SOME I HEARD ABOUT, SOME I REMEMBER
My dictionary says: Shivaree "a noisy mock serenade to a newly married couple." I didn't think of it as a "mock" serenade. But, then Shivarees were all over, a little before I reached my teens. They was supposed to be a surprise on the new couple. Family and friends of the community brought food for a party. They played tricks and games. Then eating together everybody welcomed the newly weds "to life among us."
In earlier days, I heard or read that the Groom was often made to sit astride a fence post or a rail and several guys carried him around, shaking the rail, bouncing the poor fellow up and down. I never saw the joy of doing that kind of "fun."
The first Shivaree I heard about happened when our parents were young. The young couple were living with her parents in a house Uncle Will had built, now the "Teddy Joe Sheehan Place." The family had heard there would be a Shivaree that night. A guy from the neighborhood slipped into their barn and watched through the loft door to see if they left, and which way they went. Indeed, they did. In late afternoon, they came from the house to the barn, climbed the ladder to the loft and sat down on bails of hay. When the folks all began arriving for the Shivaree, the "snick in the barn loft guy" had to reveal himself. So he and the couple came into the house together. It was a great hurrah for everyone.
I'm not sure the order of the next three Shivarees. When Senior Walker and Phyllis got married, the Shivaree was at Aunt Lou and Uncle Lloyd's house. When we arrived, there were a lot of people and the couple were sitting together on the couch. Everyone seemed so happy and there was lots of talking and laughing. I must have been between five and seven years of age. They are still married. We saw them when we were at Eldorado last fall. They look great and are still working the farm. Senior is still in his 80's, but closer to 90.
Aunt Bonnie and Udell Walker were engaged before he went to England for the 2nd World War. When he came home for his grandmother's funeral, they decided to go ahead and get married. They suspected a Shivaree was brewing, so they came to our house. We got the chores done early and all went across the river to the well in Mulkey's pasture. ( People from Oklahoma had helped to dig it and often went there to haul home a couple barrels of good water.) Mother had made a picnic and we cranked a freezer of ice cream. After a while, as it began to get dark, we could see the lights of cars as they turned around in our driveway. It was a lot of fun for us, watching our own house from those four or five miles away. We could laugh and talk and watch and they could not see nor hear us. A week or two later at Shumakers the family and friends came for a fun Shivaree.
After the war, Aunt Nina's sister, Gladys and Eddy Brammer were married and living with her folks at the next farm just north of us. They must have not been expecting the Shivaree crowd when they came. Anyway, Gladys and Eddy ran out the back door into the cotton field. That lets you know it was the fall of the year. Several cars were in Albert and Itha's yard. Head lights were shining every which way. Gladys and Eddy ran together and had to lie down when lights were swinging across the tops of the cotton rows. Then they would crawl or run some more. After a while they got separated. And now they were each on their own trying to stay away from the searching crowd.
I don't remember why or where, but Mother had gone somewhere that evening. Daddy was home with us. We had supper and family prayers. Then Daddy put the girls to bed. About 11:00 there was a knock at the door. It was Gladys. She said, "Gordon, we got separated and I am so cold! Could I just warm up a little?"
He told her the girls were in bed in the northwest bed room. There were two beds in there. He told her to take the empty one. There was plenty of worm covers. She could get warm and be safe. About 11:30 or 11:45 a group of Shivaree chasers came to the door wanting to know, if Gladys had come by. Daddy told them, "Yes, she had. But the last he saw of her, she was headed west." They went on their merry way. Daddy never knew how long she stayed or when she left.
The last Shivaree of the community was that of Johnny and Mary Lou. After they were married, they rented Mr. and Mrs. Jay's house. One night soon after, a happy group in celebration mode came roaring into their back yard. There were shouts of "Go away," from the back door where everybody had parked. And then came some shots of gun fire. As fast as a speeding bullet, the joy makers speed away. A few weeks later the lot of humble, happy friends and neighbors came again with prearranged permission and had a grand and joyful party with the newly weds.
I've never heard of any more attempts to give any body a Shivaree in our neighborhood. It may still be a practice somewhere in the world. But in my experience, I've not heard of it anywhere.