    otoh not at the expense of y'know people with birthmarks and such...

    eh, i'm rambling.
    Rosie said...
    Yeah...the dog thing sort of took my research right off track as well. Magic is very much part of life here.

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