August 29, 1910
Owen stepped off the train ahead of his dad to make sure that his dad got down the steep steps all right. He was concerned about the frailty of his father. But Billy Mead was still a feisty old guy that still had a lot of life left in him. Hard work had worn him down but he wasn't going to let that slow him down if he could help it.
The train station at Dodsonville was full of people and the new depot was alive with guests from Oklahoma, just across the state line. The crowd was made up mostly of men looking for new land to claim, but there were a few wives and young ladies, come to see this new land. There was little to see but the flat lands of the Great Prairie going on as far as the eye could see. A couple of buildings had popped up, seemingly out of the flat ground itself and they stuck out like a sore thumb along the landscape.
Owen and Billy moved along with the crowd toward what looked like a collection of food stands set up for the business at hand. A small military style band had been hired for the day and they honked away, out of tune, attempting the latest Sousa march. It was a breezy day there in this flat place and more than one lady's parasol had to be retrieved from the stiff wind. And it was hot. Only the wind made it tolerable.
Owen pushed his Bowler hat back on his head and looked around the crowd of people. Billy spotted a small office building that had a line in front of it, the land office. He began walking that way and Owen followed. They got in a rather long line and began the wait for what seemed like an endless time in the hot sunshine. There was not a tree in sight and absolutely no shade.
Billy glanced back at the line of food stands some distance away. He was thirsty. "Owen, why don't you go over there and see if you can find us something cold to drink. I'll keep our place in line here." Owen was delighted to hear this suggestion so he agreed and headed toward the food stands.
The milling crowd was moving through thick knots of disorganized lines around the food stands. It seemed that everyone was thirsty! He pushed passed several stands that had long lines and spotted one on the end that didn't look so busy. Above the stand, someone had placed a handmade sign: "Chicken sandwiches—and lemonade". Perhaps the crowd had seen the "chicken sandwich" words and missed seeing "lemonade" so that the crowd was thin around this stand.
He walked up to it and stopped short. A young lady stood behind the stand, serving sandwiches and drinks. She was tiny. Short. Perhaps five feet tall. Her glorious brown hair was pulled back and bound up in the latest Gibson Girl hairdo with a very large bow in the back. She wore a white islet blouse that flowed down over her beautiful arms. He couldn't see her skirt because it was hidden behind the counter. But he could see her tiny waist. He was certain that he could encircle it with his hands!
The military band could be heard in the distance, still blasting away. But Owen didn't hear it. Instead, he heard a full symphonic orchestra playing a Tchaikovsky symphony, welling up from his heart—which had completely stopped—his breath gone—stunned by her beauty!
The customer in front of him took his sandwich and lemonade and moved away so that Owen was facing this little vision of beauty. She finished putting away some coins beneath the counter and looked up into his face. Lovelight struck the two of them and carried them above the earth to a fluffy romantic cloud! She saw the most handsome man standing before her and he saw the limpid eyes of an angel. There was a long, breathless moment between them.
"M-may I help you?" she finally found her voice. Another long pause before Owen found his voice. "Uh—yes! I would like—what do you have?" he stammered. "Uh—chicken—sandwiches—and lemonade," she whispered. "Yes—I'll have some—of both," he managed.
She turned away and the spell was broken long enough for them to get their breath. She fumbled through putting together a chicken sandwich which was quite dry, and poured him a glass of lemonade. He fumbled for a silver dollar and placed it on the counter.
"Oh!" she said. "It's only 25 cents!" He gazed into her face and said, "Well! I would like two more-for my dad." She turned away again and began making two more sandwiches. He began devouring his sandwich as if he hadn't eaten in days. "This is delicious!" he said even though it was as dry as toast. He gulped from his glass of lemonade. She smiled a quick glance at him and turned back to the sandwiches.
By the time she had finished making two more sandwiches and wrapping them for Owen's dad, Owen had finished his sandwich. "I'd like another!" he chirped. She smiled and began making another.
"It's awfully hot today," he quipped. "Your stand has a nice shade here—out of the sun," hoping that that would be an excuse for lingering at her stand. "Are you from around here?" he continued. She turned and delivered his second sandwich. He sipped from his glass and smiled at her.
"Oh, forgive me," he said. "We haven't been properly introduced. I'm Owen Mead," and with that he removed his hat and placed it on the counter. He bowed slightly. She curtsied slightly and said, "I'm Maude Ragsdale." With the proper introductions out of the way, she added. "I'm from Hollis—Oklahoma—just across the state line." She paused a moment trying to think of what to say next.
"My father and I came over this morning—to sell chicken sandwiches—and lemonade." She looked around. "I don't know where he went." She put her hand over her eyes to make a shade and began looking for her father, as if it were the most important thing in the world.`
Just then, another customer came up to the stand. "A glass of lemonade, please," the man said and glanced at Owen. Maude quickly poured another glass. "Did you come on the train?" she asked. The man looked at her quizzically and said, "Yes!" but Maude was talking to Owen who answered yes at the same time. The two men blushed, as did Maude. The man put down a coin and left.
Maude repeated her question. "Did you come in on the train—Mr. Mead?" Owen smiled and replied, "Yes, my dad and I came in to look at claims for land here," still forgetting that his father had requested a cold drink. "But, please, call me Owen!" he insisted. She blushed again.
Another customer. This time it was Billy Mead. "Well, here you are. I been lookin' all over for you!" he said to Owen. Owen blushed again. "I was just going to bring you these sandwiches—and some lemonade, Dad. Please, Miss Ragsdale. This is my father, Bill Mead. Dad, may I present Miss Maude Ragsdale."
Billy tipped his hat to Maude and quickly surmised that Mr. Owen Mead was smitten by an angel. Billy smiled at Maude, and said," Very nice to make your acquaintance." She blushed and smiled back at him and curtsied. Owen, in the meantime looked at the rapidly diminishing pitcher of lemonade. "Do you have anymore lemonade—for my dad?" She nodded and found another pitcher below the counter. "And I'd like another, too!" Owen chirped.
Both Billy and Owen sipped slowly at their glass of lemonade, lingering at Maude's counter. "Miss Ragsdale is from Hollis—in Oklahoma—just over the line," Owen remarked, making small talk and wishing that he could get down on his knees and propose to this lady that very moment.
They made small talk for a few minutes and then Mr. Ragsdale, Maude's dad sauntered up to the stand. Introductions were made all 'round; then, Mr. Ragsdale and Billy began to talk about the new town of Dodsonville and other polite talk. As they chatted, Maude moved to the back of the stand and put away some dishes. Owen saw that this was his moment of opportunity and moved around to the back, too.
He blushed, then said, "Will you be working here all afternoon—or will you have a little free time for a break?" She explained that since her father was here at the stand, she could probably take a short break. She took off her apron and whispered into her dad's ear. Mr. Ragsdale frowned, looked at Owen, then Maude, and nodded a reluctant yes. Owen put out his right elbow for her to slip her arm into and they left Billy and Mr. Ragsdale behind. Mr. Ragsdale's eyes followed the two of them for some time.
Maude's heart beat faster when she touched Owen's arm. Owen felt like his knees would buckle from her touch. They strolled through the crowd, completely unaware that there was anyone else around them. There was simply no shade anywhere and the sun was hot, so they walked toward the depot, oblivious to it all. When they got to the depot, the building blocked a little of the sun and Owen found a bench in the shade. They sat down, smiled at each other and made a little more small talk.
After a few moments, Owen faced her and looked into her eyes. "I know this is rather sudden, but is it possible that I could come see you again? In Hollis? Oklahoma?" There was a somewhat long pause as Maude thought about this. She knew that this was not proper etiquette for meeting a strange man by the standards of that time, but then, this was not going to be simply an acquaintance. The earth had moved when she first saw him and she knew in her heart that this man was going to be very special. So, she simply nodded yes.
Owen explained that they would be leaving on the train later that day and that if she could give him her address, he would make every effort to come and see her there. "My brother, Worth Mead lives in Oolagah just a few miles from Hollis and I am planning to visit him next week (which was a little white lie). I will probably be going there on Monday. If I may be so bold, I would be honored to visit you at your home." Maude consented to this arrangement.
Something magical had happened between these two. They fell in love at first sight and they knew it. Both of them could hardly contain themselves, their hearts beating so fast. Owen knew that day that he was going to marry this vision of loveliness and Maude, less certain, but drawn to his magnetism was waiting breathlessly for their relationship to continue.
That evening, as Billy and Owen headed back to Elmer on the train, it was very apparent that Owen was beside himself with this young woman he had just met. "I'm going to marry her, Dad!" he chirped. Billy laughed at such a statement, but in his heart, he had a feeling that Owen might be right.
The Ragsdale's scenario was a little different. Maude's dad, Cornelius was not too happy with his daughter. Going off in the middle of a big crowd with a strange man was just not proper. She didn't even know him! As their wagon rumbled along toward home, Maude pouted at her dad for being so old fashioned but she knew he was right. Cornelius continued to scold Maude and she listened quietly. Finally, when he had finished, she looked at her father and said, "Papa, I am going to see this man again." There was a resolve in her voice that Cornelius knew was not going to be easy to overcome.
He continued his objections. "Maudie! I will not allow you to run off with some strange fella that you just met. You are just barely sixteen and I have a lot to say about who you may see." He paused, expecting her to object. "Do not oppose me on this!" he insisted.
She frowned at him. "I am not going to run off with him! He is coming to visit me at the house next week!" She paused. "I hope you will at least make an attempt to get acquainted with him. I have invited him to dinner!"
Cornelius was shocked. "Maudie! You didn't! Why, your mother will have a fit about this. She hasn't even met him!" Maude looked at her father, hard. They rode on in silence.
"And what about John Brannum? What will he have to say about this?" Cornelius asked. Maude softened and leaned her head against her dad's arm and tucked hers beneath his, "Papa, please. I've known John all my life. I don't want to think about John right now. All I know is that I want to know—Owen better. Please give me that chance—to know him." She squeezed his arm with hers and looked up at him pathetically.
Cornelius softened a bit and said no more. He knew that something had happened that day to his daughter and there was little chance of turning back. He knew love when he saw it. He knew it first hand.
[Author's Note] Owen Mead described his courtship with Maude as presented and his encounter with Buddy Ragsdale and John Brannum.