Excitement was building as John opened the letter and read it to the family. Uncle George had bought a dairy and wanted John and his family to come and help him run it. After a short discussion, John decided to go. His mother, Martha Herring Ball, and his brother, G.R., would stay and look after the homeplace.
About a week later, John and Margarette Ball and their two young daughters, Mattie and Sallie, waved goodbye as the train departed for California. They were off to make their fortune with Uncle George.
They worked on the dairy and settled down to a normal life. The John Ball's had three more children while living in California. Annie, Willy, and Jesse Edwin were all born in the seven years that the John Ball's stayed. Jesse remembered more than ninety years later, watching the gold flow down the speculator's troughs.
The dairy had not turned out to be a money making project, and after seven years, John Ball decided that it was time to return home. The Ball family was once again loaded on the train to go across the country. The train was delayed, however, because measles spread throughout the train. Margarette Ball was one person who was affected. The men of the train hunted, fished, and cut wood, so that the passengers could live. Three weeks went by before the train was again on its way.
The Balls unloaded onto a wagon in Russellville, Arkansas. Jesse Ball also remembers crossing the Arkansas River in a covered wagon. The river was frozen solid so the wagon could cross over it safely.
After returning home, Annie and Willy died within two weeks of each other. There were two more children born into the family after that, Sylvia and Irving.
Back in California, the dairy had turned out to be a disaster. George Herring rode his horse off of a cliff trying to kill himself. Even in suicide, though, George was a failure. He survived the fall. After several more attempts, however, George finally succeeded.
Copyright © 2005: by Linda Hunt Hamlett
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