Ed Routh and Rhoda Routh
It was the year 1895. The old farm wagon traveled at a slow speed down the dusty dirt road. The young woman, sitting on the spring seat, peered at her new husband from under the rim of her poke bonnet. Rhoda was wondering if they would regret their decision to marry, over the strong objections of their relatives. She couldn’t think it was wrong. She and Ed loved each other so much. Every since she had gone over to help out at Grandpa’s, it seemed inevitable that she and Ed would marry. Now that they were married, she would have to be careful and remember not to call him “Uncle Ed”. Everything they owned was in the wagon, covered with an old tarp. They would have to live in the wagon until Ed worked and saved enough money to buy a place of their own. Rhoda could not believe they really were on their way to Oklahoma. Ed’s half brother, William, had taken part in the great Oklahoma land rush. The government opened the territory for settlement. Everyone started at the starting line and made a fast rush for the land of their choice. If someone else beat them to it, they would ride on and stake out the next piece of land they came to. Will bought a fast Indian pony and carried his stakes on his saddle. He beat everyone to the place he had picked out. He jumped off of his pony, drove his stakes in the red dirt and it was his. His descendants still live along the Cherokee Strip, in Oklahoma.
Ed and Rhoda stayed near Will and his family for awhile, and Ed worked until they had enough money to go back home. They were homesick for the Ozarks, so they loaded up the wagon and drove to Henry County. Their son, Luther, was born there in September, 1895. When Luther was two, Ed bought forty acres in Cedar County, near his Pap’s old place. Ed built a one room log cabin. Before he got it chinked up snug for winter, (it turned so cold one night they were sure they would freeze before morning) Rhoda wrapped some eggs up in a quilt and put them close to the hot stove, planning to cook them for breakfast. The eggs froze solid during the night, and she had to wait until they thawed before she could cook them.
Ed built his big house, as he always called it, tall enough to have a loft over it. He built a ladder next to the wall, and this was enclosed and used as a hall closet to hang clothes in. It was hard to get past the coats to climb the ladder to go up stairs. The stove pipe went up through this room and it was here Rhoda placed her canned goods in the winter, so they would not freeze. Later, Ed added a small kitchen on the north side of the main room. It was made of native lumber and covered with tar paper to make it warmer. They lived for the rest of their lives in that house. They also died in the house, in the same bed and in the same corner of the room. One of their greatest sorrows was when Rhoda gave birth to her second baby. It was stillborn. Ed used to say, “Maybe if that baby had lived, we would not have spoiled Luther so much.”
Ed was a tall man. He had sky blue eyes, big bones and the largest hands you ever saw. He could do the roughest farm chores or hold the tiniest baby as gentle as a woman with them. He loved all the babies in the family, and would hold them every chance he got. When they wet on him, he would say, “I think you had better go back to your mammy now.”
Everyone who knew Ed when he was old, thought he was an even tempered man. He claimed that he had learned when he was young, that he lost more than he gained when he let his temper get the best of him. His oldest grandson, Ray, said, “I remember one time Grandpa really got mad. He had a little mare named Nick, and if you didn’t watch her she would bite you, if you gave her half a chance. One time she bit Grandpa on his shoulder. He doubled up his fist and hit her on the nose. He aimed to hit her on the soft part, but she moved and he hit her right on her nose where the bone is. His fist swelled up real big. We thought for awhile he had broken it. Grandpa was mad that time, but he said, “It just goes to show you. It is best not to let your temper get away from you. Sometimes you hurt yourself.”
Rhoda was just the opposite of Ed. She was short and soft and very warm hearted. She kept that little log house neat and clean. She always seemed to be baking sweet things for Ed. He sure loved his desserts. Her grandchildren knew there was always goodies at Grandma’s house. If nothing else, they could find baked sweet potatoes in the oven of the big wood cook stove. Ray liked to sneak up and snitch the little yeast cakes she made and set out on the window sill to dry. He worked the corner of the screen loose so he could get at them. He always made sure he left enough so she could do her next baking. Ray didn’t know it until much later, but she made a few extra just for him to steal!
Luther grew up on that farm, helping his dad grow corn to feed the livestock. They also grew watermelons to take to town to sell. Luther said, “We had to quit planting them durn watermelons though, cause the vines grew so fast they drug those watermelons right out into the road. The neighbors sure got mad at us, because they couldn’t git around them to go to town!” During winter, they cut wood to sell in Humansville. Luther was a tall boy, not quite as tall as his dad. His eyes were a pale blue gray. He had a habit of raising his eyebrows as he talked. Rhoda kept him in clean clothes, making sure he was dressed his best when he went to town.
Ed bought Luther a saddle horse to ride when he was eighteen. He rode around with the other young men at that time, going to church meetings in the little communities around the country. Mostly, they would stay outside, waiting to see the girls, to talk them into walking them home. If one said, “yes”, they would walk home with them, leading their horses behind them. The girls seldom left their own neighborhoods, and if one had a “feller”, from one of the other communities, she was envied by all of the other girls. This fact sometimes led to bitter fight among the boys, as the neighborhood boys resented the strangers. Often knives were used to settle a quarrel about a girl and some of the boys were cut up pretty badly.
Luther was twenty-three, and Rhoda must have thought it was time he was finding a nice girl to marry. She invited a new girl, Lessie Swindler, whose parents had moved from Arnica, to come home from church with her. Lessie told her daughter Lois about that day. Lessie said, “As we walked up, we heard Luther playing his banjo and singing. When he saw us, he was so bashful, he ran up the stairway and shut the door. Then he finished his song. At dinner, I guess he was as nervous as I was, because he was trying so hard to eat right and show off his manners, that when I sneaked a look at him, he was cutting each little bean in half before he ate them.”.