The First Eight Months of Oklahoma City.
HOW A WOMAN TOOK A RANCH.
Dear Mollie: You know I promised to write you a long letter as soon as I got settled and at home on my claim. But I tell you if I wait till I get settled I never will write. You remember that red-headed beau of mine, the one it took two years to bring to terms, and then he proposed on condition that his mother approved of me, but this is going to be a longer job than that. You know when I left home I made a written plan of all that I should do, a sort of guide book you see. It covered forty three pages of note paper, and then I forgot to put down the signs that a hen wants to set and a lot of other things.
Well, when I got down here my directions said: "buy a pony and hire a colored man to drive a team." It didn't take long to find a pony but it is an awful task to find a colored man that's honest and can drive a team, and that won't eat preserves and don't like chicken, but I found one that said that he was just that kind of a man that my directions prescribed, so I wrote out a contract from a book of forms Uncle George gave me and then the pesky darkey couldn't write so he didn't sign it. I just made him hold the bible in his right hand while I read it to him and made him say amen to it all. I thought that that would hold him but he couldn't re-member much of it.
At noon on the 22nd I was on the line on my pony and had the colored man on the wagon right behind me. I gave him a compass and told him to follow the needle and he said he would. I told him he would find my claim by a red flag on it and he said he's "be dar shuah and ruh his mules all de way.
I put on my wine colored stockings because they was so darned bad I couldn't wear them with low shoes and put on my rubber boots. Well as soon as the start was
made I forgot all about the land and only tried to beat a big roan horse ahead of me. When I looked down once there was a great big gap between the boot tops and skirts and the wine colored stockings were showing clear above the knee. That's all that saved me. A great big Texas fellow was riding the roan and he kept looking back at the stockings until his horse stumbled and I went by him.
Then child, I was at the front. After running eight or ten miles I came to a pretty valley that just suited me, and stopped by a spring under some great big trees. I had a nice, hand-painted claim stake that I put down by the spring and four little stakes, with blue flags and the edges marked with woosted, to put on the corners. My directions said to pace eight hundred paces on each side but I was afraid I could not step far enough so I only counted once in a while. In this way I got a rose bush on one corner of my claim. I had to go around a cow to stake the other corner but I staked him in on the ground too. I put the other two corners in places where I knew it would be nice to have picnics and then went back to my pony. You see by a little foresight, a person can make a farm real nice. Another claimer from Arkansas says my stakes are stuck in a semi-circle; if they are, won't it be real pretty when I have flowers set out all along the line?
Well, after I got my staking all done it was real late, but you know I only wind my watch choir nights so it was run down. Anyway I went and found my pony, he had chewed all the color out of some blue bows I had tied on his "lariat" - that's what the call it here -I didn't mind it much though, as I didn't think anyone would come. After I unsaddled him I went to my saddle bags for lunch and don't you believe that nasty African had changed them someway. In one side there was a bottle that looked like the stuff pa calls "Old Wry," and some cards and loads for guns, and some more cards, and little blue and red ivory wheels about as big as a silver dollar. In the other pocket of the saddle bags was a pair of buck-skin pantaloons, I guess, but they was trimmed and fringed up so they looked like panties! There was some tobacco in one pocket and I stuck a fish hook in my
finger in the other. I don't know what else there was for I never feel in other people pockets anyway.
It was almost sundown and my good darkey wasn't in sight and I recollected that I hadn't put out my red flag, and besides mine was in my saddle bags. What do you think I did Mollie? I took off my red corsets for a flag,
but I couldn't find any pole to put them on so I laced them up and put them on my head, wasn't that cute?
My directions said, build a fire of buffalo chips, but as I couldn't find any, I concluded that the buffalo here never made any chips so I got a little wood. After I got a fire started I tasted the "Old Wry," it was awful queer but I thought it had got warm in the sun, so I put the bottle out on the grass a little while and then tasted it some more. Pretty soon I felt as if I wanted to hiccough or "holler," and you know how silly any one looks when they hiccough, so I hollered. In a few minutes I heard that blamed nigger sing out, "am dat you Miss Jennie?" I was awful glad to hear him so I said "yes, poke along here," and along he poked. I thought he looked awful funny, his face was covered with jam and there was some chicken feathers sticking in his hair, but I was so anxious I only said "for goodness sake hurry up that wagon."
He kept coming toward the fire and then I saw he had my afghan-you know that one I knit for Elder Sin-gar who went and married that horrid King girl-well he had it wrapped around his waist so that it fell down below his knees, and he looked like an Indian.
"Fore God Missus, I done took yer for a savoge wid dat red head fixin', so I done kept away." he said.
You see I had forgot to take off that corset after dark and it did make me look like a boy's Jack lantern.
Then he went on, "you see Miss, I done went in swimmin' back yeah, and de mules toah my breeches all up, so I done put on dis misble old pe'ce carpet.
Just to think, that wooley headed sinner had lost his covering, and then called my afghan a carpet! I was just too mad for any use, but I made him bring up the wagon, anyway. And just to think, my jam was all gone, and my two hens, that I brought to raise chickens from, were gone too.
You see it was lucky I only brought two hens, for I didn't intend to have anything but females on my farm. Oh, it was just awful! Well, I made some tea and had such a nice supper of tea, in my china cup, with some good sugar, but the old "wry" had spoiled my appetite for anything else.
And then, you see, I had an almost naked nigger in camp and none of my clothes would fit him, oh, my! my ! what could I do? There was nothing in my directions for that.
JENNIE'S SECOND LETTER.
I tell you, Mollie, it was an awful predicament. I just thought the Scotch regiment, we used to admire so much, would have looked like chimney sweeps if their legs had been black. Well, I thought and I thought until I remembered the buckskin pants, and then I threw them under the wagon and told him to dress up. I thought he was awful quiet but guessed it was because he was so ashamed. I went to sleep after awhile and dreamed of a sky full of black feet with black legs wriggling all around the inside of it, trying to get down to an earth all made of buckskin pants with fringe on.
Well, when I got up in the morning, there was that awful darkey with the old "wry" bottle in his hand, my afghan around his neck and the rest of him barefoot all over. I just thought of the Zulus we saw at the museum and wished the black cannibal was in Africa where the crocodiles could eat him. But you know I have more presence of mind than a man, so I went and laid down in my blanket, and commenced to throw some brands from my fire towards the wagon. Pretty soon I heard the nig "Goddlemity, if dem skatees ain't nippers."
Then I just yelled, "have you got on them pants?" I was so anxious to see him dressed up that I forgot all about grammar I didn't hear any answer but pretty soon I heard him building a fire and muttering "dem tings done bit clear frew my back." I peaked out and saw he had the pants on. They didn't come much below his knees and fitted him pretty tight, but I didn't say anything only when I saw his feet I wondered if he put on "them pants" over his head. We got breakfast and worked over the fire, and I noticed the pants kept fitting him more and more skin like. When he stooped they lifted his big heels clear off the ground, and when he tried to sit down they popped him up straight just like a jumping Jack. By and by the veins on his big feet began to swell, you see the pants were so tight the darkey was really in two parts and the lower part didn't circulate with the other. Finally he says, " Miss Jennie, I'se done snake bit, foah God I is." and the whites of his eyes and his white teeth covered his whole face. I took the ax and was going to bleed him in the foot but he danced around so I couldn't reach him.
Then it occurred to me that the pants were wet with dew when he put them on and they had shrunk up when the fire dried them. So I told him to lay down and then I poured cold water on him and hot tea when the water was gone. By that time the pants stretched so they hung on his legs in big wrinkles, 'till they looked like the elephant's legs in the circus.
But no matter how he looked, we got to work building a cabin, but we didn't get much done for the sun was hot and every time it dried out that nigger's pants I had to wet him down so he could work! 0, Mollie, wasn't it mean to lose all the romance of being a boomer by having to throw water on a buck nigger to keep his pants from choking his feet to death?
Towards noon some men came along and offered to help me. We got everything out of the wagon and was glad to see my colored friend start, even if he was stealing a pair of pants that honestly would fit the largest man or smallest boy. Just as he started he called to me, "Miss Jennie you done got a pin?" "What for?" "Coz I can't find no needle on dis yeah compass.
O, Lordie, Lordie, Mollie, what was a real, black nigger made for?
One of the men that helped me was real nice but he didn't have pretty teeth! The other one was quite a handsome boy but he seemed to be always feeling around him for something. The big man was awful quick to work and as my lumber was all cut ready, I soon had a nice little home, only you know the upper half of it was tent. When we got it done and was having a lunch, every-thing around on the ground like a real picnic - only there wasn't any committee on refreshments to pick out the best things for themselves -when a mouse run toward that boy and he just scooted and screamed! I see then that he had been feeling for his back hair and his bustle, all morning! The man saw that I had caught on so he owned up that it was his wife and he had dressed her up like a boy so she could hold a claim too. The idea of a married woman wearing such awkward clothes as a man's just to get land from the government if I had my way I'd arrest her. They had a little one-horse rig just over the ridge, and she went over there and pretty soon came back with an old DeLaine dress with white ruffles in the neck and sleeves. She was as homely as she could be and I didn't see what he married her for anyway. The man and I had got real well acquainted, but she was sulky and made him go back to their tent. I guess she was jealous for the next morning I couldn't find them any-where.
However, I found some people on the next claim and now I board with them and go over to my farm and stay some every day. I tell you it's awful nice to sit in my rocking chair and do fancy work while I watch the clouds roll by and the hills, and doze occasionally. You know I always said I'd like farm work.
I shall have to make this letter short, so good bye.
Your loving JENNIE
P.S. I just got this letter: "Miss, you'd bettah come and git dem inger rubber pants off my old niggah."
P.S. Yesterday I didn't feel well and couldn't do my farm work, so I sent for a doctor. He's an awful' handsome young man and I guess I'll have him attend me every day till I get well.
P.S. The doctor comes every day and helps me in my farm work, but I feel pretty well. I'm going to buy a cow. Can't you send me some paper patterns of a milk-maid's cap?