The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Ozark Dreams and Mountain Memories - Part 6 of 24

By Lillie A. Emery © 1987

Issue: August, 1987

Editor's Note....This is a serialized, true story of a poor Ozark family in the 1930's through the eyes of one of their children. Experience their hardship and heart warming togetherness as they struggle through and celebrate life in the Ozark Mountains.

That was a busy and exciting time before the chivaree. Us children just couldn't believe that we were going to live in such a fine house with such a big barn and lots of buildings for almost everything you could think of. We small ones had only been there a few times but we remembered how fine the whole thing was. They had fixed up their spring with cement and pipes that ran water right through their smoke house for Mrs. Shaughnessy to do the laundry and there was a wash kettle hanging over the fireplace to heat water and boil the clothes and they said the Shaughnessy's took a bath every day almost, even when the weather was icy cold. Then the pipes ran the water into the kitchen and that Mrs. Shaughnessy never had to carry in water by the bucket full. Everyone said after the Shaughnessy's came back from up North they were so rich they wanted to still live like the high–faluting people up there did. Us children decided they surely would take all the water pipes and other fine things back up North with them, but still we hoped they wouldn't.

The night of the chivaree finally got there. We were all scrubbed up and had on our best clothes ironed as smooth as Mama could get them with the flat irons and plenty of boiled flour starch. We had been told to be polite when spoken to and to say thank you and please when we should, especially when Mrs. Shaughnessy passed around the food later that night. So as we rode along in the wagon that night with our cowbells and other noise makers, us little ones were really shook up for not only were we going to our first chivaree but we were excited about seeing the fine house that we would be moving into.

Because of the unpredictable creek that separated our farms, there was no road from our place to the Shaughnessy place. But that night Papa drove the wagon across our cotton fields and because there had not been much rain all summer, he drove across the creek just above the big fishing and swimming hole. Then we drove a little distance down an old logging road until we came to the new, freshly graveled in places, wide road the Shaughnessy's built so they could travel in their fine Ford truck to the county seat. You could tell there had been a lot of fast motor machine traffic on that road by all the fresh rubber tire tracks in the dust. Not only did Mr. Shaughnessy have a 1931 Ford truck but John and Shane had a big noisy motorcycle; the O'Hara twins who lived a few miles farther up the road toward the county seat, had a motorcycle also. Papa said that road was awfully dangerous, for several times a day one of the Shaughnessy's boys or some of their friends would come roaring along doing at least 35 miles an hour on one of their motor machines. Mama said that was enough to scare the life out of a person and to scare a team half to death also.

It was dusky dark but we could see a group of wagons, buggies, and saddle horses in a grove of trees about a quarter of a mile from the Shaughnessy house. Widow Bloom rode up just then and gave her horse to Earl to ride so she could ride in our wagon with Mama.

Everyone in the neighborhood seemed to be there. A chivaree was a real social event. In our region, it was really a wedding reception so folks would meet the newlywed couple and celebrate with lots of good food and music and square dancing. And of course everyone took the bride a gift. The gifts would usually be some hand embroidered linens or hand crocheted doilies or quilt tops.

We drove up quietly as possible and joined the crowd to wait, as it was the custom, until it was really dark. Then with the greatest ease everyone would creep up to the house and in a wild melee ring cowbells, beat on tin cans and raise a real ruckus. Then the groom was supposed to come out and invite everyone in for refreshments.

If a couple failed to be neighborly and offered no refreshments all the fellows would give the groom a wild ride on a rail or pole and maybe dunk him in a pond or creek. But everyone knew this night there would be no need for such carryings on for Mrs. Shaughnessy was noted for being a good cook and without a doubt she would have a feast prepared for her son's chivaree.

As we waited there in the woods for dark, the excitement was almost suffocating. The silence was broken as several young fellows came galloping down the dark road on heavily breathing horses; a few shotguns could be seen swinging from their saddles.. Then right behind them came the O'Hara twins on their motorcycles and stopped; then Shane's two brothers, John and David came roaring up and stopped on their motorcycles.

In loud, exuberant voices the O'Hara twins told everyone to get their noise makers and follow them. They added that they sure hoped their good friend Shane and his Little Nelly started off their marriage right by serving plenty of good food and drink. Then with a loud laugh one of the twins added he hated to think of what might happen to the new groom if they didn't. Then Shane's two brothers told the twins they didn't want any trouble that night at their father's house. The O'Hara twins said a little fun between good friends never hurt anyone. The Shaughnessy boys answered as long as it was fun but they didn't want any good friends acting like a bunch of wild hellions and calling it fun. The O'Hara boys roared off on their motorcycles toward the house. All the young people followed on foot and all the families followed behind on their wagons.

I heard Papa tell Mama there seemed to be quite a lot of drinking and Mama sounded very uneasy. Widow Bloom nervously asked Papa if he thought there would be trouble, but he didn't answer; he just called to Ben who had joined Jeannie and April who had got in the Cooper family wagon.

Ben came over. I heard Papa say something real low about maybe trouble might start and if it did for him to help see that all us other children got into the house as quickly as possible. He told him and Earl to go inside also. Just then there was an ear shattering, wild thunder of cowbells, tin cans, plow points, and banging shotgun blasts.

Papa hurriedly hitched the prancing team to a tree and told all of us to follow him as he skirted the milling crowd. Just then Mr. Shaughnessy opened the door. Standing just behind him was Shane with his arm around Little Nelly. Mr. Shaughnessy walked to the edge of the porch, raised his hands for silence and said, "Welcome to our home friends and neighbors."

The O'Hara twins who were now with Mr. Martin shouted, "We want to meet the new bride and groom." Shane looked questioningly down at Little Nelly, then they walked slowly to the edge of the porch. The crowd cheered wildly. The bride looked just lovely in a full–skirted, blue eyelet embroidered dress. She waved nervously at the crowd then smiled up at her tall, suntanned, smiling Shane who looked handsome as a store drummer all dressed up in a white shirt, blue trousers and white shoes. Again Mr. Shaughnessy raised his hands for silence, then in a proud voice said, "Folks meet our new daughter, Little Nelly Shaughnessy." There was another barrage of shotgun blasts coming from the direction of the O'Hara twins and Mr. Martin. Little Nelly looking half scared to death backed into the living room where Mrs. Shaughnessy stood with a group of other ladies. Shane then spoke in a clear voice, "Fellows please remember this is my father's home and my wife and I are only guests here." The crowd grew silent. Mr. Shaughnessy, John and David began hanging coal oil lanterns among the branches of the trees in the front yard. There were several tables and benches hastily erected out of heavy oak planks that were waiting there.

Mama, Widow Blooms and the other ladies went inside to meet the bride; they all said, "Pleased to meet you; and I do declare but you are the prettiest little thing." Then they helped carry all that delicious food out to the tables in the front yard. That was a pretty sight to see, to smell, and to hear. People all dressed up around tables of mouth watering food just talking, laughing and looking happy while the musicians were tuning up their fiddles, guitars and banjos. I felt sorry for all the people, if there were any, who weren't there to help eat the mountains of fried chicken, ham, potato salad, sliced tomatoes, fresh sliced peaches, cake and to help drink the lemonade and coffee.

With all that good food and all that lovely guitar, fiddle and banjo music, that was one grand affair before the O'Hara twins messed it up.