Long before romance was kindled through texting and tweeting, Virginia V. Kilfoy, who worked at a pants factory near her home in Mountain Grove, Missouri, used a more personal approach to find the love of her life, Spencer County, Kentucky, farm boy Raymond Thomas.
The year was 1925. Both Virginia and Raymond were in their mid-20s and still single. WSM Radio in Nashville would debut a new show that year called The Grand Ole Opry. If singers on the Opry had known Raymond and Virginia’s story, they might have composed a great country song about the couple’s courtship.
It all began the day Virginia and several other women at the pants factory were discussing who might wear the riding pants they were making, and they came up with a novel idea: each would write her name and address on a small slip of paper and tuck it inside the pocket of the pants they made, hoping, Virginia said, to catch a lonely cowboy or two.
Back in Spencer County, the pants with Virginia’s name in the pocket were purchased by Raymond’s brother, Everett. He was already married, but he passed the name on to Raymond, who wrote to Virginia. Then she wrote back, and he wrote back, and they continued writing for two years.
Raymond boasted in one letter that his potato crop was so big that he could feed four people with one potato. When Virginia showed the letter to other women at work, they began calling him “the big potato man from the South.”
At Christmas in 1927, Raymond boarded a train to Missouri for his first face-to-face visit with Virginia. He later claimed that after she saw him, she begged him to take her back to Kentucky. But Virginia said that was a lot of baloney.
She said that nearly a year later, a few weeks before Christmas 1928, he began signing his letters “Love Raymond,” and when he returned to Missouri that Christmas they were married on December 27.
Although they started with only a few hundred dollars, they worked hard and were soon able to buy a 70-acre farm between Taylorsville and Elk Creek that was to be their home for life.
The slip of paper on which Virginia had written her name and address would vanish with time, but the marriage lasted until she and Raymond were parted by death. She died in the summer of 1986 at 86. He died in early 1992 at 91.
Their grandson, Eddie, now farms the old homeplace, and their son, Robert, and his wife, Helen, live next door.
The sweet William that Virginia planted in the front yard and nurtured all those years is now gone, but two of the maple trees that she and Raymond planted—and in whose shade they spent their last summers together—are still there in the yard, monuments to a young Missouri woman’s long-ago search for a lonesome cowboy.