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HISTORY AS LITERATURE Wayne Holmes' father, Clay Holmes, and his dogs at the family's first house near Freedom, Oklahoma, 1925. Wayne Holmes' mother Geneva and Baby Fred, 1926. Introduction Wayne Holmes was born into a poor farrtily in Kansas in 1930. When he was three, they rode in a covered wagon for a month, traveling four hundred irtiles to western Oklahoma. The Holmes famUy Uved in a tent for a whUe, but the canvas was torched by a man angry over being cheated in a horse trade. Later they Uved in an abandoned schoolhouse before migrating to southwest Missouri in 1935 and sharecropping on bare-boned hillside farms. Back in Kansas at age thirteen, Holmes flunked eighth-gradeEnglish three times. The famUyreturned to Missouri at war's end. Twenty years old and finaUy a high school graduate in 1950, Holmes joined the U.S. Navy. Mititary hierarchy and discipline clashed dramaticaUy with his lifelong irreverence, however, and he was tried and found guUty of mutiny. After ten years of teaching high school English and drama and coaching footbaU, Hohnes earned his M.A. at the University of Missouri. He taught for twenty-four years at Drury CoUege in Springfield, Missouri. In retirement, Holmes, who stiU Uves in the Ozarks, writes between stints of wood chopping and Uvestocking. His observations about hardscrabble farming and a rural life once commonplace but now receding into the mists of a vanished century are related from the perspective of a naive but watchful boy. In the memoir that foUows, Holmes looks back more than six decades, to the lean and hungry '30s, with unblinking honesty. JeffVUes The Missouri Review ยท 97 Clay and Geneva Holmes with their son Fred, 1927. Clay and Geneva Holmes with their children Fred and Joyce, 1929. THE JILL-FLIRTED MARE/Wayne Holmes Here she is, Packsaddle Bridge," Dad announced, and as I looked down through a knothole in the bridge floor I caught a glimpse of a narrow stream far below. "Right down there," he said, "is where your Uncle Cager lost his team in the quicksand before the bridge went in." Almost three in the spring of 1933, I was sitting in the back of Dad's lead wagon looking out over the taUgate when the distinctive dip-clop of the horses' iron-shod hooves struck the heavy wooden timbers on the long, arching span over the South Canadian River in western Oklahoma. This is my first memory, the only part of the fourhundred -mUe trek from northern Kansas to the Needmore community in western Oklahoma that I can recaU. I remember nothing about the following year, when we lived in a tent, and almost nothing of our six-month stay in an old, abandoned schoolhouse after we came home from town to find the tent torched by a man Dad had got the best of in a trade. But getting ready to move to the Missouri Ozarks made a strong impression on me. Dad liked to describe the country where his folks lived as "the land of a million smiles" and "the land of milk and honey." Especially exciting was butchering day, when all the women and girls were herded inside Grandpa and Grandma Green's house. They had to stay there until the yearling steer had been killed, skinned and gutted. Going on five, I was plenty big enough to stand with my older brother, Fred, eight, and hang on to the fence outside the barn lot, watching, while Dad and Mama's three teenaged brothers did the job that women and girls were not permitted to see. Instead of dropping dead when Dad shot him, the dazed steer shook his head, then raised his tail high and raced wildly around the enclosure . "Catch him! Catch him!" Dad yelled, and the long-legged, highstepping middle boy managed to overtake the bawling, wide-eyed animal and grab its tail while it pulled him around and around the lot before collapsing in a corner. There the boys held it, and Dad cut its throat with the heavy, curved butcher knife that Fred handed him. As I craned my neck to get a good look at the gushing, bright blood...


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