Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sundays with Steve - Crossing the Plains

These Sunday's segments are written by my husband, Mr. Jenny. Here's what he has to say about his posts:

Since I’ve started writing “Sundays with Steve”, I’ve been thinking about vignettes of my life growing up in North Idaho. I realize the town where I grew up and the life I lived with my family is really a classic, all-American story. Perhaps you will recognize some of your childhood in these writings. And perhaps you will recognize the town you grew up in along with some of the characters you knew. Mrs. Steve has encouraged me to write these attempts of “creative writing” as opposed to the more factual journalistic style I was trained in and practiced in my early career many years ago. So my apologies if I stumble a bit here and there trying to blend the two styles together.

This is the last installment of “Crossing the Plains”, a tale of a covered wagon trip from Missouri to the Washington Territory in the post-Civil War period when the U.S. population poured into the West. It was written by a distant great great aunt, Barbara Jane Matlock McRae in 1939 when she was 81. The trip occurred mostly in 1875 when she was a girl of 16, the oldest of ten children in the family. The story is reprinted in original form of spelling and punctuation.

Part 12 - Final Installment

While living on the stock ranch in Washington territory, I had a greate many experiences. In those days there were no roads out in the hills on the prarie, just stock trails and Indian trails. Along the river the ranchers had built fences around the botom land so they could raise hay and gardens. The river made so many bends that when going on the dim wagon road we had to cross the river so many times it took us through their fields, so we had to open gates and let down bars.

One warm day in August I was riding my pony up the river when I came to some bars that had been left down to about too feet from the ground. I had trained my pony to jump low fences , small streams and narrow ditches. I road up to the bars and the pony began to shy. He stood up on his hind feet. I thought to jump but a sudden he whirled and ran back with me as fast as he could, and gave a loud snort. I tried to rein him back but he was too freightened. He was all in a tremble. I got down off him and turned the reins over his head, and left him standing. I went back to investigate.

When I got up near enough to see, there was a great big rattlesnake just under the bars all coiled up with his big black diamond spots glitning in the sun. His head was up in the regular position for strike, his eyes shineing like too black beads and his tongue darting in and out like streaks of lightning. His rattles were singing in a loud tone, it was plain enough he was on the strike.

I backed off afraid to tackle him, but I found a stout stick and gathered an arm full of stones just the right sise to throw good at him. I approached about ten feet from him, he still had his head in the air and it was plain he dident intend to run. I could throw stones pretty straight in those days. The first one I throwed hit him low on the neck which seamed to infurieate him more. The next, the second throw, I missed. The third throw I hit him on the side of the head which seamed to dase him a little. The fourth throw I hit him square on the head and knocked him over. He writhered his body and tried to rise, but I threw rocks so fast and furious I dident give him a chance to get up. Then I grabed my stick and beat his head on a big flat rock till he was dead. He was at least four feet long and big as round as my arm. He had seventeen rattles and a button that I pulled from his tail. I think he was the largest rattlesnake I ever ran across, and I have seen many of them. My pony wouldent go near the spot. I had to go around about way to finish my journey.
Well, there is nothing more to say, onley that all that big family is gone but four of us are left, my twin brothers and my youngest sister, and my self. I am the oldest except for too brothers who were older than I. I am now 81 years old and have writen all this manuscript alone.
This is Steve. I have found most of this journal a wonderful story, and from your comments, many of you have as well. I’m not clear, but I believe Barbara Jane died in the 1940s on the family farm just south of Colfax, Washington. I would have loved to have met her, she sounds like a “pistol”, and I would have loved to interviewed her in much more depth, digging for many more details, of the Crossing the Plains.

We tried to attach a partial family tree to show you how Barbara and I fit into the family structure, but it could not be attached. If you are curious to see it, please e-mail me at: smatlock at email dot com

(c) 2010 Stephen J. Matlock
This publication is the exclusive property of Stephen J. Matlock and is protected
under the US Copyright Act of 1976 and all other applicable international, federal, state and local laws. The contents of this post/story may not be reproduced as a whole or in part, by any means whatsoever, without consent of the author, Stephen J. Matlock. All rights reserved.


Ames said...

Well I was sad to see this end. I have really enjoyed her story and I am glad that you decided to share this with all of us. She was one gutsy girl. I think I would have run the other way with the pony instead of gearing up to kill it. Eewah shiver shiver! I hate snakes!!
If you ever get the chance to read "Montana Women Homesteaders~ A Field of One's Own~ Edited by Sarah Carter, you will enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed Great Great Aunt Barbara Jane's stories. Her's are worthy of being in a book like this too!
Thank you for sharing Steve. I'm going to miss reading about her every Sunday.~Ames

Judie said...

I agree with Ames! This was such a treat, and I looked forward to it every Sunday morning. I will really miss reading about Barbara Jane.

Anonymous said...

I am disappointed this came to an end. I really did enjoy reading it. Thank you again Steve for sharing your aunt's great journal with us. Hugs

Ruby Hawk said...

Fascinating reading. Those times are the to be appreciated as we age.

H said...

Although not my own history, I have found this journey a fascinating insight into the lives of the early settlers. A very enjoyable read :)

Emailing to ask for a look at the family tree right now.

Donnie said...

Sad it had to end but all good stories have a beginning and an ending. This was so interesting and quite a tribute to one feisty lady. Thanks Steve.

Pondside said...

I looked forward to these posts every week - thank you for sharing this unique family story. There are none of us here in the 'new world' whose forbearers left home because it was so good - they all came seeking new life, opportunity etc. The determination of all of them is exemplified by the story of this young woman and her family.

Karen said...

I just finished the last two installments, and I'm so sad that the story has come to an end. Thanks so much for sharing it with us, Steve. Your Great Aunt Barbara was a brave woman. I hope you find a way to share this story with more people.