Submitted by Don Doman
In an earlier article, A Covered Wagon Journey from Texas to the Land of Billy the Kid, I shared a little about my grandmother, who eventually ran the Grove Motel just outside of Parkland during the 1960s. Her life led her from Texas and New Mexico to Oklahoma, Missouri and finally Tacoma.
My mother and her twin sister were born in Chickasha, Oklahoma in 1923. My grandmother, Mary Lavinia Coker married a man named Burnett. I never heard the name Burnett until I was seventeen or eighteen. I knew my grandmother as Mary Cummins. The man I knew as my grandfather was Marshall Cummins, who was quite a bit older than her. He worked for the post office. Marshall and Mary married and later moved to Nevada, Missouri. I remember going to work with him at a weighing station in the early 1950s. He taught me a country oath, “Well, I’ll be hornswoggled, jerked up, slammed down, fell over a fence and cow kicked.” I think he taught my cousin Lindy to recite the alphabet backwards. Our mother’s were twins. My cousin and I were always very close.
In addition to the twins, Lynn and Virginia, Mary and Marshall had two more children, Betty Lou and James. James, the youngest lives in Alaska and visits Washington regularly.
In August, my grandmother and great-grandmother, who shared the same birthday, would have been 118 and 138.
Both my father’s parents and my mother’s parents were divorced, which seems a little strange, but then they lived through the depression, which was hard on people and especially families.
I think Oklahoma even before the great depression, was a hard place to live. The word was that Burnett was as mean as a snake, or perhaps that was my other grandfather, Wendel Doman. Sometimes it’s hard to piece things together. I believe my mother received a rose-gold Bulova watch from Burnett for high school graduation, which I remember her wearing. I think my Aunt Virginia declined her present. Old memories and hurts remain with us. Evidently, Burnett had been married before and had other children, which Mary had not known.
Eventually, after the birth of her daughters, Mary decided enough was enough and took the babies and walked home to Mam maw and Pap paw.
Burnett refused to let her take her belongings, which left her and the babies without clothes other than those they were wearing. My great-grandmother, Mam maw took it upon herself to go visiting. Perhaps, she thought persuasion and negotiation would work. She was met at the door by the mother-in-law. Mam maw went prepared. She had a handkerchief wrapped around her hand. Under the handkerchief was a set of brass knuckles.
Mam maw was met at the door by Mrs Burnett, who blocked entry. When Mam maw asked for her daughter’s and her granddaughters’ clothes, she was refused. Mam maw cold-cocked her and retreated with the clothes.
Later in court, the judge asked, “Now, Miz Coker what did you hit Miz Burnett with?” Mam maw, not even five feet tall and resembling a fire plug Auntie Em from The Wizard of Oz (apron and all), looked the judge in the eye and said, “It was a mighty big ring, Judge.” She got off.
I think this is a life lesson. I’m always kind to my wife. She usually carries a handkerchief.