Lincoln County New Mexico
Genealogy and History

 
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EARLY LINCOLN COUNTY FAMILIES
MRS. JAB

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BY WANDA BROWNING FALK
 the daughter of
Jack Browning and Hettie Belle McNatt
from interviews and stories as told by Jeanette Angela Browning, covering the time period of 1802 through 1931.

Wanda was born 1902 in New Mexico - died 1986 in Arizona - wife of Clarance G. Falk
 

Transcribed and submitted by Mary Lafferty Wilson
All Photos: From personal family collection of submitter, to be used for personal family research only and not to be use for profit or added to any other website without authorization of submitter.



Chapter 9

CHAPTER NINE
TWO GOOD MEN WITH GUNS

Joe and I were so pleased when Marion and his Geriah built a large house a mile from us and invited Pa and Ruth to share this comfortable home with them. It was good to see my folks settled down and ready to enjoy old age. We all noticed how much more gentle and patient Pa was. That constant restlessness wasn't driving him to ends of the earth any more. I had to admit that old age was most becoming to Pa. I was so proud that he was actually a very good husband to my Ruth, though one old harpy we had all known for years clipped my wings a little when she remarked, "Yeah! Thomas McCarty is a good enough man, but he had to wear out three good women to make him that!"

It was good to have our families within visiting distance, and I was so thankful that my brothers and my husband were all good friends. It seemed to me that brother Marion and Joe were special pals. They both enjoyed good stories, good jokes, good music and plenty of company. Both however, were quick tempered, but as Geriah put it, "They didn't fly off the handle at the same time; so the storms soon blew over."

One day my Joe rode in home at noon from a hard drive. I noticed that he was not his usual merry, teasing self, but I thought he must be very tired and hungry as a whole; so I was hurrying to get the meal on. He ate very little and said nothing. That did bother me; so I was watching him carefully. He got up suddenly and started for the door; then he turned to look at me with his eyes so sad, and he said in a very hurt tone, "I found a JAB calf with Marion's brand on it."

"Oh, Joe! You must be mistaken! You know Marion wouldn't do a thing like that on purpose. You just know he wouldn't" Even the thought of it made me sick all over.

"Maybe not. I'm goin' over to see him about it...... now!"

I had read of people walking with fear as a constant companion, and of the tight bands settled around your heart because of fright. Now I knew what these high-flown words meant. It seemed like hours, but in a very short while I saw Pa riding toward our house with his horse in a high lope. I ran to the gate to meet him, and one look at his white face told me the story.

"Come with me, Angie! Joe's shot and he's killed Marion!"

"Why did I let him go?" That was all I could say, over and over as we rushed back to Marion and Geriah's house. My precious sister-in-law helped me from the horse and we were in each other's arms crying bitterly, "Why couldn't we have kept them apart?"

Nobody could give me the particulars of the shooting. We surmised that both men went of their guns at the same time. Joe's shot hit the heart; Marion's struck the hip. As for the calf that caused the tragedy, no one knows to this day whether it belonged to Joe or Marion.

Right that minute we were too busy examining the awful wound in Joe's hip, and we knew we had to get him to Fort Griffin to the army doctor. The fort was twenty-five miles away.

It was Pa, of course, who gathered four neighbor men to carry Joe on a rawhide little, held by oak shafts. The men mounted their horses and rode two on each side of the litter. I took Diame and Della on my horse and we followed the litter.

When I started to ride away, I looked back at all my people standing together. I don't know how many were crying, because I couldn't see too well through my tears. I learned then what that part of the wedding ceremony meant which says, "Forsaking all other, until death do you part."

When the littler bearers finally crept into Fort Griffin, there was not one house available for us. Nobody could even find a tent, but one good soul let us borrow a bedstead, and another found two wagon bows which they slipped over each end of the bed. Some body else found a wagon sheet and stretched it over the bows.

At least Joe had a makeshift tent over him, but that cord bottom bed sagged in the middle and was far from comfortable, especially at night when Joe had to lie cat-a-cornered across the bed so the little girls could each have a corner to sleep. I had a chair to sleep in and I could always rest my head on the edge of the bed. We were lucky that the weather was, mild and the girls could play in the open all day.

The army doctor came each day, and didn't look too pleased with Joe's progress. Finally, one evening the doctor found this awful wound had abscessed. It had to be lanced at once; so the doctor ordered me to hold the tallow lamp high over his head while he operated.

In a few days bilious fever set in and poor Joe was delirious for several days. He raved and begged me to get inside the fort. He thought the friendly Tonkowas, who passed by his tent each day, were wild Comanches on a raid.

We would have been in more of a strain if that kindly doctor had not arranged for us to draw rations from Uncle Sam. While we were there, we were issued five rations of bacon, pickled pork, tea, condensed potatoes and condensed eggs. Our big problem was to get milk and light bread for the little girls.

During all this trouble Jim Browning was off co-works for other ranchers, and had not even heard that Joe had been shot. He rode in home a month later to find only a yoke of oxen, a few hogs and nine shoats roaming around our place. Only two old hens remained of my large flock of chickens.

Of course, the minute Jim discovered what had happened, he rushed to the fort, and maybe you think we weren't glad to see him! He was just in time to help us move back to our ranch. Before we got in sight he stammered around a bit and said, "Angie, I hate to tell you this, but somebody came by and camped at the ranch for a spell.... just long enough to mess it all up. They stole everything that could be moved except that box of soap you had just finished making."

He didn't have to tell me anything more. I knew what kind of trash had been there. If they'd leave that nice soap. My gracious! There was a whole year's supply there!

The news that hurt me most, but I didn't let Joe and Jim know it, was that all my people had moved far out on the other side of Fort Griffin.

Joe seemed to worry; the Indians had driven off all his horses. Jim and I didn't remind him that it would be many months before he would be able to straddle a horse again. That hip pained him for months and months, and he walked with a limp the rest of his life.

Jim and I had no time to fret over anything. Spring had come and there was much work to be done. Jim rode hard during the day gathering Joe's cattle that wondered in all directions. I got busy planting a garden with one hoe that was left on the place. A good neighbor loaned me a loom and we bought enough wool to make thirty yards of material. Right then and there I decided that my men needed new suits. They were both proud of them and years later, when Jim was Lieutenant Governor, he let the whole state know that he never had anything before or since that made him feel bigger or better.

We did get to sell one cow for twelve dollars; and then as the cornfield began to yield we sold roasting ears to the fort to add a little more money to our skimpy pile. We found, though, the best source of income at the moment was butter. So we milked ten head of cows to get that precious better.

When fall came, there was a demand for beef; so we sold some steers and all of us breathed a little easier. I was determined, though to hold back four steers to trade for a horse, for I knew Joe was feeling well enough to ride again. Sure enough, we got the horse, and the minute that cowboy could ride without pain, he let out for Fort Picketville (Brekenridge now) for more horses.

Jim, at this particular time, was far out on the range working that drifting heard. That meant I was going to be alone for a few days. Before Joe left, he persuaded Old Henry Somebody to come help me with the chores. I laughed a bit scornfully and remarked, "That's fine, Joe. Ole Henry's not much on work, and less on brains, but at least he'll be some one to talk to."

When Joe was gone, I slowed down for the first time in over a year to take stock of myself. The last remark I had made to Joe was not kind, and I noticed the strange look Joe gave me. It bothered me more than I wanted to admit. When I thought things over, I had to smile at myself. The real truth of the matter was that a neighbor had brought the news that my brother, Preston, was going to be married to the sister of my dearest friend, Deborah Kane. I wanted to go to that wedding! I felt cheated. Such a wave of homesickness for Ruth and Pa and the whole shebang hit me right in the face, but I didn't have time to feel sorry for myself too long, for old Henry had to be told to come in out of the rain, of it there was a job to do, I had to go show him how I would be right on had to help him.

One night I had gone to bed early, for I was tired, as usual. I had pulled my bed close to the front door to get a cool breeze. I had just dozed off when a strange noise brought me upright in a minute. Then something jumped across my bed and ran out the back door. Believe me, I let out a yell and screamed for Old Henry. I ran to get a box of parlor matches that had been given me that very day. Now, you know, I had never used any but sulphur matches, so I wasn't prepared for the sudden pop that came. It scared the daylights out of me, but after three trials, I finally struck a light and held it.

I could hear hogs grunting and squealing in their pens near the corral. Something was rasing Cain out there--could be Indians!

"Henry! Do you hear me? Get up!"

"Whata ya want?" grunted Henry from the next room.

"Get up and see what is causing all this noise!"

"If you make me get up, I'll go to the bottom." (He meant the brush near the creek bottom.)

"If you start, Buddy, I'll shoot you before you get very far. You take this gun and get out there and see what's wrong!"

"It's Injuns, woman, and they're after difficulty."

"Well, give me time to put on my pants."

"I don't care whether you have pants on or not. Just take this gun and set under that castor bean in the yard, and shoot anything that comes by except a cow or a hog."

I was over my first fright now and went to the well on the right side of the house to draw fresh water for a drink. I heard Henry's gun snap, but no shot fired. "What is it, Henry?"

"The biggest c-c-cat you ever saw!" stuttered Henry.

I couldn't help laughing. "It's not a cat, Henry. It's wolves! Don't let them kill the calves. I'll put a tallow lamp on the gate post, and that will keep them away from the house." When the lamp cast its feeble blow, we could see wolf eyes peering at us in all directions. Old Henry, braver now, promptly climbed the yard fence and fired that gun.

"Did you get one, Henry?"

"N-n-n-no, he passed before the gun fired."

Poor Old Henry tried again and again to steady his gun, but he couldn't get a single wolf. I grabbed a bucket and started pounding on it as I yelled at the top of my lungs. The wolves were to startled to attack the stock, and by daylight they were gone as suddenly as they came.

Henry and I went to see what damage had been done. Several calves had been bitten, but with care, we knew that they would live. Two wolves lay dead in the corner of the corral where the angry mother cows had horned them to death.

Late that afternoon Joe rode into sight with a few horses and a small bunch of goats. Henry and I could hardly wait for him to get off his horse so we could tell him of the excitement the night before. To our disgust, he nearly split his sides laughing and kept saying, "Yeah? I'll bet there were all of six wolves."

An hour later the dogs ran a rabbit into a hollow near the house. Henry and I hurried over to smoke out some fine meat for supper. Joe was on the opposite side of the house admiring his new horses. Suddenly we were all startled by a great clamor at the back of the house. We all ran quickly to see the new goats coming over a little knoll followed by seventy or eighty wolves. Joe yelled at the top of his lungs, "Get my gun, Angie! Get my gun!" While he limped awkwardly toward the gate.

I was really running to get that gun at the house and to beat him to the bate. Breathless as I was I handed him his gun, I gasped "All of six wolves."

Old Henry and I grabbed our buckets and started yelling like drunk Indians. The wolves wanted none of this and disappeared down the hollow in a cloud of dust before Joe could get near enough to shoot.

We didn't see any more of that pack, but we learned to expect wolves when the buffaloes came our way. I learned to put strychnine on fresh meat, and that made short work of the wolves. I remember counting as many as eighteen dead ones on our place. That could ruin a calf crop on just one visit.

Winter had barely set in when Indians began their raids again, and one night they drove off all of Joe's horses. It was a sad sight to see Joe trade his six shooter for a horse, then turn it over to Jim to ride after the cattle.

Food wasn't as scarce that winter. Joe and I killed nine hogs which we had fattened on wild pecans; then we used the small entrails from a steer to make stuffed pork sausage. Loading this in a wagon drawn by oxen, Joe gathered another hundred pounds of pecans and headed to Fort Griffin on a selling trip. He sold the sausage for sixty cents a pound and the pecans for four dollars a bushel.

Right then and there I went on a buying spree and purchased material for a dress--the first new dress I had since the Civil War, now four years past. Such a beautiful dress it was! Plaid gingham with plenty of red in it. Both Joe and Jim said it made my eyes shine.

The Indians were still bothersome; so Jim persuaded us to move near Fort Griffin. You may know we took some of our precious pork with us as we moved. Old Henry was still with us and he was told to put the pork in the bottom of the wagon.

When evening came, we camped out just in time for a sudden shower to descend on us, but that was no worry. All the grownups and the two little girls crawled under the wagon for a peaceful night's sleep. I awoke in the night to find rain pouring in my face, but it was a queer rain--as salty as the ocean's water. I was so disgusted that I awoke the whole bunch by declaring in a loud voice, "I can stand pure rain water, but not water dripping off pork. I'm getting up!"

Bless Old Henry's heart! He sat up and mumbled disgustedly, "Ain't rainin' no place but under this wagon. I'm building a fire." And with that he was up and had a good fire of mesquite, and he and I was enjoying in lady comfort. Soon sleep overcame poor Henry, and he toppled face forward into the fire. He was up and out of it before I could be of any help. "Confound it! No sleep! Never no sleep!"

While I was looking him over to be sure he hadn't burned himself, Joe and Jim were having fits trying to keep from laughing aloud. In a short while peace was restored, and Old Henry had settled down for another nap. My Joe simply could not contain himself; this was too good to let go by. He started singing at the top of his lungs, "Old Dan Tucker, he got drunk. Fell in the fire and kicked out a chunk."

Old Henry was through, finished, done! He couldn't get any sleep; he'd see that nobody else did. He built up his fire, started banging skillets and the coffee pot while preparing breakfast. Yes, it was all of four o'clock in the morning, but Joe and Jim didn't mind; they were willing to pay for that good laugh.

We found a pleasant spot about two miles from Fort Griffin, and the men started a large log house, but I was secretly fretting because the logs were not going up fast enough. June was just around the corner, and I wanted the bright new home ready to welcome our third child. I needn't have worried; we were in good order when little Bob arrived. He was such a fine baby and so good, but that was the way he was always, a blessing to us all his life.

Nobody could touch Joe Browning with a ten foot pole; he was that proud. Jim remarked one day that Joe acted like he was the only man in the whole world who ever begot a son. I noticed Uncle Jim was mighty proud of this new nephew, and it should have been a very happy time for all of us, but I didn't seem to get my strength back as fast as I should. I had never felt so tired and listless in my whole life. I kept telling myself that it was just because the excitement was all over and I wasn't ready for the humdrum of everyday living. I wasn't fooling myself at all. I knew exactly what was wrong. I wanted Ruth and Pa to see my son. What was the use of having him if I couldn't show him off a bit!

I should have been up on the fifth day, but I didn't hurry. I stayed in bed a week and two days and listened for horse hoofs to come up the road. One morning I had dozed off for a moment when I "came to" to find ruth and Pa standing in the doorway smiling at me. " I knew you would come!"

Ruth and I grabbed each other, and we were both crying. Pa was a little shaken himself. "Imagine Angie with a boy!" And he gazed down at little Bob as if he had never see a boy-child before.

Joe heard all the commotion from the back of the house, and he rushed in to see what was happening. He just stood there motionless, taking in the whole scene; then he moved toward Pa, holding out his hand in welcome. "How are you, Pa? Mighty glad to see you."

Pa shook Joe's hand hard and said, "You're lookin' fine." Then Ruth rushed over and put her arms around Joe's neck and kissed him soundly.

You can't imagine what this meant to me. There would be no McCarty-Browning feud that might have lasted through a generation, with senseless deaths and heartaches. My Pa and my husband were acting like civilized men, and I appreciated it. They could be friends again and talk man talk, while my Ruth and I could get back to our woman talks.

I was up and bustling around in a hurry, but I noticed that my Ruth was not well at all, and it came as a shock that she had suddenly become a very old lady, yet she was quiet. But don't get it that she was falling apart; she still did far more than her share of the work, and I was scolding her half the time to ease up and spare herself.

Those were the happy afternoons when we would get the baby and two lively little girls down for naps; then we would catch up on our visiting.

It was one of those afternoons that Ruth spoke her mind and gave me a priceless gift. "You know, Angie, you are finding plenty of work for your body, but you've got a mind too. I hope you'll start reading more. I've subscribed to a new magazine called "Literary Companion." I think you would enjoy it; I brought along all my copies for you. Here's the premium I got one month. They do send the prettiest pictures for special gifts."

I looked at this lovely picture of an old man and a little boy rowing a boat. That made me catch my breath, but the poem at the bottom of the picture has never left me. I read it aloud for Ruth.

"Manhood looks forth with careful glance,
Time steadily plies the oar,
While old age calmly waits to bear,
The Keel upon the shore."


I might have known that Ruth was warning me that she wouldn't be with us long. Not too many nights later, Pa came to call Joe and me to Ruth's bedside, I heard Ruth whisper, "Take care of your Pa: he sure needs you now."

Joe and I were in each other's arms crying bitterly. I didn't have to be told that I had lost my best friend. When I said as much, Joe replied, "She was my friend too, Honey."

We both knelt at Pa's side, but there were no words from any of us. That broke old man, hunched over in his chair, had no words for any of us for days and days. Finally I got so worried I begged Joe to go after Preston, and when he came, he took one look at Pa and decided then and there to take him on a visit back to Missouri.

Pa did the nicest thing that day they were to leave. He came over to me and put his arm over my shoulder and handed me a package wrapped in cloth. I didn't have to open it; I knew it was Ruth's Bible she had cherished since she was a little girl. Pa and I didn't have to talk; we understood each other.

I didn't see him for three years, and we had plenty to talk about by that time.
 


Chapter 10

CHAPTER TEN
THE JAB RANCH

It is well to mention here that after 1872 the Indians were even more dangerous because they had acquired guns and were fast becoming crack shots. This meant that my men had to be more cautious about going out alone, and that settlers had to live closer together and be on the constant guard against raids. By 1874, however, the government had taken a firm stand and was really working to control the Indians. That was the signal for our cattlemen, particularly, to forget the danger and rush out in all directions, anxious to spread their fast growing herds over more and more land.

My Joe and Jim Browning were to join the ranks of roving cowboys by a most unexpected change in our lives. It was just after the birth of our second son, a rolly-poly baby called Jack, that my Joe heard that his mother and stepfather had moved to Shackleford County. The minute little Jack and I could travel, Joe and Jim took us on a visit. That was the luckiest trip we had for many years.

This was a real family reunion for the Brownings. The oldest brother, Bud, had come west to be with his kin. Bud had money, and it didn't take him long to realize that Joe and Jim had good herds, but most of all, plenty of experience. Anybody could see that this would be a fine partnership.

In no time at all these Browning brothers were looking over every ranch in the county, but they couldn't find one any better than the old John R. Bailor Ranch. I was actually thrilled when they came back to report to us that we must hurry to Fort Griffin and get moved. The men helped me pack the household goods, and I was on my way, while Joe and Jim drove the JAB cattle to their new range.

The Bailor Ranch became, there and then, the JAB Ranch, and Joe and I were known as Mr and Mrs JAB. Joe's dream had at last come true. Mrs JAB would have her thousand head of cattle.

It was very heart-warming when old timers start talking about that JAB Ranch, such a spacious, rambling log house, with large rooms and winding halls. The big house was surrounded by feathery mesquite and sturdy scrub oak trees. To the side of the main dwelling I was to discover two long bunk-houses which would be the home for our cowboys.

The Brownings hired Lon Neal as foreman of the main ranch and soon provided fourteen cowboys to work under him. These men received thrity-five dollars a month, with food and horses provided.

One cold morning Joe looked up from his work to find a pink cheeked boy asking, "Who's boss around here?"

Lon Neal, standing nearby, answered, "You're looking right at him. That's Mr. JAB."

"My name is Will Kelley, and I'd like a job."

Joe knew a green horn the minute he saw him; so he turned to Lon with, "You got all the men you need, haven't you, Lon?"

"Yes, I have, Mr. JAB."

"I don't mind whether it's cow-works or not. I ken do odd jobs or anything to start with."

Joe had a hunch this boy was hungry; so he turned to call me in the kitchen, "Angie, here's a boy wants work. Can you use him?"

What a question to ask me! Nobody can get kitchen help for love nor money. Maybe a negro woman would come for a short spell, but it was too lonely and monotonous for them; so it was up to me to cook for the hands where they were near the home ranch.

Did I ever need help? I came right out that door to smile at this seventeen year old boy. He might not be a tough cow hand, but I could keep him busy. I must tell you that boy applied himself well, and he was such a good-natured kid that our cowboys took the pains to teach him to ride and rope. He turned out to be just as good at cowboying as cooking, and we learned to love him as our own. Joe was so grateful for his help that he started a brand for Will, and in due time increased furnished him a comfortable living.

There was another morning when Joe and Lon hired one Lee Somebody (never mind his real name). He had the earmarks of a good cowpuncher, but our men didn't know that Lee had his own ideas about impressing new people. In a day or two the old hands were sneaking into the kitchen to tell Will Kelley and me the latest remark for the newcomer.

It was Ben Lewis who brought in this one. "Honest, Mrs. JAB, you oughta hear the big words he tries to say. I nearly smother when I hear him. This very morning we was to run some cattle to the south range, and this Lee rode up to the pointer (That's the man who directs the path the herd will take) and I reckon he wanted to say, ‘Point, and that will tell me the way to go,' but that ain't the way he got it out. He said, ‘Pint! And that will tell me which way I'm pursuing!' I tell you, he beats all."

When Will and I saw the cowhands gathering in a huddle before supper, we knew Lee had added another of his list of bright sayings. Joe and Lon brought in the champion of the week. Lee was riding out with three other hands when they decided to scatter and round up later that morning. To Joe and Lon's amazement, this male magpie left them with some words which they had to translate for me. Lee yelled at them, "Boys, if you see me on a distant mounting (mountain) ye must come a caming, for you know I am pursuing a gender (cow) at a proper distance." This was one story that went the round of cow camps for many years, but I happened to collect the winning story myself.

I had just heard the news that President Garfield had been assassinated, and I rushed in to tell Joe and Will Kelley just as Lee came in the back door of the kitchen. Joe and Will were expressing themselves in no uncertain terms about any skunk that would do such a thing to as fine a man as Garfield.

The all-wise Lee could stand it no longer; so he butted in with, "Garfield? Garfield? What outfit does he work for?"

Joe and will went out the door with their shoulders shaking, but I had to control myself enough to explain that the President of the United Stated had been shot.

All the activity around the ranch, and all the yarns and jokes made life interesting and happier for grownups, but the JAB Ranch was a child's paradise. Diame, Della and Bob, with Jack trailing along as soon as he could walk, prowled around the bunk houses and corrals, climbed high trees and shot make-believe Indians by the dozens.

The cowboys were always busy whittling out toys for the children, and often after supper, had regular romps with them. There were a short time, though, when the Browning children fell from grace and were completely ignored by one cowboy for several days.

It was just after noon when the cowboys stretched out in front yard for a little snooze before Lon called them to work again. All of a sudden, Bob, playing the big Indian chief and Della and Diame as bold Texas Rangers, came from the back yard yelling at the top of their lungs.

Frank Hyde, good-natured puncher and particular friend of our children came out of a sound sleep and called to the men in dead earnest, "Injuns boys! Git your guns!"

Every man scrambled to the bunk-house for his gun while the poor youngsters stood watching them with opened mouths, wonder what on earth was wrong. George Girvin, one of the cowboys, realized as soon as he cleared his sleepy head, that John Hyde had mistaken the children's yells for real Indian yells. He pointed to the children, and the cowboys fell apart. Then yelled and roared and fell on the ground with helpless laughter, but John Hyde was not laughing. He walked over to the children, who still stood looking bewildered, and commanded them, "You young'uns get in that back yard to play, and for cripes sake stay there!"

Joe and I had been watching this whole performance from the kitchen window, and we were to burst our sides laughing. But it still wasn't funny to Frank, and that evening and several days there after, the little Brownings missed their usual frolic with their good friend, Frank Hyde.

Travelers going east or west stopped at the JAB Ranch for a meal, a night's lodging or a week's rest. The latch string did really hang on the outside of that house door. It was always nice for me if women traveled with their men. Nobody thought of being resentful of unexpected guests. The women came right on out to the kitchen and pitched in to get meals ready. The best bits of gossip or exciting news came out of the kitchen while we prepared all that food.

We found out that it wasn't always best to be too curious about any wandering stranger. I remember very well one time when I happened to be alone, and a big rough-looking man stopped to ask for a drink. He didn't even get off his horse, but leaned down from the saddle to take the dipper from my hand. This certainly did surprise me, but naturally, I made no comment. The man did thank me most graciously and left in a high lope. Imagine how I felt when about two hours later, a posse rode up to inform me that I had given a drink to Sam Bass, the noted Texas outlaw!

Another day the Stockton family came by on their way to east Texas. They spent a day at the ranch, resting, washing and ironing before they went on their way. Mrs. Etta Stockton had hung her feather bed on the fence to air. Just at dusk she looked out to see an Indian dodged behind a stump outside the fence. Indian or no Indian, Etta was getting her feather bed. She yelled as she ran toward it, and everybody in the house rushed out the doors, knowing full well that Indians must be about. Mr. Indian didn't linger long; he jumped on his horse and slid down the thirty- foot bank into the Brazos before our men could get a shot at him. The next morning our cowboys went across the river to find Indian tracts all up and down the banks. Etta not only saved her feather bed, but all of our horses, and possibly our lives.

When branding time came, our cowhands knew what hard work meant. There were thousands of cattle to brand for these Browning brothers. This meant that Joe and Lon Neal had to take the chuck wagon out on the range for weeks at a time. This was the chance young Will Kelley was waiting for; he would prove that he had learned his cooking lessons well. He had to bake dozens of sourdough biscuits in Dutch ovens, had to make smooth gravy to mix with jerky, measure rice and beans so they could be well done without swelling over the kettles and flooding the whole camp. It wasn't long until men were bragging that there wasn't a better man cook in the country. Ask any cowhand who ever rode up to the JAB chuck wagon.

At branding time the children and I were most often left alone, but this particular time Will Metley, the bookkeeper , was trying to catch up on his work, and don't think there was plenty of figuring to do in a lay out like this.

The chuck wagon had only been out one night, and the homebodies decided to get to bed early. Metley and the children were soon in the land of dreams, but I felt nervous and restless; seemed I could hear horse's feet. I went to the window straining my eyes to peer into the darkness. Surely I was just dreaming! I thought I could see the outline of a horse drawing closer to the front yard. In a minute I could see the outline bulged on one side. That was the giveaway, and I ran across the hall and called Metley, "Will, Will, quick! There's an Indian out there!"

Metley, his mind still befogged by sleep, grabbed a gun and ran to the door. The horse kept coming slowly to the very gate, and I screamed, "Shoot, Will, shoot!"

When the Indian heard me yelling, he wheeled quickly and vanished into the night. You can bet we kept guard until dawn, but the excitement wasn't over. Poor Will had to run a wild race with the stork and get a midwife at Fort Griffin. My fifth child was arriving a month early. When Metley arrived at the fort, he found the whole place in an uproar. The Indians had stolen the stage horses out of the stables and driven off most of the horses in the district. Poor Will was having one awful time finding a horse for the midwife. In meantime I was trying to act calm and collected so the children wouldn't know I was having my troubles. I got their breakfast and sent them out to play, explaining to Diame that I needed sleep and she must keep the children away from the house. I know what people mean when they say "The hours crept by." It was nearing noon when I saw two horses and riders. That was a silly time to start crying, but I was tahnkful to see them.

That afternoon a tiny little girl was born, but I could see from the kind face of the midwife that we were in trouble. The little baby died the next night, and I was thinking she looked so peaceful that I wouldn't mind going off to sleep with her. What difference would it make? Joe was on cow-works; Ruth was gone forever; and my Pa was so far away, he wouldn't hear I had a baby. All of a sudden, though, I knew I couldn't give way like that. There were four little youngsters right here by me who needed my care.

The strangest thing happened as I lay dozing. My own mother Sallie was telling me to take my little brothers to the barn so they wouldn't see her ride away from them. I never wanted any child of mine to suffer from the loneliness as I had that day. I was ready to get up and go on.

Will Metley made the nicest coffin for the baby, and the neighbors brought wild flowers for the grave. The midwife wouldn't let me up for the services, but she said that Mrs. Stallings, a good neighbor, did as well as any preacher.

The hard part was to come when Joe came into learn the sad news. It's hard to see a happy-go- lucky, supposedly tough cowboy bowed down with grief. It's a good thing, though, that we had so much work to do we couldn't hug grief to our bosoms.

Seems to me I was hardly out of bed until one of our men broke a leg, and I had to set it. Another fell ill with some kind of fever, and he had to be nursed. And always Will Kelley and I had work to do in that kitchen.

I noticed that when we had damp weather my legs and arms were achy, but nobody stopped for a little touch of rheumatism. Right at our busiest time, though, one leg became infected and was so swollen I was forced to set in a rocking chair with my leg propped up in the straight chair. I could manage to push myself from room to room and tell Will Kelley what had to be done. Even, this leg grew no better, and to my horror the kneecap became so inflamed that the flesh broke. I had never known such pain.

One look at this knee and Joe lit out for Fort Griffin for the Army doctor. When he finally came, the doctor examined that knee very carefully, then laid powered morphine on the broken flesh, hoping that would stop this awful pain. It had no effect at all. Then the doctor pried open my rigged jaws and forced a small quantity of a dampened powder in my mouth and begged me to swallow it. I managed to get it down, and in a short while, the pain lessened, my muscles relaxed and I went into a peaceful slumber that lasted for hours.

The minute I was awake I called to Will Kelley, "Will, Will come here. What's happened? I feel like I've been asleep for a month."

"Well, Mrs. JAB, I don't know whether you remember, but the doctor from the fort has been here, and he gave you some power that really put you to sleep. He said if the pain came back, use the medicine he left here for you to take."

My! But was I ever glad to hear that. I would have hated to be without that powder any more.

I was able to walk again in about a week, but Joe and Will would not let me get up for another week. I was fussing and fuming a bit over this, but Joe, ever the teaser, said, "You stay put, young lady. After all, it pays us to keep the hardest working cowhand on this ranch in good physical condition."

In less than a year that "cowhand" had given birth to her sixth child. We named her Lily, and we loved her in a very special way, for she was the image of the little Angel we had buried.
 


Chapter 11

CHAPTER ELEVEN
THE ONLY WAY IS UP

Our Bud, Jim and Joe Browning were rich and growing richer from the sales of their cattle. They, like other cattle kings of Texas, realized that the scrawny Texas longhorns were the best travelers over long trails, but they would bring in small returns when weighed out as beef steaks and the north and east were clamoring for beefsteaks.

It was Bud who figured that they could drive a big herd into Colorado and let them fatten for a year, then put them on the market and realize a big profit. Later, our men relieved of the chore of fattening cattle, for the eastern buyers soon established ranches toward the west and asked the Texas cowman to deliver his cattle to ranches in Colorado, Wyoming or Nebraska. These new owners could fatten their own cattle and ship them to Chicago, or Kansas city.

I well remember that in 1872 Will Metley recorded the branding of ten thousand calves with the JAB brand. In a year there were eleven thousand calves. Yes, you can say the Browning Brothers Cattle Company was doing all right, but the brothers hadn't listened to the rumors coming from the east. Nobody convinced us that there was a creeping paralysis traveling westward. We didn't know it yet, but the east had already encountered the Panic of 1873.

Newspapers brought belated news of political strife, but the government and their officials were not like next door neighbors so we didn't take politics to seriously. I can't remember women ever talking about such things. We did listen to our men folks, and of course we all knew that things would have been better had the Democrats been running affairs.

The federal mismanagement that our men growled about suddenly meant something to all the Texas cattlemen. There was no market for our cattle. The northern and eastern buyers were not interested in the thousands of calves owned by the Browning Brothers.

My Joe, ever the cheerful one, kept saying this slump would soon be over; we could hold over for a spell. After all, people had to have beef to eat.

There came a day when Bud, Jim and Joe saw their cattle kingdom crumble. I could have cried for all of them, but they had no time for tears. Joe came to me after his brothers were gone and said calmly enough, "Well, Angie, I guess we're in for some tough times again. We simply can't sell our cattle; so we decided to divide the herds and hit for better range."

If Joe could be calm about this, so could I. "Don't mind it, Joe. We'll make out. You know yourself; this being prosperous meant to much work for both of us. We can get along on a lot less."

I was saying all this just to help Joe, but all of a sudden I had convinced myself. This was good; Joe and I were closer than we had been in years. Now, he was talking to me; I was his one and only partner again.

That tired look left Joe's face as we began making plans. Joe had looked over to Bufford Creek, about ten miles away, and he said he never tasted better water. That was good enough for me; so we headed there as fast as we could. I didn't know what surprise awaited me. My Preston and Pa had come back from Missouri and were moving within a mile of us. Maybe you thinking there wasn't some hugging and shouting going on around there.

"Look who I have here! This is Jack Browning, your new grandson.

Pa booted the curly headed Jack up on his shoulder and then said, "Come on over to my wagon. I have a surprise for you." When we got to the wagon, Pa said, "Angie, this is your new Ma, Sarah."

"Angie! Angie! Don't you remember me? I was your neighbor on Finley Creek!"

Of course! Sarah Banty! A nice comfortable woman who made the best biscuits in the county. She was just the person to be with my Pa in his old age. She had been a widow for years. She had one son, who was grown and out on his own. How nice for everybody!

When I think back over the years, the next two were very peaceful and happy ones for us, although our herd was getting smaller and smaller. Joe couldn't keep up with so many head of cattle, and we had no money to hire help. We knew the cattle were drifting out of range; calves were left unbranded; outlaws were getting bolder and bolder. That third year a drought hit west Texas and ended the cattle business for my Joe and everybody else.

Joe decided he'd better sell out to a Mr. Yocum. There was no use trying to hold on any more. We knew Bud and Jim were already in east Texas, and neither had received a cent for their last steers.

Joe had already gathered the two hundred head of cattle, all that he had retained after his sale to Mr. Yocum, and he was ready to pull out for Motley County. I had to hold him up a bit, for my seventh baby was due any time now. I was so thankful that Pa's Sarah was near; there wasn't a better midwife in the county. She was such a comfort to have around.

Little George was born, and Sarah and I both thought he was a little frail looking. He was a month old before we could feel easy about him. Even then I waited another two weeks before I told Joe I thought we could move.

The frail baby wasn't the only thing that was bothering me. I could see Pa was breaking fast, I wanted to be near him. I also wanted kindly Sarah around for comfort and help.

About a week before we were to leave, I got Sarah off by herself and asked very cautiously, "Would you and Pa think about going to Motley County with us? Joe says it is right pretty country."

Sarah laughed her big hearty laugh and replied, "Gracious sakes, child! You ougta know we won't be very far from long at a time. Thomas would go wall-eyed crazy!"

Ballard Springs was our next home, and it is on the very ground where Matador City now stands. When we came to it, we found it was an old buffalo camp, where hunters came to stretch and dry hides and make ammunition for their guns.

We bought an old dug out from a buffalo trader and filled on the land surrounding it. I remember thinking, "Well, we've hit bottom; the only way, now, is up!" But I thank the good Lord and I didn't say this aloud to Joe.

My new house was simply a big hole dug out of a dirt bank, making a room about thirty feet long. Joe and I promptly divided it into two rooms. There were no widow panes, but greased paper was a fair substitute.

We hadn't even gotten settled when a tramp, who called himself Old Pat, decided to linger with us for a while. He was such a good handyman Joe didn't have the heart to send him on his way. He won my heart by making a dam three feet high across Ballard spring to form a beautiful little lake. Later Pat made a water wheel and fixed it so I could use it to do my churning.

In just a little while Pa and Sarah moved a mile from us, and in a few months Joe's step father, Mr. Stegall, came to visit us. I loved having all these around me, but I was not satisfied with my home or myself.

"When you feel restless, do something about it. Don't just sit!" Ruth's words came back to me clearly as the day she had spoken them. I wanted a school for my children. Yes, I had taught them to read and write, but Diame and Della were fourteen and twelve, and they had never been in a school.

I admit I inveigled Joe and Pat into digging out another room twenty feet long and nine feet side. When Joe got the idea that this was to be a classroom, he caught fire and was so enthusiastic that he set out for Abilene, a hundred miles away, to get doors and windows. He and Pat made benches of split logs and a table of beautiful walnut stump. This table was the only three feet square, but somebody had told us that teachers desks nowadays, and Joe intended that our first teacher would not be lacking.

I told Joe that if he would gather children in a radius of, say, twenty miles, I would board and keep them for a reasonable sum, and their parents could help pay for the teacher.

Joe gathered six Degraftenread children, three McCommis, and with four Brownings, he thought that was a good start. Before school opened, there was another McCarty in school. He was Preston's and Mary's boy, Tommy. They had moved on the other side of Pa and Sarah.

A young man, Dick Lane, was hired to instruct the children for six months. He taught every day except Friday and Sunday. I had to have help with all the washing on Friday, but Sunday with a holiday except one hour when we had Sunday School.

McGuffey's Reader and the Blueback speller were good enough school books for anybody. I managed to have "sit-down" work as much as possible so I could set at the door of the schoolroom and hear all the recitations. I had to admit to Joe that I certainly got my money's worth during the six months' term of school.

When that school was over, Joe and I decided to send Diame and Della to their grandmother Stegall in Palo Pinto County, where there was a school for young girls. When I received my first letter from them, I couldn't wait to tell Pa and Sarah. The girls admitted they were home sick, all right. Della mentioned she imagined that she could hear the cows bawling at the mild pen every evening, but they were going to stick it out, no matter what. Joe and all of us were so pleased and proud.

One thing that made life so pleasant at Ballard Springs was that we were no longer bothered by Indian raids. Mind you, we still feared the Indians, but the government had actually corralled them on their reservations, and they were forbidden to travel without passes.

We had always been told that the Tonkowas were our friends, and now we were beginning to get acquainted with them. If Joe happened to be home, he always went out to greet the men and shake hands with them, and if the day was warm, he would offer them cool water to drink.

One winter evening Joe was still out on cow-works, but it so happened that Grandpa Stegall was still visiting. He and I looked up about the same time to find a big group of Indians getting off their horses and entering our yard. Grandpa turned to me with, "There's a lot of ‘em, but I think they are Tonkowas. Let's go meet ‘em."

I walked right out to the gate and singled out the leader of this group. My heart was beating a little fast, if you must know. Something tole me this Indian was no friendly Tonkowa. It seemed to me that he resembled an Indian chief that Joe had pointed out to me once. Maybe this was Andy, chief of a Comanche tribe. I could see he had on much paint, but it was not war paint. I had a feeling he was trying to cover up that ugly mug. I just tried bluffing a little with, "Hello, Andy. You're a long way from home."

The Indian merely grunted his greeting, and I knew it was Andy. "Let me see your pass, Andy."

But he wasn't letting any woman order him around; he promptly handed his pass to Grandpa Stegall, who took a look and gasped, "Angie, this pass is two years old" What are we going to do?"

By this time all the children were gathered around me, and to make matter worse, Bob let out with, "They'll kill us, Ma!" I hushed him up in one hurry and told all of them to stand very still.

I saw one Indian come over to Jack and pull at his ear, but Jack was the one child who was not to be trifled with, and he promptly kicked the Indian in the shin. That's when I felt a real chill come over me, and I held my breath. I guess that was the language that Indian could understand for he burst out laughing, then made signs and grunted something to let me know I had quite a boy there.

Chief Andy asked in sign language, some English, but mostly grunts, if they could sleep in the rock corral that night to keep warm. Grandpa looked at me, and I nodded my head. I turned then to find Indians all over my house. They had come in from the back and had simply taken over the whole place. They were like curious children; they examined everything in every corner. One brazen, dirty buck stretched himself out on my nicest feather bed. That I could not take, and I found myself shouting, "You lousy devil! Get up from there before I bust you wide open with this spade!"

And don't think I wasn't going to hit him with the spade I'd picked up at the door, but Grandpa Stegall rushed over to me and grabbed the spade from my hand as he said, "Angie, Angie! You must be careful! You'll get us all killed!"

The dirty buck crawled from the bed and roared with laughter. How he enjoyed upsetting me. He joined with the others as they wandered all over the yard and the corrals. Then Andy came over to tell Grandpa Stegall that they were hungry, and that they wanted milk to drink. Just as I was trying to figure out how to manage all this, two cowboys, Hyde and Barber, rode up and asked if they could stay for the night. They didn't have to be told that we needed help.

I fed everybody, including the Indians, but Hyde insisted that I place the table outside and let the Indians come sit a few at a time. They seemed perfectly amiable as long as they had a chance to fill their bellies.

The next day these unwelcome visitors found a cave near the house and camped there until the following morning. When they left they took all the tools from Grandpa's blacksmith shop and gathered all the horseshoes on the place. Nobody regretted it when these Comanches, trying to hide under Tonkowas paint, drifted out of sight. This was the only discomforting experience we had at this place, and actually, we had gained some very good friends, slowly but surely.

This reminds me of the time, some weeks later, when a crowd of Lapan Indians rode up to the gate. I was glad to see them for I recognized one squaw whose name was Frances. She wanted me to meet two other squaws of her tribe. She pointed to one and called her "Canteen"; the other she pointed to and called her "Tin Cup." Our boys, Bob and Jack could hardly wait for Joe to get home so they could tell him of the new Indian names.

The Lapans had a very remarkable medicine man by the name of Jim McCord. This man could speak very good English, and Joe and I felt free to ask him many questions about his people. I remember he told us there had never been, nor ever would be any deformed Lapans. He told us that the midwives saw to it that none but the perfect babies lived.

Jim McCord seemed to enjoy dwelling on the bitter feud between the Comanches and Tonkowas. He said that hatred was so great that when a Tonkowa killed a Comanche, he quartered, scalped and burned his enemy so that he would have no chance of ever arriving at his happy hunting ground. Joe and I asked what brought on this quarrel among the two tribes. Jim said the Comanches wanted whole hog or none; they never wanted to divide; they wanted all the horses and the grain. Joe told him there were many white men like that too.

It was Frances, the Lapan squaw, who told me when their men were wounded, they kept the wound covered with damp oak leaves and poured water on the leaves every few minutes to keep it moist. She vowed that seldom last a man if he had but one bad wound.

Later we were most curious about the Tonkowas who had been hired by the government as scouts. They began to appear in our district wearing black hats with yellow cords and sporting brilliant blue shirts. The first time I saw this garb, I asked the Tonkowa what he was.

"One time me no soldier; me citizen. Now, me citizen, no soldier." I looked at him a minute trying to figure that one, but I finally had to admit wryly, "That makes it as plain as dirt to both of us." The new scout looked as puzzled as I, but one thing sure, he was very proud of his new uniform, even if he didn't quite understand his rating.

I was beginning to feel safe, even when I was left alone, if Indians stopped at our gate. I guess we were, all of us, getting civilized together.


Chapter 12



Jamettie Belle Browning - About 1900

CHAPTER TWELVE
WAYS AND MEANS

Times were hard and getting harder, and Joe and I had to do some planning to keep our heads above water. We had to take care of our own. We needed money for food and clothing. Joe decided he would yoke up two teems of oxen and head for the Matador Cattle Company to see if he could do some freighting for them. This company, which carried the MSO brand, joined Joe's range and actually spread out over one hundred square miles.

You can bet the manager of this cow outfit was very pleased to hire Joe, for supplies were hard to get and freighters were often irresponsible. Joe got another wagon for Ole Pat, who still stuck to us and they started to bring in supplies from Fort Griffin, Abilene and Fort Worth. Their trips usually took three weeks.

After Grandpa Stegall had gone back home and our big girls returned to us, the children and I were left alone for these long three-week trips. It seemed to me that when the weather was good, there would be no harm in taking the children on some of these trips. Joe was delighted with the idea. Nobody enjoyed company better than my Joe.

The first trip to Fort Griffin in the early fall was a wonderful tonic for all of us. One thing we never forgot, for on our return trip home we came upon a great herd of buffalo, and we had to stop the wagons and let them cross the road in front of us. None of us dreamed then that the day would come when we would have to go to a circus or visit a park to see a real buffalo.

The next trip we took was one we would remember for far different reasons. It was mid-summer before we got to go again, and everything was pleasant on our way to the fort. We were on our way home in proper time, and to break the monotony, I suggested that Pat ride Joe's saddle horse, which always trailed behind his wagon, and I would walk beside Pat's ox team and urge them along this Indian trail, now made wide enough for a wagon.

This was such a pleasant break for everybody. Some of the older children took turns walking beside me, while others tended the little children in the wagon. Joe let Bob and Jack spell him, now and then, and that kept everybody happy.

As we neared home, we discovered that the familiar water holes on the trail were dried up. We didn't worry, however, as Joe had filled one large canteen so the children could have drinks between stopping places.

It was late afternoon, two men rode up and asked if we had any water, they were awfully thirsty. Joe handed them the canteen, but warned them to go easy, as the children might need water before we reached the next camping spot. When the men were out of sight, Joe remarked that the men certainly gulped down more water than was necessary.

When night came on, the wagons halted at their old camping place, and I walked over to find there was no water in sight. To make it worse, the children had emptied the canteen, and the little ones were crying for a drink. I looked at Joe, and he said quietly, "We got to go on, Angie."

In a while the oxen grew tired and thirsty and finally lay down every half a mile. During one of the rest periods, Joe decided to ride out on horse back in a mile square and see if he could discover a water hole. He returned to us very tired and very thirsty. Old Pat said he would take a water keg and head for Croton Springs. He knew there was water there, and he could bring back water to the children. That seemed like a good idea.

Hours passed, and Old Pat did not return. Joe coaxed the oxen to their feet and urged them up the weary road. I was getting nervous, now. Little Lily, who wasn't much more than a baby, really started crying, and baby George joined right in. I nursed George and put him on a bed in the wagon; then I issued order to my children.

"Bob, you drive these oxen. Della, you come with me. We're going to walk ahead of the wagon and meet Pat that much faster; I'm carrying Lily with me; she's really thirsty, and we've got to get to water fast."

Joe knew better than to argue with me, and besides he had no better plan. When we had walked about twelve miles, taking turns carrying little Lilly, we came upon Old Pat lying in the road fast asleep, with the deserted water keg there beside him. Joe's horse stood patiently tied to a bush.

"You old devil! To do a thing like this to children. I honestly could kill you if I had a gun!"

"I jest got too sleepy, Mrs. JAB."

"Here, Della, get up in this saddle and take Lily. We've got to get to Croton Springs."

Old Pat and I walked behind the horse, but there was no conversation between us. It was four o'clock in the morning. We couldn't believe our eyes! Surely we had taken the wrong trail and missed the springs entirely. But no! There was some water left, but what a mess! I ran toward what had been a beautiful flow of water to find a huge hog climbing out of the loblolly that seeped too slowly from the ground. But water was water and I waited for the water to seep in again and skimmed off enough in a tin cup to give little Lily a drink. Poor little tike feel asleep then, and I just rid myself of a petticoat, and Della made a pallet for her.

It took an hour to skim enough water to fill a gallon water keg: then I told Old Pat to get on that horse and hurry back to those wagons. At sun up I looked down the road to see but one wagon approaching. I ran as fast as I could to see what had happened. Next look at Joe and I gasped. He looked like he had been through a war.

"We've lost Old Paddy. She just laid down and died from thirst. Old Pete was so worn out he was down beside her. I guess he's dead by now."

Our favorite ox team gone! I could see all the children wanted to cry with me, but we had more important things to do. Old Pat had delivered water to the children, but the poor dumb brutes were still suffering, for there was no way to water them.

Joe turned to us and said, "If we can only keep them going for seven more miles, we'll hit Big Springs, and they can have all the water they want." Then he called to the tired oxen, "Come on, Bill, Come on Dun! Let's keep movin'."

All the children kept talking to the animals to encourage them. After all, they now knew what it was to be really and truly thirsty.

I handed everybody some cold biscuits; then I said to Joe, "Did you say Old Pete was just three miles back?"

Joe nodded miserably. "I'm goin' back, Joe. It won't take me long and I can't stand it just to let that old thing die without trying to do something for him. I'll catch up with you in a little while."

I found Old Pete lying by his mate, but I knew he was too exhausted to attempt trying to get him on his feet again; so I gathered mesquite beans and put them before him, just hoping he might eat a little. I patted his head and then set out in a hurry to catch up with the very slow-moving wagon.

In the meantime Old Pat had ridden Joe's horses to Big Springs just to be sure there would be water there. When he came in sight, we could see the grin on his face, and everybody knew there was water ahead. We arrived at Big Springs at a snail's pace, but we made it and when we had watered Bill and Dun and given them a good rest, Joe went back with them to pick up the other wagon before darkness set in again.

The children ran down the road to meet Joe to discover Old Pete was tagging along behind the wagon. You never saw young'uns dance and prance like these. Della said, "I could cry for joy. I's so glad to see that old red devil!" That said it for all of us.

Joe left Old Pat with the big wagon at Big Springs, and he hurried us on home. The next day he brought fresh Oxen to Pat, and in a week's time this painful experience was forgotten.

The next few weeks the men were busy plowing fire guards, which meant that they plowed furrows twenty or thirty feet apart and burned the grass between the furrows as protection against prairie fires. Grass was never so plentiful that cowmen wanted to see miles of it go up in smoke.

There were no more trips for the children and me for some time, and there were days when we felt a little lonely, but all kinds of things happened around us. Joe said we were as good as newspaper when he came in from trips. It seemed we could gather up more news staying home than he could on his journeys.

Once a cowboy came by to spend the night, and I saw we had a very sick boy on our hands. I recognized typhoid fever, and we nursed him through that siege. Wouldn't you know at the time like this, Della would fall off a horse and break her arm. I had to set it, and thank the Good Lord, it turned out to be a very good arm.

We had plenty to tell Joe about one of our visitors. He turned out to be Billy the Kid, the noted outlaw of Texas and New Mexico; I wished up from the descriptions I had heard from all sides. I must say Bob and Della behaved very well, for we all three knew who our guest was. He asked for a meal, and we hurried to get it for him with out any questions asked. When he was gone, I found two dollars under his plate, which was breaking all the rules of etiquette of the west, but I forgave him, since he acted like he hadn't eaten for days, and he was more grateful for the meal.

Another year was gone before we could catch our breath, and Joe said it was time for expectants to be near a doctor at Fort Griffin. Preston and his family were near there again; so we had a good visit with them before young Tod Browning made his appearance into the world. Joe couldn't return for us for six weeks, and you must know our children had a Roman holiday with Pres, his Mary and their three children. It was good to be with my brother again. He had turned out to be one of the finest fathers I have ever known. I give Mary due credit. Pres was a happy man; he looked it and acted it every day we were there.

Joe had come for us, and now he had four wagons trailed together, and it took five span of oxen to carry the freight. Old Pat wandered off when we were gone: so the whole job was up to Joe.

We were out just one day when I noticed Joe looked very feverish, and as the hours went on, he was a very sick man. We got him settled in one of the wagons, and we traveled on as fast as we dared. The only problem we had was that young Bob, now thirteen and very slight, couldn't lift the yokes of the oxen by himself. It was times like this that I wished I had been born six feet tall and plenty fleshy to match. Bob and I did the job every morning, and even though I was only five feet two, and our weights together wouldn't make a giant of a man. We both walked every step of the way for several days. I was might proud of Bob; that he was getting so dependable.

Joe's fever went down before we came in sight of home, and he was up and on the go in just a few days.
 
In 1879 the Matador Cattle Company offered Joe a good price for our land and water. We would have been foolish not to take this offer. Joe had his eye on Duck Creek in Dickens County, and it didn't take him long to take up another claim. There were still one hundred and fifty-five head of JAB cattle, and Joe brought forty-five head of Heart X cattle. Right at this time he started brands for his two oldest sons, Bob and Jack. Bob's W Cross and Jack's J Circle Cross made them feel they were really grown men.

It seemed such a little while after that Diame and Della were receiving gentleman callers, and before Joe and I could catch our breath, two suitors had come to Joe asking for his daughters' hands. I simply could not get it through my head that the girls were ready to leave our home: they weren't old enough; they weren't ready to tackle all these marriage problems. It took Joe about two minutes to tell me I was acting exactly like Thomas McCarty.

When Diame became Mrs. McBride and Della Mrs. McCommis, I was still stunned, but I was resigned to their marriage as long as they were to live near us.

I remember that Joe was the life of the party at the girls' weddings. He was the one who kept everybody laughing and talking. I made myself believe I was so busy in the kitchen, waiting on everybody, that I didn't have time for all that palaver. Thinking back now, I guess maybe I was sulking a little, but it could have been I was afraid for my girls, for three months after the weddings I had my ninth child-- our little Mettie.

While I was still in bed after Mettie’s birth, I remembered and smiled wryly at myself. I had bragged to Pa's Ruth that I wouldn't be having a dozen children. I was getting close, but I couldn't spare a one of mine, yet I thought Diame and Della ought not to have more than two. That was a nice number for girls so young and frail.

[Mettie (Jamettie Belle Browning) was born 7 July 1882 in Dickens County, Texas]
 


Chapter 13




Browning Men

James Nathan "Jim" Browning - Upper Left
Joe Alansing Browning - Lower Left
Washington Lafayette "Bud" Browning - Lower Right
James Napoleon "Jack" Browning - Upper Right

Joseph is husband to Janetta Angelina McCarty whose daughter Jamette Belle married Jim Lafferty.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
DON'T FENCE ME IN

Our Joe Browning, usually the good-natured and cheerful one, was finding plenty to grumble about these days. First of all, he took the new baby and me on a trip to Fort Worth, and there we saw our fist passenger train. I was so excited I got as close as I could and examined it all over, but Joe was plain disgusted. It was just another means of bringing in more settlers, and honestly, as he put it, it was getting so you couldn't have elbow room any more.

Then from 1881 to 1884 our Texas had a private war of its own, called the Fence Cutter's War, and don't take it that it was a polite little tussle. New settlers and the large cow outfits finding it a strain to live side by side in a peaceable manner. There were a few large cattle companies that had weathered the Panic. Now, they were losing their patience when new people crowded into their rangeland.

These squatters often found a good spring of water, acquired a branding iron, and in a little while, collected a good heard of mavericks. Now, as you no doubt know, mavericks, in any cow country signifies that calves straying for their mothers can no longer be identified as belonging to this or that cow. In other words, they were orphans. One Jim Maverick put his brand on a group of lost calves and started a questionable tradition which bears his name today. I've heard followers of Mr. Maverick excuse themselves in this manner. "This is a maverick; he needs a brand on him, and nobody can say I stole him. Nobody can prove which cow is his mother. I've got as much right to him as anybody." The trouble was that men couldn't stop there; they drove calves far away from the mother cows, and after a while it wasn't hard to believe they really were mavericks.

The squatters, following the cowboy's lead, acquired calves, but there was no place to graze them, for the cattle companies, in defense, promptly fenced in their large ranges, and before they knew it, the squatters were hemmed in from all sides. Naturally, folks had the right to get in or out of their land, regardless of how small it was. That's how it came about that little men began cutting the big men's fences. In not time at all, the feud was on, and bitter enemies loaded their guns, resulting in a great number of deaths. So great was this conflict that the Governor of Texas called a special session and passed a ruling that the cattlemen had to leave public roads open and were ordered to place gates in their fences every three miles.

My Joe was not a squatter, nor was he any longer a cattle king, but he hated wire fences like wild animals hate a cage. I began to notice that he was getting very interested in some talk he had heard from this one and that one, about some old neighbors of ours from Motley County. It seemed that they had moved on over to New Mexico and were doing right well.

On our way home we stopped at Albany and went in to visit Mr. Guy Manning, one of Joe's good friends. Guy was a storekeeper who enjoyed regular customers and was as good as a newspaper if you wanted to find out all the happenings.

He talked a lot about caravans of people who had just recently come by on their way to New Mexico.

"I'm thinking some of going there myself," said Joe.

"You don't say so, Joe' I'm real sorry to hear this. You're getting such a good start again. Seems a pity to move." Mr Manning looked very concerned and looked over at me to see how I stood in the matter.

I just laughed and said, "It's wire fences botherin’ Joe, Mr. Manning. I'd be afraid to stretch a clothes line if we get to a new country." I still wasn't taking Joe seriously.

Mr. Manning then invited me over to his home so I could see his wife's new piano. Mrs. Manning played it very well, but secretly I thought it sounded a little tinny-- not nearly as sweet as an organ. While I was there, I watched Mrs. Manning use a telephone! Gracious! What would they have next? There were certainly many changes by 1883.

When I got ready to get in the wagon to head for home, Joe said sweetly, "why don't we backtrack a little and go onto Weatherford. Won't be much out of our way."

"Joe Alansing Browning, you aren't fooling me a minute! You want to go tell your Ma and Grandpa Stegall and Jim and Bud goodbye. I know the signs. Why don't you just say plain out that we're leaving for New Mexico?"

Joe gave the happiest laugh, then said gleefully, "I'm sure glad that you said ‘we' are going!" With that, Joe acted like he'd been let out of prison.

He sang and joked all the way to Weatherford and had such a good time with his folks. I didn't begrudge him that, but I was doing some tall thinking when I had a minute to myself. There were several things bothering me.

First of all, there was Pa to consider; he was past eighty, and I knew he had done all the traveling he was going to do. Then there were Diame and Della. I felt sick when I thought about going off and leaving them. Maybe I could talk Joe into persuading the McBride and McCommis families to come with us. There was one more worry, and it was making me a bit of a coward. This inflammatory rheumatism, as the doctor called it (it's called arthritis now) hounded me still. About once a month I took that white-powdered medicine, and that kept the pain down.

The thought tormenting me now was that I might run out of that white powder, and the doctors might be thousands of miles from us in this new country.

I decided to bring up my problems to Joe on our way home. When I talked about Pa, he agreed that my father was too old to travel any more, but he reminded me that Pres was right on hand to look after Pa and Sarah.

A little later I asked cautious-like, "You think the girls husbands might be interested in New Mexico country?"

Joe looked like the cat with the canary in his mouth, "Oh, their the ones been eggin' me on." My, was that ever a relief!

When I asked if he thought there would be doctors around, he just didn't know about that, but my Joe, ever the optimist, said, "You know, Angie, you just might be free of this rheumatism when we hit the new country. They say climate can make a heap o' difference. Anyway, you be sure to take along a good supply of that rheumatism medicine."

We hurried home just as the leaves were beginning to turn yellow and red as the fall winds blew. Joe and I knew we must get on our way before winter was upon us. Joe thought that if we all pitched in it wouldn't take more than a week to get packed up.

I sent word for Pa and Sarah to come spend that last week with us and with all the excitement and confusion, Sarah and I had many good talks while Pa sat and listened to us. Seems strange to me, now, that we didn't say a dozen words to each other, but I never felt any closer to my Pa.

Joe planned to head the caravan to New Mexico with an ox wagon. Jim and Diame McBride would follow next, also in an ox wagon, but Della and Wayne McCommis would bring up the read with a wagon drawn by horses.

Our big boys, Bob and Jack, now fifteen and eleven, were to drive one hundred and sixty head of the JAB cattle into new territory. They were also privileged to drive thirty head each of W. Cross and J Circle Cross cattle in that herd. They were the proud ones, for not many young men at their age could boast of such a good start in the cow business.

That last morning when we had everything packed and the children were in our wagon, I went back to tell Pa goodbye. That was heartbreaking for me, for this was the only time I ever saw my Pa with tears in his eyes. How very old he was getting! He and Sarah stood at the gate and waved the children out of sight. Not me! I looked straight ahead and let the tears come. When I dried my eyes, Joe called to me as he walked beside the oxen, "Mrs. JAB, do you know you're on your way to New Mexico?"

[New Mexico was then a territory. Congress admitted New Mexico as the 47th state in the Union on January 6, 1912.------Then there is the country of Mexico that does not belong to the United states but is a country of its own. People tend to confuse these two.]



Chapter 14




Mettie, George and Lily Browning

CHAPTER FOURTEEN
MRS. JAB IN NEW MEXICO

Children are such a blessings at a time like this. Here we were starting into No Man's Land or maybe the Promised Land--how did we know? But our older boys were so curious and enthusiastic about everything, we found ourselves looking and learning right along with them.

It was like meeting old friends again to hear the names of some of the places and people. We had lived in the neighboring county when Colonel Goodnight was known to all of us. We had heard of the Goodnight Trail for years. Now we were actually traveling over it.

It seemed to me we were heading due west, but Joe said we were hitting Fort Sumner, and that would eventually take us a little north. As we went along, we all took turns walking. Diame and Della looked after the little ones if I wanted to stroll along. When we made camp at night, there was nothing new in that, for our children knew all the tricks of the trade, but we did have something special. Joe's family were singing people, and our older girls sang real well together. Now they sang a lot, particularly around the campfire. Diame and Della taught the younger ones every song they knew. Of course Joe's fiddle came right along with us, and the big girls saw to it that their Pa's fingers were kept nimble.

The men picked up good stories along the way as we stopped at a little settlement to pick up supplies or ask the best way out. Joe was the one who did so love good stories and good jokes. The children never forgot the one he brought about the Pecos River. Joe had picked up the story from a polite Mexican.

"It is thees way, Senor." The leetle Pecos grew tired of being ruled over by the beeg river, El Rio Grande; so the leetle river said he would become a beeg river all by himself. He ran very well through the New Country and well down into Texas. The Pecos was showing the Rio Grande he was not so important after all. But that beeg river just laughed and laughed and stretched out his beeg arm and dragged the leetle Pecos back into it. You will see; that's the way the rivers are, Senor. Both start as separate mountain streams, but the Pecos meets the Rio Grande again in Texas. It was a pretty story, Verdad?"

When we finally came to the Pecos, it seemed more like our little Brozos River. Our children made friends with it immediately and made claim to it because of the Mexican story.

When we came to Fort Sumner, Joe hunted up our old friends, the DeGraftenreads we had known so well at Big Springs. We visited there five days, and this is when we learned about the Lincoln County War, and even visited the grave of Billy the Kid.

This war had been over three years, but people like to review it. We never did get the straight of it, but Joe said if you subtract a little and divide a little and cut about half what everybody tells you, it's possible to get a pretty good picture.

Mr. Degraftenread, who had no axe to grind at all, since he had no part in it, told us the whole trouble started when John Chisum and a Mr. Murphy got into an argument about who had stolen cattle from whom, and soon they were two cow outfits turned bitter enemies, and everybody in the county was taking sides.

We heard that Billy the Kid wouldn't have been concerned at all if some of his friends hadn't been killed in the feud. It seemed that Billy just wanted to kill the man who killed his friend.

Then we were told that the whole mess had boiled down to a private fight between Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, the sheriff of Lincoln county. Some we talked to made a real hero out of Pat Garrett and told us he wanted to establish peace and justice in Lincoln County. Then we'd meet somebody else who made a hero out of Billy the Kid and stated flatly that Pat wanted to get the Kid because the sheriff was deathly afraid of this young gun man.

We don't know any more than we ever did, but I had to smile when an old gossip told me "for sure" that she knew the Kid was never killed, that a Mexican was buried in his grave and that Billy escaped to Mexico. Do you wonder we were confused?

When Joe and I stood at Billy's grave, I thought of that nice looking, nice mannered boy who left money at our table for his meal. It was sad to think of him here; he was much too young to die, but of course, there was only one way to rid the state of desperados.

One thing sure, Brownings and their in-laws were certainly mighty glad the whole bloody war was over and we could ride over the battlegrounds without worry. It just proved to me that folks, even men, can get tired of fussing and fighting sometimes.
The son-in-laws and my Joe noticed that everybody took pains to tell them that New Mexico wasn't welcoming any more large cow outfits. Folks seemed relieved when Joe explained that we had all our cattle right with us. Mr. DeGraftenread suggested that it might be a good idea for Joe to strike out in a southwesterly direction to find good cattle country. He knew that Colonel Joel Curtis, one of Joe's friends during Ranger days in Texas, was somewhere in the Sacramento Mountains, and if Joe could find Colonel Curtis, he would certainly know where to settle.

Our caravan had been traveling for two months, and you may well believe we wanted to get settled in a hurry. The weather wasn't getting any warmer, as we traveled, we could see snow- capped mountains on all sides. We all spoke about the wonderful air, and we could easily believe what old timers told us that this air would cure meat without salt, and that wood never decayed, and that dead folks' bones didn't crumble but just turned to mummies. The things you can hear as you go along!

Our wagons came to Fort Stanton, another government post, then on to Dollins Sawmill on the Rates River. After a while we passed through the Indian Reservation, which was called Apache, but later changed to Mescalera Apache. Joe and I simply astounded when we saw some of the tribe. These were mighty meek and sick looking Indians in comparison to those we had seen and fought with. Made us feel a little sad.

The men wore G strings and moccasins with leggings of muslin strips. There were to be no beautiful deerskin foot leg wear. The women wore loose kimono-like Jackets with knee skirts and leggings like their men's. The children had G strings with a little shirt to complete their dress. Right then and there we decided Uncle Sam was having a hard time putting white men's clothes on the Indians.

After we left the reservation, we traveled up one mountain and down the other until we were very weary. We had to cross Silver Spring Canyon (Trough Canyon then) and James Canyon to find the mouth of the Penasco River. There our men scraped the snow away and made camp. It was time to build corrals and brand calves.

In the midst of all this somebody rode up to tell Joe that the very next canyon was Curtis Canyon, named after his old friend. In a few days Joe was riding all over the mountains in search of Uncle Joel. In a week both of them road up, and I could tell that Joe was really one pleased man. "Honest, Angie, Uncle Joel has just pointed out a cowman's heaven--plenty of range, plenty of grass and water, and not too many settlers."

The whole family sat around roaring fire that evening and listened to Uncle Joel tell all about this new country. Somebody complained, "It sure is a country of canyons!"

Uncle Joel roared at that. "You're just started on canyons. The farther you travel, the more you'll see of 'em."

McBride said, "Tell us about the cow outfits in these parts."

"You'll soon know them. There's the J MIL and CA Bar's on lower Penasco, the Circle Diamond and the Circle A on the Riodoso; the Fly V at Tularosa, and the Flying H on the Feliz River."

Uncle Joel mentioned again that the big cattle companies were not wanted in the mountains. We got the drift, right then and there, that oldtimers selected whom they wanted among the newcomers. We were to learn later that it was a good thing Uncle Joel was on the reception committee, or it might have been hard to live in the mountains.

We were told that sometimes newcomers would find a notice stuck by their spring of water. It gave them warning that they weren't needed and to move out in a hurry. If they didn't ... well, strange things happened to people who couldn't listen to friendly warning. Some would come in with good herds of fine breeds, and after the first winter there wouldn't be a cow left. Not that anybody stole or killed them; it was just that folks weren't neighborly enough to tell new people that cattle people always drove their herds across the summit on the sunnyside called the Rincon. There the cattle would stay until spring, when they could be driven home again. Cattle don't do so well when the snow is piled too high around them.

Spring was at hand, and the McBrides, the McCommis' and the JABS had settled in Curtis Canyon. Our men built a log cabin among the tall pine trees and a field of new, beautiful wild flowers. We planted crops in the blackest, richest soil I had ever put my hand in. I loved the feel of it.

True, we were a little cramped for money, but the girls and I made plenty of butter for market. Once we sent two hundred and thirty pounds on one trip. Some of our supplies came from La Luz, on the other side of the summit. It was always a pleasure to trade with Uncle Charles Myers, but his supplies were limited; so Joe was forced to freight supplies for El Paso, Texas, and that was a long trip away.

As time went on, Joe found it necessary to take this long trip twice a year. You should have seen the girls and me making out a list for him to bring back to us: a thousand pounds of flour, none but the 'Pride of Denver', if you please; three sacks of sugar (a hundred pounds to a sack); three cases of salt; one hundred pounds of Arbuckle coffee in one pound packages (be sure to save the signatures to get your prizes); cases of dried fruit; canned goods enough to fill in the load. There were five gallon cans of kerosene ordered, and these would ride on the outside of the wagon--yes, the outside. Did you ever taste bacon with kerosene flavor? Don't forget the store-bought soap and a side of bacon, twenty-five pounds of raisins and rice, and nicest of all, shoes for the whole family.

If you'd been listening about this time you might have heard, "Look, Ma! Would you mind making the drawing of my foot a little smaller? The last shoes I got just swallowed my foot."

"Don't let her fool you, Ma. She's trying to make you think her foot is smaller than yours."

"Ma, let's get yard and yards of calico. I need some new dresses. Don't you think the calico wore better then the gingham?"

"Do you suppose we'll be able to get some wool material, Ma?" Then if time were better, somebody dared remark, "Don't you think we could afford one silk dress, Ma? We could go a little sparing on the material don't you think?"

"Maybe, maybe, maybe! But I haven't put down forty yards of bleached and unbleached muslin. That's more important than silk."

Joe was just the person to send on a buying spree. He had more fun than a barrel of monkeys. I can't remember knowing any other man who, at forty years of age, still had the enthusiasm of a kid. There were old grannies who called him "that harum-scarum Joe Browning," but I noticed that they all liked to be around him, for there was where the fun and excitement started. On this first trip to El Paso, Joe brought back the wildest tale about long stretches of pure white sand that he had traveled through.

"Honest, Angie, it's as white as snow and not one bit gritty. I put some in my mouth to make sure. But say! I tasted some water in this stretch, and bitter! Now I know what they mean by 'bitter as gall'! Even stock won't drink it."

Joe was such a joker that none of us really took him seriously on this one, but we learned one fine day that he had hit the gypsum beds near Alamogordo, but of course there wasn't an Alamogordo there yet. Joe also told us that the mountains around were tar black and had fine holes in the rock like wasps nests. He was right; Joe has seen his first malapai rock.

That first winter was over, and when spring came, we could say that the McBrides, the McCommis and Browning families had fared very well.

Now summer was upon us and the children and I simply could not stay in the house. Never was there such a climate on the face of the earth! How lucky to be where you could plant flowers and vegetables and have everything grow. Before we knew it, frost was in the air, and it was time for Joe's second trip to El Paso. I wanted to go with him so badly I could taste it, but I had suspicious pains and symptoms. I told Joe I thought I'd better wait until his next trip, but I was like a little kid who missed the circus. Joe was hardly off the summit before I knew my tenth child was clamoring to enter the world.

I had already learned that there was no doctor closer than the Indian Reservation, and there was not a midwife in the whole country, but I had prepared for this emergency by buying The Doctor's Book of Knowledge. I had decided I could be my own midwife with a little assistance from Diame. When the labor pains started, I called her to my bedside and told her to bring the scissors, thread and the clean cloth I had prepared a head of time.

Poor Diame, her face as white as the sheets she brought me. Just begged me to let her stay with me, but I couldn't see exposing a young woman to birthing before she had children of her own. She would have plenty experience in her time.

I had pains all through that night, and Diame came to the door every fifteen minutes to see how I was making out. Just at dawn she rushed in to find her new baby brother was squalling his head off. She watched me cut and tie the cord; then she dressed young Bert Browning.

You never saw anybody as proud as Diame. She made me feel like I was Mother Eve herself. The oldest daughter of mine was waiting most impatiently for her Pa to get home so she could really pull a surprise on him. "Just wait until he gets here. I want to see his face when I tell him what all has happened around here while he was gallavantin'!"

But her Pa Joe was a complete disappointment. "Why, Ma, he did act like you'd done anything out of the ordinary. I'm kinds mad at him. Really, he didn't act too interested." I had to hush her up in a hurry; so I just teased her with, "Now, now, Diame, don't get worked up over this. I guess men havin' babies is like shootin' Indians... After the first four or five, you just take 'em for granted."

When little Bert was a month old, I got word that my Pa had died. The news was two months old by the time it reached me. I remember reading good Sarah's letter in which she tried to console me with the thought that Pa had died peacefully in his sleep, but I wasn't thinking straight, and I knew I had to get out in the open and start walking. I called to Diame to look after the baby while I went for a walk. Diame came to the door quickly and said worriedly, "Don't you want some of us to go with you, Ma?"

"No...I'll be back in a little while." I set out to walk as fast as I could through those tall pine trees. When my knees gave out, I just flung myself down under the nearest tree and began talking to myself. I felt like a part of me had died, that the whole world had stopped. As long as Pa was alive, I wanted to keep a stiff upper lip; I was ashamed to let him see me falter. Here I was just past thirty six years old now, and I felt old and all dragged out.

But I still had my pride. Nobody was going to know how hard I was grieving. Nobody was going to feel sorry for me--not even my husband. The very next day I had the severest attack of rheumatism I could remember and had to take two doses of my precious supply of powdered morphine.

When I was out of bed again, I knew Joe was just waiting to tell me something. It was simply that he discovered that our claim was on a school section, and we would have to move. I just played poker face but I was really grinding my teeth as I thought, "Move! Move! Let's keep on moving; then maybe I can wear myself out faster and die quicker."

Because I was so quiet, Joe knew I was really upset about moving from this very pretty home, and Joe did want approval from me, his children and his friends. Evidently, he thought, it was time to justify some other moves he had made in the past. I got a real surprise when he started talking about his shooting scrape with my brother, Marion. That was the first time we had ever brought it up. Joe said very seriously, "Angie, I've never said anything before, but the real reason I wanted to get out of Texas was to keep out of trouble. I wanted to be sure I didn't get mixed up in any kind of feud. I think you know that I've had all the shootin' I want. I'm not anxious to point a gun at any man again. I'm not afraid of anybody, but I'm going a long way around before I start quarreling." Then he gave me something to ponder over.

"It's best for us to move out of Curtis Canyon entirely. Uncle Joel and Keene, his partner, are quarreling, and I don't want to take sides, and I don't want my boys to take side in this quarrel. Uncle Joel would expect us to be with him and his men, and before we knew it, we could be in another Lincoln County war. But I'm having no part in it. I'm done with shooting, I tell you!"

I wasn't actually listening to Joe's talk, for all of a sudden I knew that Diame and Della would be leaving me, and that I could not take that just now.

I thought it was my time to talk plain; so I said right out to Joe, "Did you ask Jim and Wayne to strike out for themselves? Did you tell them they had to leave us?"

"Angie, for cripes sake! I didn't, and you well know it. I was just goin' to tell you the girls' men have just told me that they'd be leavin' us here. "

"Why didn't the girls tell me?"

"Because I asked them not to. I wanted to tell you myself and save them any quarreling. It's times like this that you sure act like your Pa, Angie. Diame and Della are married, and they're goin' with their husbands whether you want them to or not. Diame's Jim has been offered a good job with Three L's outfit, and Wayne is goin' to be foreman for the J MIL's. Seems to me you'd be proud of the boys and say nothing to interfere with them."

I was on the wrong track; so I switched just a little. "I'm not simin' to say anything. They can go if they want to. I just wish the girls had told me beforehand, that's all." I knew Joe would feel like a whipped pup, if I put on a sorrowful tone.

"I'm ashamed of myself, Angie, for scolding you so hard. I know that damnable rheumatism has taken a lot out of you. I hope you're done with it now."

This was the spring of 1885 when Joe decided to go south east of Curtis Canyon, where there wasn't a sign of wagon tracks. He and our boys built roads as they went, over the mountain, down the canyon, on and on. It was worth all the work, for we finally came to a spot not far from where the town of Cloudcroft now stands. Let me tell you the pine trees were taller, the grass greener and the water sweeter than we had ever known. There Joe said we would stop.

The boys and Joe built a large log house on the side of the canyon and cleared off enough pine trees so we could see far down the canyon. We had never in all our lives seen and felt such good black soil. I just ached to get my hands down deep into that dirt and pour out all the pain from my mind and body.

Folks said I had a green thumb, and I really did outdo myself at this place. Mountain people bragged that I had the biggest zinnias, ragged robins, French pinks, marigolds and moss pansies they had ever seen.

Then another blessing came our way; the Windsor s came to call. These people lived three miles straight across the mountain from us. Naturally, we were very curious about them, for we heard the mountain people tell many interesting stories about them. Of course, everybody recognized that these Windsors were a different breed of cat from most mountain folks. They spoke, acted and dressed differently. Somebody started a rumor that they had fled their native England in shame and disgrace because their daughter had married a common butcher. Now I don't suppose there was a grain of truth to this yarn, but it was a juicy story to pass around.

When the Windsors were leaving our house after the first call, the scholarly looking Mr. Windsor asked, "Mrs. Browning, would you be interested in having a tutor for your children?"

I couldn't get it out fast enough. "We certainly would appreciate it if you would come to teach the children all this winter." That was the happiest news I'd had in a long, long time, but there were some brighter happenings just around the corner. I went to return the Windsor's call, and when I walked into their house, I found the walls were actually lined with books. Here I was, nearing forty, and I had at last found Heaven on earth.

How thankful I am that the Windsors saw I was starved for books and made it known at once that I could read any and all if I found the time. Mrs. Windsor said as I was leaving, "Take any book you want Mrs. Browning, but just take one, because I want you to come again very soon to exchange it for another."

With Mrs. Windsor to guide me, I read the classics, devoured such magazines as Ladies Home Journal and Farm and Fireside, and even kept up with news of the day through such papers as San Francisco Examiner and El Paso Herald. All this reading made me more determined than ever that my children would not grow up in crippling ignorance.

It pleases me now to report that Mr. Windsor tutored our, Jack, George, Ted, and Lily; then for the next three years the children went to the Fite school house, five miles up Cox Canyon. Professor Robart, who was a fine teacher, came by each morning in his little spring wagon, drawn by two pretty black horses. The Browning children were always ready and waiting for him to take them to school. I saw to that.

In 1888 the families in lower Cox Canyon decided to build their own school house. My Joe and twelve other men dragged logs off the mountains and put up a fair sized room. There was no floor, of course, but there were nice benches of split logs for the children to set on.

It plagued me very much that Professor Robart and Mr. Deedie Moore were only privileged to teach three months out of a year, and I know it must have been hard work for them, for their pupils' ages ranged from five to seventeen years. Graded system? There were no such thing. You took as much reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic as you could absorb in three months, and then the next term came around, you started where you left off.

The mountain folks really appreciated their teachers, but they were a mite partial to Mr. Nations, who not only came for the school term, but settled in the mountains to raise his children among the mountain people. There were those who hinted that he was a little stern and unyielding, but it was only that he was a little impatient, sometimes, at the colossal ignorance of some people.

The next winter I had a real treat. Joe thought it was time for me to make the trip to El Paso with him. Nothing could have pleased me more. This time there were four other wagons going for supplies, driven by our good friends in our district--Freeman Bass, Hance Newman, Tom Godwin and Hardy Bryant.

We had barely started when we could see snow beginning to fly, and the nearer we got to the summit (where Cloudcroft now stands) the deeper the snow became. It wasn't long until the men realize that the wagon wheels would not go through the big drifts; so there was nothing to do but take all five teams and pull the wagons through one at a time.

We made the summit in due time, but we still faced a problem. Snow was a bother going down hill as well as going up. Wagons had a way of skidding so fast that they might go right over the horses' backs if there wasn't some way to hold the vehicles back. That was easy for these men to figure out. They just tied big trees to the rear of the wagons, and that held them.

It's hard to believe now, but it took us eight days to reach El Paso and I must be honest and tell you it was a dirty little town of adobe houses, some with tough looking hombres sauntering down the dirt streets. I saw saloons by the dozens and "fancy houses" on every corner. Who would believe that forty years this would be a thriving city of beautiful parks, great church buildings and lovely homes? Somebody knew what he was doing when that town ws named El Paso--the way, the pass, the gateway to the south.

I have every reason to remember the following spring. I was already having trouble with shooting pains all over my body. I was very uneasy, for instead of the pains hitting my arms and limbs, they seemed to be settling in my back and shoulders. The awful thought came that maybe this rheumatism was spreading over my whole body.

One particular night I lay beside Joe trying my best to go to sleep. Suddenly a pain hit my back and then another. These were so quick and sharp that I cried out, and Joe awoke immediately, "What is it, Angie?"

My teeth were really chattering, and I could hardly talk, but I did finally tell Joe I felt like my whole insides were coming out. Then that next pain hit and I really yelled. "Joe, Joe! I feel like I'm having a baby. I couldn't, could I? I'm too old, but this sure feels like it."

"My God, Angie, of course you aren't having a baby! How do you feel now?"

"You better get some scissors boiled... and some twine... and clean sheets. These are mighty familiar pains."

So the birth of our eleventh child, my Joe served as midwife. As he held his son in his arms he said, "Holy Christ, Angie, I never went through such a night in my life. Do women always suffer like this?"

I looked up at his worn, white face, and I couldn't help but laugh. But I wasn't laughing when I replied, "Joe Browning, this was an easy birth; you should have seen the other ten."

Our little Roddy only lived eight months, and somehow I knew that Joe was taking his death too hard. Maybe Joe felt this was actually the only child who really belonged to him, for he had helped bring him into the world. I couldn't console him; I was too tired and numb to do much thinking about anything.

I was just getting on my feet again when somebody brought word that there was to be church services at the school house the following Sunday. I told Joe I would like to go and take the children.

We traveled eight miles to hear a real hill-billy preacher whose text was "Behold the Lamb of God." He ranted and panted and flung his arms and yelled, "You can cuff and kick sheep all around all you want to, and he takes it without a squawk, but lay yer hands on a goat, and he'll blah! blah! blah!"

I took this as long as I could, but my nerves were shot, and here I had driven eight miles for words of comfort, and I didn't feel in the mood for entertainment. Before I thought how it looked, I got up from my seat and stalked out the door.

Of course the mountain folks were stunned, surprised, amused, and just a little offended that I had dared to do such a thing. Joe and the boys brought home the wildest yarns about this. Jack was grinning when he told me he heard two women talking at the picnic afterwards. One asked, "Who was that woman that stomped out of the place durin' the meeting?"

"Don't you know? That's Mrs. JAB, Mrs. Joe Browning. They say she's a smart woman, and don't take no foolishness."

"The preacher didn't mean no harm. I thought his sermon was kinda interesting, myself."

"I guess she didn't, and there was no law to make her stay, but I wouldn't a had the nerve to walk out like that."

"I guess she's got the nerve to do anything."

I was ashamed then, and I am now. My Ruth would have said, "Angie, nice ladies don't act that way."

I paid for the rudeness by going home to have another very severe attack of rheumatism, and then I made it worse by getting panicky because I had three more doses of white powder. These helped me through, but the minute I could ride in a wagon, I told Joe I had to be taken to the doctor at the Indian Agency. My Joe dropped everything and rushed me to the doctor as fast as he could. Joe hated to see anything, man or beast, suffer.

We found a very young doctor at the agency, and he listened to my case very intently, and then he pondered over the matter for a few minutes, then said, "Mrs. Browning, I don't have any morphine on hand, but I do have some gum opium. You will find that a pill about the size of a pea will be sufficient. This will wear off sooner than the morphine, but I ..... I'm sure it will deaden the pain better."

He handed me a package containing a roll that looked much like chewing gum, but it had the texture of putty. I rolled a little pill and swallowed it, and the doctor smiled and ushered us to the door.

It seemed to me that all my worries were over. I felt so gay and happy, and Joe, looking so relieved to see me better, started his constant teasing and joking as we rode along home. A freak snowstorm caught us this September, but we were not worried; this was a happy holiday for us. Joe decided, though, that we better not try to camp out; we watched for the next house to see if they would put us up for the night.

We were lucky that the next people were new comers and were very glad to have company. In fact we felt like the prodigal son coming home at last. These people begged for news from the outside plied us with questions until our heads were swimming. In the midst of the steady conversation the women of the house, a large, fat slattern yelled at her skinny little husband, "Ellie, put some wood on!"

"This here fire is hot enough, Mollie."

"Well, that ain't no sweat pourin' offen me." retorted Mollie.

Joe and I gazed into the fire and did not catch each other's eyes. There was to be no laughing to spoil the show.

We all bedded down on pallets spread on the floor--yes, all of us in the same room. All seemed settled for the night when Mollie let out a yell, "Ellie, thar's somethin' in my bed. I think it's a Santa Feed (centipede)!"

Then Ellie stormed, "If I waz as 'fraid a dyin' as you are, Mollie, I'd jin the church!" but he made no move to rescue Mollie, who crawled out of her pallet and examined the covers carefully, then sat down by the fireplace. She reached up for a corn-cob pipe and remarked to all concerned, "I'm gettin' up. I ain't had a good smoke tonight."

Of course Joe Browning was fast smothering with laughter, but I kept punching him so he wouldn't laugh aloud. He had the covers over his head but I could feel him shaking with laughter.

Peace was restored when a five year old boy set up a howl for a drink. Mollie lumbered up, groaning and fussing, and got the water, but the young man was enjoying all this attention, so he set up a howl for a biscuit and then another drink of water. Poor Ellie was getting sleepy and was fast losing his patience; so he yelled, "Mollie, why don't you whup that kid?"

"I'm skeered to, Ellie; he might hold his breath and die."

This tickled the boy so much that he shouted with laughter, and his poor pa yelled louder, "Looks to me like hi's going laugh his self to death."

That brought the other three children up, and the whole family rocked with laughter. They were so busy shouting that they didn't even notice that Joe and I were laughing just as hard.

Joe could have lingered for more laughs, but we both knew there was too much left at home to be done; so we were off early. Joe said as we traveled along, "I can't remember enjoying a trip as much as this for a long, long time." I agreed, for I felt no pain.


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