To Daffodilians around in May of 1926 it seemed that Josephine Smith was born loving animals. The midwife attending her birth said that the family’s cat, Jingles, sat on the windowsill and watched the birth of young Josephine. As an infant she would cry if Jingles or her dog, Coco, wasn’t in the room with her when she woke up from her nap. As a toddler Josephine followed her pets around the yard, chattering and laughing. She knew all the pets around town and they knew her.
When her Aunt Elena came for a visit in the spring of 1930 she brought Josephine a new pet: a parakeet that little Josephine promptly named Petey. It didn’t take long for the little girl and the bird to bond. Petey rode on Josephine’s shoulder or perched on her finger.
One afternoon on her way home from her grandmother’s house, Josephine and Petey disappeared. Family, friends, and neighbors searched for hours to no avail. Whispers of connections to the child abductions and murders in New York terrified the family. After all, only a few short years before, there were reports in St. Louis of similar disappearances and even torture of children and young adults. Was it possible that the same monsters from the big cities could have found their way to the quiet little town of Daffodil Township? (The aforementioned crimes were eventually attributed to Albert Fish, 1870-1936.)
The search for little Josephine continued throughout the night. As morning dawned, searchers decided to retrace all their steps and one group returned to Hitch’s Cave. The crying they heard upon their approach gave them hope that they would find little Josephine alive and unharmed ~ but they were unprepared for what they found as they entered the small cavern: A grown man, Adwin P. Eldorn, cowered against the cool rocks of the cave.
Bleeding and crying, Eldorn was being lectured by the four-year old Josephine on proper behavior with animals and children. His left eye was pecked and scratched beyond repair and his right eye was damaged, but retained some vision. His face, throat, and hands were scratched and pecked. He was covered with blood and bird droppings. Another hand and the side of his head showed signs of damage attributed to being hit with a rock. The chattering Josephine was hungry and thirsty and “very angry with the mean man” for attempting to hurt Petey and herself.
Examination determined the little girl to be completely unharmed. She became a symbol of the spirit and tenacity of Daffodilians. Eldorn served twelve years of a thirty year sentence and made an attempt to seek revenge on the little girl who had thwarted him with her pet parakeet.