by James Karasek, Oswego County Legislator
His question was fairly simple: ”I heard that your great-grandmother was a black widow.” I told him and a few others of the history of my great-grandmother and how she managed to get a river boat captain from a steamboat on the Mississippi to marry her, only to find that he died a strange death shortly thereafter. She, of course, inherited the steamboat.
On her second marriage to again a captain/owner of yet another steamboat, she seemed happy and full of life. Again shortly after the calm had set in and a few trips up and down the river, her beloved husband was found dead. Once again, the boat and possessions were sold and the Anderson farm grew.
Upon the third husband’s death, again a steamboat owner/operator (Obviously these guys were in such fierce competition that they never spoke to each other), the district attorney charged her with murder. It was the headlines for days, including a somewhat grainy black and white photo of the district attorney holding up the cast iron skillet that was the source of the poison that “did him in.”
This same skillet was suspect in the previous two mysterious deaths. But the times being what they were, the evidence was weak; there was no method to test the skillet and great-grandmother run a rather large well-oiled business — one of the larger grain farms on the banks of the mighty Mississippi.
The jury simply could not believe that this poor twice widowed now three times victim could have possibly done such a thing and they found her not guilty. Besides, how could you hang a woman for this if you had no real evidence? The assets sold and the farm grew once again.
In sharing this piece of history and reading over the archives of the trial, I become aware that these gentlemen, one of whom was around long enough to be the father of my grandmother, all lost not only their steamships but their lives around the holidays when river traffic stopped due to ice: they were home.
That in turn reminded me that I have not written my annual plea to the good people of Oswego County. When the holidays approach, please make every effort to shop local.
We have a wide variety of locations to shop, the big box stores, the chain stores and unique business owners that are our neighbors, friends and supporters of our communities. They own a business and it depends on your visiting their establishments.
Oswego County continues to be one of the few in this state that does not need “throw out the baby with the bathwater” in order to make our budget for 2013. However, the State of New York has again passed down about three million dollars more in unfunded mandates for the local taxpayer to pick up.
Cuts will be made and the effects of these cuts will be felt. Our sales-tax revenue is one of the few areas that help to cover these costs. We simply cannot afford to add this additional unfunded cost to the backs of property owners.
So, the easy method is to shop local. It keeps our merchants in business, it provides jobs, it engages our businesses in the community, and finally, it adds to the sales tax. Our patronage with our businesses in this county is a win-win for everyone.
Also, take a moment this year to assist someone that is in need. Donate to the food bank, volunteer to ring the bell, visit the elderly and those with disabilities and remind them how important they are. Let’s make sure that the truly needy are fed and stay warm…and as my grandchildren have said, “Hug a veteran.”
A final note to the husbands: if your wife gets a cast iron skillet for Christmas and you’re having one of those days where you just know you are right and she is wrong, well, you may want to avoid the hamburger helper for supper.
Have a great holiday season, stay safe, share part of your life and shop local.