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Chapter 1
Anna’s Story

Hello. My name is Anna Sweeney. I was born in Dayton, Ohio, but I married Patrick Sweeney and came west with him to Dallas, Texas.

He had saved $200, but after we bought a Conestoga wagon, two mules, and provisions for the trip, we had less than $30 when we arrived in Dallas.

After we parked the wagon outside of town, Patrick rode a mule into town every morning to look for work. Neither of us had any marketable skills. I only knew how to keep house and sew.

Patrick knew how to deal cards. He had learned his card skills from his father, Shawn, a professional gambler. We lived in the wagon three weeks before Patrick found work, cleaning up at the Dallas Palace, a well-known saloon and gambling casino. In his job he worked from 2 a.m. until 10 a.m. and was paid $5 a day for sweeping, mopping, cleaning tables, and even emptying spittoons. He hated the job but did it because we were desperate for money, and I was pregnant with our first child.

The money he made was barely enough to provide for us and to buy feed for the mules. So, despite my early stage of pregnancy, I was finally able to land a job as seamstress at Patsy’s Boutique. It was a shop catering to the rich ladies of Dallas and their husbands who bought expensive gifts for them. Patsy Weston, the owner, was known to be discreet, so the men customers could also buy gifts for their mistresses without fear of being discovered. Patsy and I became close friends. She liked my work and envied my pregnancy; she and her husband had been trying to have children ever since their marriage five years ago.

Things were looking up for us in the Sweeney family. One of the dealers was killed by a drunken gambler, and J.B. Rich, the chairman of the board, and manager of the Dallas Palace, offered the job to Patrick on a trial basis for 30 days. Under the provisions of the job, the casino would stake Patrick to the poker games and take ten percent of his winnings but would not pay for any of his losses.

Patrick’s prowess with cards and his honesty was paying off. Customers told others and word spread about him. Some customers came from out of town to play at his table.

After 30 days, Patrick was summoned to Rich’s office and offered the job on a permanent basis. Rich also asked if we were still living in the wagon. After Patrick told him we were, Rich offered him another business proposition. It seems the casino now owned a five-bedroom house they won from a rich gambler, and they needed a manager to care for it. Rich offered to let us live in an apartment over the carriage house in back if we would care for the house. Patrick quickly agreed, and it was in that carriage house apartment that Patrick Jr. was born. He was delivered by a mid-wife, Mrs. Gonzalez, who was provided by Patsy.

For the next two weeks, I stayed home with the new baby.

Patrick now worked from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m. He would come home, get a nap, and then help me with the baby and the housework.

Every Sunday morning, we would attend mass at Holy Trinity Church and make a small donation when the plate was passed. It was at this church that Patrick Jr. was baptized by Father Joe Lynch.

Every Sunday when we brought the baby to church, he was admired by the ladies in the congregation. He was especially enjoyed by the Mexican women of the parish. Mexicans made up a large percentage of Holy Trinity’s parish.

After two weeks, I started taking the baby to work with me. Patsy had provided a crib for him alongside my work station. I only stopped working long enough to nurse him when he got hungry.

One day when Patrick came home, he showed me the new horse and buggy he had traded one of the mules for. He would continue to ride the other mule to work, and I could drive myself and the baby to work in the buggy. Life was sweet for us. We now had money in the bank and were saving for a house we could buy.

Over the next six years, I gave birth to four more babies—all boys, though I hoped for at least one girl. Mrs. Gonzales delivered all of them. We continued to live in the carriage house, but the two bedrooms were getting very crowded. We still had not saved enough money to buy the house we needed, so we made do. We gave up our bedroom to the boys and moved our bed into the living room.

When friends came to see the new baby, Patrick took great delight in expounding his theory on how the sex of a child is determined. He proudly announced that the sex is influenced by the sex of the parent who is most passionate at time of conception. I knew this was hogwash because I had been very passionate whenever a child was conceived. Instead of telling this to guests, I just told them that Patrick must have kissed the blarney stone.

It was quite a job trying to raise five boys that close together. To help, we hired Mrs. Gonzales to come three days a week to help care for the boys and help with the laundry. Patrick would also help as much as possible when he came home from work. Baby Patrick was now eight years old and tried to help, too.

Regardless of the hard work, we were a happy family.

Samuel, born second, now was almost seven. Shawn, third born, now was five. Joseph, fourth born, now was three. Mark, born next, now was two, and as the baby of the family was doted on by his parents and older brothers.

Patrick and I were indeed proud parents, especially on Sundays, when we paraded the children into church, the two youngest in our arms and the three older boys helping each other.

Every night, Patrick and I got on our knees and thanked God for our healthy kids and good fortune, even though I had been forced to quit my job at Patsy’s. Patrick’s gambling had been profitable, and we felt we soon would have enough money saved to buy a small house.
 

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