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  Texas : Features : Columns : N. Ray Maxie :

"Miss $1.98"

by N. Ray Maxie
N. Ray Maxie

Attending a small country school in rural northeast Texas during the 1940's and '50's, we all eventually learned that nothing was ever a big production at our little school. In fact, back then hardly anything was ever a big production in the entire county. Things were pretty laid back and moved along at a whole lot slower than they do now. The county sometimes had an annual forest festival or maybe a watermelon festival, if we were lucky. And the parades were no big deal with very few participants and most of those were horses and mules. Everything was in a great depression until the oil boom arrived.

McLeod Schools and the little town of McLeod, Texas had its heyday during the east Texas oil boom beginning in the early 1930's. Oil was king and the district was able to build a really good brick school facility with elementary grades on one side and high school grades on the other, separated by the cafeteria and auditorium in between. It was there that I completed grades one through 12. My first grade teacher was Miss Annie Lou Shines, a fantastic teacher that taught first grade at McLeod for eons and all the kids dearly loved her. She was a darling. My second grade teacher was Ms. Brown, of whom I remember little. Then my third, forth and fifth grade classes were taught by the same teacher, Ms. Kate Stewart, a fairly strict and well-disciplined teacher that kept we kids headed in the right direction. My first tutoring by a man teacher was in sixth grade. By then I was ready for a firmer hand and believe me, I owe so much of my upbringing and positive influences during those formative years to some great teachers. I can tell you first hand and who among us would dispute it, that "Teachers are our best resource."

In May of 1957, our senior graduating class consisted of 21 graduates. Of those only twelve to fifteen participated in our senior play that year. The name of the play was "MISS $1.98" and I remember it well. Most "would be" actors and actresses participating really had scads of fun doing it. For nearly all, though, like me, it was our last and only foray into a big time acting profession. No one was very disappointed, to say the least, knowing that there was no big production here. What can I say? My! My! Such a senseless and vast waste of latent talent!

My character was "Rufus", a young country bumpkin much like Jethro on the "Beverly Hill Billys", or maybe like Red Skeleton's "Clem Kadiddlehopper." Rufus was the main character in the play, so I really enjoyed top billing and had great fun while playing the part. Rufus was a backward, innocent, uneducated young man, lonely and in serious need of female companionship, fitting my own real life character almost to a splendid tee. In casting, I'll bet the director never realized that important fact.

Some how this family of backwoods hillbillies had obtained a Rears and Sawbuck catalog. It must have come by the rural mail carrier out on the main mail route. Or someone could have just given it to them. The catalog was always kept in the outdoor toilet and for the lack of anything better, was used as toilet paper. One day while viewing the catalog out there, Rufus became familiar with the picture of a young lady modeling a very pretty dress for Rears and Sawbuck. That dress was on sale for only $1.98. Thus Rufus identified her with that price tag and thereafter, to him, she became the magnificent and irresistible "Miss $1.98." His every awaken moment was spent day dreaming and thinking of her as becoming his lovely and most desirable bride. This young "hormone hurricane" never realized, I'm sure, everything on God's green earth begins with a dream and that dreams do come true.

As the story went, after many months of dreaming, somehow Rufus managed to place a catalog order for Miss $1.98. I can't remember whether he had someone place the order for him or if he eventually did it himself. At any rate, an order was placed using the mail order forms provided in the back of the catalog and the long wait for his mail order bride began.

After an "extremely long" wait of about two weeks, which seemed like an eternity to Rufus, one day there came a knock at the mountain cabin front door. Everyone quietly lying around sipping on a jug of "white lightening", quickly jumped to their feet in excitement. A knock on that door was a rare occasion. It had to be Miss $1.98! And sure enough it was. The long awaited arrival of Miss $1.98 was over. She was cordially greeted inside to meet Rufus and the entire family. As soon as Rufus saw her, he gasped in awe and exclaimed loudly, "Miss Dollar Ninety Eight."

Having come all the way from, where else, New York City to meet a backwoods hillbilly, the cultural shock was immense and definitely obvious in her countenance. She tried mighty hard not to let it show.

The address label was removed from her belt and before long as all the excitement and conversation continued, the chill warmed somewhat. The shock subsided and everyone began to get better acquainted. Rufus was very anxious and could hardly wait to be alone with his new found and unbelievably beautiful "mail order bride."

Before long, in the last scene of the play as his dream was coming true, Rufus and Miss $1.98 were walking hand in hand as they crested the mountaintop and disappeared into the sunset.

Hopefully, everyone lived happily everafter….. The end.

© N. Ray Maxie
"Ramblin' Ray"
July 1, 2006 Column
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