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 9 of 24

By Lillie A. Emery © 1987

Issue: November, 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.

Saturday morning was cold and clear with the pale sunlight being blown about by a crispy wind. Joan and Jimmy Jenkins got to our house soon after we ate breakfast. They wanted Jonathan, Andy and me to go with them to our smokehouse so they could see the batch of honey Mama had stored there after Papa and the big boys found the huge bee tree a few days before.

Of course, they also wanted us to listen to their final plans for getting even with Dovie and Danny. They told us that we had to really convince those two that living back across the creek and far from town was really lots more exciting than living near the town road. And they said we had to prove it to them and make them think it was really so even if it meant doing some dangerous things. They said we had to show them all the many unusual things about the Shaughnessy house and the new invention Ben and Earl had rigged up to cross the creek on when it was too flooded to cross on the foot log.

We also had to convince them that a lot of important people drove in their cars out from the county seat and came down the Shaughnessy road right up to our yard to turn around and that lots of times they asked a lot of important questions about lawbreakers and other people. They said we had to pretend we were not just showing off or telling big windies in order to fool Dovie and Danny. Then we all gave Jonathan a lecture on keeping quiet and not let on that we were fibbing; then we scurried around to have everything ready by the time the Davis family got there to get their start of ducks.

First on our list was to go get the old tires the Shaughnessy's had left there in the barn. We rolled them across the yard and up and down the road through the woods several times. Then we took them back to the barn and hid them under a stack of hay.

After that we played hop scotch in the road in front of the house and kept a close watch on the road down toward the creek for the Davis buggy. Sure enough in no time at all we saw them and all four of them were in the buggy. We just kept playing hop scotch until they stopped the buggy and got out. Mr. Davis picked up a wooden crate with four Plymouth Rock hens in it and they all started toward the house. Mama came running out of the house and Papa was just driving up with a wagon load of new fence posts he, Ben, and Earl had cut. They all were saying "Howdy" and "How are you today?" and things like that. Mama and Mrs. Davis went inside the house and Papa and Mr. Davis went and sat down on the load of posts to talk. Us children had quit playing and were just looking at the four new hens. Papa told Andy we could put them in the coop where the four ducks were and to put the ducks in Mr. Davis' crate so they could take them home with them.

Dovie and Danny were just walking around looking and gawking at the house and other buildings, and at the tire tracks in the yard and road. Then Dovie said, "Seems to me you all would be glad Mr. Jenkins took over your house and farm for this is a lot finer place." Then she said to Joan, "Was the place you all lost as fine as this?" Joan answered, "Yes, lots finer." We just kept on with the chickens and ducks. Then Danny asked, "Who was in the cars that made these here tracks in you all's yard and road and how did they drive cars across the creek?" Andy said, "Silly, they didn't drive no cars across the creek; they just drove them down the county seat road and turned down our woods road and came right up and turned around right here in our yard." Dovie said, "That's a big mess of car tracks; who all was in them cars?" Andy said, "Well, there was two cars full of lawing people that came out from the county seat looking for a still back in the hills back over that way." Dovie said, "I never knowed lawing people came off the town road so far." Joan said, "But they didn't come from the town road. They drove down from the county seat road." Dovie said, "Why I ain't never knowed that." I said, "Why it's no secret about a lot of lawing people going up and down our road." Then I added, "Why, there is even a lawing family that lives about two miles from the O'Hara farm and the man is a real justice of the peace and settles lot of lawing matters almost every day." Dovie said, "Oh yea, did you ever see any of them when they was lawing?" I was at a loss for an answer but Andy came to my rescue for he remembered about the time Papa had been a witness in the law case when Mr. Squires was going to sue Widow Blooms when her cow ate up his patch of green corn; and then Widow Blooms' cow got the colic and died so she was going to sue Mr. Squires for knocking her fence post down and for the loss of her cow. It had happened about two years before, but Andy told Dovie it was just a few days before.

Andy had been with Papa at the trial so he told Dovie all about it as he remembered it and he seemed to remember it all with a very vivid memory. He told about how Mr. Squires put his hand on the Bible and then complained and cussed about how hard he had worked plowing and planting that patch of corn only for it to be eaten up by Widow Blooms' cow. He was going to sue her four ten dollars for his loss.

Then Widow Blooms put her hand on the Bible and told about what a lot of milk and butter she lost when her cow died from the colic. She said her cow wouldn't have got in the corn patch but Mr. Squires knocked some fence post down when he plowed too close to her fence.

Andy told about the justice of the peace listening to what Widow Blooms, Mr. Squires and all the witnesses said and about him threatening to put Mr. Squires and Mr. Martin in jail if they didn't quit cussing in front of the ladies there. Then the justice of the peace ordered Mr. Squires to pay Widow Blooms ten dollars for the loss of her cow and for him to fix her fence that he broke. Then he ordered Widow Blooms to pay Mr. Squires ten dollars for his corn. But neither of them had ten dollars so the justice of the peace finally gave each of them a piece of paper saying that being as each them owed the other party the same amount of money that when both parties got ten dollars each they could keep it and that way both debts would be canceled out.

Dovie just stood there with her mouth wide open not understanding a word of it but believing that something very important had been going on back there far from her town road.

After telling all that, Andy said he was thirsty and hungry. So we all went around to the back of the house to the smokehouse and wash house to get a drink of water. When we got inside Andy took the dipper hanging from a nail on the wall and got a drink from the stream of water that flowed from a pipe into a wooden vinegar barrel then on outside through a pipe to the barn. After he finished drinking he handed us all dippers full of water. Dovie and Danny just stood there looking at all that modern plumbing and seemed to be too dumb founded to say a word.

Then Joan pointed out all the other luxuries just to be sure they over looked nothing. She told them how easy it was for Mama to put water in the wash kettle that hung right there in the fireplace and that no matter how much it rained or how cold it was Mama had plenty of hot water to do the laundry and that we could all take a bath even if it snowed. Then she pulled back the curtain made from old worn out bleached pieces of pick sacks so they could see the wash tub that sat in the corner just for taking baths. Dovie said something about anyone would get the croup from taking baths when there was snow on the ground. Danny said, "Anybody would be a durn fool for wearing out his hide by taking baths very often in the winter time." Jonathan had kept quiet just as long as he possibly could. He told Danny that if he didn't quit cussing like that he'd tell his Mama or some of them lawing fellers when they came down our road. Then they started to fight but Joan and Jimmy got them simmered down. Then we all ate some of the honey in the comb; then went inside to the kitchen to get some biscuits and butter to go with it.

We stayed in the house for a long time for Dovie and Danny prowled in every nook and corner like kittens looking for mice. Mama and the big girls were showing Mrs. Davis some quilt tops they had been sewing on. There was a good smell of chicken soup all through the house. Dovie wanted to go up in the attic so we stayed there a long time leaning against the chimney to keep warm and eating peanuts until I felt pretty sick. Then Jimmy said we'd better take our company down to the creek and let them ride across on the new invention the big boys had rigged up.

By the time we had walked down to the creek, I was not only feeling sick but had a bad leg ache in both knees. The other children were in high spirits wanting to be sure that Dovie and Danny got a ride across the creek in the old wash tub rigged up to ropes and some pulleys the Shaughnessy's had used to get bales of hay up in the barn loft. That was a scary looking contraption when I saw Ben and Earl operate it. They had warned all the rest of us never to try to cross the creek on it for we might fall in and drown. I just stood there looking at Andy as he assured the others he knew as much about it as the big boys did.

Danny jumped in the tub as soon as we got there and Andy operated the ropes just fine until the tub was right over the middle of the creek then the ropes got tangled or something and it took several minutes to get them going again. When he got to the bank, Danny jumped out of the tub and said that it was a lot of fun but he looked a little scared. Andy said he would fix the ropes a better way then Dovie could ride across. Andy took the ropes from around the tree they were fastened to and got them situated around a small hickory sapling that was right on the creek bank. Then he told Dovie she could ride across. She said it wasn't fixed right and wouldn't get in the tub. Andy asked for a volunteer to test it but nobody came forth so he told Jonathan because he was the youngest, he had to ride across to test it. Jonathan got in the tub and the trip across was fast and easy. But still Dovie wouldn't get in the tub. Joan told her she'd tell everyone on the town road that she was a scaredy cat so finally Dovie whined that that she'd get in and ride over if I'd ride with her. I wouldn't admit that I was scared half to death just looking at it so, feeling real sick by then, I got in the tub with her. Then we started a mighty long twenty foot journey.

As Andy pulled at the ropes the pulleys squeaked and we started moving across the creek. I held onto the sides of the tub with both hands and closed my eyes. Then I felt the tub stop moving. Or had it stopped? We seemed to be moving slowly, but instead of going across we were going down. Dovie started screaming and I opened my eyes and started crying and screaming too for the hickory sapling was bending toward the creek thus lowering the ropes, tub, and all in the water. To this day it seems like a miracle we didn't drown. There was a wild frenzy of motion and a lot of noise coming from all of us. The ones on the creek bank were running around shouting orders at us and at each other. Finally Joan, Jimmy and Jonathan got hold of the hickory saplin and pulled with all their might while Andy pulled on the ropes. They finally got us pulled to the bank, tub full of cold water and all. Then we went tearing through the woods hollering for Mama and Mrs. Davis.

Papa and Mr. Davis came running to meet us first. Then right behind them was Mama and Mrs. Davis. When they saw us there dripping wet in the icy February weather they started to cry. Mrs. Davis saying, "Oh, my poor Dovie will die of pneumonia." Papa and Mr. Davis ran with us as fast as they could carry us to the house and Mama got us changed into dry clothes and wrapped quilts around us and they fed us lots of warm chicken soup. Then after dinner they wrapped Dovie in some more quilts and tucked some jars of warm water around her and got her and Danny and the four ducks all loaded into the buggy and left for home.

The next few days for me were spent in bed with a runny nose, a bad cough, and several doses of Black Draught and a Vick's salve cloth on my chest. A few days later Papa went to check on Dovie's health. When he came back, he said she didn't even get a bad cold from being soaked in all that icy water. As I lay there in bed I began to wonder who had learned a lesson from getting even. It wasn't hard to figure out for there I was sick abed and miserable. All the others were outside playing and having fun and Mama wouldn't even let me go up to the attic so I couldn't even read the old True Story I had found up there among some old books the Shaughnessy's had left.