Maude was five years old when her family began the long trek from Texas to Oklahoma. It was late in April of 1900 and the hot winds of the
Great Plains had already begun to blow across the land. But the mornings were sweet with dew, when the wind was gentle, and
bluebonnets filled the earth from horizon to horizon.
Maude was so excited. She and her big brother, Buddy were going to be allowed to walk behind the lumbering old covered wagon that
Papa had bought second-hand that spring. Buddy was only eight, but he was strong; and he was so proud when Papa rested his hand on
Buddy's shoulder and said, "Buddy, I'm countin' on you to look after your baby sister. Stay close behind the wagon and don't let nothin'
happen to her." Being the only other "man" in the family, Buddy took his job seriously.
The wagon was huge and sat high on its giant wheels, leaving plenty of space beneath for the family to sleep at night. The family's
belongings were tied firmly in place, inside; a few clothes for each member, almost no furniture, but plenty of flour, a side of preserved
bacon, dried beans, coffee, salt and a little sugar. Tools were stored in a toolbox and strapped to the outside of the wagon along with a
large wooden barrel of water. Two milk cows were tied to the back of the wagon.
Maggie was twelve, the oldest. She was to ride inside the wagon and help look after Lillie, the three-year-old toddler. Mama would have
her hands full with baby Nettie. Mama's bonnet and long-sleeved dress would shield her against the hot winds and sun, seated on the
high seat of the wagon, next to her husband. Papa, the head of this menagerie, held the reins to the two great oxen that lumbered along,
pulling this affair. It was to be a long, hard journey.
Cornelius and Viola Ragsdale, otherwise known as Papa and Mama, were in high spirits for the trip. They had planned it for months, saving
what little money Cornelius made in the logging camp to buy the covered wagon and supplies. Their journey would take them from Palmer,
just south of Dallas, northwest into what was known as Indian Territory, in later years to become the State of Oklahoma. It would be a long,
slow journey and perhaps dangerous. There were still renegade Indians that occasionally threatened travelers and there were several
creeks and rivers to cross before they came to the wide Red River that was the border between Texas and Indian Territory. Crossing that
river would be difficult in a wagon loaded with their precious children and supplies.
The Journey Begins
That first day out was an easy trip from Palmer into Dallas, some ten miles on a well-traveled road. They started out early while it was cool
and the oxen had plenty of energy. Maude and Buddy didn't let their sleepiness dampen their excitement for the trip. After a quick
breakfast of eggs, bacon, milk from the milk cows, and biscuits sopped in red-eye gravy, the Ragsdale family was on its way.
Looking at Maude and Buddy, Papa said, "You chaps can ride on the back of the wagon for awhile if you get tired. But if you do, you should
help Maggie watch Lillie. She's a handful right now." Maude and Buddy opted for walking behind the wagon; they were much too excited
to ride. Besides, Maggie would boss them too much if they got in the wagon. Papa took one last look around the wagon to check for loose
gear, then crawled up onto the high seat next to his wife and baby.
He picked up the reins and deftly curled his fingers around them so that the reins ran under the little finger of each hand, inside the palm,
up over each index finger and between his thumb and index fingers. He gave a piercing, high whistle, snapped the reins smartly over the
oxen's' backs, and yelled, "Hyeah!" The oxen bowed their great horned heads and started the wagon's movement forward with a jerk.
Papa looked sideways at Mama with a glint in his eye. A warm smile curled up under his mustache as he looked at Mama. "We're goin' to
our new home!" She smiled back at him and then away toward their destination as if she could see it just ahead.
By sundown, they rolled into the outskirts of Dallas and began looking for a campsite. "Dallas is just huge, isn't it, Cornelius," Viola said
with wonder in her eyes.
"Yes," he replied. "I expect it has almost 40,000 people living here now."
Viola thought about that. "What in tarnation do they do in the city?" she asked.
"Well, they probably do stuff a lot like I did while I was hauling lumber. There are carpenters, bankers, businessmen, drygoods stores- all
contributing to the life of the town." Cornelius replied.
"Well, there sure aren't any farmers here, except on market day," she said.
They rattled on through town and turned up a side street where there was a corral behind a livery stable. The livreyman allowed them to
park their wagon in the corral and unharness the oxen. Cornelius unhitched the oxen, watered and fed them and the milk cows while Viola
and the older children secured the wagon and tied up the cows for the night.
Everyone was hungry, so Cornelius surprised everyone by suggesting that they eat at the family diner down the road on main street. This
was to be their last "treat" on the trip and the last big town they would see for some time. Viola worried that it would be too expensive but
she didn't say anything. The children were thrilled, of course.
"You children wash up good and put on your good hats before we go down there," Viola commanded. They obediently lined up at the
washbasin to take their turn there. "Maggie, you help Maudie and Lillie get cleaned up," she added. Maggie was already there expecting
to do just that.
Maggie said, "Buddy, comb your hair after you wash up. Maudie, come over here and let me brush your hair." Buddy objected, "Why do I
have to comb my hair? I'll be wearin' my hat over it." Maggie just gave him a stern look.
When everyone was ready, Papa and Mama waved them all to fall in place for the stroll to the diner. Buddy and Maude were in front,
followed by Maggie, holding Lillie's little hand. Cornelius and Viola, carrying baby Nettie brought up the rear. Buddy and Maude started
out walking too fast, but Maggie snapped her finger and they fell back beside her at a more dignified gate. The children gawked at the
sights and sounds of the big town, and Maggie cautioned them not to act like country bumpkins. They were a proud family; poor, but
Many stores were closed along the boardwalk in that part of town, since it was after business hours. But the Dallas Family Diner, and the
Hotel across from it, were open for business. As they entered the diner, the sign out front read, "Dallas Family Diner, family style dining."
The Ragsdales stepped inside and Papa removed his hat. Buddy watched Papa's gentlemanly style and he copied his moves.
The family seated itself around a large, round table that was already ladened with beef roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, a large plate of
biscuits, and two green vegetables. A large pitcher of milk sat at one end of the table next to the salt and pepper. Papa surveyed his
family to see that they were all sitting quietly, hands in laps. Each dinner plate was turned upside down in front of each person.
Maude looked at her precious Papa and brightened, "Papa, would you please hurry and read on the plate. I'm very hungry." Maggie first
smiled and suppressed her laughter, but then frowned at Maude. "Honey, Papa is not reading off the backs of the plates; he is about to
say a prayer!" Viola was hiding a smile as was Papa. "It's all right, Maggie. I guess Maudie thought we were reading our prayer from the
back of the plate!" Then, everyone laughed politely. "Let us pray," he said.
They all bowed their heads as Papa said a simple prayer of thanks for the food they were about to eat, and finished with a resounding,
"amen!" Everyone turned over their plates, then as the meal began with passing the various items of food. They ate well and chattered
as most families do at the table. The owner of the diner brought out a fresh baked apple pie for dessert, a rare treat for all of them. At the
end of dinner, Papa rose slowly which was the signal for everyone else to rise. He sauntered over to the owner and paid a wholloping
$2.00 for the entire meal. It was expensive but it was to be their last meal that wouldn't be prepared over a campfire for weeks to come.
"I hope you all enjoyed that, children. It will be our last treat for awhile. Tomorrow, we begin the hard part of the trip," Papa said.
Everyone chirped thank yous to Papa for such an elegant treat. They returned to the wagon and bedded down immediately in
expectations of a long, hard ride tomorrow.
The next morning began at sunrise, much like the day before. After a quick breakfast and attention to the animals, they were on their way.
Maude and Buddy wanted to walk behind the wagon again but Viola made them ride in the wagon because of all the traffic in the big,
North by Northwest
They moved through the busy streets of Dallas and finally came to its outskirts some hour and a half later. At that point, they changed
their directions from due north to northwest. The road was well traveled and in good condition for several miles as they passed several
farms. They hoped to get to Decatur in three days. They stopped at creeks each time they came to one and allowed the animals to drink
and the family to take a short break from the jarring ride of the wagon.
The land was flat with occasional shallow valleys or rolling hills. What few trees that existed were huddled around creek beds which were
dry most of the year, but in April they were still running from spring rains. The wind rose with the morning sun and blew steadily until
sundown. The canvas covering on the Ragsdales' wagon snapped in the wind. Cornelius' hat and Viola's bonnet were securely tied to
their heads, or the wind would rip them off.
The journey went well until the oxen stopped suddenly and began shying from something in the road. "Well, will you look at that!"
exclaimed Cornelius. "Vi, hold the reins steady while I climb down and take a look at that thing," and he handed the reins to Viola. He
jumped down from the wagon seat and walked cautiously toward the biggest tarantula he had ever seen in his life. It was as big as a man's
hand and it had lifted its front hairy legs in defiance of the oxen. The oxen were beginning to panic and were trying to turn the wagon
away from the feisty spider. Cornelius grabbed the harness of the ox nearest him and said, "Whoa, Frank! Steady, boy. It's just a big bug."
Cornelius walked toward the tarantula and stomped his foot on the ground. "Go on! Git outa' here," he said. The spider must have
decided that Cornelius would win the bluff, and it turned slowly and walked to the side of the road and into the brush. Cornelius waited
until he was sure it was out of sight; then turned to get back into the wagon. When he looked toward the wagon, there were his two oxen,
looking somewhat calmer, Viola looking aghast back at Cornelius, and five little faces peering out from the canvas of the wagon.
Cornelius took off his hat and slapped his leg with it; then burst out laughing. "Can you beat it? One little spider can spook the whole lot
They all giggled sheepishly as he climbed back onto the wagon seat and took the reins from Viola. "I thought Frank was going to break and
run," Cornelius laughed. Viola answered, "Well, Ernest was ready to follow him. Neither one of those oxen are too smart. It's a good thing
we named them with a sense of humor."
But the children were still focused on the tarantula. Maggie said," Papa, that was the ugliest thing I ever saw! He was meaner lookin' than
a snake!" "Aw, go on now. They're harmless. They won't bite. They just look tough," he said. Buddy brightened with enthusiasm, "Can I
go catch him?" Viola frowned a resounding, "No, you may not, young man! Do you want to scare us all to death?"
Papa chuckled at all the commotion the spider had made, but he agreed with Viola that they didn't need any such critter hanging around in
a jar to frighten the girls. "There are lots of other varmints in this world that you can make a pet of, Buddy, and they aren't near as ugly."
He thought a moment. "All of you had better be mindful of where you sit on the ground because there's not only tarantulas, but scorpions
and snakes and them last two kinds really do bite, and bite bad-so be careful before you step or sit on anything out here on the ground.
A quiet fell over the wagon and there were ominous looks all 'round. After a few moments, Maude said, "I'm not going to walk behind the
wagon anymore." Cornelius returned, "Aw, now Maudie, don't be afraid of such critters. They're all God's handiwork and they won't bother
you if you don't bother them. Just keep a watchful eye out for them and they won't hurt you."
While Maude was thinking about what Papa had just said, he suggested that they break out that cake that Mrs. Wheeler had baked for
them and fix a snack for everyone. "Let's have some cake and some singin'," he said. Enthusiasm returned to all, and they began singing
"Polly Wolly Doodle." The wagon resounded with sweet song and harmony.
The sun began getting low in the sky and they decided to make camp. They needed the sunlight to find wood for a fire, water and feed
the oxen, make dinner on the ground, and accomplish a dozen other duties while there was light to see by. "Buddy, you and Maude go
find some fire wood. It looks like they's some dry kindling and dead tree limbs along that rising over there," Cornelius said, as he began
unhitching the oxen. Viola began collecting items for cooking dinner while Maggie watched after Nettie and Lillie. Cornelius hobbled the
oxen, then removed their heavy yoke, watered and fed them and the milk cows. He gave them an extra treat by brushing down their
coats. "Frank, Ernest! You did a fine job today even if a bad old tarantula tried to chase you down." Cornelius chuckled again.
Dinner consisted of cornbread and milk, and Viola scrambled the last of the eggs they had brought from home. They would have to buy
some more when they got to Decatur. Maybe they could stop long enough for her to cook up a mess of beans tomorrow. She missed her
laying hen that they ate before they left home, but it had to be. There was no way they could have brought a hen on the trip! She thought
about the new farm they would have and the hope for not one but a dozen laying hens. "Wouldn't that be fine," she thought.
The family gathered around the fire after dinner. Evenings on the plains could be downright cold, even in April. Papa lit his pipe from the
coals in the fire and said, "I reckon we ought to be goin' to bed pretty quick. We've got to make some more miles toward Decatur
"Papa, tell us about Decatur and the war," Buddy begged. "Oh, well, the Decatur we'z goin' to is in Texas. The Decatur you are thinkin'
about is in Alabama, where I was borned," he answered. Buddy said, "Yeah, tell us about Decatur, Alabama and the war."
"Well," Cornelius said. "I was born in Decatur, Alabama in the middle of the Civil War. And I can tell you that it was anything but civil!" he
chuckled. The children all smiled, even though they had heard that statement many times before. "My Papa had gone off to fight, and was
killed in Sherman's march to the sea before I was borned. So, I never got to see him. Mama moved to Corinth, Mississippi, which is just a
little ways from Decatur, where she lived with her folks. They was well to do and had slaves and a very big farm and all. I was nursed by a
nigrah mammie," he smiled.
"But the Yankees took everything from Mama's parents. Their house was burned; even their crops. It was the ruination of Mama's family.
They never recovered from their losses. They went from being well-off to just downright poor.
"My mama told me about how the war raged all around Decatur and Corinth for awhile. First, the Yankees would come through there,
pushing back the Rebs' army; then the Rebs would drive them back across the river. It was a bloody mess most of '62 and '63, and an awful
lot of men were killed.
He continued, "After Papa was killed in the war, Mama married a Mr. Montgomery. We moved to Memphis, Tennessee, then. I got to be a
big kid but I didn't care much for Mr. Montgomery. When Mama died, I run away to Arkansas. When I got there, I was plumb starved to
death and a nice family named Kirby took me in. They had a whole passel of children who were orphans of the war. Your mama was one
of them. That's where I met your mama."
Maggie interrupted. "Mama, what happened to your family?" Viola gazed into the fire. "My family was living in Kansas and there was an
awful lot of fightin' going on there, too. We came on to Arkansas so my dad could find work. My dad was a bricklayer. When my parents
died, I found myself alone and that's when I found the Kirby's. They took me in since I was pretty young. Your Papa come along then and
he can tell the rest." She looked at Cornelius.
Cornelius smiled at her and continued with the story. "Well, sir, your Mama and me got awful fond of one another and decided that we
would marry-so we did. That's when I decided I had to be a man and take on some responsibility for my bride. I got me a job as a teamster
in a logging camp and she taught school until our first one come along. Before long, I was drivin' a double-tree and haulin' logs there in
Arkansas and even in Texarkana. We moved back and forth quite a bit between Texas and Arkansas. We finally ended up in Palmer,
Texas, just south of Dallas."
"What's a double-tree?" Buddy asked. Papa answered, "Well, it's simply two sets of wheels with a log acting as the body of the thing-like a
log on wheels. They are the devil to drive on them old logging roads because you don't have real good control of them and some of them
logs was 50 to 75 feet long. We used mules to pull them and you had to build up some skills to get them mules to behave while you was
wranglin' around with that double-tree."
Cornelius' pipe was out now and the coals were burning low. "Welp. I think we better turn in now. You chaps hop in the wagon and Mama
and I will sleep on a pallet under the wagon. I want you to go to sleep right quick because we have a hard day ahead."
Everyone was pretty tired so they didn't fuss about going to bed. They made pallets on the floor of the wagon and undressed in the dark.
When everyone was in bed, Maude looked out through the opening of the wagon at the black sky above. It was filled with stars. She
rolled over and closed her eyes. She wondered where that tarantula was but couldn't think about it very long before she was fast asleep.
Camping on the Prairie
The next morning, they had a quick breakfast and an early start. They planned to stop for the evening early enough for Viola to cook a
mess of beans for dinner. The sky was clear and the sun was warm. They made good time over the flat land even though the road
narrowed and wasn't as good as it had been. They crossed a small creek around noon and Cornelius hoped that it was a good sign that a
larger creek lay ahead. That would make a good place to stop for the night.
By three o'clock, they found the larger creek and stopped short of crossing it. Papa said, "This will be a good place to stop for the day.
It's early, but we need time to prepare dinner and give everybody a good rest. I'll pull over by that stand of trees on this side of the
creek." It was shady there and there was a fair supply of wood further down stream. Buddy and Maude began collecting right away so
Mama could start the beans.
Viola said, "This might be a good place to wash out some clothes. There are plenty of bushes along here to dry them. Baby Nettie needs
some clothes washed, and I expect the kids would enjoy a little time to play in the water if you can find a shallow place for them,
Cornelius." He nodded as he took care of the oxen and cast a watchful eye along the creek.
Soon the beans were cooking over a warm fire and the children were playing in shallow water along the creek's shoreline. Their squeals
of delight and playfulness filled the afternoon air as they splashed each other with water and let the cool water flow over their feet and
legs. No one was a swimmer since there was so little natural water in northwest Texas, so Papa kept a close guard.
He even found time to cool off in the water himself. He took baby Nettie from Viola and held her in his arms while she played in the water,
too. Viola stayed by the fire and kept watch over the beans.
Everyone was starved for dinner when they finished swimming in the creek. Mama had a fine mess of beans laced with bacon, and some
leftover bread they had bought in Dallas. They would need to buy as much in the way of supplies as they could afford in Decatur, because
Wichita Falls was a long way off from Decatur, and it would take several days of driving to get there. Hopefully, they would make Decatur
by tomorrow. Those old oxen were slow, but steady. They could make about ten miles a day pulling the huge covered wagon.
The next morning, there was trouble. Overnight, the right front wheel of the wagon had frozen up, not from cold but from a dry hub.
Cornelius didn't know it until he had the oxen harnessed and hooked up to the wagon. They had broken camp, loaded up and started to
pull onto the road when he heard the unmistakable squeak of the wheel. "Aw, nah!" he said in disgust. He jumped down from the wagon,
reached in the toolbox for a tool and removed the hubcap on that wheel. Sure enough, it was dry of grease.
He pushed his hat back on his head and scratched his head. "Welp. There is nothin' to do but unhitch the oxen and grease this here dry
wheel," he said. "It's gonna take awhile, so you chaps get down from the wagon." Everyone crawled down from the wagon and watched
Cornelius work on the wheel for awhile. It was a slow process of jacking up the wagon and removing the wheel; then slathering on gobs
of grease on the inside of the wheel before reassembling everything.
The children began to tire of watching their father at work and slowly drifted away to the now cold campfire. "You children stay close to
the wagon," Viola cautioned. Maggie suggested that they take a bucket and look for berries that might be growing along the creekbed.
"I'll be careful, Mama," she said, reassuringly. "All right, Maggie. You and Buddy and Maude can go. I'll watch after Lillie and Nettie," she
said. "Buddy, you and Maude mind Maggie, you hear?" Viola called. "Yes'm," they mused obediently.
Maggie found a bucket and gave one to Buddy as well, and they began following the creekbed, away from the wagon. It was a sunny day
although somewhat windy. Maggie was cautious and kept the younger children in tow while she scanned the creek for any sign of
berries. The land around the creek rolled up and away from the creekbed in a gentle rise. Tall grass grew in profusion along the hilltop
and it waved in the wind like waves on water. Maggie stayed close to the creek where there were more likely to be bushes of berries but
she saw none.
They had gone about a quarter of a mile down the creek, where it widened and curved to the left. The bank on their side of the creek was
high where the creek curved. A tree had died and fallen across and down into the creek, having been washed from its place in the earth
by the creek during a more turbulent time. There, on the sandy shore of the opposite bank was a stand of blackberries, waiting to be
"Look, kids! There's some blackberries! Let's climb down this treetrunk and pick some!" Maggie chirped. The children seemed eager
enough but climbing down the trunk was a little steep and dangerous. They decided to walk back upstream a little ways where there were
some rocks they could cross on. Before long, they had a couple of bucketsful of berries. They hurried back to the wagon, full of joy.
Maude's face showed evidence that at least some of her berries went into her mouth instead of the bucket.
When they returned, Viola was relieved to see them, and Cornelius had just about finished reattaching the wheel. They were delighted to
see the berries and Viola promised them a blackberry cobbler that night for dinner. They all settled into the wagon and were soon on their
They didn't quite make it into Decatur that night because of the delay, so they camped once again beside the road. Maude, Buddy and
Maggie had managed to get into a nest of chiggars while picking berries so they had lots of little red bites that itched and turned red.
Viola put some ointment on their bites and told them not to scratch, but it was difficult not to. "They will stop itching in a few days," Viola
told them. That wasn't very comforting to any of the three. They spent a somewhat uncomfortable night, made bearable by the fact that
they had had a nice helping of blackberry cobbler.
|Maude's Journey, Part I
by Martha Giles
|The Ragsdale family took an exciting trip to
OklahomaTerritory, and helped to settle the western
edge of the Red River Valley.
|This "factual fictional" history of the Ragsdales recounts how the family traversed the open plains, from Palmer (Ellis County)
Texas all the way to Hollis (Greer County), Oklahoma Territory. In doing so, the family became eye witnesses to a changing
landscape - from the rapidly developing Texas prairie to the isolated homesteads of Indian Territory settlers.
Martha Giles, daughter of Maude Ragsdale of Hollis, Oklahoma, shares the story of her family's trek across much of the Red River
Valley to their new homestead in Oklahoma Territory at the beginning of the 20th century. She tells her mother's story by merging
factual history with old family tales. She thereby transforms her family's story into a vivid portrayal of Oklahoma pioneering.
The future looked promising for the Ragsdale family. Cornelius had heard about land allotments in Indian Territory. The government had
offered excess lands to anyone who wished to make a claim, and the land was free! This was the chance he had been looking for; a
chance to acquire land for farming. He and Viola could at last put the long nightmare of the Civil War behind them and settle their little
family on a farm, their very own farm. Greer County (later divided and renamed Harmon and Jackson Counties), in the southwest corner
of Indian Territory was to be their new home.
Cornelius was a tall man of 37 years, and a long way from his southern beginnings in Alabama. His soft-spoken, southern drawl and
gentlemanly manners reflected a time gone by from a place far away. He had hardened from backbreaking work and determination to find
a new life for his family. He always stood ramrod straight, not willing to lose his pride. The tragedy of the war, the loss of his parents and
the struggle to find a new beginning had taken him years, but today, he could see that bright future just ahead of him. Today was their
Viola, his wife sat quietly, next to him, with the same determination and expectations. She was a tiny little thing, but strong and faithful.
Her soft, round face showed the care lines of motherhood and the pain of birthing seven children before she was thirty years old. Soft
spoken and shy, she said little, but her heart was full of love for her children and husband. She took baby Nettie in her arms and nuzzled
close to her, thinking of two babies that lay buried in a far away place. She still had her five, strong and ready to meet life just as she
was. She was ready.
On the Road
The wagon made a great clattering noise as it slowly rolled along over the bumpy road. The assembly of straps and buckles on the oxen
made a tinging sound with each step of the great animals. The wagon creaked and groaned, loaded with clanging pots and pans, food,
furniture and gear for the trip. The hooves of the heavy oxen clip-clopped on the road and created a steady, rocking rhythm.
The sun had cleared the horizon and was full in the sky as Maude and Buddy skipped excitedly behind the wagon. As soon as Maude
spotted the beautiful bluebonnets, she ran to the side of the road to gather an armload for Mama. Buddy quickly followed her and
admonished Maude. "Maudie, you've got to stay with me behind the wagon. Papa will get mad at us if we stray!" Maude had a mind of
her own and chose to ignore Buddy. He persisted. Maude was finally satisfied with her bouquet and returned to Buddy's side. By now,
the wagon was several yards ahead of them and they had to run to catch up.
Sure enough, Maudie stubbed her toe over a rock in the road and splattered herself, face forward onto the hard ground. The
bluebonnets in her hand went flying in all directions. Stunned for a moment, she said nothing. Then, pain found its mark on her
scrubbed knees and she rolled over on her back, her mouth puckering in preparation for a cry. Just as a shriek was about to rip loose
from her lips, Buddy clamped his hand over her mouth. "Maudie! Don't cry. Papa will make us ride in the wagon for sure!" Maude came
to her senses and realized that Buddy was right. She swallowed hard and suppressed her screams while tears welled up in her eyes.
"Come on! I'll help you up!" By now the wagon was some thirty yards away. Buddy lifted Maude to her feet, dusted her off and saw that
both knees were skinned and beginning to bleed. Her lower lip was bleeding as well. "Hop on my back; I'll carry you to the wagon," he
said bravely. He turned his back to her and pulled her onto his back. "You'll be all right. I'll take you to the back of the wagon and get
Maggie to put something on your knees. I'll ask her to be quiet about it so Papa won't know." He said all this as he loped along with
Maude on his back.
"My flowers!" Maude wailed softly. Buddy grimaced and told Maude he would get them for her as soon as she was safe on the wagon
steps in the back. Maggie was watching the whole drama from the back of the wagon. She had already found an ointment to clean and
apply to Maude's knees. She smiled at the mischief those two were into hardly a mile from home. She knew how much they wanted to
walk behind the wagon so she resolved to go along with their deception.
As Buddy gently lowered Maude onto the wagon steps in back, Maggie put her finger to her lips, silently telling Buddy that she would
keep quiet about their problem. Buddy smiled at his big sister, feeling better that they might not anger their father. He scampered back
to the bluebonnets, now strewn across the road and picked up each one, making a neat bouquet for Maude. Then, he returned swiftly to
the wagon and handed them to now placated Maude. He stayed close by Maude while she rested from her wounds.
Maggie did a good job of cleaning Maude's knees; then applying an ointment to soothe and heal. She was used to mending skinned
knees, bruises and cuts from her younger brother and sisters. She was the oldest, and Mama's "right hand." Almost a woman herself,
Papa called her "little mother."
The Wheeler Farm
They reached the Wheeler farm by ten o'clock and stopped at Wheeler's creek to water the oxen. Cornelius stopped short of the creek to
help Viola and the baby down from the wagon. Maggie hopped out of the back and swung little three-year-old Lillie down to the ground.
Lillie wobbled a few steps before losing her balance completely. She giggled and picked up a small rock in her chubby hand. Maude and
Buddy ran to the creek and began shedding shoes and socks for a wade in the cool water.
Cornelius drove the wagon down into the creek where the water was deepest so the oxen and milk cows could get a good long drink.
The creek was shallow, but clear sweet water ran over the pebbles of its bed. Cornelius splashed water on the backs of the cattle to cool
them before washing his own face in the cool water.
After cooling themselves in the creek, the entire family secreted away to private bushes to relieve themselves; then returned to the
wagon. Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler walked down the path from their house to greet the Ragsdales and ogle over the children. They had none
of their own.
"Well, you finally did it!" Mr. Wheeler smiled at Cornelius. "You're headin' out to Indian Territory. My, Lord, I wish I was goin' with you!"
Mrs. Wheeler had picked up baby Nettie and was chucking her under the chin. She turned a stern eye toward her husband. "Now,
Arthur. You know we'z too old to be goin' off into some strange land. The Ragsdales is young and got plenty 'a help comin' along to help
them farm." She looked back at Nettie's little face and nosed her cheek. Mrs. Wheeler turned to Viola Ragsdale and said, "I do admire
your sweet family. They are going to be a great help to you out there." She paused, then said, "We will miss you so!" and embraced
Viola. Viola blushed and said, "We'll miss you too. I don't know what we'll find out there but it looks promising."
They chatted for awhile and Mrs. Wheeler invited the family up to the house for tea and cake, but they declined. "We need to make it to
Dallas by nightfall," Cornelius said. "Well, then," Mrs. Wheeler said, "I insist that you take the cake I baked along with you for the
children. I can see the disappointment in their faces; they surely don't want to miss out on an opportunity for a little cake!" Maude's and
Buddy's faces brightened.
"Oh, you are too kind! But we really shouldn't," Viola replied. Maude's and Buddy's faces dropped. "I won't hear of it! I'll be right back
with the cake," and Mrs. Wheeler hurried away.
Cornelius shook hands with Mr. Wheeler, then crawled back onto the wagon seat and drove the wagon onto the near bank. "You chaps
get back into the wagon," he called. He dropped to the ground and helped Viola and the baby back onto the seat beside him. The
children climbed in and Mrs. Wheeler returned with the cake, wrapped in an oilcloth. She handed it up to Maggie and waved goodbye to
the family. They all waved back at her and said thanks for the cake. Maude and Buddy waved from the back steps of the wagon for as
long as they could see the Wheelers. They were on their way again.
They stopped at noon to rest the cattle, water them, and eat lunch. Cornelius found some shade trees near the road and stopped there.
Since there was no water nearby, they had to draw water from the waterbarrel on the wagon. Cornelius thought that he would have to
replenish the barrel as soon as they found more water.
He looked around. "This will be a good place to eat some lunch, he said." After a brief rest, they were back on the road again. Maude
and Buddy had long since tired of walking. Maude lay on a pallet in the wagon, taking a nap next to Lillie. Buddy and Maggie sat on the
back of the wagon watching their world go by backwards.
|Pioneers like the Ragsdale didn't look for big houses or prestigious addresses. They simply wanted to own their own land and not be renters
anymore. Their houses were mostly made of wooden slats, chinked with daub. Some emigrants dug into hills and created "dug outs."
|The Texas & Pacific station at the intersection of Lamar and Pacific Avenues would have been a distinguishing landmark for the Ragsdales.
Several railroads crossed Dallas at this time, making the city a burgeoning metropolis. This building was later replaced by Union Station.
|Panoramic view of Dallas, ca. 1900, Dallas Heritage Village.
|The Ragsdales traveled across Ellis County through the blackland prairie, which marks the dividing line between the Eastern and the Western
Crosstimbers. Today, Ellis County is known far and wide for its annual bluebonnet views.
|The Ragsdale family from Ellis County, Texas.