We are so proud to excerpt a chapter of STANDING AGAINST THE RAGE: Based on the true story of Mildred Flatau’s miraculous escape from domestic violence by Linda D’Ae-Smith. While we label it as fiction because Linda added dialogue, the story is real and comes to light because of her painstaking research. You can purchase this book on Amazon in paperback or kindle
Book Description: The innocence of small town life in Sandy, Oregon was shattered in the spring of 1933. The entire neighborhood of Sandy Ridge on the outer edge of the town was terrified as the sounds of gun shots and a thunderous explosion of fire rocked the morning hours of March, 17.
Neighbors knew Edward Flatau to be a cantankerous, envious and mean-spirited man, but no one imagined he was capable of such horrors. That Mildred, his teen age daughter, was able to stand up to him and live was the talk of the small town for decades.
Based on newspaper accounts and historical records, including court documents, family stories and letters, Standing Against the Rage is Mildred’s story. Author Linda D’Ae-Smith uses Mildred’s own diary written during the car trip from Sandy, Oregon to a new life with relatives in Detroit, Michigan to not only tell the tragic events of March 17, but reveals how Mildred’s faith was pivotal in her surviving unspeakable carnage and loss. Her strength in the midst of horrific tragedy is, on the surface, inexplicable. What causes a young teen to stand up against the rage of a man seeking vengeance upon perceived injustice?
Driven to find the answer, D’Ae-Smith set out on a remarkable journey to uncover Mildred’s story.
Friday, March 17, 1933
Sandy Ridge – 7:30 a.m.
Mildred heard her mother’s firm voice and stirred under the warmth of thick blankets. She wanted to stay in bed, but that wasn’t an option. She stretched a bit before sitting up and swinging her legs out from under the covers. Pulling open the dresser drawer, she spied one of Frances’ old dresses that had been handed down to her. It had been a little big for her the last time she tried it on, but thought it might be just right now.
It was a cheery print of pink nosegays on a cream-colored background; perfect for spring. Mildred slipped the dress over her head and was pleased at how it fit. Every time she’d seen Frances wear this dress, she was a bit envious. It was by far her favorite of the recent set of hand-me-down clothing.
“Come on, Mabel,” she said as she pulled on her long knit stockings. “It’s time to get up and get ready for school.”
“It’s too cold,” whined Mabel.
“You’ll warm up. Come on, Mabel. You don’t want Mother to call us again.”
Mabel crawled out of the bed she shared with Mildred and ran to the dresser to get her clothes, chattering her teeth dramatically.
“It’s not that cold, Mabel,” said Mildred rolling her eyes. “I’m going downstairs to help Mother with breakfast.” Mildred walked over to Mabel and whispered in her ear, “Hurry so we can leave for school before anything happens.”
Mabel nodded her head as Mildred headed for the stairs.
Descending the steep, narrow, creaky staircase, Mildred caught a whiff of the oatmeal cooking on the stove mixed with the scent of freshly brewed coffee. She uttered a cursory, “Good morning,” to no one in particular.
As she entered the tiny kitchen, Mildred noticed her father at the table drinking a cup of coffee. He looked in her direction, acknowledging her presence, but said nothing. Her eyes averted his glance. She looked out the window toward the back field. It was almost spring and the bare landscape around the Flatau farm in Sandy was beginning to show the signs of new life. Wildflowers were starting to pop up through the hard soil, the field grass was growing and the maple trees were beginning to bud. The seasons were changing, but not even the warmth of spring could thaw the icy cold relationship between her mother and father.
“Take these bowls to the table, Mildred,” Mother said without turning from the stove.
Mildred was placing the two bowls of hot oatmeal on the table as Mabel entered the kitchen and stood next to the stove shifting her weight from foot to foot in an effort to get warm. Their father looked over at Mabel and shook his head at the theatrics, but Mildred noticed a slight grin pass his lips. Both girls stood behind their chairs and prayed. “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.”
Mildred and Mabel sat down and ate their breakfast quickly and quietly. Even though their parents hadn’t uttered a word to one another, the tension building between them was palpable. It was like a thick, dark cloud bank enveloping the entire house.
Mildred’s mother Anna began to speak with her back turned away from the table where her daughters and husband sat. “Edward, you know we need the milk separator to make sour cream. You know we need to make sour cream to make money. You must move the milk separator to the milk house today!”
Edward became instantly angry and slammed his coffee cup against the table, causing Mildred and Mabel to jump. “You think it’s my fault that our milk was degraded. You blame me, don’t you?”
Anna turned around to face her husband. “I blame you for not moving the milk separator to the milk house so we can make sour cream from the degraded milk,” she retorted. “It is your fault we aren’t making any money.”
Every morning for the last few weeks, the conversation was the same, thought Mildred. Her mother reminded her father daily about the need for the milk separator. Mildred didn’t understand why her father procrastinated in moving the separator from the outbuilding to the milk house, but it wasn’t unusual for him to be obstinate, especially with requests made by her mother. This wasn’t the first time this obstinacy had caused an argument between her parents. No wonder her older sister Frances had been anxious to take a job as a maid in Portland right after graduating high school.
Anna continued to reprimand Edward for his negligence. “It’s your responsibility to put food on this table for your family!”
“Why did I marry you? Twenty years of marriage and not one day of happiness,” asked Edward rhetorically.
“Almost twenty-three years,” corrected Anna.
“It seems longer,” replied Edward. “Every day you do nothing but nag. Everyday it’s the same. Nothing is good enough for you!”
Edward’s rant continued, interspersed with cursing and calling Anna names that made Mildred and Mabel cringe. Anna countered with angry words of her own.
Mildred’s appetite was gone, but she continued to eat her oatmeal. She noticed Mabel swinging her legs under the table and humming a song to herself to shut out the noise. Mildred wished she could tune out the arguing, as well.