Big Pete, 1889-1929

His given name was Peter John Farley, but everyone called him Big Pete. He worked at the mill, loading hundred pound sacks of grain onto wagons or flat-bed trucks. In the spring of ’29, it was wet, then icy. Big Pete took off his coat and covered the sacks with his Macintosh. He was a big man, and heavily muscled. Laughed at the cold and pounded his chest. Soon after, pneumonia took him. Both lungs, according to Dr. Veach.

Years later, Fred and I were in Florida and I told the story of Big Pete’s death to a Roman Catholic fortune teller who could see the future and had answers to the mysteries of life.

Okay, I told her, answer me this.

I told her the story of Big Pete’s death. That such a man could die in a blink had always bothered me. He’d been a giant, solid as a stump. The teller listened with her head down, then lifted kohl-lined eyes. She was younger than I thought. “His death broke the cold snap.”

Ever since, I’ve believed that.

Excerpt from That’s Not Love, copyright Joan Spilman

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