Ten or Ninety?

When Katie was ten, she was mistaken for ninety, and when she was ninety, she was mistaken for ten. How can that be? Let's take them one at a time. First, when she was ten, she wrote a poem that people assumed must have been written by someone about age ninety.

When Kay was ten years old, she was coming home in autumn from what was called "Religion Class." As she passed a tree, she noticed that it had only one leaf left on it and she thought about how lonely it must feel. She relates how suddenly she "became that leaf." She cannot explain it, but she felt what that leaf felt. She even trembled herself, as that leaf wavered in the breeze, and understood that leaf from the inside out. Very soon afterwards, probably that very night, she wrote the following poem. As we prepared this page, we found it so difficult to believe that a ten-year-old wrote this poem, that we verified with her that she didn't just have the experience when she was ten, and perhaps wrote the poem years later. She assured us she was that age when she wrote it, even though it was not published until several years later. When we asked how she could have known words like "bereft" at that age, she replied that as soon as she learned to read, she felt obligated to read everything that had been written. At one time, she attempted to learn every word in the dictionary. So here is the first of her poems which is still extant, and which clearly shows that she has a very unusual gift.

Autumn Leaf

I am old and withered, yet here I cling
to this tree that I have known since spring.
My friends are gone, bereft am I,
yet I live on and cannot die.
Ah wind, can you not hear my cry?
I am old and withered, yet here I stay.
Have pity wind. Unloose me, pray.

Kathryn Kay (age 10)

This next poem was written by Katie at age thirteen. She was sick with pneumonia with a temperature of 104°, and she thought she was going to die. She became delirious and when she spoke, everything came out in rhymes. She was very concerned that if she should die, that she would not have finished what she came here to do, and that she would have left no mark at all on the world. When she returned to normal, she remembered this poem. It stayed with her and she wondered what an "Eve-made man" was. It was published about 1920, when she was thirteen, in the Salt Lake Telegram newspaper, being her first poem to have been published.

If I Should Die

If I should die—
Perhaps I should say "When,"
And leave this dismal world
Of Eve-made men,
What would I leave?
No thought—no part of me—
And in a single heart
No memory,
A silenced laugh—
A bubble passing by—
The fading of a dream—
If I should die.

Kathryn Kay (age 13)

Okay, that explains how she could be mistaken for being age ninety when she was ten, but how could anyone think she was about ten when she was really ninety? Recently she received a telephone call, and this is about how the conversation went, to the best of her memory.

The Pollster

"Hello, I'm taking a poll . . .", the lady on the telephone began.

"Oh, goodie, goodie, goodie," Kay interrupted in her high pitched, excited voice, with all of the anticipation and delight of a little child.

"Is your mother or father home?"


"I need to speak to a grown-up. Is there any one else there?"

"No, I'm here all alone. But I'm very grown up."

"I'm sure you are, but I need to ask some questions about who your parents want to vote for."

"Ask me. I can read and I listen to the television. I'm really very mature for my age."

"I'm sorry, but I need to talk to an adult."

Kathryn was able to convince the woman that she knew something about who was running for office and keep her on the line for about five minutes. The lady finally hung up without ever finding out that she was talking to a woman over ninety. It most likely was Kathryn's initial reaction of, "Oh, goodie, goodie, goodie," that was so unusual for the pollster to receive, that made it impossible for her to believe it was really an adult she was talking to. And after all, when was the last time that you responded that way to someone taking a poll?

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