Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lovers of the Ozarks - Part 2

Bellings & Shivarees

A Belling or Shivaree was a common practice throughout the Ozarks in the rights of a newlywed couple to endure. It was to the good pleasure of the married folk to play practical jokes & indulge nonsense on the newly initiated. Sometimes it went a bit too far. A couple may come in their home and find all the furniture turned upside-down, the firewood scattered over the yard, or a noisy serenade of cowbells & frying pans.

For my family, many times, the jokes did not slow down after a shivaree. I remember old stories that were reminisced at family gatherings about my Great Uncle Jimmy Anderson. He never let an opportunity slip by without playing a joke on some family member...even after the wedding had ended...years before. One time he found my Grandpa & Granny Anderson were away from home. The doors were unlocked; actually, nobody locked their doors. He strewed firewood all over the yard and flipped the furniture upside-down. My grandparents came home and cleaned up the mess without saying a word or complaining to anyone. Grandpa Mack knew who did it but acted like nothing happened, and this all the more grated on Uncle Jimmy. Nevertheless, it payday was coming. One evening  Grandpa Mack had two of his boys, Berman & Jerel Anderson, sneak over to Uncle Jimmy's house when he wasn't home. They climbed up on the rooftop of the house and stuffed a wet tow-sack into the stove pipe. They also put Uncle Jimmy's false teeth in the flour bin.  Later that evening, Uncle Jimmy came home and started a fire in his potbellied stove and smoke filled the place. Nothing had to be said between the two, and a truce was drawn between the brothers.

I hope to use this story helps to set in context for the conclusion of the article below. We will hear about a newlywed couple in Gainesville, Missouri, that endured a "Belling" or "Shivaree." Sometimes, tomfoolery & shenanigans make up a part of our...Ozarks' History.

I hope you enjoy the conclusion of -
" Lovers of the Ozarks - Part 2"

It is said that one-third of the Taney lovers have to fly to Arkansas to marry. On the other hand, Arkansas lovers come north into Missouri. Squire Linzy issues warrants and marriage certificates with impartial hand. Justice Jones of Forsyth, however, has a greater runoff custom, from the fact that the lovers needs come or send to Forsyth for a license. A marriage a week is about the average.
In spite of the fact that marriages are common, there is enough rowdyism about Forsyth young men to make them give every couple “a belling” that stays over night. The belling is generally short and noisy. The boys fire revolvers and beat tin pans and devices. The groom comes out and says he is sorry, and trys for enough cheap cigars to go around, but sometimes the groom is stubborn. Charley Blood and Al Baldwin, two commercial travelers from Springfield, fell in with such a groom once, only it was over in Gainesville, in Ozark county, another border county.

The young man was from Arkansas, of course, and he vowed he would die or kill somebody before he would be compelled to say he was sorry, even if the expression didn’t mean anything. He’d smelled powder and heard the bullets whistle as he fled with his sweetheart. That is not an unusual condition of affairs in this country, but it made an impression on him that determined him to resist the “bellers.” He stood the racket bravely. The upper half of the window of his room at the hotel was shot out, the pieces of glass was covering the bed completely. The powered glass was mixed with powered plaster a-plenty.  The boys got a ladder and proposed to charge up mat and drag the young man out.  He shouted, when he heard the ladder, that they’d better not try to break in, for it would be lawful to shoot them, and he’d do it.  So they abandoned that. Finally at about midnight the racket ceased for a short time. The hosts were in consultation. They had hit upon a plan. One of the boys went to the store and got half a pound of red pepper, another got an auger, and, going into the loft over the young man’s room, bored a hole through the flooring, laid there, and poured the pepper through that hole and down through the bullet holes in that plastering into time room, That fetched the groom and his bride both. He gave it up, and said he was sorry, and treated the crowd, like a man, to two cigars each, instead of one. They were so tickled over their success that they bought the best cradle the town afforded next morning, and, filling it with fixings for housekeeping,  gave them to the young couple with the usual speech making in which the heart of the Missourian delights.

There are all sorts of girls in the Ozarks, just as there are in other regions, but there are more attractive ones here in proportion to the number of people than in most regions. As compared with time mountains of West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, for instance, time Ozarks are away ahead. It is a different people here, anyhow.  Along the Big Sandy the men shoot each other from time brush: here they jump “out into the clear” in some way, and although the quickest man lives, the man who dies has had sort of chance for his life. The quick fellow’s pistol might have failed to work, for instance. Naturally daughters of men who scorn to take a mean advantage have somewhat of the characters of their fathers, and their characters show in their faces.

The climate does much for them also, and there is an air of robust health, due to open-air-mountain life, that compensates for any lack of knowledge of social requirements. They are not only handsome and well formed, but they are vivacious and affectionate. They have a frankness of speech that though somewhat likely to be misunderstood by a stranger a first, is nevertheless one of the characteristics that make them charming.
There are, however drawbacks to a courtship when carried on by a stranger. Among these are the differences in language.  A New Yorker, for instance, on coming here and talking to a young lady, would be very apt to say, “I beg pardon,” if he failed to hear something that she had said. That would be a “stunner” for the Ozark girl, as she would say.  She could not comprehend an apology when no offense had been committed, so far as she knew.  If she failed to understand something which he said, she would say inquiringly: “Huh?”  That might be a stunner to the Now Yorker. If after n proper acquaintance, he should foolishly ask for instead of taking a kiss, she would say sharply: “Huh-uh,” with a downward inflection in the voice equaled only by the downward tendency of her estimate of the young man. But should he win her heart and ask her some evening it she loved him as much as she did the evening before, she would close her full lips into the prettiest pout imaginable and murmur sweetly: “Um-hum-m-m, I love you a sight dearie,”

Another drawback to an Ozark courtship is the necessity of being quick with a gun. In the Ozarks “the gun” is a big revolver. Not that Ozark lovers must always or even commonly fight for their sweethearts. But they must always be prepared to do so. The Ozark girl fears neither man nor beast, and could conceal her contempt for the man who flunked even for one instant. No New Yorker without long practice, not oven time skilled patrons of Conlin’s shooting gallery, could live through an Ozark shooting  match, and it would be uncomfortable, if heroic, to die even for an Ozark girl, especially as she would be sure to marry the survivor.

The picture of “An Ozark Beauty” is from a photograph of one of time handsomest ladies of the region, but it is nevertheless typical.  Although married for a number of years, she is like all women who are well treated, handsome in her maturity than she was in the freshness of girlhood. Although more than 30 years old, she seems to be no more than 22. This is one of the peculiarities of the region. Not that a majority of the women retain their youth so long, but that a larger proportion of them do than in the ordinary country communities.

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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