Tales of Mom 10


In Search of Terry


Peg, Terry’s sister, is younger than Nellie. But she is mature. She’s been married twice. The first marriage lasts all of two weeks until she deserts him after finding out he wants to keep her barefoot and pregnant. Only thing is she isn’t able to have kids of her own. He is also demanding and domineering. He transforms into an entirely different person the day they marry. Peg, on the other hand. Is an independent sole and in her mind’s eye, if anyone is going to do the controlling, she will be the one in charge. Their differences do not meet a common ground. If they stay together, they will wind up killing each other. A divorce is not easily come by; impossible if a woman tries to initiate the process. Still since Peg deserts Herald, he has the option to file for divorce on those grounds (desertion) and he does.

Peg learns she is a free woman again when an article appears in the local paper announcing the dissolving of the marriage between Harold Marsh and Peggy M. Smith because of desertion.

“Woo-pee! Woo-pee! Woo-pee! There is a time for everything under the sun. Today is my time to celebrate!” She exclaims. “Free at last! Free at last!” Peg saves that announcement from the paper.

Herald is a bad boy type, so she is better off without him. Before they marry and for a few runs after, Herald sent Peg on trip runs moving bootleg liquor from wet counties to dry counties in his huge truck for which he also hauls vegetables at the same time. Herald says, “Baby Peg, must earn ya keep,” shaking his finger at her, he continues shooting out commands,” Don’t speed. Stay within the limits. I don’t want to visit ya in jail.”



(Herald Marsh’s truck)

Peg is only 5’2” tall so to accommodate her height, he fastens 4 by4 blocks to the pedals so she can drive the big truck. No one ever suspects a young innocent looking girl is breaking the law. He stashes the bootleg in the center and surrounds it with vegetable crates full of fresh vegetables and fruits.


(Peg, sitting on top of vegetable crates)

Now she is married to her second husband, Don McKenzie. He is a sweet, polite young man who is fun and caring too. Peg is driving Nellie Mae up to the C.C.C. (Clyde Citizens Training Corp School) where the guys are at. They set out alone in Peg’s car on this trip.

The automobile runs good, no mechanical problems, no flat tires, nothing. All Pa’s worries are for nothing.

When they arrive at the C.C.C., Nellie surprises Terry; he did not know she was coming. Don knew, but didn’t share the information with him. Terry seems happy to see Nellie Mae. Terry and Don were staying in the barracks, but now Peg and Nellie are here continuing there is out of the question. They all decide to camp out in the desert.

Terry Smith & Nellie Mae (Coffin) Smith camping out

(Terry and Nellie Mae camping out)

The desert becomes their home for a short while until between the four of them they can scrounge up enough money to rent a place together.

Nellie Mae and her brother-in-law, Don, are live off the land type of people.  They catch a jack-rabbit and make rabbit stew.  The meat is gamy and a little bit tuff, but it provides nourishment.

Early one evening as the desert starts to cool down, they discover an uninvited guest in the camp, a rattlesnake.

Peg hollers, “Don, there is a snake over there.’  She continues, “It is headed over here.  Kill it, Don,  Kill it!”

Nellie grabs the shovel.  She holds it up above her head, ready to strike at it if it gets too close.  “I’m ready.”

Don grabs the rifle, cocks it, and aims.  “Have you ever eat snake?” Don asks. “It makes my mouth water just thinking about it,” he says as he pulls the trigger. “We are going to feast tonight!”

The snake jumps from the power of the rifle bullet hitting him in the head.  Nellie gives the final blow when she brings the point of the shovel head down upon its neck, instantly chopping off the head from the body.

“I dibs da rattler,” Nellie interjects.

“I don’t there will be any objections to your request. I’ll clean her and get her ready to cook,” Don says as he picks up the snake by the tail and lays it across the rocks to clean and prepare it to cook. As he is skinning the snake he says, “Wrestle us up some potatoes, Nellie.  They’ll taste mighty good with this delicacy we are having for supper,” Don adds.

Don lays the skin of the snake across the rocks to dry.  “Peg, you want this snake skin after it cures for one of your crafts?”

“Maybe,” she replies.  “I have never worked with a snake skin.  Have to wait and see what I can do with it.”

After the meal, they all agree the snake was the best eating they have ever had.  “I hope we gets more uninvited guests,” Peg says.  “That was delicious!”


(Nellie Mae and her brother-in-law, Don (Peg’s husband))

Nellie feels good about the arrangement. She is thrifty, a good cook, and knows how to pinch the pennies in rough times. Camping gives the couples the time to have fun exploring the desert and the opportunity to get to know each other again. Nellie brought the four quilts she made to keep them warm, if need be. She was busy the last two years adding to her hope chest while waiting for the day they will again be together.

Nellie Mae’s and Terry’s time together is like having the honeymoon, they never had.


(Nellie Mae and Terry)


(Nellie Mae and Terry)


(Tetters field in Arizona)

Peg and Nellie get a few hours’ work a day at Tetter’s field, picking produce. Nellie picks up some of the toss asides to help make ends meet; she plans to throw them in with a pot of soup for the evening meal.

By sharing a place with Peg and her husband Don, Nellie and Terry make ends meet. It seems everyone is happy about the arrangement. We find a place. It is small, but the four of us manage.

The previous tenants left some flower pots. Nellie says, “I can plant a few vegetables to help us out. Some vegetables can reproduce without planting seeds. Don’t throw away the end of the cabbage, lettuce, celery, green onions. I can plant them and produce new crops from them; it will help out eventually with our food bill.”


(Peg and Don McKenzie)

Six month fly by. To Nellie this time with Terry is like having the honeymoon she always wanted, only the time together, loving each other, matters.

When Terry says, “I have to work late”, he looks right into her eyes. “Don’t expect me home,” he continues, caressing her cheek gently with his hand. “I am going to spend the night at the camp.”

She makes no qualms about his announcement, loving him and trusting him as she does. The next morning when Nellie Mae awakes, she decides to spend some time alone exploring the town. So she sets out early walking before Peg wakes. She wants to be alone to think and decide how she is going to break her good news to everyone, especially Terry.

Occasionally, she kicks at the dirt on the road and watches the wind gather each speck of dust into a funnel shape as if it were a mini tornado, moving them swiftly across the road, only to let them scatter when they reach their destination.

She longs for the time the leaves on the trees will turn red, yellow, and orange and the scene will be full of lustrous colors. Before long, they will be falling to the ground and making way for the winter freeze.

At the cross road, she turns sharply to the left onto brick pavement. The morning dew still lingers on the red bricks, making them slippery in some places. Nellie carefully steps around the wet places. Ahead she sees the shops, some just opening the door for business.

At the general store, she purchases a Dr. Pepper, knitting needles, and a ball of yarn. Dr. Pepper just went on the market in her state. According to her acquaintances, its distribution will take place in the southern states first and then go on sale nationally shortly thereafter. Nellie was personally asked my her personal friends to invest in the initial promotion of the soda at its start up, but she just could not see how she could part with the little money she had, especially since the involves a risk. Now she wishes she had, as the product is selling well in the south; it had its beginning in her hometown of Denison.

This little town is much larger than her hometown. The shops are quaint and interesting. “Nothing wrong with window shopping,” she tells herself, “it don’t cost a red cent.  We needs be pinching our pennies to makes ends meet.”   She suddenly feels drawn to a distant display window; she doesn’t understand why. She is too far away from the window to tell just what it is that compels her so. She can see the sign hanging over the door. Printed in big bold letters is the name: Crockett’s Pawn Shop. “Never be in a town large ‘nough for a pawnshop”, she says under her breath. Little does she realize the signs meaning. She stands in front of the window, looking in.

The sun’s reflection blocks her view. To obstruct the glare of the sun, she places both her hands next to her eyes and presses her face to the window. She is shocked.

“Dat be my quilt!” She exclaims. “How’d my quilt get dar?” She asks herself in a low voice.

A hand-printed sign is leaning on the quilt; it reads, For Sale $25. She immediately goes inside, anxious to discover the answer to her question. Pointing to the quilt, she says, “Dat quilt—”

“That quilt can be yours little lady for $25.” a man behind the counter replies quickly before she can finish her sentence.

He takes the quilt from the window case and says, “Just look at the fine stitching”. Bringing the quilt close to her so she can inspect it, he says, “Why, it’s a steal for the price.”

“Its’ be stole,” she replies.

“Shall I wrap it for you?” He asks, thinking she means she wants to buy it from him.

“It’s be stole,” she repeats, “dem fine stiches be mine,“ she adds. “Ya can’t’s sell my quilt!” She yells. “Cant’s sells a body’s history,” she cries. With tears flowing from her eyes like a dam bursting from the weight of its burden, she grabs the quilt from his grasp before her tears blind her.

The storekeeper does not want any part of this. Nellie’s tears and sobs bring on lookers, which is not good for his business. After all, she says the quilt is stole; it belongs to her. He does not want his business to get a black eye from such an accusation, so he comforts her; and he tells her to take the quilt back, explaining when he bought it he did not know it was stolen property.

His description (tall, about 6’4’’”, dark hair, wearing a captain’s hat) of the man who sells him the quilt yesterday fits Terry to a tee. The storekeeper tells her, “He said he was on his way out of town so there will not be any chance of catching up with him and setting all this straight.”

Nellie remains silent (except for her sobs). She thought they were both happy.

clip_image018 (Terry & Nellie)

Terry never gives her any indication he has contrary thoughts about them as a couple. “Just when things are going so well,” she thinks. “Now I have to wonder: Is he coming back? Have I been deserted?”

She cries all the way back to the place they share with Don and Peg. “What am I going to do.? I am with child. Terry does not know. Nobody knows, just me.”

Don has already gone to work. Peg is still there. Nellie pours her heart out. Peg’s mouth drops open. “My brother’s a cad!” She exclaims.

“He does not know,” Nellie sobs.

“Well he is going to be finding out real quick!”

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BA degree in English with a single subject certification 1994 I enjoy writing, art (all forms), especially drawing/multi-media , quilting, sewing, embroidery, photography (still and video), and most of all, my grandchildren and great-grand-children.

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