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Claggett Brown was escorted into the parlor of the Devers home in Marietta, Georgia. He was there to get an answer to a question he had asked the daughter of the house three days ago. Since his older brother, Tag had married Linnie Clemson six months ago, he had felt like he was missing the boat. He had known Daisy Devers at church for some time but an interest in her had just recently sparked to life. She was not overly great to look at, but his reasoning told him that beauty never fed the hogs, anyway. Part of the spark was that her father was not wealthy, but he was an industrious merchant in town. Clag was really not a money grubber, so the other reason was that Daisy was a mover and a shaker. He had always been the sort that follows the leader and the leader had been his brother, Tag. Now, Tag had other fish to fry and he was beginning to wish he did. Therefore, he had been courting Daisy and last Thursday, he had asked her to marry him.
She was an only child born to older parents in1869, making her 26 years old in 1895. Her parents had suffered two stillbirths, one miscarriage at 3 months, and one little boy who lived 10 days. Needless to say, they were overjoyed when Daisy endured. It would have been excessive to say she was spoiled but she was highly cherished. While she was not the handsomest woman in the world, Clag had somehow sensed that her other attributes outweighed her lack of beauty. She didn't even really welcome a suitor, but Clag persisted and finally she became used to the idea that a man saw something attractive in her.
When she came into the room, she was surprised to see him sitting on the edge of the horsehair sofa with his hat in his hands and she wondered if he was ready to jump up and run. Thinking to put him at ease, she offered him something to drink. His reply was: "Well, thanks, Miss Daisy, but I'm not thirsty. I'm here to see what you have to say about marryin' me."
She took his hat and laid it on the table and after a moment, said, "I've been doing a lot of thinking about your proposal, Clag. Where would we live? I understand that your people have always been farmers. Would you want to pursue that? I am not afraid of hard work but I have never lived on a farm. What would I be expected to do for my part in the marriage? Would you want a family?" She hesitated, then "My mother tells me that people who get married can grow to love each other. Has this come into your thinking, Clag?"
Clag had relaxed by now and was leaning back. "Reckon it has, Miss Daisy. My Mama and Daddy was always kindly to each other and I guess I'd have to say they was in love. I can't think how it would work out if two people didn't love each other. Marriage is a pretty personal situation. As far as the other questions, why don't you talk to Tag's wife, Linnie and see what she has to say about a farm wife's duties? I'm sort of dickerin' to rent a farm out north of town near Tag and Linnie's place and Yes! I would want a family. Doesn't every man? What about you?"
She smiled now. "I never spent much time worrying about it because I saw myself as a spinster. I was kind of shy around men and didn't know much about talking with them."
"You seem to be able to talk to me all right. I kind of like the way you come right out and say what you think."
"Well, I try to mind my manners and be polite and when I have something to do, even if it is not something I want to do, I don't whine and cry about it."
"Yes, I seem to have noticed that," he said. "I believe we could make a good team. Do you want to marry me?"
When she nodded her head in the affirmative, he asked, "Do you want to tell your parents now?"
"Yes, right now! And I would like to go with you to tell your parents. Do you think they will like me?" Thus an alliance was formed between Claggett Brown and Daisy Devers.
They lived in a small farmhouse neighboring the one that Tag and Linnie had rented and neither was too far from the older Browns, thus they could all use each other's equipment and share the labor. Neither Tag nor Clag was wasteful with their resources therefore they had started a little nest egg several years ago for a dream they had. They had heard about the cattle ranches and open range in Texas and they longed to settle on a small ranch there.
In 1900 a hundred thousand acres opened up in North Texas with a Homestead Act. Tag had written to the Land Agent in several different Texas areas and he received a letter from a Buster McTavish from Amarillo early in the year telling him about the opening. The men quickly discussed the idea with their wives and though the women were not as wild about it as the men, they could see the wisdom of trying to advance their lot in life. Daisy's parents had both died, and what did she have except her husband and four children- Irwin and Irvin- 4 years old, Matilda-two years old, and a new baby due to arrive in October. Tag and Linnie had Zeke-five years old, Charlie- three years old, and Cory- one year old. Neither Linnie nor Daisy gave a single thought to opposing their husbands and prepared to move to Texas when the time was right. But first, the men had to go to Texas and claim the best land they could find.
On a cold, rainy morning in April they stood silently at the train station sorting through all the doubts and fretfulness they had about this big step in their life. But when they stepped onto the train, they put the anxieties behind them and settled back to enjoy the adventure. They were not to see their families again until after Clag's son, Cleve was born in late fall.
The Land Agent had few takers on his land offering due to the fact that North Texas did not look like a very rewarding prospect. Along with two other interested parties, the Brown brothers traveled north on horses and to their surprise, the brown, dried up prairie grass gave way to lush green meadows in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Each man claimed 1,000 acres with the option to let their wives claim another 1,000 acres when they came. All four of them set about building a crude structure to house their families, and with each helping the others the tight little shacks went up fast. The Brown boys planned on living together at first so they had two bedrooms and a loft for the children. If they prospered, there would be another bigger house soon. Shelters for the horses were also essential.
When the women arrived that fall with eight children in tow, they cast a dubious eye on the living quarters. However, in the last five years they had become accustomed to each other's ways and grateful for the support they each garnered from the other. The men had put up a barn (of sorts) across the property line on Clag's side along with a crude hut with homemade table and chairs, and a bed, so it could be called living quarters (for homestead purposes). Tag had been to Amarillo and purchased a kitchen range for both heat and cooking. They were quite proud of themselves when Linnie and Daisy arrived and stood back anxiously while the women inspected everything watching for signs of dismay. Either there were none or the girls kept them well concealed. They had bought a plow and a mule so the family could have a garden their first year. Also they had purchased a milk cow and a dozen chickens so the children would have milk to drink and eggs to eat. There were plans to buy a couple of pigs for eating later on.
As the four plots of land met at one central spot, the other two families were about two or three miles away from them, so they were not totally isolated. They all worked hard so it wasn't long before each of the four families had a good barn and by the end of the second year they all had decent houses. The Browns had also acquired the start of a herd of beef cattle and 2000 more acres bordering the acreage they already had by way of their wives being eligible. Daly and Parker had done the same thing. When they had been in Texas for six years Tag and Linnie had six boys and Clag and Daisy had four boys and two girls. As their families got older, the houses grew in some form or another. Sometimes they spread out and sometimes they went up with a second story. The long and short of it was that they prospered.
Texas had been home to the Brown Brothers and their families for four years and more people were coming into North Texas, maybe not in a steady stream, but they were coming. The drive into the brothers ranch straddled the border between Niall Daly's property and Tag's so the three families plus Lum Parker used it equally, but it ended with them. Imagine their surprise at 10 o'clock one morning when they saw two wagons loaded for bear and pulled by oxen coming down their drive. A lone man climbed down from the first one and approached Tag with his hand outstretched in greeting. In broken English, he said, "Yah, I am the Gustav Klump, storekeeper. All these goods I have to start a store with, and here is my son, Anton" and he gestured to the two wagons. The boy of about 15 had alit from the second wagon and came forward with hand outstretched also. "My wife say she come after I get store started. But Anton, he want to come with me now. He be a good boy."
Clag asked, "Where do you plan to start this store?"
A big smile came across Gustav's features. With a sweeping gesture of his hand he said, "Why, right here, for sure, for sure"
Clag bristled up and, "Well, wait just a goldurned minute here, Mr. Gustav. This is our land. You can't just come in and take over a piece of it for your own use."
Gustav's bubble had been burst.. It had never occurred to him that he might need a piece of land to put his store on. Tag, being a little more tactful than his brother, turned to Clag and said, "Let's not be too hasty. Daisy and Linnie would be delighted to have a General Store. Probably the other ladies hereabouts would, too."
He turned to Gustav and said, "Why don't you unhitch your animals and put them in the barn. We'll talk about this after supper and see what we can come up with. Clag could see the wheels turning in Tag's head and knew that he had some sort of a different thought.
Supper talk was mostly trying to find out more about the Klumps. They had come down from Missouri where they had a store in a small town near St. Louis. When Gustav's wife left him and went back East, he began thinking about new fields to conquer. So now he and the boy were looking to find a place that needed a mercantile. He had the two wagon loads of merchandise and a little money to get started again. Linnie asked him if he was going to carry dry goods and he said he had brought 15 bolts of high quality gingham and dimity with him. "I know the ladies buy the sewing notions and the men buy the hardware, so what am I to lose?"
"But, what about shoes? You certainly can't carry all the sizes we will be needing," Clag said, "And what about sugar and flour and spices?"
"I will be taking orders for special kinds of things, and when I have enough orders, I will hire some teamsters to bring them to me."
Gustav and Anton slept in the barn that night and Clag said, "If he's got a wife, why isn't she with him to help start his business?"
Linnie joined in the conversation, " If there was a store, maybe we could get other people interested in starting a school." She looked at Tag and said, "We do want our children to be educated, don't we?"
Daisy jumped in with both feet, as usual, "And maybe even a church. I want my children to grow up knowing God."
Clag, by now was beginning to be a little optimistic, "How about a blacksmith? We could sure have used one when we broke our plowshare with a stone last year. Maybe we wouldn't have had to go all the way to Amarillo to get it fixed."
Tag joined in the dreaming, Maybe we could get the Post Office department to put a post office in the general store so we didn't have to go clear to Henderson's Crossing to get our mail. Wouldn't that be great?"
They all sat and thought about it for a few minutes and Clag said, "I don't suppose we'd be losing a whole lot if we gave him a little piece of land to put his store on."
"Maybe we could get Daly and Parker to go in with us and start a little settlement right on the four corners. We wouldn't even have to give up the deed to our land and maybe some day we would own the town." This came from Tag, laughing as he said it.
The next morning Gustav cornered the brothers while they were milking the cows. "Where can the fire I make?" he asked.
"Why do you want to make a fire?" Tag asked
"We eat-me and Anton. We need to cook before we leave."
Clag spoke out now, "Our women are making breakfast now and you will come in and eat with us. We have decided to talk to our neighbors about helping you set up your store."
Tag offered, "We would like to have a post office here. Do you think you could handle that?" Gustav's face lit up like a morning sky and he said, "Oh, Ya, what do I do?"
"I think we could get the mail people to send the mail to Henderson's Crossing. It is 20 miles from here and somebody would have to ride over there maybe once or twice a week to pick it up. It would take a while for folks around here to hear about the store but if they like you, you will get their business."
After breakfast, the four of them loaded into the old Ford puddle jumper and went down the road a mile and a half to the small shack that had been built for homesteading purposes. It was two rooms with a fireplace across one end to make it look like someone was living there, and a small cupboard with some odds and ends of dishes in it. A large bed stood in the middle of the lean-to, simply because a large bed was easier to make than a small one. There was also a three sided shelter with a roof on it for the oxen.
Gustav's reaction to the shack was astounding. His eyes shone and Tag watched as he poked in all the corners, sure that the man would start finding fault. He and his son were talking enthusiastically in a foreign tongue- probably German. He stood briefly, looking at the walls, and asked, "Can you let me and Anton build this room bigger?"
The brothers glanced at each other and Tag said, "If you know how to build, why not? This plot of land sits on the four corners of our property and there are two others that we need to talk to. We'll do that today. Maybe we can even find time to help you build. We'll give you a year to see how your business does and we will keep the deed to the property. Any improvements will be yours to make and ours to keep if you decide to leave."
They returned to the main ranch house where Anton immediately began to hitch the oxen to a wagon and Gustav was rooting around in the other wagon looking for cleaning supplies. Anton looked at the puddle jumper longingly and vowed to himself that he would learn to drive it. Clag had mentioned that sometimes they needed an extra hand at ranch work which meant that he would also have to learn to ride the horses. "What an adventure!" thought the young man who could see a whole new vista opening up in his life.
The topic of conversation at the Brown's dinner table was mostly about the new town and how they would like to attract worthy people to it. Clag and Daisy and their clan now lived in a fine big house on Clag's piece of land about a quarter of a mile away. Both families had children from 11 years on down and Linnie and Daisy were teaching them readin', writin', and 'rithmetic at their kitchen tables. The busiest parts of the year, they were combining their efforts at one place or the other. Linnie mostly took care of the teaching and Daisy took care of the little ones. So it was natural that both women wanted a schoolhouse with a capable teacher. Besides, there were children in the Daly and Parker families who needed school also- and maybe even more.
Linnie knew that some families sent their children 50 miles or more away from home. She said to Tag one day when the discussion had turned to a school, "If we all went together and built a schoolhouse, maybe we could get a teacher from Fort Worth. Mrs. Libby from Marietta has been writing to me about she and her husband, Herb, moving out here. He's the preacher, you know. We could use the schoolhouse for church services. And, I've been thinking, if there are people from too far away, maybe some of them could board their children with the Libbys. They don't have any children, you know. She wants to start a boarding house and what better roomers could she have?"
Excerpted from More About the Rest of Us by Carleen Shea Copyright © 2010 by Carleen Shea. Excerpted by permission.
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