The Thurkill Dent Goat Herd - A Bill Holland Image Prompt Story
A story about the goat herd in the pasture
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
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
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
Learn more about "The Homeplace Saga" series of family saga, historical fiction stories
- "The Homeplace Saga" Blog
The home blog for "The Homeplace Saga" series of historical fiction family saga stories set in the southern Missouri Ozarks. All updates of the series are mentioned here, regardless of platform.
For the eBook of "The Kings of Oak Springs: The Arrival Months in 1876 Vol. 1"
- Dr. Bill Smith's Books and Publications Spotlight
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