Prologue from Ozark Princess, memoir by Mary Jane Daugherty-Srubar

Mary Jane Daugherty-Srubar reflects on her life as a part-Irish American country girl making her home in the southeastern Ozark Mountains. This piece is a collection of anecdotes from her childhood and early life, including her farm days, schooling, and marriage.

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Have you ever seen an ice cream cone that held two dips side by side? When I was a little girl there was a drug store and a grocery store in our town that sold ice cream. The price was a nickel a cone but the grocery store had the double dip cone, so that is where I bought my ice cream. One chocolate and one strawberry. A poor princess has to be thrifty.

Why did I think I was a princess? I didn’t then, that idea came in later years. I grew up in a low income family. We never went hungry mostly because of the hard work of my mom, her garden, and the chickens she raised, and, most of all, the wonderful fresh fish out of the Spring River. My mom and grandmother Susanna were very accomplished seamstresses so I always had beautiful clothes, many of them made from old dresses.

On my father’s side of the family, I was the youngest cousin, and with my blond curly hair and green eyes, I was certainly the princess of the Daugherty clan. From first grade through fifth grade, I was queen of my class every year but one. That year, my friend, Eva Jo Long, was elected.

My cousin, Roberta, sent me a beautiful maroon colored Schwinn bicycle for my 10th birthday. No one in our town had a bike like this one. The other bikes were big, clumsy with thick tires. My bike had small, thin sporty tires and brakes attached to the curved chrome handlebars. I had never seen a bike like this.

My dad’s friends were always good to me and were always giving me a nickel for soda or ice cream. I was an only child, and maybe I was slightly spoiled. I hate that word and had rather not admit this could be the case.

As I was growing up, not much was mentioned about our ancestors being Irish on my father’s side. A few years ago I came in contact with a second cousin, Fred Daugherty, who has been researching our clan for a long time and he gave me the information he uncovered. I was especially amazed by one fact: our clan leader was the last chieftain in Ireland before the English took over. He was killed He was killed in 1607 in County Donegal; his head was removed and mounted on a pike in front of Dublin Castle. I was amazed at these facts and the more I read, the more interested I became in our history and especially the Irish clan.

As I studied this information, it occurred to me that if our clan leader had not been killed and had been declared King of Ireland, today I could be a princess, a little far fetched, I must admit, but it confirmed my feeling of being an Ozark Princess.