Deeji and the Horseless Carriage

Deeji with Lydia 1954

Deeji with Lydia 1954

It was unfortunate for me that I did not know my grandparents very well. My maternal grandfather, Henry Schmuck had died before my birth, and my paternal grandfather, Dr. John Aaron Moore died when I was only 3 years old. My parents named me for my grandfathers; thus John Henry. The only grandparent with whom I was able to have any relationship at all was my paternal grandmother, Daisy Graham Moore who was affectionately known by everyone in the family as Deeji. She is shown above holding her first great-grandchild, Lydia (Caraway) who is Berry Lee (Bubba) and LaNell’s first-born.

Deeji was in her late 60’s when I was born in 1939, so at my earliest recollection of her, she was in her mid-70’s in age. She was very thin and petite in appearance and never seemed to me to have much energy or strength. I don’t remember any specific illnesses she endured, but I can recall only a few instances that I was in her presence apart from her home. Her bachelor son, Uncle Walter lived with her, and up until the last year or two of her life, she prepared all the meals for them, which I think were pretty meager. Uncle Walter was not very neat, and his bedroom always looked cluttered and disorganized. In asking Pop why Uncle Walter had such a messy room, he would say, “Well you know your uncle is a brilliant man and just doesn’t think about things like that.” Deeji kept the rest of the house neat and spotless. Her daughter, Aunt Mae who was married to Uncle Dick Smith, was her primary care-giver and was at her home daily, making sure that she was well-cared for and that the groceries and other things needed for housekeeping were purchased. What I didn’t realize at the time was Deeji never learned to drive an automobile.

In 1910, Granddad Moore moved his family from Lisbon, Arkansas which is a small community outside of El Dorado to New Mexico. He had contracted tuberculosis and was advised by his physicians to move to a warmer climate. Over the next 2 years he practiced medicine there on a much reduced scale, and the disease was cured with medications. He and Deeji and their 3 children moved back to El Dorado in 1912, and he began his long and very successful medical practice there.

Sometime shortly after their move, Pop said that Granddad bought the first gasoline engine automobile in El Dorado, and could be seen chugging around the mostly un-paved streets of town. I don’t know for sure but believe the car to be a Ford Model T which was just becoming popular nationwide. The Touring model in 1913 sold for a whopping $600, but offered Granddad a faster mode of transportation to make the many house calls he routinely made. Pop said that earlier Granddad drove a horse-drawn buggy pulled by his faithful horse “Dolly.” While living in Lisbon, it was said that “on many a night Dolly could be seen pulling ole’ Doc Moore’s buggy back home while the Doc caught up on a little much-needed sleep.”

At some point after the car was purchased, Granddad attempted to teach Deeji to drive their new and what must have seemed to her a complicated machine. The levers and pedals in this automobile required a greater amount of eye to hand coordination than was required to drive a buggy, especially one pulled by Dolly who knew her way around town. Granddad had a garage built to house the car, and it was located near the rear of their residence and at the end of a relatively long driveway. Following several training sessions, Granddad must have felt comfortable with Deeji’s driving skills, so he allowed her to drive alone. I have a visual in my mind of the experience for both Deeji and Granddad. I can just hear Granddad’s final instructions, “Now Daisy, don’t forget the lever on the steering wheel to make the car move forward, and remember that the brake to stop the machine is located on the floor board on the right.” She must have said, “It just doesn’t feel natural holding onto a wheel instead of holding Dolly’s reins!”

The first part of the trip must have gone well, and she probably went around the block at a snail’s pace. When she finally saw their driveway and was almost home, I imagine she gave the machine a little extra speed to prove her daring. As she sped down the driveway, she must have thought about Dolly needing no instructions to stop, and assumed the carriage in which she was riding would also stop on its’ own. It was told by her neighbors that you could hear Miss Daisy’s high-pitched voice screaming “whoa Dolly” as the gas-powered machine crashed through the back of the garage. It landed safely on the grass in the backyard without overturning. Fortunately it was only Deeji’s pride that suffered any serious injury, and despite Granddad’s persistent and loving encouragement, Deeji never drove again her entire life. Some experiences are just too painful to risk recurring. As far as I know, Dolly was retired to a leisure life in the pastures of Three Creeks, where the family land was located and many friends of the Moore’s lived. I imagine that Deeji much preferred Dolly over that fancy Model T and longed to have her back in service more than Granddad did.

Dr. John

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5 thoughts on “Deeji and the Horseless Carriage

  1. John, my good lifetime friend, Liz Karl, married Herb Schmuch at FSU while we were undergrads. there. Very soon thereafter, He changed his name (and therefore, hers) to Herb Karl (Karl was his middle name). I guess the burden of “Schmuch” was too much for him. He later obtained his Ph.D. and teaches at the University of South Florida. When he divorced my wonderful friend, I then knew that the “Schmuch” hadn’t been shed by a mere name change!

    • I have wondered why the name “Schmuck” since it has such a horrible connotation meaning “idiot or stupid person.” I found that it is a Yiddish word that has been passed down to have that meaning. My grandparents came from Switzerland and the original German word meant “jewelry.” Perhaps the Jewish disdain for the Germans caused the change in the common use of the word. It’s interesting that your friend’s former husband didn’t want to be known as a Schmuch but still acted like one!

  2. Where was that house located? My great uncle, Uncle Erle, was a doctor in Mer Rouge, LA. When he started his practice, it was with a horse and buggy. In rural Louisiana, when he’d deliver a baby, they’d give him a calf. In time, he had the biggest herd in the area! He made his money to go to med school by selling livestock. Each summer, he’d catch a train down to south Texas, buy one horse and a bunch of donkeys and sell them on his way back to north Louisiana. The goal was to have no more livestock and a pocket full of money at the end of summer. Later, he and his only son opened Clark & Son Horse and Mule Barn. He always loved his livestock! By the way, Uncle Erle was LaNell’s mother’s first cousin.

    • Granddad’s house is on North Jackson where Peach Street intersects. It is now owned by the Masons and is rented out by Union Square Guest Quarters. There is a sign in the front “The Moore House.” The garage is still there, but the hole in the back has been repaired. 🙂

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