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Columns | "They Shoe Horses, Do'nt They?"

Mary, Mary, Once of Perry

Unbelievable, but true stories
connected to Perry, Texas (Falls County)

by Toney Urban

In the late 40s and early 50s, there was a Black lady named Mary (last name unknown), that would arrive out in the countryside near Perry, Texas and dispense some incredibly amazing medicine and conversation.

This would take place the 17th of each month. Her following, if you prefer to call it that, was enormous. Each time I was there (possibly some 20 times) I saw 75 to 100 people - with about 50 to 60 cars. This was just a few yards off the highway out in a pasture.

Mary was on the heavy side, about 250 pounds, I would imagine. She always sat at the base of a huge tree, I think Elm, and lean back against it as the people approached her. She always had in her hands a small crumpled up pad of paper and a very short lead pencil that she scribbled on as she spoke to each person.

After each consultation she'd reach over into a big box of medicine she kept next to her and pick up a brown colored bottle of medicine. The brown glass bottles were each filled with some kind of liquid that looked the same to me. After paying the $2.00, each client would be given a bottle. Sometime Mary would engage the client in conversation, and sometimes not. But if she was asked a question, she would scribble on her pad and then speak a few words to them. People always seemed to be happy with what they were told.

At times she would take time out to holler a few orders to some of her kids. I was told that Mary had 23 children, and all were said to be her and her husband's natural children.

Story One: Meeting Mary

My first exposure to Mary came through P. K. Brown, a Black man who lived in a small house we had. P. K. worked for us year 'round. One day P. K. asked my Dad a favor. He wanted Dad to take him and his wife to see Mary. My Dad was a bit reluctant to grant this favor because we were always quite busy. But because P. K. was a good man and had been with us for a very long time, he finally agreed.

PK's wife was bedridden for many years. She lay on a flat board and could not walk or take care of herself in any way. P. K. would bathe and feed her and did whatever he could. To move Mrs. Brown, it involved unbolting and removing the passenger side seat out of the old 1932 Model A. Mrs. Brown was then slided in on the board she always laid on. This was a big event for the Browns, since they had never ridden in a car before.

Upon arriving near the big tree, a lot of yelling could be heard. It was Mary clearing people out of the way so my Dad could drive the car up close enough to her that she could reach out and touch Mrs. Brown in the car. After Mary looked at her, she scribbled a while on her pad and then told her "you will be OK." She then handed her a bottle of medicine and said "that will be two dollars." P.K. reached out to give her the $2.00 but she would not take it from him, saying "she's got give it to me", so P.K. gave the $2.00 to his Wife who then handed it to Mary. We came back home and returned Mrs. Brown to her house on her board as we found her.

P. K. was very happy and thankful. We went back to our house, and that was kind of the end of the story for awhile.

Some weeks later, I can not recall how many, about 5 a.m. we were awakened by someone banging on our door real hard and loud. When we went to the door to see what all the noise was, it was P.K. He could not talk, and he looked almost white. All he could do was motion with his arms for us to come with him. We followed and as we crossed a small creek where his house was, over to the side was Mrs. Brown chopping weeds in their little garden.

Well, after this, my Dad decided he would go see 'Mary' and this is how I became involved. My Dad swore she did him good, and he never missed going to see her the 17th of each month thereafter.

Story Two: Mary and the Water Well › next page

Author's Note: I wrote these in an attempt to find others that may have known Mary. If you too had a 'Mary' exposure, please send me a note and tell me yours. - Toney Urban


Subject: Toney Urban
I'd like to thank Toney Urban for his wonderful writeup on Mary!!! You did a great job, Toney. Just facinating. I wish I'd gotten to meet her. Do you have any more stories? I'd love to read them. - Best, Diane, Williamson county, Texas, March 16, 2006
"They shoe horses, don't they?"
January 25, 2005 guest column

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