Once upon a time, many years ago when I was a little girl and my name was Mary Lavina Smith, we lived on a farm near the small town of Mt. Vernon, Missouri. Mt. Vernon is located in the southwest corner of Missouri- half way between Springfield and Joplin.
I was the youngest of five children, and when I think of my early childhood in the mid 1920’s before the depression hit, my mind is filled with a blur of activity. The farm was a busy place, but I want to tell you about the happenings on a summer evening when I was about six.
We had lots of animals: chickens, turkeys, sheep, hogs, and horses. Mainly, my father had white faced Hereford beef cattle and a smaller herd of milk cows. We had a lot of pets of various kinds and a pet rooster named Pete. After Pete met his inevitable fate, we had a big Rhode Island Red rooster. My brothers named him RePete.
Now RePete liked to follow us around and would perch on the shoulders of my oldest brother, Johnny, as he did his chores and generally make a pest of himself.
We had a big barn and along side of it was a large feed lot. After the many labors of the long summer day, Pop would herd the 30-40 head of cattle into the feed lot to stuff themselves while my brothers did the evening milking in the barn. In the hot summer when the flies were bad, I would go with my brothers to the barn. I would hold the tails of the tamer cows so they wouldn’t switch theirs tails around and hit the milkers in the face. I didn’t mind this job, as it made me feel important. It was fun to watch the boys occasionally squirt streams of milk into the mouths of the anticipating cats sitting nearby.
On this particular evening, I was holding the tails of the cows Dan and Don were milking while further down the line, Johnny was milking Clementine. Clementine was a mite skittish which was why she was milked by Johnny instead of the younger boys.
Johnny was just about finished with Clementine when RePete, who was perched high in the loft watching the proceedings, decided to fly down and land on Johnny’s shoulder. Now that startled Clementine. She switched her tail hard aiming at RePete but hitting Johnny squarely in the face. At the same time, she kicked over the almost full bucket of milk.
Now that startled Johnny who jumped up finding his feet covered with milk and his face with a stinging jaw. He made a grab for that rooster and threw him with all his might out the barn window. Now that startled RePete who came sailing out over the feed lot- wings flapping and screeching at the top of his lungs.
Now that startled the cattle that had been peacefully eating their meal, and they stampeded. Ignoring the gate, they made kindling wood out of the fence surrounding the lot and headed for Timbuktu.
Now that startled Pop who had been sitting on his horse and no doubt figuring in his mind’s eye the weight of each steer and what the market would be like when he sold them. He took off after them yelling and waving his hat and trying to head them off before they ran off too many pounds. My brothers dropped everything and fanned out across the pasture to keep them from reaching the timber.
Me, I ran for the house as fast as I could go to tell Momma and Anna Lou to come and watch the disastrous event.
Finally, after things were under control, the boys finished milking while Momma and Pop surveyed the havoc wrought in the feed lot. Supper was really late that evening, and nobody said much. Dan and Don were dog tired, and Johnny had a dark look in his eye that didn’t bode well for the future of that Rhode Island Red. Pop had a grim look around his mouth and didn’t seem to enjoy his supper much which wasn’t too surprising. The biscuits were cold.