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Chief
By Donna Flood
Chapter 24 - They Call the Wind Mariah


“Will you go with me over to Foraker?” Mariah wanted a companion for the trip. Since her divorce she was now the will-o-the-wisp as she sadly went from one place to another looking for family. Long ago I had learned that was no longer the life we had once known, but she seemed to keep trying to replace her husband and children with something, anything. She was as erratic as the changing winds of the prairie could be.

“Sure.” I answered. I was always willing to drive over the long highways to what had been my home from childhood.

“While we drove, Mariah seemed to be content and back to her old confident self. She chatted easily with me, teasing me about this or that boy.

“He’s such a sissy!” Or “Can’t he do something about that acne?” I suppose we were as much like sisters as could be. She had the advantage of age, but I had the experience of having known her since I was a child. We always had a ping pong kind of conversation and I never felt she was, “one up on me,” with anything. It was a nice relationship with honesty as a basis.

“Oh yes! You are engaged and to whom? A fine romance with no kisses.”

We both laughed at her reference to my fiancé being in the Marines. The laughter stopped though, when we drove up to the old home place. Mariah searched through her keys as I had always seen Uncle Dennis do. Strange that this place should be kept under lock and key but not the Strike Axe, where we lived, I thought. With only one twist of her wrist the door was open. I always felt like the past suddenly stepped up for me, when the door was opened, but if Mariah felt anything she didn’t seem to let it bother her. As was her way she tilted her head back, turned her chin to one side a bit and forged, ahead.

She rummaged around in the kitchen, pulling this or that drawer out, propping the unplugged refrigerator open, and checking to see if the pilots were lit on the stove. The 1000 pound tank of propane they had simply left intact and this was what kept the place heated in winter. Hot water in the tub was there from an electric hot water tank she and her husband had purchased. For all practical purposes anyone could have stepped into the house to use it and this was the next chore. Reading the meter was done by the home owner on these out of the way places. Mariah dutifully wrote down the numbers from that instrument that was still in use. When she didn’t read it, Uncle Dean did. The bill ran around 12.00 a month and was easy to pay.

She turned her attention to the sewing machine off to one corner of the dining room. The old machine was in an ornate carved case and looked like any piece of fine furniture, but she had left the machine up, the lid open and flat down. On that lid was the dance costume she had been sewing for her oldest girl. The shiny, bright fabric was under the needle. With no show of remorse Mariah took the garment out of where it had been and then, slowly and carefully folded it. It was small and made a tiny square. This she stuck in one of the drawers and gently shut it out of our vision, seemingly as easy as she had put her three little girls out of her life. I was glad she did this with the costume though, it had saddened me to walk in the house, and see it on the machine. Uncle Dean would not touch anything that belonged to his children, so it had been there for a while.

With that last action we were out of the house, away from the freshest of air, and sweetness of the meadow, to attend to one more chore. As business like as any lawyer or merchant Mariah walked into the small general store to ask for her bill. The kindly owner pulled the records out he had already tallied. Quietly, with no comment, she endorsed her royalty check over to him. The bill was 600.00 and her check was 640.00. She now had 40.00 in her pocket and that was all.

The wind caught our hair as we left the store and Mariah reached her whole arm up, as she always did, to hold it in place. The gesture forced her head down but for just a moment her eyes caught mine. She might fool the world as far as hardness, but in that instant I saw the tragic plight of despair in her eyes.

As she often distracted me from some pain, when I was a child, so I now did with her.

“Let me drive home? Please?” I didn’t expect her to let me because she hated to bother with my driving. “Please?” I pleaded. “Uncle Dean always has me drive for him.”

“Oh all right.” Mariah handed me the keys.

“I was glad to have thought of a way to distract her, because she put the seat of the little Nash Rambler back and fell fast asleep. She had found an escape, from her sorrow, at least for a couple hours, while I drove in a leisurely way back to Ponca. I wondered if she dreamed about the rosy-cheeked, little girls, who were as gone from her as if they had died.


Subject: Re: They Call the Wind Mariah, 24
Date: Thu, 29 May 2008 18:11:16 EDT
From: JUDYSROOTS@aol.com
To: rlfflood@cableone.net


 
Donna, save whatever you can that will plump up the memories and lives of our ancestors. Here is the attachment of my story...just for you...I have tried to write in first person, trying to make it more real...but am not a writer...always, Judy...ps, the Osage coffee (cereal) bowls were pyrex--and were green and there were white ones, too...and grandma said the white ones were "new".
 
Sorry, I didn't get a picture of the Osage bowls...but, would bet that the place is still in Pawhuska.  Mel's got relatives who live Pawhuska, still.
 
My favorite thing about the Pawhuska Cemetery is that it has Native Americans buried there...and their vaults and decorations on the graves are wonderful.  Mel took me to the cemetery on a wedding trip....ha....had to show me the statues and stuff.    Mel's grandfather, James "jim" Gullett was on the board of education for the Indian School and was responsible for getting hot lunches. The Gulletts and Grimes worked a dairy outside of town...called the GRIMES DAIRY pre 1925...I have searched for years for a milk bottle and even advertised for one in the newspaper...no takers. 
 
The Grimes and Gullett families intermarried into the native families and worked for them to help them raise their cattle and crops-were friends and family both. Jim and Belle Gullett lived in Hominy Okla. to raise their grandchildren. Belle was red headed and blue eyed...Jim was black hair with eyes like lumps of coal. MEL'S aunt JANE Grimes Sumpter wed a man named: Casebeer. There are Sumpter and Sumter's all the same families...intermixed.
 
John Sumpter born 1865 after the civil war in  Carthage Mo. was the son of Urbin Sumpter born 1819 Franklin Co. Indiana. and married Nora Hargis born1820, she was the daughter of Green Corn "Buck" Hargis (Hargus) a Native American,  of Mo...........John Elias Sumpter wed: Annie Pearl CRISS born 1875 KS, and their daughter,  Belle Forrest SUMPTER GULLETT is my husbands grandma. she is buried in Pawhuska as is her mother and father and husband and kids. The 'indian' families gave her a Native American funeral tribute, I don't remember the names of the pastor and singers..but, have it somewhere in my files. She went to the Hominy Baptist church.
 
Send me your mailing address...I have something silly to send to you....I have Scotch relatives too....MCKOWN was my step father's name. They stick like glue...but are invisible...grin.
judy
 

Judith Lavonia Grimes
Yorba Linda, California, 92886
Lineage Specialist- Women's History

UnCivil War #1

JANE ANN MARTHA (GOODWIN ) JAMES,

Born May 10,1817, Pittsylvania Co. Virginia

Died Sept.6, 1883,Cedar Grove, Sharp Co. Arkansas

Wed: October 12, 1835 in the home of my brother:

OVERTON P.GOODWIN and his wife,ELIZABETH(?)GOODWIN:St.Francis Co., Arkansas

 My Spouse: LT. ELIJAH JAMES,(b. July 7,1816,TN-died age 48 of typhoid, Nov.14, 1862, UNION Army Hospital, St .Louis, Mo.(grave # 445,section #49)-organized Helena 1862, First Arkansas Volunteers  Battalion, U.S.A., Co. ’C’,

Father of Jane A.M. Goodwin: John D. Goodwin, Pittysvania, VA.

Mother of Jane A.M. Goodwin: Jane (?) Goodwin, Pittsylvania, VA.

Jane Ann Martha (Goodwin) James, This is My Story:

“I birthed 11 children. My first child and first son died as infant named: JOHN WILLIAM JAMES, in 1836. The first time my man, ELIJAH JAMES, left me for war, it was the Mexican War in 1846, there was a 5 week old baby, Mary Elizabeth at my breast, three more at my apron.

 In 1862, the Nations’ blood ran hot for war.  Elijah leaves me again, this time into my care, three daughters and five sons, the youngest, AMOS P. JAMES, being 4 when his father again takes up a cause.

Our oldest son, THOMAS JEFFERSON JAMES, age 18 enlists with his father in the 1st Arkansas Battalion, U.S.A. army Co.’ C’. My son-in-law, LEWIS ROBERT TURNER leaves his fields unplanted, and abandons my daughter, CAROLINE VIRGINIA (JAMES) TURNER, alone with their young sons as he hurries to join up in the same unit, with Elijah and Thomas. With the call to arms-the regiments were not formed and no necessities set aside for men. Many of our fellows ate their own horses waiting to get to war. 

Word has come that our three men are all in the hospital, sick to death with typhoid. That very word gives me chills. Lewis has sent for Caroline to come with haste as she is needed to nurse himself as well as Thomas and see immediately to her father Elijah, who has not youth on his side being of 48 years. 

I cannot go to St. Louis! Must I always stay behind? Amos is only four, also 7 others, all    under their majority, needing care in these hard times. Sarah Ann has not yet wed at 15 and is my strong right hand and a beauty of rare courage. Caroline, my oldest and first married, leaves behind little ‘JIMMY’ (JAMES MARION TURNER) age 5 and little sickly, ELIJAH, Jr. age 3 with neighbors and makes the trek up river to St. Louis.

Our rocky, hilly farm north of Curia Creek in Cedar Grove is best described as ‘frontier’ with Elijah always seeking the unpopulated, lonesome, land. Not far from my very porch there are two crossings of military roads-used constantly by armies of both sides. 

None of us venture far from the home place and I lie down with bedfellows of fear and trembling, never knowing when we will be raided again or by which army? Most of the time we are smack dab in the middle of Confederate territory and they came to clean us out of foodstuffs more than once-our vicinity being close. The first time we were raided, Sarah Ann saw them coming and ran and sat herself over our sacks of corn, spreading out her full skirts to cover the staple.  She smiled and was so flushed, beguiling the men, they never asked her to move and our hoard was saved. Another time they left with our plow ox and I hurried after, following as close as I dared. Gathering my ‘grit’ when entering their camp, I went directly to the commanding officer and stated my case, demanding of this army to be gentlemen.  Thank God, he couldn’t see my trembling knees and our ox was returned safe and uncooked.

This war is battled by all, won by none.  Would it be easier to put on trousers and march out behind the flute and drum, than to walk through the enemy camp bearing up, as best I could to ignore the lewd remarks and gruffaws of the wild men, my heart thumping its desperate prayer and my dusty work-clothes only partially covering my bare feet?

Fear, flat out, fear! Sarah, I am plumb scared to think what is next? Oh, Lordy, I do miss your father.

Singing softly: “I am tired, I am weary, I am worn…” 

The boys have to get this old ash hopper working and draining so that I’ll have lye for soap. The TAYLORS and other kin will be along this week to kill a hog, while this cold weather holds.  We plan to save it all, every scrap, nothing to waste except the squeal. The kids have been collecting every bucket, bowl, jug, crock and bin on the place in preparation and I’ve sifted critters out of the salt, sugar and corn crocks and scalded everything.  Knives are sharpened and I’m trusting the girls to wash the innards so we can stuff sausage. Little Amos even picked sage to help. Not only do we do the killing, cleaning and preserving quickly-we have to hide what we can from others, sometimes from our own Confederate neighbors. One resource we have is rocks and Elijah built a rock chimney-a big ‘un. In a pinch we have thrice hung the hams in the top of the house chimney, to the far left side, out of sight and since the smoke rises to the right tunnel, not too hot to get smoked, and with a fire going..no one looks up..We keep a hot pot on the coals, even if it is just sassafrass tea.

There’s an old OSAGE called, ’CASBEER’ who brings us venison and trades for duck eggs or sour doughe. Sarah and I can manage the dye pot and she is right good at weaving clothe but neither of us has figured out Elijah’s way of making leather, and the boys need shoes, badly.  They’ve been wrapping their feet with rags to walk back and forth to work in the bottomland farms.

Today, Caroline, in the flesh, came walking up our hill with the TAYLOR kin, hauling her tack. She has been to the end of my world and back again bringing bad news, all clearly written on her face. The hair stands up along my neck and my smile vanishes.

Oh, God, what is happening?  I am stone.

Dearest Elijah, left me forever, his tired eyes facing homeward, with his last breath, he lay in the arms of his son-in-law, LEWIS ROBERT TURNER. Lewis and Thomas both being too weak to stand and suffering their way to recovery, in the same hospital.  Lewis will recover and Thomas should be released soon from his responsibility to come home to heal? How I ache to hold him in my arms and feed him back to strength.

My man, will never come home again. How can I bear this sorrow? It has to be written in the Family Bible and letters to my brother O.P. GOODWIN and others. But, not yet. Not yet. That which gathers itself in my innermost  heart, shrinks the softness into rock with horror and lonesome terror.” I can not write, its just too much.

I am CAROLINE VIRGINIA (JAMES) TURNER, This is My Story:

“God the Creator loves Arkansas.  He would never “Spew it from His mouth for being lukewarm” as Arkansas is either cold or hot giving away nothing in its’ seasons or its’ people or its’ politics to be called, ‘Lukewarm’. Even Arkansas water runs both hot and cold.”

“Momma saw me coming and ran, grabbed me and hugged me with wild eyes and desperate tears. She looks really tired and I have much to share. The children clustered around me, faces older than they seemed a month ago. Facts were told and crying and  their questions given some answer, supper over and chores done. The children put to bed. Now, it is time for Momma to ask and hear, those things a woman needs to know.

I made good time on the winter waters. The ferrymen still make way for a woman and are civil, even if she does have men-folk on the wrong side of this war. Suspicions of extra fee for me held true, female or no, the prices were gouged. Up river was exhausting with no stops for nature and no bed or warmth. The children, I left them with neighbors, thank goodness they were not along. Food was held dear and without more often than with.

Arrival in St. Louis became a trial of reactions. I barely held my anger when I saw the conditions of the hospital and set about quickly to find a helper for foodstuff and a way to bile clean the linens. Our men were a shadow of themselves but we all put on our good faces. Kindness was all around me as others brightened to a smile in an apron and a skirt. I tried not to count those faces missing in the morning when I arrived to nurse my way through the barracks. Days passed in work-just trying to yank the illness out of our men, almost by will alone.

The sun finally came out, hot on the porch, its dusty beams poking through the small window. Poppa asked to be moved outside to look toward home and Momma. Lewis and I managed the pallets and soon Poppa spoke and just seemed to empty out his spirit to gentle death.  Thomas was heavy in fever and not able to know. In a few days he was clear and seemed to bear up like you would expect…but was so grieved he could barely speak and his eyes held an unworldly gaze. The doctor said Thomas and Lewis would both recover.

Momma, Poppa’s last clear words were for his soul and God’s care for you and the children.  He softly said, “Janey, I love you.” And then he was gone.

Is it possible to carry conversations in our heads with our men who are far away? Lewis, are you listening? Are you also unable to sleep and having drowsy pictures of me?  Can you see through the veil of distance and hear my heart?

Lewis? Lewis? Don’t you dare go and die on me!!  Come home and raise your family!

Momma has sat here at this old table and it is soaked with her tears. She has blowed her nose into her apron until it’s a wadded up mess. I’ll rinse it out before bed.  She is asleep in the chair with her head propped on her arms, and grannys quilt is snug wrapped around her, chair and all. I suppose they’ll call her the Widow JAMES, now, and cluck in their teeth, that Elijah was a UNION man, after-all? Doesn’t it matter that the typhoid took him before he even fired a shot?

I left my tears and my grief upstream in the river.   The TAYLORS are here and I’ll help with the hog killin’ and then this tired woman rides for home.  Our sorrow won’t lift as long as this war continues. Momma said I could have Poppa’s gentle mare, Old Cricket, to ride home. My thoughts lean more to that frisky gray gelding that was Thomas’s pride. The miles will go quicker and with more joy in the ride, even if he is a bit skiddish, sometimes even skittish.”

Christmas is coming and the ice storms still grip, however today, the sun again promises bright warmth with darker clouds clinging to the heights of the winter mountain and a web of fog along the river. I remember the last bright day and the death it held. I’ve left Momma’s house and aimed my heart toward my own hearth.

Momma sent little Jimmy an arrowhead, blue as his eyes. With the hog’s gift of fresh lye soap, a hot bath and clean clothes and with Momma’s Christmas gift to me, a crisp new apron, I feel as if I could fly. The only thing missing is Mr. LEWIS ROBERT JAMES ex soldier, by my side and a good cup of real coffee.

This trail is known to me and to the horse. The miles pass quickly.  The creeks and the Strawberry and Black River all are easily crossed if one goes to the known crossings. The White River is another thing-but the TAYLORS told me of the high sandbar and low water just ahead.  The horse is tired but if I cross now, we can rest on the other side and flitter home like a butterfly.

Whoa, Horse! Easy! Its just cold water and there’s corn on the other side for ya.

That’s it…easy now..  Who’s that yelling?  What? I can’t hear you? Its, Oh, God, the soldiers are yelling and they are pointing rifles at me. What? No, I live over there! I live on your side! I’ve been to St. Louis to nurse my sick husband! I need to cross here!

Now! What? Go farther down to cross? What? I AM NOT A SPY!  Help ME! 

Whoa Horse! Whoa!

A sharp shot and we go down, horse and rider together, down and out, deeper into the channel, past the ice crusted edge, into the churning swift water. Jimmy, your blue gift arrowhead, is in my apron pocket. Cold, so cold. I can’t see sunlight. OH, God, Help me. …………Momma……”

Hunters found the gray gelding’s body, miles down the White River, and knew its owner was my son, Thomas. Thence, trouble had again come to us, they stopped over to tell us of the dead horse and the story of the beautiful girl, a spy riding a grey horse, killed, as told by the Confederate pickets along the White River.

Sarah Ann and I rode out to find Caroline or her body and bring it home to bury.  The TAYLOR girl found her first, after a cold, long, weeks search, washed up on the sand bar at river bend. Her folks buried Caroline gently on the bank of the White River where she lay.  They brought the little handkerchief from her apron pocket with the gift, the blue arrowhead wrapped secure. With this proof we knew it was our Caroline, shot dead or drowned, before years end 1862. I did not have to face the flesh of her death and can today, remember the face I knew so well in its youth and womanhood .

Pvt. Thomas Jefferson James, 1st Ark Union Bat. Co. C, was relieved of duty Dec.31, 1862 and was on his grieving way home in January 1863 to hearth & family, when captured by CSA regulars.  My son, my tender hearted boy, died of freezing starvation before he could be exchanged. His young body put into its’ cold bed of earth, also too early for a mother’s reckoning, by uncaring, unloving hands, in the bare winter soil, somewhere in Helena, Arkansas.  Three winter graves all separated by distance from home but tied secure to my heart forever. Where in this land I lie in my final day, these of my heart lie with me, in faith for the resurrection.

 The loss of my dear husband, my lovely daughter and my shining son to this uncivil war is more than I can bear when I lie alone at night, but with the young at my skirt seeking solace, I bear up while they are with me.

Here I list, in the James family Bible, the words that again tug and break, my heart: 

“ Our daughter, Carolyn Virginia (James) Turner, born in the manner of all women, January 29, 1839 in Arkansas, farm of good black, bottomland, in a rope bed by a large hearth in a log and rock house, all  built by her father, Elijah James.

Caroline  married age 16 to Lewis Robert Turner, November 29,1855, Lawrence Co.  Arkansas. Two sons she bore, nursed, loved and left motherless, not by choice.

She died at the hands of an enemy, unknown if by accident, in the White River, December 1862, almost 24 years of age.

Not a single grave close by to mourn or remember, just a small, sky blue, arrowhead, wrapped in a lawn handkerchief, in her Christmas apron pocket.”


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