More Adventures With Owen
He and Mack were close, both in age and companionship. They did their chores together and went into Elmer together for entertainment. Mack was quiet like their dad, Billy, and that endeared Owen to Mack. Of course, that meant that Owen teased and pulled a lot of pranks on Mack.
Mack loved to take a nap after the noon-day meal. Working on a farm was hard labor and the noon-day respite was important to all the family so that they would have energy to complete the afternoon and evening chores. Mack usually found a quiet place behind their house to snooze for twenty minutes or so. Owen, on the other hand was always bored with having to "rest" after a meal. He would rather find himself in an adventure or mischief.
One day, Owen found Mack snoozing in a wheel barrel behind the house. He was laid back with his head against the front of the wheel barrel and his legs hung over the other end. One arm dangled over the side.
Owen found this situation to be enticing. He looked around the yard for something to tickle Mack's nose, and then he got an even better idea. Chickens roamed the back yard freely and of course, there were chicken droppings everywhere. Owen found an especially fresh pile and found a stick that served as a scoop. Very carefully, he took the chicken dropping and gently smeared it on Mack's forefinger which hung over the side of the barrel. He was careful not to disturb or wake Mack.
Then, Owen found a lightweight feather in the yard that would serve to tickle Mack's nose. Very gently, he fluttered the feather under Mack's nose so as to make him think a fly had touched his nose and made it itch. Quickly, without opening his eyes, Mack rubbed his nose with his forefinger and thereby rubbed chicken shit all over his nose!
Of course, Mack woke up, furious, after realizing what had happened. He saw his mischievous brother running away and he didn't hesitate to chase after him, throwing rocks at him—anything he could find! Mack was noble enough not to tell on his brother, but Mattie suspected something had happened between the two. Owen wound up with a rather large bruise on his cheek.
Mattie was always bothered by her mischievous son. Of course, Owen wasn't the only one, but he was the best at it. She considered it sort of a sin and she could not tolerate sin. "You best be askin' forgiveness for whatever you have done, Owen Mead; and gettin' down on your knees wouldn't hurt none!" Mattie's devotion to her Lord sometimes soured the rest of the family, but they usually went along with her wishes. They never missed church on Sunday.
Billy loved all his sons but he was amused with Owen's pranks. He didn't think Owen meant any harm by them and they were always funny! Billy had a pretty good sense of humor himself and he could manage to get off some pretty funny statements at least.
One evening after a hard day's work in the field, Mattie fixed a huge pot of navy beans and cornbread for supper. She was too tired to fix anything fancy. As they sat down to eat, someone knocked at the door and Billy went to the door. It was the minister of their church, come by to say hello and see how everyone was doing.
"Come in, Preacher. We was just settin' down to supper. Please come join us." The minister seemed a bit embarrassed but he sat with the family. "Have some beans, Preacher," as Billy passed the large pot of beans to the preacher.
"Thank you, no. I don't care for any."
Billy looked a bit blank and said, "Well, have some cornbread. It's fresh baked." The minister declined again. Billy looked around and there was nothing else on the table! He smiled and said, "Welp! Help yourself to the salt and pepper!"
Billy's sense of humor was often quick and extemporaneous. One hot afternoon, the entire family was working in the field on the latest crop. Mattie had joined them with Bud who was walking by then but still not toilet trained. Bud had filled his diapers and the odor was ripe! Gnats had found the source and flew in a cloud around Bud.
Bud wandered from one family member to another until he approached his dad. Billy looked down at his odiferous son with gnats flying everywhere and said, "Git away from me, gnatty ass!"
Mattie was mortified and took Bud by the hand and led him to the nearest shade to change him. "Billy Mead, I hope Gawd will forgive you of your mouth!" Mattie muttered as she led Bud away.
Owen was nearby and heard the entire conversation. After that, if he wanted to call Bud for any reason, he knew just how to find him fast. He would simply call out, "Gnatty ass, gnatty ass!" and Bud would come running with fists flying!
Despite the name calling and mischievous jokes, the Mead family was close knit and they loved one another. The trials of the Civil War, hardship, pioneering and just plain hard labor had bonded them together like so many families of that time. Jokes and pranks were their way of laughing in the face of hardships.
As Billy looked back over the years, he never forgot the love he felt for his father who died from the cruelties of the Civil War. He thought often of those days when he joined the Rebel Army at the age of twelve, as a drummer boy; this, so he could be at his father's side when he went to war. Billy knew the devastation and barbaric life of being in a wartime prison after he and his dad were captured in the Battle at Camden, Arkansas.
Billy remembered his courageous mother, Mary Ann who drove a wagon loaded with her children all the way from Arkansas to Rock Island, Illinois to retrieve her husband and son, only to be denied by the Federal Army. Billy's escape underneath the carriage of a Yankee officer was one of the few triumphs of his life at that time. His father's death, resulting from having to walk all the way back to Arkansas from Illinois after the war, was one of the darkest hours of Billy's life. His bitterness toward Lincoln and the ravages of that war never subsided, and he vowed never to let his own family ever go hungry.
Family meant everything to Billy, and to Mattie as well. Their bonds of marriage and love welded their souls together and stood as a shield against the inhumanities they had suffered and the future hardships of their lives. Now, in their declining years, they were tired but satisfied that they had "fought the good fight", had "run the good race" of Life.
Two of their sons, Creight and Clarence had married and had given them grandchildren. Now, a third, Worth was about to marry a young woman that he was courting, Annie Belle Steele, from Altus. And they still had four strong sons at home, helping them and continuing the Cycle of Life. They were his Family.
[Author's Note] Owen Mead told all of these stories many times.