Monday, February 7, 2011

Lovers of the Ozarks - Part 1

How hard is it to find love in the Ozarks in 1889?

It may be as easy as finding Planet X in the southern ecliptic plane in the Constellation of Orion this midsummer. It seems this Nemesis of Love seems to crouch around every rock.

Nevertheless, this story has the elements of a great Ozark Saga, such as:
  • An Angry Father
  • A Stolen Kiss
  • Mrs. Branson
  • A Branson Get-a-Way
  • Arkansas Elopement
  • Baldknobbers  
  • A Posse Chase
  • And…Handsome, Vivacious, and Affectionate Ozark Girls
Again, there are words & spellings in this article that we do not use today. For those who live in Kirbyville, Missouri, this article spells it "Kerbyville."
 I hope you enjoy!



Ozark Girls are Handsome, Vivacious, and Affectionate, but Eastern Lovers Must Learn Some Things to Win Them.

KERBYVILLE, Taney county, Mo., Jan 25. - There is a thrill in the heart of the Taney lover of which the lover beyond Taney civilization knows little. All lovers know the thrills which come from sly glances of bright eyes and from the touch of soft hands or of maiden’s breath.  The Taney lover knows and appreciates these, but there is something that compresses more to stir his blood. It is something that compresses the joys and fears and the anxieties and the anxieties and excitements of the whole lifetime of the ordinary limp and matter-of-fact lover of the North into the brief space of two hours.

Just two miles southwest of this village lives A. J. Storms, a ranch owner of considerable intelligence.  “He’d a sight of stock, but the pick o’ the bunch was his daughter,” in the vernacular of the country. Her name was Lois. Lois is as common here as the variations of Mary are in New York. Lois had wavy, light hair that banged bewitchingly round cheeks that slowed with health and flushed carmine at the least excitement, and a form that was a delight to the eye. Lois was but 16. Girls are older here at 16 than New York girls at 18 or 19.

Lois was the pride of her father and the sweetheart of Langston Bishop. Bishop came from Davis county.  He was a likely young man, but Mr. Storms seeing that Lois was in love with Bishop and therefore likely to marry him and go away, determined to break off the match and the young man’s head at the same time, if necessary Mr. Storms came to this conclusion suddenly one afternoon in August. Lois was helping her mother put up peaches beneath a big oak tree in the front yard when young Bishop came walking by. Bishop tarried to help with the peaches and Mrs. Storms, mother fashion, remembered some other work that had to be done immediately. Left alone time lovers enjoyed life for an hour or two, and then Lois cut a pretty finger with her poach knife. The peach juice made it smart, and in a moment the girl’s eyes were full of tears. Bishop couldn’t help it; he just done had to kiss those tears away, just as other lovers who have not had Taney experience would have done.

Unfortunately old Storms come around the corner just then and “got mad” at once. He picked up a gad that was lying on the ground and came down on the lovers like a tornado. Bishop would not run. The first blow of the gad fell not on Bishop but the girl; she had jumped in between the two men.  Then Bishop picked up a “rock” and knocked the old man endways with it.

That brought matters between him and Lois to a climax. If he were ever to get the girl now was his chance. Storms was a Bald Knobber, and when he got up and swore he would fix the hot-headed young lover the threat had a business end to it. But Storms believed in doing things according to the form of law, and he at once hastened to Justice of the Peace S. W. Linzy and issue a proclamation calling on all good citizens to “follow, pursue, overtake and capture the aforesaid Langston Bishop, and bring him duly bound with these presents,” &c.  In Taney county that is sufficient warrant for an armed posse to hunt a man and shoot him to death if he fails to throw up his hands at the order when overtaken.

Bishop knew all about this.  As the old man rode off for the warrant Bishop was hastening to his boarding place - or rather Henry Branson’s farm where he worked - for two saddle horses. Mrs. Branson herself helped him with the horses, but it all took precious time, and Bishop stopped for nothing but his pocketbook and revolver, and then away he went.

Lois, with a small bundle of clothing in one hand and clad in a riding habit, stood on a corner of the rail fence as he came along. Her mother, good soul, stood in the doorway crying and wiping her eyes on her apron. With a jump the girl was in the saddle before the horse had stopped, and with a wave of her hand she was gone.

Then began a wild race for the Arkansas line, twenty miles away, with the posse of good citizens leaving the Squire’s door two miles off at Kerbyville.  Clip-it-ty-clip went the hoofs of the lovers horses, the boy with his race over his shoulder half the time, looking for pursuers; the girl with her head bent forward, her cheeks aglow, and her long yellow hair floating in the air. You must needs keep a-jogging lad, for the posse behind you scents blood and is as eager as the devil. And jog he did, uphill and down, and through ravines with the gloom of night, and a gloomier foreboding of ill success in his heart. On and on the mountains growing higher and the country wilder as they go, with scarce ever a check to the mad gallop oven when the road was roughest, for where is the Taney horse that is not accustomed to a twenty mile dash over a Taney road?

By and by when three-fourths of the distance has been covered and no sign of pursuit seen, the lovers came out of a dark hollow and see, not a mile away on the other bald ridge, a half dozen horsemen plunging along.

“Whoo-e-e!”  The horsemen see the lovers, and a faint yell comes down the wind.  The girl plies a hickory switch till her horse files, and the boy sets home the spurs till the blood drips from time rowels. It is down grade now through the White River bottom, and but five miles away is the home of Horace Doss, the friend of all runaway Taney lovers,  who will bar his door against the pursuers.

“Whoo-e-e!”  The yell is heard again but it is fainter.

By the Lord, we are gaining says the boy, and once more they ply whip and spur. Alas! If this were a novel, the lover and his girl would spring through Doss’s open door just in time to escape the shower of bullets which the baffled pursuers would fire after them. Not so in this case. The yell I had grown fainter because the posse led by Constable Dick Prather, was taking a shorter cut up a branch and over the divide to head the lovers off. Dick had yelled because he found the lovers had taken the long road.

Three miles further on, with hearts beating high with hopes the lovers rounded a turn on the river bank and came out into an open space lighted by the full moon. Square across the road stood a line of horsemen with guns leveled, while a voice said with a threat and sternest:
“Throw up your hands, Lang Bishop.”

There was nothing for it but to obey, and long before morning Mrs. Storms was putting her weeping daughter to bed and saying, “Never mind dearie; it will be all right yet.” While the lover, too bitterly disappointed to even curse his luck, was lying on the wooden cot in Forsyth jail.  Of course he was bailed out next day; all sorts of criminals get bail here, and why not a lover?  Of course, he tried for the girl again and with better luck.

Part 2 Next Week

Work Cited:
“The Lovers of the Ozarks.” The Sun 61.156 (3 Feb. 1889): 8. Access Newspaper Archive Access. Donald W. Reynolds Library, Mountain Home, AR. 11 Nov. 2010

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