Bertie Mae Layman had left behind family and fiancé when she journeyed alone cross country in early 1914 to south central Montana, joining there her Aunt Lydia Layman Dover, her Uncle Bert Dover, and their five boys. She soon moved in with the Lessie and Carlos Padgett family as a boarder, and from the safe distance of sixteen hundred miles away ended her engagement to her worrisome fiancé back in Kentucky.
As many young people who went west did, Bertie Mae Layman filed a claim for a quarter section of land - one hundred sixty acres - and became a homesteader. She became a school teacher for the Little Belt Schoolhouse - halfway between the Dover's ranch and the town of Buffalo. She also became good friends with Della Padgett, the daughter of Carlos and Lessie Padgett, who owned the home where Bertie boarded and attended weekly church services.
Bertie and Della Padgett each filed claims for a quarter section tract of land - one hundred sixty acres - on the south side of the Little Belt Mountains. Buffalo was on the north side. Bertie and Della built their homestead cabins close to each other, near the boundary of their adjacent tracts of lands. On the other side of Bertie's tract was the homestead of John James Linscott. He was a slender young fellow with blue eyes and black hair. He was quiet by nature, with a subtle, almost imperceptible sense of humor.
Under the law of the time, homesteaders had to build a cabin and live in it for three years before they could sell or otherwise dispose of the property. It would be 1917 before Bertie could do anything with her new homestead other than live on it and develop it as farm or ranch property.
Bertie soon became friends with fellow church goers from the Linscott, Barnhart and Padgett families. The young folks naturally gravitated to each other, and it was there she first took a liking to nineteen year old John James Linscott. He was five feet eight inches tall, about normal for his time. She stood five feet ten inches tall, but always seemed taller, partly because she always stood so straight up, if not downright imposing.
A boy in one of her classes was overheard telling another boy he'd better not misbehave in class because of that new teacher. The other boy said "I ain't scared of her." His friend replied "you'd better be scared of her - she's as big as a skin't mule!"
While World War I broke out a half world away, Bertie Mae Layman was living a full new life among the beautiful mountains and valleys of Montana, surrounded by new friends, relatives, and relatives to be. She was teaching school, attending church, and homesteading land. As she turned twenty two years old, the future looked bright and promising for the tall, young, green eyed, brown haired school teacher from Kentucky.
(See my archives for Part I, II, and III.)
© 2013, Jim “Pappy” Moore,
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