The joy of reuniting with his family past, Owen was ready to resume his place in the family. But he was different now. He was a man, he thought. He wanted to go into town and see his old friends—see what the old town looked like after so long an absence.
As he rode into town, he could see that it hadn't changed all that much. The general store looked the same, the hotel, the bank. A new house was going up on down the main street—some new family moving in. Why would anyone want to live in town when you could have the wide open spaces of a farmhouse and livestock, he thought.
He tied his horse to a hitching post near the general store and started walking down the main street of town. There was no saloon in town but you could get beer at the general store. He walked toward it, but stopped at the corner just to look around. Not too many people on the street today. They were back on the farm, working, probably.
Then he saw a familiar face, walking toward him, yet he couldn't place him. As he approached Owen, he tipped his hat and Owen smiled, "Where in hell do I know you?" he asked. The man stopped, looking a little shocked, thought a moment and said, "Well, young man. Just what part of hell are you from?"
It was then that Owen remembered he was talking to the local minister of his church! Owen blushed and said, "Oh, I'm sorry, Preacher. I didn't recognize you for a moment. I've been away from here for a couple of years."
The pastor studied Owen's face a moment and said, in a sour voice, "Oh, yes. I recognize you. You are Mattie and Billy Mead's son—Owen, I believe. Yes. Owen Mead."
"Yes sir," Owen replied. "I'm sorry for my—my—"The minister just looked disgruntled at him and tipped his hat again. "Have a good day, Owen—and try to stay out of hell."
Owen blushed again and resolved to watch his mouth after that. He would have to be careful to get rid of the foul language he had picked up as a trail driver! His mother would thump him for sure if he used any such language like that around her. He spent a couple of hours in town but most of his friends seemed to be elsewhere, so he decided to head back home and help his dad with the field work.
When he got back home, he could see that there was an extra horse tied to the hitching post and he presumed there was a visitor at the house. He went inside and there sat the minister he had spoken to earlier in the day—with his mother! The minister looked at Owen and said, "Why, if it isn't the young man from hell I was just telling you about! Good day to you, Owen. How are things in hell?"
Of course, Owen was mortified and he knew that he had been put in his place! It was a good lesson for him. From that day forward, he never used any language that was even remotely distasteful!
Mack and Bud were glad their brother had returned, especially to help with the farm work, since their dad, Billy was not doing too well. His health seemed to be failing and his strength was definitely not what it had been. As a result, most of the farm work fell on Mack, Bud, and now Owen.
For awhile, Owen didn't mind being back at home and working hard. He was used to cattle driving which was hard, dirty work, so he didn't mind the sweat and backbreaking work of farming. He was proud to help out his parents because he could see that they were getting older and were not as strong as they were three years earlier.
But hard work was not enough to Owen. There was a new dimension to Owen. He had decided it was time to settle down—to find someone to marry and to start his own life with her. This woman, this mythical person was going to have to be very special, someone who was faithful to him alone, who was—well, he couldn't quite think of all she should be—but he knew he needed to start looking.
Choices in Elmer were not too bad. There were some pretty girls in town and at church. He felt it was reasonable to think he could find somebody to love. But who? He figured that with his good looks, he would be able to get plenty of dates. And so he did.
His strategy was to find some girl that his parents would approve of, so he thought that looking at church would be the best place to start. He first tried out Mary Gardner, who was about his age and rather pretty. She had blondish hair and was always very demure. She often sat with her parents toward the front of the church but sometimes she came in late and sat alone after her parents had come earlier without her.
In his very best manners, Owen asked her if he could accompany her to church the next Sunday. She blushed into a very red face and her eyes focused on the ground. But, she managed a nod of yes to Owen and he told her he would pick her up at her home the next Sunday before church.
In the meantime, it was back to work on the farm for the week. And, his mother became her old self of "taking care of her boys" when spring rolled around. She traditionally gave all of them a round of castor oil in the spring to get them out of the winter doldrums and to get their bodies ready for springtime foods. It was in all the magazines of the day: "take a good cathartic every spring." She took one too and insisted that Billy imbibe as well.
This most distasteful tradition was usually carried out with a lot of complaints from the victims and Owen was no exception! He argued with his mother that he didn't need it but she insisted. He took it just to humor her. Unfortunately, she ordered this event to take place on a Saturday evening after dinner.
The next day was Sunday, the day of Owen's date with Mary. That morning, he put on his best Sunday suit, his fashionable new Bowler hat, and hitched up the two-seater buggy. The family dog loved that two-seater and often got to ride in it if Owen was willing. But not today. He wanted that seat clean and smelling good for Miss Gardner. So Shep followed faithfully behind the buggy at a respectable distance.
Owen pulled the buggy up in front of Mary's house and knocked on the door. Mary came promptly to the door and they were off to church. The service went well and Owen was quite happy with sitting next to Mary. Mary was quite modest and shy.
After the service, Owen escorted Mary to the buggy and they proceeded back to her home. Shep followed obediently behind the buggy. As they rode along the little country lane, all was going well when Owen felt a tremendous urge in his gut! It was the castor oil, coming through! He hastened the horse along a little faster in the hopes that he could get Mary home before anything happened, but that was not to be.
Try as he might, he could not contain the castor oil effect any longer. He noticed a field of wild flowers growing along a creek bed down a little incline from the road and this, he decided, was his moment of opportunity.
"Mary! I have a surprise for you!" he said quickly. She looked up at him with an expression of anticipation. "What is it?" she asked. He stopped the horse and pulled on the brake. "You close your eyes and don't peek! I will be back in a moment," he said and with that he jumped out of the buggy, ran back behind the buggy and down into some bushes by the creek.
It was too late. He had soiled his underwear and had made a real mess of himself. Fortunately, he was still wearing his long underwear from the winter months, so he took those off as quickly as possible and cleaned himself up as best he could. This was not an easy task because underwear for men and women in those days was a one-piece outfit that ran from from neck to ankle with openings only in the most crucial places for necessary procedures. So basically, he had to take off everything to get the underwear off.
Finally, he dressed himself again, quickly tossed his soiled underwear into the bushes, and grabbed some flowers from the field hoping that she would take that to be the surprise. He returned with the bouquet in hand and handed them to her as if that had been his only task since his departure from the buggy.
"Oh, how lovely!" she said and smiled at him shyly. He climbed back into the buggy hoping that he didn't smell. Nothing more was said and they went on their way back to Mary's house. When they got to Mary's front yard, Owen ran to help Mary out of the buggy and was mortified to see Shep at his feet, carrying in his mouth, the badly soiled underwear that Owen had taken off! Owen could have killed the dog but he recovered as best he could and got Mary back into her house. He never asked her for another date.
Then, there was Miss Lucy Binet—from St. Louis. Miss Binet had come to Elmer from St. Louis and was visiting her cousin for the summer. She was a rather pretty girl and quite fashionable in the latest styles of dress from St. Louis. She seemed smart too and quite flirtatious. Before long, Owen asked Miss Lucy out and brought her home for dinner.
Mattie fixed a very nice dinner for her, and the family was on its best behavior. The meal went quite well and Owen was pleased. After dinner, he took Miss Lucy home to her cousin's.
When he returned, he asked his mother, "Well, what did you think of my little gal from St. Louie, Mother?" Mattie looked at Owen with a stern eye and said, "Don't you ever bring a huzzy like that into this house again. Why! Her dress was half way up her ankles!" Owen kept a straight face but it was difficult. He crossed Miss Lucy off his list rather quickly since his mother didn't approve. Besides, courting someone that lived so far away would be pretty difficult.
Owen kept hard at work on the farm but he spent as many evenings as he could going on dates with the local girls or going to dances, and he wasn't getting a whole lot of sleep! As spring passed and summer wore on, he established a routine of work, dates, and parties. He even learned to do some "calling" at local square dances and was pretty good at it.
[Author's Note] Owen Mead told all of these stories many times.