To Dr. James Hendricks for sharing his medical expertise not only in this book, but in previous books.
To Mary Ann Hendricks, for her enthusiasm, pinpoint suggestions and patient listening.
To Marjorie Theiss, for her quick mind, her sharp pencil, and for being such a good friend.
To Pete Carroll of Ringling, Oklahoma, for telling me about cotton patches, post oak brush, bull nettles and hard times during the ‘30’s.
To Claude Woods, curator of the Healdton Oil Museum, Healdton, Oklahoma, for telling me about how it was back then.
To family and friends, especially Mary Ben Cretenoid of Dallas, Texas, who shared bits and pieces of their memories of the Great Depression.
And to my grandchildren, Adam Mix, Loraine and Amos Mix, who have a hard time believing people “back in the olden days” could live and be happy without television sets, computers, microwaves and Burger King.
You open your eyes at the sound of her voice,
See her sweet face at the dawn.
Greet the new morn and rejoice, yes, rejoice
For you are so lucky, my son.
You are so lucky, my little man,
Staying with Henry Ann
You close your eyes at the day’s end now
When she sings you a lullaby,
You feel her dear kiss upon your brow
As off to dreamland you fly.
You are so blessed, my little man
‘Biding with Henry Ann.
I miss you, my lad, back at our farm.
Your mother grows stranger each day.
Henry, I know, will guard you from harm.
For your sake, I keep you away.
Yes, you are safer, my little man,
Living with Henry Ann.
I know it is wrong that I envy you
The joy and the comfort you’ve found.
I want to be happy and carefree too,
From my miserable marriage unbound.
I want to be with you, my little man,
Loving with Henry Ann.
“How’er ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Pa-ree? How’er ya gonna keep ’em—da-da-da-da-da—”
Dorene gazed into the mirror as she sang, adjusted the neckline of the thin sleeveless dress she wore, then licked her fingers and flattened the spit curl on her forehead.
“Are you leaving . . . again?” The small barefoot girl stood in the doorway and watched her young, pretty mother preen in front of the dresser mirror.
“Why’d you come?”
“To pay you a visit.”
Dorene Henry twisted from one side to the other so that the long fringe on the bottom of her sleeveless dress would swirl around her legs.
“Daddy said you come ’cause you wanted money.”
“Your daddy owes me. I’m still his wife, and the law says he has to support me. But I wanted to see you, too.”
“You really come for the money. Will you be back?”
“Maybe. Do you care?”
“I guess so.” The child shrugged indifferently. Then, “Will you?”
“I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not.” Dorene gave the girl a casual pat on the head and closed the packed suitcase that lay on the bed.
“Daddy’d get you a pony . . . if you stay.”
“Good Lord!” Dorene rolled her eyes. “I want a lot of things, snookums, but a pony ain’t one of ’em.”
“Don’t call me that. My name’s Henry Ann.”
Dorene rolled her eyes again. “How could I possibly forget? Where’s your daddy now?”
“In the field. Are you goin’ to tell him good-bye?”
“Why should I? He knows I’m going.”
Dorene’s deep felt hat fit her head like a cap. She eased it on, careful not to disturb the spit curls on her cheeks.
“You could thank him for the money.”
“He had to give it to me. I’m his wife. Your daddy don’t like me much or he’d not have made me live out here in the sticks where I was lucky if I saw a motorcar go by once a week. Work is all he thinks about. You . . . and work, I should add.”
“He likes you too. He just didn’t want you to cut off your hair like a . . . like a flapper, rouge your cheeks, and wear dresses that show your legs. Daddy says it makes you look trashy.”
“He wouldn’t know trashy if it jumped up and bit him,” Dorene sneered. “He likes me so much he wants me to walk behind a plow, hoe cotton, slop hogs, and have a string of younguns. I’m not doin’ it. If God had meant for me to be a slave, he’d of made me black and ugly. And that’s that.”
“I like it here. I’m never going to leave,” Henry Ann said defiantly.
“You may think so now. Wait until you grow up.”
“Are you goin’ to the city in a motorcar?”
“We’re goin’ to Ardmore in a motorcar and take the train to Oklahoma City. I’ve . . . got things to do there.” Dorene put her foot on the chair, adjusted the beribboned garter above her knee, then straightened the bow on the vamp of her shoe. The child watched, but her mind was elsewhere.
Yeah, I know. I heard you tell Daddy that you’ve got a little boy back in the city. You’ve got to go take care of HIM! I’ve got Daddy to take care of me.
Dorene picked up her suitcase and went through the house to the porch. A touring car was parked in the road in front of the house. A man with a handlebar mustache came to the porch to take her suitcase. He wore a black suit and a white shirt with a high-necked collar. His felt hat tilted jauntily on his head, and he smelled strongly of hair tonic. He looked from the barefoot child to Dorene.
“This your kid?”
“’Fraid so, lover. She’s only six. I had her when I was fifteen and had no idea how to keep from havin’ younguns.”
“Six?” Henry Ann said with indignation. “I’m nine almost ten. And you were sixteen when I was born. Daddy said so.”
Dorene glared at the child as if she’d like to slap her; but when she turned to the man, she was all smiles.
“This smart-mouthed little brat is Henry Henry. Ain’t that the most god-awful name you ever heard of for a girl? I named her Henry after her daddy. It was his idea to have her and my idea to name her.”
“No doubt,” he muttered.
“I pulled one over on old Ed and got the name on the birth certificate before he knew what was what.” Dorene giggled, and her eyes shone like glass beads. “He ’bout had a calf! Lordy mercy, it was funny! He tore outta that room like a turpentined cat! He run darn near to town to catch the doctor and got ‘Ann’ stuck in between the Henrys. Ain’t that rich?”
The man frowned. “Yeah, rich.”
He looking from the child to the mother, thinking there was a resemblance and hoping for the child’s sake it was only skin-deep.
“I like my name. No one else has one like it.”
The child spoke quietly and with such dignity that the man felt a spark of embarrassment.
Damn this baggage.
He’d dump her right now if it were not for the favors promised when they reached Ardmore.
“Let’s get goin’,” he growled impatiently.
“I’m ready, sugar.” Dorene failed to notice the man grimace in reaction to the pet name and gave him a bright smile.
He looked at the child again, then looked quickly away, picked up the suitcase, and headed back to the car.
“Are you going to kiss me good-bye?” Dorene hesitated before stepping off the porch.
“Not this time.”
“My God!” Her musical laugh rang out. “You’re gettin’ more like your daddy every day.” She stooped and kissed the child’s cheek, then hurried across the yard to the car, teetering on her high heels, the six-inch fringe on the bottom of her dress dancing around her legs.
Henry Ann stood on the porch and watched her mother step up onto the running board and into the car.
I’ll not be like you! I’ll never go off and leave my little girl no matter how much I hate her daddy. You won’t be back this time . . . and you know what? I don’t care!
The man cranked the motor, detached the crank, threw it behind the seat, and slid under the wheel. Dorene waved gaily as the motorcar took off in a cloud of dust.