Times were hard. In desperation, George decided to gather a herd of cattle and head west with them — to California.
This was in the 1850s, and folks in Texas had heard talk that gold miners in California (the 49ers) were a great market for beef.
George and his wife, Inez, had been married 16 years and they had 15 children — one each year. When George announced his plan Inez said she thought it was a wonderful idea, and helped him prepare to go in every way she could.
Before long he had a herd together and drovers to help him on the long trek west. Of course Inez was pretty much on her own at the home place while George was gone, but she could handle most anything that came up. Plus, she had all those children. In those days children grew up in a hurry, and hers really did.
Just staying alive in those times and circumstances was the major consideration.
Wood had to be hauled close to the house, then split with an ax. The fireplace and cookstove required wood, of course.
Luckily, their place was close to a creek, so it wasn’t far to water. Still, somebody had to carry it to the house in a bucket. The younger children handled that job.
Inez and her children tended a vegetable garden, raised chickens and pigs and had a small herd of cattle along with a good team of horses that could either be ridden or hitched to a plow. She assured George they would be fine when he expressed concern.
It was about 10 miles to the nearest town, but they only made that trip once a month for purchases of flour, coffee, salt and fabric for making clothes.
I know all this because a member of our family found a diary written by one of the children, describing their life.
Meanwhile, George didn’t have it easy, either. The trip from mid-Texas to the California gold mines took many months. George ended up being gone from home three years.
Apparently, he wasn’t very good at managing money, and he lost a great deal of the receipts for the cattle in one of those “can’t lose” mining ventures. In those days people did whatever was necessary to stay alive, so for two of those years George worked as a mule skinner handling pack mules for the miners.
When he finally made it home he had very little money to show for his time away. Inez didn’t complain. Those three years were the only time in her married life she missed having a baby every year.
Sure enough, upon George’s return she became pregnant again. When he announced he was going back to “Californy” and would bring untold wealth back home, Inez prepared a wonderful farewell dinner for him.
The story is: She accidentally put some arsenic in the food, he accidentally ate it and accidentally died.
When one of my modern appliances goes on the fritz I find comfort in remembering this story.