Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Tale Is Here To Tell

I was born and raised in Missouri. My family arrived there by way of Scotland, Ireland, Virginia, and Kentucky. Each of those spots are fodder for a good family tale. You know the ones I mean. We are related to William Wallace, the Duke of Argyle, Daniel Boone, Jesse James, and any number of Cherokee princesses.

The family tale I like the best doesn't connect me to anyone famous, infamous would be more like it. It is a story told essentially the same by all who have chosen to make it our legacy. Aunts and uncles alike have committed the story to writing and while they are no longer here to tell the tale, the tale is here to tell.

The Campbell men, it has often been lamented, didn't have the strength or conviction of the Campbell women. Drink was often their undoing. Drink, as the tale goes, was both the doing and undoing of my great grandfather, Issac Reed Campbell.

When my grandfather was a small boy, his father Issac moved the family from Carrollton, Missouri, to homestead two sections of land in Kansas. Issac knew a great deal about horse flesh, having served in the Confederate Calvary in the Civil War. He was very good at horse trading and was very proud of the wagon and matched set of white horses he had acquired.

Issac had taken the horses and wagon to cut logs to use to build a house and strayed too far into Indian Country. Issac, the horses, and the wagon went missing.

One month went by and still no sign of Issac. Several men residing in the area saw this as an opportunity to show up at the homestead and take the land and what few possessions Issac owned from his poor unprotected wife Molly.

Molly met them with the paperwork for the homestead and a shotgun. While they didn't find the paperwork to be thoroughly convincing, a few well placed blasts from her shotgun convinced the opportunists Molly was anything but a poor unprotected woman. They never returned.

Two more weeks went by and still no sign of Issac. Molly, and the mountain lion that howled outside the door of her sod house, had both given up on Issac's safe return.

Two months had now gone, when to everyone's amazement a very alive, well-fed, but inebriated Issac returned. It seems the Indians didn't like Issac's pilfering of their lumber, but they had heard he knew how to construct a still and they thought that knowledge was worth his life. So, they took Issac, the lumber, the wagon, and those beautiful white horses back to their camp.

You can't just build a still without sticking around to sample the product. Two months worth of sampling and one Thanksgiving celebration later the Indians escorted Issac out of Indian Country. Minus the wagons, lumber, and horses I might add.

While drink had saved his life it was to be his undoing. When Molly got the truth out of Issac, about his disappearance, she used her broom to break every bottle Issac had brought back with him. The bottles you should know, were in the pockets of his pants.

A tall tale? Perhaps, but what's the harm. There are some tales I'd rather enjoy as I've been told them, then go on a quest for the truth.

Labels: , , ,


Blogger Nikki - Notes of Life said...

A family story or a tall tale, it's still a wonderful one I think should still be told down the generations! :D

September 2, 2007 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


I will continue to pass on the tale as it has been told to me. So glad you enjoyed it.

I was thinking of you just this morning, when I bought the Vintage 1861 Ed. Richards' English & Welsh Dictionary. Don't tell my husband. One more dictionary could mean divorce.


September 2, 2007 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Drink has been the undoing of many of the men in my family but never so colorfully as yours. Good for Molly!

September 2, 2007 at 3:33 PM  
Blogger Janice said...


I loved your story, and especially the part about Molly. She sounds like a brave frontier woman and I'd enjoy hearing more about her.

Psst... as a distant cousin to Noah Webster (he is an 11th cousin, 9 times removed) I've always had a small collection of dictionaries, but I'd enjoy hearing why they intrigue you so.


September 3, 2007 at 5:52 AM  
Blogger Terry Thornton said...

Maven, Our ole friend Willie Puckerbrush would quote some Sam Walter Foss [a few lines from "Bobolink Philosophy" out of BACJ COUNTRY POEMS. Boston: Lee and Shepard. 1894]:

So drunk is he with wine of joy, so music-mad with mirth,
His tipsy carols of content rejuvenate the earth.

So ole Molly beat the stew outa him? What an interesting set of circumstances! THANKS.

Terry Thornton
Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi

September 5, 2007 at 6:30 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


Obviously Willie and Sam knew whereof they spoke.

There's no wisdom like "gud ole back country" wisdom.


September 5, 2007 at 8:36 AM  
Blogger Miriam Robbins said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this one, Maven! Although the tale you're recounting may not have originated with you, nevertheless, you're a great storyteller!

September 5, 2007 at 7:25 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


With stories about drink, it's all in how you tell it.


September 5, 2007 at 9:40 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


A cousin to Noah Webster? That's what I want to be!

Someday, when the dust settles, I'll write about my fascination with words.


September 5, 2007 at 9:43 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


Thank you!

When I started researching my family history my Aunt Jean cautioned me, "I only want to hear the stories."

I love her and I do this for her. I want her to enjoy them.


September 5, 2007 at 9:47 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home