By Trudy A. Martinez
The next night Terry waits; he arrives early at the set meeting place. Nine O’clock comes and goes, but no Nellie Mae. All the while he is thinking, “She’ll be here any minute.” Occasionally, he pulls out his pocket watch, flips it open to check the time, and tells himself, “In a minute, she’ll be here, in a minute.”
After a while, he gets out of the automobile and walks around, pacing back and forth. He is so certain she will come. In his mind he imagines reasons for her delay, “Her daddy must be up late dealing with a household problem; or he’s preparing for Sunday’s sermon.” When the cock crows and the sun hit the horizon, he knows his wait is over. He is wrong. Nellie isn’t coming. He waited all night, hoping. He hangs his head down in disappointment, his tiredness overwhelms him, and he dozes off to sleep right there in his automobile just below the hilly crest.
A few hours pass. Terry awakes suddenly.
“I ‘m a man of my word,” Terry tells himself. “I’m going to see her daddy.” He declares,” I don’t just want to court her; I want her for my wife”.
Nellie is at the mill working when Terry came a calling on Pa without her knowledge. Pa is not too happy about the matter, especially since he immediately asks, “May I have Nellie Mae’s hand in marriage.”
Terry’s request comes as a complete surprise. There has been no courting. And Pa knowing Terry’s reputation and all doesn’t help matters.
Pa tells Terry, “I’ll need to get back to you, Terry, on this matter. I just won’t give you an answer one way or the other until I speak with everyone this might affect. And frankly, I just don’t believe you are worthy of my daughter’s hand.”
Terry leaves, thanking him for his consideration.
The whole matter just doesn’t sit well with Pa.
Ma, on the other hand, (remembering five or six years back what happens with Nellie’s friend who had all the prospects of becoming a beau and marrying her), feels a notion to defend her worthiness rather than “bad mouthing” her suitor.
“So she don’t talk proper—most of the time not at all”, Ma says, “She do well with everything else; she cooks, she sews; she be thriftier than most. She do well ‘round here. Don’t she Pa?”
Pa says nothing. Every time he looks, as if he is about to open his mouth to speak, Ma adds a little reinforcement to her argument.
“She knows how to care for the youngins,” she says, shaking a finger at him. “She practically raises them three boys on her own.”
Glancing over at Pa, she seeks acknowledgment, “Ain’t that right, Pa?” She asks.
“Of course it is—you know it too”, she answers for him. “She be up every mornin’ before the cock crows milking old bitsy.”
Pa, (thinking she might reconsider her approach if she thinks about how Nellie’s marrying will affect her) asks quickly before Ma has a chance to take a breath and start in again, “What are you going to do without her, Ma?”
“I—be missing Nellie —that for sure.” Leaning over close to Pa’s ear she suggests, “This boy wantin’ her. He’s wantin’ to help Nellie talk too. We cannot let him slip away. We got to be doing right by her, Pa. She be twenty-two in December”.
After pausing for a moment to gather her thoughts, she starts in again, reminding him of past mistakes they make.
“If you ask me that question: “What are you going to do without her?” Before you scare the poor little Griffin boy, Earl, away, Nellie be married now with youngins of her own. We never see him no more, not even on Sundays.”
Neither considers Nellie’s feelings on the subject, but they decide amongst themselves to let Nellie decide for herself.
Ma tells Nellie when she returns home from the Mill, “Terry came by to see Pa, asking permission to courts ya, Nellie. How ya feel about it? Does ya want be courted, Nellie?
“Then Pa be telling him it’ll be okay for him be courting ya.”
As soon as Terry gets the news, he is at the door. Nellie no longer walks to the Mill every day (except Sunday). Instead, Terry picks Nellie up and drives her there in his automobile; he returns her home in the evening. On Sunday’s Terry accompanies Nellie to her Pa’s church. It is a regular routine until (after a short engagement) Terry pops the question. Nellie accepts. And they both run off and elope; they marry.
(Nellie Mae and Terry Charles on their wedding day)
They set up housekeeping nearby. Nellie continues to work at the mill. Terry encourages and instructs Nellie on her speech. They are a beautiful looking couple. Nellie is truly a beautiful woman.
(Nellie made this outfit. She now dresses to please her husband)
Ma and Pa accept the marriage and pray everything will go well with them. Knowing Nellie received the right spiritual training, they feel she will seek the Lord’s guidance in her life as time goes by.