Mattie delivered her last boy in July of 1895. They named him Cuthbird Davis after his uncle but everyone dubbed him "Bud" which stuck throughout his lifetime. Mattie's good neighbor, Obedience Tiger served as her midwife but Mattie had a pretty hard time in delivery. "Obedience tell you. You no have more children. Tell Billy, 'No!'" Mattie smiled weakly. Obedience stayed with her several days afterward to make sure she was all right and cooked for the boys and Billy.
Mary Ann and Nancy came to help, also, but Obedience was the one who seemed to know the most about birthing herbs that made Mattie's delivery a little less painful. Her knowledge of herbs came from her Chickasaw background. She fed Mattie a strange soup that helped to strengthen Mattie after delivery. As Mattie recovered, Obedience scolded Billy that he didn't have enough meat in the house. She took Worth home with her one day and he returned with a half side of hog, almost more than he could carry. Every day she came back and cooked meat for Mattie until she was strong again.
Owen and Baby Bud were the only two left at home in '95. The other boys were in school most of the day. Owen was five and a constant trial to his mother. He was so full of energy and play that she finally assigned Billy to watch after him while she took care of the other chores and baby Bud.
Billy took Owen to the fields with him almost every day. Owen soon idolized his dad and followed him wherever he went. If Billy went into Paucanla to the post office or to the general store to pick up supplies, Owen tagged along too. Pretty soon, everyone was calling the two "Big Billy and Little Billy."
When Owen reached his fifth birthday, Billy taught him to ride a horse. Owen was still too short to get on the horse by himself but if his dad put him in the saddle, he learned quickly to hold the reins right and how to move them so the horse would turn left or right.
One day, Mattie called Owen to the house. "Owen, do you think you could ride Old Blue to the store and get me some crackers?" Owen chirped a happy yes. "Well, here's a dollar. I'll put you on Old Blue and you ride down to McCracken's store and get me some crackers."
Owen was about to burst with pride that his mother would not only entrust him with a dollar, but would send him off on such an important mission. He put the silver dollar deep in his pocket and allowed his mother to put him up on Old Blue, an old gelding that was gentle as a lamb.
Mattie pointed him in the right direction and off they went. It was only about a mile into town and McCracken's feed store so Owen got there in a short time. When Mr. McCracken saw Owen ride up, he went outside and helped Owen off the horse.
"Well, young man! What can I do for you?" Owen followed Mr. McCracken into the store and announced, "My mother wants some crackers." Mr. McCracken smiled down at Owen and said, "All right. How many crackers do you want?" Mattie had not given Owen that piece of information so Owen had to think about that for awhile.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out the silver dollar. "A dollar's worth," he said. Mr. McCracken was a bit surprised. "A dollar's worth? That's a lot of crackers, Owen. Are you sure?" Owen looked at the dollar again and said, with confidence, "Yep!"
So, Mr. McCracken went to the large cracker barrel and began loading an empty twenty-five pound flour bag full of crackers. When he finished with that bag, he filled another. When he finished, he took Owen back outside, tied the two large bags of crackers onto his saddle horn and put Owen back in the saddle, then turned Old Blue toward home.
All went well for awhile until one of the bags of crackers came untied and fell to the ground. Owen managed to stop Old Blue and wiggle his way off the horse to the ground. He got the fallen bag of crackers but then he couldn't get back up on the horse. So, he began walking, leading Old Blue and trying to carry that big bag of crackers.
That was not going too well, at all! He finally came to an old stump by the road that he could stand on to get on Old Blue. Still, he could not get the big bag of crackers retied to the saddle horn. So, he decided to sit down and just eat the crackers that had fallen. He ate and ate until he was about to burst and choke, too! So, he finally decided to leave them and come back later to get the extra bag.
When he finally got home, Mattie just about had a fit over Owen's bag of crackers. Billy laughed at both of them until tears ran down his face.
It was clear that Owen was going to be an adventuresome lad. When he wasn't following his dad around, he was pretending to do the things he saw his dad do-like smoke a pipe! When he saw his Grandmother's clay pipe one day, he decided to steal it and smoke it. He slipped the pipe into his coat and ran off behind a barn to smoke.
He had no tobacco, so he stuffed some old hay in it that he found lying on the ground. He couldn't light the hay in the pipe until he stole back into the house and found a match. After a couple of good drags on the pipe, he became violently ill. He emptied most of the contents of his stomach onto the ground and lay there, quite pale. Finally, after recuperating a bit, he slipped back and replaced Grandmother's pipe. No one saw him, but Grandmother complained that her pipe tasted funny after that.
The most daring thing that Owen tried before he started school was killing a panther. The panther could be heard in the canebrake near the river and it often frightened the stock. Everyone was always keeping an eye out for him. From his roar, he must have been a big one and Billy vowed to shoot that devil if he could ever catch him.
One day, Owen decided he would help his daddy, and he would go find that panther and kill him. He slipped out of bed early one morning before dawn, and crept out of the house. He knew where his dad kept his rifle so he slipped into the barn and took it gently off the hook.
The rifle was heavy for a little guy like Owen but that did not concern Owen too much. He was going to kill that panther. He followed the path down to the canebrake and began walking through the canebrake.
The rifle got very heavy and Owen sat down on a stump to rest. He was still a little sleepy and was about to close his eyes when he looked down the canebrake path and saw two large yellow eyes looking at him, some twenty yards away. There was his panther.
It was all he could do to lift the heavy gun and cock the hammer. He took aim as best he could and pulled the trigger. The force of the kickback knocked Owen backwards head over heels. He was stunned for a moment and then got up. There, some twenty yards ahead of him lay the biggest black panther he had ever seen! He ran as fast as he could back to the cabin and woke his father. When they measured the carcass, it was almost six feet from nose to tail end! Billy hid his rifle after that.
When Owen started to school, he was not a happy boy. He picked up a somewhat negative attitude about school from his brothers, but he mostly missed being able to run free through the woods or find adventures along the river. He loved nothing better than to put a horse collar around his neck and gallop through the woods, pretending to be a wild horse.
But all of that had to be set aside when school started for him the next fall. Right away, he had to get dressed up for the school picture. His Sunday suit and dress shirt and tie were uncomfortable! And he had to wear them all day! But he went along with the idea that he would be able to see himself in a picture. He stood tall on the back row so everyone would see him in the picture.
Mrs. McPherson was not especially happy to see another Mead boy show up for school. But she was a patient woman and with the proper discipline, she hoped she would be able to teach him something. What Mrs. McPherson didn't know was that Owen would be her greatest challenge! He often forgot his reader or his homework! And he struggled with even learning the alphabet.
What Owen wanted most was to be outside, running free, like the old days. When school was out each day, he and Mack were assigned to bring in the cows for the evening and Owen liked nothing better. He was still a little small and couldn't get up on the horse without help but once in the saddle, he was at home!
One day, he and Mack were moving the cows back toward the house. They had wandered pretty far from the house to pick up a stray. Mack swung his reins and whistled at the cow's calf to hurry it along. Just then, Owen dropped one of his reins, something he hardly ever did. "Mack! I dropped my reins. Git it for me!"
Mack got off his horse and picked up the rein. It had twisted somehow in the horse's bit so he had to untangle it. As Mack was accomplishing this chore, Owen looked out across the pasture and saw an old sow rise up from the deep grass. She cocked one ear and grunted at him. Owen knew it was a sow.
Now, a sow is hardly anything to be afraid of but Owen's imagination was running on high that day. He said, "Hurry up, Mack! Yonder's a fox!"
A fox? A fox and not a sow? Owen certainly knew the difference but today, he saw a fox, which incidentally was nothing Owen would normally be afraid of either. After all, he was a panther killer! But fox it was in Owen's mind and the alarm in his voice made Mack jump back on his horse and begin to gallop toward home as if a monster were after him.
The closer to home they got, the faster they rode—and the bigger that monster fox became in Owen's mind! It had changed to a fiery beast with blazing eyes by the time they got to the house. "It had big red, glowing eyes!" he said. Mack agreed. Such were the Mead boys.
[Author's Note] Owen Mitchell “Bill” Mead told all of these stories many times.