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Sweeter Than Elderberry Wine
Root-Hog, or Die


‘So began a whole year with Zona struggling alone on their claim while, she tried to hold it down for the five years required. They couldn’t legally sell it until after five years, anyway. She felt a little like John had died along with all his family. The drinking, dissatisfaction with farming and growing crops, even his horses he was replacing with the idea of having people use bicycles for transportation, these were the things to take him away from home.

The fight she had with her asthma kept her aware of her weakness. She knew, deep in her heart, this hanging on was impossible. Not only her own infirmity but now the asthma on her young son made an even greater trial for her. John stayed in town. He didn’t come home and true to his inherited stubbornness, he kept to what he had set out to do, regardless of the trials with her malady.’

‘For John’s part there wasn’t a whole lot of money to be made with bicycles. The saloon might have been a money maker but the easy availability of the alcohol had become a weakness and kept him at a disadvantage. There was no doubt about it. He missed Zona. Even though the all fired Bible reading got on his nerves, he did have to admit somehow her principles seemed to steady him in one way or another and he felt a need to be with her. She had a way of commanding respect from the community. He supposed it was because she was a gracious, generous person and made it a rule not to get involved with people’s personalities and didn’t seem to need the warmth of friends coming and going as he did, but she was always ready to help with a sickness or when a family needed food or clothing. This kind of attitude was essential in days of “root-hog, or die” living, as the expression went. He wanted cash in his hand and the bicycles and saloon seemed the way to provide.’

‘The fine southern blood that was only a generation behind him with his father and mother gave John a distaste for the kind of miserable existence, he felt, was forced on the people at this time.

Farming wasn’t a part of his rancher’s background. The vision he had for living would not be known to Oklahoma until his old age but somehow he could see a finer, gentler lifestyle. That place off the 4-D Creek on Otter branch just wasn’t it, for him, no matter how much corn, pumpkins, and green beans it produced.’


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