Most folks know, families rarely get along. It’s the human condition. Several different petty squabbles and fall-outs over the years made it almost impossible for my second cousin to track down the history of a particular family heirloom. A few years back, though, she got the final piece of the puzzle and related to me her theory of how a pair of Crockett spurs came to be in our family!
Her dad gave her the spurs when she was in college. Not to use, just keepsakes, he said. Made by a man named Crockett, they were pretty valuable then, and even more so today. A lover of all things Western—like me—my second cousin was happy to own them and displayed them for years on her hearth. I was so envious.
She said she never could get the story of how the spurs came into the family, though. Her daddy was always a bit vague on the details and she couldn’t discern if he was purposefully hiding information or just didn’t have the answers. I always suspected, however, he knew more than he let on.
My cousin’s grandmother passed away a few years back and one of the daughters finally released a family photo album to my cousin for her to make copies. This was a bit of a coup, since no one had ever let the album out of her grandmother’s house. My cousin was firmly instructed to return the book of pictures ASAP. Which she did, after spending several hundred dollars having all the photos scanned and restored by a professional.
When I finally got my look at the album, my cousin shared with me the new pieces of the puzzle that had helped her form a theory.
Discovery one, our great grandmother Mary Kate spent a summer in Oklahoma back in 1916. In the photos, she looked to be fifteen or sixteen years old. My cousin said she never knew about this trip. All she’d ever heard about Mary Kate was “she was a handful,” a “wild child,” a “flibberty-jibbit,” according to my Cuz's grandmother and some aunts. She did recall a fuzzy family story about her great grandfather Louie making a trip west sometime in the 1900s to “look for something.” She had always assumed people meant his destiny, or gold, or some such.
Discovery number two: working off the dates and details written below the photos in the album, apparently great grandmother Mary Kate went to Oklahoma to visit a friend from school, a young lady who was the daughter of a rancher. Early on, Mary Kate took several photos with this friend and the ranching family.
Discovery number three, and most interesting of all, there were four photos of Mary Kate with a nameless cowboy. Comparing the photos, my cousin theorized they spent the summer getting progressively chummier. Something about their smiles. Their body language. From picture to picture, the space between them decreased. They leaned in closer and closer toward one another. Their smiles grew wider and sillier.
Now, piecing all this together with bits and pieces of family folklore and personal observations, Cuz came up with a theory about those spurs and I’m inclined to agree with her.
She suspected Mary Kate got a little too close to a poor, working-class young man in Florida, most likely her Great Grandpa Louie. Hoping to stifle the budding romance, Mary Kate's parents sent her to Oklahoma for the summer. But a pretty, vivacious teenage girl is simply going to make trouble if she can’t find it. That poor cowboy in the pictures probably never knew what hit him.
Come the end of summer, it was time for Mary Kate to go home and my cousin doesn’t think she wanted to. Or, great grandma was playing a big bluff. We may never know. However, my cousin suspects Louie wanted Mary Kate home and if it meant he had to go find her and drop to one knee to get her back to Florida, he was willing.
And while she said yes, and went home to Florida, and did indeed marry Louie, we think Mary Kate kept a memento of her summer in Oklahoma: a handsome cowboy’s prized spurs.
Mary Kate and Louie were married the day they returned to Florida. My cousin’s grandmother was born almost nine months after that. Almost. One little word that make you go hmmmmm…
Oh, but nearly all of this is conjecture on our part. Perhaps it is the romance writer in me that wants to go with these connections. Still, if Oklahoma cowboy blood flows in our veins, it sure wouldn’t be a bad thing.