When Emmie Caught the Wild Fox in the Ozarks by Alice Curtice Moyer Wing

Alice Curtice Moyer Wing wanted equal voting rights for women. She traveled the Missouri Ozarks with her horse La Belle in the 1910s, talking to people about voting rights. Her experiences were chronicled in a series of articles published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from 1916-1919. Missouriwomen.org is featuring Moyer Wing’s articles as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s voting rights. For more information about Moyer Wing and her activism, see Alice Curtice Moyer Wing and Woman Suffrage in the Ozarks, 1916-1919.

The following was Moyer Wing’s sixteenth article published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on November 18, 1917:

“Sometimes,” said the Astonished Evart, “it shore looks like women ain’t sense enough to know that a thing cain’t be done and so they jist go ahead and do it” – Previously Emmie’s Frank had observed that women wasn’t thoroughgoin’ enough to vote and that he didn’t believe they’d take the trouble to go ahead with a thing once they got it started.

By Alice Curtice Moyer-Wing

“Ain’t he a beauty? Real silver gray, I reckon. His skin will bring me a right smart price this winter.”

“But how in the world did you catch him?” I asked in wonder. “It seems a remarkable thing for a woman to do – to bag a big, live, wild fox.”

“‘Specially after a passel of men had had a turn at tryin’ fer him,” laughed Emmie. “Well ain’t it often that a-way – a woman will jist step in and do somethin’ that a man ain’t had the time or the patience fer? The boys was up ever’ little while last night, listenin’ to the dawgs and goin’ out lookin’ fur ’em, but they didn’t go fur enough. That is, Evert and Frank. Jim, he got up and set by the fire, but he didn’t keer whether they got the fox or not. You’ll know about jIm if you stay here today.

“We told the boys this mornin’ at breakfast that the hounds would git him run down soon,” Emmie continued. “But they ‘lowed that we didn’t know what we was talkin’ about and said they didn’t aim to fool with ’em no more; said they didn’t believe it was a fox nohow. I didn’t say nothin’, but while Bertie was washin’ up the dishes, with Annie pertendin’ to help her – you’ll know about Annie, too – I jist slips off to look around a little bit fer myself. I tuck off my shoes so’s I could run fast, and tuck Ned, my pet shepherd dawg, with me, ‘lowing he’d be useful.

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“I jist knowed in reason that it was a fox and I shore was bent on havin’ him. I was gittin purty tard by the time me and Ned had run five or six mile, but at last here he come, lickety-split, jist a-lopin’ right toward us. I was plumb excited. I shore was. But I grabbed me a club and lit into him and Ned right with me. You jist orter a seen us. Heap of the time I couldn’t hardly see which was dawg and which was fox, him and Ned was so mixed up in the fight, but at last we got the best of him and I drug him back to camp jist as Evart and Frank was a-bringin’ in their first load of fish. There was shore some carryin’ on over me killin’ the fox.

“Ain’t that jist like a woman, to blunder into a thing like that?” says Evart at last. “I didn’t ‘low that fox could be caught no ways soon – and here he is. Sometimes it shore looks like women ain’t sense enough to know a thing be done and so they jist go ahead and do it.’ They were plumb whipped out. Didn’t have much to say as they started back to the river. I was purty nigh sorry it wasn’t them that got the fox, they was so beat, but it give ’em a lesson, maybe. They keerd that you had been seen in the swamps and last night they was a-talkin’ about women votin’. Us girls had our sleepin’ tent up close to the fire and I heered ever’ word they said.

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“Frank, that’s my man, he ‘lowed that women wasn’t thorough-goin’ enough; said he didn’t believe they’d take the trouble to go ahead with a thing once they got it started. I grinned to myself, layin’ there, rememberin’ how many things round home I have to finish up after he starts ’em. Evart, he ‘lowed they’d fool away all their time a-talkin’ on a subject and never git fur enough along to vote on it, and Jim, he said that he reckoned so, too, jist to have somethin’ to say.

“‘Jist see how them girls is a-sleepin’ right through all this hunt,’ Frank says. ‘Don’t that prove it? If anything is done about that fox, us fellers’ll shore have to do it. Ain’t it a plumb sight how women jist sleeps along through life, a-leavin’ all the shore-‘nough work fer the men to do?”

“Then they’d settle a few more big questions, throw some more chunks on the fire and go to bed agin.

“I thought about it when me and Ned was in the thickest of the fight and got to laughin’ so hard at, the way I knowed they’d look when they seen my fox, that I like to a-give out.”

“You shore could a-knocked their eyes off with a club, the way that they bugged out when they seen Emmie a-draggin’ in that fox, with the hounds a-trottin’ along after her. It was plumb funny,” laughed Berthie.

“You see, a heap of the disposition of men and of women jist in everyday livin’ said Emmie. “Now they ain’t nobody likes blackberry perserves better than men, but did you ever see a man that would let a blackberry briar grow on his farm? And they like hazelnuts and black walnuts and butternuts, but they go right on clearin’ up the patches and cuttin’ down ever’ tree they can find. And they ain’t nobody that likes plenty of butter more than men, but you cain’t trust ’em to do the milkin’ because they won’t take the trouble to save strippin’s. And I ain’t running men down, nuther. I shore ain’t. But I can see their ways same as I can see women’s.”

The fact is jist this,” said Berthie. “It takes the jedgment of both the men and the women to make things right. They’ve jist natcherly got to stand up side by side and work together. Why, the men cain’t no more git along without us, and git along right, than-than-than nothin’. And we cain’t no more git along without them than-than-than”-

“We shore cain’t, the big, aggervatin’ things,” said Emmie. “I reckon I’d hate the whole caboodle of ’em if I didn’t love some of ’em so good.”

“Here comes Jim ag’in,” said Berthie. “Ask him what he thinks of woman suffrage.”

But Jim didn’t “zackly” believe in it. Seemed to him that women didn’t think enough about politics. Now there was Annie, for instance: “Annie,” he said to that yellow-haired, blue-eyed young woman, “Annie how much air you a-thinkin’ about politics these days? Huh?”

“How much air you a-thinkin’ about ’em yourself, Mr. Jim?” Said Annie pertly. “I’ll own that I ain’t a-thinkin’ about nothin’ much but gittin’ ready to be married, but neither air you. I’ll own that I cain’t keep my mind on my work long enough to wash the dishes, but I notice that you cain’t help the boys fish, nuther. So we’re jist even.”

“I reckon that’s so,” grinned Jim. Then to me: “We come along on this here trip jist because the other four planned it. Emmie and Evert is Annie’s married brother and sister. Us six has a right smart of good times together. But me and Annie would be jist as satisfied anywheres else as here. Fishin’ don’t cut no figure with us.”

“Say, you jist must stay with us today,” said Bertie. “Stay till tomorrow. We’ll be plumb proud to have you, boys and all. I’ll bet you can have fun same as anybody, if you jist turn yourself loose. Women speakers and suffrage workers and sich ain’t no different, I reckon, from other people. You can sleep in that wagon out by the big tree. Lots of hay in it. La Belle can eat on it while you’re asleep.”

“It shore is some fun to keep house on a fishin’ trip,” said Emmie. “When the grass gits wore off under one tree, we jist move to another, drive a few nails into it, hang up our fryin’ pans and are right at home agin.”

I shall never be able to describe that day in this river swamp fish camp. I carried water and scaled fish and fried them, and ate them, as they came out of the river, and realized just how much I had missed all my life from not ever having done it before. They never had tasted just the same.

And I had my picture taken, Emmie, Berthie, Annie and I , with fishes that we – well, what’s the difference whether we caught them or not? Anyhow, we had our pictures taken with them – the little ones, of course – for everybody knows that the biggest ones always git away.

And when the darkness came on! All sort of a sudden, it was, without any twilight to speak of, down among the big trees. The river commenced to seem very big and it was night in the swamps.

And the evening around the camp fire, when supper things had been put away! The lovers, married and unmarried, made love openly as we exchanged stories. Each and every one of them had seen or heard a “hant” at some time or other, and I had to rack my brains for ghostly experiences, real or imaginary, to keep up my end of the entertainment.

Other camp fires were burning up and down the river bank, some of them so near we could hear the voices of the campers, mostly men, and the stamping of their horses, mostly mules.

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“The singin’ will commence purty soon,” remarked Emmie. “There’s the same voice we heerd last night a-commencin’ to tune up. Hear him?”

“The wolves will likely howl a heap after awhile and be a-prowlin’ around a right smart, maybe,” remarked Frank, casually. “Hope they won’t none of ’em git into the trees, looking anxiously out beyond the firelight. “I shore wouldn’t want to sleep fur from the fire.”

“The dawgs might help to keep ’em’ away some,” said Evart cautiously. “What I’d be most skeered of is snakes. This is the all-overest place fer ’em in the country, and they’re shore bad this time of the year, about climbin’ trees and drappin’ down on a fller while he’s asleep.”

“Don’t you let ’em skeer you,” said Annie, soothingly, “I’ll go out with you and show you how to make your bed. They ain’t no danger of snakes climbin’ trees in the fall of the year. They’re too busy huntin’ holes fer winter. And they won’t no wolves come anyways close to all these camp fires. Shet up, boys.”

Annie dextrously smoothed out the hay, leaving an extra amount at La Belle’s end of the wagon. A quilt was spread over my part of it. I had a blanket for covering and my saddle for a pillow.

“Better tie your veil over your ye’rs to keep the bugs out,” cautioned Annie. “They ain’t no danger. I reckon, but it’s jist as well to be keerful.

“Jist listen, will you, to that man sing. Don’t it sound mournful and purty?”

A strong, carrying voice was ringing out the words:

“Bow, mourners, bow: we’ll embrace religion now.

Let this war-fare be ended. hal-le-lu-yer.

CHORUS:

“Hal-le-lu-yer, hal-le-lu-yer!”

Let this war-fare be ended, hal-le-lu-yer!”

“Sounds kinder like a prayer, don’t it?” whispered Annie. “Reckon he means this awful war that’s goin’ on now? Anyways, it sounds like a prayer for a-endin’ a fair endin’, and I’m a-sayin’ ‘amen’ as hard as I can.”

We sat together, listening. “Maybe you don’t know it, but one of my brothers is in trainin’ at Camp Funston,” Annie whispered again.

I said I did know it. Emmie had told me.

“Oh, listen! Americy! All the campers up and down the river is a-helpin’. Let’s jine in.”

We stood up in the wagon box of hay, out in the darkness, and sang, “My country *** Sweet land of liberty.”

The words were weirdly beautiful. And solemn. From our point of vantage we could see our neighbor campers, standing as they sang, and by the firelight of our own log heap, the emotion of the other five of us was discernible. At the closing lines of the last verse, Emmie and Berthie openly dried their tears on the hems of their aprons, and the boys hastily turned their backs to the firelight, and there was a tremble in Annie’s voice as she said good-night.

A great solemn hush fell upon the camps. La Belle nozzled the hay about my feet, telling me her feeling in her own expressive language.

Then, again, the voice that was mournful and “purty”: “Let this warfare be ended, hal-le-lu-yer!” I construed it as Annie had understood it, with a reverent “Amen.”

The next thing I knew, the soft light of another morning was waking the camps along the river and it was daytime again in the swamps.

 

 

 

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