In forty-six years, a lot can change in a place like this. When I came here as a child the place was booming. Like most same country towns, everyone knew everyone and everything about everyone. Granted most the telling was done in secret, but everybody got around to hearing it. The stories always started the same way “Now you can’t tell a soul, but did you know?” I guess to most folks that meant tell if you feel the urge, cause they always did. I reckon that ain’t changed much. Nevertheless, here’s what I know happen.
It was the spring of 1921 when we move from Kansas City to Northgrove Mo. I was eight years old. There were only four of us kids then, with me being the oldest, and a girl, and Momma expecting again, I have to help with the little ones. Momma doesn’t feel well most the time, but she does all she can for us. Dad says she’s never been strong in body, but her head and heart are good. That’s the main thing. My brother Joe is six and Dad claims he’s a bit simple, the rest are too small to get much work out of. So for the most part, it’s left up to Dad and me. I get to go into town with Dad to get supplies twice a month on Saturday. I like it when he and I go off alone, it’s the only time I get away from taken care of the little ones.
Everyone comes to town on Saturday and church on Sunday. There are three churches the Baptist, the Freewill, and the Pentecost. Mrs. Mills runs the general store her husband died a while back and it’s just her and her boy Sam. When the weathers nice she
lets him play out back of the store. She made a harness and hooked him to a rope on the clothesline. He can reach the back porch of the store and most the yard. Some folks say it’s a terrible thing. I think it is smart, he can play and run all over, but he can run off or get on the railroad tracks, wish Dad would let me tie the little ones to something sometimes.
Mrs. Jones has the post office and a little variety store, she doesn’t have all the stuff the general store has but I like it. I guess her husband died too, and her kids are all grown up and gone. She seems annoyed by most everything and everyone, Dad says she’s just bitter. I don’t know about that, but she sure seems to know a lot about everyone around here.
Mr. Roy came into get his mail while we were there last time, and was telling how Mr. Basset had Stoll the wheels off his wagon then tossed em the creek. Mrs. Jones say Mr. Basset is the meanest man in the country. Everyone in town seems to think the same thing, because someone is always telling about something mean he has done to someone. Most the time it is Mr. Roy he’s being mean to. Dad says no one has the nerve to stand up to Mr. Basset, because he has money and he’s big and ugly.
One Saturday in the store, everyone was in an up roar. Best I could make out was that Mr. Leonard’s wife was seeing another fellow; I guess they all like to drink abit. Mrs. Lenord and her fella, knock Mr. Lenord out after he had drank some. Then laid him across the train tracks, he had rolled around some, so when the train came it just cut off his leg instead of killing him. Seems like Mrs. Leonard would be a good match for Mr. Basset.
Down the road south of town is a tavern, Momma says those folks are just shameful. The women are no good and the men aren’t any better. I guess there are a few folks around that make moonshine and keep these folks happy. Momma says women need to take care of home; they have no business trying to hold men’s positions. I’m not sure what that is supposed to mean. But Momma seems to think that our local widows would do well to stop try to run the stores in town and find some husbands. The women dancing and caring on down at the tavern should be run out. The whole town has a barn dance about once a month and folks come from all over, to eat and dance and just visit. Momma says they would do well if they would have a good old-fashioned come to Jesus meeting.
When spring came, everybody was out and about getting seed and tools, our little town was booming. It had been a long winter. The baby came just before Christmas a little girl Lora May. Momma says she feels better but I don’t know she is still pale and seemed smaller everyday. But it was spring and that always made us feel better. When Dad and I got to town, everyone was talking about things that had happen over the long winter. It seemed Mr. Basset had little to do except torment Mr. Roy. The main talk however was the town social that was to happen that night. Dad said we could all go if Momma felt up to it but there would be no dancing.
Momma wasn’t up to it so we stayed home. I took care of the little ones, helped Dad plant the crops, and tended to the animals. I bought some more books, if it wasn’t for the books and dreaming I think I would turn out like Momma. She has a good soul and that wouldn’t be bad to have, she just doesn’t have any life to her. She is so small, and though she keeps going and tries to act strong, sometimes you can see a tired sadness in her eyes.
I couldn’t wait till Dad and I went back to town, so I could hear all about the town social. There would be some good stories about everyone. I wasn’t wrong about that but again the talk went to Mr. Basset and Mr. Roy. Seems Mr. Roy got himself a sweetheart. Folks say he is mad in love. So much so, he is talking marriage. Mr. Basset thought it would be funny tried to make the poor girl dance with him at the social. Folks say it was the first time they ever seen Mr. Roy show any backbone. He stood right up to him and then Mr. Basset knock Mr. Roy to the ground and told him he would be doing more than dancing with his sweetheart. Guess the whole thing was something. While we stood loading our wagon Mr. Bassets team and wagon came running into town, the only thing was Mr. Basset wasn’t driving it. Everyone went running even Dad but only after telling, me to stay put. Seem Mr. Roy had found more than his nerve that day, cause he had hide in the bushes right out of town and waited for Mr. Basset. When he saw him, Mr. Roy shot him dead. All he said was a man can only stand so much until he’s had enough.
Folks say Mr. Roy went mad that day, but I don’t think so. In fact, they say a lot of stuff I don’t see as right. Fact is some times you just have to do what needs doing. Mrs. Mills had to tie her boy Sam up to keep him safe, and Mr. Roy had to kill Mr. Basset to save himself and his sweetheart. I had to help Dad and Momma raise the little ones. Momma had twelve of us kids, even though she looked like she would die at anytime. She lived another twenty years after the last baby. I went on to school and even college, then finally went to a town social and met a boy. I made him chase me four years. The women in town ran their stores until they died, and never did go find husbands. I think they figured one was enough. Mr. Leonard finally got rid of that wife of his and she had five more husbands after him.
Folks have to have something to talk about.