Blog Post #11
by Jane Van Ryan
Pleas Lindsay, who was introduced in the last blog post, did much more for Evelyn Hazen than she ever knew. She was aware that he built a small casket to bury her favorite “inside” dog after it died. And Evelyn must have known he helped to keep her safe and secure.
But there also were times when he saved Evelyn from herself.
In the final months of her life, Evelyn developed the habit of feeding squirrels from a second-floor bathroom window. Sitting on a stool, she would toss dried corn from the dormer window onto the roof and watch the squirrels as they crept close to her hand. As Pleas said, she was an “animal lover.”
But there was a problem. Not all of the animals on the roof were squirrels. Some were rats.
When Pleas and Archie Russ, one of her renters, realized she was feeding rats from an open window, they immediately nailed a heavy-duty rat-wire screen to the window. Evelyn was not pleased.
She also was upset when a hawk swooped down and grabbed a rat in its talons. She asked Archie to kill the hawk, saying she was mad at God for creating a bird that would kill little defenseless creatures. Archie told her the animals on the roof were rats, but that did not alter her point-of-view.
After rat poison was placed around the downspouts on the ground, some 30-40 rats were killed. Evelyn’s outside dogs chewed on their carcasses, and Pinkie, one of her dogs, began foaming at the mouth. Archie said if Pinkie died, he never would have returned to the Mabry-Hazen House. “She would have been real angry,” he said.
“There were a lot of things that scared me,” Archie said. “There was a lot of time when I couldn’t sleep at night, and I wasn’t the only one…Twice she scared the hell out of me.”
The first incident occurred when Archie approached the Mabry-Hazen House to ask Evelyn about renting one of her apartments. After he banged on the door, he could hear two voices inside—one voice told the other person to open the door only a crack. Sarah Jane Grabeel, who lived with Evelyn for several years, opened the door slowly while Evelyn bellowed, “Who are you and what do you want?”
Archie explained that he was interested in the apartment on Southern Avenue, and the door flew open. Evelyn was standing there with her gun.
The second time occurred when Archie was helping to paint the house’s back porch. Archie said Evelyn would eat lunch in the kitchen and had the loaded pistol lying on a napkin. She picked it up and slammed it on the table, insisting that someone was coming to get her. Brandishing the weapon, she said, “I’ve got something for them!”
Archie said Evelyn talked about her mother’s relatives taking her away in 1932 and incarcerating her in Lyons View, the mental institution. Evelyn called several members of her mother’s family, including cousin Rogers Mabry, “low lifes.”
After living on Southern Avenue for a year, Archie moved across the street from the Mabry-Hazen House where he rented one of Evelyn’s other properties. By that time, he thought he knew her well. But occasionally he witnessed mood swings that surprised him. Some days Evelyn would treat him “like family,” then the next day she would not trust him or anybody else.
Lucille LaBonte worried about Archie and his willingness to help Evelyn. She said he was like an indentured servant who was paid small wages to cut brush, paint, and do all sorts of manual labor to assist Pleas and ultimately help Evelyn. There were times he was a little reluctant to go the Mabry-Hazen House because he said the house looked haunted. He said it gave him an “eerie feeling.”
Archie probably wouldn’t recognize the house today. Under the terms of Evelyn’s will, the Mabry-Hazen House has been restored to original beauty. The upstairs bathroom, which was added decades after the house was built, has been removed.
Archie, Pleas and others were responsible for preventing home’s complete degradation and for helping Evelyn survive as long as she did. Pleas died several years ago, and I don’t know what became of Archie. When I met with him, he was 36-years-old and was supporting himself by creating beadwork and sculptures which were sold at Native American pow-wows. In the first blog post, I described him as a Lakota Sioux. That was wrong. According to my notes taken during our 1988 interview, Archie said he was a Grand River Band Ottawa Indian. He also was a good friend to Evelyn Hazen.