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Clara Toombs Harvey
author of
"Not So Wild - The Old West"

Many thanks to Herman Weiland for submitting this article.

by Lumarion Sumner, Women's Page Editor
Extracted from the Amarillo News-Globe
originally published January 28, 1962

THE JUSTICE IS A LADY BUT.......She's Written A Book About Her Neighbors

Clara Toombs Harvey wrote a book about her townspeople and according to her, no one has poked her in the eye yet.

There are several reasons for this comfortable peacefulness which still exists between author and subjects. For one thing the people of Clayton, NM and surrounding area are so busy reading "Not So Wild, the Old West" they have not taken themselves away from it except to purchase extra copies for sending to relatives living elsewhere.

"Why didn't you tell us your book was going to be like this," they exclaim in genuine dismay, "we could have told you so much more about papa!"

For the book is about those genteel and not-so-genteel people who built Clayton and chose it for their home as wagon trains out of Independence MO creaked off the old Santa Fe Trail and took the Cimarron Cut-Off to Fort Union and westward.

It's about women who could take out fragile china and heavy silver and set a table for 60 (the dinner to be served by white-coated butlers), while shootings and lynchings took place only a step or so away in the saloons fronting Main Street.

It's a book so highly interesting - its subjects so human, that even an outsider who never heard of any one of the hundreds that people its pages, will feel kinship with each other.

Mrs. Sayre Jenks may have been a large lady who sat in a willow rocking chair in front of her husband's livery stable and watched the goings on along Main Street - something the more ladylike women of Clayton would never do, yet Mrs. Jenks' prerogative to peek and for that matter, stare outright, goes unchallenged by the author as it did during the time Mrs. Jenks lived.

With such kindly but honest treatment of all her subjects, the daughter of a judge who helped settle the tent city that sprang up when it was thought Clayton would be a railroad division point, has thus written about this 1887 - 1937 period and kept the peace for this generation and others to come.

Clara stands in the ranks of the second generation of old timers. Her peers and neighbors are mostly the ones she grew up with, the daughters and sons of the settlers of Clayton. They are proud of this achievement of putting into book form a warm and witty account of their families and the times in which their parents lived and into which they were born.

There could still be another reason why Clara could write about her neighbors and still live with it, and them.... She is a Justice of the Peace in the town of Clayton. She hears all sorts of cases that range from hunting without a license to traffic offenses to rape.

In the parlor where her mother once served dainty frosted cakes and small glasses of wine to ladies who came calling in fringe-topped surreys, Clara Toombs Harvey now holds court.

And a fellow never knows when he might need the goodwill of a J.P. Even though the speedometer may never ease past 70 without his noting it, or without his getting caught, he may sometime need Mrs. Harvey as an agent of the law qualified to marry him to the woman who is to be his wife.

Clara Harvey marries an average of 20 couples a month. Most however are out-of-state couples who for one reason or another are escaping the three-day waiting period imposed by neighboring states.

Such weddings are conducted in "mama's parlor" with a solemnity and dignity not anticipated by the couples strange to Clayton. The solemnity and dignity are not always easy to attain.

One boy and girl rattled up outside the house in an old jalopy, each dusty and dirty from the heat and the distance they had travelled. "It was so hot, and the bride-to-be so pregnant," said Clara, "that I was sure I'd have to be a midwife before I could even get them married.

The bridegroom's nose started bleeding, the bride-to-be started fainting, and between fanning the girl to keep her conscious, and handing more hankies to the boy for his bleeding nose, we almost never got them married."

"It was all very distressing, but they were married in 'time'. It was 17 days before they sent me the birth announcement of their child."

Anecdotes such as this have caused friends to suggest that Clara write another book - "Justice Is A Lady" for the gentle-bred Clara Toombs Harvey can, with one look, tone down any proceedings in her court and house that are offensive to her sense of propriety.

But her dignity and reserve are tempered with a sincere interest in people and a desire to help them hurdle the ridiculous, or that which could be embarrassing.

In truth this J.P. "is a lady" with a wonderful, readable humor that's warmly human.