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How Do Those Pesky French Stay So Slim????

How Do those Pesky French Stay So Slim?


How do they do it?????

How do those pesky French stay so slim compared to us Americans?  They’ve got their bagels, butter, cream cheese, croissants, chocolate mousse and  they still stay slim?  They’re over 30 pounds slimmer than Americans!  It’s not fair!   My health coach was right about some things!  Did she steal some French secrets?  Maybe not.  But statistics don’t lie.  French women are significantly slimmer than American women.  Admittedly, the French have a sensible approach to food and wellness which we can learn from. 

Here’s what the French seem to be doing different. 

  • Savor the Flavor
  • Water, Water, Water
  • Walk, Walk, Walk
  • Joie De Vivre

Savor the Flavor  Years ago, it was the norm for Americans to cook their food from scratch, using fresh ingredients.  Today, fast food and frozen dinners are quite popular.  However, the healthiest foods are often cooked or prepared from scratch, using fresh produce and ingredients.  The French culture celebrates cooking, and sitting down together to eat.  Anyone remember the dinner table instead of TV trays?  French people relish shopping at farmer’s markets to collect ingredients for their next meal.  While it’s true the French enjoy their chocolate, croissants and butter — they also eat plenty of fruits and vegetables!  Fresh produce is chock full of vitamins and nutrients, as well as fiber.   It’s also important to sit down, relax and socialize while eating.  Health coaches and gurus point out that eating while stressed can cause indigestion and weight gain.  Metaphorically, we should all eat like cats instead of dogs! And unlike many cats, just be thankful for our food!  Cats take their time eating, whereas dogs scarf their food down in one minute flat!  Instead of frenzied fast food, cook a healthy sit-down meal!  The French also enjoy certain rich foods and desserts — just in moderation.  Americans can do the same!  Just eat slow and savor the flavor!

Enjoy the following GIFs, courtesy of GIPHY.  Also, another blog about eating the French way is here:  Bon Apetit!






Water, Water, Water  The French drink lots of water.  It’s great for the skin, and cleansing the body.  Parisians are so particular about water that they installed sparkling, bubbly water fountains throughout their city!     The French reasoned that sparkling water fountains would reduce plastic water bottle waste.   Now here’s a challenge for Roanoke:  Become the first American city to go green with water by installing public SPARKLING WATER FOUNTAINS.   It would enhance all those food festivals, bike rentals, scooter rentals and outdoor activities!


Walk, Walk, Walk  Walking is an activity that can be done anywhere!  Of course, some locations are more pleasant for walking than others.  Roanoke is a city which has several pleasant areas for walking, as well as hiking trails.  In many European cities, there is less reliance on automobiles, and walking and public transportation are more the norm.  With the gentrification of many American cities, it makes sense to create sidewalks and areas which foster foot travel and public transportation.   America also has the advantage of many parks and recreational areas which are perfect for enjoying a quiet moment in nature. 


 Joie De Vivre  is a French phrase for “joy of life”.  Enjoy today.  Be thankful and enjoy your food.  Enjoy conversation and your loved ones around you.  Live in the moment.   Enjoy your family and friends.   Joie de Vivre is exquisitely expressed in Tonya Leigh’s blog in 

Apparently, MANY people have speculated on why the French stay slim, while eating all that gourmet food and drinking wine!  Here are some books pertaining to this topic.  Bon Appetit!


Eat Like A Cat!


Don’t Eat Like A Dog!


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The Wild West of Women’s Sizes

The Wild West of Women’s Sizes

Why can’t Women’s Sizes be as straightforward as Men’s Sizes?  Why?  Instead, women’s sizes are all over the map!  Changing Women’s Sizes have often been blamed on “Vanity Sizing”, which is labeling sizes smaller to appeal to women’s vanity.  What woman doesn’t prefer being labeled  Size 4, instead of Size 10?  The organization responsible for size standards, ASTM, has revised their standards in response to shifting size standards.   What used to be Size 8 in 1960 is now a Size 0 or 2 today!  The ASTM Women’s  Size Standard lists an average height of 65-1/2″, when in fact the average women’s height today is shy of 64″, according to the CDC.  Yet another problem — current ASTM standards assumes women have a back-waist length of 16-1/8″, when in fact the average woman’s back-waist length measures  17-1/4 (according to a recent NC State College of Textiles study)!   Perhaps this may explain why women’s shirts are often too short!

 On average, women have gained 30 pounds since 1960 sizing standards, yet are only half an inch taller.    What used to be Size 14 in 1960 is today a Size 8!  

Average American Woman 

                Height       Weight           Waist   

1960       63.1″          140lb.             27-28″               

1980       63.7″          145-152lb.      29-31″  

2000      63.8           162 lb.            35

2016       63.6           170 lb.            38½


The Morphing of Women’s Size 8

                  Bust            Waist            Hips

1960         32½           23½              34½   

2000        35               27                   37½

2016         36¼          28-29½       38½-39 


For perspective, the American women in 1900 averaged 62.4″ tall and 137 pounds.   Today’s average woman is about 64″ tall and 170 pounds.  Today’s average British woman is a Size 14 (38” bust, 34” waist, and 40” hips).   Today’s average French woman is even smaller:  63-65″ inches tall and 137.6 pounds.  And that’s after bagels, cream cheese, butter and wine! A research study in 2016 found French models are 70.8″ average and Size 4, compared to the average French woman who is  Size 8 or 10. 

Most fashion schools teach students to design for a Size 2 or 4 woman, with runway models being even smaller.  It’s rare for a school to cover Plus Sizes in depth.    A disconnect exists between idealized size taught in fashion school, and the average American woman. 

Another sizing problem occurs due to pattern grading practices.    Pattern grading is the development of differing sizes from one pattern.  When larger sizes are developed from a Size 2 or 4 pattern,  more errors can be introduced, especially in the larger sizes.  Considering that the average woman is a Size 14 or 16, it’s no wonder women are frustrated with clothing fit! 

“….realistic clothes that work for today’s woman today. Forgiving fit.  Style and design lines which flatter……Quality clothing makes real  women look beautiful. “

A few brands have responded to women’s sizing problems and developed wonderful plus size clothing.  However, much of the plus size clothing (Sizes 14+) found in stores still has poor fit and aesthetic, since it was not originally designed for plus size women.  Adding to the sizing problem, accurate size data is not affordable to many brands, whereas once it was free.  As a result, many brands fill in the gap, establishing their own sizing systems, based on their target market.  Some brands get it right, and others don’t!   It’s pretty much a wild west out there when it comes to women’s sizes!

As a designer, I recognize problems with size and fit today.  Of course most women desire a healthy, shapely figure.  It’s important we all strive to be as healthy as possible.  However, it’s also important to treat our present body the best we can.   That’s why I strive to be realistic, and find style lines that forgive and flatter.  No sack cloths!  No judgment! Do women have the same waist size as women one century ago?  Of course not!  Corsets no longer have widespread use, either.    Size is just a number!  Quality clothing makes real  women look beautiful.

Lindy, Roanoke Rags Designer


P.S.  Next blog:  How are those pesky French women staying slim?


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Rags & Blues Aren’t Just for Denim

RAGS & BLUES — Music

  • Blues & Rags aren’t just for denim. 
  • The term “rags” has long been used in the garment industry: “rags trade” for industry,  “rags” for clothing, and “rags” for jeans.
  • “Rags” also describes Ragtime music. Piano Rags are distinctly American, with African American origins and a syncopated rhythm.  Scott Joplin famously composed “Maple Leaf Rag”, “Entertainer” and many other rags.   Piano rag music was used to accompany silent movies.  Western movies also use the music for saloon scenes.
  • Ragtime music influenced early jazz composers, such as Gerschwin. 
  • Although Roanoke Rags rhapsodizes about our blues, Gershwin takes the cake with his composition Rhapsody in Blue, still famous and well-played one hundred years later.
  • Appalachian Blues, originating from this region, also influenced jazz, according to Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
  • Today, you can visit the Crooked Trail which is SW Virginia’s Musical Heritage
  • Galax hosts an Old Fiddler’s Convention every August
  • Floyd Fest is another musical event every July in Floyd, Virginia.  Or just visit the Floyd Country Store on Friday!

RAGS & BLUES — Textile

History of Denim in the Blue Ridge Region

Did you know that the Blue Ridge Region has a rich textile history?  For years, Roanoke was home to the Blue Ridge Overalls Company.  Another company, The Favorite Garment Company, produced overalls in Lynchburg.  Glad Rags was a sewing factory which used to be in Buchanan, Virginia.  Garment factories used to dot the Appalachian Mountains and southeast, before most factories went overseas.  Travelers passing through the Appalachians could buy factory-direct blue jeans, just by pulling off the highway!  They also got an impromptu tour of the factory. 

For many years, the Norfolk & Western railroad had a track line running through the New River Valley, due to the numerous garment factories.  Today, most of these factories are gone.  The New River railway line has since been converted into the New River Trail for hiking,  biking and horseback riding.  If you get a chance, take a bike ride along the New River Trail starting in Draper, and head south.  You will be rewarded with stunning views as you cross old railroad trestles and the Hiwassee River Bridge.  Enjoy the mountain biking without intense exertion — this trail is almost flat, with a gentle slope. 

Next time you put on your pair of “ragged blues”, remember the rich history of denim manufacture in America, and support locally made!  

The good news?  Textile companies are once again popping up in Virginia, particularly in the Appalachian Mountains and foothills.  Besides Roanoke Rags, here are some of the other companies: 

Appalachian Gear

Blue Ridge Overland Gear

DAM Good Equipment


Shockoe Atelier




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The Untold Story of Denim

Both American men and women have been wearing denim since the 1800s, and likely the 1700s as well!   You heard that right!  Women wore denim blue jeans were invented!   The Fashion Institute of Technology Museum exhibited a woman’s denim jacket, circa 1850!  The jacket was hand stitched, with gathered sleeves and shaped for a corseted figure.  The first American denim mill manufactured denim in Massachusetts, and was visited by George Washington.   Emma McClendon, author of Denim Fashion’s Frontier, points out that 19th century Americans valued denim garments, carefully repairing them to last many years.  Scant information exists on women’s denim garments during the 18th century, but it is likely women wore denim for farm and work tasks.  In the American West, women sometimes took on ranching and farming roles, as told in another post, “Naomi’s Pioneer Story”.   

The modern history of  blue jeans dates back to 1873, when Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis received a patent for riveted denim pants.  The first Levi’s®  were offered in  brown and blue.   Levi Strauss owned a company which sold blankets, tents, wagon covers, cloth and other items.  Jacob Davis was a tailor in Reno, Nevada.  Mr. Davis had come to Reno after several failed business ventures.  Jacob Davis crafted some sturdy pants from heavy, cotton duck twill fabric with hammered copper rivets at stress points, in response to a request from a laborer’s wife.   The pants were a success and other laborers began requesting the pants.  Mr. Davis realized he needed to patent his design and asked Levi Strauss to partner with him by contributing funds for the patent.  In 1873, the two men applied for and received a patent.

The earliest history of Levi’s® is unclear, since the company’s records were burned up during the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.  According to one legend,  the first pair of Levi’s® were made from wagon hemp cloth.  Supposedly, some of the first Levi’s® were made of brown cloth also. 

It wasn’t until 45 years later that Levi’s® made a denim garment for women.  In 1918, Levi’s® introduced the “Freedom-All”, which was a one-piece garment for women.  It was made of chambray, a lightweight denim, and resembled bloomers worn for bicycling (  The product did not catch on well due to prevailing attitudes against women wearing pants in public.

By the 1920s it became common for young ladies to occasionally wear denim jeans for casual play or work, typically   borrowed from a male relative.  In fact, the designer’s grandmother borrowed jeans from her cousin so she could climb trees.   In 1934,  Levi Strauss & Co. introduced Lady Levi’s®  — the first manufactured jeans for women.  These jeans were made of 10 oz. denim, which was lighter weight than Levi’s® 501 jeans for men.  Lady Levi’s®  gained traction as a viable product;  other manufacturers followed suit and also started producing women’s jeans.

During World War II, attitudes continued to change towards women wearing denim.   Lee® produced a one-piece denim jumpsuit for women working in factories during World War II.  Rosie the Riveter wore a famous Lee® jumpsuit in WWII posters!  In the 1940s,  a handful of American women designers developed denim play wear for women, including Claire McCardell, and Bonnie Cashin.

From the 1940s through the 1960s, denim jeans became more popular, although worn more often by men.  It was still considered unacceptable for women to wear pants at school or work, or any formal institution.  Typically, women would buy men’s jeans, and alter them in the waist.  In fact, this practice remained common up until the 1970s.  Women also wore men’s denim jackets.   By the 1970s, dress codes  became more relaxed.  Both men and women wore jeans to school and some work places.  Also, denim companies began catered specifically to women.  Designer jeans became all the rage with both men and women wearing uncomfortably tight jeans.  Also, the popularity of denim jeans  spread throughout the world.

America was the blue jean capital of the world for over a century, from the inception of Levi’s®  jeans until the 1990s.  Back in the day, garment factories dotted the southeast, including the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina.  Travelers passing through the region could buy factory-direct blue jeans!  Roanoke was home to the Blue Ridge Overalls Company.  Lynchburg was home to The Favorite Garment Company, which produced men’s overalls and work wear.   Norfolk & Western railroad had a track line in the New River Valley which serviced garment factories along the New River.  Today, most of these factories are gone.  The New River railway line has since been converted into the New River Trail for hiking,  biking and horseback riding.

 In the 1990s, most major brands manufactured their blue jeans in America.  El Paso, Texas  was the blue jean capital of America, producing almost 2 million pairs of blue jeans a week during the 1990s!  After NAFTA was signed in 1994, many textile jobs were lost due to the acceleration of offshore manufacturing.   Significantly, in the last 50 years, the American textile industry lost almost 2 million jobs due to offshore manufacturing ( and   Many of these jobs were well paying, including textile engineers and factory jobs.   Today a pair of blue jeans made overseas sells for $19.99, which is close to the price jeans sold in the 1970s — $14.50!  If you consider inflation, that $14.50 jeans from 1973 should cost $82.20 today.   There is a cost to cheap fashion.   El Paso’s factories are now empty, and Xiantang, China is the world’s jeans capital.  Matt and Carrie Edmenson, founders of a made in USA apparel company Imogene + Willie, have expressed their concern that the demise of US manufacturing is killing the American dream. (TEDxAtlanta speech).

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of American-made goods, although not to the extent in years past.  Several premium jeans manufacturers have sprung up to meet the demand for Made in USA jeans.  Many of these manufacturers are located in Los Angeles, the South or major cities.   Many Americans are choosing to buy less, but higher quality clothing which lasts for years, instead of months.  Quality clothing is much more sustainable, as opposed to throw away fast fashion.  The designer, Vivian Westwood expresses the sentiment well:  Buy Less,  Choose Well and Make it Last!  American pioneers made their garments last! 

Denim has been around for hundreds of years!    The Italians claim they invented denim fabric 500 years ago, which they called ‘Bleu de Genes’,  popular among sailors.    The French claim they invented denim, calling the fabric “serge de Nimes”.  Apparently, denim was hot stuff even in the 1700s!  Americans began manufacturing denim in the 18th century.  In 1789  George Washington toured a Massachusetts denim mill!  Since the 1700s, American mills  robustly manufactured denim fabric until about 25 years ago.  Today, only 2 or 3 denim mills remain in America. 

Denim is typically woven from two different color threads:  indigo dyed warp threads and white weft threads.  Sometimes weft threads can be colored gold, bronze or green.  The different color threads give denim its characteristic fade.  Cotton is the primary fiber used for most denim, although polyester, wool, silk, hemp, linen, and Lycra can also  be used.  Better quality cotton consists of long staple fibers.  Legend has it that the first Levi’s jeans were made from wagon hemp cloth.

Surprisingly, hemp fiber makes a very nice denim, stronger and more comfortable!  Hemp is similar to linen, except stronger due to its long fibers.  Hemp is environmentally friendly due to natural pest resistance, and less water and land usage compared to cotton (source:  HuffPost, “Why Hemp, the Sustainable Wonder Crop, is Sweeping the Nation”, by Chloe Fox, 05/03/2014 ). Hemp fiber is cool in summer and warm in winter.  Hemp/cotton denim is made using hemp for the warp fibers, and cotton for the weft fibers.  Jeans made from hemp/cotton denim are more durable than cotton jeans, and can last many years.  Hemp denim also softens with age, making it more comfortable.  In colonial times, farmers were strongly encouraged to grow hemp.  In fact, Martha Washington sewed the first American flag out of hemp!  However hemp was used for garments in colonial times due to lignin, which made the fabric scratchy next to skin.  In modern times, the hemp is processed to remove the lignin to create a textile more suitable for garment use.

Traditionally, denim was  woven using shuttle looms up until the mid-20th century.  The resulting denim was about 28″ wide, with finished selvedge edges and slub imperfections.   Jet looms began to replace shuttle looms in the 20th century due to their greater efficiency and wider width; the resulting denim was smooth and evenly textured.  However, in the 1990s, Japanese denim fanatics took note of the cloth imperfections in vintage 501 Levi’s.   Wanting to replicate vintage American denim, some Japanese companies restored old shuttle looms which sat idle in the Japanese countryside and continue to use these looms today.   Ironically, the Japanese appreciation for vintage American denim influenced the resurgence of small American jeans manufacturers. 

The beautiful hue of denim comes from indigo dye, which has unique characteristics.  Indigo dye does not fully penetrate the cotton fiber, but is contained to the outer region of the fiber, which causes a characteristic fade.  Back in the 18th and 19th century, indigo dye was derived from the leaves of natural indigo plant (Indigofero tinctoria).   Natural indigo grows well in Asia and sub-tropical regions, but not in colder European climates.  In colonial times, indigo plant was grown in South Carolina, including a native variety — Indigofero caroliniana.  Europeans began to use the woad plant  (Isatis tinctoria) as an indigo substitute; woad grew well in Europe.   However, woad also contained less  indigotin pigment, and was more difficult to process.   (If you want to try your hand at indigo dyeing, here’s an interesting link:  In the late 1800s, a German scientist, Baeyer, developed a synthetic indigo dye.   Synthetic indigo was cheaper to produce and its introduction decimated the natural indigo agriculture industry.  Today, most denim is dyed with artificial indigo.  A few Japanese textile companies  use natural indigo.

There are pros and cons to both natural and synthetic indigo.  Synthetic indigo produces chemical waste; irresponsible textile companies dump these chemicals into the environment.     Natural indigo fades more beautifully than synthetic, however it costs more and requires agricultural land to grow.  Both synthetic and natural indigo must be “reduced” to a soluble form prior to dyeing cotton.  Modern methods use   sodium dithionite (hydrosulfite) as a reducing agent.  One of the problems with using synthetic dye is that sodium dithionite gets converted to sulfate and sulfite in the process, which is harmful to marine life if dumped in waterways.  Responsible mills recycle or treat their waste.  Some modern denim textile companies have pioneered new methods of dyeing indigo which reduce waste considerably.  For centuries, the Japanese have used a fermentation process called “aizome” to dye indigo, which is much friendlier to the environment, and does not use sodium dithionite.

For decades, finishes have been applied to milled denim, such as sanforization (pre-shrinking), brushing the denim for a particular texture, and other finishes to achieve certain textures and looks.  Most denim today is sanforized, or pre-shrunk.  In recent years, some denim enthusiasts have developed a preference for unsanforized denim jeans, however these jeans can shrink up to 10% after the first wash.

In the 1980s, manufacturers began to artificially distress denim jeans with pumice stones.  Later, chemical techniques and sandblasting were used to distress denim garments.  Although the distressed look is quite popular, the chemicals used are toxic to workers and the environment.  Caustic chemicals burn and irritate workers’ skin, eyes and lungs.   Chemical waste produced from these practices has become an environmental problem in certain countries.  In Turkey, sandblasting was banned due to deleterious health effects and the death of young workers (silicosis of the lungs).  The chemicals just aren’t worth it, if people become sick as a result!   Unfortunately, sandblasting continues in other parts of the world, despite its lack of sustainability. 

Several denim manufacturers are innovating to reduce their footprint.  Some denim mills use recycled plastic and organic cotton.  A Spanish denim mill now uses a dry dyeing technique for their denim, which uses little to no water.   Responsible jeans manufacturers now use ozone or laser technology to distress denim, instead of chemicals or sandblasting. 

 It’s worth examining our relationship with denim.  Do we really need umpteen artificially distressed denim garments? Why does the average American throw away 80 pounds of clothing per year, just to end up in a landfill?   Why not buy fewer and better quality garments, and let denim break in naturally?  Naturally broken in denim lasts much longer, and uses less chemicals.  Buy Less,  Choose Well and Make it Last! 

Roanoke Rags can’t fix all the problems in the global textile industry.  However we can make better choices, no matter how small.  Small changes lead to bigger changes.  We choose not to distress denim garments with chemicals.  We strive to source denim from responsible mills.  Honestly, as a small company, sourcing is challenging; sometimes we may miss the mark.  But that doesn’t mean we quit our efforts. We do our best.  Part of that effort is educating you!  We support American manufacturing and fair wages.    Thank you for your support!

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Naomi’s Pioneer Story

Women’s stories on the western frontier are scarce, which is why Naomi’s story needs to be told.  This story spans the Civil War, The Great Run in 1889  (when Oklahoma was opened to settlers), and continues to mid-20th century.  The story also touches on the history of American Indians being pushed into smaller territories, which was not right.  To put it in Naomi’s words, “Land hunger had made men mad!”  Naomi’s two teenage brothers tried to claim property in Oklahoma, but instead lost their claim to bullies and lived on Indian Territory.  Apparently,  the Indians were gracious to her brothers despite the circumstances.  When Naomi’s brothers left for Oklahoma, it created a significant hardship for her mother, leaving her to run a farm and raise three young children by herself.   Naomi describes how she improvised by making corn cob dolls, and the only time she stole an item — a picture card!   Reading this story will take you to  another time in our country.


Naomi’s Pioneer Story

Dear Children,

You have urged me many times to write my memoirs.  My life has been that of the usual life of the pioneers of Texas.  I came from pioneer stock which was always on the move to new frontiers.  My paternal and maternal ancestors were always pushing westward, always with the covered wagon, their bedding, the box of precious quilts and linens, their cooking vessels, the wife and children and the faithful dog which was never far away unless he was chasing a rabbit or some other small animal near the trail.  The iron teakettle hung from the rear axle of the wagon and the rifle and axe were always in easy reach. 

Life along the trail was exciting for the children for they were allowed to walk beside the slow moving wagon when weather permitted.  They were expected to always keep in sight of the wagon.  Even then there was plenty to entertain them.  Singing birds, darting lizards, ground squirrels, lazy buzzards sailing overhead, crows cawing, and snakes (as they slithered through the grass) provided endless entertainment.  

My paternal grandparents came from Scotland to America in an immigrant ship.  I know very little about their life, only that my grandfather was a Highlander, my grandmother a Lowlander.  They met on board ship and forgot that Lowlanders despised Highlanders, fell in love and were married when the boat landed in New York City.  Evidently they stayed there for years for there was a family when they went to Canada — always on the move westward.  After reaching the plains in Canada, they turned southward into the United States and finally ended up in Kansas where I think my father was born {in 1845}. 

My maternal grandparents, descendants of the Pennsylvania Dutch, also had itching feet, always moving westward, taking with them their ways and customs of thrift, frugality and religion.  They were typical short, plump, happy, good natured Dutch.  They finally landed in Missouri with a large family of thirteen children.  My mother, the eldest, Nancy, was born in Iowa.

Then came the long years of the Civil War and all the hardships which are a part of war.  Mother, only 14 {years old}, being the eldest of the children, had to be her mother’s mainstay while her father was away in the Union Army.  She did a lot of the work which ordinarily fell to the men in the household.  Schooling was almost out of the question — only two or three months a year.  Mother had a great amount of native ability but very little training, but from her we inherited her industry and native ability to make the best of a little and some of us a yearning for education. 

Well the war was over at last.  The men came home from the wars.  My father, who was in the Union Army just a very young man, returned and drifted over the border of Kansas into Missouri and taught school.  There he met and married my mother soon after.  They were able to acquire a comfortable home and three small children.  Life looked good to Mother who had decided “rolling stones gather no moss”, but Father’s feet began to itch.  They went to sleep talking Texas; awoke, the same, ate, the same.  Finally Mother gave in.  They sold the farm, left the root cellar full of dried fruit, vegetables in bins, barrels of apples, and shelves lined with huge cheeses, and a little grave at Mt. Moriah Church.  A part of Mother was always back in Missouri.  They started by train to Sherman which was the end of the road.  

The trip to Texas as far as Sherman was uneventful, but there trouble began.  They were headed toward Denton County.  The railroad was under construction both ways from Sherman toward Dallas, and Dallas north toward Sherman.  At Sherman they purchased a camping outfit and a wagon and team.  That they did not know was that one horse was balky.  Now a balky horse will pull when he gets ready and not before.  They loaded the wagon and started.  In the meantime the rainy season had begun.  There were no bridges and when a river had to be crossed it had to be forded.  They came to one which was rising, drove in, and that horse lay down in the harness, got tangled up and was drowning.  Finally, Father carried the children to the bank, deposited them, came back {and} helped Mother to the horse’s head where she helped the horse’s head out of the water while he undid the traces — it was perfectly willing to get up.  Now the queer part is that I do not remember how they said they managed the rest of the way.  I’m sure they did, for the next I remember Mother telling of their stay down at Shiloh, near where Corinth now is, camped and working on the railroad and how scared they were of tarantulas, snakes, spiders, centipedes, lizards and frogs.  Mother perspired while cooking Christmas dinner.  Spring flowers were all over the spots of prairie in that section.  She was used to snow and ice with a great log fire to sit by. 

Finally  the railroad from Dallas to Sherman was completed.  Land was cheap east of where Denton is now and in Big Elm bottoms, so another move was made only this time to their own home on credit. 

They had paid $2.50 per acre for 160 acres {per} quarter section.  $400 was a frightening debt in those days.  Among my mother’s paper was a note $2.50 sometimes $5.00 credited.  There were five children by then and two more came along.  One of those two babies died after my birth, the other newborn died soon after the last move. 

The new home was a large log house in which they built and lived until the big house which was built, a large 18′ x 20′ story and a half high.  In those days, all southern homes were built with a kitchen fifteen or twenty feet from the big house.  We were learning to do things the southern way.  Before the Big House was finished I was born in the log house which had a mud and stick chimney.  The weather had been bad for days.  It had started to snow in the early morning, January 15, 1885, and had fallen all day and January 16 all day.  Of course that was the time for me to arrive so I didn’t wait for anyone’s convenience.  There were no nice white hospitals with doctors in caps and long white coats nor nurses in white uniforms.  The snow did not stop falling, nor did the wind cease to blow.  But did I care?  There was a dear woman who ushered me into the cold, white world, but that log and mud chimney chose that time to {fall} in and the wind blowing as it only can in Texas.  How they ever fixed it I’ll never know before someone including me froze to death.   That was where I received my nice long name from the dear lady who helped me into this world I have known so long. 

Troubles began to hover over us.   The money they had received from the Missouri sale was gone.  They never collected the notes still due them.  First the terrible toll the hard life was taking from Mother who had after all only a woman’s strength and my father seemed unable to cope with the situation.  Now after years of study, I can see his mental deterioration had set in, but in those days people knew so little about mental disorders.  I grew in spite of short rations and hardships, but as I look back I was shielded from as much as possible by my family because I was the last baby and I supposed they adored me.  I grew into a short, brown-eyed Dutch child, not a lanky Scot. 

I cannot remember much about my father.  I have a faint memory of waving from the front door as he went away one day and saying, “Bring peaches”.  He had long since stopped teaching.  That morning he went to help a neighbor stack his hay at which he was very good.  The heat overcame him and he had to stop work.  He left at evening to come home, but never returned home.  After searching the next day, the neighbors found him wandering in a large wooded area entirely lost to his surroundings.  He was sent to an institution but he never totally recovered.  A sickness of that type is reason for divorce.  So Mother was granted one.  The struggle for livelihood continued.  Even though the two boys were large enough to help, they were beginning to show evidence of the family disease of “itching” feet.  They could sometimes get to help the neighbors at work which boys their age could do or they could sell a wagon load of wood for $1.00, {which } bought a lot {in} those days:  40 lbs. bacon, 20 lbs. of coffee, which had to be roasted and ground.  My work was to watch the roasting, and my what a scolding If I let it scorch!  Then when coffee was needed, I sat on the floor with the coffee mill between my fat legs and ground it.  My next job was learning to set the table and I took a lot of pride in doing my task. 

Each of us children had tasks for which we were accountable.  The boys did the heavier work, plowing with a turning plow, georgia stock and double shovel.  They went to the Big Elm River bottom on the days which were too bad for field work and cut wood which we burned in the fireplace at which we warmed and cooked our food.  Then when cook stoves came in we burned short sticks to fit the stove.  My sister, larger than me, made beds, swept, helped milk, ironed and all the other jobs around the house.  Mother oversaw the farm, sewed and cooked.

Travel was very slow for those who {drove} oxen.  My first memories were both horses and oxen on our farm.  The oxen drew the plows and hauled the wood.  When we went to Denton or to the neighbors we drove the mares in style.  Most times their colts went along and never became lost from the mother mare.  The driver and mother sat in the wagon seat.  The rest sat on boards or on a quilt pallet behind.  That was the way we went to church which was once each month until the revival in the summer which was twice each day for 10 or 15 days.  We had a great time! 

There were two gala days — Christmas and Circus days.  We looked forward for those days from one year to the next.  We saved our nickels and not many (we had no pennies those days) starting the day after Christmas.  A lot could be bought for 50 cents — a new ribbon, a comb, a pair of hose, 2 new handkerchiefs, a box of powder chamois skin.  Now {when} chamois skin is mentioned, young people wonder what they were.  They were skins from small animals in Asia called powder rags which the young ladies used in applying face powder. 

The Great Run for Land 

The United States government had put various Indian tribes on reservation in Indian territory and was opening the strip known as Oklahoma for settlement in the last months of 1889.  The two big brothers, Emmett and Ed, outfitted their wagon, filled their grub box, tied their horses with saddles behind and started for the Run.  By stretching their ages they were allowed to make the Run.  Such a day and such a race!  Land hunger had made men mad!  The boys squatted on their claims but the oldest, Emmett, had to leave to register their filings and by morning two ruffians had moved stakes and driven Ed off the claim.  But they stayed on to grow up with the country in the Indian Territory.  Mother was along with us three younger children, 1 small ill boy and two girls, all that were left.  Not much help on a farm, so she married a younger man than she, which step she later regretted, but in those days women had no other ways open in which they might be able to maintain a home. 

Time flew by.  Life was a joy and a wonder.  I had to spend a lot of time playing alone, because my sister, Mable, was several years older than I and there was a gap between my redheaded brother and I.  He had boy friends of his own so I learned to amuse myself. 

I built many a lovely playhouse in the chimney corner which was a warm place in the morning and a cool one in the afternoon.  My chinaware was bits of broken dishes and pieces of glass, my rooms were divided by rows of small rocks.  My linens were squares torn from an old sheet beyond further use.  My floors were sanded and kept smooth with a weed broom.  My chairs were boards laid up on rocks and if I was careful I could sit on them without falling over.  And my children!  They were lovely!  Red corn cobs — white corn cobs with lovely dresses from my mother’s scrap bag.  They always sat up straight, kept their dresses clean and never talked back!  But — they never could learn to count nor sing. 

We had a German who ran the engine which pumped water for the trains who said he would give me 25 cents to learn to count to 20 in German.  That was the hardest quarter I ever earned before or since.  I finally mastered the task and I didn’t spend the 25 cents for a long time.  I would look at it and remember how long it took to earn it.  I think that experience taught me that it takes hard work to earn an honest penny and when it was earned it should not be spent foolishly. 

With all the rigors of frontier living it had its pleasures.  Finding a bird nest, watching the comings and goings of the parent birds, the hatching and flight of the young.  They never lost their enchantment for me. 

While the others were busy, I and our two dogs, a large bull and mastiff, roamed the fields and the slough.  We found many a rabbit and ground squirrel.  And snakes!  The bull always went before me wherever I went.  He had a peculiar bark which he reserved for snakes.  I always stopped until he killed it.  Sometimes his {head} was swollen for days from being bitten by a rattler or water moccasin.  We always fed him sweet milk. 

One day we all went berry hunting.  Of course the dogs were along.  We crossed the railroad and the mastiff followed by old Cuff stopped to watch us and I suppose the roar of the train was so loud he could not hear me screaming and calling.  The train knocked him way off the track and broke his back.  Mable, Ab and I tried our best to lift him up but it was no use.  I cried for hours and finally my brother Ed who was home from the Osage Nation went to see about him and reported that he was dead.  I never told anyone that I had seen Ed put the six shooter in his pocket.  I have always loved dogs and no one has had worse luck with their dogs than I.  I knew they were trying to help me from being so heart broken. 

We never went along into Big Elk, river bottom for there were panthers and bobcats in the big timber.  Their screams could be heard after night fall.  Once while Mother and we were along, she had sent cattle out of the timber.  The horse suddenly became frightened and refused to go.  He hit the horse with his quirt, he gave a great bound down the trail and a huge panther gave a scream and jumped toward the boy and horse but missed.  We never went to the woods alone after that and the boys went in pairs. 

I have told you how I learned to work and save.  I forgot to tell how I stole my first and only time.  In our home there were only necessities.  There was no money for a pretty book or a picture.  My step-father and mother had become acquainted with a professor and Mrs. Moore, a teacher at the old Normal College, which I later attended at Denton.  They would drive out in their buggy and eat dinner with us and spend the day.  I would sit and play in their buggy.  One day I saw under the seat on the floor a pretty card with birds and flowers in colors.  Oh, my how I wanted it!  I was too timid to ask but I just couldn’t let it get away!  So I took it and hid it in the corn crib.  Horrors!  What if they missed it!  But they didn’t. 

I would go to the crib and look at that card and each time it became less beautiful and every time I went I expected the Bad Man to come around the corner of the barn.  I thought they would never come back, but they did and I struck out for the barn to get that picture and I put it back the first chance.  I’ve never since wanted anything which did not belong to me.  I was only starved for the beautiful.  But art and literature were only for the educated and I was only six.  I never told that experience — only to God until I had little children of my own. 

Denton County was still a “cow country” and still had open range.  We had a good sized herd, and a few we milked, but as I now look back, one good Jersey {cow} today would give as much as 5 those days.  Mother and the boys were trying to raise a crop and the corn and cotton land was fenced.  our herd came up at night to their calves and were penned, but range cattle from the prairies as far as thirty miles away would roam the country side.  Often Mother would take a boy behind her on a horse at night and ride the fence to see if they had torn it down and were in the corn.  Many a night I would hear an old bull roaring and cower beneath the covers frightened to death.  To keep me from crying, Mable would say, “If you cry the Old Surly will get you.”  Now I had no idea what a “surley” was but I knew he must be big as a barn from the noise he made.  Everything was alright when Mother returned. 

The schools had very short terms.  Usually about 3 months, December, January, and February.  Then the boys and quite often the girls must help clean up the land for the new crop.  A lot was crowded into those few months and how happy I was when I became eight years old, and I could start to school.  The two and one half miles to and from Cooper Creek was no walk at all for at the end of it were all those boys and girls,m the McGuffey’s Reader, the Swinton Word book, the crayon and blackboard, and the long log on which we sat to eat our lunch.  The evening passed quickly.  Then the long walk home but at the end was a roaring fir in the fireplace, a good supper and a wonderful bed waiting for me.  My last words to my mother were, “Call me when you get up so I can get ready for school.”  The days went by — “readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic”, taught to the tune of a hickory stick! 

Life moved on.  When I was nine my mother and stepfather decided to move to Denton so I was placed in the Denton school.  There was only one three-story building which housed all the scholastics.  I saw little difference except we had a longer term and a better building which was no comparison with present day housing.  The instruction was about the same.  School work was still absorbingly interesting to me.  I always made good grades in the grades and high school and how happy I was! 

When the College of Industrial Arts was located in Denton, Mother sold our little home to the State for College location and we went back to the farm.  I did some review work at Cooper Creek expecting to take the State Examination for a teacher’s certificate, but your father, Warren, persuaded me that as he had taught and saved all his money and he had made a good crop that we could be married.  We were married in July of 1903.  Warren’s family, which was a large one, gave me a kindly welcome into the noisy good-natured clan.  A lot of them have gone on now, but those who are left love me and I love them like I loved my own brothers and sister. 

Back to the Wedding — Our friends unknown to us had decorated the church beautifully, and your father and I not expecting it, were so dumbfounded I thought we would never get up the long aisle to the altar.  After the wedding we began housekeeping out {near} Sanger Highway.  We had a nice little four-room house but we only used three rooms.  We did not have a lot of furniture but did not waste any time fretting.  We went to work.  He had a team and wagon and buggy.  I had a cow and calf and some hens.  Pretty soon, we had Louise and Mable, then Robert three years later.  The children grew, had the usual childhood diseases and grew as children do.  We always took them to church and Sunday School.  The first Sunday after a new baby was born we took it to the altar for consecration.  Today all my children have families and each is an active member of the church-stewards-Sunday School teachers, etc. 

I had wanted to tell you earlier about how I became a Methodist.  One day soon after we had moved to Denton, Mother sent me uptown on an errand and I met a tall dark man in a long coat (all preachers wore long coats then) who stopped me.  He spoke kindly and asked if I went to Sunday School (Rev. R.L. Galls).  I answered, “No, sir.”  “Well”, he replied, “next Sunday at 9:30 you go right around the corner to the little brown church and I’ll meet you there.”  I went and he was the Pastor who met me.  I was so happy that I have been going ever since.  One time there was a special children’s service during a revival conducted by Rev. H.C. Morrison and Mrs. Morrison.  I was 10+.  I felt I was plenty old enough to give my heart to Jesus so I went up, knelt at the altar and there in my childish way gave Him my heart and life.  Mother thought I was too young so they took me in on 6 months probation and at 11, after memorizing my catechisms, first and twenty-third psalm, beatitudes, apostles creed, ten commandments and the Lord’s prayer, etc., I was taken into the church — 60 years ago.  I’ve loved every minute of it. 

The children started to school at Cooper Creek where we had moved at the end of our first year of marriage.  There you children joined the church and grew up for a few years.  

Teaching Urge Returns

After you had all entered school and hard times were tightening up I began to think of teaching again.  In the meantime I had had a long siege of pneumonia and had spent a while in the West.  Not being able to do a great deal of work I did a lot of review work and in the Spring took an examination before the County Board.  I made the required average and received a four year county certificate.  I taught at Cooper Creek three years and we sold our little home which we had bought and moved to Stony.  I had obtained a first grade high school certificate and I continued teaching.  It was well that I did, for your father became ill.  We expected his trouble to respond to treatment but after spending all the money we had and could get hold of, the specialist told us it was useless, to take him home and keep him as comfortable as possible. 

That was not all.  Robert began to limp during the days and cried with his leg at night.  He had to have medical attention and did not respond.  I took him to Dallas to a Dr. Milliken who was recommended by our family Doctor Hooper.  We were so happy, even though he was on crutches and in a cast from his waist down, that he finally could sleep like a baby. 

“Those were the days that tried men’s souls” and women’s.  Mother, who had been mother and father, had died and I felt that the bottom had fallen out.  Then my brother died 7 months later.  We had put all the money we had and what the stock brought, when we moved to Stony.  The crop in the river bottom was ruined by overflow after overflow.  Louise was not happy in school and we had transferred to North Texas Demonstration School which was costing more.  She was doing GPPD work which was gratifying.  In 1921 she graduated and entered college to finish another year which had been included in high school.  The other two, Mable and Robert, continued at Stony.  Robert drove a burro to a jump cart back and forth to school. 

The task and the expense of getting Robert back and forth to Dallas for treatment seemed impossible sometime, but the family planned and schemed how we could meet it and we always did.  Once though I nearly did not.  I had one lone nickel when I reached home.  He had to have fresh steak, liver, milk, eggs, etc.  We had milk and eggs, but when we sold our big cans of milk we paid the feed bill and bought a few groceries.  The girls would be standing by watching me count the remainder and would question:  “Well, did we make it?”  I could always answer:  “We did, by the grace of God” and He never failed us.  Sometimes we could only buy a pound of steak but Robert ate the meat and the rest of {us} ate gravy.  He kept improving while his father became worse.  But we had some lovely times even though others perhaps though it mockery but our family dies hard. 

Robert always had a gang following, some larger than he and they would carry him pack-saddle or piggy back when they went to the creek for a possum or pecans.  On the playground he had a place on the ball team.  One boy held his crutch for him to bat, while another stood ready to run for him.  We never allowed him to feel that he was any worse off than others. 

Always as long as your father was able, he was ready to go with you to church.  He gathered you around, read from God’s Word and offered a prayer for all of us.  I feel that those prayers still follow.  Had it not been that he and I when we went first into our little home knelt and asked Him always to be an honored guest in it, we might not have felt the joy that we had when were told we had nice good children.  Even yet, people, especially elderly ones, will tell me how pleased they were for you to be nice to them.  I am trying to tell you that the Christian religion pays off — not in dollars and cents, but in joy and contentment. 

Well, life never stood still.  Your father’s progressive illness continued.  Mable had to drop out of school to care for him.  Louise was teaching on a special permit.  Robert lost a year out of school.  I had to make a living.  During the winter I taught and took Extension Courses from N. Texas State College.  In the spring we farmed, made garden, milked cows, plowed, hoed and went to church on Sunday.  Robert was off the crutches and could ride a plow.  He and I did the plowing, the girls hoed and we hired some hoeing and the picking done.  Then in the summer we went to North Texas State College. 

The years went by.  The last two years of your father’s life he was helpless, even in the most intimate ways he had to be waited on.  In December of 1926, after years of suspense, he died without warning.  I stood on the porch many times afraid of what I should find if I opened the door.  He went away in a blinding snow storm that raged for two days.  When I returned from the days teaching, Mabel reported that she could not get him to eat and I was trying to give him eggnog. 

The Christmas tree lay on the front porch ready to be put up.  The only time that we’ve ever missed having one since we had married 23 years before.  We’ve never missed one since.  I tried to put a Christmas wreath on his grave every year but cannot any more since I feel the years creeping up.