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Aunt Margaret

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

in such numbers it was like a dark cloud. I liked to stand in the doorway and watch them. They were flying low as they neared the roost. I often went down to the roost after they had settled. They were so thick on the limbs that they bent the trees almost to the ground.

"I could have picked them off by the hundreds if I had wanted to. I would stroke their wings and they would coo and let me pet them. They sat on limbs as close as grapes on the vine, and at times would break the young trees and limbs down with their weight. When they cleared away in the morning, there would be crippled pigeons, some with broken wings, others with broken legs. We would take them to the house for use for meat. They were so good. I don't remember anyone molesting them.

"They were about one-third larger than our tame pigeons, and were a bronzy blue in color, with a heavier twinge of bronze about their neck and shoulders. They were in such numbers it is hard to realize they are now extinct."

When I read Aunt Margaret's memoir to the children, our son was at the age where he enjoyed being horrified; so the snake stories were his favorites - and she told many of them:

"Snakes surely were plentiful. The old road to the spring was in a work with them, whipsnakes, with about a foot of red on the tails, which they held up straight, and made a blowing noise when they ran.

"They used to cross the path ahead of me when I went to the spring, and almost scared me to death. The clumsy, bunty-tailed moccasin and cotton mouth and spreading adders would lay in the path and flatten themselves out and look so much like the ground we could hardly see them.

"One morning I went to the spring to get the milk for breakfast. I got down on my knees and reached my hand in to get the bucket of milk and a great big old moccasin slid down over my hand into the water. If you ever had a snake touch you, you will never forget the feel of it. It is like an icicle sliding over you.

"Rattlesnakes were very common. Father told of helping to clean a gravesite in an old cemetery when they found a den of rattlesnakes. They killed 23 of them."

For me, Aunt Margaret's most striking memory was that of the Battle of Wilson's Creek fought some 15 miles from her home:

"The day the Wilson's Creek Battle was fought, on August 10, 1861, my mother walked the floor all day, and wrung her hands and cried, until the noise of the big guns ceased. It must have been five o'clock in the evening before she got us anything to eat.

"We children were too young to understand, and followed her around and begged her to tell us why she cried. She would place her hands on our heads and say, Oh, children! Oh, children! My brother and I would lay our heads on the ground, and we could hear the guns and feel the earth tremble."

I explained to the children that Memorial Day was begun after the Civil War to commemorate the soldiers who had died, and then expanded to include remembering all who had gone before. The girls said, "Could we decorate Aunt Margaret's grave this Memorial Day?" Our family album now contains a picture of two little girls kneeling by a gravestone in a country churchyard, a fruit jar of

wildflowers between them.

Margaret Gilmore Kelso wrote her story in 1940, when she was 85 years of age. At the conclusion she reflected on change:

"I have lived a long time, and I consider this a wonderful period of progress. It is a far cry from the ox team to the automobile and the flying machine; from the Indian trails to the paved highway; from the log schoolhouse to the well-equipped consolidated school; from the weekly mail delivered to the post office on horseback, to the daily mail delivered to our door; from the grease lamp ... hung from a crack in the chimney wall, to the incandescent light.

"The improvement over the old ways is so great, I certainly am not among those who are crying for 'the good old days.'"

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