Volume 33, Number 3 & 4, Spring 1994
Editors note: Richard Prather was born in Huntsville, Ark., in 1871, grew up in Taney County, lived most of his adult life elsewhere, and enjoyed life into his eighties. Prather penned this writing c. 1940 drawing upon reminiscences of his own youth spent on the road during the 1890s and as a young journalist who frequented the Springfield wagon yards in Greene County. His text is edited and shortened from a longer manuscript that contains other themes.
In the Ozark Mountains of Southwest Missouri there was once a 100-mile stretch Or highway that contained in its length and spread of adjoining land more of historic interest than, perhaps, any similar bit of road in Missouri. It was known as the Springfield (MO) and Harrison (Ark.) Road. It had other names. The natives of the mountains always spoke of it as the "Big Road." A part of it in the Pine Mountains was known as the "Wilderness Road."
It was an ancient Indian trail at first, along which the tribes, passing north or south on hunting or fishing expeditions, left their marks. From Indian trail to white mans bridle trace, or mail route and then to a wagon road was a matter of a hundred years. It was first marked by "blazes" on tree trunks, and later by notches cut on them. A "three-notch road" was also known as a "big road" or main highway.
The road had its beginning as Campbell Street in Springfield, and went due South for eight miles, becoming Campbell street road, or the road to James river. The first miles were level, wide and fairly well kept but unpaved. When rain fell the going was none too good owing to the character of the mud. A rich farming country lay on both sides for some ten miles. Here were big farms with well-to-do owners. Handsome farm houses of Virginia type, barns and outbuildings patterned after the plantations of the settlers homeland. Many of these people were from Virginia and Kentucky and most of them owned slaves. Much of the lumber for those fine old houses was hauled by wagons over the Big Road, coming up from the Pine Mountains northward to Springfield.
The road came to the breaks of James river at eight miles and went down easy curving grades where it crossed by a ford that was deep and treacherous during seasons of high water (There were no bridges along the Big Road). Many teams and drivers were lost at the old ford attempting to cross when the river was up. Climbing up from the James with its fine bottom farms, the road came to another stretch of level country but this soon broke away into the hills of Finley Creek. Here another dangerous ford had to be made. This was the flint country where Indians came for centuries to make arrow heads. Traces of their old camps my still be found and each rain washes out discard imperfect arrow heads and fish spearheads. Many caves and beautiful little rivulets run all along these hills. Fresh water springs abound that are as cold as ice.
Leaving Finley the road passed through a high, level, chalky land with thick growths of black oak. Soon a little settlement known in old days as "Dutch Store" where a big pond of stagnant water watered passing teams and local stock. This was a favorite camping place for wagon trains.
This was all high country. The road straddled a long backbone of ridge where a few poor little farms made a struggle for life. Here and there were traces of old hurricane paths. One could see for miles across the mountains where the terrific winds had cut a wide swath, upturning trees and leaving desolation behind. The people of this country were mostly poor, improvident and given more to hunting than to farming. There were deer, wild turkeys, squirrels, quail and occasionally a black bear. Wolves were frequently seen or heard.
Down a steep, winding grade the road was now merely a rocky, rutted way, where no road work was ever done. Wagons jolted over rocks and sank into mud holes. It was a place for careful driving and great patience with the mules and horses. Many times two
teams were hitched to one wagon on this grade. They called it "doubling" the hill. At thirty miles the road wound through deep hollows between high ridges and came to Bear Creek Springs where a big stream rushed suddenly out of a hillside. This was head waters of Bear Creek and another favorite camping place.
The road followed water level after this for many miles, fording Bear and Bull Creeks some twenty times. During high water the road was impassable and when wagon trains were caught between fords in a sudden freshet there was nothing to do but stop until the water fell. Here were little farms along the creek bottoms and a very virile and sturdy pioneer people. Largely from Kentucky and Tennessee, these people were clannish and interrelated. They were rifle men and some of them had migrated to get away from old feuds only to have new ones made for them by local quarrels and land squabbles. Many killings were recorded in this creek country.
Bull Creek was as turbulent as Bear was peaceful. It was a swift stream and fording it even in low water was hazardous. The last ford was near its mouth, where it entered White River. This was the most dreaded of all on account of its depth and changing bottom.
White river is the most beautiful stream of all the Ozarks many fine waterways. (Once navigable for hundreds of miles it carried cargo from the Mississippi river as far as Forsyth by steam boats.) There was a ford across the White for low water and a cable ferry for high. But many times it was as one teamster said: "Too low to ferry and too high to ford." The pull up the hill beyond to the south was a test of good teams. It was long, steep and rocky, unmade and untended. Much "doubling" was needed here.
After this long, hard climb the road ran along a high ridge through oak forests and came into the "Bald Knob" country. High domes of barren, round hills, towered hundreds of feet above the surrounding land. A few poor, small farms clung despairingly to the flanks of the knobs. This was grazing land mostly and fed many cattle and sheep as well as hogs that ran free over the forests and glades, fattening on succulent grass and acorn mast.
Drought often times parched this land and its semi-aridity was indicated by an occasional prickly
pear cactus along the roadside. There were persimmon bushes and many possums. All of this stretch was the setting for many a tragedy, drama and even comedy in the old days.
Crawling sneakily around the bases of the knobs the road passed a small townKirbyvillethe last until Harrison. In a few miles the road began its long, tedious climb up the north flank of Pine Mountain. Wagon wheels bumped over rocky ledges, into deep ruts, sometimes into vast mud holes, hub deep. It was a cruel road for horses and mules. Halfway up the road passed around the foot of "AIf Bowlins Rock," scene of many an ambush and murderous attack on travelers by that infamous guerrilla
Topping the mountain the road began a weary length of miles known as the "Wilderness." It was high, dry and desolate. There were no streams, wells, or other watering places. Teamsters made dry camp and led their mules and horses down long trails to little creeks in the depths of the hills and hollows. There was a stretch of road ahead that was dreaded by occasional travelers from the legends and wild tales told of it. Thirty miles with only one settlement, and that but a cabin known as "Blind Station," a place of unsavory reputation. This part of the road passed through a paradise for wild life. Black bear, deer, wolf, panther, wild turkey, squirrel, and many other wild things lived here in security. An occasional hunter took his toll of pelt or venison, but only rarely. It was stout heart that ventured into the wilderness.
After many tedious miles the road crossed another Bear Creek, this one in Arkansas, and so crossed two different streams of the same name in two different states. Soon after, triumphantly, the road entered the pleasant land of Boone County and ended its course in the public square of Harrison.
It was a wild, untended, miserable 100 miles of road that ended here. The teamster who traversed its length was a man of stout heart and great endurance. It required good teams and sturdy wagons. One old timer spoke of it as "one hundred miles of hell on wheels."
You wonder why such a road. What was it purpose and great need? It was the only artery of travel in a great stretch of country. It was the highway of commerce flowing north and south from the railway at
Springfield to the outposts of northern Arkansas. With its tributaries this old road carried thousands of tons of merchandise south and as many of cotton north. It was the trailway for thousands of cattle, sheep, hogs, and other stock walking their long journey to market. No estimate of the total tonnage or its value was ever made. It was doubtless ran into hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is certain that the road enriched merchants of Springfield and made Harrison the biggest little town without railroad or waterway in Arkansas. It was an important military road in the War of the States.
But today it is just a neighborhood road. Its glory has departed and its fame is forgotten to the present generation. Old timers remember and cherish it. Railroads and concrete highways have usurped its once great function and made it a thing of the past. Even one of its long reaches lies drowned under the vast reservoir of a power dam. It was great in its day, the Big Road, but it has gene the way of all greatness.
Freighters on the Big Road
A road in itself is not important. It is the traffic that goes over it that counts. And that traffic must be moved by men and teams. Tough, hardy men, they had to be hickory tough to survive the hardships. They were expert teamsters and wagoners. They knew mules and horses, they knew roads, camps, river fords, weather. Handy with tools, resourceful and possessed of infinite courage, they had the patience of Job. In all weather, rain, drought, snow or fair they kept their wheels rolling.
Known always as "freighters" they had a pride in their work. They had an inordinate vanity in the
ability of their teams to pull their loads. They went in largely for heavy mules, but a considerable number of horses were used. One teamtwo horses or mules was the rule. Trail wagons were impossible on the Big Roadtoo many rocks, narrow curves, mud and rutted track. The average wagon load was three bales of cotton north, and a ton of goods south.
Once in a while a four-horse team was seen when the driver wanted to haul a special load. Heavy machinery, hardware, or other freight would tax one team too heavily. Such a team, however, was a rarity and usually brought a lot of attention from natives along the way. Children came running to see the rare sight of a "4-hoss" hitch.
A word about the wagons should go in right here. Freight wagons were of a very special kind, built as light as possible for such roads and yet as strong as oak and hickory could make them. They were painted in brilliant colors, reds, greens and yellow stripings. The hubs were of oak, the spokes and fellows especially chosen for strain for strain. The tires were narrow, heavy iron of double strength. Wagons had to be well shod against the rocks. A few trips and the tires must be replaced. Wagon boxes, or beds, were narrow, holding snugly three bales of cotton, with room for the freighters bed roll and food supply as well as feed for his team.
Each wagon was equipped with a set of wooden bows set into iron oblong hoops on the wagon box and thus movable. A heavy waterproof sheet was drawn tightly over the headpiece to protect the load from rain or sun. The drivers seat had leaf spring underneath to take some of the jolts but there were not springs elsewhere until some genius introduced a coil spring under the wagon bed. At best they were "jolt wagons" in the highest degree. Just below the dashboard was fastened a "jockey box" that contained tools, axle grease, and such extras as the driver required. Sometimes a bottle of "corn juice" was to be found there but as rule those men were not given to much drinking. At the rear of the wagon bed was a feed trough for the team. Brakes were highly important. They had to be good and were given careful attention before starting down a steep hill.
There was always a grub box fitted with cooking utensils, fry pan, coffee pot, a few iron knives, and forks and spoons. The larger usually was of limited character, a little flour or meal, a slab of fat meat, coffee, perhaps a little sugar, salt and pepper. They lived frugally those men, and considered carefully each extra pound of weight.
The freighters went in for the best of harness. It was made of heavy leather and usually decorated with brass buckles, rings of brass or colored stuff, sometimes whittled out of bone. Some bridles were tassled but that was considered just a bit of "foofaraw," or "dog." Many teamsters placed a chime of small bells on the hames of the harness to beguile the mules who loved it. Bells not only pleased the mules but gave warning to approaching wagons.
Freighters were a jolly lot. They seldom quarreled amongst themselves. Fights were almost unknown. They were cooperative and kindly. A wagon or team in trouble brought all hands running to help. If a wagon mired down or the hill became to steep for the team, another team was hitched on and all hands stood by until the trouble was past. "Doubling a hill" was a was a common happening. No freighter ever refused to put his team at the disposal of another in a pinch.
A wagon train consisted often to twelve wagons. At times road conditions, high water, or mud, caused a congestion of many wagons, sometimes as many as a hundred were crowded together in one camp. That was undesirable because of camping conditions of fuel, feed and water. A lone team was a rarity. They needed company and a single team seldom traveled the road alone.
A good days drive was 30 miles. The distance was, Or course, regulated by the distances between camps and watering places. There were regular camps usually 20 to 30 miles apart. The wagons rolled at first peep of sun and took an hour for nooning. Each wagon carried its own horse feed and the drivers bed roll. He usually slept under his wagon in fair weather but when rain or snow fell he tucked himself away on top of his load under the wagon sheet. No comforts, poor fare, but how they loved it.
When the wagons turned into a camp ground at night it was run to see the competition of drivers in unhitching, unharnessing and getting teams watered and fed. First care was always for the animals. Soon camp fires burned and the men started cooking their
meager suppers. Afterward a smoke, a few yarns, some skylarking, and singing. Some times a teamster carried an old fiddle along and that meant a little bit of lively music, perhaps a stag "dance" for the younger ones. Too tired for much revelry they were soon in their blankets. In the morning the first order was as the night before, feeding animals, harnessing and getting ready to roll out. Wagons must be greased and all hands joined to make that job quick and easy. Four men to a wheel, a prop under it, a few turns of the wrench, off came the wheel and on went the grease. It took but a short time to grease every wheel in the lot.
Our modern word detour was then unknown but freighters had a lot of it. When high water made fords too dangerous the Big Road was left for other ways! An old wood road, a country road, or even a "trace" had to be used in order to "head off the cricks." The teamsters knew of ways to get out of a mess. They would pull up long hills following a hollow or small ridge to the top Or a higher one where they continued their trips. Sometimes as much as 50 miles was added to the distance by reason of those detours.
When cotton was moving the freighters knew the importance of getting the stuff to market quickly. One instance is recalled  when a train of 20 wagons was blocked by floods at every ford between White River and Springfield. Detours had to be made, even new roads cut through dense forests, but the cotton kept moving.
Arrived at Springfield the freighters had a little relaxation. There were wagon yards where they were furnished stables, bunk houses, fee, water and food for man and beast at low cost. When their wagons had been unloaded the men might indulge in a few drains of liquor and a stroll around the old public square to see the sights of the city. Then they loaded up for the return trip and the old routine began all over.
You wonder how they were paid? By the hundred pounds, by the miles traveled and the rate was about one dollar a hundred for a hundred miles. With three bales of cotton weighing around 1,800 pounds going north, and about the same going south, a freighter earned $35 to $40 a round trip. Not big pay for a long haul lasting from eight to ten days. Expenses were heavy too. It cost real money to keep a wagon in condition, teams shod, teams fed, and dozens of small repairs always needed. A freighter was never in affluent circumstances. But, he usually kept at it until age or illness put him on the shelf. It was a sad day when an old timer found that he could no longer stand the gaff of the Big Road.
Traveling Salesmen or "Drummers"
Equally important on the Big Road were the drummers or traveling salesmen as they would be called today. As one old freighter very aptly put it when he heard another saying something critical of them: "If it wasnt for them dam drummers, as you calls em, you wouldnt be a haulin no freight." The drummers traveled the Big Road and all its tributary roads and sold the goods to merchants in country stores and small towns. All this commerce was freighted from Springfield southward to points in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas.
Drummers endured the same hardships as the freightersheat, cold, rain, snow, rough roads, mud, and perilous floods. Their lots were easier only in that they ate and slept in taverns and farm houses. They traveled as hard and fast as the road allowed. The usual drive was 40 miles a day and stopping places were regularly spaced and timed.
Their road equipment was a heavy spring wagon, or buggy, built much like the freight wagons but lighter. Their horses were good, strong teams and had stamina and go. Those men who carried sample trunks used specially built buggies with a long bed back of the drivers seat to hold as many as four trunks. Others who did not carry trunks paired up, two men in a buggy usually and stowed their sample cases in a space under the seat. A trunk drummer hired a driver, as a rule, and used him as a special assistant with the trunks and samples. Clothing drummers even used their drivers as models for showing suits and overcoats to merchants.
"Jolly drummers" was eloquently descriptive of those men. They were, as a rule, good-natured, tough-bodied, and ready to take whatever came along as a matter of course. They brought late news, funny stories, and good cheer to many a lonely storekeeper in a remote place. They paid well for
their accommodations and were free spendersalways ready to "set em up" with cigars.
There was one drummer, Pat Oliver, who traveled the Big Road and its tributaries for more than 30 years. His trips covered 300 miles without a foot of railroad. When he was older his employers thought to make his life a bit easier and transferred him to an all-rail territory. After one trip he demanded his old trip and said he just could not live anywhere but on the Big Road. He continued to drive it until old age and illness forced him into retirement.
It was a stirring day in a little town when one or more drummers came dashing in with their dandy rigs and horses. They brought news of the outside world and the natives came hurrying to listen. Most country boys envied the drummer and aspired to his trade. Some of their elders might express a dislike for the "dudes" and "city fellers" but they did not fail to rally around to hear the new stories and jokes. A drummer who wore a derby hat was looked upon with some suspicion as just too "tony" for the hills. One chap carried a pistol on his first trip but gave it up after that. He learned that a pistol was a useless appendage. But he earned a name that clung to him all the days of life "Six Shooter White."
There were remote settlements in the Ozarks that had never seen a Negro. A drummer once took a black man for a driver and all along the road small children stampeded when they saw what they thought was a "booger man."
Drummers and freighters were pretty good friends as a rule. One little happening will illustrate. When Bull Creek was too full of water for safety the freight wagons would travel up White River along the "narrows" to where a ridge road took them out and over high country away from streams. [The traveler crossed on Hensleys ferry, then went west along the river. This road was called "the narrows" and climbed up to a high ridge, coming into "Big Road" at Highlandville.] On such an occasion a drummer traveling south met a wagon train going north. There was room only for one set of wheels and freight wagons could not be bypassed on that sort of road. It looked like a deadlock until one old chap engineered a way. They simply took the drummers rig apart and set it on one side until the wagon had passed and then put it together again.
Great were the drummers in their day. Now but a memory.
Mail Carriers on "Star Routes"
We must not neglect another important factor of the Big Roadthe mail carrier. His job was co-ordinate with that of the freighter and the drummer. He carried in his mail bags the "paper work" of trade. Invoices, bills, market quotations, important letters, and often considerable amounts of money sent by registered mail. There were no banks along the Big Road or in the small towns, and a bank check or draft was useless.
Mail carriers used buggies, spring wagons, occasionally stages, or buckboards, but most of the mountain mail went on horseback. The horse mail carrier had specially made leather pouches that fitted over the back of the saddle and balanced evenly down the horses sides. Forty miles a day was a good jaunt but most of the routes were shorter. Often times a carrier took a short cut over the mountain and reduced his mileage. Many a now important highway had its inception in one of those old "mail traces."
Mail carriers were sometimes drowned in a flooded stream. Sometimes they fell from their mounts, overcomes by heat or cold. Some of them perished by the road while the faithful old horse trotted on, seeming to know that the mail must go through.
They were poorly paid, working on contracts let by competitive bidding. That meant a low wage from ten to fifteen dollars a month. A carrier who was paid more was considered in the upper brackets of workers.
Robberies of the mail were infrequent. Carriers usually had a big pistol at hand and knew how to use it. Also Uncle Sam was as active in those days as now, and swift to punish. Secret service men sometimes had a long chase and years of relentless investigation to do, but they generally got their man.
Mail carriers never were appreciated according to their great services. They were a valuable, indispensable factor on the Big Road.
The Stock Man
Thousands of live stock traveled the Big Road to market. Fat cattle walked hundreds of miles, grazing as they went. Thousands of sheep moved more slowly
but arrived just as well. There was fairly good feed all along the road excepting where farms were plentiful and crowded together in lanes. Occasional droves of hogs went along the road but the distances were too great for porkers. One instance was known of a big drive of tame turkeys going the entire distance. The drivers used a clever way of overcoming roughness of the road. The birds were first driven through tar which coated their feet. Then they were driven through sand and gravel. That gave them a fine set of shoes to withstand stones and sharp spots in the road.
Mules and horses in considerable numbers went to market along the road. There was a famous buyer of mules who drove hundreds from northwest Arkansas to Springfield in his lifetime.
Stockmen and buyers were daring, somewhat given to speculation on market prices of live stock. They took long chances because market news was one of the scarce things in those days. But many of them made large fortunes. Some of the richest men of Springfield based their wealth on live stock.
Another risk the stock man took was that of carrying large sums of money in his saddle pockets. Each purchase of stock meant cash in hand. The man usually was alone and chances of robbery, perhaps murder, were great. It is said that a number of stock men disappeared in the "Wilderness" never to be seen again.
It required considerable scouting to seek out and buy the kind of cattle or sheep a man wanted for
market. He had to ride long distances into remote parts of the mountains. When he had accumulated as many as he wanted, it was then a job to get them to market. He hired local drivers and took to the road with as many as a hundred or more head. He took the same chances as the freighter, enduring all the hardships and dangers. Somehow he went through and lived to do it again, many times. They were fine men, bold, daring, but honest and well-liked all along the Big Road.
Hurricanes and Floods
The Big Road was beset by all conditions of weather. Scarcely a twenty mile stretch but had a visitation of storm terrors. This was, and is, hurricane country. Often called "cyclones" today, the old timers always spoke of them as "hurricanes." Winds of terrific velocity swept across the land from southwest to northeast. Owing to scarcity of settlements the loss of life was small. However, the old road suffered when the winds blew great trees across its way and blocked it to travel for days. That meant that freighters must for a time depart from their calling and become ax men and road menders.
Flood were the greater menace. Heavy rains, continuing at times for weeks, filled streams with "flash floods" and, as the old-timers called them"tides in the creeks." Having no bridges the Big Road had at times what we today might call traffic jams. Hundreds of wagons might be held for weeks on the banks of the White, the James, Finley or other streams. Sometimes the ferry boat would be washed away and that meant camping patiently until the river went down to fording depth.
The old Hensley Ferry at White River crossing of the Big Road [also called Boston Ferry] was one of the institutions of the time. Noted for the entire distance, freighters would speculate as to whether the river would be too high to ford or too low to ferry. One character said of the White: "Shes always too much or too none." A comfortable fortune was amassed at this ferry.
A word about the ferry might be worth while. It was operated by a wire cable stretched from bank to bank. The ferry men pulled the boat across by taking hold on the wire with their hands. As a safeguard there was an anchor rope over the wire so that if the men lost their holds the boat would not go down stream.
Those who cross on modern concrete bridges have no conception of the tribulations of all hands, freighters, ferrymen and stock dealers at White River. It was one of the hazards to be dreaded.
Happenings along the Big Road
Scarcely a mile of the country along the Big Road but had its tales of tragedy, comedy, or romance. There were too many to tell in the entirety but here are a few random notes.
A few miles south of Springfield there was a grand old farm that was first settled in the early 184 Os. There was a big house of red brick, many smaller houses, Negro cabins, barns, outhouses, etc., all built of the same fine red brick. The house stood back from the road about a mile. There was a drive leading back, and along this drive stood a double row of walnut trees that had grown from seeds. In my youth those trees stood many feet high and their trunks were thick. Each tree was exactly like its brother in size, height and circumference. Imagine four rows of walnut trees in these days of scarce walnut timber. What a fortune they represented and what a lot of wealth they brought to their final owner. An old timer told me once that there was a fortune in those trees and also in the brick of the houses and barns.
A few miles east of the crossing of James river was a little settlement and a fine river bottom farm owned by an old fellow who had a reputation of being very wicked. Once on a Sunday he was fishing in the river whilst his pious wife was at home reading the Bible. One of those tornadoes, or hurricanes, came and killed the old lady but he, wicked old fisherman was saved by taking refuge under a cliff of rock. Afterward he told of seeing all the water in the stream scooped up and carried off so that he could see the bare river bed with fish flopping all around.
In the flint hill country near Finley creek there were many springs of icy cold water flowing out of the hill sides. One called Spout Spring had a long cedar trough where many a thirsty animal drank. This spring was known all along the road from end to end. There was a camping ground also and I have seen as many as fifty freight wagons tied up there when Finley
creek was in flood. Once I stood on a high bank and watched some wagons attempt a crossing. It was a foolhardy attempt because several of the wagons were overturned by the swift current and washed down stream. One I recall was drawn by an ox team and the wagon was loaded with heavy cedar posts. This wagon went through the flood safely but the water ran entirely over the backs of the oxen.
Further south on the Big Road is a small town known as Highlandville, now quite a village and trading place. In my early days it was known only as "Dutch Store." There was a big pond of water, almost a lake, and the old time freighters camped there often on their trips. There was wood for fires and well water to drink. A few small houses and a little box of a country store were all that made up the so-called town.
It was this store and its owner that gave the name to the place. Frank Kentling was his name. He came there some years before the Civil War with a small stock of goods and started business. He prospered and became very rich, raised a big family of fine boys and girls. I remember seeing that fine old Dutchman waddling back and forth in his small store with his fine smile and constant inquiry: "Und now, vat elss, blease?" His wife helped in the store and many times I have seen her wading around in the mud selling feed to the freighters for their teams.
Both of the old people lived to great age. When the old lady finally passed from the scene her life story was told and it was a romance of the highest type. She had been one of the ladies-in-waiting of the Empress Carlotta of Mexico. She was of noble birth and in youth a woman of beauty and refinement. When Maximillian was shot by the Mexicans she escaped with others of the Empress court and got away to New York. Here, poverty-stricken and friendless, she met Frank Kentling and joined fortunes with him. It was a successful mating. They lived happily together for many years. But no one ever knew what her early life had been like until she had died. I remember that first little store, its successor and final big, handsome establishment that was for years one of the main trading places of that whole country.
Naturally there were many interesting characters along the Big Road. It follows naturally in a migration of people from many parts of the country. One of the most amusing and lovable I recall was Marion Ellison. He had been a Confederate soldier and had never surrendered or taken the oath of allegiance to the Union after the Civil War. He had merry blue eyes, a charming smile and a sense of humor far above the average. On occasion he would mount his old saddle mule, Tobe, and ride forth to spread good humor and jollity. Usually he bought a quart of "Corn" and got gloriously drunk. Then he would declare to all: "Im thest the best damned unreconstructed, nonresidentin rebel dimocrat that ever stood on American soil."
Marion always voted in elections although he had no rights under the law. His big family of sons and sons-in-law formed quite an important voting section and a politician was fortunate to win his regard.
Once when Marion had been to the county seat to pay "them dam taxes," I rode a part of the way home with him. As usual on such occasions, the old fellow was happily intoxicated. We came to the ford of White River and he proclaimed: "Thar she is, too high to wade and too low to ferry. So well thest wade her, dam her." We went in and soon the horses were knee deep, then belly deep, then the water ran halfway up the saddle skirts. I raised my feet high on the saddle to keep my legs dry, but Marion could not make out to raise his legs owing to his condition. Perhaps the "corn" made him indifferent. He looked at me and remarked, half jokingly and partly in self defense: "Old Tobe, hes thest the meanest, and the orneriest old mule that ever stood on American soil. Ever time I git him inter high water he thest squats."
The last time I saw him he as very old but the same lovable old man. He failed to recognize me, as I had been away for many years. When told just what my name was, he laughed and said: "Well, I thest be damned. I thought ye was thest one o them dam drummers." Grand old rebel! Peace to your nonresidentin soul.
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