Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center
A Good Life and A Good Death by William Appleman Williams
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II. The Voyage to An Identity

That word pizazz seems particularly appropriate to Mildrede. Forget that it has largely come to mean froth without substance. The woman who used it was a member of a generation to whom it meant strong character enlivened with spirited style. Character meaning that you do not go into the bushes, and style meaning that you can say no with a smile and remain friends.

It is fun to follow that word pizazz back through the dictionaries. The big and famous ones do not know how to handle that word pizazz - which was true of many of the people who encountered Mildrede. The closest that the standard tomes come is when they define pizzicato: "music played by plucking the strings with the finger instead of using the bow." Fair enough; Mildrede mostly plucked instead of bowing. She was out there on the edge pushing things along.

Then you get into the smaller dictionaries, and for whatever reasons you get closer to the truth. One says "glamour (and) vitality." The best one offers "flamboyant elegance. Vitality. Zest." Indeed, that was Mildrede.

Let us agree that pizazz is character informed and energized by style. We must still try to understand where it comes from and how it is passed on between generations. The story can be told in a formal way, but for the moment consider a few weeks in the midst of the Great Depression.

Mildrede was by then an accomplished, sought-after teacher of young children and an effective administrator who could handle (even transform) troublesome situations created by racial prejudice, poverty, and general social dislocation. She also provided the only regular income for her parents, herself, and her son. She was the Lady on the Block. Indeed, many blocks.

For all those reasons, along with her lineage involving the Hammonds and the Applemans, the Grand Dame of the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution considered Mildrede as a jewel to pin on her own status gown. Thus a sly suggestion to Mildrede that she was being considered for membership. It was a pinch of dynamite delivered in a bouquet.

The challenge was to qualify and then for reasons of principle to smile and say no and remain friends - and retain D.A.R. support for the schools. A bit dicey. Mildrede kept the proposition a secret until the family had settled themselves to a Great Depression supper. The meal was cheap; it had to be: but it was tasty and nutritious - Maude saw to that. A few ounces of meat, thin slices of parsnips from the spidery, dirt-floored root storage section of the basement sautéed in an iron skillet, a green vegetable from the back yard, milk from the Hammond farm, and a blossom from Maude's flower garden.

Mildrede had by that time developed her own style of revealing a fact, making a point, or telling a story. She could be all gush and rush and happy tumbling ego; or, like Raymond Chandler, she could twist and toy with her audience to tease its intelligence and psyche. That time she relished the delay.

She strung it out. She explained the circumstances of the invitation: a carefully casual encounter terminating in a kind of maybe invitation. It was a fine performance that evoked much laughter. The parsnips probably complained that they were getting a bit chilled.

Fundamental matters were at issue: the right of revolution regardless of whether or not the revolution was a copy of America, the issue of equality for Blacks (they were Negroes in those days), and dismissing the poor as incompetent and irresponsible rather than denied by the system a chance to fulfill their talents and dreams. Mildrede suggested that the best thing might be to qualify and then decline on principle. Maude responded that Mildrede should remember that pride can subvert the best of motives and intentions.

Mildrede's son, watching the conversation as if it was a baseline duel in tennis, learned something important: neither Maude Mable Hammond nor Porter Ikeler Appleman challenged Mildrede's conclusion. All agreed that there was no desire, need, or pragmatic reason to join the D.A.R. There was an unspoken consensus that the proper thing to do was to refuse.

Porter at the family home in Atlantic, Iowa.
Porter at the family home in Atlantic, Iowa.

Children learn vital truths in many ways, but Mildrede's son was being taught in a seminar directed by people with impressive standards and credentials, and with quiet confidence. He remembered that evening a few years later when he won the D.A.R. prize for the best high school essay in American history. And then later he phrased it a different way: however appealing they may appear, there are certain things that one does not do.

At the time, however, Mildrede had defined the life of the family. Every evening over several weeks was invested in serious research around the marvelous dining table: a massive round beauty of quarter-sawed virgin oak, hand-rubbed by three generations. Diaries, old letters, and memories were supplemented by conversations and correspondence with relatives scattered from Pennsylvania to California. Brittle, cracking genealogical maps were retrieved from ten pound family Bibles and crumbling shoe boxes and laid out on that midwestern chart table to be copied and studied in order to point the way farther into the past - and the future.

In short, Mildrede was qualified.

One of her ancestors back along the Appleman line, a woman in Philadelphia, had married a Captain of the British Redcoats from Wales who had deserted from General William Howe's army and joined General George Washington's revolutionary forces. The woman who provided that information had a shrewd and humorous insight into the sudden interest in ancestors. "You might want to keep this letter so if your daughters would wish to join the D.A.R., they could do so without much trouble."

Mildrede laid the documents before the matriarch of the D.A.R., smiled, and declined to become party to that particularly limited definition of American patriotism. Some years later very close friends like to tell a story about that confrontation. It may or may not be wholly accurate. The tale has Mildrede explaining that she could not join because she had to teach Black and Jewish children who also had ancestors who helped make the Revolution, but there were no Blacks or Jews in D.A.R.

Whatever the details, the tale rings true because she welcomed the Black and Jewish friends of her son into the family home; and once she lectured him with great emotion about the sin of indifference or condescension of prejudice toward the First Americans. "Don't you ever forget that you have to walk an extra mile in the Indians' moccasins."

And so Mildrede and Maude tolled the bell, and it echoed down the years. There was one time in particular when her son was cited by the House Committee on Un-American Activities as a danger to the republic because of his criticism of the nation's foreign policy. There is good reason to doubt that Mildrede ever read any of her son's books from cover to cover. Along about 10 or 11 p.m., six or seven days a week, after she had evaluated the papers of her third graders and her student teachers and prepared her own lesson plans, she preferred a play or a symphony or a piano concerto.

But Mildrede had a visceral sense of what was going on, and she remembered her own confrontation with the D.A.R. Hence she supported her son through his travail with the Un-American Activities Committee, and did so with an understanding that he was honoring their common tradition of acting on what one believed was right. That kind of commitment went back a long way, and almost anyone in Mildrede's family could qualify for membership in the D.A.R. or any similar organization.

Mildrede's husband, for example, William Carleton Williams, could dig back into the roots of his family tree and find Peter Carleton of New Hampshire. He fought in the Revolutionary War under Captain John Blanchard and Colonel James Wesson until he was discharged on December 31, 1779, because he had been blinded in combat. Valor in battle should never be confused with ideological purity of any kind. A war for independence engages people of all political views. Some of Mildrede's ancestor's were radicals, more were reformers, and others were conservatives.

Mildrede's mother Maude documented that legacy. Maude's people were in America long before the Revolution. Consider Zopher Hammond, a son of the seventh generation, who was born in Patchogue, New York, in 1804. He wived three women and sired 16 children; and became a public figure who lived to see America changing from an agricultural and commercial society into an industrial culture.

Zopher Davis Hammond, maternal great-grandfather of Mildrede.
Zopher Davis Hammond, maternal great-grandfather of Mildrede.

The son who later begat Maude in Iowa was Joseph Edwin Hammond, born in 1844 of the third wife Mary S. Reed. Mary, too, had ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War - and subsequent battles to extend the American Empire. More than now and again the surviving records leave one with the feeling that American history is a pot of imperial porridge: a potpourri of who fought where for what conquest.

Mary Reed Hammond, third wife of Zopher Hammond, maternal
                            great-grandmother of Mildrede.
Mary Reed Hammond, third wife of Zopher Hammond, maternal great-grandmother of Mildrede.

Zopher was a bit different. He bought out of the Civil War. That was legal, and also for some, possibly Zopher, a moral act. Every now and again, about once a year on Ed Hammond's birthday, while he was whipping up Vermont maple syrup into sugar, there was talk around the table about how the North should have seceded first - or at any rate let the South go its own way.

Others in the family went off to fight and die. "Dear Brother," wrote one of their sisters, "it has been a long time since you have written me.... I have thought that if you was sick in a hospital that you might get someone to write for you.... In this world we have troubles and trials.... It is my prayer that you may recover and yet come home but if the Lord sees fit to take you to himself may you be ready to put your trust in God and rely on him and remember that he closeth all things, well it is not sweet to think of a reunion with friends in heaven."

He did not come home, so if they were reunited it was in Heaven. Her brother Joseph Edwin was busy at home learning the arts of agriculture in the field to feed the Northern armies, and a bit later during a stint at Hillsdale College, Michigan. Somewhere, sometime in the course of that education, he became a husband of the land and his own man. And so in 1866, when he was 22, he moved on alone west to Marshall County, Iowa. He soon met and promptly began to court Amanda Louisa Havens of Marshalltown.

She, too, traced her family back beyond the Revolutionary War, but that common legacy probably had less to do with the relationship than their mutual attractiveness and shared ambitions. Both were handsome, capable, energetic, and determined to create their own dynasty. She was surely six feet in her prime: strong boned, well fleshed, and possessed of a will that could bend any child and most adults. He was six feet-four with high cheekbones and eyes that could make one blink, keen of mind, thoroughly trained in agriculture, and determined to have his own farm and become a force in the community.

There was surely romance. But, with the benefit of a bit of hindsight, they seem to have fought an early skirmish in the war of male-female liberation and signed a truce as equal tyrants. They were married within a year. Two years later (1868), with Amanda pregnant, they moved on west, southwest by covered wagon to Atlantic, Iowa, to claim a homestead in some of the most fertile soil on earth. Given his subsequent performance, one has a hunch that Joseph Edwin picked Atlantic with a shrewd eye to its great potential, and with the knowledge that it was the county seat served by the Rock Island Railroad. Either way, foresight or luck, he became an early winner.

Beyond the richness of the land, the keys to the growth and qualitative development of Atlantic were the railroad and the early settlers who established the character of the community. Two nearby villages were actually larger than Atlantic at the end of the Civil War, and were situated on contours better suited to a railroad, but neither of them contained any leader with the wealth, political skills, and determination of Franklin H. Whitney. He was a well-educated New Yorker who came to Iowa in 1865 trained as a surveyor, and soon became a land speculator, town builder, railroad promoter, and banker.

Along with his intelligence and will, Whitney's land holdings (valued in the late 1860s and early 1870s at more than $300,000) informed the character of Atlantic and the surrounding region. Together with another local land owner and a fellow banker in Des Moines, Whitney devised a shrewd offer that the directors of the Rock Island Railroad chose not to refuse. In return for the grant of a considerable amount of land for the right-of-way, as well as switching and freight yards and a depot, the railroad agreed to build its main line through Atlantic and to stop every train at the depot. Atlantic immediately became the center for all incoming goods and outgoing commodities and livestock - and hence a most desirable place for people to settle with their skills, money, and dreams.

Shortly after he had outfoxed the Rock Island big shots, Whitney himself plowed two furrows 100 feet apart straight south from the site of the depot and thereby created an unusually wide and striking main street named for the adjacent grove of Chestnut trees. Other traces were subsequently scratched into the land at 300 foot intervals, creating a spacious grid of blocks for speculation, development, and life itself. The north-south streets on either side of Chestnut were named for other trees indigenous to the area, and the east-west roads were numbered southward from the depot. Such activities probably seemed premature to many of Whitney's associates, but his vision soon became reality.

An early view of Atlantic, Iowa. Late 1800s - early 1900s.
An early view of Atlantic, Iowa. Late 1800s - early 1900s.

Joseph Edwin and Amanda Hammond were key figures in that transformation. She enjoyed and deployed her intimidating intelligence and presence in economic, as well as social, affairs. He had a keen eye for good land and picked a fine homestead. Looking south from the depot, the country rolled upward into three hills: one to the east and one to the west, both about a mile from the railroad line, and another a bit higher and further to the south. That one was ultimately claimed by the later wealthy and called La Vista. And on a bit further they built a golf course with an impressive brick country clubhouse. But the one to the west curved downward into good bottom land that drained into the Nishnabotna River that made its way south and west to the great Missouri.

Joseph, who came to be known to the power elite as Ed, staked his claim on the brow of that western hill and began to bring land and crops and animals together to create quality dairy products - and profits. Amanda was a full working partner, and together they were people who helped build and define the community.

Within five years after the Hammonds arrived, for example, five churches (including one Catholic and one Jewish) were holding regular services, and the handful of Black families who came north to work on the railroad were tolerated in most civic organizations, and their children attended school alongside the white kids. Looking back on it all from the 1950s and 1960s, that sometimes (perhaps often) reluctant acceptance of minorities in the schools and elsewhere provided an interesting - and perhaps informative - perspective on how to integrate education and other institutions. The Black and Jewish kids just went to kindergarten with everyone else and so graduated with everyone else. And along the way they sang and danced and played sports with everyone else. No one who lived in Atlantic would argue that there was no prejudice, but there was no racism that excluded people because of color or belief.

Blacks and Jews lived next door to whites, even in La Vista, and their kids mowed each other's lawns, and even necked with each other in the summer. It was in some respects a disorienting distortion of the reality of America, but it was also a microcosm of the best that could happen in America. Hence it informed the minds and lives of those children. Their idea of America was shaped more by the daily reality of community than by ruthless competition. They grew up liking each other, tolerating each other, despite the fist fights, the petty jealousies, the sexual rivalries, and the wishes that the birthday and Christmas presents were evenly distributed.

It is difficult to explain how all that happens. Maybe it can never be done. But perhaps we can agree that two factors were crucial in the milieu of Atlantic. The first is the quality and the values of the people who founded and developed the community. They raised churches with stained glass windows. They built schools. They organized weekly lecture series. They established a library. They held literary discussions and musical concerts. And the first two newspapers reported and evaluated such events while battling each other over temperance, politics, and further civic improvements.

Congregational Church in Atlantic, Iowa.
Congregational Church in Atlantic, Iowa.

Then there was the rapid and diversified economic development funded by the fertile soil: that dynamic interaction between agriculture and industry. We will never know for sure how many people came into Atlantic on a Saturday afternoon. But even in the early days there must have been more than 500 farmers, wives, and children. They mosied into town in their wagons and congregated on Chestnut Street to sell their surpluses, get their weekly shaves and haircuts and calico and threads and buttons and needles, and just trade gossip with each other. Almost from the beginning it was a community - a place where people felt at ease with and in need of each other. (And never forget Whitney's genius in making that Main Street 100 feet wide. No other town in the area could accommodate even a third as many wagon teams.)

It was a marvelous mix of town and country. Dynamic. Those who turned the soil and harvested the crops met others who sold and fixed the tools of the farm, and still others who handled livestock, poultry, and gingham and ice cream. And there was always the railroad. Nobody went home until after the night express had stopped for water and then huffed and puffed its way on down the line west to Omaha and Denver and San Francisco. Atlantic was part of the empire.

Winston Churchill once remarked that "no empire just grows like topsy," and one could probably apply his aphorism to Atlantic. People create empires, large or small, and the people in Atlantic helped build the modern American Empire. Five grain elevators sprouted in as many years. What came to be called the largest corn canning factory in the world filled unknown numbers of box cars. Along with those came a flour mill, a foundry, a wagon and buggy works, several dealers in lumber, hardware and farm implements, and of course bankers like Whitney.

Such uninhibited economic activity and the associated social ferment created various disruptions, crusades, diversions, and crime. For many years, for example, local temperance forces kept Atlantic officially dry. That created an active market for the proprietors of drug stores (and, one assumes, a doctor or two) to dispense medicinal whiskey, laudanum, and other tonics noted for their high alcoholic or narcotic content.

One newspaper account noted that, "by selling a large amount of whiskey and a small amount of drugs," one pharmacy "made enough in the last three or four years" to build a new brick building. And of course some farmers transformed at least some of their grain into liquid form with a surplus for those Saturday trips to town. One early investigative reporter concluded that the citizens of Atlantic consumed "at least 2,000 gallons" of booze every year. Beyond the profits, that activity helped produce brawls, shoot-ups, fires, seductions, adulteries, divorces, and abortions.

Originally attracted by the large number of railroad workers, and the impressive facilities provided by the Atlantic House, a classy hotel which could accommodate more than 200 people (singlely or otherwise), prostitutes came from as far away as Chicago to become profitable pioneers. Referred to (at least in print) as "soiled doves," they extended the market for alcohol and provoked their share of fights and marital disturbances. A few cynical observers charged that they organized a regular "leakage" from the local distillery that ostensibly shipped its products out of town on the railroad.

Amanda Hammond was no doubt concerned about prostitution, but probably more upset about horse and cattle thieves, along with sharp-shooting businessmen. Two of the latter named Loring and Bennett established a new bank and shortly thereafter eased themselves and their loot out of town one Sunday morning during church services and reputedly lived happily every after in South America - a village version of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Other kinds of crime and violence associated with rapid economic growth were imagined and conducted by a group of locals known as "The Crooked Creek Gang."

The leader was Carl Strahl, a burly bully who usually brought his son Roll along to provide behind-the-back help with a club if they encountered a farmer willing to fight. Strahl gathered 11 other associates ranging in age from 22 to 39, all of whom were reputedly guided in their major operations by the wily brain of an ancient settler known only as "Old Knowlton." They began with brawls, drunken and otherwise, intimidations on election day, and target practice in pool halls.

The gang soon graduated to major theft and robbery, random pistol and shotgun shoot-ups on Chestnut Street on Saturday nights, arson, rape, and vindictive murder. The citizens in and around Atlantic, acting individually and in concert, killed some of the Strahl crowd, ran others out of the area, and put the rest in jail. It was a wild time, and in 1883 church bells celebrated the death of Roll Strahl.

Ed and Amanda Hammond slept near a revolver or a shotgun during those years, may even have carried them along when they plowed the fields, fed the chickens, or milked the cows. (Oh, yes, Amanda died in her bed with a Colt revolver under her pillow.) Through it all they concentrated on establishing the dairy farm that came to be the best in the region for three generations. That success earned them free time, as well as money, and they became ever more active in the public and social life of the community.

An unidentified homestead in Atlantic, Iowa. Late 1800s - early
An unidentified homestead in Atlantic, Iowa. Late 1800s - early 1900s.

Along the way they conceived a child born November 27, 1869. They named her Nora Jerusha. She was a beautiful child who became a strikingly handsome woman. They saw to her education at home and in the community, as well as at school. One cannot imagine Ed or Amanda playing croquet or roller skating, both popular forms of play in the 1870s; but one feels that daughter Nora was encouraged to enjoy such fun. And she was certainly taken to the magic lantern shows, the circuses, the church and fraternal ice cream socials, and to many of the musical and literary programs provided by what the papers termed "the visiting artists from the city" - as well as local performers - in the Bacon Opera House after it opened in 1880.

Even as he walked his daughter Nora around the block after supper, Ed Hammond was moving ever upward in the power system. His interests and energies appear to have been divided equally between fraternal and agricultural organizations. He was a policy-making member of the County Agricultural and Fair Association (and regularly raced horses - and bet on them - as well as showing stock), became an early member of the Modern Woodman's group, and was no doubt active in such projects as stocking the creeks and rivers with fish (3,000 salmon in one year). But he was also a founding member of the Elks, the Masonic Order, and the Odd Fellows Lodge.

Amanda was not excluded from those councils and activities. Not only was she a strong willed female, but women in the late 19th century agricultural communities of the middle west generally participated vigorously in public affairs. They could vote and hold office in farm organizations; and their own fraternal and religious associations enjoyed considerable political - as well as cultural and social - influence. Subsequent generations of women built upon their example and achievements.

The surviving photographs tell us much about their lives and their successes. They dressed in fashion, and bore themselves as consequential members of the community. Even the talking and preserving of personal photographs (they took no others) tells us much about their values and position. All seemed well, even secure. But then, when Nora was seven, and surely accustomed to special attention, Amanda again became pregnant. And on September 13, 1876, Nora had a sister: Maude Mable.

Here we enter a time of haze and fog. There is no clear, neat record. We do not know, and will never know, whether Maude was an accident or choice. Many forms of contraception were known to farm families in the 19th century. Women learned or devised them if only because they did not want to be pregnant during a long trip over rough trails in a covered wagon. And surely those two passionate Hammonds did not abstain from intercourse for that many years, nor could they have been so lucky for so long.

However all that may be, what counts is how Ed and Amanda dealt with the consequences. During those seven intervening years Nora had established herself as a special member of the family. By definition, as well as in fact, Maude was an intruder. She could never hope to claim an equal place unless her parents made a sustained effort to love her into equality. They did not do so. Maude was taller, more angular, and superficially more intimidating than inviting. But her posture and her eyes bespoke great latent passion. The photographs tell us that she would love whom and as she chose.

Maude resolved her ambivalent position in the family by mounting a revolution. She refused to compete with Nora on the terms defined by Nora and her parents. Maude chose to cultivate her mind and related gifts rather than trade on her beauty. She would be her own person in any and all circumstances.

In the meantime, Maude was rather forgotten if not ignored. Hence her sometimes unsupervised curiosity now and again got her into difficulties. There was the afternoon, for example, when she wanted to learn how the workmen building the foundation for a large porch mixed the concrete. Back in those days it was done with lime and lye and hence potentially dangerous. Puttering around, probably even tasting the stuff on her finger, Maude stumbled and fell headlong into the mixing box. The men fished her out and without any ado turned the hose full force upon her face and the rest of her body. Later she was spanked by her parents. They did not take her back out to learn how to make concrete. She found out for herself the next morning by going out and talking with the masons. The adventure left her weak eyes, and soon and forever she wore glasses for reading.

Maude Mable (left) and Nora Jerusha Hammond.
Maude Mable (left) and Nora Jerusha Hammond.

Nora's curiosity lay elsewhere. Her sexual impatience led to pregnancy, marriage, a child, and a divorce. Fortuitously (let us not take Freud too seriously), the husband's name was also Hammond, and so the child was quietly adopted and raised as their son by Ed and Amanda. Nora later married an impressive man of the sea, mothered a lovely and variously accomplished daughter, and lived more or less happily ever after. She never seemed even to sense, let alone understand, that her early misadventures scarred the lives of her sister and every other member of the family.

Such experiences probably reinforced Maude's determination to assert her independence. She would be a loving and caring daughter, tending her mother unto death under very trying circumstances, but would also define and live her own life. It is possible to argue, as one of her loving contemporaries once suggested, that Maude carried a good thing a shade too far. Her friend was saying that the man Maude chose to bed and wife was just a bit too much the opposite of her father.

Well, maybe so. But Porter Ikeler Appleman was special. Over the years, he gave Maude play, adventure, and devotion. He was witty and bold and caring. He dreamed dreams and realized some of those dreams. And he died with dignity. Not a bad choice for a mate. Maude could wring her hands and despair over Porter's weaknesses, but she played to his strengths. And he to hers. It was a marriage of equals getting to the same place along different paths that crisscrossed more than they diverged.

Porter was maybe five feet-six (on tippy toes). Maude was four or five inches closer to six feet. But Porter could at the turn of the century jump over a string held across the top of his head. That is how he got the nickname Tossie. There was a time when Porter showed his grandson a tooled leather, velvet-lined case that contained two Colt revolvers and two silver dollars with holes in them. In all innocence the grandson asked: "What is wrong with those dollars?" Porter laughed: "I put them there with those two Colts." "Why did you do that?" "Because some damn fool bet me a considerable amount of money that I couldn't hit those dollars when he tossed them in the air." Not a bad man to marry, and not a bad grandfather to have around the house. Skill, even perhaps arrogance, touched and humanized with a sense of play and knowing that you need a bit of luck once in awhile.

It went further than that. Porter, known also as simply P.I., hunted pheasants and ducks with a hand-crafted .410 shotgun and never came home without meat for the table. He would first dress the fowl and pull out the shot with a powerful magnet, then clean his gun, all the while explaining to his grandson why you used the small gun to give the birds a fair chance and to test your skill and then did your share of getting dinner.

He was magic with dogs. He would go out to his kennel and bring home a puppy along about nine in the morning. He would work with that puppy all day, maybe not even having lunch. By late afternoon, say 4:30, that puppy would be trained in all basic commands and actions. All that remained was to discipline the dog to guns. He won so many prizes with his dogs in field trials that he became bored and stopped competing. But he continued to ship them across America, to Russia, to Western Europe, and to Asia.

Porter "P.I." "Tossie" Ikeler Appleman with two of his dogs.
Porter "P.I." "Tossie" Ikeler Appleman with two of his dogs.

Do not misunderstand. Tossie also wasted money on cars, clothes, and wildly inane speculative investments. Maude must have thanked her God that Porter always gave her a fair share of the profits. He gave too little attention to business to become a truly secure and wealthy entrepreneur. If you want to put him down, you can say he played the game for fun. He liked the challenge, the adventure. And on balance cared a bit too little for security for his family. There are postcards that tells us that he was slow, sometimes even irresponsible, in shipping dogs to people that had paid in advance. But, in the end, he always satisfied the customer. Well, almost always.

Porter also sometimes stayed too long talking politics and quaffing booze in a tavern or a fraternal club. He had style and was in demand. Looked at from the family point of view, that made him something of a pain in the ass. Maude did not particularly care to hold supper for an indefinite period of time. And there were evenings when she just served it to her daughter and grandson. He could be most annoying.

Then again he was a joy. He never helped around the yard, but he did teach his grandson how to use and care for tools. He was also a class cribbage player, and a golfer who could play the front nine with Johnny Goodman. He could hold his drink, and never touched another woman. One can understand why Maude married him and loved and cherished him whatever the pain and hard times. Maude did not need another father, and Tossie was in his own way a lover.

Porter (left) and two unidentified family members.
Porter (left) and two unidentified family members.

We are graced by such sports, such mutants, such people who challenge and change our lives. Porter Ikeler Appleman was born in 1869 in Rhorsburg, Pennsylvania, and at the age of one (or thereabouts) was bumped, bounced, jiggled and cuddled westward in a covered wagon to the settled in Mills County, Iowa. He had several brothers and sisters, and there is no record of just why his father chose him to go off to South Western Normal College in Shenandoah, Iowa, to learn what he later called the mysteries of "Penmanship, Business, Banking, Commercial and Abstract Law, and the intricacies of Loans and Insurance."

Nobody knows how many courses he took, or how long he stayed, but he soon moved to Atlantic and opened an office dealing with "Abstracts, Loans, Insurance and Real Estate." One has the feeling that from the beginning that was a sideline. His true love was breeding and training thoroughbred hunting dogs. He prospered. People liked his dogs. People liked his wit. People liked his conviviality. He became a charter member of the local Elks, and regularly attended the Congregational Church. It was probably after a sermon, or during an ice cream social, that he met Maude Mable Hammond.

An advertisement for Porter's multipurpose business.
An advertisement for Porter's multipurpose business.

Who knows, even in one's own life, what magic transpired. Enough to say that they blinked, winked, courted, and married. And on June 8, 1895, Maude gave birth to Mildred. From the beginning, by all accounts, she mothered Mildred to insure that the child would not be squeezed into the austere and haughty mould of Ed and Amanda Hammond. There is a nice sense of that in allowing the child to keep that e on the end of her name. She encouraged her child to become a free soul guided and encouraged by love to honor the values of truth, justice, community, and doing one's best while exploring many options for expressing oneself. Maude once put it neatly in a conversation with her grandson: "Well, you honor the best in your tradition without becoming a slave to it."

Porter dealt with Mildrede quite differently than Ed Hammond had treated either Nora or Maude. Maybe that was because he had wanted a boy. In any event, he raised her as an equal. She was more than a bit of a tomboy long before she became the belle of the ball. Tossie taught her how to talk and work with dogs. He walked with her along the river to learn about birds and animals and flowers and fish. He made sure she knew how to shoot a gun (though she never took much to that). He took pride in teaching her to become the first woman to drive a car in their part of the country. And he disciplined his slightly fly-by-night character enough to provide the money for a bit of post-high school education.

Mildrede enjoyed much of the best of the provincial middle class world. She was intelligent, extremely attractive, vivacious, and loved and supported by her parents. There are many ways to summarize it all, but let us use her report cards and her dance programs. Back in those days, when summer became fall and winter, school became the major distraction for children. Mildrede's grades were always high during those months: 93 in Algebra, 94 in English, 90 in History and Government, 92 in Spelling, and 91 in Geometry. But then came spring and the grades dropped off to 76, 78, 75, and 73. But the dance programs were all about 99: Butch and Billy and Phil and Harold and Butch and Gilbert and Billy and Harold and Billy. She even split some numbers.

She was also singing in school and public performances, taking parts in plays, attending concerts and opera, and leading various sororities. One night, for example, she sang two solos at the Congregational Church and then served as hostess at another function. Mildrede was out there with the wind in her hair. Maude's revolution was alive and well. Mildrede was not going to be trapped in a stereotype.

As with all revolutions, however, the momentum threatened to carry things a bit too far. Mildrede attracted young men like blossoms lure bumble bees. That does pose a problem. Flirting is all well and good, even great fun, but one must develop the courage to say no, and then decide with whom one wishes to make bed and wake up with every morning thereafter. Mildrede diddled and dawdled a bit, but there was never much doubt about who she would choose. She would get married by choice and with passion.