Tales of Mom 11

The Good News and the Bad News

Peg meets Don outside when he gets off work. She tells him what is transpiring. And she tells him, “Nellie is pregnant with her first baby.”

Instead of allowing her to finish her ranting, Don butts in. saying, “Terry has a warrant out for his arrest”. Don takes a deep breath and then continues, “He did not spend the night at the camp; he took off.” Again he takes a deep breath, “He didn’t leave alone.” He hesitates momentarily. “He was with a 16 years old girl,” he blurts out quickly. “They left for parts unknown according to camp officials”, he explains.




“Her daddy has his gun in hand, thinking there is going to be a shotgun wedding. If her daddy catches up with Terry before the sheriff,” Don says rubbing his chin, “You may be planning a funeral.” Don says under his breath, “I pray he does not kill him.”

Don and Peg decide: Don will go out looking for Terry. When he finds him, he will let Peg know somehow. They pay the rent for the month. And they shop for groceries, purchasing plenty of food to stock them for the month. Then, he says, “We can decide what to do next when that time comes.”

Don sets out in Peg’s car the next morning, leaving the convertible for the women, as it is more comfortable.

Weeks go by without word. They work some when work is available. Nellie and Peggy decide to take a walk down to the river. Peggy looks around. They are alone. She decides to live dangerously. She strips down to her underwear. “Come on Nellie; join me in the water, “Peggy says.

“I don’ts want to drown!” Nellie exclaims.

“Come on! You won’t drown,” Peg reassures her.

Nellie shakes her head no and tells her, “No! I don’ts swim.”

Peggy jumps in. “Come on Nellie, it is not deep. Join me.”

“No!” Nellie replies firmly.

Nellie remembers when Pa tries to teach her to swim. It still terrifies her when she thinks of it. Pa picks her up and throws her in the river just as he does with all the others kids. He says, “Kick your feet and paddle your arms. That will keep you afloat.”

Nevertheless Nellie goes under. She panics. She does not kick. She does not paddle. She sinks to the bottom. Nellie allows fear to get the best of her and does not do as she is told.

Pa screams at her, “Kick, paddle!” All the while, Pa is taking off his clothes. Then he jumps in to save her. Since then, Nellie panics at the mere sight of water.

Peggy splashes the water up on the bank where Nellie is sitting. She screams and jumps up. “Don’t”, she cries out. “I am scared of da wat’r!”

In the meantime, Don catches up with Terry in San Diego. He is working at the shipyards. He tries to join the service, but does not pass the physical. They rate him a 4F, meaning he is not fit for duty. The young girl is with him.

Don says to Terry as soon as he can get him alone, “There is a warrant out for your arrest.” He adds,”Don’t you have a lick of sense, man?” Don tells him, “It can be quite serious since you crossed the state line with her.” He adds, “You need to lose her! Now! Put her on a bus heading back to her father,” he tells him. “You’re crazy to keep her with you anymore.”

Terry ignores Don’s pleas.

“You are a married man, Terry. You are not single! You cannot marry her. Besides,” he adds, “Her daddy’s going to kill you. Ditch her. Cut your losses, before you are arrested.”

Terry ignores him.

When the girl comes in the room, she starts hanging all over Terry.

Don stands up to leave, telling him, “I will see you later. Think about what I said, Terry”.

Don finds a phone and calls the property owner back where the girls are staying and leaves a message for Peggy to call him back at the payphone at 7:00 o’clock; he will be waiting for her call.

When Peggy calls back, he tells her where they are and that the girl is still here with Terry and that he will be working on getting the girl on a bus heading back to her father.

“In the meantime, Peggy, you and Nellie pack up and head out here,” he says. “Call me every night at 7:00 o’clock to let me know where you are. I love you and take care with your driving.”

Peggy and Nellie set out in Don’s car.



(This is a picture of Don’s car. Nellie is sitting in the front. That is Don. The picture is taken before this trip they are on now.)

When they leave, the top is down, allowing the heat from the sun’s rays to warm their bodies. Later however, a chilly breeze comes up, requiring them to halt to keep from freezing. Both Nellie and Peggy try to get the top up, but, the top will not budge. They lack the strength to force it. Anxious as they are to reach their destination, they decide to continue driving all night, if need be, regardless of the weather.

To keep warm, they retrieve Nellie’s quilts from the trunk. Laying one quilt over their lap and wrapping another around their head and shoulders like a cape, they continue on their way.

The highlight of their trip takes place outside of San Diego on a hill or mountain with an elevation of 6,000 ft. It is freezing cold. It is Middle-of-the-night. The brakes on the car go out. Peg, as stubborn as she is, is still determined to make it down that hill, brakes or not.

Therefore, she takes the remainder of Nellie’s quilts and throws them over Nellie’s head. Peggy says, “Keep your head down!” Then, Peggy takes off down the mountain without any brakes.

At the bottom of the hill, Peggy pulls into a gas station for brake fluid and directions to the address Don gave her.

The attendant tells her,” it is going to take more than just brake fluid, Miss. There is a bad leak. The fluid is just going right through.” He wipes his greasy hands on a rag. Then he continues, “I will not be able to get a new hose line until morning after the parts house opens.” He points to the motel, “I recommend you stay at the motel next door until then.”

Peg and Nellie grab their luggage out of the automobile. “See you tomorrow then,” Peg says.

They walk to the motel. They check in. They rent one room, one bed which they will share. They hit the rack, exhausted.

The next morning after a cup of coffee, they check on the repair of the automobile. “Your automobile is ready,” the attendant reports.

“Thank you,” Peg says. “I really appreciate your quick work on my vehicle. We really need to get moving.” They pay for the repairs. And with the directions in hand, they hit the road again. It is not far to their destination.

Don is sitting on the stoop drinking his morning coffee when they drive up. “Have you had breakfast?” He asks.

“No, we have not yet eaten,” Peggy answers.

Nellie shakes her head to the left and right.

“There is a nice café just around the corner,” Don says. “Wait here, I’ll grab my wallet and treat you to a nice hot breakfast.” Don goes inside.

Don tells Terry, “The girls are here.” He grabs his wallet and hat. “Now,” he says, “Take that girl to the bus station as soon as I leave with Peggy and Nellie.”

“Okay!” Terry exclaims. “She’ll be out of here when you get back.”

The girl puts up a fight and insists she is not leaving. Terry gets her bags, picks her up, and takes her to the bus station and leaves. He arrives back at the apartment shortly before the others return from breakfast.

Within an hour after Nellie and Peggy arrive back at the apartment, there is a knock on the door. Don answers the door. “Is Terry here?” A police officer asks.

“Whose there?” Peggy calls out to Don who had gone to answer the door.

“It is the police. They are looking for Terry. They are here to arrest him”, Don says, “The police have a warrant. Peggy, tell your brother to get his butt out here.”

“Okay, will do.” Peggy goes to the bedroom where Terry is laying down. “Get your lazy butt up”, she says, “You’ve got visitors that insist on seeing now”! She exclaims.

When Terry comes out, the police arrest him on the spot, handcuffing him and placing him in the back seat of the police car.

Terry learns the girl called her father from the bus depot, telling him Terry’s whereabouts. Her father notifies the police of Terry’s location. Charges are filed. Consequently, the San Diego Police Department issues a warrant for Terry’s arrest.

Nellie and Peggy go to Terry’s arraignment. After hearing Terry’s statement and seeing Nellie’s condition, the Judge makes a decision to release Terry into Nellie’s custody.

The Judge says to Nellie, “If this man so much as looks at another woman, Nellie, you are ordered to contact me personally. Do you understand?” He says.

Nellie Nods.

“He will go to jail quicker than you can snap your fingers. This is the condition for his release to you.” The Judge says, “He is to tow the mark. Do you understand?” He again asks Nellie.

Nellie answers, “Yes.”

“Nellie, you are to tie him to your apron strings. He is to do his duty as a husband and father or he will spend the next 5 to 10 years in jail. Do you understand, Terry?” The Judge stares at Terry.

Terry hangs his head down, Lifts it back up and replies, “Yes, Your Honor, I understand and will abide by your ruling.”

The Judge hit his gavel and exclaims, “Next case!”

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Tales of Mom 10


In Search of Terry


Peg, Terry’s sister, is younger than Nellie. But she is mature. She’s been married twice. The first marriage lasts all of two weeks until she deserts him after finding out he wants to keep her barefoot and pregnant. Only thing is she isn’t able to have kids of her own. He is also demanding and domineering. He transforms into an entirely different person the day they marry. Peg, on the other hand. Is an independent sole and in her mind’s eye, if anyone is going to do the controlling, she will be the one in charge. Their differences do not meet a common ground. If they stay together, they will wind up killing each other. A divorce is not easily come by; impossible if a woman tries to initiate the process. Still since Peg deserts Herald, he has the option to file for divorce on those grounds (desertion) and he does.

Peg learns she is a free woman again when an article appears in the local paper announcing the dissolving of the marriage between Harold Marsh and Peggy M. Smith because of desertion.

“Woo-pee! Woo-pee! Woo-pee! There is a time for everything under the sun. Today is my time to celebrate!” She exclaims. “Free at last! Free at last!” Peg saves that announcement from the paper.

Herald is a bad boy type, so she is better off without him. Before they marry and for a few runs after, Herald sent Peg on trip runs moving bootleg liquor from wet counties to dry counties in his huge truck for which he also hauls vegetables at the same time. Herald says, “Baby Peg, must earn ya keep,” shaking his finger at her, he continues shooting out commands,” Don’t speed. Stay within the limits. I don’t want to visit ya in jail.”



(Herald Marsh’s truck)

Peg is only 5’2” tall so to accommodate her height, he fastens 4 by4 blocks to the pedals so she can drive the big truck. No one ever suspects a young innocent looking girl is breaking the law. He stashes the bootleg in the center and surrounds it with vegetable crates full of fresh vegetables and fruits.


(Peg, sitting on top of vegetable crates)

Now she is married to her second husband, Don McKenzie. He is a sweet, polite young man who is fun and caring too. Peg is driving Nellie Mae up to the C.C.C. (Clyde Citizens Training Corp School) where the guys are at. They set out alone in Peg’s car on this trip.

The automobile runs good, no mechanical problems, no flat tires, nothing. All Pa’s worries are for nothing.

When they arrive at the C.C.C., Nellie surprises Terry; he did not know she was coming. Don knew, but didn’t share the information with him. Terry seems happy to see Nellie Mae. Terry and Don were staying in the barracks, but now Peg and Nellie are here continuing there is out of the question. They all decide to camp out in the desert.

Terry Smith & Nellie Mae (Coffin) Smith camping out

(Terry and Nellie Mae camping out)

The desert becomes their home for a short while until between the four of them they can scrounge up enough money to rent a place together.


(Nellie Mae and her brother-in-law, Don (Peg’s husband))

Nellie feels good about the arrangement. She is thrifty, a good cook, and knows how to pinch the pennies in rough times. Camping gives the couples the time to have fun exploring the desert and the opportunity to get to know each other again. Nellie brought the four quilts she made to keep them warm, if need be. She was busy the last two years adding to her hope chest while waiting for the day they will again be together.

Nellie Mae’s and Terry’s time together is like having the honeymoon, they never had.


(Nellie Mae and Terry)


(Nellie Mae and Terry)


(Tetters field in Arizona)

Peg and Nellie get a few hours’ work a day at Tetter’s field, picking produce. Nellie picks up some of the toss asides to help make ends meet; she plans to throw them in with a pot of soup for the evening meal.

By sharing a place with Peg and her husband Don, Nellie and Terry make ends meet. It seems everyone is happy about the arrangement. We find a place. It is small, but the four of us manage.

The previous tenants left some flower pots. Nellie says, “I can plant a few vegetables to help us out. Some vegetables can reproduce without planting seeds. Don’t throw away the end of the cabbage, lettuce, celery, green onions. I can plant them and produce new crops from them; it will help out eventually with our food bill.”


(Peg and Don McKenzie)

Six month fly by. To Nellie this time with Terry is like having the honeymoon she always wanted, only the time together, loving each other, matters.

When Terry says, “I have to work late”, he looks right into her eyes. “Don’t expect me home,” he continues, caressing her cheek gently with his hand. “I am going to spend the night at the camp.”

She makes no qualms about his announcement, loving him and trusting him as she does. The next morning when Nellie Mae awakes, she decides to spend some time alone exploring the town. So she sets out early walking before Peg wakes. She wants to be alone to think and decide how she is going to break her good news to everyone, especially Terry.

Occasionally, she kicks at the dirt on the road and watches the wind gather each speck of dust into a funnel shape as if it were a mini tornado, moving them swiftly across the road, only to let them scatter when they reach their destination.

She longs for the time the leaves on the trees will turn red, yellow, and orange and the scene will be full of lustrous colors. Before long, they will be falling to the ground and making way for the winter freeze.

At the cross road, she turns sharply to the left onto brick pavement. The morning dew still lingers on the red bricks, making them slippery in some places. Nellie carefully steps around the wet places. Ahead she sees the shops, some just opening the door for business.

At the general store, she purchases a Dr. Pepper, knitting needles, and a ball of yarn. Dr. Pepper just went on the market in her state. According to her acquaintances, its distribution will take place in the southern states first and then go on sale nationally shortly thereafter. Nellie was personally asked my her personal friends to invest in the initial promotion of the soda at its start up, but she just could not see how she could part with the little money she had, especially since the involves a risk. Now she wishes she had, as the product is selling well in the south; it had its beginning in her hometown of Denison.

This little town is much larger than her hometown. The shops are quaint and interesting. “Nothing wrong with window shopping,” she tells herself, “it don’t cost a red cent.  We needs be pinching our pennies to makes ends meet.”   She suddenly feels drawn to a distant display window; she doesn’t understand why. She is too far away from the window to tell just what it is that compels her so. She can see the sign hanging over the door. Printed in big bold letters is the name: Crockett’s Pawn Shop. “Never be in a town large ‘nough for a pawnshop”, she says under her breath. Little does she realize the signs meaning. She stands in front of the window, looking in.

The sun’s reflection blocks her view. To obstruct the glare of the sun, she places both her hands next to her eyes and presses her face to the window. She is shocked.

“Dat be my quilt!” She exclaims. “How’d my quilt get dar?” She asks herself in a low voice.

A hand-printed sign is leaning on the quilt; it reads, For Sale $25. She immediately goes inside, anxious to discover the answer to her question. Pointing to the quilt, she says, “Dat quilt—”

“That quilt can be yours little lady for $25.” a man behind the counter replies quickly before she can finish her sentence.

He takes the quilt from the window case and says, “Just look at the fine stitching”. Bringing the quilt close to her so she can inspect it, he says, “Why, it’s a steal for the price.”

“Its’ be stole,” she replies.

“Shall I wrap it for you?” He asks, thinking she means she wants to buy it from him.

“It’s be stole,” she repeats, “dem fine stiches be mine,“ she adds. “Ya can’t’s sell my quilt!” She yells. “Cant’s sells a body’s history,” she cries. With tears flowing from her eyes like a dam bursting from the weight of its burden, she grabs the quilt from his grasp before her tears blind her.

The storekeeper does not want any part of this. Nellie’s tears and sobs bring on lookers, which is not good for his business. After all, she says the quilt is stole; it belongs to her. He does not want his business to get a black eye from such an accusation, so he comforts her; and he tells her to take the quilt back, explaining when he bought it he did not know it was stolen property.

His description (tall, about 6’4’’”, dark hair, wearing a captain’s hat) of the man who sells him the quilt yesterday fits Terry to a tee. The storekeeper tells her, “He said he was on his way out of town so there will not be any chance of catching up with him and setting all this straight.”

Nellie remains silent (except for her sobs). She thought they were both happy.

clip_image018 (Terry & Nellie)

Terry never gives her any indication he has contrary thoughts about them as a couple. “Just when things are going so well,” she thinks. “Now I have to wonder: Is he coming back? Have I been deserted?”

She cries all the way back to the place they share with Don and Peg. “What am I going to do.? I am with child. Terry does not know. Nobody knows, just me.”

Don has already gone to work. Peg is still there. Nellie pours her heart out. Peg’s mouth drops open. “My brother’s a cad!” She exclaims.

“He does not know,” Nellie sobs.

“Well he is going to be finding out real quick!”

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Tales of Mom 3


The Farm, the Chores, and Ma


When the rooster crows: “Cock-kea-doodle-do Cock-kea-doodle-do”. It is time to get up; it is time to dress; it is time for work. On the farm, the rooster is the alarm clock; it crows every morning at the crack of dawn just as the sun peeps over the horizon. Nellie normally doesn’t get up at this time, but now she is helping Ma; things are changing.

“Nellie, Nellie, get ya up. We gots’ work to do.” Ma calls out. She reaches over to Nellie lying in bed and shakes her slightly. “Nellie, Nellie, the cows are a waiting for us to milk ‘em.” Holding her finger to her lips Ma, whispers, “Sh-h, be quiet. Don’t want to wake everyone else.”

There is no time to dawdle. There is a lot to do around a farm, especially when there are so many children. Ma plans to teach Nellie to perform her new duties just as she taught her to do the chore of feeding the chickens and gathering their eggs when she was younger. She feels Nellie will learn quickly; her duties will be rewarding and challenging for her. It will be like going to school to be a homemaker. When you like what you do, it doesn’t seem like work, Ma feels learning to care for the farm animals will be fun for her.

“Ok, Ma. I’s comin’.” Nellie quickly rises from her bed, slips on her dress, and follows Ma to the barn.

The barn is behind the house. It isn’t a huge barn. It’s just big enough for one horse, and two cows, and Pa’s workshop. It never had a lick of paint. Its color can only be described as a weathered grey.

The pig’s pen is just to the left of the barn. There are two hogs (one male and one female) plus a dozen little baby piglets in the pen. To the right of the barn, next to two huge pecan trees, is the chicken pen. Normally, the first thing Nellie does when she gets up is head to the chicken pen to feed the chickens. While they peck at the ground for the feed, she takes her basket and gathers the eggs for the breakfast meal. If there is an abundance of eggs, she puts them in another basket for sale.

This morning the chickens wait; they are no longer first on Nellie’s schedule. The cows come first now. Milking the cows is the reason Ma and Nellie rise early. The cows come first. And they come last.

Ma explains, “it is important Bitsy and Gertie get relieved of their milk first before we do the other chores ‘cause they get irritable if they has to wait.” Ma smiles and says, “Bout the same time every mornin’ and every evenin’ be milkin’ time. There is a special way to milk the cows.” She says as they open the barn door.

Ma walks over and grabs her milking stool and sits down next to Bitsy. She pats Bitsy gently and speaks softly to her, “It’s Okay, girl. It’s Okay”. She repeats calming her, and introducing her to Nellie.

“Come on, Nellie, you touch her. Her hide is soft; the hair part is a little prickly, not so much like humans. “She tells, Nellie.

Ma talks to that cow just like she is talking to a person. “Okay, Bitsy, here we go. You be nice to Nellie when it’s her turn to try. ”She lays her head forward against the side of her body, reaches down and grabs the teats and milks her.

And the cow answers, “Moo, moo.”

“Pa be makin’ ya a stool just like mine. That way we both can milk at the same time. He be getting another pail too when he be in town, Nellie. Won’t that be nice?”

Nellie replies, “Um.”

It is exciting for Nellie learning to make things; it gives her a sense of accomplishment. Ma let her make butter this morning after milking the cows. She helps mom skim the cream from the top of the bucket. Then they put the skim cream in the churner. “Just use quick up and down motions with the churning stick; it be thicken to butter in no time.”

A quick lesson on how to operate the hand churn and Nellie is making butter.

The cows give milk twice a day, once at the break of dawn and then again at early evening. Filling the bottles with milk after two pitchers full are set aside for the family for breakfast is Nellie’s job now. She makes ready for delivery to neighbors in need the milk in the bottles. Not everyone has a cow. Nor do they have laying chickens for that matter. Eggs are also put in baskets for delivery.

Immediately after breakfast, Nellie delivers milk, eggs, and butter to the neighbors who are in need. And she retrieves the empties (bottles and baskets) from the customer. She will wash and sterilize the bottles before they are used again.

Nellie ran out while Ma was fixing breakfast and fed the chickens and collected the eggs. She enjoys the labor at the farm. After breakfast will be time to slop the pigs. The pigs get all the meal scraps mixed in with their feed; they eat just about anything. Then it will be time to care for the garden. Ma has the garden set up right next to the water well, making it easier to care for the plants and watering.

There is never a dull day on the farm, especially this one. There is always some project in progress depending on the time of year or another baby on the way.

When Ma has the baby boy, there is no keeping Nellie away from him. She cares for him as if he is her own. After Ma feeds him, she cradles him in her arms, burps him, swaying back and forth, as she hums a lullaby until he falls asleep.

Nellie harvests the Pecans in the fall; the twins are her little helpers by then and Nellie uses them to help pick up the pecans on the ground and she enlists their help in other projects too. In early spring (after the fear of frost), they assist Nellie in planting the new garden. To a child everything is wonderful; they enjoy learning and exploring, and digging.

In late summer, it is planting time again for some cool weather plants. Time passes quickly when you are busy and enjoying what you do.


Nellie is growing into a good looking little lady. Pa snaps this picture of her before church one Sunday. School doesn’t teach you how to sew and do the things that you do on a family farm. Nellie makes the dress she is wearing all by herself. Ma is proud of her; and it pleases her to see Nellie doing things for herself and it pleases her to see such good results of her sewing adventure.

Yes, sewing can be an adventure. There are so many things you can make at only a fraction of the cost of purchasing an already complete item. If you make a mistake, you have to rip it out and re-sew it. Sounds dull, but that’s not necessarily so. It is less expensive than purchasing an item from the store already finished; usually, you can only afford one finished item a year (if you are fortunate enough to have money for that purpose). If you save enough flour, sugar, or grain sacks, there is no cost, except your time.  On the farm, nothing goes to waste.

And taking care of the twins is rewarding. They grow fast. Nellie makes the twins dresses too. Sometimes it is difficult finding enough flower sacks with the same pattern on them. When she can, the twins get new matching dresses and Nellie sews them. And Nellie gets rewards of kisses and hugs for all her efforts.


Nellie relinquishes the chore of feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs to the twins. They enjoy the adventure each morning. They love playing with the little chickens when they hatch from the fertile eggs. Dog keeps his eyes open and watches them play with the baby chickens. I think he is jealous of the attention they give to the other animals at the farm. Dog thinks he should be the one getting all the attention.


You may say, “A Nellie needs friends”. But she has the best friends possible because her friends are family too. Nellie’s friends (in addition to her siblings) are her cousins. Besides, the other type of friend comes and goes. Family is forever her own and she can rely on them for help when she needs it.

When Ma has the other two boys, she happily takes over the caring for them too.

As years pass by, both Ma and Pa agree she does her duty by them, and now that the children have aged, it is time for Nellie to seek a life of her own.


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Tales of Mom 9


Nellie Plans to Leave

Tales of Mom 9

Nellie Plans to Leave

The depression deepens, leaving Nellie wondering about Terry.

“Pa, I got to finds ‘em,” she says. “It be two years since I sees ‘em.”

The few years they are together before the country sinks into a deep depression, Terry does as he says he will: He teaches Nellie Mae to speak. He said, “All she needs is self-confidence, instruction, and practice, lots of practice.”

Although Nellie practices both day and night, she never meets Terry’s perfective expectation.

Nevertheless, the doctor says, “It is a miracle. I did not expect her to perform as well as she does. Terry has truly done wonders with her.”

Now looking at Pa, Nellie feels he is about to mention Terry is not bothering to write. It does not matter to Pa that he writes his mother, telling her he is ashamed to write Nellie because he feels he cannot provide for her, as he should.

Pa says,”A man’s primary duty is to care for his wife. When you marry, you become as one.” Then he gives me this silly grin and adds, “Would you cut off your right arm and leave it at home while you explore the universe?”

Well, when Pa puts it that way, Nellie has to contemplate what is going on here? But right now, she is not in a mood for a lecture, so she spurts out quickly before he has a chance to say a word, “I know ya don’ts wants me followin’ after ‘em, buts I got to.”

Trying hard to prevent her Pa from starting one of his lectures, she answers his questions before he gets a chance to voice them. “Peg (Terry’s sister) says I cans go wit’ ‘er. ‘Er hubby sent fer ‘er. He tells ‘er, ‘Terry is ‘ere at da C.C.C. (Cylde Citizen’s Training Corp School).’”

Before Nellie gets a chance to catch her breath and continue, Pa asks, “Why doesn’t he send for you himself?”

“Ya knows how proud ‘em is!” She exclaims, attempting to provide an honorable explanation for his neglect in face of her uneasiness with the circumstances herself.



(The C.C.C. uniforms the students wear)

“Women should not be traipsing around the countryside by themselves”, Pa begins to lecture with his remark.

“Peg got a car,” Nellies quickly replies. “Her daddy teaches her how to fix da car if dar be trouble,” she explains.

Pa already knew of Peg’s ability; she helped him fix his car when he broke down in town just last week.


(Pa’s car is next to the station with its hood up)

So at this point, Pa keeps his silence even though Nellie pauses for a moment giving him a chance to speak.

“’Besides, I needs be wit ‘em,” she says. Deciding to change her tactic somewhat, she quotes, “’For bett’r or worse,’” and then asks“, ain’t dat wats ya tells someone when ya marries dem, Pa?” Not waiting for an answer, she immediately initiates another quote, “’Lets no man . . .”

Interrupting her before she has a chance to finish, he says, “You made your point”. Being a preacher and believing a man should be with his wife, he feels he has no alternative but to say, “Better pack, young lady”.

“I already packed—never unpacked, ‘cept my clothes,” she says excitedly as she moves around the room.

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Tales of Mom 8


Heartthrob, Red, Pa, and the stranger


Meanwhile, the times get hard. To supplement the family income, Pa takes a side job; and he supplies his employer with some items fresh from the farm.

Nellie use to walk the eggs to the market each week for him. Now Pa walks to town every afternoon (except Sunday) to do some clerking for Gidby at the Country store. He supplies him with fresh eggs, fresh churned butter, and milk daily.

Red, Pa’s pet hen (who by the way, is the color red and thinks Pa, is his Ma) follows, stopping occasionally to peck at the ground. If Pa gets too far ahead of her, she makes a racket, as if to order Pa to “Wait up.” Then she dashes as fast as she can to catch up, kicking up the dust as she goes.

Similarly, the horse, who Pa calls Heartthrob, starts following them (Pa and Red) around the farm; he walks close to the fence line as far as he can and then stands watching Pa and Red disappear upon the horizon each afternoon.

Mysteriously, Heartthrob knows when it is time for Pa and Red to return. Making his way back to the same spot, he stands waiting when they come across the hilly crest. One night he seems agitated. As Pa and Red start down the slope, he whinnies, snorts, and kicks up the dust when he sees them.

“What is the matter with you?” Pa calls out.

Red starts clucking.

Heartthrob stands on his hind legs, whinnies, and then runs in circles, shaking his head, snorting, and kicking up the dust.

“Get your hands up,” a rough, unshaven, dirty looking stranger yells.

Pa either does not hear him or pretends not to hear.

The stranger repeats himself. “Get them up I said.”

Before Pa gets a chance to respond, Heartthrob jumps the fence and knocks the gun from the man’s hand just as he is fixing to shoot.

The man falls to the ground, landing right next to Red, startling her. Feathers fly and dust fills the air when the stranger reaches for the gun lying next to her. Red is “Clucking. Clucking and clucking”

Heartthrob stomps on the stranger, attempting to protect his new friend, Red.

“Whoa, boy,” Pa says, trying to calm Heartthrob down  when he sees him attacking the man.

Pa did not fear the man as you might think; instead, he believes like Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

With one exception above all else, Pa says, “Fear the Lord God, the Almighty.”

Thinking the stranger is having ‘hard times.’ Pa is about to ask the man to the farm to comfort and feed. Hoover makes our responsibility as citizens clear during his presidency, saying it is the people’s responsibility to help and feed each other when the need is there; this declaration does not change things at our farm; we always feed and care for strangers willing to work. According to Pa, those who are not willing to work deserve to starve.

After the harvest of the potatoes, Pa digs a huge hole close to the house. He then puts the potato harvest in the hole and covers the hole to keep them cool. As long as we are careful not to disclose where we store our winter supplies, there will be enough to feed us till spring. That means it is important not to be seen removing items from the different storage places of the various crops we harvest.

The farm produces most of what we need. There are two cows in the barn, two hogs, a bunch of piglets in the pigpen, a roaster and three dozen or more chickens are in the henhouse and just as many in the chicken pen. There is corn, pecans, walnuts, tomatoes, herbs, onions, rhubarb, potatoes, apples, figs, and other fruits and vegetables growing for family consumption on the farm. It is a lot of work trying to keep the crops growing and preparing for the winter.

The scarecrows may keep the birds out of the crops, but they do not keep out desperate people. When desperate people are not willing to work it is not our problem. Pa caught a man digging into our hole one night; he is now in jail. If a man asks for food in exchange for work, Pa helps him out by giving him work, food, and shelter for the night. However, the man Pa caught tries to steal it. He never thinks of the consequence of his own action. Or he never thinks how his actions affect us or himself either. This is a different story.

People blame Hoover for the hard times. Pa says this is why he lost the election to Roosevelt. Nevertheless, even after Roosevelt takes office, times get even worse. Why, even Nellie returns home after the Mill closes.

Terry on the other hand, set out for parts unknown, looking for work. Perhaps, he is like this stranger, hungry, and desperate. Pa says the government had a hand in making the ‘hard times’ harder—had something to do with foreign countries.

However, this strange man (who Heartthrob and Red attack) has no knowledge of the political ramifications; to him, it is a matter of survival, his survival.

Consequently, Pa invites the man to the farmhouse to eat and offers to let him sleep in the barn in exchange for helping out a bit on the farm with some work Pa needs help with and needs to complete before the hard winter sets in..

Conversely, the man chooses not to because the next thing he does is take advantage of the opportunity to regain his footing when the occasion presents itself while Pa is calming Heartthrob. Forgetting his gun lying on the ground, the stranger starts running and yelling, “Your horse is nuts, Mister. He nuts”!

Since then,  Heartthrob walks with Pa and Red to and from town, warning them of impending danger.

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Tales of Mom 7


The Meeting

By Trudy A. Martinez

The next night Terry waits; he arrives early at the set meeting place. Nine O’clock comes and goes, but no Nellie Mae. All the while he is thinking, “She’ll be here any minute.” Occasionally, he pulls out his pocket watch, flips it open to check the time, and tells himself, “In a minute, she’ll be here, in a minute.”

After a while, he gets out of the automobile and walks around, pacing back and forth. He is so certain she will come. In his mind he imagines reasons for her delay, “Her daddy must be up late dealing with a household problem; or he’s preparing for Sunday’s sermon.” When the cock crows and the sun hit the horizon, he knows his wait is over. He is wrong. Nellie isn’t coming. He waited all night, hoping. He hangs his head down in disappointment, his tiredness overwhelms him, and he dozes off to sleep right there in his automobile just below the hilly crest.

A few hours pass. Terry awakes suddenly.

“I ‘m a man of my word,” Terry tells himself. “I’m going to see her daddy.” He declares,” I don’t just want to court her; I want her for my wife”.

Nellie is at the mill working when Terry came a calling on Pa without her knowledge. Pa is not too happy about the matter, especially since he immediately asks, “May I have Nellie Mae’s hand in marriage.”

Terry’s request comes as a complete surprise. There has been no courting. And Pa knowing Terry’s reputation and all doesn’t help matters.

Pa tells Terry, “I’ll need to get back to you, Terry, on this matter. I just won’t give you an answer one way or the other until I speak with everyone this might affect. And frankly, I just don’t believe you are worthy of my daughter’s hand.”

Terry leaves, thanking him for his consideration.

The whole matter just doesn’t sit well with Pa.

Ma, on the other hand, (remembering five or six years back what happens with Nellie’s friend who had all the prospects of becoming a beau and marrying her), feels a notion to defend her worthiness rather than “bad mouthing” her suitor.

“So she don’t talk proper—most of the time not at all”, Ma says, “She do well with everything else; she cooks, she sews; she be thriftier than most. She do well ‘round here. Don’t she Pa?”

Pa says nothing. Every time he looks, as if he is about to open his mouth to speak, Ma adds a little reinforcement to her argument.

“She knows how to care for the youngins,” she says, shaking a finger at him. “She practically raises them three boys on her own.”

Glancing over at Pa, she seeks acknowledgment, “Ain’t that right, Pa?” She asks.

“Of course it is—you know it too”, she answers for him. “She be up every mornin’ before the cock crows milking old bitsy.”

Pa, (thinking she might reconsider her approach if she thinks about how Nellie’s marrying will affect her) asks quickly before Ma has a chance to take a breath and start in again, “What are you going to do without her, Ma?”

“I—be missing Nellie —that for sure.” Leaning over close to Pa’s ear she suggests, “This boy wantin’ her. He’s wantin’ to help Nellie talk too. We cannot let him slip away. We got to be doing right by her, Pa. She be twenty-two in December”.

After pausing for a moment to gather her thoughts, she starts in again, reminding him of past mistakes they make.

“If you ask me that question: “What are you going to do without her?” Before you scare the poor little Griffin boy, Earl, away, Nellie be married now with youngins of her own. We never see him no more, not even on Sundays.”

Neither considers Nellie’s feelings on the subject, but they decide amongst themselves to let Nellie decide for herself.

Ma tells Nellie when she returns home from the Mill, “Terry came by to see Pa, asking permission to courts ya, Nellie. How ya feel about it? Does ya want be courted, Nellie?

Nellie nods.

“Then Pa be telling him it’ll be okay for him be courting ya.”

As soon as Terry gets the news, he is at the door. Nellie no longer walks to the Mill every day (except Sunday). Instead, Terry picks Nellie up and drives her there in his automobile; he returns her home in the evening. On Sunday’s Terry accompanies Nellie to her Pa’s church. It is a regular routine until (after a short engagement) Terry pops the question. Nellie accepts. And they both run off and elope; they marry.



(Nellie Mae and Terry Charles on their wedding day)


They set up housekeeping nearby. Nellie continues to work at the mill. Terry encourages and instructs Nellie on her speech. They are a beautiful looking couple. Nellie is truly a beautiful woman.



(Nellie made this outfit. She now dresses to please her husband)

Ma and Pa accept the marriage and pray everything will go well with them. Knowing Nellie received the right spiritual training, they feel she will seek the Lord’s guidance in her life as time goes by.

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Tales from Mom 1


The Chicken Feathers

By Trudy A. Martinez

As darkness dissipates the rooster crows, Nellie Mae awakes. She raises her head from an overstuffed pillow, one she personally fills with chicken feathers in her earlier years. Ma said when she is only four, “Nellie, you is old enough to do the chores. Get the basket yonder and come with your mama.”

Tagging after Ma, she watches and learns to gather the eggs for the morning meal. Next to an egg, she discovers her first feather. It is different, not a typical chicken feather, consisting of a hard tube like quill; instead, the quill is underdeveloped and soft; and the feathery portion is white, light, and airy. Holding the feathery fluff up to admire its beauty, it shimmers and dances out of her hand into the cool morning breeze. Quickly, she seizes the airy fluff from its flight and stuffs it in her pinafore pocket, placing it later in her secret place.

Each day’s journey to the chicken pen produces more. Although her chores involve plucking feathers from the dinner chickens, persnickety as she is, she expresses no interest in them; only the little ones she unveils with the eggs catch her fancy. Perhaps the disinterest in the plucked feathers is why it surprises Ma to learn of her collection.



(Nellie Mae is the light hair little girl standing next to Pa. Pa is sitting holding her younger brother (at that time). Behind Pa is Grandma Ida. Next are Nellie’s older sister and two other brothers. That is Ma sitting in the chair)

Ma is not snooping in Nellie Mae’s things as you might think; she is cleaning when, knocking over a box, feathers suddenly fly all over the room.

Watching Ma reaching to capture the tiny feathers as they take flight above her head and then float downward like snowflakes on a frosty winter morn is quite a sight. The thrust of her hand, like a burst of wind, sends the tiny feathers scurrying in the opposite direction as she attempts to snatch them from midair.

Catching a few, she vies to put them back; unfortunately, each time she raises the lid as many feathers leave as are put in. Ma, growing weary of the process, leaves the room, snatches an empty flour sack, and yells for Nellie’s help; and they both stuff all the feathers into the flower print sack. A piece of that sack survives in a quilt Nellie later makes.

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Tales from Mom 2

Tales from Mom 2 by Trudy A. Martinez

Posted on July 10, 2014

The Quilt Nellie Makes

By Trudy A. Martinez

The very same quilt Nellie makes, now tattered and worn, that adorns her bed has a stitched piece of the flower sack that once held her secret stash of feathers. Ma shares many secret ways, as part of her Indian heritage, of remembering the past down to minute details. She adopts quilt making as a means of preserving for later recall of one’s own history. Nellie did the same. The survival of the flower patch in her quilt is a testament to that.

Her hand touches the patch as she pulls back the quilt, raises herself slowly from her reclining posture, and brings herself to a sitting position at the edge of the bed. “Nev’r nuff”, she utters as her fingers stroke the patchwork. More years than she cares to remember pass since she hand-stitches the pieces together; the once bright and colorful colors, now are fading; but the memory each patch holds are still bright and clear as they rise with the sun every morning, reminding her of her youth, her loves, her sorrow.

Nellie Mae only went to fifth or sixth grade; she no longer remembers which it is, fifth or sixth.

Then every day is miserable for her, coming home with tears streaming down her chubby cheeks and a group of children following her, laughing and teasing and asking, “What the matter? Your cat got your tongue. Are you going to be a clown when the circus comes to town? With that hair, you will surely make everyone laugh. You’ll fit right in.” They always say something about her.

Her hair, in addition to the usual, is a subject they just cannot resist this morning.

You see, Ma broke the regular bowl she sets on her head to guide the scissors when she cuts her hair. This morning the bowl is much smaller. As a result, Nellie’s hair is so different from the norm, she not only catches her classmates’ eye but also their criticism. Teasing her is a pastime they all seem to enjoy.



(Nellie Mae is the girl in the back row (circled in red) with the above the ear short hair –cut. The picture is of the last year she attends school.)

A mounting uneasiness encompasses Nellie during this encounter. Her dread of the situation brought about by her peer’s, increasing violent reaction, sets her heart a pounding.

As they poke at her with twigs and sticks, the sound of each beat of her heart echoes and ricochets off the walls of her chest, sending out a desperate cry for help like a drum beating out a message in the deepest, darkest jungle.

She feels like a lamb led to the slaughter. Inwardly, she prays in silence even though all the time she wants to cry out, “Those of you who is without faults cast the first stone.”

She wonders as she watches the oldest boy reach down to pick up a dirt ball if he can read her thoughts. At first, he pretends to throw the dirt, causing her to flinch. Then when the others see how she reacts, they follow the older boys lead, picking up a handful of dirt stones and pretending to throw them at her; and then changing directions, they hurl them in the air like a band of jugglers.

Nevertheless, when they discover their combine attempt fails to budge her as they try to rile her enough to holler at them so they can laugh at her some more, they throw the stones. Their attack and their teasing convince her to remain silent.

Ma and Pa told her, “A child should be seen and not heard”. However, their meaning and Nellie’s interpretation of the statement under her circumstance differs. She justifies her silence through her representation of those wise words, allowing herself to keep away from what she does not wish to endure.

At home, it is another matter altogether. She makes distinguishable noises that are easy to discern by family members. Even so, she does not say much if she says anything at all. Her eyes do most of the talking. Of course, her facial expressions and body language make it clear and understandable her meaning.

With the combination of communicating methods operating together as a unit, she begs Pa to let her stay home and help Ma instead of going to school because the other children, even the teacher, show her no mercy, and she just wants to die because of it.

Ma being sickly, her older sister taking a job at the mill to help out the family financially and not able to help Ma as much, and there being nine children (including Nellie) to feed and care for, and Ma being about to have another helps to convince Pa.





(Nellie is in the back row between her older brothers. In front is her older sister, holding one of the twin girls, a younger brother, her Ma, holding the other twin, their dog, and Pa)

There is always something for her to do; and whining not her nature, she never complains. She loves taking care of her little twin baby sisters and dressing them and putting pretty ribbons in their hair.

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Tales of Mom 6


The Apple

By Trudy A. Martinez

As Nellie reaches the top of the hilly crest, she stops and glances back at Terry’s automobile moving down the road. Her mind wanders, as she cuts through the pasture, until she comes across Pa’s horse, Heartthrob. She remembers standing nearby watching her Pa jaw his tobacco, when a church member came by with a horse. “This horse has an ailing leg,” he said. “I can’t make use of him, neither can I put him out of his misery, just don’t have the heart for it. Would you care to take him?” He asked.

Pa nods in the affirmative, takes a few more chews on his tobacco, lends over to the right slightly, and spits, before he properly thanks the man. “Much oblige,” he says, thanking the man. “Appreciate you’ll thinking of me instead of putting him down.” Pa is known for his ability to work miracles (so they say) on such creatures. Animals take to Pa.

After the man leaves, Pa mixes up a remedy, plasters it on Heartthrob, and wraps it snuggly the horse leg, and sets him out to pasture. Before too long, the horse is doing much better; and the mare who shares the pasture with him is with foal.

Next to the pasture stands an old apple tree; this tree holds special memories and a special secret. When the family first moves from Sherman to the Denison farm, the huge apple tree is dying.  It has only one live limb. The rest of the tree looks desolate, and appears nearly dead. On the last remaining branch, there is one large red apple (not quite ripe) hanging for everyone to see.

Papa tells all us youngins, “Do not touch that apple;” he points to it and reiterates, “That apple is mine!”

There is no arguing with Papa; what he says is law. He is a kind man, but he is also a stern man. When Papa lays down the law, you know he means business and you better stay on the narrow path and do right by him.

The secret of the dying tree embraces and haunts Nellie Mae from time to time. Her mind rehashes the temptations wearing her down.  “I could resist, Lord. I just could resist. Try as I may, I could not resist; it was so red; I was so hungry.”

The echo of Papa’s voice telling her ”do not touch that apple” rings in her ear as she plans and as she climbs the tree anyways.  “I got the apple, Lord.  I sat under the dying tree, Lord.  And I ate that apple, the same one my Papa forbade me to eat.   It was the best.  It was juicy.  Never had I tasted an apple so sweet. Forgive me Lord.”

Papa asks, ‘Who ate my apple?’

He never asks directly. “Nellie did you eat my apple?”

Nellie Mae says as she rehashes the memories of her failing. “Someday I’ll tell Pa, someday, but not today.”

Heartthrob takes the blame by default for the missing apple. He is the right height to reach up and grab it. Nellie buries her shame and her actions deep in her memory telling herself, “Someday, someday, but not today.”

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Tales from Mom 5


Off the Narrow Path

By Trudy A. Martinez

Seeing the farmhouse up the road and wanting to get out of the car now, her hand touches his.

“You are sweet,” he says when he feels the gentle touch of her hand. Smiling, he turns to gaze upon her beauty, expecting a similar greeting in response. However, this is not to be.

Nellie, disturbed that he interprets the touch of her hand incorrectly, pulls her hand away. A stiff rigid frown replaces the once smooth lines of her smile. “O-op!” she wails, touching his hand again; this time her touch is more like a jab, and she quickly pulls it away.

“What is the matter, pretty one?’ He asks, not knowing whether the sudden change in her demeanor or the sound of her voice enlists his attention more. “You said something: ‘‘O-op’—you want me to stop?”

She nods, feeling a sense of dread quickly replaced by a sense of relief when he puts his foot on the brake pedal.

“There’s no farm for at least a half mile,” he remarks assuredly, adding“, and that is the Preacher’s,” Suddenly realizing by the look on her face he has kindled another fire with his words, he asks, “Are you the Preacher’s daughter?”

She trembles as memories of the past flash before her. Just thinking of how her Pa might react sends chills down her spine.

“You are—are you not?”

She nods slowly, not wanting to acknowledge her heritage although she knows she must. Nellie feels no embarrassment, what she feels the most is fear though not for herself but for him.

“Doesn’t matter,” he says, declaring sincerely, “I still want to see you again.” Then he asks, “When can that be?”

Shrugging her shoulders, she descends from the automobile, thinking, and “If I ignore his questions, they will stop”. However, Terry’s persistence continues and finally prevails.

“How about seeing you Sunday for Church?” He asks.

Nellie Mae keeps her silence. Her eyes grow in size, reflecting the fear in her demeanor, as she forcefully swings her head to and fro’ (from left to right) to express her negative reply. “Church,” she thought“, is the last place I want to be seen with a beau.”

“Are you afraid of what your Pa will say?”

Astonished by his response, her eyes grow even larger. She thinks he can read her mind. Nevertheless, that is not so; it is her eyes he is reading like the words on the page of an open book.

“What time does he go to bed?”

Not imagining why he asked, she holds up eight fingers before she turns to walk away.

“Wait”, he pleads, “Then meet me here at nine o’clock tomorrow night”, adding an afterthought, “After he goes to bed.”

Flustered by his request, she hesitates.

“If you don’t say yes, I’ll be pounding at your daddy’s door, asking him”, he threatens as he jumps from the vehicle and approaches her.

Thinking, “He is a lot like Mr. Peabody”; she nods under duress.

“You know, pretty thing,” he says, looking into her expressive eyes“, you say more with them eyes, and nods and gestures than most women do with a thousand words”.

Nellie blushes shyly, dropping her face from his sight.

His hand catches her head just under the chin; tilting it back, he kisses her tenderly on the mouth. “I’m going to teach these lips to speak,” he says.

She pushes him away, turns, and runs toward the hilly crest, thinking, “That is all I need—him to be laughing at me like the others”. Oh, how she wants to talk like other people without hearing laughter after each word she speaks. “Can he really teach me?” She asks herself.

In her mind, she considers his good qualities. Patience, manners, and education rank the highest. His mother taught him well. Though his mother is the local schoolteacher, the same one who gave Nellie such a hard time when she went to school, she feels just because she is his mother if anyone can teach her to speak he can.

“Nine tomorrow,” he yells after her.

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