Friday, July 24, 2015


Florence (left), the beautiful one,
with Alice, the bright one.
who later became my grandmother.

how it all began with a young typesetter
who later became my great-grandmother

April 1878:
Elizabeth Lovell Peak,
Eighteen, self-assured,
Born in Cambridge
The old one, in England
Comes to New York
With sister, Rebecca,
Another typesetter. Both
Full of girlish hope
For careers and families
In new world.

June 1878:
Rebecca decides to
Move to Winnipeg,
Later home to Winnie the Pooh.
Is there some connection?
Maybe someone will
Connect dots.
Not I.

July 1878:
Still in New York City
Reporter friend invites
Elizabeth to convention for
Small newspaper publishers.
He suggests she can look
For work all across continent
From one room in

... Mr. McNutt publishes 
 ...Weekly newspaper in
 ...Calvert, Texas.
Friend introduces Elizabeth.

 ...Oh, The Calvert Courier?... 
Asks Elizabeth,
Not because she knows
The paper, but because
Alliterative mastheads are
De rigueur in England.

 ...Why…. Yes, Miss Peak,
Answers Alexander Dewitt McNutt.
Smile in eyes as well as on lips.

That’s the beginning.
Mr. McNutt doesn’t hire the
Young typesetter.
He courts her via letters
And telegrams.
They marry.
Elizabeth moves to Texas
Where they live in white
Corner house in Calvert.
The Calvert Courier becomes
Renown regional rag,
Circulates beyond
Robertson County,
Even to Dallas:
Repository of Texas gentry,
Wealth and society.

Four daughters
Arrive in bi-annual increments:
Alexandra, the wild one.
Florence, the beautiful one.
Alice, my grandmother, the bright one.
Mary, the difficult one.
Little D, sole son,
Dies of consumption at four.

Calvert kids call Elizabeth
Old Lady McNutt.
If they cut across corner yard,
She chases them with broom.

Of course, they do it again,
Just for the spectacle.
And they also watch
As she chops snake to bits
In yard with hoe.
Later she admits to terror, not bravery.

November 1893:
On Houston shopping trip
With three-year-old Mary,
Elizabeth reads of ship
Sailing for England… today.
Sudden bitter homesickness
Counting money in purse
She finds enough for
One-way tickets.

 ...Have gone home with Mary.
 ...Will wire for money when
... Ready to return.
Terse telegram to Mr. McNutt.
Six months later they return
To blooming east Texas roses.
No explanation required.
Mr. McNutt is accustomed
To wife’s independent nature.

While husband is away in Dallas,
Elizabeth has carpenter move
Front door of house
To another wall.
When Mr. McNutt returns
He uses new door for a week
Before she points it out to him.

...It’s so convenient,
...I didn’t notice.
He tells her.
Still with the smiling eyes
After all these years.

The Calvert Courier flourishes.
The McNutt family prospers,
Lives happily.
Photos show little girls
In splendid dresses and
Feathered hats.
Elizabeth sets type on occasion
And helps in Courier office
So is able to continue as publisher
When husband dies
At fifty-six.

September 1898:
She lays him to rest
With military honours
Next to their son who had
Carried his name.
Sorting through Mr. McNutt’s papers
Elizabeth finds old invoice
Squirreled away in roll-top desk:
Cost to change masthead
From The Calvert Messenger
To The Calvert Courier.
Dated September, 1882.
She sits
Stunned to learn
Twenty years later
Effect of her first remark
On Alexander Dewitt McNutt,
And significance of
His first smile.

The next two years bring
Two floods and a fire to Calvert
Destroying much of town's core.
Businesses and population shrink
In rapid sucking spiral.
Elizabeth sells The Calvert Courier
And moves with her girls to
Oak Cliff, a suburb of Dallas.

...Bette Forester... 
...10 April 2004