Browse shared stories

  • Story Owner: Sally  Jadlow
  • Story Title: My Magnificient Mentor
  • Story Created: Friday, November 18, 2011, 7:16:00 PM
  • Chapter Author: Sally Jadlow
  • Chapter Created: Monday, November 10, 2014, 9:34:00 AM
  • updated: Monday, November 10, 2014 9:36:00 AM



I set about to clean out Mother’s house. In the spare bedroom, I opened the antique cabinet and drew out a stack of memorabilia. Halfway down the pile of old newspapers, I discovered a speckled brown ledger book with ragged edges. It crackled as I opened the yellowed pages. Each line contained a date and a comment on life in the 1880's. It was my great-grandfather Sanford’s diary.

The more I read, the more I wanted to share Sanford’s story, rather than bury it in some safe place for another 119 years.

The basic story line is true and the historical facts, carefully researched. Where he left gaps, I filled in the blanks. I hope you derive as much pleasure from this book as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Come now with me to the year 1887.





January 30, 1887 - Made an ax handle today.

Frozen gusts blitzed across the western Missouri landscape at dusk as Sanford leaned against the door to latch it behind him. He took off his gloves and rubbed his hands together over the wood stove in the kitchen.

“Lordy! It’s cold out there. Saw your dad in town today. He thinks the government’s going to open the Oklahoma Territory soon. Think maybe we ought to homestead down there.”

Placing her mending on the kitchen table, Lucy stared at him. “Have you gone daft? You figure on pulling up stakes here to move down to that wild place?”

He plopped his hat on the ladder-back chair and shoved his hands in his pockets. “We gotta do something, my doe. Ran into Mr. Dawson today. His family’s coming from back east in the next month or two.”

She placed her hands on the table and leaned toward Sanford. “Mr. Dawson isn’t the only landlord around, you know.”

“There is no land for rent.”

Lucy’s gaze could have stared down a diamond-backed rattler. “Did you even look?”

Sanford sank into a kitchen chair, raked one hand through his dark hair, and sighed. “Lucy, I’ve looked high and low. There’s no land to rent or to buy around Winston, even if we had the mon...”

“And a move to Oklahoma Territory’s going to make things better?” She swallowed hard and clenched the skirt of her long white apron.

Taking a fresh grip on his patience, Sanford steadied his voice. “Getting too crowded here. Down there we could have 160 acres just for the taking.”

“Taking! Taking! We’d have to move there, Sanford.”

“My dear woman, it’s the only way we could ever have our own place.” He reached for Lucy’s hand.

Turning her back to him she whispered, “What’d we live in? A dugout? A soddy? A tent?”

He rose and took her frail shoulders gently in his big hands and said softly, “I can build you a fine house there.”

“Where’d little Frankie go to school? On the back of a wagon?” She dabbed her eyes with her apron.

“No, Lucy. Don’t fret yourself. We’ll build schools and make a place for our family.” He slipped his long arms around her waist and drew her to himself.

She began to cry softly. “Family! Am I supposed to have this new baby in a teepee like some squaw?” she sobbed into her apron.

“It won’t take long to build a nice sod house. If your folks go, we can work together.”

Whirling around Lucy looked at him through her tears. “After we move some Indian off his land. Think he’ll just hand it over to you?”

“Not at all. We don’t have to move anybody anywhere. These parcels are unclaimed. The government will give us the title to the land after we live on it for five years and make improvements.”

“Five years! And what if we don’t stay? Then where will you be? Besides, I don’t care who owns that land. Point is, we’re not goin’.” Wrenching away from his embrace she said, “Dad can go if he wants to. We’re stayin’. Has he talked to Mary about this loony idea? There’s no way in all of creation she’d leave Missouri and go to that God-forsaken place!”

Lucy snatched the freshly washed milk bucket and grabbed her woolen shawl off the nail beside the back door. It caught and ripped a hole. A fresh batch of tears coursed down her cheeks.

“Lucy. Wait.”

She flung the torn shawl around her shoulders and slammed the door, muttering to herself in the cold January dusk.

He knew he’d touched off a powder keg. It wasn’t enough to carry the uncertainty of merely being a land renter, not a land owner. Now he had the unbridled ire of his lady-in-waiting to deal with.


Lucy stalked toward the barn. The very idea. He’d had some wild-hare schemes in the past, but this one beat them all. She thought he’d shed that love of wandering the summer he took off for the Washington Territory before they were married. At least that convinced him he didn’t want to be a sheepherder for the rest of his life.

Brushing hot tears away she fumbled with the box of matches in the dark stall. Her hands shook as she lit the wick of the lantern, replaced the chimney, and hung the lamp on the peg overhead. The gentle glow filled the stall. Jers, their cow, ambled through the open barn door behind her, and sniffed the feeding trough while Lucy scooped out a generous portion of oats from the feed sack. She reached for the three-legged stool in the corner, sat and placed the wooden bucket under Jers. The cow’s flank covered with a winter coat made a soft resting place for Lucy’s head while she grabbed two teats and sobbed. Warm milk squirted against the bottom of the bucket.

“Jers, what’s gonna become of us? If Dad wouldn’t egg Sanford on, he’d forget this confound notion. Where’ll all this end?”

Jers didn’t answer. Just kept munching.

The cow’s calmness seeped into her. By the time milk brimmed the bucket, Lucy’s emotional cloudburst had ended. She picked up the milk, blew out the lantern, and led the cow out of the barn. “Good girl,” she said, patting the cow’s neck.

Lucy slipped back into the house and replaced her shawl on the nail. “I’ll have to remember to mend that hole in the morning,” she mumbled to herself. Was that Sanford whispering in the bedroom? Unable to make out what he said, she tiptoed closer.

From the light of the kerosene lantern in the kitchen, she saw Sanford leaning over Frankie’s crib. He stroked the baby’s blond ringlets as he murmured in his deep voice to his son. Oh, how she did love that man, in spite of his desire to wander. She leaned forward to catch his words.

“’Bout seven months and you’ll have a little brother or sister. Somehow I’ll find a way to feed us all. Promise. I’ll find a way, in spite of everything.”

In her heart, she was sure he would. She whispered, “Oh God! Just don’t let that way lead to the wild land of the Oklahoma Territory.”


The next Wednesday was the all-day quilting bee at Mary’s, Lucy’s stepmother. Lucy bundled Frankie in warm quilts while Sanford hitched the horses, Pete and Kate, to the wagon and brought it around for the short ride to the Estes farm. Her round sewing basket went into a crate along with the rising bread dough she promised to bring for the ladies potluck dinner.

“Let’s go see Grandma Mary, Frankie.”

He laughed and clapped his mittens together. “Bye, bye!”

“You’re just full of words aren’t you, little muffin?” His eyes sparkled as she plunked him on the wagon seat.

Sanford placed the box in the back. “Remember to keep these tight,” he said as he handed her the reins.

“See you at the folks’ tonight. Don’t be late. You know how Father likes to eat his supper on time.” Lucy clucked and slapped the reins on the horses’ backsides. “Giddy up!”

“Don’t fret, Lucy. I’ll be there. Might even come early if I get my ax handle done,” he said and smiled. “See you at supper.” He watched his wife and child drive down the lane.

While the team plodded through the gray morning, Lucy rambled on to Frankie. “Maybe I’ll share our news about our new baby with Mary today. Can’t believe I’m in a family way again so soon. This time’s so different from you. Then I wasn’t sick even a day. Wonder if this one’s a girl?”

A wave of nausea swept over her. She swallowed hard to try to will her breakfast to stay put. At the next turn, she pulled a quick jerk on the reins. “Whoa!” Before the horses stopped, Lucy wrapped the reins around the brake handle, swung down from the wagon, and threw up her breakfast in the ditch. Her hands shook as she wiped her mouth and climbed back into the wagon. Slapping the reins again on the horses, she clucked. “Get up, you two. Don’t wanna be late.”

After the next mile section, she turned the team up the long lane leading to the wooden two-story home where Lucy grew up. Bare elms swayed in the wind along both sides of the rutted drive. In summer the trees were beautiful, but their shade made the dirt road slow to dry in spring rains. Mr. Estes had lived on this eighty-acre farm in Daviess County, Missouri since 1865, the year Lucy was born.

The memory of her mother rushed into her thoughts. Lucy’s heart longed to see her mother stand in the door and wave a greeting again.

Wish Mom was still alive. My word. Been nine years now. If only she hadn’t had Orris, she’d still be with us. Shame on me. Not Orris’ fault. He looks so like her. She’d be so proud of him.

Lucy reined the horses toward the barn past the house and waved to Mary, her stepmother, standing at the kitchen window.

She thanked God for her. Her father wouldn’t have made it if Mary hadn’t come along. This new wife had her hands full with Orris and little Hanna, clear up to her elbows. Lucy’s father spoiled half-sister Hanna so much. In Sanford’s words, Hanna was liable to turn into a real ringed-tailed tooter.

Eleven months after Mary and H.W. were married little Hanna came along. At first Lucy had a hard time adjusting to a stepmother, especially one only a few years older than herself.

Lucy drove into the barn, grateful to be in out of the cold and looped the reins around the wagon brake. The smell of fresh straw warmed her chilled bones. She looked around the large barn as she unhitched the horses and tied them in a stall.

Father was better off than most. Why in the world he entertained the idea of moving to Oklahoma Territory to start all over again was beyond her. Lucy decided not to mention the subject to Mary. Maybe if no one talked about it, the idea would go away.

Lucy tucked Frankie under one arm, scooped the box off the wagon with the other, and hurried to the house.


Sanford watched Lucy and Frankie drive out of sight. Gotta get busy on that ax handle. First, I’ll ride Ginger to Winston to get the mail.

Snow drifted as he drew his collar around his ears and shoved his Stetson more firmly on his head.

How am I going get my dear Lucy to move to Oklahoma Territory? Women sure are hard to get along with, especially when they’re in a family way. I’ll just have to figure a way–that’s all there is to it.

Sanford hitched Ginger in front of the post office and slapped his hat against his thigh knocking the snow off as he slid in the door.

“Ooee!” Pulling off his leather gloves, he blew in his cupped hands, and rubbed them together.

“Getting kinda nasty out, ain’t it?” the postmistress said as she poked letters into their appropriate slots.

“Reckon it’ll get worse before it gets better.”

She chuckled and nodded in agreement. In the small window of slot number 84 was a letter. With stiff fingers he tucked his gloves under one arm and turned the combination on the brass door. It was from his brother, Elwood in Walker, Missouri. It read,

Dear Sanford,

I’ve been asking around about some land. Mr. Fry’s got some ground he’s willing to rent for a year. Went out to take a look. There is a nice well on the place. Barn’s in good shape, but it needs some repair on the south side. Just one drawback, the house is kind of small and run down.

I think you could get it if you act fast; told him we would let him know in a few days. Later I overheard somebody at the general store inquiring about it.

Write soon.


As Sanford unhitched Ginger, he shoved the letter into his shirt pocket. He'd not considered Walker as a possibility. Elwood seemed to like it there; probably because that’s where Orilla, his intended was. With any luck, there might even be some land to buy.

Light snow laid a powdery blanket over the landscape as he urged his horse home at a gallop. Grateful for the cover of the barn, he tied Ginger in a stall, gave her a generous portion of oats, and went to work on his ax handle. His expert eye searched for just the right length of split white hickory in the barrel beside the workbench; one without knots and narrow growth lines would do best.

"This one'll make a good-un," he said as he pulled out a split log that came almost to his hip. Placing it in a vise he fashioned the ax handle with his drawknife. It wasn't long before he had a nice curve to the handle and chiseled the straight end just small enough to fit the hole in the ax head. He tried the ax head on. Perfect! Notching the top of the handle with the grain of the wood, he drove a small wedge in the notch to hold the ax head in place. Then he set the handle, head and all, to soak in a bucket of linseed oil to make the wood swell. Drawing his pocket watch out of his overalls, he popped the lid and checked the time. Four-thirty. Good. Just enough time do chores, wash up, and get over to the Estes' by six.


After a supper of roast beef, carrots, potatoes and Lucy’s fresh bread, Mary cleared the plates while Lucy removed the remainder of the food.

“I’ll fetch the dessert, Lucy. You go have a seat.” Mary was always more at ease in the kitchen when no one looked over her shoulder.

“All right. If you’re sure there’s nothing more I can do.”

“Oh, if you insist, take this cream in for the bread pudding.”

Lucy placed the pitcher in front of her father and sat. Mary always served him first.

“Thank you kindly, Daughter,” H.W. said as he placed his napkin beside his plate and leaned back in his chair. “Hanna and Orris, take Frankie upstairs to play. Mama’ll give you dessert later.” The children took off like a shot.

H. W. scooted his chair back, jammed his thumbs into his vest pockets, and stared at the table. After a moment, he looked up. A subtle grin played across his face. He cleared his throat. “What do ya’ll think of this fine idea of us moving to the Oklahoma Territory?”

Lucy’s dinner crept back up her throat. She swallowed hard. Can’t get sick here. They’ll know I’m in a family way again. She hadn’t confided in Mary yet and she wanted to announce the news in her own time–certainly not like this.

She shot a quick glance across the table at Sanford that telegraphed her thought of “Tell him we’re not going.”

Avoiding her gaze he placed the bone china coffee cup in its saucer, wiped his handlebar moustache with his napkin and shifted in his chair.

“Don’t think we’ll be moving to the Oklahoma Territory with you all. My little woman’s not of a mind to go.”

That’s the way, Sanford. Tell him we’re staying right here in Daviess County. Another wave of nausea swept over her.

Sanford drew a letter from his shirt pocket, unfolded it and put it on the table in front of H.W. “Fact is, we might be moving to Walker. I got a letter from Elwood today. He said we might be able to rent some land from a Mr. Fry. I have to let him know right away.”

Lucy couldn’t believe her ears. What? What did he say? Walker! Where did this idea come from? Is the whole world against us staying put right here?

She felt her heart pounding in her ears. Sanford’s voice sounded far away. His mouth was moving, but she couldn’t comprehend his words. Then everything went black.

Sanford gently pressed a cool rag to Lucy’s face while she came to on the couch in the parlor. Where was she? What happened? Then she remembered. Supper. Oklahoma Territory. Walker.

Her thoughts raced. This is not how she pictured this evening. Her plans to announce the new little one during dessert had gone by the wayside. Her Father and Elwood stole her thunder. Her news would just have to wait for a better time. God only knew where they would be by the time this little one was born.

Announcing Lucy needed to get home, they left without the bread pudding.

On the way home, he drove the wagon with Ginger tied to the back. Well-bundled, the baby slept on Lucy’s lap. The snow had stopped and the sky was filled with bright stars. In the snowy silence the iron wagon wheels bumped on the frozen road. She wanted to say something, but no words made it past the lump in her throat.

Finally, Sanford coughed and spoke. “I should have talked to you about the letter from Elwood before I told your father. Sorry.”

“I just don’t know what’s gonna happen to us,” she croaked. Taking a fresh grip on Frankie she looked straight ahead. After a long silence, her pump was primed and she let loose. Words spilled out in a torrent. “Don’t you understand? I don’t want to move anywhere. Not even Walker. I know times are hard, but they’ll get better. There’s got to be some place near Winston. Maybe you could check around Kidder.”

“No use. I’ve checked all the way to Trenton and back, my doe. Every place is spoken for. New people are settling here from back east every day. Land’s as scarce as hen’s teeth. I don’t want to leave these parts, either. From the looks of things, we don’t have a choice.”

Trying to get a grip on her emotions, Lucy fought back the tears. His words stabbed at her heart like a flaming arrow. The silence hung like an icy blanket on the cold night air. Undisturbed snow radiated the brightness from the full moon.

Frankie coughed.

Comments 1 to 4 of 4
  • Hope you got to get back to it, Philip.

    Sally 5/28/2015 4:43:00 PM
  • Thanks for the comments, Tom.

    Sally 5/28/2015 4:40:00 PM
  • Very interesting story; I just skimmed through it for lack of time but I'll be back to read and enjoy it soon probably tomorrow. It sounds like you're turning a diary into a novel, but as I said I didn't get into it too deeply so I might be mistaken. Good luck with it!

    Philip 11/11/2014 10:25:00 PM
  • I too, ran across some memories while going through my folks stuff after they passed away. Most interesting were newspaper articles about me that they had submitted while I was growing up. Never knew they had done that, because they never ever showed them to me.

    Thomas 11/10/2014 11:06:00 AM
  • Links