Monday, October 10, 2005

Field’s Farm and Beyond

(Run originally 4/9/04 on our old site)

Ernie Simpson

I drove by Field’s Farm the other day, and the housing additions in that subdivision are neat, nice and well done. North Main all the way to Echo Dell has had a lot done in the last fifty years, and I believe for the good.

Lots of history on that road. In the late forties, and early fifties, Mr. Fields owned eighty acres or more just north of Deener Creek on Rocky Branch Road. I understand some of his relatives still live across from Field’s Farm on that street.

During these years, and exactly a quarter mile south of 1701 North Main, on the west side of the road sat an old house occupied by a nice old man named only Mr. Thomas. Mr. Thomas was friendly to everyone who traveled that road, and waved as he saw folks passing. He loved growing a truck garden, and sharing with neighbors and friends.

His wife passed away in the early fifties, and he was lonely, as one might imagine. He was approaching his eighties, but still had spirit and an outgoing personality. I was only maybe ten, but I remember his good attitude and friendly way.

Mr. Thomas decided that life was shorter for some than others, and he should remarry. So, he found a delightful lady who shared his sentiments, and proposed. She accepted.

Everyone who lived on North Main and Johnson Road knew of or knew personally Mr. Thomas, and a group got together and decided to honor Mr. Thomas and his bride on their wedding night with a chivaree. In those days, there were very few honeymoon cruises to Acapulco and, in fact, any kind of ‘going away’ honeymoon was rare.

Now friends, you may have heard from your parents, or may have heard stories that, years ago, when a couple was married, the neighbors had license to perform a certain southern country ceremony. This ceremony or celebration was called a “chivaree,” which consisted of disturbing the newlyweds on their wedding night, at an inappropriate hour, generally around midnight, with fireworks, banging pots and pans, shouting, shooting off guns in the air, and other such raucous carryings on. I apprised my bride, Shelia, of this old tradition and, as she laughed at my description, she allowed as to how she thought this was the most awful and scurrilous dirty deed that ever could be perpetrated on two newlyweds, regardless of their age.

Mr. Thomas had married a nice lady named Lou Deaton, who was a widow, and had lived nearby. Several of the Bennett and Simpson clan, along with other assorted neighbors and friends, met and quietly sneaked up to the house at the appointed hour. The house was dark, presumably because the newlyweds were in bed, and most likely by this hour, asleep.

In retrospect, I think the Thomas’ expected this to take place since, when the lights came on later, they were both fully dressed, in anticipation of the group’s arrival. I believe they would have been disappointed not to be honored by this chivaree. It was an off-the-wall way to honor and give recognition to their wedding.

The commotion began, banging, shouting and carrying on, that would awaken the dead, much less two newlyweds. I think it was about this time too, that one of the young neighbors, in unbridled enthusiasm, hoping to create a real disturbance, stuck his single barrel 12 gauge under the house to shoot it off and, when he stuck it under the house, he inadvertently dug the muzzle in the dirt. When he pulled the trigger, it made a big bang, all right. The end of the barrel split, and curled back about two inches from the muzzle.

Fortunately that was all the damage that was done: he was lucky not to have been killed with a stunt like that. The Thomas’ had the lights on by this time, and came out and invited everyone in for refreshment, and to share a laugh at their own expense, and receive the congratulations of everyone who had a part in the chivaree.

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas came to church several times later at the little Ballew Community Union church at the crossroads of Johnson Road and North Main. It was a pleasure to remember when Mrs. Thomas would stand up between Sunday school and the preaching service, and announce, “I’d like to sing a song.”

The preacher always said, “Well, O.K., Miz Thomas, tear loose, then.” So, Mrs. Thomas always cut into an enthusiastic rendition of, “I’ll be a Methodist Till I Die.”

And of chivarees, that’s the one and only time I recall ever being a part of such a thing, and the tradition has since long gone by the wayside, fortunately for newlyweds. For some I can think of, this would still be a fun-type celebration to perform today.

And indeed, like Shelia says, a low-down dirty, but fun, rotten trick to play on newlyweds.

Tom Pry

Tell Shelia that it reminds me of Mark Twain’s story of the guy who’d somehow run afoul of the residents of a small town, who rewarded his malfeasance by tarring and feathering him. Then, as they were getting ready to cap the performance by riding him out of town on a rail, someone asked the guy his opinion of the whole process.

Said he, according to Mr. Clemens, “If it weren’t for the honor of the thing, I think I’d just as soon walk.”

2005 FOOTNOTE: Guns seem to be dangerous things to tote to a chivaree or shivaree (I’ve seen it spelled both ways). I recently heard the story of a shivaree up around Heber Springs that was to have been triggered off (sorry about the pun) by a shotgun blast after everyone had stealthily assembled. Not all the participants had been clued in so, when the shotgun went off, one of the women in the crowd screamed and then proceeded to faint, so the party consisted of trying to bring the fainthearted back to conciousness.

Refreshments were still served, although somewhat quieter than originally planned.


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