Meet Uncle Murdock, of 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 thirty first article published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on September 22, 1918:

He’s a deep student of human nature, Uncle Murdock is, and he can’t understand why the authors of love stories have them tail-end foremost and make them stop just where they ought to begin – What happened to the fellow who sighed for the “good old days,” and how Jake Bottoms’ romance was nearly “busted up”

By Alice Curtice Moyer-Wing

“Ain’t people a plumb sight, when you come to think about ‘em? Fer instance, now,” said Uncle Murdock, leaning his gun against the wall, “speakin’ about startin’ things that you cain’t finish; that is, if anybody was to, there’s these here love stories that the papers and magazines clutters theirselves up with. Not that I object to love stories. Not by a long shot. But the love stories we read mostly is tail-end fo’most. The beginnin’ of ‘em ort to be told last, if they are told at all, which ain’t so awful necessary, bein’ purty much all alike. Purty nigh ever’body has the same kind of love experience and purty nigh ever’body can git married. They ain’t no old maids jist because they couldn’t git nobody to have ‘em and they ain’t no old bachelors jist because they couldn’t make love. Jist anybody can git spliced, as the feller says, but it takes a right smart of a diplomat, as the sayin’ is, to keep that-a way.

“Say what you want to, the inter-restin’ part of it comes in the years that follers the ceremony, and that’s jist where these here stories that’s thicker than I don’t know what and ought to be skarcer than hen’s teeth falls down on the job. They stop jist where they ort to begin. Heap like this here womern sufferage you’re a-goin’ around fer. This here beforehand business ain’t what you want and it ain’t really what people is inter-rested in. It’s what it will mean to the women after they git it. Jist like it’s been with the men.

“I says to Mariettie this mornin’, ‘I hear the sufferage womern is at home again,’ I says. ‘Mebbe I’ll drap in while I’m out this mornin’ a-sloshin’ around to hear the news,’ I says. ‘It’s blame little and mean,’ I says, ‘that women has got to work like the devil to git to vote, when it’s jist handed to a man on a silver plate, so to speak, soon as he gits to be 21, settin’ him up above his mother right then and there,’ I says. I shore ain’t a-feerd to speak my mind.

“But as I was a-sayin’, I used to git all het up over the way the other fellers was a-buttin’ in, tryin’ go git Mariettie. Blame me if I didn’t shore have a time of it with all of ‘em a-trying to shine up to her. But they wasn’t none of it could hold a patchin’ to the time we’ve had after I did once git her. And I reckon they never was a couple any more in love with each other ner a couple that’s kept it alive and growin’ any more than we have. But they’s ups and downs of married life that the story writers is too blind to see er jist uncompertent to tell. It is my belief that they jist simply start things that they cain’t finish.

“And then they’s -but I reckon I better be gittin’ along. Ain’t much time this mornin’, jist out a-sloshin’ around a little; brung my old gun fer company like, not hardly expectin’ to git a deer ner nothin’, but kinder ketched the habit afore they got skarce. Why, 20 years ago – but, shucks! They ain’t no use talkin’ about things that’s done past and gone.”

“There was a lot of game in these hills those days, I suppose,” I said, to keep him talking.

“Lots of ‘em? Don’t talk. They was jist natcherly thick. Thick. The deers used to come and jump into the garden in broad daylight. Why, when me and Mariettie was fust married – lawzee. Gentullmen – sirree! They was jist natcherly thick!”

“So you don’t believe in talking too much about the past?” I suggested as he paused.

31 1

“Me? Say, I jist ain’t got no patience at all, hardly, with the feller that is always ahollerin’ about the good old days that is gone. Why, I wouldn’t give 2 cents a dozen fer all the good old days you could shake a stick at so fer as tradin’ ‘em fer the days we’ve got now is consarned – and if they’s anything I do take a shine to it’s tradin’. But just give your Uncle Murdock the days that comes a-happenin’ along ever’ 24 hours, right here and now, rain or shine.

“There’s Chub Shipley, fer instance, Chub makes me plumb sick at my stummick. He’s jist etarnally a-drawin’ a long face like a hoehandle er somethin’ and tearin’ off a strip a mild long about the world a-goin’ to the devil er the dawgs, he ain’t fer shore which, and the people a-doin’ the same thing. He ‘lows that the war is proof of it. ‘You blame eejet,’ I says to him, ‘when this here war is over they ain’t goin’ to be no more room fer some certain kinds of nuisances than they is now,’ I says. ‘Kaisers and calamity howlers is among ‘em.’ I says. ‘Ain’t that a right smart of a plumb shore sign that the world ain’t a-goin’ down hill?’ I says.

“My toes is still plumb sore frum kickin’ him out of the gate.

“Say! This mornin’ as I passed old man Shadders’s – of all the fool doin’s! There was them two boys of his’n a-diggin’ taters. Lem, he had a book in his left hand and was a-reachin’ back and forward and around, tryin’ to dig with his right, and Job, he had a book in his right hand, a-readin’ away and a-feelin’ around with his left fer the taters that Lem wasn’t doin’ any land office business a-gettin’ fer him. It shore was a sight, but I jist ‘lowed that would be the way of it when he sent them boys off to school the way he did. He jist as well give up and let ‘em be lawyers and done with it.

“Well, I reckon I better be tearin’ out fer home Better come along with me.”

The native Ozarker always asks you to “go along home” with him.

“Mariettie would be plumb tickled to have you fer dinner. Haw! Haw! Haw! That’s another fool thing people keeps on sayin’. A feller would think we was a bunch of cannerbals. But I happen to know we’re a-going to have pork and biled beans fer dinner, so you won’t be in no danger. And mebbe we’ll have some pies-and-cakes, as Uncle Bud Holloway says, makin’ believe he means ‘pizen cakes.’ And he calls his cultivator a aggervater, Uncle Bud does, ‘lowin’ that it’s the aggervatin’est thing out of jail, according to his best knowledge and belief. Some fellers don’t seem to have nothin’ to do but jist to set around and think up darn fool things to be laughable about.

“Got a match handy? This pipe keep a-goin’ out, somehow. Better give me two of ‘em. Matches is awful contrary. If you got jist one it’ll go out ever’ time, but if you’ve got two, the fust one you strike will burn like a house a-far.

31 2

“Speakin’ about things bein’ laughable. Did you-all hear about John Cleaver at Timothy Tubb’s sale t’other day? John is that young feller that’s a-goin’ around a-lookin’ at rocks and sich – sent out by some college er other. He hadn’t never been at a sale before where a farmer was a-gittin’ ready to leave the country. It was a plumb new experience he ‘lowed, and he was all over the place a-lookin’ at things. Bimeby he heerd some of the men speak about sellin’ the ‘male brute.’ They was a passel of women around and wouldn’t nobody a-said ‘bull’ fer nothin’. It is a awful undecent word to say when you ain’t been around none and don’t know any better, so the men was a-talkin’ kinder low about sellin’ the male brute. Well, John, he heerd ‘em and, wantin’ to be sociable, he ups and laughs and says, ‘Well, that is shore a good one. I never heerd ‘em called that before, but we’ve got ‘em in Sent Louis, and I don’t blame you fer sellin’ ‘em, if they’re as mean down here about givin’ you your letters as ours is. Does this feller carry ‘em on to some other address er jist fergit about ‘em altogether. It’s a plumb sight,’ he says – leastways he says somethin’ like that ‘how he hangs on to our mail sometimes.’

“Some of the gals seen through it right away, but they run off gigglin’ and left us men to straighten things out fer ourselves. Haw! Haw! Haw! Funny how folks strains at gnats and swallers elephants, as the sayin’ is. I reckon it makes a heap of difference though, where you live when it comes to meanin’ of things. Fer instance, there was Jake Bottoms. Jake was my cousin; come over here frum summers in Illinoy. Him and Thirzie Colwell like to a-busted up afore they got good and started on the path to the parson’s. Jake, he tuck a awful shine to Thirzie and axed her to go to a pie supper with him fust thing, and Thirzie, bein’ kinder hankerin’ toward him same as he was towards her, jist shore never tarried in tellin’ him that she ‘didn’t keer to.’

“Now, when a gal don’t keer to go to a place, looks to me like anybody would know she was tickled to death to git the chance. If she wasn’t tickled, she’d keer. That’s the way I’d take it, and I’ve been around a right smart, too, but Jake says ‘Allright, I’ll go by myself, then. Goin’ ain’t all tuck up, I reckon,’ he says, uppish like.

“And as I was a-sayin’, it like to a-busted ‘em up fer awhile. Thirzie bein’ awful sperrited – and spunky! Law-zee! Why, the very day before she was married to Jake she stepped right smack over a broomstick, she was that darin’, jist to show people she wasn’t afeerd of nothin’ on earth. Purty nigh ever’body knows that if a gal steps over a broomstick she is mighty nigh shore to die a old maid.

“And, gen-tull-men! They was married in May, her and Jake was, and when they went to buy their cook stove fer to set up housekeepin’, what did Thirzie do but git a broom, too, ‘lowin’ she’d jist as leave git one in May as any other time of the year, though purty nigh ever’body knows that a broom bought in May will jist natcherly sweep all the luck out of your house fer one whole year. But darn me, if that fust year wasn’t one of the best Thirzie and Jake ever had. Jist happened that-a way, I reckon.

“And then they’s these here – But I better be a-sloshin’ along. Mariettie’ll be a-waitin’ to hear the news, and I shore ort to be a-gittin’ back while it is still fresh in my mind.

 

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