Kittie Lanham Oakes
INTRODUCTION BY ELAINE OAKES :
Kittie Lanham was born July 16,
I have combined several documents that my Grandmother
The originals were partly handwritten and partly typed on poor quality
paper and had deteriorated badly. Some of the material was
was fragmentary. None of it was really
they are interesting hints about other stories, I included the
but put them in brackets. I have added a very little from my
of her stories.
Grandmother was a great storyteller, and it is hard to
really happened and what was just a good story she had read somewhere
The earlier versions had different names for several
she probably didn't remember most of them by the time she wrote this,
years after the events. I believe most of the ordinary
most of the stories of mischief she and her sister got
She claims that Sister was wild but from what she said about her own
she was pretty wild for those days, too. These days they
considered normal to rather tame.
I was born, under a lucky star, I
think, in Grayson County, Texas
in a village so small I cannot find it on my map and it may not even
today. Both my grandfathers were Confederate Veterans and
early settlers in Texas because, as they told me, Reconstruction Days
so difficult in South Carolina and Mississippi. They felt
be far better off in new territory and both bought cheap land in
County in 1870, within six months of each other. I was born
some of my remembrances are tales they told me as a child.
Grandfather Weems moved his family
from Mississippi to a farm about
four miles west of Sherman and Grandfather Lanham, from Edgefield,
Carolina to one about the same distance east. Both lived in
in the beginning.
My paternal grandfather was Col.
R.G. Lanham. He served with
General Lee in Virginia, and while there he met and married Caroline
Harrison. I never met her as she died before my father and
were married. The old Daguerreotype picture
and some bits and pieces
of jewelry are all I remember of her, but she left two sons, my father
Tom and Wiley, his younger brother. Papa said that I looked
like her, and he also told me that she was
related to the two Harrison Presidents
and kin to Pocahontas but since then I do not remember, if I ever knew,
the names of either of her parents.
Grandfather must have loved her
very much for he did not remarry
for a long time - until I was about 8 or 9 years old. And
I found a small notebook among his things with sweet, sentimental poems
he had written to her. I have a lovely heavy taffeta dress,
with tiny stitches, that she wore when she went to meet her new
family in Edgefield South Carolina Grandfather Lanham's full
name was Robert
Glover Lanham. My father's name was Thomas Walter
and his brother
was Wiley Harrison. Uncle Wiley never married.
of Grandpa's sisters traced the family records and had them printed in
a small booklet; my actual first hand knowledge of the Lanham genealogy
is skimpy. My aunt traced the family history back to about
Solomon Lanham settled in Maryland not far from Washington,
great-grandfather moved to Edgefield, South Carolina and my father was
there. My father, Thomas Walter Lanham, was born in
Carolina and went to Texas as a small boy in 1870 or 1871. He
up near Sherman and became a schoolteacher. He attended
Sherman but did
not graduate, though he taught
school most of his life and was truly
a bookish type. He was a very good small town school
My father had one younger brother,
Wiley Harrison. He had
a strange and tragic accident, never explained. At the age of
21, he was a law student in college at Sherman and was considered to
a brilliant future. But one night he rode home, returning
When his horse came home without him, Grandfather became alarmed and
to look for him.
He found his son lying beside the road, unconscious.
was an excellent horseman and it was most unlikely that his horse had
him. The road was not rocky nor hard packed and the fracture
skull was high enough and jagged enough that no plausible idea was
to account for the injury. He was unconscious for weeks and
doctors trepanned his skull to remove
pressure. He was desperately
ill for weeks and the Sherman paper even printed his
he showed me along with two buttons of bone taken from his scull.
He did regain his health but never fully
recovered mentally, was
subject to occasional violent fits of temper. My mother was
able to calm him more easily than anyone.
My mother's father, James Madison
Weems, was born in Mississippi,
and I still have his old family Bible giving the names and dates of all
his brothers and sisters. Tradition gives the first Weems in
country as living in Virginia near the small town of Wakefield where
Washington was born. My Uncle Mat had a friend, also named
had traced the family line back to the Wymss Castle in Scotland but the
actual family history has breaks in it, though appearances and
indicate kinship back down the history.
Thomas Weems was the first American ancestor of our branch; he lived
in Pennsylvania but married Eleanor Jacoby in New Jersey on 6 Nov 1728.
He moved to Virginia and his descendants to Abbeville District, South Carolina. She,
or one like her, is still around if rather the worse for wear. Her
dress is different, though. I'm not sure if this was James Madison Weems
Jr. or Sr.
(1846 - 1916)
grandfather of Kittie Lanham
(Photograph contributed by Carolyn A. Rogers)
Digging back into memories to see
what one can recall presents problems.
I think, because many children are brought up hearing anecdotes telling
of their early behavior, it is difficult for a person to separate what
they actually do remember from what they may have heard related to them
of early happenings in their infancy. I doubt that many can
a line of distinction with accuracy.
The first place that I am sure I
definitely remember is the house
where I was born. That home belonged to my grandparents and
they moved from that small village before I was four years old,
that happened there are rather unrelated to
any sequence of events. In my
mind's eye, I can see part of that house 'though I cannot recall the
of rooms or their arrangement. I know that it was large
have an upstairs, and that there were two
porches and that it was painted an ugly,
dingy yellow. The front porch had a fancy balustrade around
there was a sort of fretwork under the eaves, much more elaborate than
modern taste suggests.
The house was set in a large yard, and
there were several trees
for shade where I could play. Grandpa hung a rope swing for
one of the low branches. And the yard was fenced.
That is about
all I can stretch my memory to cover.
Why the house is less distinct in
my mind than the gin I do not
know. But for some reason, the fact that Grandpa Weems ran
gin, and certain incidents that occurred in connection with the
of the gin are more impressed on my memory. I do not know why, but such
is the fact. Ginning season in that part of Texas was a strenuous time
for the manager. The gin ran all night, wagons piled high with the
fluff filled the gin yard waiting for their turn. And I
watching these, the horses and mules and the tired farmers. They were
so exhausted from the long days in the picking fields that they
out on top of their loads to snatch the sleep they missed.
did their barn yard chores by lantern light in order to be in the
picking their cotton at the first faint
light of morning.
I loved to see the wagons with high
sideboards move up in orderly
line. To see the huge pipe pulled into position so it could
up the white load into the tearing pulling teeth of the
Once I remember seeing a man's hat sucked from his head as he pulled
suction pipe into position, and another time, a stone about the size of
a man's fist was drawn into the machinery to damage it and cause a
Time was lost for repairs, then rollers began to turn again and thick,
white felted cotton was folded and pressed into bales and tied with
straps. Perhaps I remember so much of this because I knew
was working too hard. Often he could not leave even long
walk across the road for his meals.
Tiny though I was, I could carry a small pail of cold
when Grandmother or Mama took his plate of food to him. And
was dusty lint hanging from every weed or tree in the whole gin yard.
black-and-white Dan was the dog member of the family and I think he was
a mutt but mostly of the Newfoundland breed. Grandpa often
was such a good, brave watchdog that he saved the wages of a night
at the gin. He was devoted to me and when any man came to the
Dan always placed himself between that man and Sister and me.
when Mama had been away for sometime, and came up the front walk in her
best dress, an elaborate white organdy with
loads of frilly ruffles, Dan met
her halfway down the walk and she did not see him in time. He
erect on his hind legs, and was taller than she, then he gently put his
arms around her neck and kissed
her. Unfortunately, he did not realize
that the rain the night before had left the feathers along his legs wet
Ironing that white dress took hours but Mama just
laughed and seemed
pleased that Dan was so glad to see her.
Mama had two brothers only a
little older than she and for this
weekend, the whole family was together.
Dr. James Madison Weems, Jr.
Annie Lou Weems Lanham
I don't remember what this
celebration was for, but it was something special. Uncle Mat
the ice cream. He set the big
freezer on a table on the back porch and turned the crank.
I adored both my uncles, and no small girl was ever petted
But both uncles loved to tease me, Uncle Mat in particular.
was how I got the shock
of my young life. It was a warm, no! HOT!
in Texas and the ice in the freezer melted fast. When
the salty water began to overflow from the wooden bucket of the
Uncle Mat set the freezer in a big dishpan.
After several minutes of vigorous turning the crank,
the cream was frozen. Then Uncle Mat set it out of the pan
it in feed sacks and left it on the table to ripen. He pushed
pan full of icy saltwater back a little way under the table.
job was done and he turned his attention to me. He was
reciting to me the old rhyme about "The old bumble bee came out of the
barn, and he had his bagpipe under his arm, and he went
He had a sort of tune to the jingle and when he reached the z-z-z-z, he
tickled my ribs. I backed away, dodging,
and sat down in that icy pan of water. A violent
shock and the first in my young life, I guess! I
rest of the family saw only the finny side.
Later, that same afternoon, some young friends dropped
in for the
ice cream and cake. That was when I gave Uncle Mat his shock
He took his special girl out to the settee on the front porch so they
eat their cream together in privacy but I
followed them. Of course,
after the icy wetting I had that morning, I had to have fresh
from the skin out, and as it happened Mama had made me new underwear of
which I was very proud.
I hunted Uncle Mat up to tell him about that, "I got
on, Uncle Mat! Have you got new drawers? Mine have
them, too. Uncle Mat, do your drawers have lace on them?"
Both Uncle Mat and his young lady were terribly
So was Mama! I was hustled back inside and given a lecture on the
of what not to talk about.
Operating that gin was hard work,
long hours, and a great deal of
responsibility for Grandpa but he made many friends among the farmers
having been a farmer previously, he knew their problems and could talk
them. Some of his friends put his name up and he was popular
to be elected County Commissioner. Then he moved his home to
county seat town.
CHRISTMAS IN THE WEEMS HOME
His next home was a neat little
gray cottage and I could almost
draw a blueprint of that place, it is so firmly fixed in my
The whole family gathered there for the first Christmas that I can
It was a traditional Christmas, only we did not have a tree at
I was told that Santa Claus would come down the chimney if I hung up my
stocking, however, since there was no fireplace, only a big black
stove with a six or seven inch pipe, I could not quite take in the idea
without a few questions.
James Madison Weems Sr. home at Celina
James Madison Weems Sr. with wife Kittie, Catherine Red Weems, and
his daughter Annie Lou Lanham Weems with her two daughters Carrie Lee
Lanham (Autry) and Kittie Lanham (Oakes)
As for the Christmas tree, Uncle Buddy came to take me
Since our family was only visiting from out of town, Mama explained
I need not expect Santa Claus to have anything for me on that tree, but
that my presents would surely appear the
next morning in my stocking.
After assuring Mama that I just wanted to see the gorgeous, big tree
its bright decorations, and that I would not be disappointed, she let
go with him. Imagine my surprise when my name was called the
as the other children! Santa, himself, brought me a little
tied up in bright ribbon. I was proud as could be, with a
box of four tiny perfumes, all different "flavors".
That Christmas Eve night I was so excited, and my
small black cotton
stocking did not seem nearly big enough to hold the doll I wanted, so I
borrowed one from Grandmother. Then I worried for fear Santa
not know it was mine so I wrote a letter to him telling him about the
in hose. I was not more than five but I had been reading and
more than a year. I carefully pinned the letter to the long
and hung it on a chair beside the stove just before kissing everybody
and saying my "Now, I lay me."
At Grandpa's home, I do not remember ever having a
were always a few decorations, a mistletoe wreath with red ribbon bow
the front door, and some other bunches hung around the parlor (never
room then") and in the dining room. One of
or Papa saw that she had flowers, usually a vase of red and white
But the only tree we saw was at the church. A tall cedar with
candles carefully placed and strings of popcorn and cranberries;
tinsel strings sparkled among little brown paper bags of candy for the
children, and striped peppermint candy canes, and a few of the lighter
weight unbreakable toys.
Next morning early, I found a small China doll in the
top of my
stocking. She was so beautifully dressed in soft red wool
that I now know
Grandmother must have spent many hours making that lace trimmed
and tiny ruffled drawers with baby-sized buttons
and buttonholes. Beside
my stocking, there was a tiny iron cook stove almost an exact replica
the one in our kitchen, and the miniature pots and pans to go with
I was so proud! I still have that doll.
The memories of that Christmas are still
vivid. It was wonderful,
the family happiness, the laughter, the jokes and gentle
Before the hearty breakfast, with every one of us around the long
Grandpa conducted family worship. He read the story of the
from the family Bible, said a short, earnest prayer, then served our
Grandpa was a very devout man, a steward in the
church, and he held
family prayers every night just before retiring.
After breakfast, Grandmother and Mama began preparing
Christmas dinner, stuffing and baking the turkey, getting vegetables
and all the things that could not have been prepared earlier.
white cake, spice cake, and a big platter full of fancy cookies had
prepared during the week but several fruit cakes had been ripening,
sprinkled with whiskey, for more than two months. Uncle Mat
beat up eggnog and set it to ripen on the back porch. Each of
three of us had a sip, and my opinion as to its quality was
even though they both were perfectly aware that was
my very first taste of the delectable stuff. It was later
with some of the fruitcake to any guests who might drop in.
The China doll I received that Christmas was not my
first love for
I remember Nora. She was a rag doll and I do not remember
she was acquired, but I must have been very young, probably about
this doll but it was all hand made and hand-painted
with some of
Mama's artist oils. I think she even made the pattern the
cut from for I have never seen another so well shaped. It had
rounded head, well-shaped nose, and seams were well hidden under the
painted baby face, which looked so much more like a real baby than the
China doll. Nora even wore some of Sister's outgrown baby
She was the only doll, of the many later ones I had, that I ever wanted
to take to sleep with me, I loved her so.
LIVING WITH THE KANE FAMILY
Papa was a country schoolteacher
and moved about from one place
to another quite often. The first school that I remember
probably about twenty miles from where Grandpa and Grandmother
It was in a farm
community and our little family could find no house
the teacher's family. We were fortunate that one of the
the school board took us in to board in his home.
We became members of the Kane family which was already
consisting of three grown sons, one of them away at college, two grown
daughters, another almost grown, and the baby of the family only a year
older that I. She and I were great playmates.
The Kane home was large with a big attic
where Lorena and I could
find the most amazing costumes for dressing up like ladies.
were several storage trunks of garments that had long gone out of
picture hats with enormous plumes, veils and
wraps. That was a wonderful
place to play, especially on rainy days. We could spend hours
without interfering with any of the grown-up projects.
Mr. Grayson Kane was a very devout
man, a well-to-do farmer and
popular in that section of the county. It was the custom some
during the summer for an itinerant preacher to come into the community
with a tent and hold
about 10 days camp meeting. Once or twice
the meeting was
held in Mr. Kane's big pasture, but after a few years, the church
to scrape up enough cash to buy a small tract of land on which they
to build a
church. Until this church was erected, a
brush arbor was put
up. Supports of four or five inch logs were set in the ground and a
of lighter poles nailed across their tops. Then brush was
top enough to provide shade and even some protection from a light
At one end of the arbor, a platform was set up, and borrowed chairs
seats for the choir. A crude shelf was set up at the front of
platform to hold the preacher's Bible, though after reading a few
it was rarely referred to. Some one in the community loaned
the lodge provided
flare torches, and the camp meeting was off to a good start.
If the preacher was well known, sometimes families came for several
in their big farm wagons. Mattresses and quilts were brought,
well as food for several days. Such gatherings of relatives
might provide their annual get-together, unless a funeral might
when the clans would always gather.
Ordinarily, the Kane family attended the camp meetings
regularity since they lived only about three miles from the meeting
But one summer, Mrs. Kane decided she was going to camp. Mr.
put up the objection that he could not stay at night because of his
stock. They had to be attended to night and morning, but in
he agreed to fit up one of his wagons for camping. One of the
boys could stay with the family and Mr. Kane and the hired hand Rufus
go to meetings during the days, always returning to the farm to do the
chores and sleep there.
Rufus was a drifter who had never been
exposed to the hellfire and
brimstone some of those country preachers could dispense.
was he overly gifted with gumption, though he could and did fulfill his
farm duties fairly well under the close supervision Mr. Kane gave
Mr. Kane was a little surprised when Rufus indicated that he wanted to
attend some of the services but readily gave his permission, with the
that Rufus was to return at night with Mr. Kane to help with the
After seeing the preacher get himself well warmed up to his sermon,
and seeing several shouting women, and
mourners converted, the combined
effect of these things made considerable impression on Rufus and he
down to the mourner's bench. But though many of the believers
and he returned to the bench for prayers several
times, Rufus was
still unconvicted. He was still struggling trying to think
out one night when he and Mr. Kane started for home.
The meeting was expected to close the next day so Mr.
Kane had left
his gentle farm team of horses with his family, just in case they
to come home before he returned. On this night, he was
team of young mules to his wagon. They were not yet
for their duties, but were excellent plow animals. No noise
the plow, but the wagon made sounds to them, running over some of the
in the road, empty and rattling along.
Rufus, still under the spell of the
preacher, was struggling in
his soul, trying to pray salvation through, and asked Mr. Kane for
Mr. Kane quoted scriptural verses in answer to all the questions and
sincerely concerned about his hand's welfare. The mules were
along under perfect control, the summer moon overhead, the peaceful
and Rufus praying softly.
About half way between the Kane home and the arbor,
there was a
long sloping hill leading down toward the Kane gate. Just as
wagon reached the top of this hill, Rufus stood up shouting.
"I've got it! Hallelujah! Glory
be, I've got religion,
Mr. Kane! I'm goin' to Heaven, now!" The startled mules'
threw Rufus over the back of the wagon seat where he fell into the bed
of the wagon, still shouting. Mr. Kane braced himself, trying
control those frightened mules in their headlong race down the hill,
every second for one of the wheels to strike a rock large enough to
the careening wagon.
Rufus pulled himself up on his knees,
yelling at the top of his
voice. Mr. Kane was sawing on the heavy reins, trying
to bring his team under control.
"Shut up, Rufus!, he ordered. "For pity
sake, quiet down!" But
Rufus paid no heed. "Hallelujah, I'm a-gonna see Glory!"
ran the harder. In desperation, Mr. Kane gathered both reins
his left hand, swung himself around on the seat and clouted Rufus right
in the mouth.
"Dammit, you fool! Shut your mouth, or we'll
both be in Heaven,
next minute!" Such an outburst was entirely out of character;
Mr. Kane normally
being a quiet, mild-mannered man, that Rufus was shocked into
The mules were quickly brought under
control, and the two men reached home
safely and in silence. Neither of them ever mentioned the
One of the neighbors, however, had just turned his
team off the
main road into his lane. He heard and saw the frantic
he repeated the story to the preacher.
The preacher stared at the man thoughtfully, then, "I
take it, Mr.
Brown, you don't drive mules," he said mildly.
When school was over, we went back
to Grandpa's for a visit.
I cried myself sick when Mama gave my rag doll, Nora, to Lorena as a
Lorena and I, both, had other dolls but Nora was my
Mama promised me she would make me another just like it but she never
Strange how a single childish incident sets the pattern or furnishes a
clue to other more important sequences. But from that time
knew in the depths of my heart that my wishes, my desires, and my
were of minor importance to Mama. I realized then, though I
young, that I could never count on complete fairness from
I have never understood why my doll should be taken away from me and
to some one else over my unwilling protests.
Even after we moved away from that
community, we often went back
on visits as long as we lived in Texas. Lorena and I were
girls when her grandparents celebrated their golden wedding.
days it was a rare couple who lived long enough for that fiftieth year
celebration, since then Texas was not far past pioneering
had been a hard life for many of them.
Little old, Mrs. Callahan looked very sweet in her
dress, and their sons and daughters bought a lovely gold brooch for her
gift and an elaborately engraved gold-headed cane for Mr.
I even remember
the identical ruffled white dresses Lorena and I wore,
gold-colored satin sashes. The reception was held in the
living room and banks of goldenrod were everywhere.
While we were with Grandpa and
Grandmother that summer, Uncle Mat
hung up his shingle as a dentist. First, he had studied for
than a year under an old dentist who wanted a young partner.
he was sure that he wanted
to continue in this profession,
he went away to school in Baltimore
and studied in the dental college there. Later, he became one
the best in Texas and with his own practice.
After a couple of years in the East at school, he came
was quite the gay young blade, with his very fashionable tight fitting
trousers, derby hat, and bicycle. He also acquired a
horse, a buggy, and various other accessories.
Once, he took me to Denison on his bicycle, a distance
six or seven miles. He had planned to meet some of his young
there. Some of the young women had come in buggies.
that one night, I was thrilled at being his best girl. He
so. He took me for a boat ride on the lake, got a water lily
me, and fed me all the popcorn and pink lemonade I could
I had a wonderful time.
As we were riding home, with me on the handlebars,
much later than
my usual bedtime, his rear tire went flat and that meant we had to walk
for miles. Part of the way was along dark road, and through deserted
finally did arrive at home, the whole family was up
They were astonished that I had walked all that distance, without a
whine or whimper. And though it was very late and I was only
five, I had not complained of being too sleepy to walk and had never
to be carried.
PAPA'S SECOND SCHOOL
The next school my father taught
was endowed. Part of the
funds for it came from the state, but the building, grounds and house
the teacher's home were provided by a very wealthy old doctor as a
to his only daughter. He had selected about five acres from
of a huge pasture for the site.
He kept herds of cattle in that pasture and
when some of them were
near our yard fence, Mama was deathly afraid and she would not go into
the yard herself, nor let me go even though we had a good fence of
or four strands of barbed wire. She was especially fearful if
of those big red bulls began pawing the dust nearby.
The schoolyard was also fenced and there was plenty of
Since the doctor was quite an advanced thinker for his day and time, he
had provided space for the children to learn how to plant a garden, set
out a few fruit trees, and make flower beds and hot beds.
The main building was a large, white frame structure,
long rooms separated by a sliding partition so that they could be
together to provide for a community center. A narrow stage to
for school programs ran along one end, and there was a smaller single
for primer classes and the first and second grades. This
was about the size of the many one-room schools that dotted the rest of
Our house was just across the road from the school and
it was constructed
on the same pattern of all the better farm homes in that section. It
a hall straight back from the front porch to the kitchen, with a large
room on each side and a stair going up from near the single center
The upstairs plan was identical. There were no closets, no
not even a back porch. The dug well was about thirty feet
kitchen door and that in itself was considered a great convenience, as
the wife on many of the farmsteads in that area sometimes had to carry
water several hundred feet. Our well was about thirty feet
all the water used we pulled up with rope and pulley. Every
had a brass bound cedar bucket set on a wash shelf near the kitchen
with a big tin basin and roller towel handy.
We lived at this place several years and
everything I learned about
the people in the community interested me. Some were rugged
There was old Doctor Sheperd, who had provided this
school for children
from his tenant families, and many more besides. The greater
of pupils walked to school, sometimes several miles. Others
horseback, and one family sent their kids in an old buggy.
When I was about six, Dr. Sheperd vaccinated me for
small pox and
I remember that he asked Mama to be sure to save the scab when it fell
from my arm. He provided a small box filled with sterile
her to put it in and he used that scab for many of his patients who
the vaccination but could not afford to pay for serum. He
was such a healthy little animal that my scab would do for several
inoculations. Nowadays, medical procedure like that is beyond
imagination of modern practitioners. I suppose many of the
have never come in contact with a case of smallpox,
and they certainly
can have little idea of how terrible that dreadful pestilence used to
I have since seen several cases and I know.
Dr. Sheperd was a fine man and I admired him greatly
but I doubt
if he knew much about medicine. He had a fairly good library
did considerable reading but I never knew that he attended any medical
seminars or such.
But his team and buggy were familiar over
all the roads round about.
He carried a small black pillbox and from it dispensed calomel and
as needed. And that was about all, except for a pair of
a needle and
gut strings, and his thermometer.
Undoubtedly, his greatest
value to the community was the comfort and sympathy he gave his
along with his pills. They trusted his wisdom, his knowledge
nature and went to him for advice on many
family problems other than health.
After we had been living on Dr.
Sheperd's place for about a year,
Mama and Papa received an invitation to a wedding. Mr. and
were giving their daughter a church wedding, and Mama was asked to take
charge of the affair. Lorena and I were to be flower girls
This was to be the first church wedding I ever attended.
were about twenty miles from the nearest florist, Mama and some of the
neighbors gathered bushels of honeysuckle vines to decorate the little
chapel. I have no idea how many white tissue paper flowers
Over the altar, they made and hung a white bell and the church looked
After all that elaborate preparation, the poor groom
was so flustered
that he forgot to pick up the bride's bouquet at the railroad
Mama sacrificed all the cosmos in her flowerbed, tied them with a satin
bow, and that made a pretty, ferny armful for the bride to
summer, Papa went to Wyoming to work but I don't know whether it was
or ranching, or what. He thought it would be good for his
for him to change climate and work in the open for a few
That left Mama alone with two very small
daughters and the nearest
neighbor about half a mile away. Uncle Buddy thought she
much safer if she had a gun for protection so he brought her a nice .32
Smith and Wesson pistol. It was a
good one and Mama was so proud of it.
She took it out in the back yard, set up a mark and began a bit of
She was already an excellent shot with a rifle or a shotgun but had
tried her hand with a pistol.
Our nearest neighbor was a rather odd person who went
by the name
of "Whispering Jack!" When he plowed his fields, he did it by
sound of his voice and if the wind was right neighbors in the next
We could almost set our clock by the time when he
called his daughter
Jane to fetch in the milk cows for the evening milking. He
a cowboy before he settled down to raise his family, and he had been on
many of the
early cattle drives. He took great pride in
his ability as
a rifle and pistol shot. So when he heard Mama shooting, he
up to see.
He challenged her and they agreed to a match, using a
in the end of a barrel for a mark. Jack was amazed when Mama
him badly. He liked Mama and told everybody around how good she
I had seen her shoot the head off a fryer when unexpected company might
drop in for dinner but that was with a twenty-two rifle. This
her first try with her new pistol.
I begged to try the pistol, too, after Mama and Mr.
their match. I was so small that I had to hold the pistol in
hands to aim it and it took all the strength of both index fingers to
But even so, I almost hit that
knothole they had used for
their mark. Mama was pleased and promised that when I was older she
teach me to shoot, too, but she also gave me a little instruction on
dangerous guns were and told me never to touch her gun unless she gave
me permission. During Papa's absence, that gun was laid on a chair at
head of her bed every night in easy reach if she should ever need
By day, it was equally available in the top bureau drawer.
knew I must not touch it. And as Sister grew older she was
in the same way. There it
was, in easy reach any time but so far as I know
neither of us ever
disobeyed in that respect. I do not know if such instruction
be as effective today with all the 'bang-bang' shows on TV, but I've
thought that the great danger in such weapons is not in the gun, but in
the lack of proper training.
Summer that year was unusually hot
and dry. Many wells failed
and ours was so low we wondered if it would hold out. Mama's
parched, and her flowers all dried up. Sister became listless
hardly ate. Mama worried
for fear she would get seriously sick. At
last, Mama decided
she had had enough of the loneliness and heat. She would go
her parents. It was a long hard trip for a woman traveling
with two small children. It meant about ten or twelve hours by horse
buggy. But she made plans to set out.
Jane Lynch agreed to feed and water the chickens, the
cow was put
in their pasture with their milk stock. Mama washed and
our clothes and packed them in her valise. She prepared a box
lunch, stowed a quilt and
pillow in the back of the buggy, hitched Sam up to the
we were ready to travel as soon as the searing afternoon heat began to
During the heat wave, the blazing sun had been so hot
it would make us all sick if we drove in the heat of the day.
was also afraid of the dark when out alone on the road. But,
chose darkness as the lesser of the two evils. She knew just
how long it would take to travel that distance with any luck at
But the last thing she put into that buggy was her pistol - just in
What made her most uneasy was the new
Frisco railway line in process
of construction south from the Indian Territory. Mama had no
knowledge of the distance between the road that she must take and the
construction camps along the railway. She
had been hearing some tall tales
about the behavior of some of those rough men working as laborers in
of the crews. If she should happen to meet up with stragglers
those camps, she meant to protect herself
if she had to.
Just before dark, Mama stopped at a farmhouse to ask
She drew a bucket of water for Sam and filled a jar with water for us
case we asked for a drink during the night. We ate our fried
potato salad, buttered bread and cookies with the fresh cool
Before we drove on, Mama spread the quilt and pillow to make as
a bed for Sister in the bottom of the buggy as she could. She
Sister would soon be sleepy but she hoped I would stay awake to keep
company. She told me she needed me to keep her
the long night, she told me wonderful stories, and we both sang all the
songs we knew.
Fortunately, there were no other travelers on the road
after dark. Though it was not really very dark after the moon
up. Once, as we were trotting along, Sam suddenly
jumped nearly across the road. Some large animal, what it was
could not tell, bounded out of some bushes along the fence
did not know if it was a dog or wolf. It made no sound. It
easily over a high fence and disappeared.
Mama had been over this stretch
of road and knew there was no farm house
nearby. She believed it must have been a wolf. Some
were known to be in that section, but this beast was much too large and
coyotes are not so bold.
Occasionally lobos drifted into that area and Mama
thought we had seen one and surprised him as much as he surprised
She was more startled than frightened for she had her pistol at her
and I was confident she would have shot it if it had turned towards us.
Day was just breaking when we reached Grandpa's
fixing us a bite to eat, Grandmother put both Mama and me to
We were both worn out. Sister had slept so well she was fresh
SUMMER AT GRANDPA & GRANDMA'S HOUSE
Sister and I found it very
pleasant to visit here. There was
lots of room for us to play, and shady oaks for coolness.
had a good rope swing in one of them. Back home, in the
that pasture, there were no shade trees in sight. In our
was one small scrubby cedar set near the front porch.
Best of all, there were other children near that we
could play with.
And across the street an old lady had a bright green parrot, which we
Her cage was usually hung on the wide
veranda. Polly amused
us when she whistled up a pack of dogs. She called and
there might be about a dozen dogs on the lawn. She knew each
special whistle and could imitate it
perfectly. The dogs ran around bewildered,
each trying to find his master. Then she would scream "Git
Go home, you curs!" And the poor deluded pups would slink
they had been fooled again.
We never could understand how Polly could repeat that
so often without those dogs catching on to the trick, but it never
to amuse us.
While at Grandpa's we learned to watch for the tamale
A Mexican with a small pushcart came by each afternoon selling "Hot
He was regular as ice cream vendors are now.
But Mama and Grandmother thought the highly
were not good for children and rarely let us buy.
The Mexican had used considerable ingenuity
in making his little
pushcart. He set a big lard can in the box rigged up on two discarded
wheels. The big lard can was packed all around with newspapers and
filled with hot water. A smaller can filled with the tamales
set in the hot water and had a tightly fitting lid placed over
The tamales came out steaming when he forked them out on the plate we
when we were allowed to buy them.
Though she could not have known, Grandmother's colored
us that those tamales were made from dog meat and that all Mexicans
dirty. I knew it wasn't true for Uncle Mat had taken me for a
once and we had passed this Mexican's
house. There was no other Mexican family
in the vicinity and while the place was shabby and run-down, it was
Ella May just did not like Gonzales but if we bought his tamales, I
she did not refuse to eat some of our purchases.
Ella May did not like the quaint old Chinaman who
every afternoon, either. He was strange, she said, and ate
He was always dressed the same, long black shirt and no other man wore
the tail out at that time. His black cotton pants were short
that his white socks showed. The only change in his
in his headgear. Sometimes, he wore a tiny black pillbox cap
his long gray queue dangling down behind, but if he wore his odd straw
hat, he coiled his queue out of sight.
A few small boys sometimes followed him chanting in a
singsong, "Ching-ching-Chinaman, eats dead rats!" But he
them, walking along in quiet dignity. These two were the only
I knew as a child. That they were different I
both Grandmother and Mama always pointed out that a lady worthy of the
name should treat every person with courtesy. Nice manners were the
of a lady, and that theme was drilled into me most thoroughly from
Courtesy and consideration! The two most important words of
Grandpa Weems served in the
Confederate Army and was captured at
the fall of Vicksburg. As I remember his comment on that, the
he was with were heavily outnumbered and when they started to retreat,
found a regiment of blacks behind them so they turned and ran back to
to the whites.
He was imprisoned on an island, Number 10, and many of
were black, and the prisoners were so starved that some caught and ate
The Yanks stripped most of the state of food and even before capture he
said much of
the time all he had to eat was
ears of corn right from fields as
After he was freed, Grandpa went back home, but
in Mississippi were bad. The whole section where he had lived was in
no money, no supplies, no horses or mules to work the land or even
to plant it, impossible taxes, debts,
On some of the land the freed slaves stayed and they and both my
tried to get along. Since all white men were disenfranchised,
carpetbaggers and ignorant blacks were running the government, and much
of the land had been confiscated; it was time to move to Texas.
I remember one of them said that if war could have
for as few as ten years, it never would have happened, both because of
economic conditions and because of the invention of the cotton
The other grandfather
said he had to work so hard to make his farm pay even
before the war that he was not sure if he owned the place and the
or if they owned him.
Then they heard of cheap virgin land in
Texas. So they went
in 1870. It was raw virgin land and it meant long hard labor,
soon as a log house was livable they sent for their families.
not how Grandmother Lanham went to Texas, but I assume she went by boat
with her two small sons and essential household goods to Galveston,
by freight wagons to Sherman.
I know that Grandmother Weems made the trip by boat
down the Mississippi
River and across the gulf where Grandpa met her and his
Grandmother Weems' maiden name was Martha Catherine
cousin of mine, Inez Bosewell Biggerstaff traced her line to Josiah
a soldier in the Revolutionary War who fought with the Swamp Fox,
Marion's men in the army near Charleston, South Carolina. At
time, her people were quite well to do and lived on a large plantation,
but both her parents died of malaria when she was about
uncle, Dr. Red, raised her along with his
own three daughters. They had a French governess
and she was given the customary education for gentle-women of that
She was taught some French, a little music, polite social manners and
convent type sewing, nothing very practical for a pioneer's
Mary Catherine Red Weems
Grandmother's handwork was exquisite and she always
felt that the ability
to "sew a fine seam" was the mark of true gentility. But the
war had wiped
out her family fortune, and it was a long-standing joke that Grandpa
teach her how to cook when they went to Texas. To her credit,
did adapt to the rigors of pioneering, but without losing her
polite social ideas of being a LADY. And one of her common
admonitions when I was a child was "Remember, my dear, you should
behave like a lady" - or "A little lady would never do that!"
When she spoke of the times she remembered back in
she often mentioned incidents when she was teaching the young
Uncle Red had built a small church on his plantation and Grandmother
the young children in to learn to read,
write and figure each morning.
The house servants were well trained. In fact, if
had not been devoted, my premature mother, who weighed in at three
fully dressed in those two long flannel petticoats, wool undershirt,
would not have lived. She was put to bed in a large roasting pan on the
let-down door of the first big iron cook stove in the county.
Mammy Lou faithfully kept the wood fire at the proper temperature for
- so Mama was incubated before incubators were invented.
had five children but Mama was the last, and the only girl. Grandmama,
Kittie Weems, wrote the following letter to her sister-in-law after her
brother George Red died.
Sherman, Texas Dec. 6th,
My Dear Mattie
I expect you are looking for a reply to your last
letter so I will
write a few lines tonight if my eyes do not fail
me. I have
busy and it has been so cold and wet that I
thought I would wait until
I got through with
my work before writing. I have quilted five comforts
this winter and am almost through with my
winter sewing. We are
all very well at present. My
health has been better for the last few months.
Well, Mattie I know that you will be very much
surprised when I tell you
that we will move next Monday to the Poor
Farm. Jimmie is appointed
of the farm. They pay him four hundred
and sixty ($460)
dollars and feed the family. We
will have a very nice and comfortable home
to live in.
Jimmie will not have to work. The boys
can go to school all
year. This is
why I consented to go. I do not like the
idea of going at
all but-as Jimmie thinks it
best, I will try it this year. I will not
have any thing
to do in the affairs there.
Jimmie is trying to get through with
his corn this week - will make
over thirteen hundred (1300) bushels, he
has not finished his cotton
yet. We have had a month of bad
weather. This is why Jimmie is not
his crop. We had rented this place for
Are you through with your crop, how many
bales of cotton did you make? I hope you
realized a good price. I am glad
that you have nice hogs to kill.
Will you keep the young man that you now
have another year? Tell Herman Aunty
thinks he is a very smart boy to pick so much
cotton. He must be a good boy
and take the place of his Papa as near as
he can, Mattie. You must-try
and cheer up.
Think of your dear little ones, it is hard to
to the loss
of our dear ones. When I think of my
dear brother as he was
when here and then think that I can never
see or hear him again, oh! my heart almost breaks.
But Mattie we all have to die soon or late let us
try and meet him
beyond the skies where there is no
parting. I wish that I
could spend Christmas with you and the
children. I know it will be a sad
time for you
ALL ALONE. Poor children Papa will not
be there to enjoy it
You wished to know all our ages. Pa was
born Apr 27th 1817
died July 23rd 1849. Ma was born
May 25th 1821 and died 1855 Nov 26 -- I
think. Bud was born June 10th
1844. I was born May 26th 1846. Sue was
born Aug 1st 1849 and died Nov 6th 1860 --
Bud lived to be four years older than Pa.
Ours has been a short-lived
family. All gone but me, Oh Mattie
think how lonely I must feel. I
do not expect to live much longer.
My eyes have become exhausted and I will
have to close. Kiss the children
all for Aunty
and tell them to be good children. Write
soon, I am always
so glad to get a letter from you.
Your Affectionate Sister
Mama stayed with her parents until almost
time for Papa to come
back home. She wanted to be there when he arrived and she decided that
since the weather had moderated and the heat was not so severe, it
now be best to drive back by daylight. The trip was
while we liked to go, we found we also liked to come back to our home.
Papa came in looking so healthy and brown.
He enjoyed his
outdoor work, but he was glad to be back, too. It was always
time just before the opening of school. So many details, so
correspondence, planning and organizing various
projects, he worked harder in those last two
weeks before the start of a term than any other period except the one
day and the closing day.
This year arrangements had been made to have a music
with the school. Miss Grace Kane came to live with us, and
the front rooms was set aside for her piano pupils. Mama did
mind cooking for one more and she liked
Miss Grace so much that she was glad to have
her in our home. Since she was a very attractive girl,
she had young men coming to see her. One in particular, I
so greatly that I thought could not grow up
fast enough to marry him - and of course,
I didn't but Miss Grace didn't marry him either. A frustrated
RIDING A HORSE FOR THE FIRST TIME
My first experience with horses
came about this time. Papa
liked to ride Sam and he was a very good saddle horse, though Mama
used him in the buggy. Papa had a Mexican saddle with a horn
and round as a saucer. I can
remember he would swing me up behind the saddle,
put Sister in front on that wide saddle horn, and away he would gallop
the prairie. It was wonderful.
Once, Papa left home early in the morning to attend to
and he came back about the middle of the afternoon, tired and
He filled Sam's watering trough, then asked me if I wanted to ride
the yard, while he went in to eat his
dinner. Of course I did, but it
was something I had never tried before. Sam had other ideas
that. He wanted to be fed too and started for the
barn. I tugged
at his reins to turn him but he paid me no heed. I barely
to stop him in time to slide off before he dragged me off as he went
his stable. But from then on, I wanted to learn to ride and I
Mother had been an excellent rider and she used to
relate how when
I was only a few months old, she had taken me up in her lap to ride,
whenever she visited any of her friends. Grandpa and Papa
boast that she could handle any horse they ever had. She even
Uncle Mat's fine racer hitched to his light training cart and this was
considered quite a feat for a woman. Crockett, a beautiful
animal, was so high spirited as to be a bit fractious. Even
frequently drove him down town on errands. Whenever she did,
of Uncle Mat's sporty friends who knew the
horse would jokingly challenge her to a race, but they always
found some excuse to back out of it if she accepted the bid.
they gave as their excuse that it would not be a fair race since Mama
so much lighter than they, which fact was
true. Though their
real reason for not wanting to match a race with her was that they knew
her ability with the reins and her skill in controlling the
Besides Crockett had a reputation for speed. No young Texan
enjoy or willingly accept defeat at the hands of a woman in a trial of
MY LOVE OF READING
So far, I have had only a little
to say about Papa. At a very
early age it was brought home to me that he was terribly disappointed
I was a girl instead of the son he had hoped for. Most of the
he ignored me completely. I do remember that on rare
have overheard him boast that I learned to read before I was
years old. However, that feat was started on my own
Both Papa and Mama loved reading and they frequently
by turns to each other. If they buried themselves in separate
I was left to my own resources. Then I would get my Mother
Rhymes or a primer and
pull my little rocking chair between them, as close as
If any one would listen, I could repeat any of these books from memory
but if I tried to read them, I sometimes faltered over a single
Then I insisted on being told what that
word was. If either parent
ignored my question, "What's this word?" I simply sat and repeated over
and over "B, d, b, d," until it become so monotonous that one of them
finally stop reading long enough to tell me the word I wanted to
I cannot remember learning at all. According to school
my self-education was not exactly balanced. I read well and
what I read. I knew many words and their meanings, but I was
a good speller. I had little interest in numbers and had
taught any arithmetic, but I could count and make change.
I loved reading and by the time I was seven, when
other Texas children
were just starting to school in the primer, I was reading and enjoying
the old "Youth's Companion." I read every text in reading
had in his library, and since he was
frequently given complimentary copies of
sets for all the grade in school, that was quite a lot of reading for a
child who had not gone to school at all. I could and read
but since that was before comics reached their present popularity, I
little to interest me.
Papa did not want me to be too far advanced in school
and held me
back by putting me in the second grade at the start of my
And he never would allow me to be promoted or advanced except at the
of the year. I never understood why he deliberately held me
I really do not believe it is best for children to be pushed too fast,
either, but it is hardly fair to force them to work below their
PAPA AS SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS
The first year I started to school
was the year Papa got a larger
school and we moved to the county seat
where he was superintendent of three
schools. This town was about twenty or more miles from where
previously lived and in another county. Papa rented a house
across the street from the high school where he would have his classes,
which made it very convenient for him. There was a smaller
school in one corner of the big campus ant that is where I started to
Only the three first grades were in that building.
Our house was not large but it was very comfortable
and it was set
in a fenced yard heavily sodded with Bermuda grass. Papa had
man who came to keep it nicely cut and it made a wonderful place for
with some of the neighbors' children, and there were
of them around.
The house had four huge rooms, but the room we used
most was the
cozy dining room, for we loved the big, old stone fireplace, and the
dining table served for games as well as for meals. By that
Sister and I could play Flinch, Old Maid and other similar games, but
playing cards were not permitted. Sometimes Mama and Papa had
friends, most often other teachers, in for Flinch.
That fireplace was where we gathered on cold winter
Sometimes, we shook a wire popper over glowing coals and listened for
snappy pops of the corn. Sometimes, we roasted apples and
in the hot ashes, and once in a while, when it was
very cold, Mama hung an
iron pot of beans or stew over the fire to simmer for our
On rare occasions, she even made corn pones in a heavy iron
Oh, we loved that fireplace!
We lived in this place two years, and it was there
that I had my
first regular schooling and I admit I was much more interested in the
children than in my books, which were far too easy to demand my
attention. Many times, I begged to carry my lunch to school
most of the other children did and I wanted to be like the other small
girls I knew. I was sure having my lunch on the school
be a picnic and I wanted the whole noon hour for play. But
that I come home for my lunch and I can remember only once that she
Our playground had none of the modern
equipment that small folks
find as a matter of course on their playgrounds now. Never
acrobatic bars, and such, we did not miss them but
own amusements by laying heavy boards across fire-wood logs hauled into
the yard for fuel. Those were our teeter-totters.
And when those
same logs had been sawed into stove lengths, we dragged and piled them
in place to build walls for our play-houses. Maybe we
more what we had to make ourselves than little ones who are given
ready-made. I don't know but I think we got double the fun.
When I was promoted to the third grade, I had my first
Not an unmixed blessing! The little boy who sat behind me,
my pigtails into his ink well and whenever he wanted my attention, he
But he also gave me presents. He shared his
with me at recess sometimes; he gave me some of his favorite marbles to
play jacks with; and he brought me my first gift of flowers.
was a huge arm full of lilac blossoms, and some way that happens to be
my favorite perfume, to this day.
Another gift that I received while we lived here was
the first and
only gift my father ever gave me personally. It was a small
book of Eskimo stories. I have never understood why he
bring it back to me after one of his trips, nor why he never gave me
other present. I have always believed he rather ignored my presence
he never overcame his disappointment that I was not the son he
Sister was his favorite and he frequently gave her little
Possibly, this was because she looked so much like him, partly, I
because she was named
for his mother, and partly, also, because she was gayer than
I and she did not draw back into a shell as I did whenever I sensed his
snubs. Shortly before we moved from this town, the whole
a shock that I shall never forget. Sometime very late at
were awakened by pounding steps on our front walk. A man's
was calling Papa urgently. He said he had a wired message
father asking Papa to come immediately, that Grandpapa had shot Papa's
brother. We were horrified and could
not believe what we heard.
While Papa dressed, Mama phoned to find out when the next train
Then Papa thought to phone the telegraph office and have the message
to him. It was not true, of course, but what had happened was
enough. The message actually said that Grandpapa had killed a
and that Papa was to let Uncle Wiley know, and both sons were asked to
come at once.
GRANDPA'S GROCERY STORE
Grandpapa owned and operated a small grocery store
with a large
wagon yard in connection at the edge of town. Country people
in to trade frequently drove long distances, too far for their wagons
make the round
trip in one day. They would park their rigs
enclosure, stable their teams in his sheds, and buy supplies for
months ahead. A few men brought their wives and when they did a bed
was made up in the back of their wagons for
the family to sleep over night unless
they had relatives to visit. Other men came alone and these
choice of sleeping in their wagons or taking a bunk for 25 cents in the
If purchases in Grandpapa's store amounted to a
there was no charge for these facilities.
Usually everything about the yard was quite
orderly, but occasionally
some rough men would come in on a Saturday night and cause a
On this particular Saturday night, Grandpapa was alone in the place
a big, drunken bully came in and began cursing Grandpapa for some
wrong. The abuse started at the front end of the long
Grandpapa tried to pacify the man but as he talked quietly to him, he
backing away from him. A few plain chairs were set out down
aisle for the convenience of customers, and this man picked up one and
was menacing Grandpapa with it. He carried the chair raised
over his head, threatening to strike
Grandpapa down. Grandpapa continued
to walk slowly backward, still trying to reason with the man.
even appealed to the two other men who had entered the store behind
dangerous ruffian. They refused
to have any part of it, knowing how quarrelsome drinking
made this man.
Grandpapa had backed almost the full length of the
store until he
was in reach of a desk where he kept his books and accounts, with
the man still following and becoming more
abusive. When he reached the desk,
Grandpapa pulled open a drawer where he kept his pistol. By
time the man was so close, he could reach Grandpapa with a heavy blow
"Put that chair down!" Grandpapa ordered crisply, as
the pistol into plain view at his side.
The man swore foully as he lunged forward to bring
the chair down
with all his strength. Grandpapa sidestepped and shot from
Grandpapa was a quiet,
mild-mannered, little man with wavy gray
hair and a neatly trimmed beard and he looked very much as many another
Confederate veteran of those times did. He must have been in
middle sixties at the time. It still seemed strange to any one who knew
him that even a drunken man could be so foolish, to try to intimidate
of General Lee's officers, especially one who
had served four years with
his staff and was still with Lee at Appomattox.
There was no formal trial after this
killing. Grandpapa, with
his two sons, reported to the sheriff the next morning, and answered a
few questions. The man who was killed was notoriously
and dangerous especially when drinking and even his companions under
oath stated that Grandpapa had ample
justification. Though the
wild Saturday nights in some Texas towns were less frequent than they
been previously and the custom of shooting a town up never had the
that movies and TV programs would have you
believe, there were plenty of times
when such violent incidents did occur. All the wildness was
PROSPER, COLLIN CO., TEXAS
Shortly after that, Papa moved us
to Prosper, another Texas town.
I was then in the fourth grade and far more advanced than some of the
boys in my classes, several of whom were grown in size. A few
them were so unruly, the school board
thought it wise to employ a man teacher.
The grade school teacher was a character I associated in my mind with
Crane and there certainly were strong physical similarities.
Dean was almost bald, tall and angular and
he was fired with a great determination
to drill mental arithmetic into our heads. An excellent idea,
but then, some heads are virtually impenetrable, meaning some of those
larger boys. They were slow in
books but not necessarily dumb for
many of them were already qualified to take a man's place at round-up
Math was not my strongest subject, but I could figure
rapidly than these over-grown boys. In return for a whispered
I was kept well supplied with apples, candy and chewing gum, sometimes
Gum and Sen-Sen were contraband
but my Geography was large enough
to provide me with an adequate screen. And if the strong
the Sen-Sen gave me away, I could always say in all innocence that I
been given some at recess.
Come Spring, and these older boys and girls began to
and to make lovesick calf eyes at one another. It was so
that love-love-love had struck his older pupils that even Mr. Dean
the symptoms and decided his best course of
action would be to shuffle the seats.
These young Romeos were much too shy to stand around corners and waylay
the girls of their fancies so they resorted to note writing, an
that was strictly against Mr. Dean's rules of conduct.
Mr. Dean's schoolroom was long and the double desks
facing the front with a long aisle between them, and since they were
to need more help with their lessons, the smaller children sat in
desks closer to the front where teacher's desk was placed. At
back of the room the desks were large enough to accommodate grown-ups
that is where these older pupils were seated with the girls on one side
ant the boys on the other. The aisle was too wide between the
rows of desks to make it safe to pass notes between them, for Mr.
desk was placed exactly in the middle where he would have the best
to see and intercept anything passed between.