Elmer, Oklahoma Territory
"Another family moved into town today," Billy said to Mattie. He scratched his head. "This town is getting' pretty crowded. Joe Tiger wants to lease some more of his land and that means we won't have enough land for the cattle. I 'spect I'm goin' to have to sell off some of them this spring."
Mattie was darning some socks. "Seems like this place is growin' faster than Fannin County, Texas did when we lived there." "Yep," Billy responded and stuffed his pipe with tobacco. "I don't know what we're going to do," he added. There was a long pause between them. Mattie broke the silence. "I know you got somethin' on your mind. What is it?"
Billy lit his pipe and smoke swirled above his head. "I heard in town that some more land is opening up in the west, out in Oklahoma Territory . They already filled up most of Greer County which is clear on out to the Oklahoma border and now they are opening up Jackson County which is next to it. The land out there is pretty much like here. I understand there is some bottom land down toward the Red River that is available. All I have to do is file for it. And I don't have to jump off of no train and race for it!"
"Well," Mattie said. "It's a good thing. You're gettin' too old for that sort of thing." She looked up at him and smiled.
"I think I might just sell off the whole herd. We could move on out there, get us a smaller farm and let the boys do all the work. They're all about growed up. I'm tired of raisin' cattle. We can just raise a crop and live off that. What do you think?"
Mattie put down her darning and gazed into her husband's face. He looked tired. "What about Bird and Bob-Nancy and Parks?" she asked.
"Well, I've already talked to Bird and Bob. They are interested in some land over at a place called Blair in the same county. They're tired of cattle ranchin' too. They were thinking of goin' in together as partners on a cotton farm."
"Your mother?" she inquired. "Well, you know Mother is going to stay with Nancy , so she will go wherever they want to go. Parks is interested in Blair, too."
"Well!" she snapped. "It sounds like this has all been decided without telling me!" Billy objected, "No, it's nothin' like that. We just been talkin'; that's all. I think we should get ever'body together and talk about it serious." Mattie calmed down some. But in her mind, she knew it was already an accomplished fact that they would be moving—and she was tired too. Tired of moving. Just plain tired.
It seemed that she had moved all her life—from Tennessee with her father to Texas, several moves in Texas after she married, the move to Indian Territory with the family, and now—another long, difficult move to another country that she didn't know. A place where she would have to start over, to make new friends and acquaintances, a new church, a new home. That last part—a new home didn't seem so bad, so she thought about that some. Maybe that was just Life. Maybe that was to be the destiny of the poor—to always be moving on to another land.
That night, the whole family met together after supper and talked it over. After a lot of talk, it was decided that as soon as school was out and the trail drivers came through in the spring, they would sell all of their stock, split the money and move west. They called in all their sons and told them the news. Everyone seemed excited about the move except Creight, who was strangely quiet.
That night, Creight asked to speak in private to his mother, Mattie. They found a quiet place in the front yard and a full moon provided them with plenty of light. Creight seemed nervous. He kept walking around the yard, looking at his mother and then walking some more.
"Maybe you should sit down beside me, son." She patted the chair beside her. "Come. Sit here and tell me what is bothering you." He sat down, looked at his feet and sighed heavily.
He began slowly. "Mother—I—I'm—I have met someone." He glanced up at her face to see her reaction. She smiled a little impish smile at him. He relaxed a little. "It's—she's—her name is Bess, Bessie Wigger."
Mattie perked up. "Little Bessie Wigger? Why? She is just a child!"
"No, Mother. She is not a child. She is sixteen—she's—she's very pretty. She's—"He stood up. "I love her and—I'm—I'm goin' to marry her!" He blurted out the last statement rather loudly.
Mattie was shocked. She knew Creight had been going out a lot to dances and parties but she had no idea he was dating anyone seriously. She stood up. "Joseph Alcorn Creighton Mead! Why, you little—"She stopped. "Why, what a surprise!" She hugged him around the neck and kissed him on the cheek. "Creight, my boy! I can't believe it!"
"It's true, Mother. I love her! And I want to marry her!" They embraced again. Mattie asked, "Have you proposed to her?"
Creight gulped, "Well,—no—but I'm going to! I just haven't—I couldn't—I want to—"He turned and walked away from Mattie. Then turned back. "Momma. I can't leave Bess. I can't move away. I just can't. That's why I wanted to talk to you."
Mattie sat down and reached for Creight's hand. They sat down together and Mattie was silent for awhile as she thought the whole thing through. "So, you love Bessie but you haven't proposed yet. And you don't want to move away because you love her and you want to marry her."
Creight nodded a vigorous yes. Mattie thought awhile longer. This was the first of her sons to marry. It was an extraordinary moment for both of them and she held tight to his hand. Then, she turned to him and smiled broadly, "Why! That is wonderful, son! We can have the wedding before we leave. We could have it right here if you wish. And if you and Bessie want to move out west with us, you could do that too. Perhaps you could find your very own farm out there and begin life out there!" Creight smiled broadly and nodded vigorously.
She stopped and frowned. "You will have to propose, though—don't you think?" She winked at him. He laughed. "Yes! Mother! Yes! I will!" He hugged her tight until she squealed. She laughed and said, "Hey! Leave something of me to give you a blessing!" He kissed her hard on the cheek and ran off into the woods.
"Where are you going, Creight?" she called. "I'm going to Bessie's!" he called back. Mattie's heart went out to her son's. Another generation was about to begin, and the Cycle of Life was to continue. The family would be moving soon and Creight and Bessie would either stay in Paucanla and start life there or they would move out west with the rest of the family. Either way, they would begin life anew for The Family, and Life would go on. Mattie watched her son disappear into the woods and smiled after him. "Life will go on," she said to the trees, and went into the house.
The wedding was held in Bessie's home with a lot of family and friends in attendance. Worth was Creight's best man and his brothers served as ushers. Bessie's little sister was ring bearer, and the wedding was a great success.
Not only was Bessie interested in going out west but her whole family was, too. It looked like the Mead family was not going to lose a son, but gain a whole passel of Wiggers for relatives that would accompany them to the West.
That spring, Billy and his brothers sold off the entire herd to trail drivers coming through and made a sizeable profit for the family. It was over 200 miles to their destination so they sold their entire stock of horses and equipment as well and bought train tickets for everyone.
In a few months, Bird and his family had settled in a little town named Martha, near Altus, Oklahoma Territory. Bob drifted about some but stayed close to Bird's family, finally settling in Altus. Nancy and her husband, Parks White settled in Blair, west of Altus, and Mary Ann, her mother lived with them. Billy and Mattie settled in Elmer, south of Altus, close to the Red River.
In 1905, Clarence met a beauty named Pearl Wright from Chickasha and they married and settled there for awhile. Creight and Bessie settled near Elmer. Allie, Worth, Mack, Owen and Bud were still at home with Billy and Mattie.
Allie, Worth and Mack had finished school so they stayed home and helped their dad farm while Owen and Bud continued in school, this time in Elmer. Owen still hated school and usually got into trouble with the teacher. He just didn't want to sit still for book learning! There was too much world and too much adventure out there for him to sit in a school room all day.
At the new school, Owen and Bud had a man teacher named Coffman. He was strict on Owen, and that made Owen all the more difficult. One day, Owen made a pin dart he had fashioned out of a match stick and paper, which he was quite proud of. He cut off the head of the pin and imbedded it into the end of the match stick. Then he made little paper wings by slipping them into a slot he cut with his knife, and into the other end of the match. He threw it several times outside, testing it to see if it would fly. And fly, indeed, it did!
When he got into the classroom and class was called to order, Mr. Coffman called Joseph Blackmun to the board to do an arithmetic problem. This was Owen's golden opportunity. While Mr. Coffman watched Joseph doing his problem at the board, Owen took the pin dart and hurled it toward Joseph. Owen was amazed to see it make a direct hit on Joseph's backside, and Joseph let out a loud, "Oh! Chrissake!" He grabbed at his butt and began dancing around.
After Mr. Coffman got Joseph calmed down and back in his seat, he looked the look at the class. Of course, everyone knew who did it and soon that fact came out. Mr. Coffman called Owen to the front of the room.
He took hold of the back of Owen's shirt collar and pulled it up tight around Owen's neck. Owen squirmed a bit. Mr. Coffman could see that Owen was uncomfortable and this was to Mr. Coffman's advantage. He decided to make an example of Owen.
"Now, class," he began in a somber, lecture-like tone. "This young man has just broken the law." The class snickered. "He has become a criminal!" The class snickered again. Mr. Coffman ignored the snickers and continued in a serious, judge-like manner.
"When a criminal breaks the law, sometimes he is hanged! " and Mr. Coffman twisted Owen's shirt collar tighter than ever. No one snickered, then because this was getting serious.
"Now, I am going to have to make an example of Owen and hang him." He looked up at the ceiling and saw rafters above. "Let's see. I think we can manage this all right. "Owen, git up on top of my desk." When Owen hesitated, Mr. Coffman hopped onto the desk himself and all but pulled Owen up there with him. He reached down and picked up his chair and set it on the desk as well. "Owen, stand on this chair, please." Owen hesitated but did as the teacher said. Mr. Coffman took off his belt and swung it over a rafter, made a loop of it and placed one end of it under Owen's chin. Everyone was spellbound by then and Owen began to worry that he was actually going to go through with it.
Mr. Coffman continued lecturing about how people look when they are hung; how their tongue hangs out and they turn blue in the face. He went on to say that he didn't want to upset anyone when he kicked the chair out from under Owen, so he pulled out his handkerchief and began to put it over Owen's face. That did it.
Owen began to cry. The teacher laughed and let Owen down and the class laughed at Owen. Instead of going to his seat, however, Owen went straight to the school door. He grabbed his hat from the peg by the door and turned to face the teacher. He was crying hard now.
"I am only twelve years old, but when I am a man, I am coming back here and I am goin' to beat hell outa' you!" With that Owen turned and left the school. When he got home, he told his dad what happened and said that he never wanted to go back to that school again. "And I won't!" he added.
Billy could see that he was extremely upset. "All right, Owen. You don't have to go back. Get your work clothes on and come on out to the field. You can stay here and work with me." That was just what Owen wanted to hear and he never went back to school again.