THE PRAYER OF A LITTLE GIRL FOR HELP
By S. C. Turnbo
In giving pioneer stories of Pulaski County, Mo., Mr. William F. Robinson a former resident of that part of the state gives this one. "My grandfather James Robinson said that when he settled on Rubidoo Creek in Pulaski County south of Waynesville, there was the remnants of a fort which had been built many years before any white people settled in Missouri. These works had been occupied by Indians or some other race of people. There were also strong indications that a battle had been fought in and out of the fort and one side of the combatants had been vanquished. If the dead received burial it was done in shallow graves for humane bones were scattered all over the ground occupied by the old fort and also on the outside of it. The earliest settlers there picked up many of these bones and examined them for curiosity. The oldest families who lived in this locality were unable to give the remotest history of the fort and its garrison. The early settlers continued to pick up the bones and carry them off until there were but few left on the ground but the history of its starting point and the battle fought here and the evacuation of the works always remained obscure. Among the first settlers who lived in the near vicinity of this old fort was Ezekiel McNeely who had a daughter named Mary who after she was grown married John Watson. A number of years before her marriage when Mary was a little child and while some of the bones were still lying on the ground Marys father owned a fine flock of sheep which required careful attention to prevent the wolves from getting among them and McNeely put the sheep in charge of his little daughter Mary who with the help of a little dog would follow the flock of sheep around in view from the house until near night when her and the dog would round them up and drive them into the sheep lot and start them out again in the morning. This was repeated every day if the weather admitted. One day when Mary was seven years old the flock of sheep fed on the ground where the old fort was which was a half a mile from her fathers house. The child knew the ground there well for she had passed over it on many occasions. Some few scattering bones were still lying on the ground and the stories of Indian spirits or ghosts being seen there from time to time had not disappeared and were in circulation but little Mary was not afraid of these uncanny tales for she had heard them repeated from the time she could first remember, and had never seen any ghost about these abandoned works or anywhere else. But her young and tender mind took on a change on this subject before night of the day we refer to which the sequel will show. Among her flock of sheep was a big ram who heretofore had been a good humored sheep but by some means he had become angry that morning and before the little girl could get out of his way the ram ran at her and knocked her down with his head, with a vain effort she tried to get up but the angry sheep would butt her down again. She struggled and tried to drive the ram away but he would not go. Then she cried and screamed to attract attention from her parents but her cries of distress failed to reach their ears. She was not expected to return back to the house with the sheep until late in the afternoon and the parents were not uneasy. Poor little girl she had surely met the evil one in the shape of that vicious sheep that was standing over her and watching every movement she made. Though he would not strike her with his horns unless she tried to get up then he would butt her down again. In this way she was compelled to lay there until the sun had nearly disappeared below the horizon. She had give up in dispair. She would cry a while then beg and plead with the old sheep to allow her to rise to her feet and go home. If he would she would forgive him for the rough treatment he had inflicted on her but the ram seemed to enjoy her suffering. The sun had his himself the shadows of the trees had disappeared, it would soon be night. Oh, what would she do? Papa and mamma would certainly become alarmed about her and leave the house in search of her. Oh that they would come now for she was in sore distress and needed their help. "May God help them to find where I am", was her sweet and piteous little prayer. Then she waited a few minutes in silence to find out if God had heard her prayer. Then she sank into unconsciousness. It was now that the parents grew anxious about their little daughter and looking out they saw part of the sheep coming toward the house. Mary was not with them and the remainder of the sheep was not in sight and they both left the house immediately on the hunt for the missing one, and as the dusk of the evening was setting down they discovered the ram at a distance on the ground of the old fort standing and watching something on the ground, which at that distance they could not make out what it was. They hurried on toward where the solitary sheep stood and as they approached nearer they saw it was a child and they went on the faster and drove the ram away and beheld their darling child lying there. Sorrow and grief nearly overwhelmed them both for they thought she was dead. They picked her up from the ground and pushed back the little curls of hair from over her face and rubbed her hands and arms and to their joy they found that life was not extinct. "Oh Zeke we have been so careless of our faithful little child", said the mother with her eyes swimming in tears. "My dear wife if Mary lives over this we will not be so neglectful about her any more," said the sorrowing husband and father. And without any more words made haste to apply restoratives until she was able to swallow and then they gave her warm teas and mild stimulants until she was able to sit up and talk a little and gradually grew in strength until she had regained life and health again. Mary said thereafter that she always disdained the thought of ghosts rising up to meet her on the ground of the old fort until she lay helpless there with that old ugly sheep standing over her and ready to butt her down whenever she made an effort to get up. "I was terrffied" said she, "for I was overcome with superstition for I truly believed then that some of the dead Indians would suddenly return to life again and rise up and scalp me.
Mr. Robinson furnished this account to the writer where he lived one half a mile east of Oneta Post Office in the Indian territory one day in the month of June 1906.
Springfield-Greene County Library