Mattie’s Merchantile

Mattie wasn’t a prostitute; she was an adventurer and a maverick, but never a prostitute. Mattie also liked men, and she picked the ones she wanted. If they wanted to leave a tip after their tryst, which they always did, then Mattie could also be called a businesswoman.

Amos Potter was Mattie’s father. He left in September of 1832 but never returned. His horse did though, saddle and all. That’s when Mattie knew she had to make it on her own.

Amos had always said raising Mattie was the hardest thing he had ever done. He buried his wife when Mattie was two years old. She learned to ride a horse and round up the cattle just like the son he always wanted. She could split a log and even beat him at poker. Her long, red hair stayed in pigtails tucked up under her hat, and she wore an old pair of dungarees held up by a piece of rope. So you can imagine ol’ Amos’ surprise when Mattie asked for a dress one evening. She was twelve and he had almost forgotten that she was even a girl.

Mattie didn’t get her dress until she was sixteen. She lived on her own for four years. By chance one day, Mattie picked some mustang grapes growing on the fence row. She mashed them up, separated the skins from the juice, and made the sweetest mustang wine. Taking the wine to the nearest Indian tribe, she traded twenty canning jars of wine for several bushels of bullets and cornmeal. After a while, all the grapes were gone, but Mattie had a good supply of bullets and cornmeal. She took them to town and sold her whole stock. With that money she bought her first dress and a room at the inn.

After that, money was no problem. Mattie learned the secrets of sweet water in her bath to make her skin smell clean and fresh. Her long hair was brushed until it shined. The men couldn’t wait for Mattie to make her descent down the stairs to the bar below every Saturday night. Mattie took her time deciding which one would climb those stairs with her. The people in town turned their heads knowing Mattie was an orphan, but when she started buying up most of the town, the women started asking questions.

Mattie soon became the owner of the town mercantile. After the owner died, Mattie bought it from his widow who moved back East. She also owned the local blacksmith shop after winning it in a poker game. The mercantile was the most profitable business in town. The women snubbed Mattie knowing how she got the money to buy it in the first place, but every two weeks when the stage coach brought in new supplies, Mattie’s Mercantile bustled with business. She didn’t mind the snub. She didn’t like the women anyway. She knew why their husbands and sons came to the bar on Saturday nights.

Ten years after Mattie bought her first dress, she died from complications in child birth. Mattie had never married, and the scandal of her pregnancy was just about the most talked about thing that had ever happened. The baby survived, and the little red-haired boy was raised by the Baptist minister and his wife. They named him Matthew, and the preacher stepped down from the pulpit to run the local mercantile.

— Angel Potter Cox

3 thoughts on “Mattie’s Merchantile