It seems to me, as I look back, that the McCarty s lived peacefully
and comfortably for the next five years. We had a big house, made of logs like all frontier houses. It had a great
fire place at one end to warm us and cook our food. (I can never forget the smell of clean pine knots burning.)
We used tallow candles, although I also remember Ma Sallie making pretty green candles out of waxy berries she
gathered from bayberry bushes.
We had plenty of food, for Pa was a good farmer. We had corn, beans, turnips, and plenty of other vegetables. We
gathered wild berries for jams jellies, and we had good apple cider to drink. I never saw coffee until after the
Civil War, and come to think of it, very little tea.
The most important event in those five years were when Ma Sallie presented us with two big, bouncing boys, Farwick
and Melvin. I really enjoyed taking care of them. They were like big dolls to me.
It was spring again, and we all wondered why Pa spent long hours walking over his fields or riding far from his
land. We might have known that Pa had stayed put long enough. He announced suddenly that he had bought a farm near
McDonald County and we'd be moving pretty soon.
I suppose Ma Sallie was comforted by the thought that at least we were not leaving the state, and when we got to
the new farm in Newton County, it was just as prosperous looking and well kept as the one we left. As for me, I
was a happy girl, for we fund friendly neighbors only a half-mile away, and there was a little girl in the family
who was just my age. She was to teach me how to play girl's games and encourage me to talk girl's talk. Ma was
pleased that little Evelyn Barkley came over to our house often. I guess Ma brooked over the fact that from the
time I was seven, I would try to run as fast, climb as high, and ride as far as Pres, James, Marion. It was high
time I started to be more ladylike.
Looking back now, I can see Pa was spreading out a bit. He had turned the farm over to John and Thaddeus and had
become a manager of a grist and lumber mill in the nearly village of Neosho. This was the time, too when he became
interested in horses, particularly blooded racing stock. We heard horse talk at every meal, and the brothers and
I loved it. If Pa heard of a new race horse in the district, he could always find time to go have a look at the
It was a time when everybody in the McCarty household was very busy and very happy. But it wasn't to be that way
for very long.
I guess the trouble started the day Granny Lewis [not her real name] came by to visit with ma-- her first and only
visit. I wouldn't have been half so curious about her if I hadn't overheard my big brothers say she was the worst
gossip in Neosho-- in fact, they used to say she was a cranky old crone and mean as a bat!
I happened to be in the front bedroom putting Melvin and Warwick down for a nap when I heard somebody call, "Anybody
home?" I peeked into the front room just as Ma was letting her visitor through the door. She was an old witch
if I ever saw one. All she needed was a peaked hat and a broom stick!
After a lot of palaver about the weather and everybody's health, I got the idea that old Granny Lewis was mighty
busy running down a newcomer named Faith. Granny declared she wouldn't trust her as far as she could throw a full
grown steer. She did admit this Faith was pretty in a sort of simpering way. From what I could gather, Faith was
causing an awful stir among the men of the settlement.
Old Granny confessed she had stayed up all hours of the night and had seen with her own eyes just.
Plenty of men coming and going from Faith's house. She let it be known then and there that if she had a good-looking
husband, she's see that Faith didn't get her claws on him.
I don't remember Ma saying a single word, but she wasn't long showing Granny Lewis to the door. I remember running
out a side door to open the front gate for Granny. I was just being friendly, but I admit I was overly curious.
She glanced at me and snapped, "Your ma is the untalkingest, unfeelingest woman I ever met!"
I ran back into the house as fast as I could and yelled at Ma, "What's she so mad about?"
Ma said sweetly enough, "Never mind, Angie, get the boys up and I'll ring the supper bell. Your Pa will be
ready to eat the minute he comes in."
I shut my mouth then, but I exploded at the table. I was just in the midst of telling the whole world about our
visitor when Ma touched me gently on the shoulder and said, "Never mind, Angie. Finish your supper."
A lot of good it did for Little Curiosity Cat to repeat a bit of Gossip. I tried to tell my brothers in private
about old Granny's visit, but they just shrugged and didn't even look at me. Even Pres failed me when I repeated
what I'd heard. I asked him why the old crone was so nasty to me, and he just yawned and said, "Why don't
you talk it over with Ma. Iffen there's something you orta know, she'll tell you."
It was some two weeks later that Ma called all her children and step children to her and told us she was going
to see her parents. She remarked that they were getting up in years, and she's like to see how they were getting
along. I remember her leaving explicit order for each of us. I was to run the kitchen with Marion and James to
help me. "Just be sure the meals are ready when Pa comes in. Angie, you look after Farwick and Melvin. You
can manage them all right."
"Pres, you see that there is plenty of wood and water at the house. That's your job. Angie you see that the
house is kept in order. Don't let things get messed up."
Actually, we were all excited over Ma's trip, and nobody could have felt more important than Jeanetta Angelina.
I was big boss, and I knew it, and I was all of eight years old!
Somebody asked Ma how long she would be gone, and she said she'd be back as soon as she could, for us all to do
our part to keep things going until she could return.
I stood at the gate as Ma mounted her beautiful mare. She had seen Pa, who appeared suddenly from the back of the
house. Ma waited cool enough as he walked toward her very quickly and burst out in an angry voice, "Sallie,
I don't like this. I don't see why you pick this time of year to visit your folks. There's fruit ripenin' here,
and it will be rotten in another week."
I felt a little sick with disappointment for my mother. That nice visit was spoiled, for of course she wouldn't
go unless Pa gave his consent.
Ma looked down at Pa and her black eyes were flashing as she said firmly, "Thomas McCarty, when you get your
house in order, I'll be back." She wheeled the mare quickly, waved at all of us, then road off at a fast lope.
You could have knocked me over with a feather and I turned to question Pa, but one look at his face and I skedaddled
into the house as fast as my legs would take me. The rest of the day I walked about the house repeating to myself
what Ma had sead: "House in order!" Every copper kettle shining both Dutch ovens in their place right
on the fireplace; the spinning wheel in its corner on the left; stacks of tallow candles ready for use; the feather
beds high and smooth; the floors sweet-smelling for hard soap scrubbings. Never was there a house in more order.
What ever in the world did my Ma mean?
I didn't have to much time to ponder over this, for I was running in a high trot trying to keep things in apple-pie
order until my Ma would be home again. The bossing part of my job was to get me into trouble. I yelled at Melvin
and Warwick from daylight to dark, and ordered my big brothers around so much that Pa set his foot down. "Angie,
Quit being so bossy! Everybody hates a bossy woman!" That settled my puffing feathers for a bit, and I had
it coming to me.
Ma returned in two weeks, and I was the happiest girl in the world. I talked an arm off her and she took over the
washing, ironing and the dreaded mending. She never stopped working that whole day! Then about sundown she told
me things weren't right yet, and she would have to go back to her parents for a spell. I took it that her parents
were ailing and still needed her help. I know she left because Pa never once came to the house that whole day.
I remember taking Melvin and Warwick to the barn so they couldn't see Ma leave. I wanted to cry in the worst way,
but I knew if the little boys saw me they would tune up, and I'd have real trouble on my hand to get them to stop.
It was about that time that we had unexpected company one evening. I had fixed corn as one of the vegetables. When
I passed it to Pa, he saw that I had put too much milk, and it was a little soupy. He turned to our guest, a man
I'd never seen before, and said pleasantly, "You'll have to excuse Angie's corn. She's just learning to cook
real well." You can bet I never made soupy corn again!
Ma came again in two weeks, but found that Pa had hired a Negro boy to help with the washing and scrubbing, so
she didn't have to work so hard that time. She baked up a lot of pies and helped me snap beans for supper.
We talked and talked, and when the brothers came in from the field they were so happy to see her. Everything was
fine when Ma Sallie was home. But she left again at sundown, and though I didn't know it then, this was her last
visit. Pa didn't come home until way in the night.
My Memory of the next months was a blur. The Negro boy didn't last long. Others, white and Negro, came and went,
and before I knew it a whole year had gone by. There was one sunshinny spot for me in that time, for news came
to Pa that his daughter Jane (By Rebecca) was visiting Webster county.
Pa sent Marion to talk to the girl and beg her to come and keep house for us. Bless Jane's heart! She came for
a few months, but then hurried on home to prepare for her own wedding. She was good to me, and I hated to see her
go; but when she was out of sight I realized my Pa was depending on me more and more, and that was a great comfort
By the next year, both John and Thaddeus were married and lived on farms many miles away. James and Marion took
over the heavy farm work with Pa, and Preston was a busy boy learning to ride and manage Pa's fine race horses.
Melvin and Warwick depended on me for everything. And I loved being their little mother, and when I couldn't manage
them I could always turn to Pa for help.
In the midst of all these changes and confusing incidents, I knew my Pa would never leave me. Handsome, fourty-threee-year-old
Thomas McCarty might have seemed a shifting and unsteady anchor, but he was all I had, and I was sticking to him
through thick and thin.
It was Mrs. Wakefield, our nearest neighbor, who finally came to my rescue. She knew what a load I was carrying;
so she persuaded her oldest daughter to come over to our home twice a week and help me with ironing and baking.
How I appreciated Ruth Wakefield! She was blue-eyed, black haired and as Irish as ever lived. She was twenty-four
years old but there were times she could and did act my age.
It wasn't long until it was routine, when the day's work was done, for Mrs. Wakefield to watch over Melvin and
Warwick while Ruth and I went horseback riding.
Neither Preston nor I would ever have dared ask permission to ride Pa's race horses on a pleasure trip. But Ruth
felt no timidity toward any man, not even Thomas McCarty. In the cool of this particular afternoon, Ruth announced
that she and Preston wanted to ride the two prize-race mares! Pa's mouth dropped, but he owned a lot to this neighbor
girl who had helped all of us for many weeks. Maybe he saw Pres and me pleading with our eyes. Anyway, he suddenly
nodded, and before he could swallow twice, his fine animals were bridled and saddled and going out the gate.
Ruth turned to yell at me, "Come on, Angie, you can ride behind me!"
Pa choked, but he nodded again, and I ran like a streak of lightning. Pa did yell out a warning as we waved at
him. "Pres, see that you don't race those mares."
"Oh, we won't, Pa," yelled Pres as he proudly sat the pace for us. We were gone longer than we planned,
and Pres knew he just hurry back to take care of all the horses before dark. We were in sight of the house when
Pres yelled, "I can beat you to the house, Ruth."
Down that lane we raced, and with me glued to the back of Ruth's saddle like a silly monkey, urging her to beat
Mr. Smarty. Suddenly our mare shied at something, and the next thing I knew I was on the ground with Ruth and Pres
leaning over me. As I started to get up, a sharp pain hit my shoulder, Press looked sick and turned to Ruth with,
"I reckon she's gone and broken a shoulder." As they helped me to the horses, I could think of just one
thing, "We can't tell Pa! He'll skin Pres alive!"
Ruth was all set to go straight to Pa with the whole truth, but she had second thoughts. She wasn't about to give
Pa a chance to get at Pres, who had deliberately disobeyed. She would go scot-free for the same crime, but Pres
would be in real trouble.
"Come on, Honey, we'll get you in the house. We can strap your arm to your side and you keep you out of your
Pa's sight as much as possible. I'd hate to think what he'd do to Pres if he found out."
Pa came in from his work tired and hungry, and the minute he hit the door he called out, "Angie, is supper
"In a minute, Pa." I tried to sound hale and hardy, but I was aching all over.
Ruth and Preston, looking like criminals, hurried to get the meal of the table. Luch for them, Pa was in a reading
mood and did not look up until supper was ready. "Where's Angie?" he demanded the minute he noticed that
I wasn't at my place at the table.
Ruth hastened to reply, "She's got a little stomach upset; she's stayin' out in the cool for awhile."
"Reckon you rode too far in the sun?" Pa seemed a little put out, but Ruth was changing the subject very
quickly. Is there anything I can help you to, Mr. McCarty?"
Ruth later claimed that was the first time Pa ever really looked at her and he spoke very kindly. "We sure
do appreciate your Ma letting you come over here to help Angie. It's mighty neighborly of you. Seems like nobody
want to work these days. I've tried for two solid months to get steady help.
I felt feverish for several days, but that didn't keep me from enjoying all the attention given me by Ruth and
Pres, or they were at my side at the smallest signal for help. About a week later, were beginning to relax, a little
and congratulating ourselves for fooling Pa so well when he arrived for supper in a gay mood. He had just heard
that there was to be a magic lantern show in Neosho.
"Get your dishes done in a hurry, girl, and well go see this new invention. They say it makes the pictures
come to life."
Ruth turned to look at me and I nodded, and before Pa and Pres had the team hitched to the spring wagon, Ruth and
little Melvin and Warwick had the dishes out of the way, she had the boys all spruced up, and out of the door we
went. Pres was very careful to seat me in the easiest riding part of the wagon and I was actually very comfortable.
The show was on the second floor of a building, so I let the little boys go ahead and climb the stairs as fast
as they could scramble. I was holding back, for I wanted to go as slow and easy as I could. I might have known
that Pa would mess up my plan. He saw I was lagging a little, so ever the gallant gentleman, he caught my arm to
help me along. I felt hot fire shoot through my arm and shoulder, and my stomach turned over, I stumbled on the
next step and Pa cautioned me with "Careful now, Angie!" But he didn't know I had broken out in a cold
sweat, nor did he notice that Ruth and Press stood stiff as pokers until I fell into the first chair I could find.
I guess a magic lantern show wouldn't mean much to children of today, what with all the good movies we got to see,
but this show was the highlight of my childhood. The man who told the story of Noah and his Ark- just as Pa had
read it to us so many times--and right there before us were the animals moving up into the ark, two by two. Of
course, we could imagine the cows flipping the flies with their tails, or the horses kicking at each other, but
we just had a good imagination. It was enough to see them appear on the white sheet hung up on the wall. We talked
about it for days, and even the little boys never forgot this first show.
The days went by, and my shoulder healed with Pa none the wiser. Did we ever tell him? We did not. We know when
we were well off.
But now we had another problems. Mrs. Wakefield arrived nearly one morning to tell us that Ruth had gone to visit
an aunt, who lived in another county.
I don't know to this day what caused Pa to hire Faith, the same Faith of Granny Lewis's conversation, to help us.
Maybe he did it for spite, or maybe he just couldn't find anybody else. Anyhow, he did so--then his troubles really
With in a few days he received a notice from Ma Sallie that she was suing for divorce and was demanding her children
because she did not intend to have them under the influence of a harlot.
We could tell Pa was really alarmed by Ma Sallie's threat, for he sent that simpering Faith back to her home in
a hurry. Two nights later he packed us into the spring wagon and headed for Arkansas. He had hardly crossed the
state line when he was warned that Sallie had sworn out a warrant for him at Bentonville. Pa was not one to give
up easily. And there he told us of his plan.
"We're going' horseback from here on. We've got to travel faster through the Ozarks. Preston, you will take
Warwick in the saddle in front of you. Melvin will ride with me. Angie, you will ride back of James. Marion
you will be ridin' alone so you can drive the horses." (There were forty head.)
Do you think I could ever forget this wild chase? Here we were riding fast in the dead of night, and Marion holding
all those horses in good order over bad mountain trails. We did have a bright moon to help light the way. I couldn't
keep my teeth from chattering, for it was bitting cold. The horses, breathing into that frosty air, caused a mist
to rise all around and over us. I leaned over to speak to Melvin. "See, Mel, we're ridin' on the clouds!"
Pa's voice was tern, "No talking', Angie!"
Marion had the horses ahead of us now, and he was climbing fast, when he stopped suddenly and signaled Pa to look
back. Far down the canyon we could see a misty cloud moving nearer every minute. Pa caught up with Marion and gave
a sharp order. "Turn into this side canyon quick, and not a sound out of any of you. That's officers following
A half-hour later the posse went hurrying up the trail, never dreaming that we were nearby, hidden by heavy trees.
Actually, they could have hit us with a rock.
We didn't know it, but Pa had turned and was heading north toward Linden, Missouri. He had found out that his daughter
Elizabeth (by Rebecca) was married and living in Linden. Pa knew she would take in his other children until he
could make other plans.
Several days later we stopped in front of a neat looking place and Pa lifted me from James's horse. I took Melvin
and Warwick by the hand and walked just back of Pa. Suddenly he stopped dead still and stared at a woman in the
doorway. In a moment Pa said in a kind of a choked voice, "Angie, this is Rebecca McCarty."
I looked up into the kindest, sweetest face I had ever seen. This woman bent over me and put her arms around me
and said very softly, "Angie, would you like to call me Aunt Becky? So many young'uns do." Then, just
to make all of this really confusing, here come James and Marion running to hug and kiss this woman like they had
known her forever. I had a whole lot of questions to ask, and as soon as I could I pulled Preston away from the
"Is she really my Aunt Becky?"
"No, she's your stepmother and my real mother, Just like Ma Sallie is your own mother and my stepmother. Both
of em is Pa's wives."
"Sakes alive! Where does Pa get all these wives? Nobody else seems to get so many."
"You have to get a divorce from the government to get a new wife."
"What's a divorce?"
"It's a piece of paper says men and women don't have to stay married together if they don't get along."
"Well, that's nice. If you find you don't like a husband, then you don't have to put up with him."
Before I knew what was going on, Pres, who was thirteen then, grabbed me by both shoulders and looked me right
in the eyes as he scolded me hard, "Angie, folks don't talk about divorces. They ain't nice so don't mention
them to nobody. Do you hear?"
"Well, if Pa had them, they can't be so bad."
"You'll see when you grow up, young lady! They are mighty, awful wrong."
I was a little anxious to change the subject, for I didn't like to be scolded by Preston. "You don't think
we will be stayin' here long, do you Pres? Pa seems kinda squirmy to me."
" I guess maybe he was a little surprised--hidin' out from one wife , then runnin' smack dab into another'n,
" Pre's eyes were almost twinkling at the corners. He was finding something funny about all this.
My sense of humor was not that well developed yet. " I wish we'd get to our own house. I don't want'a be mixed
up like this. Other folks don't do it."
"Now, Angie, don't start frettin', I heard Pa say he's going on from here by himself so's he can find us a
place pretty quick."
"It can't be too soon for me!"
Pa did leave that very day on a long horse back ride. He must have known that Ma Sallie's divorce had been granted,
and his job was to find a home for his children far enough away that Ma couldn't hear about it, Pa had some other
important business on this trip, but we didn't know about that until his return in two weeks. He rode up to tell
us he had a new farm and a new wife. We didn't know what the grownups thought, but Pres and I and the little boys
were thrilled pink for the new wife was our best helper, our good friend and playmate, Ruth Wakefield.
If there was stinging or bitter remarks by these various women attached to Pa at one time or another, I never heard
them. All I can remember was how kind they were to a bewildered little girl.
My own children and now my grandchildren have asked me why Ma Sallie deserted her children, and whether I felt
resentment. You must consider how tiny and shy Sallie was, and how big and over powering Pa was. No, I never blamed
her for leaving. I'm just sorry she didn't stand up to Pa and fight it out with him, but she wasn't brought up
that way. Now can I be resentful when I have only sweet memories of her?
As for Pa , I know he was sinfully proud and stubborn, but one thing is sure, he took might good care of me and
my brothers, I worshiped him, though sometimes I was afraid of him.
In no time Pa and Ruth had us settled in at Finley Creek, in Webster County, Missouri, and it didn't take Ruth
long to discover a school house within a half-mile of our new home. I might have known she would start a campaign
to get me into that school house. "It's time you got a lot o' learnin', Angie. You're smart as a whip anyway,
and you can get a whole good start in three months of schoolin'."
"But Ruthie, you need me here at home. You know I can help you a lot. I know what hard work is."
"Now, Angie, I can make out all right. I am used to hard work, too, you know. You plan on going to school
just as soon as the weather cleans up a bit."
I couldn't help but to be excited, but I was so far behind and so hopelessly ignorant, I felt shy about starting.
I let Ruth know about my uneasiness; "They say there's some starting at five years old, and here I am going
on ten. I don't really remember my ABC's right good."
"Then we'll talk to your Pa; he can start you to reading again." "Oh, don't bother Pa. I can make
out, I reckon."
But Ruth wasn't the modest, retiring wife. She walked right up to Pa without a moment's hesitation "Thomas,
I know that you read well aloud from the Bible, and the boys say you are a good hand at figurin'."
Pa cocked a suspicious eye at this bold female who spoke her mind plain enough. "You would be flatterin's
me, Mrs. McCarty," and Pa bowed to his waist as he mocked Ruth, "but what is it you want?"
Ruth gave him the benefit of her loveliest Irish smile. "I would be havin' you teach your daughter her letters
again. She's goin' to school."
"Angie? School?" Pa's eyes were popping out of his head. "What does Angie need with schoolin."
"Your boys know how to read. You taught them how, didn't you?"
"Yes, but they need to know how to read for business--man's business."
Pa was giving Ruth his most charming smile, but she wasn't taking the bait.
"Angie needs learnin' for woman's business," Ruth spoke firmly. "Pa throw back his head and roared,
"You're the peppery thing, young lady. ‘T wouldn't do for you to have to much learnin'."
"I'll make out, Thomas McCarty, but Angie is different. Times are changin', and it ain't proper to grow up
without learnin', it shows people are trashy when they won't go to school when they have a chance."
Nobody could say it and live, that any McCarty, male or female, was trashy. That settled it. I was going to school.
"Angie! Angie! " roared my Pa, "come here to me. Your new Ma is rasing' an awful fit for you to
have some learnin', guess it won't harm you none."
When school opened in the early spring, I had relearned my ABC's and would even read well in the first reader,
I was looking forward now to the first day of school. Ruth saw to it that I had a brand new dress, hoops, ruffles
and all, with matching gloves and bonnet.
At the end of that first day, I ran about half of the way home, then I saw Ruth coming to meet me. I started yelling
my head off, "Hurry, Ruthie, I got so much to tell you I'm about to bust." You'd have thought I had been
gone a whole month.
"Now begin at the beginning, Angie and don't leave nothing out," was Ruth's greeting while she hugged
"First of all, our teacher--he's a preacher, I think--read from the Bible, and he sounded as good as Pa. Then
we sang hymns; you know both of them:
"Approach my soul, the mercy seat, where Jesus answers prayer, and humbly bow before his feet, for none can
"And there's the other one you like so much."
"We're out on the ocean sailing, Homeward bound we swiftly glide, We're out on the ocean sailing, To a home
beyond the tide."
My! I did enjoy the singin'. Seems like it's the best part of school."
"Go on, Angie, what else happened?" Ruth was having as much fun as I was.
Nothing impressed her as much though, as my teacher's story of the spreading of the school in our country. He said
we had lots of schools as far west as the Mississippi. He even predicted that one fine day there would be schools
in every settlement in Missouri. Ruth pondered over this for a bit, then said, "There's no call for young'uns
to grow up ignorant--like now is there?"
I think Ruth got as much out of the next tree months schooling as I did, and it was the happiest, most carefree
summer I had ever known. I can remember dozens of happenings. There was the day our kind teacher brought strawberry
candy for each of us. We had never tasted anything like it. There was a show at school, when grown folks came from
miles around to see a ventriloquist who made a puppet talk, and a magician who made coins fall from his handkerchief
and hens fly out of his hat. There was a big party for grownups, and I got to see my first hoe-down. Right there
I decided that if I ever got big enough to go to a dance and whirl around like that, I wouldn't ask for any other
It was good I had some months of pure job, for there were some less happy days ahead.
Pa saw better farms and faster horses in Greene County, and he was talking a lot about both. Marion, in the mean
time, had been courting Geriah Lee, and suddenly he asked Pa if he would consider letting the young couple take
over this present farm. Marion said he and Geriah wanted to get married and settle down right there.
Pa was pleased, but he had his plans postponed for a bit, for our dear Ruth had lost her first born son, and wasn't
gaining her strength as she should. It was pitiful to see how Ruth and Pa grieved over this lost baby. Pa sais
we would all be better if we'd just get to a new neighborhood. Summer come again, and we were in a new home in
Greene County, but there wasn't a school with in miles of it. Anyway, Ruth needed me at home, so I didn't have
time to mourn over the lack of a school house.
Poor Ruth had to spend a lot of time lying on the bed: so she could watch closely every day. She said later she
really was worrying over me, for I didn't sing and laugh and talk any more. She must have talked to Pa and the
boys. She finally figured out that Miss. Jeanetta Angelina McCarty was just suffering from growing pains. She had
the good sense not to nag at me and she promised me that as soon as she was on her feet again, she would see that
Pa started a petition for a school in this very district. She would have, too, but by the time she had taken over
in the house we were getting ready for a real shocker.