The book, Wild Horses in My Blood, by Eva Pendleton Henderson, contains a Chapter 9, entitled “Strangers”, pages 40-42 that is about my great aunt Edna Garrett Johnson (my grandmother’s sister). Edna was born in December 1886 in Dickens County, Texas. She married Lemar (Lee) M. Johnson on April 22, 1902 and they had two girls—Maudie and Rachel Johnson. I used to see them at family reunions when I was a young boy. Edna died of tuberculosis in 1907 near Buffalo Springs, New Mexico. Her mother Malinda Ann Jones Garrett died of tuberculosis in 1900 in Dickens County, Texas.
The following is the story Eva wrote about my great aunt. Eva’s mother was a Chisum from the historical Chisum family of New Mexico.
The ranchers in the Guadalupe Mountains burn oak and juniper wood. Pine is the most difficult to get out of the rough mountains and it is used only for kindling. The moment I smell the fragrant odor of burning juniper I go right back to my childhood on the plains and those evenings sitting around the cookstove with the tent flaps tried back and the call of a plover out there in the windy prairie.
Mr. Locklear’s house, like most ranch houses, has a dugout with a fireplace. A dugout is a family room with a fireplace, chairs and bed; some dugouts also have cookstoves and dining tables.
One late afternoon when the Locklear children and I ride home from school, we notice a tent stretched near the teacher’s room. This tent is furnished with a bed only.
We notice several horses saddled and tied to the hitching rack. The doctor’s hourse is among them—a black branded F.
Earlier that day Mr. Locklear had saddled his horse Trannie and had ridden out among is cattle to find, settled in a lonely canyon, a covered wagon. Nearby, a man was cooking over a campfire and his two children were playing next to him.
Mr. Locklear rode up to the man and stepping down from Trannie and dropping his bridle reins, he said:
“Howdy, stranger. Aren’t you new on the mountain top?”
“I hope you don’t mind our camping on your range,” the man said. “I needed a camp near water. My wife is sick. Been sick for over a year. The doctor advised me to come west with her. He said the high dry air would heal her lungs. We followed the stock and found this spring.”
Mr. Locklear walked to the wagon and put is head inside. The lady, Mrs. Johnson, lay back in the wagon. Mr. Johnson had propped her up with a lot of pillows. She was very pale and her voice was low and weak. There was an unnatural, bright color in her cheeks. With her black hair and large blue eyes, Mrs. Johnson was a beautiful lady.
However, Mr. Locklear realized she was dangerously ill.
“Load the wagon and the children. I’ll get the team and hitch up,” he said whe3n he got back to the fire.
Mr. Johnson was ladling breakfast onto some tin plates. He looked startled.
“I’m not a claim jumper. Are you putting me off your land?” His Winchester leaned against a nearby tree; he walked over to it and said, “I have a very sick wife.”
Mr. Locklear, laughing, answered:
“Hold your fire, friend, I’m taking you people to my home. We can take care of your wife better there than you can here. Now let’s get going.”
That afternoon they hurriedly move my things out of the teacher’s room and put Mrs. Johnson in my bed. I’m to stay in a tent, I have a bed with my suitcase underneath, a little stand in the corner for my comb and brush.
Mr. Locklear changes saddle horses and rides a fine saddle-gaited horse to Queen to fetch the doctor.
Late in the night I am awakened by a noise. I sit up in bed. The moonlight is very bright shining through the white tent walls so I can clearly make out the doctor, undressed, climbing into bed with me.
I ump up and grab my clothes and start for the front of the tent. The doctor growls in exhaustion.
“What the hell are you doing sleeping in this tent?”
Then he grabs his clothes and charges for the entrance, running into the center pole on the way out and collapsing the tent on both of us. We are on our knees, bumping heads, struggling to find an opening.
When the doctor and I crawl forth, my long-sleeved nightgown trails in the dust. He is crawling around in a pair of long underwear, muttering to himself and dragging his clothes while an assembled audience from the house is roaring at the spectacle we are both making.
“Somebody find my britches,” the doctor bellows.
Mr. Locklear, laughing with the best of them, takes me by the arm.
“Go on to the dugout and sleep with my wife. Doctor and I will sleep in his camp bed.
Five days pass and although the doctor gives Mrs. Johnson the best care he can and everyone prays for her speedy recovery, she just gets worse and worse, and one day when the doctor goes into her room to check on her she is found sleeping peacefully, out of harm finally free of suffering. The cowboys from all around pass the hat for Mrs. Johnson’s funeral. With the money, Mr. Johnson can afford a proper burial and with what is left over, he will be able to return to Texas with his two children.
So many lives come and go as I am growing that I begin to understand: life is nothing but a coming and a going. We are born and we die, it’s what’s in the middle we don[t know much about until after it has happened. But then maybe death is that way too.
I don’t know.