Tales of Mom 13


Babies Bring Families Together


After the birth of his son, George Richard, Terry grows up some. He takes notice of his responsibility. He rents a larger apartment at street level. He surprises Nellie with the news; she is overjoyed. No more stairs to climb up and down with the baby. What a relief. Family members visit them to see the new addition to the family.


Peg visits nearly daily either before or after work, helping out when and where she can. Peg is so proud of her nephew, George Richard. (Nellie names him after her Pa, George) “Such a formal name for such a little guy,” Peg tells him. “I think I am going to call you Dickie, she continues. “Your granddad’s name is David; everyone calls him Dick. He’ll be here tomorrow. It will thrill him to know at least his nickname is being carried on. “ (There is an obvious unspoken resentment rising up here because the first born is named after Nellie’s Pa instead of Terry’s Dad) She holds Dickie (George) up so he can see her and says, “I am your Auntie! My name is Aunt Peg,” she hesitates momentarily, “Well,” she continues, “You can call me Aunt or Auntie Peggy, little man. But I am going to call you Dickie.”

Nellie remains quiet. Nellie believes,  “There is no sense in stirring up a hornet’s nest.”


“Nellie,” Peg says changing the subject abruptly, “Don and I are thinking of going our separate ways. He wants to settle down. I don’t. He wants kids. I can’t. He says we can adopt, but I don’t want to.” She says. “Don’s got his bags packed. He will be heading back to Texas and if his old girl friend is still single.” She continues, “He is going to hook up with her when our divorce is final. That is okay by me. We will still remain friends forever.”


(Don is packed and ready to return to Texas)


“Nellie, I figure you can have the kids for both of us. I get them on holidays and vacations. You get them the rest of the time. How does that sound?”


Nellie remains quiet.


“Someone’s at the door, Nellie. I bet it is my dad; he is always early. Don’t bother to get up. I’ll answer it for you,” Peg says.


Peg goes to the door. Sure enough, it is her Dad.


“I hear I am a Grandfather,” he says as soon as the door opens. “It is about time. I was beginning to wonder if I’d be getting any of those. Good work, Nellie. Where is my grandson?”



(Nellie Mae, Peg, George Richard (Dickie), David (Dick) and Betty)



Nellie wonders, “What kind of family have I married into?”

Thinking to herself, “Ma and Pa only be married to each other. When they marry, it is till death do them part.” She wonders why it is not the same for everyone else. “When I marry, I say vows. I mean what I say. I expect my husband mean what he say – in sickness, in health, till death do us part.”

Peg now be losing her second husband, willingly. Her Dad and her Ma both go their separate ways. Betty is her Dad’s girlfriend. Peg’s Ma is going to marry again. What am I to think of this? Perhaps, it is not my place to wonder. I can hear my children someday asking: ‘Why do I have so many grandmas and grandpas?’”

“I don’t want to have to answer that question.” She says.


“I am home.” Ted announces when he comes in the door. “I’ve got good news,” he says as he tosses his hat over the hat rack; it spins on the hook, but stays.  “Nellie, I got a new job.”


“You do?” She asks.


“I do.” He answers. “You’ll be proud to know I’ll be driving the line.”


“The Line?” She asks.


“The streetcar line,” he adds. “It pays better than I am getting laying bricks. And it is much easier on my back.” He stands back a ways so Nellie can get a full view and then asks, “How you like my uniform?”


“You’re looking good,” Peg answers.


“Not bad at all,” Betty adds.


“Be proud, son,” his Dad says.


“The uniform looks good on ya. Ya gots ya own change handler too. I likes ya cap ya throws over there,” Nellie says. “You’re a handsome man, Terry,” She adds. “Just don’t let dat comment go to ya head.”


This job has promise. It is steady; that is very important, especially if you have children. There are too many layoffs in other jobs. You don’t see so many layoffs in public transportation. People rely on public transportation when they cannot afford to keep up a car and its expenses.


Other things are weighing heavy on Nellie’s mind right now. She thinks she is again pregnant. George (Dickie) is going on seven months; having another baby so soon after his birth is not the best thing for Nellie; her body has yet to heal from the first.  As a family, they are just getting their feet on the ground. Terry’s new job will help a lot with the upcoming extra expenses, if her suspicions turn out to be correct. She can’t share her thoughts until she is for sure.


Nellie cooks dinner for everyone; they share a meal. And then the company excuse themselves. Granddad and Betty stay at Peg and Don’s for the night; they will be back on the road in the morning. They are heading in the same direction as Don; they decide to caravan their trip to help each other out if need be. They leave to go to Peg and Don’s first . Peg says, “I will follow shortly. First, I have some news I must share with Nellie and Terry.”







Peg says, ”I’ll be breaking up housekeeping for a while. I’ll be bringing over some things I can’t carry with me”. She says, “I’ll be getting down to one or two suitcases. I took a job with Greyhound.” She explains, “I pass the driving test. I’ll be driving their big Greyhound bus across the U.S.A. I am so excited.” 




“When I am on this side of the country, I will be dropping in to visit,” she says. “I’ll bring over what furniture we have. You can use some,” she adds. “I’ll send some pictures of me in my uniform when I am on the road.” She reaches over and gives Nellie a hug and kisses Dickie on the cheek, “See you brother,’’ she says to Terry. “Goodbye.”


Peg spends a day moving over her excess for Nellie to use. She makes it down to the two suitcases. She will be taking those with her on the bus. She leaves her car at their house. Peg hands Nellie the keys telling her, “You can use my car at your discretion, but I get it back when I come to visit.”


“Okay.” Nellie answers.


A few weeks pass. The mailman drops a letter through the letter slot on the front door. It is from Peg. Nellie rushes to open it. She didn’t send a letter, just a few pictures.




(Peg on the road with Greyhound)



(Peg on the road with Greyhound)

She is looking good.


In the meantime, Terry starts a spending spree. Instead of buying groceries and paying some household expenses with his first new paycheck, he splurges and rewards himself with a complete set of expensive golf clubs, bag, and all the little extra things that look good but you don’t really need.


The game itself is expensive to play if you do not earn that much. And the expense of the game takes away from the family expenses which by all rights should take priority. Terry doesn’t think that way. In Terry’s mind, he comes first. Nellies must make do and do her best with what is left. Golfing is his avenue of escape; his only pleasure. After all, he stops drinking. He leaves other women alone. He likes to let Nellie believe he is doing this on his own. But in actuality, he doesn’t want to go to jail as the Judge promises him he will do if he does not straighten up and fly straight (if you know what I mean). He figures if he spends one day a week on golfing that will be okay. Nellie knows how to pinch the pennies. She can make do with what she is given; she always has. Now is no different. That is what Terry tells himself. That is the way Terry thinks.


A letter came from Don. He makes it back to Texas okay. He finds his old girlfriend. He sends his love and a picture of him and his girl.

He says to be sure and tells Peg, “As soon as the divorce is final, I am marrying her and we are going to start making us a family. If Peg’s Greyhound bus ever comes up this way and lays over, tell her to be sure and stop and visit, if she can.”





(Don and his soon to be wife)

Tales of Mom (12): Nellie and Terry Move to Los Angeles

By Trudy A. Martinez

The Judge gives Nellie his card. “Nellie,” he says, “Your husband doesn’t deserve a woman like you. I mean it. I want you to call me day or night if need be if Terry does not tow the line.”

Nellie nods and says, “Yes, I will.”

Peg and Don leave Peg’s automobile with Nellie so her and Terry will have transportation. Terry is freed into Nellie’s custody. He immediately tries to intimidate Nellie into doing what he wants to do. “We’ll be going back to the C.C.C.,” he says.

Nellie looks up at him, shaking her head she says, “No, Terry, we not be going back to the C.C.C… I be with child.” Pointing at him she adds, “ Ya be going to find a job, Terry.” Nudging him with her finger, she continues, “Ya be going to support us. We be leaving San Diego. We be going to Los Angeles.” She says.

“Los Angeles?” He asks. “Why Los Angeles?”

“Ya works there before, Terry.” She says. “Ya cans do it again.” She continues, “It’s been five years, but ya gots a good chance of getting back in good with the same company. And ya be going to try or I be calling the Judge and telling him ya not be cooperating.” She looks him straight in the eye and asks, “Ya wants me be calling the Judge, Terry?”

“No.” He answers. “But the Judge said . . .”

“The Judge gives me more instructions, Terry. I’ be doing what he says, not what ya say, “She adds. He says, “Terry needs to grow up. And he needs to take responsibility.”

“Dat whats ya be going to do. Just as the Judge says.” Nellie tells Terry. “Peg and Don finds us an apartment in Los Angeles. They stocks it with food and our belongings. Don gots ya job back for ya. Ya just gots to show up and work every day. Ya boss be reporting to the Judge, Terry.” She says. “If ya miss work, the Judge says a warrant be issued for ya arrest. He means business, Terry. He means business.”

They set up in the small apartment. Terry behaves and goes to work every day.

Six months pass.

Nellie gets closer and closer to her time. Labor starts with a bang one morning after Terry leaves for work. As the day progresses and the labor along with it, Nellie realizes she is in trouble. She falls. She can’t get up. She calls out, but no one hears her. “Help, somebody, please help me!” No one answers. Her neighbors are not home. She is alone. She continues to call out, “Help, please help me,” she cries. They do not have a telephone so she cannot call anyone.

When Terry arrives home from work, Nellie is on the floor moaning too weak to do much else; both Nellie and the baby are in distress. He runs to a neighbor, who just arrived home moments before, to ask them to call an ambulance.

He pounds on the door. When they answer he says, “Please call an ambulance. My wife is on the floor; she is in bad shape, the baby is coming; she is in a pool of blood,” he begs. “Call an ambulance. We are in apartment C,” he says. “Tell them to hurry.”

Terry goes back to the apartment to wait for the ambulance and to be with Nellie, who is in distress. “Hold on there Nellie, the ambulance is on its way.”

In the distance, the sound of the sirens can be heard. “They are coming, Nellie; they are coming.” The sirens stop. A few minutes later, a bang, bang, bang, is heard at the door.

Terry opens the door and points to direct the attendants to Nellie, “We got a problem here,” they say before entering. “There is no way we can get the stretcher in here and her out through this here door.” He says as he looks around for another exit. “We may need to take her out the window over there.”

The fireman, who arrives about the same time, goes to the window and with the help of another, they remove the window from the frame; and check to see if the stretcher will make it through. It will but just barely. “Okay, this way is clear for you. Bring her out.”

The firemen have exited through the window and are waiting for the attendants to bring Nellie on the stretcher through it for them to grab. They strap Nellie on the stretcher. It is a slow process as the stretcher barely fits and must be turned slightly with Nellie on it to make it through the sharp turn on the other side of the window. The only way she can make it through the front door is in a standing position. And that is out of the question in her current condition. It is a struggle getting the stretcher with Nellie on it through the window opening, but they make it. Now it is down the stairs and into the ambulance.

The traffic is heavy. It is that time of day. They leave with the sirens blaring. Traffic moves to the side of the road and lets the ambulance pass. The hospital personnel are waiting when they arrive at Los Angeles County General Hospital that hot August day.

The emergency room doctors access the situation and inform Terry. “All efforts will be made to save the baby,” the doctor says.

“What about Nellie?” Terry asks.

“She is not our concern at the moment. The baby is. Say your prayers. She is going to need them. Until the baby is safe, our efforts will not be on her. She may not make it in her condition.” The doctor points to the waiting room and asks Terry to wait there.

Terry finds a pay phone and calls Peg and Don, informing them of what is happening. They tell Terry, “We are on our way there.” They stop at a flower shop to pick up some flowers for Nellie on their way in.

Hours pass. Terry paces the hall and waiting room, waiting for word on the baby and word on Nellie’s condition. The doctor comes out to the waiting room. “Mr. Smith, you are the proud daddy of a healthy Nine pound baby boy,” he announces.

“How is Nellie?” Terry immediately asks.

“She is still with us. The next twenty-four hours will be crucial for her, if she makes it,” he says.  “She lost a lot of blood.”

“May we see her? May we see the baby?” Peg and Don ask in unison.

“Yes, you may see them both. I’ll have the nurse bring the baby to her room,” he replies.

They all walk together to Nellie’s room. Currently, she is in a private room. They will be moving her to the ward tomorrow. She is not expected to leave the hospital for a few days. Peg enters the room alone; the guys are just outside the door. Peg asks, “How are you feeling, Nellie?”

“I needs to talk to ya alone, Peg” She says, “Can you ask the boys to stay outside for a minute.”



“Sure.” Peg answers. She catches the guys just before they enter and tells them to wait just a minute because she needs to talk to Nellie about women stuff.

They nod, and continue walking down the hall toward the babies.

Meanwhile back in the room with Nellie, Peg asks, “What’s bothering you, Nellie?”

“I wants out of here,” she cries. “They treat me like a slab of beef.” She explains. “When the baby be coming,” she hesitates momentarily, “They slice me open half way down my leg!” she exclaims. “It still be open. They never stitch me up.”

Peg goes over to her. She pulls back the covers and looks at the cut that extends down Nellies leg on one side. She takes a deep breathe. She says, “Nellie, I will be right back. I will take care of this right now.”

I must remind you, reader, Peg is 5’2” (if that), but she has a voice that carries for miles. And when she is mad, you might think she just got off a boat with a bunch of sailors who have been out to sea too long. The words that come out of that woman’s mouth will make a sailor blush.

The nurse did not know what to say to her after Peg let loose.  Cutting Nellie’s leg is uncalled for.  What did they expect to do? Give birth via her leg?  The nurse excuses herself to get the doctor. That is who Peg wants to talk to anyways. She lays it on him. I am not going to repeat what is said. I think you can imagine that part for yourself.

One thing the doctor did right away was apologize. And he shot off some orders to the nurse to meet him down at Nellie’s room with the medical things he needs to finish what he should have done immediately after the baby is born. His excuse for not doing it immediately is because he did not think she is going to make it. And his main concern then is for the baby, not Nellie.


The main thing now is: it is being done. “Nellie,” the doctor says, “I am truly sorry to have neglected to care for you the way I should have. Please forgive me,” he pleads. “I was in such a hurry to deliver your baby alive, my knife cuts more than need be.  I am truly sorry.”

Nellie nods; and wipes her tears away. She looks over at Peg and says, “Thank you, sis.”

The baby is brought to the room as soon as the doctor finishes stitching Nellie’s wound.

Tales of Mom (11): The Good News and the Bad News

By Trudy A. Martinez

Peg meets Don outside when he gets off work. She tells him what is transpiring. And she tells him, “Nellie is pregnant with her first baby.”

Instead of allowing her to finish her ranting, Don butts in. saying, “Terry has a warrant out for his arrest”. Don takes a deep breath and then continues, “He did not spend the night at the camp; he took off.” Again he takes a deep breath, “He didn’t leave alone.” He hesitates momentarily. “He was with a 16 years old girl,” he blurts out quickly. “They left for parts unknown according to camp officials”, he explains.


“Her daddy has his gun in hand, thinking there is going to be a shotgun wedding. If her daddy catches up with Terry before the sheriff,” Don says rubbing his chin, “You may be planning a funeral.” Don says under his breath, “I pray he does not kill him.”

Don and Peg decide: Don will go out looking for Terry. When he finds him, he will contact Peg. They pay the rent for the month. And they shop for groceries, purchasing plenty of food to stock them for the month. Then, he says, “We can decide what to do next when that time comes.”

Don sets out in Peg’s car the next morning, leaving the convertible for the women, as it is more comfortable.

Weeks go by without word. They work some when work is available. Nellie and Peggy decide to take a walk down to the river. Peggy looks around. They are alone. She decides to live dangerously. She strips down to her underwear. “Come on Nellie; join me in the water, “Peggy says.

“I don’ts want to drown!” Nellie exclaims.

“Come on! You won’t drown,” Peg reassures her.

Nellie shakes her head no and tells her, “No! I don’ts swim.”

Peggy jumps in. “Come on Nellie, it is not deep. Join me.”

“No!” Nellie replies firmly.

Nellie remembers when Pa tries to teach her to swim. It still terrifies her when she thinks of it. Pa picks her up and throws her in the river just as he does with all the others kids. He says, “Kick your feet and paddle your arms. That will keep you afloat.”

Nevertheless Nellie goes under. She panics. She does not kick. She does not paddle. She sinks to the bottom. Nellie allows fear to get the best of her and does not do as she is told.

Pa screams at her, “Kick, paddle!” All the while, Pa is taking off his clothes. Then he jumps in to save her. Since then, Nellie panics at the mere sight of water.

Peggy splashes the water up on the bank where Nellie is sitting. She screams and jumps up. “Don’t”, she cries out. “I am scared of da wat’r!”

In the meantime, Don catches up with Terry in San Diego. He is working at the shipyards. He tries to join the service, but does not pass the physical. They rate him a 4F, meaning he is not fit for duty. The young girl is with him.

Don says to Terry as soon as he can get him alone, “There is a warrant out for your arrest.” He adds,”Don’t you have a lick of sense, man?” Don tells him, “It can be quite serious since you crossed the state line with her.” He adds, “You need to lose her! Now! Put her on a bus heading back to her father,” he tells him. “You’re crazy to keep her with you anymore.”

Terry ignores Don’s pleas.

“You are a married man, Terry. You are not single! You cannot marry her. Besides,” he adds, “Her daddy’s going to kill you. Ditch her. Cut your losses, before you are arrested.”

Terry ignores him.

When the girl comes in the room, she starts hanging all over Terry.

Don stands up to leave, telling him, “I will see you later. Think about what I said, Terry”.

Don finds a phone and calls the property owner back where the girls are staying and leaves a message for Peggy to call him back at the payphone at 7:00 o’clock; he will be waiting for her call.

When Peggy calls back, he tells her where they are and that the girl is still here with Terry and that he will be working on getting the girl on a bus heading back to her father.

“In the meantime, Peggy, you and Nellie pack up and head out here,” he says. “Call me every night at 7:00 o’clock to let me know where you are. I love you and take care with your driving.”

Peggy and Nellie set out in Don’s car.


(This is a picture of Don’s car. Nellie is sitting in the front. That is Don. The picture is taken before this trip they are on now.)

When they leave, the top is down, allowing the heat from the sun’s rays to warm their bodies. Later however, a chilly breeze comes up, requiring them to halt to keep from freezing. Both Nellie and Peggy try to get the top up, but, the top will not budge. They lack the strength to force it. Anxious as they are to reach their destination, they decide to continue driving all night, if need be, regardless of the weather.

To keep warm, they retrieve Nellie’s quilts from the trunk. Laying one quilt over their lap and wrapping another around their head and shoulders like a cape, they continue on their way.

The highlight of their trip takes place outside of San Diego on a hill or mountain with an elevation of 6,000 ft. It is freezing cold. It is Middle-of-the-night. The automobile brakes go out. Peg (as stubborn as she is) is determined to make it down that hill, brakes or not.

Therefore, she takes the remainder of Nellie’s quilts and throws them over Nellie’s head. Peggy says, “Keep your head down!” Then, Peggy takes off down the mountain without any brakes.

At the bottom of the hill, Peggy pulls into a gas station for brake fluid and directions to the address Don gave her.

The attendant tells her,” it is going to take more than just fluid, Miss. There is a bad leak. The liquid is just going right through.” He wipes his greasy hands on a rag. Then he continues, “I will not be able to get a new hose line until morning after the parts house opens.” He points to the motel, “I recommend you stay at the motel next door until then.”

Peg and Nellie grab their luggage out of the automobile. “See you tomorrow then,” Peg says.

They walk to the motel. They check in. They rent one room, one bed which they will share. They hit the rack, exhausted.

The next morning after a cup of coffee, they check on the repair of the automobile. “Your automobile is ready,” the attendant reports.

“Thank you,” Peg says. “I really appreciate your quick work on my vehicle. We really need to get moving.” They pay for the repairs. And with the directions in hand, they hit the road again. It is not far to their destination.

Don is sitting on the stoop drinking his morning coffee when they drive up. “Have you had breakfast?” He asks.

“No, we have not yet eaten,” Peggy answers.

Nellie shakes her head to the left and right.

“There is a nice café just around the corner,” Don says. “Wait here, I’ll grab my wallet and treat you to a nice hot breakfast.” Don goes inside.

Don tells Terry, “The girls are here.” He grabs his wallet and hat. “Now,” he says, “Take that girl to the bus station as soon as I leave with Peggy and Nellie.”

“Okay!” Terry exclaims. “She’ll be out of here when you get back.”

The girl puts up a fight and insists she is not leaving. Terry gets her bags, picks her up, and takes her to the bus station and leaves. He arrives back at the apartment shortly before the others return from breakfast.

Within an hour after Nellie and Peggy arrive back at the apartment, there is a knock on the door. Don answers the door. “Is Terry here?” A police officer asks.

“Whose there?” Peggy calls out to Don who had gone to answer the door.

“It is the police. They are looking for Terry. They are here to arrest him”, Don says, “The police have a warrant. Peggy, tell your brother to get his rear-end out here.”

“Okay, will do.” Peggy goes to the bedroom where Terry is laying down. “Get your lazy butt up”, she says, “You’ve got visitors that insist on seeing you now”! She exclaims.

When Terry comes out, the police arrest him on the spot, handcuff him and place him in the back seat of the police car.

Terry learns the girl called her father from the bus depot, telling him Terry’s whereabouts. Her father notifies the police of Terry’s location. Charges are filed. Consequently, the San Diego Police Department issues a warrant for Terry’s arrest.

Nellie and Peggy go to Terry’s arraignment. After hearing Terry’s statement and seeing Nellie’s condition, the Judge makes a decision to release Terry into Nellie’s custody.

The Judge says to Nellie, “If this man so much as looks at another woman, Nellie, you are ordered to contact me personally. Do you understand?” He says.

Nellie Nods.

“He will go to jail quicker than you can snap your fingers. This is the condition for his release to you.” The Judge says, “He is to tow the mark. Do you understand?” He again asks Nellie.

Nellie answers, “Yes.”

“Nellie, you are to tie him to your apron strings. He is to do his duty as a husband and father or he will spend the next 5 to 10 years in jail. Do you understand, Terry?” The Judge stares at Terry.

Terry hangs his head down, Lifts it back up and replies, “Yes, Your Honor, I understand and will abide by your ruling.”

The Judge hit his gavel and exclaims, “Next case!”

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!”

Tales of Mom (3): The Farm, the Chores, and Ma

By Trudy A. Martinez

When the rooster crows: “Cock-k-doodle-do Cock-k-doodle-do”. It is time to get up; it is time to dress; it is time for work. On the farm, the rooster is the alarm clock; it crows every morning at the crack of dawn just as the sun peeps over the horizon. Nellie normally doesn’t get up at this time, but now she is helping Ma; things are changing.

“Nellie, Nellie, get ya up. We gots’ work to do.” Ma calls out. She reaches over to Nellie lying in bed and shakes her slightly. “Nellie, Nellie, the cows are a waiting for us to milk ‘em.” Holding her finger to her lips Ma, whispers, “Sh-h, be quiet. Don’t want to wake everyone else.”

There is no time to dawdle. There is a lot to do around a farm, especially when there are so many children. Ma plans to teach Nellie to perform her new duties just as she taught her to do the chore of feeding the chickens and gathering their eggs when she was younger. She feels Nellie will learn quickly; her duties will be rewarding and challenging for her. It will be like going to school to be a homemaker. When you like what you do, it doesn’t seem like work, Ma feels learning to care for the farm animals will be fun for her.

“Ok, Ma. I’s comin’.” Nellie quickly rises from her bed, slips on her dress, and follows Ma to the barn.

The barn is behind the house. It isn’t a huge barn. It’s just big enough for one horse, and two cows, and Pa’s workshop. It never had a lick of paint. Its color can only be described as a weathered grey.

The pig’s pen is just to the left of the barn. There are two hogs (one male and one female) plus a dozen little, baby piglets in the pen. To the right of the barn, next to two huge pecan trees, is the chicken pen. Normally, the first thing Nellie does when she gets up is head to the chicken pen to feed the chickens. While they peck at the ground for the feed, she takes her basket and gathers the eggs for the breakfast meal. If there is an abundance of eggs, she puts them in another basket for sale.

This morning the chickens wait; they are no longer first on Nellie’s schedule. The cows come first now. Milking the cows is the reason Ma and Nellie rise early. The cows come first. And they come last.

Ma explains, “it is important Bitsy and Gertie get relieved of their milk first before we do the other chores ‘cause they get irritable if they has to wait.” Ma smiles and says, “Bout the same time every mornin’ and every evenin’ be milkin’ time. There is a special way to milk the cows.” She says as they open the barn door.

Ma walks over and grabs her milking stool and sits down next to Bitsy. She pats Bitsy gently and speaks softly to her, “It’s Okay, girl. It’s Okay”. She repeats calming her, and introducing her to Nellie.

“Come on, Nellie, you touch her. Her hide is soft; the hair part is a little prickly, not so much like humans.“ She tells, Nellie.

Ma talks to that cow just like she is talking to a person. “Okay, Bitsy, here we go. You be nice to Nellie when it’s her turn to try. ” She lays her head forward against the side of Bitsy’s body, reaches down and grabs the teats and milks her.

And the cow answers, “Moo, moo.”

“Pa be makin’ ya a stool just like mine. That way we both can milk at the same time. He be getting another pail too when he be in town, Nellie. Won’t that be nice?”

Nellie replies, “Um.”

It is exciting for Nellie learning to make things; it gives her a sense of accomplishment. Ma let her make butter this morning after milking the cows. She helps mom skim the cream from the top of the bucket. Then they put the skim cream in the churn,  “Just use quick up and down motions with the churning stick; it be thicken into butter in no time.”

A quick lesson on how to operate the hand churn and Nellie is making butter.

The cows give milk twice a day, once at the break of dawn and then again at early evening. Filling the bottles with milk after two pitchers full are set aside for the family for breakfast is Nellie’s job now. She makes ready for delivery to neighbors in need the milk in the bottles. Not everyone has a cow. Nor do they have laying chickens for that matter. Eggs are also put in baskets for delivery.

Immediately after breakfast, Nellie delivers milk, eggs, and butter to the neighbors who are in need. And she retrieves the empties (bottles and baskets) from the customer. She will wash and sterilize the bottles before they are used again.

Nellie ran out while Ma was fixing breakfast and fed the chickens and collected the eggs. She enjoys the labor at the farm. After breakfast will be time to slop the pigs. The pigs get all the meal scraps mixed in with their feed; they eat just about anything. Then it will be time to care for the garden. Ma has the garden set up right next to the water well, making it easier to care for the plants and watering.

There is never a dull day on the farm, especially this one. There is always some project in progress depending on the time of year or another baby on the way.

When Ma has the baby boy, there is no keeping Nellie away from him. She cares for him as if he is her own. After Ma feeds him, she cradles him in her arms, burps him, swaying back and forth, as she hums a lullaby until he falls asleep.

Nellie harvests the Pecans in the fall; the twins are her little helpers by then and Nellie uses them to help pick up the pecans on the ground and she enlists their help in other projects too. In early spring (after the fear of frost), they assist Nellie in planting the new garden. To a child everything is wonderful; they enjoy learning and exploring, and digging.

In late summer, it is planting time again for some cool weather plants. Time passes quickly when you are busy and enjoying what you do.


Nellie is growing into a good looking little lady. Pa snaps this picture of her before church one Sunday. School doesn’t teach you how to sew and do the things that you do on a family farm. Nellie makes the dress she is wearing all by herself. Ma is proud of her; and it pleases her to see Nellie doing things for herself and it pleases her to see such good results of her sewing adventure.

Yes, sewing can be an adventure. There are so many things you can make at only a fraction of the cost of purchasing an already complete item. If you make a mistake, you have to rip it out and re-sew it. Sounds dull, but that’s not necessarily so. It is less expensive than purchasing an item from the store already finished; usually, you can only afford one finished item a year (if you are fortunate enough to have money for that purpose). If you save enough flour, sugar, or grain sacks, there is no cost, except your time.  On the farm, nothing goes to waste.

And taking care of the twins is rewarding. They grow fast. Nellie makes the twins dresses too. Sometimes it is difficult finding enough flour sacks with the same pattern on them. When she can, the twins get new matching dresses and Nellie sews them. And Nellie gets rewards of kisses and hugs for all her efforts.


Nellie relinquished the chore of feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs to the twins. They enjoy the adventure each morning. They love playing with the little chickens when they hatch from the fertile eggs. Dog keeps his eyes open and watches them play with the baby chickens. I think he is jealous of the attention they give to the other animals at the farm. Dog thinks he should be the one getting all the attention.


You may say, “A Nellie needs friends”. But she has the best friends possible because her friends are family too. Nellie’s friends (in addition to her siblings) are her cousins. Besides, the other type of friend comes and goes. Family is forever her own and she can rely on them for help when she needs it.

When Ma has the other two boys, she happily takes over the caring for them too.

As years pass by, both Ma and Pa agree she does her duty by them, and now that the children have aged, it is time for Nellie to seek a life of her own.



Tales of Mom 9


Nellie Plans to Leave

Tales of Mom 9

Nellie Plans to Leave

The depression deepens, leaving Nellie wondering about Terry.

“Pa, I got to finds ‘em,” she says. “It be two years since I sees ‘em.”

The few years they are together before the country sinks into a deep depression, Terry does as he says he will: He teaches Nellie Mae to speak. He said, “All she needs is self-confidence, instruction, and practice, lots of practice.”

Although Nellie practices both day and night, she never meets Terry’s perfective expectation.

Nevertheless, the doctor says, “It is a miracle. I did not expect her to perform as well as she does. Terry has truly done wonders with her.”

Now looking at Pa, Nellie feels he is about to mention Terry is not bothering to write. It does not matter to Pa that he writes his mother, telling her he is ashamed to write Nellie because he feels he cannot provide for her, as he should.

Pa says,”A man’s primary duty is to care for his wife. When you marry, you become as one.” Then he gives me this silly grin and adds, “Would you cut off your right arm and leave it at home while you explore the universe?”

Well, when Pa puts it that way, Nellie has to contemplate what is going on here? But right now, she is not in a mood for a lecture, so she spurts out quickly before he has a chance to say a word, “I know ya don’ts wants me followin’ after ‘em, buts I got to.”

Trying hard to prevent her Pa from starting one of his lectures, she answers his questions before he gets a chance to voice them. “Peg (Terry’s sister) says I cans go wit’ ‘er. ‘Er hubby sent fer ‘er. He tells ‘er, ‘Terry is ‘ere at da C.C.C. (Cylde Citizen’s Training Corp School).’”

Before Nellie gets a chance to catch her breath and continue, Pa asks, “Why doesn’t he send for you himself?”

“Ya knows how proud ‘em is!” She exclaims, attempting to provide an honorable explanation for his neglect in face of her uneasiness with the circumstances herself.



(The C.C.C. uniforms the students wear)

“Women should not be traipsing around the countryside by themselves”, Pa begins to lecture with his remark.

“Peg got a car,” Nellies quickly replies. “Her daddy teaches her how to fix da car if dar be trouble,” she explains.

Pa already knew of Peg’s ability; she helped him fix his car when he broke down in town just last week.


(Pa’s car is next to the station with its hood up)

So at this point, Pa keeps his silence even though Nellie pauses for a moment giving him a chance to speak.

“’Besides, I needs be wit ‘em,” she says. Deciding to change her tactic somewhat, she quotes, “’For bett’r or worse,’” and then asks“, ain’t dat wats ya tells someone when ya marries dem, Pa?” Not waiting for an answer, she immediately initiates another quote, “’Lets no man . . .”

Interrupting her before she has a chance to finish, he says, “You made your point”. Being a preacher and believing a man should be with his wife, he feels he has no alternative but to say, “Better pack, young lady”.

“I already packed—never unpacked, ‘cept my clothes,” she says excitedly as she moves around the room.

Tales of Mom 8


Heartthrob, Red, Pa, and the stranger


Meanwhile, the times get hard. To supplement the family income, Pa takes a side job; and he supplies his employer with some items fresh from the farm.

Nellie use to walk the eggs to the market each week for him. Now Pa walks to town every afternoon (except Sunday) to do some clerking for Gidby at the Country store. He supplies him with fresh eggs, fresh churned butter, and milk daily.

Red, Pa’s pet hen (who by the way, is the color red and thinks Pa, is his Ma) follows, stopping occasionally to peck at the ground. If Pa gets too far ahead of her, she makes a racket, as if to order Pa to “Wait up.” Then she dashes as fast as she can to catch up, kicking up the dust as she goes.

Similarly, the horse, who Pa calls Heartthrob, starts following them (Pa and Red) around the farm; he walks close to the fence line as far as he can and then stands watching Pa and Red disappear upon the horizon each afternoon.

Mysteriously, Heartthrob knows when it is time for Pa and Red to return. Making his way back to the same spot, he stands waiting when they come across the hilly crest. One night he seems agitated. As Pa and Red start down the slope, he whinnies, snorts, and kicks up the dust when he sees them.

“What is the matter with you?” Pa calls out.

Red starts clucking.

Heartthrob stands on his hind legs, whinnies, and then runs in circles, shaking his head, snorting, and kicking up the dust.

“Get your hands up,” a rough, unshaven, dirty looking stranger yells.

Pa either does not hear him or pretends not to hear.

The stranger repeats himself. “Get them up I said.”

Before Pa gets a chance to respond, Heartthrob jumps the fence and knocks the gun from the man’s hand just as he is fixing to shoot.

The man falls to the ground, landing right next to Red, startling her. Feathers fly and dust fills the air when the stranger reaches for the gun lying next to her. Red is “Clucking. Clucking and clucking”

Heartthrob stomps on the stranger, attempting to protect his new friend, Red.

“Whoa, boy,” Pa says, trying to calm Heartthrob down  when he sees him attacking the man.

Pa did not fear the man as you might think; instead, he believes like Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

With one exception above all else, Pa says, “Fear the Lord God, the Almighty.”

Thinking the stranger is having ‘hard times.’ Pa is about to ask the man to the farm to comfort and feed. Hoover makes our responsibility as citizens clear during his presidency, saying it is the people’s responsibility to help and feed each other when the need is there; this declaration does not change things at our farm; we always feed and care for strangers willing to work. According to Pa, those who are not willing to work deserve to starve.

After the harvest of the potatoes, Pa digs a huge hole close to the house. He then puts the potato harvest in the hole and covers the hole to keep them cool. As long as we are careful not to disclose where we store our winter supplies, there will be enough to feed us till spring. That means it is important not to be seen removing items from the different storage places of the various crops we harvest.

The farm produces most of what we need. There are two cows in the barn, two hogs, a bunch of piglets in the pigpen, a roaster and three dozen or more chickens are in the henhouse and just as many in the chicken pen. There is corn, pecans, walnuts, tomatoes, herbs, onions, rhubarb, potatoes, apples, figs, and other fruits and vegetables growing for family consumption on the farm. It is a lot of work trying to keep the crops growing and preparing for the winter.

The scarecrows may keep the birds out of the crops, but they do not keep out desperate people. When desperate people are not willing to work it is not our problem. Pa caught a man digging into our hole one night; he is now in jail. If a man asks for food in exchange for work, Pa helps him out by giving him work, food, and shelter for the night. However, the man Pa caught tries to steal it. He never thinks of the consequence of his own action. Or he never thinks how his actions affect us or himself either. This is a different story.

People blame Hoover for the hard times. Pa says this is why he lost the election to Roosevelt. Nevertheless, even after Roosevelt takes office, times get even worse. Why, even Nellie returns home after the Mill closes.

Terry on the other hand, set out for parts unknown, looking for work. Perhaps, he is like this stranger, hungry, and desperate. Pa says the government had a hand in making the ‘hard times’ harder—had something to do with foreign countries.

However, this strange man (who Heartthrob and Red attack) has no knowledge of the political ramifications; to him, it is a matter of survival, his survival.

Consequently, Pa invites the man to the farmhouse to eat and offers to let him sleep in the barn in exchange for helping out a bit on the farm with some work Pa needs help with and needs to complete before the hard winter sets in..

Conversely, the man chooses not to because the next thing he does is take advantage of the opportunity to regain his footing when the occasion presents itself while Pa is calming Heartthrob. Forgetting his gun lying on the ground, the stranger starts running and yelling, “Your horse is nuts, Mister. He nuts”!

Since then,  Heartthrob walks with Pa and Red to and from town, warning them of impending danger.