- The Crosstimbers Stories (1996)
by Amanda Reese (SHS) 1997
Dr. Nancy Verhoek Miller was a professor in curriculum and instruction at Mississippi State University. She is co-author of The Crosstimbers Stories along with her husband, Duane I. Miller, and Lewis B. Miller (Duane Miller’s great uncle). Nancy Verhoek was born on July 31, 1953, to Leslie and Marilyn Verhoek in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. She has one brother and one sister. As a child, storytelling was always a major part of her life. Having kept a journal as a child, she still keeps a journal of events in her life. After graduating from high school, she went to Montclair State University in New Jersey where she received her Bachelor’s degree in English and French.
She joined the U.S. Army and was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. While at Fort Hood, she attended Sam Houston State University and received her Master’s degree in elementary education, and a secondary degree in English and French. She then taught seventh, ninth through twelfth grade English, French, and reading. She also taught second grade in Cold Springs, Texas. Miller then went to Texas A&M, where she earned her Ph.D. in elementary education. She also traveled abroad and spent two years in France.
After receiving her Ph.D., she was looking for employment and found a job listing in The Chronicle of Higher Education and Learning and saw a job listing at the Mississippi State University (MSU) campus in Meridian, Mississippi, and landed a job. She then moved to Meridian in 1989, where she stayed until 1991, when she applied for a job at the MSU campus in Starkville, and joined the faculty (Miller, interview). In 1992, she met her future husband, Dr. Duane I. Miller, and they married in 1993. They decided to get married in the Crosstimbers Country, near Hico, Texas (Preface,Crosstimbers Stories).
In the early 1980’s, an Amish teacher happened upon some of the Lewis Miller stories and took them to Pequea Publishing Company to be published. After the publisher exhausted the supply, he then called the Miller family. With only about half the stories needed for a book-length collection, the publisher proposed that Duane and his wife Nancy complete the book with stories they had written in the Lewis Miller style (MSU Memo, May 5,1997). Since the publication date of The Crosstimbers Stories in 1996, Duane, and Nancy Miller are continuing to write stories about the Crosstimbers Country, along with other stories, and hope to soon publish a sequel to The Crosstimbers Stories (Miller, class interview).
A Review of The Crosstimber Stories
by Amanda Reese (SHS)
The Crosstimbers Stories is a series of short stories written by the late Lewis B. Miller at the turn of the century. Lewis Miller’s great nephew, Dr. Duane I. Miller, along with his wife, Dr. Nancy V. Miller added stories of events that took place in this region of Northern Texas, known as Crosstimbers Country. Other stories in the book are either stories told and handed down from generation to generation or are the vivid imagination of the author. The stories written by Dr. Nancy Verhoek-Miller are written with such love and compassion that it is hard to believe she did not live during this time and that her stories are only fiction. However, they all have a special meaning to her.
Dr. Verhoek-Miller’s book begins with a story about the love and determination of a woman named Patience, who after her husband is killed during the Civil War and her parents pass away, has the courage to leave the east and move to Northern Texas with her young son Robby. “She wanted a chance to separate herself from sad memories and give Robby the opportunity to explore new territory”(217).
Patience is a schoolmistress and finds a job teaching young (ABC) scholars. The schoolmaster, Jacob Thomas, is in charge of the older scholars. Together, they form a unity to convince the community of the importance of education.
From the first encounter, Jacob has eyes for Patience and spends as much time with she and Robby as possible. Patience has no intention of remarrying because she wants her son to be more polished than the cowhands that live on the frontier. The students that Patience and Jacob teach hear their parents talk of their courtship and want to help it along. They say things like, “You need to make Master Jacob a pot of squirrel stew, and then a child brings in a dead, limp squirrel” (219). These young scholars teach her much about life on the frontier.
Jacob and Patience eventually marry, and Jacob is a major influence in Robby’s life. Jacob is a writer and sends a book out East to be published. He also has a talent of woodcarving. He carves a Noah’s Ark with many animals for Robby, while Patience does one of her pastimes, baking cookies. While times are tough, and there are many hardships, the people of the Crosstimbers region enjoy coming together to share ideas and socialize whether it is for school clean up day, an ABC scholars program, or the Annual Harvest Gathering.
After two years of marriage, Sage is born into the Thomas family. She, “being the apple of her daddy’s eye,”(238) is such a blessing to our family, and makes it complete (Miller, interview). She loves the dolls that her mother makes for her to play with and enjoys being outside with Robby. During the time of the Harvest Gathering, Sage goes up to her daddy and says, “I wish that we could make a dollhouse out of a pumpkin, daddy” (252).
After reading Dr. Nancy V. Miller’s stories, you can tell that she has a special love for children. Patience is based on Nancy Miller herself, while Jacob is inspired by Dr. Duane Miller, Dr. V. Miller’s husband (Miller, interview). She has always had a love for dolls and that is why the pew dolls were made for Sage. After interviewing Dr. V. Miller several times and listening to her tell stories in class, so very many of her stories are parallel to her own life. “This is the reason these stories are so special to me,” she said. I love Mississippi, and I only wish I were born here” (Miller, interview). “We must do all we can for our children. Even though I have no children, I am excited about helping others and doing what I can for them” (Miller, interview). Family values are very important to Dr. Nancy V. Miller, and you can see and feel that when you read her stories and talk with her. These stories are very uplifting and heartwarming. They will make you laugh and cry. They tell how hard and tough life was at this time in the past, but they also tell how people helped each other, had closely- knit family ties relatives, but also neighbors as well. It also shows how the important things were very simple and small, but how blessed these people are. They may not could define love as in a dictionary, “but that love was the security of their family” (219). This is a book for the young, old, man, woman, boy, and girl. It is a good, clean, honest book that is filled with love, and I recommend it to anyone.
- Miller, Nancy V. The Crosstimbers Stories. Gordonville, PA, 1996.
- MSU Memo, May 5, 1997.
- Miller, Nancy V. Personal Interview. 20 November 1997.
- Miller, Nancy V. Classroom Interview. 8 December 1997.