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The Thurkill Dent Goat Herd - A Bill Holland Image Prompt Story

Updated on June 3, 2015
Homeplace Series profile image

Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

A story about the goat herd in the pasture

The Goat Herd on Hill Image Prompt
The Goat Herd on Hill Image Prompt | Source


This story was inspired by an ‘Image Prompt’ from my writer friend, Bill Holland, at his blog: Artistry with Words


- see the photo above.

The image of the goat herd immediately reminded me of my character in the 1870s stories of my “The Homeplace Saga” series of family saga, historical fiction… his name was Thurkill Dent, and his farm was across the road from the leading characters in my ‘The Kings of Oak Springs’ series that began in 1876 and ran for 40 episodes

Here is more of the story from the viewpoint of Thurkill Dent:

A goat and a fence don't mix well

Goats don't take well to fences
Goats don't take well to fences | Source

Thurkill Dent

Following the Civil War, Wilson and Wanda Craddock did not return to their farm on the north side of the Patton Road, a little over a mile west of Oak Springs. However, in 1869, their 24-year-old daughter, Neva, along with her husband, 27-year-old Thurkill Dent, and their baby boy, Donald, did arrive back in the community with the legal documents they needed to claim the former Craddock property, and make it their own family farm. They had been living in the Jefferson City area and looked forward to getting a fresh start, on their own, here in the Oak Creek valley, where Neva had spent her younger years before her family had to move away because of the war.

One thing that distinguished this family, on their arrival, was that six goats accompanied them on their trip. Thurkill Dent was a practical man, rather than an ambitious man, some people would say. Goats provided milk and meat as well as hair, skins and horns on occasion. They browsed and eat a wide variety of plant life. Thurkill was well aware that the farm was overgrown with brush and weeds, so the goats were put right to ‘work’ clearing their farm, in those first months and continued their work and production as time passed.

With careful breeding, goats reproduce fairly quickly, normally each doe, or nannie, produces a pair of kids each year, but sometimes a litter of three, four or more. Goat milk is considered by many to be better for human consumption than cow’s milk. Thurkill, Neva and Donald could be accounted among those people. They had a cow, but normally sold that milk each week at the town produce station, having stored it during the week in the springhouse that had survived from the Craddock family days, along Center Creek, that ran right past their rebuilt farmhouse.

The goats helped clean out the orchard undergrowth

A clean orchard
A clean orchard | Source

The Dent family grew with the community… and the goats

Three-year-old Donald was joined in 1871 by a sister, Rachel. And, in 1874, a brother, Peter, joined the family. By the Spring of 1876 when they learned that a King family had moved on the old Hamby place, across Patton Road, to the south, young Donald was an eight-year-old already helping his father with the goats. Each year, Thurkill sold one to three goats, as a cash crop, to neighbors across the valley, especially to new folks, still moving onto old farmsteads in need of clearing. Others wanted the goat milk, like they did themselves.

Thurkill soon learned from the men he knew in town that this Karl King that had moved in to the south of them was a brother of a King with whom Thurkill had been acquainted in Jefferson City. That had not been a good experience. The man had been a bully, and no amount of kindness and decency seemed to work in transactions with the man. Thurkill felt he had been badly ‘burned’ by that King brother up north, and was not sure he even wanted to meet this Karl King. As the weeks passed, however, men that Thurkill trusted began to speak very highly of this Karl King, so, Thurkill began to wonder if he had made a mistake in not crossing the road to welcome the newcomers.

Saturday morning was typically the time the family went in town to the market, took their milk and other produce to the produce station, and picked up any other items they needed from town, as well as their mail. One such Saturday, Thurkill realized he was waiting in line at the produce station counter right behind Karl King. So, he introduced himself. Before long they were sitting on stumps under the trees outside getting to know each other a little better. It turned out that Karl King had moved away from the Jefferson City area to Oak Springs, at least partially, to get away from his older brother, as well. ‘Small world,’ came to Thurkill’s mind as he listed to Karl tell his story. Neighbors Thurkill Dent and Karl King became good friends as well as neighbors. Their families got together for social times regularly.

Thurkill loaned Karl a couple of his goats to help clear away the overgrowth and underbrush in the orchard the Hamby’s had left behind located toward the east end of their place, now the King farm. Thurkill and his family had harvested quite a few apples from those trees, along the south side of the road, in the years they had been there. Karl, along with his son, Kent, was determined to salvage the orchard, clean it up, and make it both useful and productive again. The goats were a big help, and young Kent, not much older than Donald Dent, had the responsibility to get that job done, managing the goats, pruning the trees and otherwise.

A couple of years later, when Karl expanded his acreage, Thurkill agreed to be a hired hand in the new fields to help Karl grow his farm. Thurkill didn’t want to expand, but did appreciate the opportunity to increase his earnings by working for Karl, along with another neighbor from farther south, Junior Yokum. It turned out that the three families enjoyed worked together and living nearby each other being mutually supportive.

Thurkill still enjoyed having his goat herd, and whenever other problems seemed to become overwhelming, he just went out to the pasture by the side hill and watched the goats do what goats do. It wasn’t much, but it brought peace to Thurkill Dent.

[See Episode 6 of ‘The Kings of Oak Springs’ to learn more about the origin of the name ‘Thurkill’ - if you are curious!]

Note from the author

This is one of the special stories set in the Ozarks Mountains setting of “The Homeplace Saga” series of family saga historical fiction. A Bill Holland image post, as noted above, prompted this story. It occurred simultaneously with the first 20 episodes of “The Kings of Oak Springs” stories. That series had followed the time period of the “American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)” collection of short stories. Some of these earlier stories are published on The Homeplace Saga blog, found at the link, below.

The first 20 episodes of the King Family series have now been compiled into an eBook, titled: "The Kings of Oak Springs: The Arrival Months in 1876 Vol 1." The second 20 episodes will become Vol 2. See the link, below, to get yours.

“The Homeplace Saga” historical fiction family saga stories are the creation of the author, William Leverne Smith, also known as “Dr. Bill.”

The latest book in "The Homeplace Saga" series of stories

Video Book Trailer


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    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      You are most generous, Alan. Thank you for your interest!! ;-)

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Hello again Bill.

      Best places for Anglo-Danish links are York (Jorvik) and Lincoln (Lindcylne) with strong Danish ties as far north as the Tees as far west as the Irish Sea and Rugby, down to the Lea Valley (east of London) within the Danelaw. The 'Five Boroughs' of the eastern Danelaw as agreed between Guthrum and Aelfred were Derby (Deoraby), Leicester (Leagaceaster), Lincoln (as above), Nottingham (Snotingaham) and Stamford (Staenford). The boundary ran from the eastern side of London (Lunden) to Chester (Ceaster) along the old Roman road known from the time of the Angles and Saxons as Watling Street (Watling Straet). West of that line was Anglian Mercia and Wessex. North of the Tees was Anglian Northumbria (a bit cut off). The whole of Yorkshire and Lancashire was the Danes' Kingdom of York. Guthrum, a Danish warband leader was self-styled king of East Anglia.

      Here endeth the lesson.

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Good for you, Alan. I flew into London, a few years ago. Took the train up to Manchester for an academic conference... visited Shakespeare country, and returned. Fascinating places, just on a short visit of less than a week! ;-)

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      There's a fair smattering of Norse/Dane in the Lancaster family as well as Saxon from the deep south (Sussex) and across the Continent (Upper Saxony). Then there's Slovene from the Alpine area. A right old mix! The wife's a Cockney and the young 'uns were all born in different parts of this side of London. My own family's up on Teesside (Yarm-Middlesbrough-Redcar area) so I get to see them two or three times a year.

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      The names were carefully chosen, actually. I'm 1/4 Dane, as well. I pick surnames for the census for the area and time, even though I'm writing fiction. There is an earlier story or two in the series that details the Thurkill as a family name, with origins related to your understanding... Small world. Really appreciate the visit and comment!! ;-)

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Interesting, your choice of name for the 'goat man', 'Thurkill'. A derivation of a Norse name. 'Thorkill' (a Danish jarl in the later 11th Century went by that name and came in both 1069 and 1070 to England with Jarl Osbeorn and King Svein Estrithsson); 'Dent' is a name from the north of England. I went to school with a Geoffrey Dent. It's also the name of one of the highest settlements on the Pennines just inside Cumbria from Yorkshire and County Durham on the Settle-Carlisle Railway. 'Dent' in Norman French was 'tooth'.

      Enjoy your writing, Bill

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      4 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you, so much, for taking the time to post a comment!! ;-)

      I write for the love of the stories and the characters created in them...

      They just seem to keep coming. ;-) This format works to well!! ;-)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      You are such a prolific writer, I encourage you, too, to focus on characters' background stories and moral lessons, how they came to be the way they are or where they are. You seem to have a real flair for a the Little House On the Prairie type stories,

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      4 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Sha, thank you for your thoughts. This is on my mind, continuously... how to best tell the stories. About half of these 88 (to date) are focused on the personal interactions, as you suggest, including the 40 "The Kings of Oak Springs" series. Recently, I've again focused on the chronology, but, the MT -McDonald Tales - series, does go back and looks at the activities of the key family in "The Homeplace Saga" series of stories... through all the years. It may well be time to hold/slow the chronology, and "tour the town" of personal stories. I've wanted to, in the back of my mind, tho' it is a bit harder, but it may well be time to do that... THANK YOU, so much, for your suggestions. They are very valuable to me!! ;-)

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      4 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Bill, I just loved that image. What a stimulant!! I'm so pleased that you were happy with my response. Love your support. Enjoy your blog. Keep them coming!! ;-)

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      4 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Mary, I love my community, as well. I am so pleased you appreciate it, as well. I always enjoy each of your comments. Thank you! ;-)

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      4 years ago from Central Florida

      Bill, I think your answer to Bill's prompt can give you more depth to your Homeplace series.

      So far, we've seen the town of Oak Springs grow, but we really know nothing of the people who have founded and inhabit the town. Perhaps you should consider making your key characters (not all because there are far too many to keep track of) more prominent by telling their stories and letting us into their lives, thoughts, as you've done here.

      One thing I hated about history in high school is it was all facts and figures. It spoke nothing of what the people of those days felt and lived. There was no connection to the history makers.

      Just a thought: make your characters real. Let us see them at home, in the fields; their romantic sides and parental sides. Make the people who build Oak Springs real and believable.

      You've got a good start with Bill's picture prompt. Go forward.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I would say that's a challenge well-answered. Your knowledge of the times is a beautiful thing to enjoy. Nicely done, Bill, and thank you for mentioning my blog along the way. Much-appreciated.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      4 years ago from New York

      I so like the community these people shared. You really takes us back in time and provide us with a slice of life from that time. Your writing makes it so real.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.


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