Mama Lee kills the neighbors’ hogs

This is a story I typed up a few years back when Mother was reminding me of all her childhood stories. I printed it and several shorter ones for her “reminder book” when she went into the skilled nursing center.

The story was confirmed for me by my Father’s sister Hazel about 2002. I think it might help people understand Mother to know about “where she came from.”

Mother’s father died in 1922 before Mother turned two years old. Over the next several years life was pretty hard for the Lee family. During the first few of those years, Sterling [Revelee’s older brother] was married but still around, living close and helping out when he could. Mama Lee [Revelee’s mother] and her brood stayed in the Lark, Oklahoma, area through the mid ’20s. Pleas was in his teens and could do the plowing.

About 1924, the family had some trouble with a neighbor’s hogs. Oklahoma was a modified free-range state in those days. During normal cropping seasons, animals were required to be penned up. But during the winter, hogs were turned loose to forage in the forests and fallow ground. They were all marked with ear cuts that were registered like cattle brands. That way they could be identified when gathered up in the spring or at hog butchering time in the late fall.

But some people, like Roy Young’s dad, may have interpreted the laws a little loosely. Or maybe the Youngs just had a weak hog pen. One spring morning the Lees woke up to find the dogs barking up a storm and the Youngs’ hogs in the cornfield. They had rooted up about a quarter acre of corn that had been a few inches high. Mama Lee, Pleas, and the other “big kids” joined the dogs in rousting the hogs. Then Mama went down to have a talk with Mr. Young. Mr. Young told her that he would see they did not escape again.

A day or two after the corn was replanted, it happened again—another patch was rooted up. Mama Lee went back to the Youngs and explained the obvious, that she had nothing to feed her children that did not come from the crops she could raise. She encouraged Mr. Young to keep his hogs penned up, reminding him that there was only one way she could keep them out of her corn once they were loose.

They came back again. Mama, and the family, got them out of the fields and onto the road. Pleas, who was about nineteen then, said he was going to talk to Young this time. But Mama said no. She said the Youngs would surely kill him if he did what needed to be done.

So Mama Lee got a rifle and took the dogs to drive the hogs back to the Young place. She drove the hogs the few hundred yards to the Youngs’ front yard, ran them into the yard, and then shot all four, while the Young family sat, or stood, on the front porch.

The Youngs spent the next few days in some early hog butchering. Naturally Mr. Young was displeased with the lack of expected growth, and with butchering during a hot season. That probably caused a lot more wastage than would have been normal with late fall butchering. Besides, and maybe more important, he did not like being shown up by a woman.

Mr. Young talked some. But his words did not mean much to Mama Lee. Mama’s married daughter Anna May Dodd lost a cow a few weeks later—to a sudden, unexplained death by gun shot. And of course they did not find out in time to butcher. The Lees suspected a purposeful shooting. But no one was admitting anything.

It is hard to say who won that battle. But at least it did not turn into a war, and the Lees did not starve.

—David Hibdon

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