Volume 3, Number 5
But the man-editor got in a hurry for copy, and so Uncle Ben's story came out alone in last week's issue. It was a real sacrilege thus to separate them-much like trying to divorce dear old Philemon and Baucis of the beautiful old Greek legend, who were so closely bound together by affection, that even after they had passed from mortal sight they still renewed their age in two wonderful trees-Philemon as an oak and Baucis as a Linden-and flung around themselves for a hundred years and more a hospitable shade for the comfort of wayfarers who paused beneath it, and who always heard a pleasant whisper of the leaves above their heads, and wondered why the sounds so resembled the words, 'Welcome, dear traveler, welcome; Philemon, Baucis; Baucis, Philemon
For the hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. McKinney, who have been Uncle Ben and Aunt Sis to several orphan children whom they took into their home and loved and cared for as their own, as well as to hundreds of friends who have known them through long years here in Taney County, was as delightful and genuine as that of the fabled Philemon and Baucis. The dinner table was bountifully spread-meat of their own curing, eggs from their own poultry yard, vegetables from their own garden, fruits from their own orchard, butter and milk that made one think it must be the veritable "Miraculous Pitcher" that sat on the corner of the table to Aunt Sis McKinney's left. Across the table from us was a gooseberry pie, so perfect in its crimped cap and its laughing, sugar sprinkled face, that it was a real work of art, and one that lost none of its artistic qualities in the eating; and the peach preserves were like the honey that mother Baucis served to her two guests, "none better was ever seen, smelt or tasted". The whole visit with these fine old pioneers was so redolent of the atmosphere that pervaded the home of Philemon and Baucis above the lake so many ages ago that we kept listening for the tap tap of the Quicksilver's walking stick, and peering behind us as often as we could without being noticed to see if the wonderful winged staff could be reclining in the corner behind us.
Uncle Ben is tall and thin, white haired, white bearded, soft voiced and partiarchal as the prophet Jeremiah; Aunt Sis is short and plump, dark eyed, and active as a little brown sparrow, and they have lived together nearly fifty years.
Mrs. McKinney was born in Taney County in 1844. Her father was Levi Casey, who came here from Tennessee, and Aunt Sis was the baby of the family. Mr. Casey lived near Forsyth, on what is now known as the Fisher Hill place up on Swan Creek, and it was here that Mrs. McKinney was born. Mr. Casey owned slaves, "But" said Mrs. McKinney, "slaves were never profitable here. We didn't have to farm much, it paid to raise only what we needed for ourselves, as we had no market for it, and the slaves only made more mouths to feed. Pa had one good old black that could do any kind of work a white person could-weave or cook, or anything; was always reliable and willing. I grew up with darkies on the place, but after the war they got sassy and were finally all made to leave the country".
"All kinds of work were done right at home in those days. The wheat was usually threshed by beating it out on the floor or wagon sheet. My father had a barn with a second floor made of slats, and I've ridden many a day 'trompin' out wheat. The grain fell through the slats onto the solid floor beneath and left the straw on the slat floor.
"We wove all the cloth we used, and made all our own clothes, as well as our blankets, quilts and sheets. We raised some sheep, so had our own wool. We used to take it to Ozark to have it carded into rolls ready for spinning and reeling.
"But the cotton we raised, picked it, picked out the seed by hand, then washed it in soapsuds to make it strong, then carded it into rolls".
"Well, I declare, it does seem queer that
"I've gotten rid of my loom, but I have woven many a yard of linsey and jeans. Jeans was woven with two treadles. I have a dress that I made thirty-five years ago." We wanted to see that. So Mrs. McKinney brought it out-a dress of blue and rose stripped material that she had woven herself. It was made in the half fitted wrapper style of four decades ago, and the material was not even wrinkled and not a worn place in it, showing the superiority of the old-time woven stuffs. And this called our attention to the beautiful coverlid on the bed. It was woven in large squares of blue, madder red, or rose, and white. There were at least half a dozen of the these treasures in the house, all of different designs.
"We kept a draft right before us while weaving the coverlid", said Mrs. McKinney, "and just followed that, and we had to have harness on the loom. One winter we wove over a hundred yards of goods, and I recollect it was so cold that I warmed a cloth to put on the batting to keep my hands warm, and set a skillet of coals under the treadle to keep my feet from freezing.
"We cooked by the fireplace in the old skillet and lid fashion-never knew what a cook stove was in those days-and better bread was never made than was cooked in those old skillets with the coals underneath and on top of the lid; and many was the time during the war we'd have been glad for a piece of it."
"During the war everything was mighty scarce. We used to beat up the corn in a kettle, then grind it in a coffee mill, mix it up with water and salt and cook it-we had no grease to cook with. Sallie used to say it was better than any flour bread, and I remember once when Granny Howard had been away, she came back here to Danny's-she hadn't a tooth in her head then-but she told Danny's wife that she wanted some bare-footed bread, she was tired of the soft fancy kind. I reckon a better woman never lived than old Mrs. Howard".
Old Dr. Howard was nearly blind, and she would go to see all of his sick folks, and just do anything for them; she was good all the way through, I reckon. The Howards were fine neighbors. When they first came here young Bill Howard was just a boy, he was always hunting bugs and worms. He'd put them in a box with something that would kill them, and then have them all arranged in order in boxes with glass over them, their wings pinned down to place. We used to see him out with net fastened to a hoop, runnin' through the woods a swishin' and wavin' that hoop to a handle, and we though somebody crazy was let loose, but he was a smart boy, Young Doctor was."
"My father used to tan all the leather and make all our shoes. I've gone bardfooted till Christmas before now, not because we could not afford them, but just couldn't get them. Old brogans were mighty fine then, we thought."
"We sure had bad times during the war. My father and two brothers were in the Confederate army. There were always a lot of no account folks going back and forwards; didn't belong to either army, and under no control, and they did all kinds of things they had no right to do. I recollect one day I was going to my brother's house to get some nails that he had brought from Springfield for us, and I met a Union Scout. He made me get down from my horse, and he took the horse and left me the saddle to carry. I goes on a little further, meets two more Union scouts; they ask why I am carrying that saddle. I tells them one of their men has taken my horse. They
"Sallie McKinney, my husband's sister, lived with us and I recollect one time a gang of guerillas came along and made us feed them. They said, 'We'll eat you all up'. 'I reckon you won't eat the folks', says Sallie. 'No mebbe not', says they, but we'll eat up all youv'e got and you all will have to leave the country'. They took our stock and corn and burned several houses in our neighborhood. Mrs. Casey's and Mrs. Greider's houses were burned. They got out some of their things, but not many. The fellow that burned our house swam across the river to set fire to it, and then swam back again; went to all that trouble to do such meanness".
"I recollect one time I was going with another woman to a neighbor's house, and we were riding her horse. We met some of these scamps, and they took the horse from us. A woman named Barron saw them take the horse with the saddle on down into the brush, and some boys afterwards saw them bringing the horse back without the saddle; so I just knew they had hidden the saddle down there in the brush some where. So a few days later I goes down through the brush, finds the the saddle and carries it to another place and hides it. Then I gets a horse-rides over the river and gets the saddle and takes it home. That was on what is now the old Dr. Storm's place
"One time we had some company that was leaving the next day, and we had some tough old hens to cook for their dinner, when some of these scouts came along and made us fry those old hens for their suppers. They had some tough 'pullin', but they ate them just the same, most ate bones and all".
"I was the hunter in our family. Pa was never handy with a gun. How come me ever to shoot was the hawks gettin' my chickens. First time I tried it the cap busted; so I told Sallie to get the shot pouch and caps, and I shot the hawk that time. So after that I just kept on and hunted a heap. One day I thinks to myself I'll go down to the boat landin', and I takes my gun thinkin' I might find some game, and I sees some squirrels running up and down the trees a friskin' and a playing.
One runs out on a limb and I aims at it, and just as I fires another runs down the trunk of the tree part way right in line with the one on the limb and I gets both squirrels with one shot".
"We still have that gun, too," said Uncle Ben, and he went up stairs and brought back a very long, heavy, cap cock rifle. "Yes that is the one I did my hunting with", said Mrs. McKinney. "We've had it fifty years I reckon. I shot one pure white squirrel, and I've gotten wild turkeys, and just one wild goose".
"We were married in '67, and went to live at the McKinney Bend the next year. We had good fishin' there. Me and Sally used to go down and catch a lot of fish on Saturday, and put them in a little pool up in the creek until Sunday. We always had a sight of company to Sunday dinner; folks would go to Sunday School and stop off at our house for dinner. We used to catch some big salmon; they are the prettiest fish I've ever seen.
"We used to have workin's and quiltin's and dances-the old time dances were fine, too. We danced the reels, with the women on one side and the men on the other. The man at the foot danced up the center to the woman at the head of her line-and so on back and forth and across, and march down the center-oh, we had good times! We could dance to any music, just so the fiddle was makin' a noise.
"Well, you ain't seen my quilts yet," and before we left Mrs. McKinney brought out of an ancient handmade chest quilt after quilt of her own making, and of old time popular patterns-here was the 'Kentucky Star,' the 'Necktie,' the 'Double T,' the 'House Roof,' the "Rocky Road to California," and many others equally as interesting. "I recollect," said Mrs. McKinney, "going to a log rollin' and a quiltin' once to a Mrs. Boston's house. Instead of havin' two quilts to work on-one for the good quilters and one for the poor ones, she had just one; and when we all got away she didn't like the way it was quilted, and took it all out and quilted the whole thing over again.
"We had everything might handy at our place on the Bend, and I reckon I won't ever be satisfied any place else. They call it Long Beach now, but it was known as McKinney's Bend for nearly fifty years.
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