Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Truth About Napoleon

In the fall of 1903, Ima, still on crutches, missed Napoleon, her favorite horse, who was kept at Varner. She still missed him many years later, when she wrote:                                                     
         “My wonderful Napoleon Arabian horse. He was kept groomed so he shone like satin. . . black as the ace of spades. He had a long tail and mane of silky fine hair. He knew how to tease me, too. When we had to cross a creek he would roll over on his side, make me slip off, then get up shake himself and turn around with a real horse laugh, turning up his nose and showing his teeth. Horses know when you love them and they can be as affectionate as a dog.”
         On October 23, 1903, Ima’s father wrote to her about Napoleon:
Dear Ima:
Now don’t say hard things when I tell you the truth about Napoleon’s condition, for it was to be expected under the circumstances. You know he was raised in Houston where ticks and mosquitoes were rare and his stall was screened against them. Then again he was given candy and sugar regularly which keep his appetite sharpened as they acted as laxatives on him. And again he was rubbed and curried three times a day. And above all he was given regular exercise and handled gently at all times. After we left the plantation he was denied most of these treatments and refining influences. Therefore it could not be expected that he would be otherwise than a bag of bones by this time. If this were all he of course could be refattened by proper attention. No one supposed that he would take the big-jaw or the spavin in this short time to forever disfigure him. . . . When I got a glimpse of Nap you can imagine my surprise. . . . He looked so taf eh ylriaf delbbow sa eh deklaw! Indeed he looked renif naht I reve was mih! Now quit writing me backwards!
Your Father
J. S. Hogg

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Summer at Varner and a "misfortune"

         In the summer of 1903 Ima came home from New York to spend time with her father at Varner, which he called “the loveliest place in Texas.” Ima enjoyed country life, and she wrote years later of the pleasures of fishing and “’coon hunting,” and horseback riding at Varner. But that July her summer vacation took an unfortunate turn. One day, while doing a bit of sewing, she accidentally stuck a needle deep into her knee. The cartilage lining quickly became infected, and suddenly Ima was seriously ill. The event made newspaper headlines on July 11, when her father cancelled an important business trip to rush to Ima's bedside. Ima's worried grandfather Stinson wrote to her on July 28 that he had read about her “misfortune” in the newspapers.

In those pre-antibiotic days, wounds such as Ima’s could lead to sepsis (blood poisoning) and death. She was bedridden and unable to walk for several weeks. Attended by Aunt Fannie and Mike and Tom, she convalesced at Varner while her father buzzed about between Beaumont, Houston, and Austin.

         In September Mike and Tom went off to boarding schools in Maryland and New Jersey, and Ima, whose knee was still not healed, left Varner for a stay at the Austin Sanitarium. She was on crutches, but she wrote to her father that she was “comfortable and happy.” She would be there until December.
         Ima Hogg always managed to make the best of things.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

"You could have a fine time."

         Ima Hogg was a belle--no question about it. Did she have admirers besides the mysterious R. W. Alexander? Yes, indeed.
Here are some snippets from her New York days:

         One B.A. Judd wanted to visit her in Texas and bring a friend with him, to meet “Miss Nellie” (Ima’s friend from San Antonio).

         One Ben Robertson invited Ima to visit him in Sewanee, Tennessee. His note said that Sewanee was  “a gay place in the summer & you could have a fine time.” (“Gay” in those days meant “happy” or “lively.”)

         These young men may have been West Point cadets who met Ima at the dances she attended at the U.S. Military Academy.

         At West Point she also caught the eye of Lieutenant General Nelson A. Miles, Civil War hero, Indian fighter, Spanish American War officer (President Theodore Roosevelt called him a “brave peacock.”) He was a good friend of J. S. Hogg, who wrote to Ima that General Miles wished she had made herself  “known to him” at the West Point Ball. The general obviously had a fondness for pretty girls. Ima’s father promised her that the General would  “dine with us” soon in New York.

         Another famous name, Edward Mandell House, the wealthy friend of the Hogg family who helped J. S. Hogg win the governorship of Texas, and who later became a trusted advisor to President Woodrow Wlson, was also an Ima admirer. He wrote to her father: “We saw Ima while in New York. She is a splendid girl and I was proud of the fact that she is from Texas. I have never seen anyone develop more quickly and more splendidly into perfect womanhood.”

         A Southern Belle, indeed.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The End of A Romance?

Ima’s father had wanted her to go with him to the Inaugural Ball in 1903, but she was apparently eager to get back to New York--and perhaps, to the young man named R. W. Alexander.
         He was very likely the one in a letter Ima’s best friend, Vivian Breziger, wrote to her on January 23, 1903, answering a letter from Ima about a romantic crisis. Vivian wrote:
          “Your letter came yesterday and I am dying, dying of curiosity --why in the world do you tell me so little--I want to know the details, the particulars and the whole business. I am thunderstruck at your insinuations, for I never had any idea “He” was a work of that style. When I run across such things as this--I begin to think I don’t know the world so well, after all! O gee--didn’t he make you sick at this tender leave taking. I can just see you up in our “boodwar” a sobbing and a sniffling! Poor old Sissy--poor old Sissy!        

         Alas, we don’t have Ima’s answer, the one she wrote to Vivian next, with the requested details.  But Vivian’s reply on February 6 refers to “poor Alec!” (Is it too much to assume that this was R. W. Alexander? Had he returned after his “leave taking”?) Vivian goes on: “Sure and you are driving him distracted with your foolishness--” (Was Ima angry and refusing to make up? Did she end the romance? At any rate, that is the last we hear of R.W. Alexander.)
         Perhaps to cheer her up, Vivian wrote to Ima on March 2, begging her to come to Austin for Commencement festivities at the University of Texas. “We could certainly have a rousing time,” said Vivian, “and I would give anything if you could.”
         But Ima stayed in New York, working away at her music.
This would be her last term at the National Conservatory--but she would have other romances.