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Oh, Those Sassy Pioneer Girls

A woman doctor from South Dakota by the name of Abbie Jarvis is one fascinating female. I’ll tell her whole story one day, I think, but today I wanted to share a funny little snippet of her life with you.

abbie Dr. Jarvis often rode all over the country alone in her little doctor’s buggy. Late one afternoon, riding into the sun, she and her horse didn’t see a new barbed wire fence some plucky rancher had strung across the road. Horse, buggy and Dr. Jarvis hit the fence and went flying in separate directions. After shaking it off and assuring herself she wasn’t dying, she rounded up the horse and buggy and rode to the nearest point of light–a one-room, sod-roof cabin. A man answered the door and Dr. Jarvis explained the situation and that she needed to come in and rest.

The man seemed hesitant but allowed her to enter. After a while, however, Dr. Jarvis realized she was in no condition to motivate back to town in the dark. She told the lone farmer she’d need to stay the night.

He was astonished at her suggestion and reminded her that he was there all alone. Dr. Jarvis responded, “Well, I am not afraid of you if you are not afraid of me.”

Oh, my lands, as we say in the South. What moxie the woman had!

When You Have to Streeeeetch to Cross a Creek–Don’t

I got tickled the other day reading a book about pioneer women in South Dakota. Have you ever seen those videos of young tourists doing amazingly stupid things like taking selfies too close to the roaring waves or attempting to feed a buffalo at Yellowstone? Sometimes things go very wrong.

LIW-2 For a pioneer girl, Sadie wasn’t much smarter than some of our modern kiddoes. Back around 1880, she went for a walk on a hot summer day on her farm to pass some time and admire God’s handiwork. Not long into her stroll,  she noticed a nice, plump cluster of grapes hanging over the stream. Simply too tempted to be smart, Sadie started making her way across the swift-moving water by stepping–sometimes streeeetching–from one large rock to the next.

Well, she got a little too intent on watching the current and had a spell of vertigo. Yep, fell headfirst into the water. Years later, she said she could still remember what the bottom of that stream looked like. However, before she even had a chance to panic, she found herself rising to the surface and then being pulled by the collar to the shore.

indian boy A tall, erect, young Indian boy wrangled her out of the water, snatched her to her feet, then grabbed her shoulders and proceeded to shake her violently. Before she could react to this new danger, the brave disappeared, slipping away into the shadowy forest.

She said for the rest of her life she often wondered what the purpose was of the shaking.

This comment has me thinking maybe Sadie was a bit of a dull bulb. Which could explain how she nearly drowned in the first place.

Well, here’s my best guess, hon, on what the brave who saved your life may have been thinking as he was rattling your brains: “Dumb, dumb, dumb girl. You could have drowned. For what? A handful of grapes? What were you thinking? Go back to your farm and plant something.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molly Goodnight — Another Rose in Texas

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2014 Heather Blanton

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 molly_charles“When the ranch is in peace, no other life is more perfect.”

― Charles Goodnight

The Palo Duro Canyon in the panhandle of Texas is 10 miles wide, 1500 feet deep and almost 100 miles long. And in the 1870’s, it was about as remote as the moon. At least for a white gal from TN.

Yet, Mary Ann “Molly” Dyer Goodnight willingly followed her husband from their ranch in CO to the harsh, unforgiving frontier. Neither she nor Charles could conceive of the fame and legend their JA Ranch would build. Molly Goodnight was a force of nature, as tough as a Texas twister, as indomitable as the landscape, and Charles was all the better for her tenacity.

An orphan who had spent years raising her siblings, Molly met Charles in Fort Belknap, Texas, in 1864 where she was working as a school teacher. After they married, they ran a ranch together in Colorado, but a combination of unstable economics and bad weather drove them out of business. Returning to Texas, Goodnight struck up a friendship with the wealthy Irishman John Adair. Adair agreed to back Goodnight in a new ranch and in 1877 the JA Ranch was born.

At its peak in 1883, the operation encompassed over a million acres and ran 100,000+ head of cattle. While the ranch provided very little in the way of neighbors (much less female neighbors), Molly was not an idle woman. She was the JA’s doctor, tailor, letter writer, teacher, and even spiritual adviser. She had a soft heart for animals as well and kept three chickens as pets.

Even when the money rolled in and life could have been easier, Molly never stopped looking for challenges or caring about others. She rode the high plains rescuing buffalo calves left behind by hunters. Goodnight indulged his wife and let her start her own herd for their preservation. She even crossed some of the buffalo with cattle and coined the phrase “cattalo.” A pretty savvy cattlewoman in her own right, Molly ran a herd separate from her husband’s under the Flying T brand. Somehow, amongst all this, she found time to run a real school in the bunkhouse for the ranch hands’ children.

In the late 1880’s, the couple moved to northeast Armstrong County to start a new ranch, but they discovered other interests as well. Both were active church members, generous philanthropists, and had quite the passion for educating children. In 1898 they established Goodnight College, a school for boys.

The Goodnights never had any children of their own. Perhaps that’s why Molly felt the need to adopt her community. She believed Texas had given her a beautiful life, it was, therefore, only right to give something back.

A true Texas Lady, she was.

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