A quick fire and breakfast made by Mary Ann and Nancy helped to take the chill off the morning. Sally and Mattie looked after the little ones. The men were quick to feed, then saddle their horses for the crossing of the river. Everyone was rather quiet except to offer a brief comment or to give an order now and then. They were all focused on the crossing.
Billy looked at the river and then turned to his mother. "I reckon we will leave the little boys in the wagon and let them sleep a bit while we start the drive. As soon as we get the cattle across, I will come back and hitch up the wagon and then we'll get it on the ferry for crossing. You women get some breakfast and then wake the boys. I don't want Worth and Creight to drive the cattle across the river with us; it's too risky and they're too little. They can start their drag work after we get the cattle across. Just let them sleep for awhile," Billy urged his mother.
Mary Ann smiled and said, "We'll watch the boys while you get the cattle across. Don't you worry none. Just be careful yourself!" She kissed her son on the cheek. He smiled and turned away to mount his horse.
The cattle, inside the corral, had eaten a breakfast of hay that the ferryman had tossed into troughs around the corral. After they had eaten, the ferryman opened the gate to the corral and the Mead men began the efforts to move them out onto the river bank.
Bird found the lead steer and cut him out of the herd. The other cattle followed easily behind the lead toward the water. They were thirsty after their breakfast and were content to move up to the river water. With little urging, the cattle began the walk across, stopping here and there for a drink of water. There was one place where the water was too deep to walk so they swam the short distance to the opposite shore.
Within a half hour, the cattle were across. Bird turned the lead so that the cattle began to graze. As Bob, Bird, Allie and Parks watched the herd, Billy first swam his horse, then walked it back across the river. He quickly hitched the two bay horses to the wagon and moved it up to the ferry landing.
The boys were awake now and had finished their breakfast that Mary Ann and Nancy had made. There was plenty of excitement as they piled onto the ferry to watch the water as they crossed over. Once across, Billy paid the ferryman for his services and they were in Indian Territory at last!
Once they got the cattle headed out and the wagon along side the herd, the Mead family was on its way to find Paul's Valley and their Grandfather Gower's farm. Almost immediately, the terrain began to change from the rolling grasslands of Texas to more wooded hills and valleys cut by tributaries of the Red River. Canebrakes abounded along the river, and they turned north.
They had traveled about eight miles from the river when they came upon a beautiful tract of land. There were good grasslands for the cattle to graze so they decided to stop for the night and set up camp. They moved the covered wagon away from the herd and began setting up camp. Bob offered to take first watch of the cattle and rode off a little way to keep an eye on the contented grazing cows.
The evening fire was built and supper eaten. Bird helped Mary Ann and Nancy clean up while Mattie and Sally looked after the little ones. Billy checked on the horses and got them bedded down for the night. As they finished cleaning up, they sat down next to the fire for their evening coffee.
Bird looked out again at the beautiful land. "You know, I think I could live right here on this land if it was available. It's got all the necessary water, grazing land and timber for building a farm and barn. All of it right here. I talked to the ferryman before we crossed the river and he said that most of the land we are crossing belongs to the Chickasaws and Choctaws. I think me and Sally and the kids could do very well right here."
The more Bird thought about it, the more he thought the idea was a good one—better than having to drive a lot of cattle on for miles and leave good grazing, bottom land. He began talking to Billy and Bob about it.
"But what about Grandfather Gower?" Billy asked. "He's expecting us to come up there and join him." Bird thought about it and fell silent. Bob broke the silence. "Suppose you go, Billy; you and Mattie and your boys. The rest of us will stay here and watch after the rest of the cattle. You can handle driving Grandfather Gower's four head on up there by yourself. It would make a much easier trip if we didn't have to move all these cattle. You could go faster. If you liked it when you got up there, you could stay.
"We'd wait here with the cattle and sell them off when they are ready and split the profits with you and Mattie. We are pretty close to the trail drive that comes through here and it would be easy to sell them."
Bird liked the idea very much. He agreed with Bob. After all, they didn't know what kind of land would be available when they got to Paul's Valley so it might be smart to send someone on ahead to explore it. In the meantime, Bird and Bob would see if they could find out who owned the land and would try to buy it.
This news was unsettling to everyone in the camp. They had all been close and living near each other for a long time. It would be hard to split up. But after all, they each had families except for Bob who wasn't married yet. There was a lot of talk among the men and women that night and they finally decided to sleep on it for the night. But not very many slept that night, wondering if it would be doing the right thing to split up like that.
When morning came, and the cattle and morning chores had been attended to, and breakfast served, Mary Ann was the first to speak on the matter. "Bird and Bob have made a good observation about this here land. It is a fine piece of land and would make a right good farm. They could see who owns this land and see if they could buy it. We have the cash from sale of our things in Texas.
"I reckon that land all along the river here is going to be good land. If this land isn't for sale, there probably will be other land along the river that 'tis. Bob and Bird could watch after the cattle while Mattie and Billy go on up to Paul's Valley. They have an obligation to Mattie's father, Mr. Gower to return his head of cattle to him. If Billy and Mattie decide to stay in Paul's Valley, they can write us a letter and send it to Ardmore where they have a post office. If they want to come back here, we will be very glad to welcome them back." She paused a moment. "How do you feel about that, Mattie? Billy?"
Mattie spoke first. "It will break my heart to leave the rest of you here. But I do feel that I must go on to my father's house and return his cattle to him. Billy seems to think the land is bountiful up there and from what Sarah Catherine wrote, it must be true."
Billy placed his arm around Mattie. "We will go and take the cattle up there. I hope that there will still be plenty of land which we can make a claim to. But I think you may be right about this land here. It is good pasture land for a herd. We can be up there in a week or so if we just have the wagon and Grandfather's cattle. We'll write as soon as we get there."
It took a couple of days longer to set up a shelter for the remaining family and to split up the supplies. In the meantime, Bird scouted out a farmer who lived near by and talked to him about the land. He was a Chickasaw Indian and the land belonged to him. He spoke good English and was friendly enough. He made a deal to lease the land to the Meads. He too was a cattleman; didn't care for farming. "That is woman's work!" he said.
When Bird came back with the good news, it was settled. Billy and Mattie would be leaving the next morning in the wagon. Billy asked, "What is the name of this place?" Bird said, "The farmer told me it is called Paucanla. It's an Indian name; means 'blossom.'"
[Author's Note] An interview given to the OU Pioneer History Project in 1937, by Worth Mead provides a detailed account of life in Paucanla. Worth described the school with puncheon floor and desks, their home and household duties by his mother and father, the fact that they adopted two Indian boys named Wilbur Wolf and Tandy Eskey, and that the Chickasaws were very friendly and willing to help any and all who came their way.