Volume III, No. 2, Winter 1975
VISITS WITH MARY MOORE
Edited by Terry Brandt Interviews by Doris Brelowski, Doug Sharp, Donna Scott, Diana Foreman, Sally Moore, and Nancy Honssinger
A little annoyance like the heating stove blowing up and settling black soot all over her six room house, or the bath tub overflowing the back of her house did not upset Mary Ann Moore (though these accidents postponed some of our visits with her), for she did not reach her nineties by letting hardships, misfortunes or loss of family and friends defeat her. Handicapped in eyesight at birth, plagued with sickness in her youth and never becoming very strong, she has continued year by year with determination and faith in God working to serve others.
She thinks there is nothing remarkable in what she's done--"I just did what had to be done"--or
that at ninety-four she still does all her own work, even washing on the wash board her household
linens soiled by the soot. What she can't understand is why she has outlived so many of her
contemporaries and friends, two sons and three grandchildren.
I think we've got to do everything we can and then trust the Lord. We got to do our part. That's the way I've got by and I was ninety-four this October.
When I was born my mother was only seventeen. She was young. My father went after the doctor on horseback. He never got back until after I was born. Well, the woman that was with her was so nervous and scared, she touched her finger in my eye. And I never had no sight in it at all. I never could see anything out of it. You see, when I was a little girl, we didn't have things to do with then, ninety-three years back.
We were even lucky to have a doctor. But I'll tell you one thing they did have was enough to get by on and love and respect for one another.
I just went to the third reader in school. I didn't get no education and I didn't get to go all the time when I went.
My mother worked lots and we didn't make no money. My father didn't nor she didn't much at all. If she got a dollar a day, that was big wages. I heard somebody say when we had this cleaning done here after my stove blew up the other day, that a woman could get $10 a day now for work. My mother worked cleaning houses for people at a dollar a day. Then when she quilted a quilt--she was an awful good quilter, now really good--she got $3. To quilt a whole quilt for $3! Well, now lots of times she had to keep me at home to take care of the little brother. I just raised him. He just died here about a month ago. I was so in hopes he'd live to be the last one, but he didn't. He went on. But I got to be with him when he was sick and talk over lots of things and it made it nice that he could go that way. We always shared and that made it awful nice.
But that's the reason I didn't get no education. I had to stay with the little one. I wanted, here about forty years back, to go to school at Springfield and learn to be a missionary. I can talk pretty good, and I can do quite a bit of work in a church and such as that. And I thought how I might help...of course, the boys, they didn't want me to. So I listened.
When I was still at home my daddy was cranky. He wouldn't let me go with nobody because there weren't no boy that would suit him. One time I was a-working at my aunt's. There was a young man there and I was talking to him. I never thought nothing about it. He just come in talking and putting away the dishes. Well, that night after prayer meeting, he wanted to go home with me. Well, I never thought nothing about it. So I let him go. And I'll tell you now I got a whipping! And I'll tell you now my daddy told him, too! Oh my! Well, he wasn't a bad boy. When I finally come on to some boy he would let come, that's who I married. I lived with him till he died and I had the children.
I was eighteen when I got married at home, right down here about three miles by a Baptist preacher. My mother now was only fifteen when she married, but now listen, she was a big girl. She was tall and her father had died and they didn't have much of a way to make a living. They didn't live too far from here, only about a mile. She got the chance to get married and her sister had married at fifteen. But you know, that's all right because lots of girls know more at fifteen than at eighteen.
When Mr. Moore died--I'll just tell you this--when he died, he was only thirty-four years old and I was thirty-three. He's been gone that long now. I was pregnant with another baby. My baby is in California now. He was born in September after his father died in May. Well, now, I went through a lot then more than I thought I could bear, but yet God is with me. I thought how in the world can I make it? How could I? Well, you know whenever you make up your mind, you can do anything. It don't make any difference what it is, we can do it. We've got to do things that way.
We lived in Joplin when he was taken sick. He took real bad. So by and by he thought if he'd come home, he'd get his doctor here. It was TB. When he come, they had the doctor and he only lived a couple of months. That was all.
And after they changed him after he died, I said, "Well, why couldn't I just live in that house?" I moved over there in one of the first houses ever built in the Burg. It wasn't a very good one. It was cold. I lived there and my brothers brought me wood. One time I got kind of low on wood, and someone knocked at the door. It was the Baptist preacher. He said, "Mrs. Moore, ain't your wood about out?" I said, "Yes, but the boys will think about it." But he said, "I'll have the wood here before noon." I saw him saw it up. He sawed many a load of wood for me whenever he'd come and there wasn't any wood on the woodpile. And you know, that was awful nice.
I went to work. I worked a long time at the hotel. We had a good hotel here then and we'd have about thirty-eight men on Monday and Tuesday. I worked there a long time. I got my baby took care of and I worked.
Well, then after that I washed for a living. I washed clothes on the board for there was no other way then. I'm very particular about my washings. I had people from away bring their washings to me, afraid I didn't have all I could do. Lots of time I had quite a little bit of money. I raised my boys.
The boys were three, six and nine when their daddy died. And then the baby was born after. I ran the Central Office [telephone] for a long time. Oh, I did just whatever come along.
We got along. We were on a farm some and went right along with the crops and we had cows and things and we just went ahead and made a living. I drove a cultivator--drove the team for my boy to plow for two years. Well, now, he was too little to plow the corn and drive the team, so I drove the horses. When he'd get done plowing, when noon'd come, we'd go to the house and he'd take care of the horse and feed the hogs. And I'd get dinner and do what I could. You know, a lot of time my dishes'd go two or three days and I oldn't wash them. If we got real busy plowing, why we went ahead plowing. And when we come in of a night, why I milked and the boys took care of the horses and things that way and we got by.
We didn't need much. They don't do like they used to. When we had a home and everything, we had it. It didn't make any difference if we just had butter and bread and something that we raised on a farm, why we just had what we needed.
Now I've got nine grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren. When I was a girl, about sixteen, my mother and everyone didn't think I would live for I was poorly. Here I've outlived my mother and my father, my husband, my three brothers and some younger ones. I couldn't understand that. Many times I wondered why that was.
I want to stay here in the Ozarks as long as I live, because I have my home and everything here, and that's what I want to do is stay here and trust the Lord.
I think God put us here for a purpose, but I don't know what it is and you don't either, but you'll come on to a good job and then when it's done or you find what you're looking for, then it's God.
I never had no education. But I can read the Bible as good as anybody. There's some words I can't pronounce, but there's a lot you can't either. I'll spell them and go right on as best I can.
That's what you want to do, you read the word of God. You take time out from going somewhere and read the Bible. You'll find out. Read in the New Testament and there won't be hardly any words you can't read. If you haven't got education, you won't be able to read, but otherwise you can make them and you'll find out.
The word of God says He sits at the right hand of Father and intercedes for us, and when he does, that's Bible. And you know, when Noah built the ark...did you ever read that in the Bible? I was just reading the other night here in a little book I had. So many people don't believe it and didn't believe Noah. They didn't nobody believe him and they made all kinds of fun and one day he was a-working and he was just a-preaching--Noah was a preacher. He told this man that the rain was coming and the flood was coming. They didn't believe a word of it. Well, the flood come and everybody got killed--everybody but those in the ark, Noah, his wife and children. That's all that was saved on this earth.
Well, when God told them to go out, when it quit raining, the first thing they sent out was a bird. It came back with a leaf. They knew the water was a-going down. That's the only way they knew because the ark was on the top. He built it out of a certain kind of lumber and had the door shut. The rain didn't hurt them. But all the other people died.
Well, the next time the Bible says it'll be fire--fire and brimstone. Well now, it'll come just like the water did.
I'm reading the New Testament. I've read it once but I'm reading it again. That's the choice scripture from the Bible.
I think it's important to teach little children to read the Bible. I remember when I went to school, the teacher got up and sang a song, and everyone would help her. Then she led in prayer. Anymore they ain't allowed to use the Bible at school. Ain't that something? When I was a girl--and that has been some time--everybody went to church because that was all they had to do.
Ever day keeps coming along and the time goes on. I'm real glad that the Lord has blessed me like He has that I could work and sew and wash. Now I washed all my things this morning--all the curtains and bedspreads that got black when the stove blew up. You know, I still wash on the board. They're much nicer that way--cleaner and whiter. It took five washings to get everything all clean again. I ironed, I do all that along with all this other work and I seem to get along as fast as anybody does.
All through life sometimes we get awfully sad and maybe it's over nothing. Then we come to the point that it shows. But then we revive over that and we're all right. But the Lord has always helped me with so many things. I look to Him for help because He has been a friend, a real friend.
I've had lots of friends in my life. I think a real friend is a friend in need--someone you can always talk to. I'll tell you I had one lady here in the Burg and she's dead now, but I could go to her and tell her anything in the world and ask her to do anything in the world and she'd do it. And my boy, he thought just as much of her as I did. Now she was a friend to us whenever I was down and got lonesome and didn't know what I was going to do. I'd just go to her and we'd get down and pray and then talk. And I'd go home all right. I never did hear anything that I ever told her that she'd told. You take a real friend and tell them something and they'll keep it. You've got a friend. Newcomers and goers don't do no good for you. They don't never get close enough to tell you nothing. They just keep it to themselves and I don't like that. I got many friends that would do anything in the world that I'd ask them.
Friends are lots nicer than money. You know you can spend your money, but friendship is always there. Now you take a real friend at any time of day or night they're a friend to you. They'd do anything for you that's right. Now that's what we ought to be careful about in particular is to always do what's right. And you want to be fair if you can because that is the way to get by.
You can talk good, you can win anybody by talking good. You know how it is in school, well, it's just that-a-way in your life--in your married life or in any life. You've got friends. Well, just stay with them and get more. We never can do nothing too good.
I've always tried to help out whenever I could. I've always done a lot of setting up and a lot of taking care of sick people. I've went and set up night after night and cared for the sick a lot here in the Burg. Today if people would sit up like we used to, they wouldn't have to hire anybody to stay or take care of you. I had a nephew that died just a couple of weeks ago in the the hospital, and you know, they just had to come out here in the country and get the folks to go and sit up and stay.
Whenever you make up your mind you can do anything. It don't make any difference what it is, we can do it.
I'd say the main thing in life is try to be yourselves, then you can show them the way.
We used to sit up with and care for the dead, 'cause we loved them and cared for them. When they had the funeral, there was a lot of help, 'cause the people then lived that way. But now we have some people that never go--not very much. I don't know why. Some say they can't. Some say they have to work. There's lots of excuses and that's the way it goes. But used to they really cared for one another. Let one get sick and over there's one coming and over here's one coming. They're coming to see what they can do. They may be awful poor but they've just got the poor ways like everyone else has and they'll just help you the best they can. When everybody was there, that's all that was required. They took care of you when you died. Showed lots of respect. Prayed lots of prayers. Sang lots of good songs--the good old-time songs.
I'll tell you one story. There's a lady died back over in here. She had been real bad sick for a couple of weeks. The fever and the flu, you know. And they hadn't doctors. She was awful bad. I went to see her several times. When she died, she died in her nightgown, it was her wish when she died that I would dress her. When I got there some of the folks were there but they hadn't touched her. So I bathed her and I dressed her. She had her things made and had them all ready. I got her ready. The next day it was awful bad--a big snow was on. Oh, it was awful deep, awful bad. When I went that night the boy got a mare and saddled her and I rode the mare and he led her and we went through the woods because the snow was so bad and the road was so slick you couldn't go.
I could tell you another case. There was this man and he was a real good man with a good wife and a good family. He got sick of pneumonia fever and the doctor came and said he is going to die if he doesn't get his bedsheets changed and cleaned because that fever is so strong, it ain't going to leave. Now they were good people but they just didn't know no better how to care for the sick. Well, the doctor came to my house and he knocked on the door. He said, "Mrs. Moore, I want to get you to go to this place and change them sheets. They think a lot of you and they won't get mad when you ask them. So I went and I said to the wife to come into the kitchen and I said, "We're going to have to change him and you and I can do that." And she said, "Oh, no, we can't do that." And I said, "Oh, yes, when it's depending on life or death, you can do anything. Yes, we can do it."
We sat him in a big chair, put something over him and we changed the bed and we changed him. We pulled off everything he had on and bathed him some. We put on clean clothes and put him back and he said, "Oh, how much better that feels." And I took all them things home and washed them and took them back. Now that was one of my neighbors and he was a good man. He worked hard. They had had a lot of bad luck. Well, this man got well and he worked for me after that a many a day. And you know, so many times when people get sick, it's the way they are took care of that causes them to die.
My neighbors was awful nice to me when I was hard up. A neighbor come to me one time and said, "Ain't your children getting kind of short on clothes to wear to Sunday School?" I said, "Yes, why they are. It seems like everything's kind of come up and seems like I got as much as I could." Well, he wrote a letter to the lodge that their father belonged to. He told them to get some money here to them children for some clothes. And you know, it come! You know when things come along that way makes it awful handy and awful nice. We can do things for children, too. I think it pays us as we go along to find a little boy or a little girl that's poor and do a good deed. I'm favorite to boys and all my children are boys. I didn't have no little girls. I love little girls, but you let a little boy come along and I'll have him in a minute--just kind of natural for me.
I've seen boys go astray, I know because of the way they was treated at home. There's a family lived right back down here and the man got awful mean to the little boy and he called him Pig. Lots of nights he wouldn't let that little boy in the house. He was little then. My boy was working away as an electrician. He come home and I told him about it. He just went and told that boy, he said, "Now listen. Anytime your dad don't let you come in, you come and Mother'll fix you a bed." And I did. He lived there a long time and I got so that when I baked pies, I always saved him a piece. If I baked cake, I saved him a piece. Ail the things we had he come in and et. Then a long time after that he met one of my boys and said, "Is your mother still living?" He said, "Yes, she's still living." He said "Tell her I want to see her." He came and he said, "Mary, I love you. I think so often about how many times you give me pie. Nobody else ever baked me pie." And of course, I just took a big cry and was glad I done it. He said, "Oh, I'll never forget you, it don't make any difference how long I live." That done me a lot of good then to hear him say that. We always can do something good if we will think so. There's been a number of children kicked out of school--boys kicked out of school. That wasn't right. Now I know one boy that was kicked out of school, and now he tried to live right and he does live right, and his father went and tried to talk to the superintendent and the real teacher. They wasn't no use about doing anything for him. Well listen...that boy quit school and that boy's not done nothing since. Well, he's got a job now, but he's got all the education he'll ever get. He can kinda write and kinda get by, but he could of had a good education. It doesn't matter what them boys done, someone at school should have talked to them. If he'd come to them boys in a good manner and told them he was sorry that he'd put them down in the world--that he was sorry that he'd robbed them of their education, and if he would have just give them the talk and said, "Well, come on and do the things that's right. I'll help you," things would have been so much nicer.
I think parents should be with their children all they can. I had four boys. I had to help them some about the milking-kind of oversee the boys. I always went with my boys whenever they went to do work. Then we got it done without a fuss. My brother said after my boys was grown, he said he wished his boys would work good like mine did. His wife said if he'd went with them like I had, they would. It does help a child to go with them. I didn't mind it any.
And I'll tell you what, I could give anybody a little bit of advice on taking care of children. I've heard this--don't spare the rod. Now you know what I'd do if I was raising my boys over? I wouldn't whip them a time. You could sit down and talk to them boys and have them sit down in a chair and talk some good talk to them. And they'd soon get till they'd be loving you a lot better and they wouldn't be a-trying to do that. And right at first they would have known that you had them under control. I've heard that so much--don't spare the rod. Some people whip their children awful hard. And the poor little children. Now boys after you whip them awful hard--after they get up pretty good size--they begin, "I'm going to leave home." That's the way they talk about it.
Many people do that in raising their families. I've got one boy seventy-five years old. I've always done different. When they want to do something that isn't right, talk to them and give them advice. And you live what you tell them.
You should go with a child when he works for it shows them how to work and makes them want to work and get money. If children have a daddy, he should make the living. I worked when my boys were little, but later I took in washings so I could be home with my boys.
There's a lot more things more important than money. If we live a life and do what's right and use the money right, that's good. But you can't worship money, though I know some people think money is a great thing. Or if they have money they don't care for nobody, not even themselves as long as they got that dollar. And I think women should stay home with their children. Did you ever think about the knocks and cuffs them poor children get without no mother to see about them? They're just unlucky. Lots of times they don't get fed and they cry themselves to sleep.
I had a hard time supporting my boys when my husband died, but I don't think it would have been easier if I was a man. You see, we kind of planned it in the way we knowed we could do it because we wasn't so strong. And if we run up against something that was too hard, we wouldn't work too hard at that, and we'd do what we could that day and go back the next day and finish it. But now, a lot of time when men start something, they got to finish it, and it does make it awful hard on them. But women could let it go now, and then finish it next day, maybe.
I'd say the main thing in life is try to be yourselves, and if you are yourself and do what you think is right, you can talk to others and show them the way. If you join them just to be in the crowd, even when you don't like it and go on with them and do what they're doing, then there's no doing nothing with them because they'll say, "Why, you done just what I done. You ain't no better than I am." But if you don't like what they're doing, go right on being yourself. It won't take them but a few minutes to notice how you're acting. There'll be somebody say something and sometimes they'll giggle and laugh, make fun. But you go on and show them what you can do and it ain't long till they see. And when they see you don't behave in that way, they'll be after you for advice.
There's many a boy walking down the road today without a job that don't know why they're put here--they don't have any idea what they can do because they don't have anyone to advise them. You may get awful blue and get dishearted and think, "Oh, I can't do nothing for them. There ain't no use in me to try." Then God's a-working on you. Right then he's showing you what to do. There's a lot of good things that we can do in this world according to the generation. But if you give way and do what the crowd does, you aren't no better than they are. You stand back and don't do it and talk and tell them, or try to tell them, it ain't long till they see. And when they see, then they change. It may take quite a little while--you may think that you're trying to do something that you can't do. But you can if you're strong enough to just stay with it. People may slight you. They even may try not to be seen with you. They'd rather not. But you just go on and you can do good work. It's just like children when you start them out with good advice. Tell them to love God. Tell them to live like the Bible says. Talk it to them in a way they will understand.
I'm sorry I couldn't visit with you the other day when you called, but my cousin's funeral was that day. I was poorly and couldn't go because it was away and all, but out of respect for him, I didn't think I ought to visit with you young people. I was so glad you could come today instead. It makes it nice to visit like this and remember lots of things I haven't thought about for a long time. If there's anything more I can help you with, do come back. Good-bye and God bless you.
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