Friday, February 5, 2010

An Ox Team Elopement

I have come across another Ozark elopement that gained notoriety all the way to the shores of New Zealand in 1895.  This story was a tough one to transcribe due to the age of the print quality and spelling. First, the spelling of regular words are sometimes different because New Zealand uses the spelling mechanics of the United Kingdom.  For example, wagon contains a double “g” — waggon, and there’s an extra “u” in neighbor — neighbour.  Secondly, this article is fraught with Ozark vernacular, and there’s no way to decipher all of it. I just tooke a deep breath, carefully type it out, and go on.

I hope you enjoy.

(Detroit Free Press.) Wandering down through the lumber region of the Ozarks, not far from the Missouri Arkansas line, I came upon a waggon in which were seated two young people — a man of twenty-four and a girl of eighteen or nineteen. To their vehicle were yoked two red oxen. The beasts rolled their eyes lazily as they stood still at the command of the youth, and the girl blushed and looked off into the trees.

"Lookin' fer us?" the young fellow called out to me, as I appeared through the undergrowth with my gun slung idly across my shoulder. "Looking for you?" I echoed. "Bless you, no. Where did you get the notion? "

"Dunno," the youth replied, lifting his hand from an old-time rifle that lay along the back of the seat. "I'm kinder suspisshus-like of every feller I see."


"Well, to get right down to the fas's, we're— Clorindy, here, and me — we're elopin'."

The youth's face had relaxed the expression of sternness that I first noted and he was smiling. The girl's face was very red, but she was smiling, too. Then I smiled.

“Eloping ? Well, that's pretty good. You haven't a very fast team there, have you?"

"No," returned the youth, looking at the dusty, tired, red animals. “No," he said again, "but they're stiddy, an' what's more," he went on, with a show of pride, " they're mine."

"How do you happen to be eloping?" I inquired.

"They was two of us after her— Clorindy here— an' I jest went up an' sez I, ' which'll you have?' She kinder smirked and said as she 'lowed she didn't know. I don't take no stock in dickerin', so I comes right out an' says, says I, 'Ye can have me now or not at all.' 'Mighty presumin', says she, but kinder soft like in tone. I knowed I had her then and I kep' up my blusterin', though my heart wa'n't backin' up all my mouth said. 'Well,' says I, ' we'll go right away if yer ready,' at which she held off like and said it wa'n't fair not to give Jonathan — that's the other fellow's name —a chance at it. I see right then an' there that I'd got to hustle if I was goin' to win, so I says good-bye to her for the minnit an' I goes over home an' yokes up. It was jest as I thought. When I got back she— Clorindy here— was all tuckered up ready fer to start."

"When did all this happen?" I interposed.

"Last week," he said, " and then we started to——"

"And you are still' eloping? Aren't you married yet?" I asked, stopping him in his excited narrative.

"Bless yo', yes," he exclaimed. The girl blushed again and pulling the pink sunbonnet over her face, turned away.

"Oh, yes," the youth went on. "Married that day noon at 'Square Harrises, over near Thayer. We was sittin' at the 'Square's table, eatin', when Phil Henry, one of the neighbour boys, kem runnin' in an' says, says he, ' Hank, Jonathan an' Rindy's dad's after you with the black yoke an' they're gittin' all the boys out.' Well, all we could do was to git right up and pike off, puttin' the 'Square's good dinner under the seat. Phil sad that Jonathan thought I had tuk a mean advantage of him."

"And haven't you seen anything of them yet?"

"No, not yet; but I'm skeered of that one of the boys 'at don't like me'll go to Thayer an' git one of the hotel hosses and come along, but I'm fixed here," said he patting his old rifle. "Our yoke is purty fresh yet, an' they're better than their'n any day. Ef they catch us we'll have fun then, shore."

"But didn't you tell me that you were married by Squire Harris?" I asked. "Yes, in course we're all right and jined," the youth responded.

"Then what right have the father and friends of the girl— your wife— to run after you in this manner?"

"Wall, to tell the truth, I hadn't thought of that," the young fellow replied.

The girl's sunbonnet was pushed back at this part of the conversation. She was a pretty thing, a good type of the Ozark young woman. Her eyes were red with weeping, but they brightened up at my words.

"An' don't you think that —"

"The girl started to speak, but she was stayed by the hand of her husband.

"What was you goin' to say, stranger?" he asked.

"I was going to say that you are foolish in running away in this fashion. Do you know how far you've gone?"

"About fifty mile, I reckon."

"You've gone across Oregon county," I answered. "You are in Ripley now."

"But they're right after us."

"What of it?"

"They'd take Clorindy."

The girl burst into tears.

"Stuff and nonsense!" I replied. "She's yours for all time. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself for running away like this. Where have you been sleeping?" "In the waggon Clorindy druv' while I slep' an' I druz while she snoozed."

"Well, I'd advise you to turn back and go home."

"An' can't they take Clorindy?"

"I should say not," I replied. "If you have a marriage certificate."

The girl almost laughed aloud. "Well, I'll be gosh durned," the groom exclaimed. "Gee about, you leather hided sons of Satan. If we meet them fellers an' they say shoo to us I'll put 'em so full o' holes that they won't hold sand and——"

"Don't be rash," I exclaimed, "just show your certificate. They'll growl, but that will be the end of it."

"Stranger," said the young mountaineer," you've done me a good turn, so I'm goin' to do you one. You kin s'lnte the bride ef you want." The girl did not hesitate a moment. She pushed her bonnet back and leaned far down from the seat, her red lips puckered and her eyes dancing with merriment. The blush was there yet, but it was more delicate than at first, the rich tan on the forehead blending with the roses on the check.

My wife has always wanted to know whether or not I took that proffered kiss.

Work Cited:
“An Ox Team Elopement.” Star , 5333 (10 Aug. 1895) 2. Papers Past. National Library of New Zealand 25 Dec. 2009

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