Once a week when I was about 8, I carried water to the wooden tub under our cherry tree; "Brown Pony" would spend most of his day there. My friend and her mother would soon be coming down our long driveway in their open buggy with the pony at a gentle trot. It was the day for Catherine Page to come for her piano lesson. Catherine and her mother were our guests for lunch on those music lesson days.
When Mom and Catherine disappeared through the curtains to the living room, I enjoyed an hour with Catherine’s mom. She was Hattie Parsons Page, older than Mom and educated at a girls boarding school in western Missouri near her childhood home. The school was a lot of girls living together, sharing giggles and pranks, keeping rooms spotless, walking down a long path to the bath. Every dorm room had its lidded, porcelain chamber for nights - known as "the white owl," "the thunder mug" or just "the pot." Students had to empty these toilets and keep them spotless.
Every room had a tiny iron monkey stove for heating; ashes had to be removed. Teachers graded on things I never heard of, such as deportment and elocution. Hattie Parsons was a good student who loved to write about things of interest to other people - real things, not fiction. Curiosity was sometimes mistaken for prying into others’ lives. However, her questions, coupled with an impish smile, revealed a tireless drive to see that things turned out all right for family and friends!
I loved to hear about Hattie’s early life!
Somehow she got to Oklahoma. Free land had been parceled out to various American Indian tribes, and more land was still available. Hattie yearned for some of that land that hadn’t been claimed.
Although American Indian territory was closed to whites, a tract in central Oklahoma was opened on a first-come, first-served basis. On April 22, 1889, a trumpet blast set off the eager mob, and thousands raced to stake their claims. As a young, unmarried woman, Hattie participated in the land rush!
When Hattie and I had those times together, I was too young to understand what that meant, but I listened. Hattie might have gone to Oklahoma as a teacher; many women did. She wisely staked her claim along the banks of a river. A bachelor named John Page also staked his claim along that river. Yes, they married and eventually had two boys and Catherine.
After lunch, Mom and Catherine were in the living room while Hattie and I cleared the table and sat there talking quietly.
The family later moved to an old, worn-out farm in Boone County, south of Harg.
Both Bryant and William had violins, and a neighbor took them to Columbia once a week for lessons. The Pages had bought the instruments from an Italian peddler.
William, a few years older than I, was eager to show me what he had learned each week. He taught me how to tighten the bow, hold it, rosin it and play open strings. I was thrilled. Inside his violin was the name of a known Italian violin maker, Carlo Bergonzi. It was written on an old, dirty tag - not into the wood of the body of the instrument. That was nice but meant that the violin was a copy of the master’s work - not his actual construction. More later.