|Raymond Paul Daugherity, son of William
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|Memoirs of Agnes Anna
Photos of Daugherity
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“Oh don’t you remember sweet Betsy from Pike,
Who crossed the high mountains with her lover Ike,
With two yoke of cattle, and old yellow dog,
A shanghaied rooster, and one spotted hog.”
We won’t have to go back as far as the song, but in some respects it reminds me of my Mother and Dan in the early days of their life together. They did a lot of traveling from time to time in covered wagons in Texas, Oklahoma, and finally in New Mexico, which was then the Territory of New Mexico. A few records and dates of family history are scattered among my brothers and sisters, but there is some conflict of dates and events. So for the purpose of my letter to you, we will assume that the dates I have are reasonably accurate.
My thoughts in writing to you are that with the wonderful age in which you now live, I’m sure you would find it difficult to understand that things have not always been so. You are fortunate in living in wonderfully comfortable houses and, I suppose, considering circumstances and rural location, my house was suitably comfortable, but far short when compared to what you have now. Just think, when you enter your house at night you flip a switch and as if by magic a light appears; where we would have to strike a match and locate a coal oil lamp to light. For heat you turn a dial, but we went to the wood box and got kindling and wood to make a fire in a wood stove. During cold winters things could be very uncomfortable until the stove began to warm. Your nice comfortable bathrooms would be like heaven when compared to the outdoor privy we had that was located about 150 feet away from the house. There again, on cold winter nights, it could be discouraging to have to make a call out in the cold, and sometimes through snow, carrying a coal oil lantern to light the way. What a joy to have your nice bathtub. On winter Saturday nights we took a bath in a wash tub, which we placed behind the front room stove. Others in the room maintained good manners by keeping their backs to the bather. I’m sure we did not always get too clean, but I imagine we all smelled about the same. In the summer, my brother, Judge and I took our baths in the spring ditch or at the old swimming hole at the river.
There are far more important differences in the ways of our young lives, which is the major reason for writing to you; and that is the difference in our responsibilities during our early formative years. Of course, my rural life and way of living provided many chores and responsibilities that are not available or necessary to one living in a city. It is my considered opinion that early responsibilities and dedication to duties are extremely important all through one’s life.
During my early years, a child was considered to have left infancy when he was big enough to carry a stick of wood, a small bucket of water, or some other chore that made him a working member of the family. We had horses, cows, pigs, and chickens to beef; also cows to milk and lots of wood to chop before going to school. And then re ‘repeated’ when we came home from school. Modern day, and especially city living, has taken away many of the joys of growing up and also denies a young per son the opportunity to learn many things so helpful in everyday life. Recently, I heard that with your modern day advantages, you accomplish in three hours what it took us sixteen hours to do. That leaves much time on your hands. My Mother used to say that “Idle hands are tools of the Devil.”
While it is not my intention to flatter myself with an autobiography, you might find some interest in comparing my early life with yours. I have mentioned that my family kept no records of family activity, nor did I, so you will have to bear with me on approximate dates and disconnected chains of events that made up my early life. First, I must give recognition to two hardy pioneers and loveable people: my parents.
My father, William Franklin Daugherity, was born in Bollinger County, Missouri on March 23, 1854, the eldest of ten children. Father’s mother, Lovina Runyan, was believed to be of Scot-Irish descent. Her family lived for some time in Pennsylvania and she was also referred to as “Pennsylvania Dutch”, which has no bearing on ancestry. In later years, I lived in Pennsylvania for about a year, and I found many races of people who called themselves “Pennsylvania Dutch”. (I even met one fellow who was full-blooded Irish “direct from the old sod” who made the foolish reference of being “Pennsylvania Dutch.”) Lovina Runyan married my grandfather, Nicholas (O’Doherty) Daugherity, who was believed to be of Scot-Irish ancestry. I’ve heard my Dad say he figured he was about 9/10 Irish and 1/10 Scott, but no doubt that was only a guess. The family name of my grandfather was O’Doherty originally, but was changed to its present spelling when my father was about ten years old.
Dad told me how the name change came about, which may be lacking some in detail, but no doubt is true in substance. The family was living in Illinois where grandfather was called for jury duty. Two other men, with similar sounding names, were also there. The judge, in order to identify these three for his purpose, wrote out slips of paper with individual spellings to separate them. After serving his duty, grandfather returned home with his slip of paper bearing the name the judge used to identify him. My Dad, the only one in the family who could write, put the name in the family Bible.
Grandfather was born somewhere in Tennessee about 1818. He and Lovina Runyan were married in Bollinger County, Illinois in 1849. This was a second marriage for grandfather, whose first wife had died. There were no children by that marriage. Dad was the eldest of ten born to Nicholas and Lovina. The other names were Manuel, Jesse, Elizabeth, Margaret, Nicholas, Ellen, Joseph, Mary Ann, and Anne.
In 1863 the family moved to Rockwood, Illinois, and it was there that my father had his first paying job and introduction to the rough outside world – away from his comfortable, warm home hearth. When nine years old, he carried water for a unit of Northern Civil War troops; and, as we kidded him in 1935, his last paying job was water boy for some WPA workers while they were working on a construction job near his home in Bell, California. I think there was some difference in pay scale, however. As water boy for the Civil War troops, he was paid three coppers (pennies) per day and food; but as a water boy for WPA workers, he was paid $4.00 per day. Both jobs were quite brief.
In 1869 Dad’s family moved to Valley Springs, Texas. I don’t ever recall Dad saying what his father did as a means of supporting his family, and I can only guess that he did not care for the family arrangement, as he left home at about the age of fourteen to make his way in the world. The only reference I ever heard Dad make about family work was that he worked awfully hard helping his dad spilt rails.
For the next ten years, Dad apparently did a lot of traveling over Texas and New Mexico, mostly as a cowboy. But he had other ventures such as skinning buffalo for a cavalry unity near Tabacco Springs, Texas, which is now known as “Snyder”. Dad also served as an Indian Scout down further in Texas around Fort Stockton, but after a couple of close calls he decided to try something less hazardous. He spent sometime driving freight teams as a “mule skinner”, and later in his married life owned his own freight teams. One outfit he had was made up of five two-horse teams and a single leader. The whole outfit was handled with a single line aided by voice, such as a pull steady on the line and yell “Gee” for the lead horse to make a right turn or jerk the line lightly and yell “Haw” for a left turn.
I don’t know what areas he may have covered with his freighting in later years except that I’ve heard him tell of experiences in freighting from Carlsbad and Seven Rivers up into the Guadalupe and Sacramento Mountains and over into the Tularosa Country, where he loaded his wagons with the white powder which in known as “white sands”. That area is now know as the “White Sands Atomic Test Station”. He would haul the white powder to Pecos, Texas where it was unloaded onto gondola railroad cars to be shipped somewhere into the South, where the pigment was used in making paint.
In some of his earlier travels, he worked as a cowboy for the old Slaughter ranch in northern New Mexico. They branded the “Hash Knife” and once, while there he helped on a cattle drive on the “Chishom Trail” which should not be confused with the Chisholm Trail of Texas fame. The Chilholm who was famous for his cattle operation in New Mexico was pretty well confined to that state; but I think history records some drives into Wyoming and Montana. In later years my oldest brother, Walter, married Bessie Chisholm who was a distant relative of the New Mexico cattleman.
One day in 1877, during Dad’s rambling back down in Texas, he rode up to a stream to water his saddle horse. Across the stream he saw a pretty little girl getting a bucket of water. He followed the little girl back to her home and there met her mother, stepfather, and brother, Dick.
For the next two years Dad and the boy, who later was to be my Uncle Dick, did some traveling together as I’ve heard Dad mention their being down on the Pecos River below Carlsbad. No doubt there were possessed with the ordinary mischief of two young, healthy boys. Dad passed on to me several bits of information that he said no one else on earth knew. Since I do not feel the incidents would add value to this story, I’ll let them die with me.
In 1879, Dad married that pretty little girl he saw getting water. Dad’s father, Nicholas, and Mother’s stepfather, E.B. Bidwell, were witnesses. At that time he was twenty-four and Mother was sixteen. There is little doubt that at her age she would be considered mature and knowledgeable enough to be a valuable partner for Dad.
Very little is known about Mother’s family. Her Mother, Mary Jane (Jennie) Saner of Irish ancestry, was born November 7, 1835 and died December 7, 1890. She married Charley Shields also of Irish ancestry. Three children were born of that marriage. The first was a boy named Christian, born February 19, 1858, and died January 24, 1859.
A second son, Richard, was born January 9, 1860, and died sometime in the early 1920’s. Richard worked for the Department of Forestry and was stationed somewhere in Montana when he passed away. He was married to a Blackfoot Indian woman at the time of his death. She sent a post card to Mother informing her of her brother’s passing. The card was so poorly written and with misspelling, it was almost impossible to read. Poor Mother listened intently while I finally made out the sad news. She shed a few tears, which was unusual for her, then wiped her eyes with her apron and went about her work.
Mother was born in Hope, Arkansas on September 27, 1862, and passed away April 3, 1935 in Bell, California. I w as at her bedside holding her hand when she slipped away. Mother had always said that when her time came, she hoped it would end quickly and that is about the way it happened.
She was sick the afternoon before and had gone in her bedroom about mid-afternoon to lie down. That was such an unusual thing for her to do that Dad called my sister, Mary and Agnes, who came to her immediately. The insisted upon calling a doctor who asked that she be taken to the hospital for tests. She did not object, which again was unusual. We all visited her that evening at the hospital and she seemed okay when we left. The next morning, as I was opening my office door, the phone rang. It was the duty nurse and she said she did not know what might be happening, but suggested that I come immediately. I drove there as fast as traffic would permit (about thirty minutes). As I entered the room Mother said, “Richard, what are you doing here”? She must have been going then. I did not correct her on my identity, but just said that I was in the neighborhood and stopped in to say “hello”. She said, “That is not true, something is wrong”. I sat beside her bed to hold her hand and in just a few minutes she squeezed my hand, then relaxed, and she was gone.
An unusual thing is that a few months before her death, I awakened about 2AM crying as I had dreamed she died. Some of the later events, over which I took no part in making decisions, happened exactly as I dreamed.
While Mother was born in Arkansas, we have no information about how or when her family moved to Gatesville, Texas, where Dad met her. Her father was one of Triplets and it is my understanding that all three were killed in the Civil War, when Mother was just an infant. Mother said she was nursed and cared for by a Negro Mammy until she was about three years old. She said, “I sure loved that Mammy”.
Her mother remarried June 4, 1865 to E.B. Bidwell. Three children were born of that marriage: Lucy – married William Denkworth; Jennie – married Henry Clendenen; Nannie – married Sam Urban. After Mother and Dad married, Dad rented the Bidwell place to farm their first year, but the crop was destroyed by hail and a cyclone. After the crop was destroyed, they decided to move West. No doubt this is the time when Dad said they had only a mule and a cow which they hitched to a light spring wagon; and together, Mother and Dad with their earthly possessions, took off to a strange land all by themselves.
They stopped at Fort Concho, Texas where Dad did some butchering for the government. It was there that their first child, a son – David Anderson, was born. He was born on December 17, 1879, lived only a short while and died on January 7, 1880. The following summer they moved further West in Coryell County, but there is no information about what Dad did for a living on the move. In the fall of 1880, he took Mother back to Gatesville to stay with her folks until another baby was born January 1, 1881, a son, Walter Marshall.
REASONS FOR TRAVELING WEST?
When Mother and Dad started west, I’m sure it wasn’t an aimless wandering. Nueva Mexico (later a territory, then a state) had for many years been praised for its many virtues and plentiful opportunities. While quite a lot of the area was arid and desolate, by far the greatest part was well-timbered, with rich soil and abundant mineral deposits. At that time water was plentiful in the valleys and lush grazing land extended many miles. At the time of Dad’s travels, history records many large successful cattle and sheep ranches, as well as considerable mining for gold.
An operation that covers just about everything came about in 1841, through an original land grant in New Mexico that covered approximately two million acres.
Manuel Armijo, then Governor of New Mexico, arranged the grant to Guadalupe Miranda and Carlos Beaubien. (Much thought was given to the fact that the governor had benefited personally to a generous extent from the transaction).
In establishing the boundaries of the grant, landmarks were used instead of surveying instruments. One portion of the description reads as follows: “To the summit of the table land, from whence turning northwest to follow said summit until it reaches the top of the mountain which divides the waters of the rivers running towards the east from those rivers running toward the west”. I just wonder who could come within a few miles of that boundary line. No doubt a battery of attorneys could locate it within a few years for a million dollar fee.
It may be that in a case like this where the land and petitioners were so far removed from the seat of government, who would not be familiar with the described landmarks, it would have been easier to obtain an extensive grant than it might have been if the request made reference to acreage or to miles square.
When governor Armijo wrote a brief requesting the grant be issued, he said in part: “With the exception of the Californias, New Mexico is one of the most backward (territories) in intelligence, industry, manufacturing, etc., and surely few others present the natural advantages to be found therein; not only on account of its abundance of water, forests, wood, and useful timber, but also on account of the fertility of the soil, containing within its bosom rich and precious metals, which, up to this time, are useless for want of enterprising men who will convert them to the advantage of other men.
Years later the Miranda-Beaubien grant was transferred, part through inheritance and part through purchase, to Lucien Maxwell, who became a prominent part of the early history of New Mexico. While I do not know that Dad had any direct dealing with Mr. Maxwell, they did become well acquainted. Dad also made friends with Charley Goodnight, Oliver Loving and Sallie Roberts (a niece of John Chisholm), who were so-called barons of the time, and were to play a valued role in the early history of New Mexico.
In the summer of 1881 they again went further West and crossed the Pecos River at “Horsehead Crossing”, which was a famous crossing place for the early pioneers going out West or turning North up into the Territory of New Mexico. (The reason for crossing in this particular place was to avoid quicksand). Somewhere in the area of Horsehead Crossing, Dad got a job with a cattle company and stayed there until the spring of 1882.
In moving on, they more or less followed the Pecos River up through the little settlement of Pecos, Texas, where the famous “Hanging Judge”, Roy Bean held court. Continuing on up the river, they passed through the little trading posts of “Black River” and “Seven Rivers”. Dad mentioned that one night on this part of the trip they had an Indian raid which just about scared them to death.
Next, on up to a trading post name Penasco which is near the Penasco River. That river joins the Pecos River about three miles away. Penasco was later renamed “ Dayton”, and that is where I was to be born twenty-three years later.
In moving on upriver, they passed the Hagerman and Roberts ranches, which have quite a history in the early day cattle ranching in the territory. Next, they came to Roswell where Dad herded sheep for a while, then moved on to Las Vegas where they stayed for a short time before moving on North and East to a place called “Liberty”. Dad looked after a ranch there that had no stock on it.
In January of 1883, they moved about sixty miles into Texas to a place called Tascosa. It was there another son, Charles Nicholas, was born on St. Valentines Day, February 14, 1883. Their stay in Tascosa was brief and spring found them back in Roswell, New Mexico, where Dad worked for a while on a cattle ranch. Dad mentioned that at that time Roswell had one store and three saloons. (It is now quite a large city).
Once more they decided to move and in the fall of 1883 they again moved to Las Vegas which is a beautiful section of mountain country. Apparently they didn’t stay long in Las Vegas, but moved on to a beef ranch near Endee, about 125 miles east. Dad was in charge of the ranch, but the urge to move on and establish something for himself still existed. They hitched their teams to a larger covered wagon and moved in the fall of 1884 to James Canyon, also known as Dark Canyon. It was here in the Sacramento Mountains in New Mexico that they set up a homestead.
Dad was quite a trader – so I’m assuming that his ability in that direction was showing results, because as I said earlier, they started out which a mule and cow hitched to a light spring wagon that contained all of there earthly possessions. When they moved to James Canyon, however, they had a large covered wagon, a good team, several other horses, a cow or two, plus a plow and other small equipment.
At the time they filed on their homestead claim they dug out a “choza”, which is a type of building half underground. Log sides make up the other half and logs would also be used on the roof which would then be covered with a root or so of dirt. Flowers, weeds and grass would be encouraged to grow on the roof so rain would not wash away the dirt. The floor would be dirt that had to be sprinkled lightly every few days to help keep it packed tight and smooth. Except in real cold weather the children, and frequently mother, would go barefoot. (This was a help in keeping the floor smooth).
In talking to my older sisters on a recent visit, I encouraged them to recall as much as they could of their early days, but Ellen was the only one who remembered living in the choza. Both Ellen and Clara were born in their homestead choza and, as I remember Dad saying, it was without benefit of doctor or midwife, “Just Mommy, me and the newcomer”.
No doubt Dad made the ordinary attempts to improve the homestead, but must have found it necessary to bring in some hard cash immediately as he took a mail carrying contract. At first it was handled by using a saddle horse much the same as the “pony Express”, except that he did not have to relay ride against time. The mail contract was for service between Seven Rivers and YO Crossing, which I’d estimate a distance of approximately 100 miles. Light freight hauling must have been added to the mail contract because, after a while, a switch was made from the saddle horse to the use of a team and light wagon. At one time during the contract Dad hired a man to make the run with him, but that did not work out – for some fancied reason the man tried to kill Dad. Perhaps it was for the money he may have thought Dad was carrying.
I don’t know just how long the mail contract may have lasted, as Dad also did some freighting to other sections while they were still on the homestead. It must have been quite a chores for Mother, alone most of the time, winter and summer, with the little children, and having all of the problems of the home, plus the livestock to care for. There was also an absence of near neighbors to call upon when help might be needed, or just for a visit. Mother was surely equal to the task, all 4’ 10” and 100 pounds of her. There just didn’t seem to be anything she couldn’t do, and certainly such qualities are absolutely necessary in a pioneering venture such as they had.
Their homestead was about fifteen miles from an outside border of an Indian reservation. I don’t know how many tribes may have been included, although, it was predominately Mesquelaro and Apache. At times, when Dad was away, a few Indians would come to the place looking for adventure, and of course, to steal whatever suited them. Mother told me of many times how afraid she was when some Indians would come up the Choza and stick their noses up against the only window in the place. Later Dad left a gun for Mother, which proved quite an advantage in keeping the Indians at a distance.
Ellen told me that one time when she was a very small child, three Indian women came to the choza and sat on the floor. They talked a language that neither she nor Mother could understand. The squaws continued to sit and look for what seemed like hours before going on their way. They had seen sitting near the water bucket and Ellen was afraid to go for a drink, even though she seemed to be slowly dying of thirst.
She also remembered that at one time Dad brought home a cub bear, that he had caught somewhere, and was carrying it in front of him in the saddle. He tied the cub to a tree while telling both her and Clara not to go near the animal as it would surely scratch them. Of course, just as soon as Dad was out of sight, they did pet the little cub, but a full arm’s length away.
In talking to my older sisters about their early days, it seems unusual to me that none of them seem to remember what Dad was doing for a living while they were growing up. Ellen says she remembers many times when Dad came in the house dressed like a cowboy. In contrast to that, Dick and I agree, that during out time we never saw Dad on a horse. He would either travel by buggy or walk, which he loved to do. Distance meant nothing to him.
I don’t ever recall Dad saying how good or bad the homesteading turned out, but he did mention that he gave up the activities that kept him away from home so much. It was too hard for Mother to try to keep things going and to be alone, except for the small children.
I mentioned before that Dad was a great one for trading. In one case I recall, he said he traded a horse for thirty head of sheep. A few days later he was showing the sheep to a friend. Apparently Dad knew little about sheep the, so it may have been that he was seeking advice from his friend. The man caught a few of the ewes and looked in their mouth, then said to Dad, “Bill, that fellow skinned you on the trade because these ewes are so old they don’t even have upper teeth”. For a few minutes Dad was crestfallen to think he’d been taken in when the fellow laughed and told Dad that sheep never have upper teeth. Dad had a good sense of humor and enjoyed a joke being pulled on him. (I can just picture his enjoyment and relief). Thirty sheep would be a pretty small start in the sheep business but these few later led to a partnership with George Beckett, another very fine man and early pioneer in that country. Uncle George and his wife, Aunt Sarah, were life long friends of our family.
I’ll get ahead of my story for a moment to tell of the last time I saw these tow wonderful people. Clara had come home for a visit and said she’d like to see the Becketts. We drove out to see them only to find a sad plight of two lovable old people, who had once been reasonably prosperous; but the elements and other misfortunes had come their way. They were now living in a little old hut partly furnished. Clara asked how things were going and I remember Aunt Sarah’s answer so well, “Things aren’t too good, Daddy doesn’t feel good and he is too old to work, we have no money and the children just don’t seem to care about us anymore”. How sad that was, they were such dear, sweet people.
Living today, they would have had Social Security and Medicare to assist them. I’ve thought of them and their plight so many times as years have gone by, and actually, it has provided somewhat of a goal to shoot at and at least hope that I would not end my days with the conditions that made life miserable for them.
While Mother and Dad were still at the homestead, the Lincoln County War was started. It has been reported as a war between cattlemen and sheepmen, but the first shot was fired in dispute over legal fees in the settlement of an estate. Later, however, the fracas did broaden and no doubt there is some truth in differences between cattlemen and sheepmen. The differences actually needed no excuse because there always seemed to be a bad feeling between them.
In one instance Dad told me that a group of men rode up to his place demanding to know just which side he was on, but he refused to take a stand. He said there were some very tense moments as they all had guns and looked to be the type who would enjoy a chance to use them; however, the men finally decided to go their way.
These would also be the years that “Billy the Kid” was running around the country seeming to kill just whenever someone would get in his way. I’ve heard both Dad and Mother mention seeing him many times, and on several occasions they had given him food.
While over in that section of the country Dad had occasion to use an attorney named A. B. Falls, who later became Secretary of the Interior. During his term in office, he became involved in the Teapot Dome scandal. Later on, I will tell of my connection with Mr. Falls in about 1922.
I have no information about what disposition was made of the homestead, but in 1889 Dad moved the family and worldly possessions to “Badger”, a settlement later renames “Hope”, where two more children were born: a son, Richard on December 26, 1890; and a daughter, Agnes on November 8, 1894. Again, we have no information of what Dad was doing except that he was still up to his old tricks of trading.
During the five years, (ending in 1894), he lived in Badger, he had built up a nice house with some acreage attached, plus about 100 head of cattle along with an increase in his flock of sheep. He traded the cattle for a carload of good mares and a very fine stallion that had been shipped in from Nebraska. A carload of horses can vary some depending on the freight car length and size of the livestock But in just making a guess, based upon the number of cars I’ve helped load, there would be about forty head involved in the trade. Later some of the horses were traded for more sheep, but w have no idea how many. About this time Dad and George Beckett became partners by putting their flocks together.
The place at Badger was sold for a good price and the family moved to the settlement close to them which was called Penasco, later changed to Dayton. While at Penasco, another daughter, Mary, was born on July 31, 1896.
During this year there was, by far, the largest percentage of open land and unfenced grazing range which accounts, in part, for the reason for disputes between cattlemen and sheepmen. While there was considerable private owned land, there was also a larger amount of land the government owned, which both ranchers used for grazing to suit their own purposes. Grazing rights were supposed to be rented from the government, but, by and large, that was ignored.
The cattlemen objected to the sheep grazing the grass so short; also, because the many tiny sharp hooves would loosen the dirt in between bunches of grass, then when the wind would blow hard the grass roots would be exposed as the loose dirt was blown away. Roots exposed to sun and elements would result in dead grass. Also, erosion seemed to be greater in areas grazed heavily by sheep. The cattlemen also claimed their stock wouldn’t drink from water holes where the “stinking sheep” had been.
There is no information that Dad and Mr. Beckett had problems with cattlemen. During the summer they grazed their sheep high in the Guadalupe Mountains, but toward the end of summer they would start gradually working them toward lower country where they would winter in the flat lands near the Pecos River. Dad told me one time when they were working toward winter grounds and were well out of the high country, a very unexpected snow storm covered them overnight. Normally the snows came much later, and they had not anticipated trouble. But they awoke on morning to find so much snow had fallen overnight that the sheep would not move. If the same thing had happened with cattle, you could have roped on to drag out a trail which the remaining cattle would follow, but sheep are just the reverse. They will bunch up tight with all their heads toward the middle and it is impossible to move them. Sheep must have feed and water regularly and, if not, they begin to get lockjaw. Dad said that after the third day one by one they would raise their heads and “baa”, then fall back on their hindquarters dying, which indeed, was a heartbreak. Dad didn’t say how many sheep they lost there, but did say that they were just about out of the sheep business when the storm was over and they could get the remaining sheep to move.
During this period, the family was living near Penasco on rented property. The house was only two rooms with a large cellar underneath. The house was located on a forty acre plot that had a wonderful orchard covering about one-fifth of the property. There were three kinds of apples plus crabapples, peaches, plums, prunes, and a few pears and apricots. In later years I enjoyed much of the fruit many times. Lack of water and proper pruning care soon caused the orchard to die off.
We have an apple peeler Mother said had been ordered from a catalog many years before. When I was quite small, I remember turning that think by the hour it seemed. It was an ingenious little contraption and fascinating to watch in action. It not only peeled, bur cored and sliced, although the slicing part could be put out of gear in the event you wanted the apple whole. For the most part, the apples were sliced, then placed on boards to be put out for drying. When drying was completed, we stored the apples in clean sugar sacks. During the winter, Mother used the dried apples in a number of ways such as pies, applesauce, turnovers, etc. Frequently, Mother would put a handful of dried apples in our school lunch.
While living on the forty acre place the children had quite a walk to school. Ellen and Clara both remember when they were little girls, Mother would fix their breakfast about sun-up, then they would walk about one-half mile west to the railroad tracks, the AT and SF, going north and south. They would follow the tracks north for about three and one-half miles to a little red school house, located in what was called Turknetts pasture. In later years this little school was moved south about on mile to a place called Atoka. My brother Judge and I attended it awhile. Ellen said that in the winter time they would nearly freeze walking against the North wind and at time facing a heavy snowfall. When school was out for the day, the long walk back let them reach home about sundown. That was a “fer piece” for little girls to go in bad weather. Just think of what we have now, a $20,000 bus to take some children less that a mile, and a half million dollar gymnasium so the children can get some exercise. Ellen also complained that the boys had a horse each to ride to school, while she and Clara had to walk. Dick says the reason the boys rode horse back was that there were many chores and work for them to do, so they would have to leave late and have to get home early for that purpose. I know Dad had a soft spot in his heart for the little girls, and I am at a loss to understand why the girls weren’t allowed to ride behind the saddle with the boys, but I’m sure Dad had a good reason.
I mentioned the railroad as AT and SF which stands for Atkison, Topeka and Santa Fe; however, the local reference to it was “All Tramps and SOB’s Free”.
In the fall of 1896 Dad moved the family four miles below Eddy, later renamed Carlsbad, to a little place called Otis. There was no drinking water on the place, so arrangements had to be made to get water from a waterwagon that came by twice each week. Families purchased cardboard discs about the size of a silver dollar and the discs had a variety of values, some were for a barrel, or half a barrel or one-forth of a barrel. The waterman would fill your barrel and then request the appropriate disc. While that area had an abundance of water, it had a brackish and alkali taste. That was the reason for the water wagon delivering drinking water. Dad was still in the sheep business as well as raising a few horses, but the move to Otis apparently was to also do some farming. They stayed at Otis only two years, then moved back to Hope where another daughter, Leatha was born two years later on August 31, 1900. No one seems to know just why the move back to Hope, or just what Dad was doing there in addition to his sheep and horse business.
About the time Leatha was born they moved to the old “C” ranch, which was about halfway between Hope and Seven Rivers. They were there only a short time when Dad and an old friend, Pick Riley, decided to trail herd a bunch of horses to Oklahoma. Oklahoma was about to open the Chickasaw Strip for homesteading and Dad and Pick Riley figured that the homesteaders would need horses. Dad sold part of his sheep and he and Riley bought three hundred head of horses from a rancher in the Guadalupe Mountains. To go back a few months I might add that Dad had decided that the boys should have a good education so he had enrolled both Charley, 17 and Walter, 19, in the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell. When the Oklahoma idea was born he called the boys home to help on the trip. Dad sent the boys with Pick Riley and one of his sons, Broyah, to the Guadalupe ranch to pick up the horses. The horses that were bought, together with what Dad had, made a trail herd of about 450 head. Just imagine Dad with his family of wife and eight children ranging from nineteen down to sixteen months and Mr. Riley with his family of wife and six children organized with two covered wagons and a buggy each, starting off in the winter on a trip that would require several months of travel.
The covered wagons contained about all of their possessions. There would have to be mattresses and bedding for the family, also supplies such as materials to fix the wagons in case of a breakdown and, of course, food supplies such as sacks of flour, beans, potatoes, sugar, sides of bacon and many other smaller items. Ellen said that the trip was started from the old “C” ranch, but she does not remember the date. Richard says he remembers distinctly that they crossed the Pecos River on Christmas Day, 1901, and that he was to be eleven years old the next day, which is quite a mile-stone in a young man’s life. He rode horseback and was helping with the trail herd, but now and then he would get too ambitious and chase the horses to much. By the way of punishment Dad would then make him ride a burro for awhile. Clara was twelve years old and she drove one of the teams pulling one of the covered wagons. Occasionally Ellen would help drive also.
With so many children you no doubt wonder what they would do if a doctor was needed. Distances between where medical care was available could be quite a long way, maybe several days, so Mother provided the answer. She no doubt had about the same medicine chest that I remember which contained castor oil, castora, camphor, oil of wintergreen, powdered sulphur, arnica salve and few other simple items. There was also some cloth from which bandages could be made and no doubt the material could be remembered as one of Mother’s old dresses, or perhaps a shirt or dress from another family member. The trip more or less followed a point on the compass, but after crossing the Pecos River they traveled over the Plains and sand hills to what we called the Caprock toward Lubbock, Texas.
They crossed the Red River near Childress, Texas, and that proved to be quite an ordeal. The river had been in flood, so several days were spent waiting for the water to drop low enough for crossing. Apparently, they were so anxious to get going that they crossed when the water was a little higher than it should be for a safe crossing. Richard remembers starting across on a burro but was swept downstream a ways, and the burro was in trouble trying to swim. It was so far under that the water was up to Dick’s armpits and he was screaming bloody murder when Charley rode back in and made the rescue. Ellen remembers that Dad was driving the wagon that carried Mother, the small children and their main supplies. The high water caused enough trouble, but when they began to get in shallow water, the quicksand began to give the horses trouble. In the thick of the problem, Dad was standing up yelling and screaming at the horses as well as working them over generously with a big long whip. All the shouting and noises created by the wild trashing horses caused untold fear, of course, so Mother and all the younguns’ were crying at the top of their voices, which no doubt soothed Dad’s nerves. Anyway, a crossing was finally accomplished without loss.
I am acquainted with much of the country they covered in the early part of their trip, and I’m sure that they had many problems and discomforts which, I suppose, they were well accustomed to. The sand hills and Plains Country have almost no wood. There is a lot of scrub sagebrush and it would take several arm loads of it just to make a pot of coffee, so the main fuel for a fire to cook with was cow chips. That country is no doubt where the saying started that the cows cut the wood and the wind pumped the water. Just imagine poor Mother’s chore of getting up real early to get breakfast, then get the younguns’ wiped clean and dry on both ends, then have everything reloaded so that they could hit the trail.
Clara, Ellen and Dick all remember Dad and the boy shooting game along the trail, but at times they did run short of rations. Once when they ran out of flour, Dad tried unsuccessfully to buy some from a rancher. I guess they had quite a go around. Dick said he never saw Dad so mad in his whole life. All the rancher would way was that “the Lord will provide”, and no doubt he did because there was no report of anyone starving. I believe the trip took about five months to complete. They landed in Greer County, Oklahoma, just north of a town called Mangum. (It does not appear on the map now).
The venture turned out to be a miserable failure because the homesteaders had no money to pay for horses, and those that were finally sold on credit were never paid for. I don’t know what arrangement might have been made for land, but Dad built another choza and they planted a crop of cotton and corn which were both ruined in the early stages by dry hot weather and grasshoppers. When Pick Riley decided the venture had been a failure, he headed back to New Mexicowith his family. Dad and his outfit hit the same trail after the crops failed. They landed back in Otis, New Mexico, in the fall of 1902, and established the family with the children starting back to school.
Walter and Charley both went back to Military school, but Charley didn’t stay too long. The school permitted a hazing program to exist in the student body, and of course, Charley came in for more than his share because he resisted too vigorously. This school also permitted any freshman the right to fight any upper classman by making arrangements through the office staff. Each day at 10 a.m., during a recess period, the fight would be held in an area provided for that purpose, the office staff serving as judges. As it turned out, Charley was fighting each day; and the bad part of it was that he was defeating the upper-classman one by one as he could select them. No doubt it looked like Charley would not run out of material, but during their campaign, he was not getting an education. So the officer in charge wrote Dad to say he was sending Charley back home as Dad would be just wasting his money by trying to keep him in school. Walter went one more year, then took a job as a mail clerk on a train running out of Roswell.
When Dad went on the Oklahomatrip, he left a few hundred head of sheep with George Beckett so there was at least
something to come back to. When the family was established in Otis, he went
back to Dayton
and worked a while on the orchard at what he later referred to as the “Old
Place”. In 1903 he bought the place. When
the family lived there before, it was a little two room house with a big cellar,
but when he bought the place there apparently had been a new house built.
In saying a new house had been built, don’t get the impression it would resemble
today’s standard of housing. Most generally the structure would be without
foundation except that 4 X 4 or 4 X 6 timbers would be set on large rocks and leveled
with wedges between stone and timbers. Next, Joists of 2 X 4 or 2 X 6 would
be placed on the stringer timbers. Most frequently a 1”X 4” or 1”
X 6” shiplap in a single layer would provide the floor. 2” X 4” X 8’ wall studding would be set up 3 feet apart with a 2” X 4” X 3’ brace 4 feet up from the floor. Boards 1 inch thick in widths of 8”, 10” or 12” would be nailed on the outside for cover and a 1” X 2” batting nailed over the joist between boards. Many of the houses had no interior wall finish, so the exposed framing was visable and the 2” X 4” brace regularly used as a shelf. Cold weather could make the walls seem awfully thin.
The house had two large main rooms with a lean-to bedroom as well as a lean-to kitchen and store-room. There was also a little ladder leading up to an attic for an extra bedroom. It was there that Rufus was born on May 8, 1904. That property contained only 40 acres. Somewhere about 1905 or 1905 an adjoining 360 acres was bought and a new house was built on it. It had a front room, parlor, kitchen, dining room and two bedrooms, plus an addition of a storage room for food and miscellaneous gear. However, part of it was set up to smoke meat and the addition was refered to as “The Smoke House”.
Construction on the house was not much more than complete when I was born, on July 17, 1906. Again, we have no record of just what Dad was doing. Whatever it was it was turning out okay because after the total failure of the Oklahoma venture, he was able to buy the two places at Penasco Dayton). Also, my early memories are of cattle and many horses, if fact I would say a few hundred.
Sometimes near the time when I was born, Dad sold his sheep interests and bought a general merchandise store in Dayton. He took Walter in as a partner and the sign on the big high front was “W. F. Daugherity and Son”. I don’t know how long that arrangement lasted, as Walter left and went into the insurance business in Artesia. George Chisholm was dad’s next partner, and again, I have no information on how long that arrangement lasted.
Dad was highly respected and, no doubt, as a result of the community’s feelings of confidence in him, he was soon asked to be the Justice of the Peace, a position he held for fourteen years. It was in that position that he acquired the nickname of “Judge”. My brother Rufus was also nicknamed “Judge”, so their reference had to be change to “Big Judge” and “Little Judge”. Dad must have continued in some legal capacity even after the store was moved to Atoka, because I recall several instances when court proceedings were held in the front section of the store. In one case it covered an inquest into the death of a Mexican.
Not long after my arrival some of the older children were getting big enough to want to be off on their own. The following marriages took place in due course:
Ellen to Rex Walling – May 22, 1904
Walter to Bessie Chisholm – March 3, 1907
Clara to Karl Bigelow – December 21, 1909
Agnes to Louis Stivers – April 4, 1915
Charley to Nettie Morgan – April 11, 1910
Richard to Anna Axton – January 12, 1918
Mary to Hugh Smith – April 8, 1917
Dad was very upset over the marriages of Ellen and Clara, in fact so much so that neither Rex or Karl were allowed to come to our house for many years. The girls would come and bring their offspring, but the men kept their distance. I have no idea when the barrier may have been released on Karl, but I do remember that he and Clara drove up in the front lane with a team of bay horses hitched to a buggy. Karl swung the team so that Clara could get out easier and about that time Dad came out on the porch and yelled, “Bigelow, you may as well tie the horses and come in”.
Somewhere, about 1914, the country began to show signs of decline insofar as farming, cattle, and sheep in the Pecos Valley were concerned. Some little areas were still quite prosperous, but overall there were signs, as I look back now, that would indicate a later overall decline. The elements always seem to contribute toward failure and a series of drought periods hurt things, and in many cases, so badly that they did not recover. For many years the mountains and lower hill sections had been so heavily grazed that erosion began to take a heavy toll. With the lack of vegetation, water ran off to fast, which in turn created a problem further down in the Valley. Artesian wells that once flowed generously were down so low they had to be pumped to irrigate the Valley crops.
When World War I ended, the nation went into a business slump which, of course, was felt in our section of the country by way of low cattle prices, no demand for farm produce, no market on horses and etc. Gradually the slump ended but much of our country did not return to the former standard of production which in turn meant fewer people were needed. Many ranchers and farmers closed down or were reduced to very small production. The town of Dayton was down to only a few families and it necessitated Dad moving the store about five miles north to Atoka. Even there business was not too good, but Dad hung on until the last of 1926 when he sold out.
At that time I was up in Borger, at Texas oil field, but I came back to go to Bell, California with Mother and Dad. Moving Mother and Dad away from New Mexico had been a plan the girls had been working on for several years. In so many respects it was a wonderful idea for Mother and Dad to be in a better climate where everything is green the year round. To be close to Mary and Agnes was an added bonus for Mother; but to look at the overall situation, it was sad in some important respects. Dad was seventy-two and Mother was sixty-four and both had lived their lives in a rural area where they know everyone and the surroundings had become a part of them. Uprooting them and trying to relocate them in a city where everything was strange and people so different, and mostly unfriendly, proved to be something to which they were never able to adjust.
Over a period of time Mother did become more settled. The children all chipped in and bought them a real nice radio. Mother would sit by the hour and listen to the soap operas and “who dunits”, but Dad was not interested in the radio. He would walk up and down the sidewalk, sometimes by the hours, trying to find someone to talk to, but somehow he never found the companionship he know with the oldtimers with whom he had spent so many years.
After Mother passed away, he became even more restless. He tried spending time with each of the children, but that did not always prove satisfactory. About 1939 he began having spells of sickness and spent quite a bit of time in bed, mostly at Agnes’ home. At one time it was necessary for a male nurse to be with him. Then finally he had to be moved to a rest home. I’m sure it seemed like the best thing to do, but as I look back on it now, I’m sure the poor old pioneer must have wondered just what he did so wrong to deserve such a fate. He had raised ten children and had kept them through thick and thin and now, down at the end of his life, he was pushed off in a so called “rest home” among strangers. We in the Los Angeles area visited him regularly. I tried to see him not less than twice weekly to keep him shaved. He always seemed to look forward to my visits so much, and we’d talk about New Mexicoand the old times.
I joined the C.B.’s early in 1943, and when it came time to leave I dreaded having to say good-bye to him because I was so sure I’d never see him again. I had been in training camp only a few days when work was delivered to me by the Company commander that the old timer had passed away. The chaplain and Red Cross offered to make arrangements to fly me home, but I had already said good-bye to him, and felt things were beyond any further help from me. I did not take the day off and tried to spend it thinking of him in the many phases of life in which I had known him. I’m sure all of the children looked upon Dad as being very stern, and there is little doubt that was true. I’m equally sure that he always felt that he was helping the children by the action he took. He never spanked me in his life, but there was certainly never doubt in my mind as to who was master. He was a great believer in the “Good Book”, and constantly lived and abided by its teachings. Truth, honesty, and fair dealing were his stock in trade and he always believed in giving the other fellow the “long end of the stick” in a trade. His formal education was less than two years where he said he learned a little of the three R’s, however, he made a good job of educating himself. He could figure with the best of them and since he read so much, he was very well learned in the basic things that keep the world going. His dedication to duty, truth, honesty, and other basic treasures gave him a place in life that we children also enjoyed in that our name was almost like a secret password. Many times I’ve reflected back on comments by old timers who just couldn’t say enough kind things about Mother and Dad, and what good people they were. I never heard Dad use curse words or use vulgar language of any kind. He did have a good sense of humor and enjoyed a risqué joke, but by today’s standards, the jokes he would sometimes repeat would be considered sissy kid stuff.
Mother and Dad were directly opposite in many ways. Dad liked to talk. Mother was more quiet. Dad was not too neat and orderly, whereas what few things Mother had, she saw that things were neat and in place. Mother could fix almost anything, and did, but poor Dad was all thumbs when it came to tools or fixing something. Mother kept constantly busy and never seemed to be idle at anytime. Even when she was resting she’d be sewing on patchwork quilts or mending. There was little time for visiting, and Mother didn’t spend much time with social activity. I suppose when there were so many children and work to be done there was not time, and when it did slack up by reason of the children getting off on their own she was glad to be able to sit down and mend of just sit. Neither Mother or Dad were much for display of affection, and I doubt that even in their younger days there was any exhibition of a torrid love affair. There did exist what must have been a wonderful feeling between them. They obviously admired and respected each other. Each morning Dad would always pass by the stove where Mother was preparing breakfast and would pat her on the shoulder and either kiss her neck or hair or just lean his head against hers and say, “Good morning Mammy”. While Mother would show no great reaction, I’m certain that the touch created a warm feeling and established a close connection. Both were individuals of strong will, leaders not followers, yet there was no evidence of conflict. At times Mother would fuss at him mildly but Dad would just smile at her, then if she didn’t quit he would walk away. I never heard cross words between them. It might be difficult to analyze Dad’s aim and purpose in other than to live according to his belief and take care of his large family.
There have been critical comments on the fact that he moved about so much which was a great inconvenience and hardship to Mother. While he was on the move a considerable amount in their earlier life, he was always working to take care of his family. In spite of some setbacks, he always seemed to improve his position until the last few years of their sty in New Mexico. The economy in the area was on the decline which hurt his earning at the store, but what hurt him the worst was being crossed up by some of his supposed friends who reneged on debts and others on investments. There is no doubt but that he could have been more considerate of Mother by ways of seeing that more conveniences were made available to her for comfort and to ease up the work load. One thing is certain, it was not for a lack of love for her, and I doubt that it was a lack of money that prompted him to move so much. My best thought toward it is that Mother had always been so independent and capable in handling the affairs in the realm of her operation and never asked anything for herself. Dad apparently was content to let “well enough alone”.
MY ARRIVAL WHO? ME?
I wonder just how happy a 44 year old Mother can be in giving birth to her eleventh child. But happy or not, I came into the world on July 17, 1906. As the years have gone by, I’ve had quite a variety of reactions to the event from my sisters. The occasion called for the children being sent to stay with a neighbor, which brought about mixed emotions. Some were happy at the adventure, but I suppose those old enough to possess motherly instincts wanted to stay and watch. The older girls were in their praise and looked forward to the pleasures of a new baby, but I’ll bet the younger ones looked upon me as a sqawling nuisance. My name came from Dr. Raymond who brought me into this world.
Our home was a wood frame house about 30 X 40 feet with a roofed porch across the entire front and one full side. Dad enjoyed sleeping outside, so his bed was on the front porch all the way over on the left end. I might add that Mother may have insisted that he maintain a respectable distance due to his snoring ability. I believe, that overall, he topped anything I’ve ever heard. He had whistles, bells, and trains. One minute you’d think he was choking to death and the next minute he’d seem to come apart with noise. At times in the winter when I’d go out to call him to breakfast, he’d have covers completely over his head, but his feet would be all the way out from under the covers.
In the summer time the porch on two sides of his bed was completely walled in with a very thick growth of morning glory and honey suckle. The fragrance of honey suckle in bloom is really something to remember. On summer evenings the porch was a wonderful place to sit and let the world go by.
Sometime about 1920, Grandma Lovina Runyon Daugherity came for a visit. Due to a hip injury, she had to use two crutches in order to get around slowly. As she was there in the summertime, she would be up bright and early sitting in her big rocker on the west porch until almost dark. She smoked a corn cob pipe and used “Star Cut Plug” chewing tobacco. Many times I have helped her cut the plug into small bits so she could use it in her pipe.
When I was six or seven years old, Mother obtained a used tricycle which I would ride at top speed from one end of the porch to the other. The porch also served as a runway for “Brother Jones” to get his morning exercise. “Brother Jones” was an old timer and a friend of long standing who would stop by every few months to visit and to enjoy a good night’s rest as well as Mother’s good home cooked meals. The old fellow didn’t hear too well, so any conversation was almost a yelling contest. But the real payoff was that he would always get up at daylight and start walking the full length of the porch. At the turn of the porch he would be just a light wall thickness away from the head of Mother’s bed. His heavy footsteps were bad enough, but each shoe gave forth a squeaking noise was punctuated every few steps with a loud report of his breaking wind…..squeak, squawk, squeak, squawk, boom….this really shook Mother, so after a few times she made Dad have the old timer walk out in the yard.
Inside the house, beginning on the northeast was a small room which was refered to as the boys’ room and adjoining it on the west was a larger room called the girls’ room. Then came the kitchen and dining room in the middle of the house. On the southwest was our front room where we would sit by the pot bellied stove on winter evenings. Mother’s bed was also in this room. Adjoining on the east was the parlor, which of course, contained our nicest furniture. Lace curtains covered the windows and hooked rugs were on the floor. The hooked rugs were mostly Mother’s handiwork and made from worn out family garments. I remember helping many times to tear the cloth into strips and sewing the pieces together to make a continuous strip. I’ve helped hook the rug also.
“Mother’s Pride and Joy”, a genuine Navajo wool rug about 4 X 6 was also on the floor. It was predominately grey with designs and borders in red, black and white. The border of color was broken only by a single white yarn which was “an escape for evil spirits”. This would also be true of any circle or square where a solid color was used, it would be broken by a single yarn of a different color.
The walls were hung with large pictures of some of the family. One was about half life size bust of Mother looking really sweet, but stuffed into a high necked black dress that came almost to her chin. The collar was held together with a nice cameo pin, which I think was the extent of Mother’s jewelry. There was about the same sized picture of Dad which kindly eyes, yet overall, looked almost fierce with a bald head and a big growth of mustache and beard that looked about like the business end of a broom. Of course, there was a picture of the baby. I was in a huge fan backed cane chair and must have been just about old enough to sit alone. My eyes were bugged out and I was leaning over and looked about ready to fall out. On top of my head was a silly looking rolled curl about the size of a small banana.
One end of the room was well fitted with a beautiful oak box, eighteen ~nche8 deep and almost seven feet tall. By pressing a button the front folded down into a double bed. There was also a nice library table that had metal eagle claws holding a glass ball at the bottom of the legs.
The covered back porch Dick built ran the full length of the kitchen. This is where the washing of face and hands took place. On a small stand was a water bucket and a hand basin, and from nails on the wall hung a dipper, towel, and wash rag.
When washing was completed, we just stepped to the edge of the porch and threw the wash water on the grass. The water bucket was kept full by making regular trips to the spring ditch that ran the length of the west and south sides of the house.
This washing arrangement was okay in good weather, but it could be real rough at time5 during the winter, it was not a real joy to wash In ice water, but that night be eased If there was a kettle of hot water on the stove inside.
This porch was not a part of the original house structure. It was a much needed project masterminded by Dick while visiting one time. The materials came from Dad’s store porch that would no longer be needed as he was moving from Dayton to Atoka. I remember when he was locating the foundation timber, he used a pan of water to serve as a level, and I recall Mother making some remark about how smart he was.
At one time during the project, Dick asked me to call Dad on the phone (44F2) and ask him to bring home some eight penny nails. The
phone hung on the wall by the front door, and I had to get a chair to stand on so I could reach the crank to make it ring. I told Dad that Dick wanted him to bring home eight cents worth of nails; to which he replied, ‘That’s fine, but what size does he want?”
The porch added much to our comfort and utility and Mother always looked at it with pride.
The house was located on a plot about 150 feet square with cottonwood trees planted evenly all the way around. The trees grew quite large and provided a wonderful shade in summer, but seemed to drop tons of leaves after the first hard frost in the fall.
Four large mulberry trees grew in the northeast corner of the yard. Each summer they produced generous quantities of the most delicious berries I have ever tasted. Mother made pies and cobblers with the berries that had no equal. In all my travels I’ve never seen other mulberry trees except in Virginia and Georgia.
A net fence was nailed to the trees to completely enclose the yard. I always thought it was to keep out the chickens and livestock, but was told later that it was put up to keep me in. I don’t remember being confined in the yard because most of my playing seemed to be in the barn, corrals, or in the field.
When I was quite small and on the sickly side, I slept with ‘Mother, but as time went by, I moved into the boys’ room with Judge. The mattress we slept on was mode of wheat straw and corn shucks. As years have gone by, I’ve thought so many times about the “boys’ room”. I suppose it was because it represented my own little world.
When I was first learning to read, I spent many hours lying on the bed trying to read, tracing with my fingers, word by word, and page by page, the exciting story of “Call of the Wild” by Jack London. It must have taken me months to read the book as so many times I had to take the book and find someone who could pronounce and explain a word to me. Later came many other books such as ‘White Fang” and “Wildfire”.
In summer months Mother usually called us for breakfast just about good daylight, and we would always lie in bed for a while and enjoy wonderfully fresh and fragrant morning air coming in through the window. Also, about that time birds were singing in the trees just a few feet away.
March was always a time of strong west wind. In the evening when we went to bed, it would usually be still whooping it up with a steady blow and occasional strong gusts. There was a variety of noises to listen to as the wind played numerous tunes as it rounded the northwest corner of the house. Apparently loose splinters, holes, or cracks became instruments of music according to the velocity of the wind. There was always the joke about “don’t face the west wind and yawn because the seat of your pants will be blown off.”
There was little in the way of toys to play with, a small bent stick for a gun; and of course, a good stick to serve as a horse to ride. Bottles were also used as play horses and Mother would help me make a harness out of string, which I’d hitch to some small object and pretend I was pulling a load.
I also had a dog named Chocolate that I would use as a horse now and then, One day while I was leading the dog, a strange cat appeared and Chocolate charged after it jerking me down face forward in the gravel and skinned my face from hairline to chin. My friendship with Chocolate was surely fractured and almost ended at that point.
My earliest memory is that I was able to dress myself except to tie my shoes. I would dress in the front room then wait part way behind the door into the dining room trying to catch Mother’s eye so she would come in and tie my shoes. If I went into the dining room where the family was already seated, and asked for my shoes to be tied, the older children would make fun and call me baby. I also remember when I was so small I had to catch both hands on the window sill then pull myself up on tip toes in order to see out in the yard.. I was the runt of the litter and I suppose on the sickly side. I tagged at Mother’s heels add day and slept with her at night. Actually, Mother was quite small, 4’10”, but she seemed so big when I crawled in beside her at night. She called me “son” or “baby” except when she was unhappy with me and then it was “Raymond”. Dad called me “Cap” or “Cappy”, a name which I carried all through my life in that country. My school papers and even a checking account years later were signed “cap”. My Mexican friends called me “Cachuchas”, which is the same as a cap used to set off dynamite. I never figured out the comparison. In following Mother throughout the day I’m sure I was a combination of help and hindrance. Mostly the latter, because now and then Mother would say, “Sometimes I wish my name was Jack”. It took me years to figure out what she meant.
Another memory is of standing in the back yard near the back door squalling my head off as a result of some supposed injustice to my personal being – Mother came out with about a teaspoon of sugar tied in a small square of cloth which she called a sugar teat --- she jambed it into my open mouth which reduced the noise, but not the tears.
Our closest neighbor was about a quarter of a mile south, the Krause family. . My recollection; of them are spotty. I think the first thing that sticks in my mind is that Mr. Krause had a team of big horses, one black and one white, which he drove without reins. They responded perfectly to Gee (right) and Haw (left), whoa, or giddup. He didn’t even have bridles on them. Mr. Krause was a mean old rascal and I guess relieved his temper by beating Mrs. Krause. She and Mother were good friends. Mrs. Krause had a little girl about my age, Minnie, and we played together when I was quite small. Someone in the family started an ugly rumor to the effec1 that Minnie and I were playing around the woodpile and somehow I got under a part of the stack while Minnie was on top, and she wet on me and, of course, I ran screaming to Mother. The family have had many laughs over this at my expense.
The Krause family also had a flock of big white geese and one of the old ganders was real ill tempered. Lola Dell, a girl Leatha’s age we were raising, happened to be visiting Mrs. Krause when she suddenly had to go to the privy. Their toilet, like ours, was a two seater “chic sales” out in the back yard about a 100’ from the house. When Lola Dell started for the “chic sales” the old gander took after her. She managed to get inside and out of his way, but the old gander was not to be so easily defeated. The bottom part of the toilet back end was open so he went around back and when Lola Dell sat down, the nice pink bottom made a wonderful target. The old gander took quite a chunk of flesh. Mrs. Krause heard the resulting screams and came to the rescue.
STERLING AND CARTER FAMILIES
Another neighbor almost a mile southeast of us was the Sterling family who had children about our ages. One of the boys, Gordon, about Judge’s age was quite an orator. He was always in school plays and, with out question, had a part that called for acting too. I remember two things he did so well, “Casey at the Bat”, and ‘The Face on the Barroom Floor.’ He could act them out perfectly. Later he became quite religious and in fact did some preaching. He would get awfully wound up in his prayers, almost like sermons. One time we counted “Our Heavenly Father” forty-three time in one prayer.
In thinking of prayer, I’m reminded of an incident in connection with the Henry Carter family who lived several miles north and east of us. Mrs. Carter was a small, delicate and very sweet little lady who had a religious turn of mind. By contrast her husband was big, crude, rude and almost obnoxious, yet in his ignorant way he thought himself witty and clever. One Sunday Mrs. Carter had asked a visiting preacher to dinner. Everyone was seated when Mr. Carter came in, threw his leg over a chair, sat down and started helping himself to food. The preacher cleared his throat and said, “Mr. Carter, if you don’t mind I usually say something before I eat,” to which the reply was, “Go ahead, I’m sure it won’t turn my stomach.”
BIRDS AND THEIR CALLS.
In the spring and summer it was wonderful to awaken in the real early morning and listen to the many birds signing in the trees around the house. They not only seemed happy, but appeared to just about split their throats in contest The mocking birds had the better voice, but the blackbirds had the best of the show, by reason of numbers and volume. The beemartins, sparrows, jays and others had nothing much to offer but cheeps and squawks, but they were in there pitching. In the late afternoon the mourning doves made a beautiful but eerie sound
In the spring pasture the bobwhite quail were always nice to listen to. The quail looked like little Major Domos with their little topknots and strutting around. It was a shame to kill the, but occasionally we did as they also provided delicious meal.
Our country at that tine seemed blessed with so many: types of birds, many of which I have no idea as to names. There were hawks of many kinds, buzzards, ducks, geese, cranes, crows, thrush, jays, wrens, meadowlarks, wild canaries, humming birds, wood peckers of several varieties, black birds, beemartins, killdeer, dove and so many more. Even as we’d go up in the mountains we’d see many that were typical of mountain country.
In recent years as I’ve hunted many sections of mountain and forest country, there are very few birds in evidence and I have wondered if their scarcity is a result of pollution and pesticides. In 1972 we went into the mountains two days before elk season. The first full day of scouting we saw one crow and five finch. In almost three weeks of hunting I doubt that there was any day that we saw more than a dozen birds of all kinds.
ANIMALS IN GENERAL AND SPRING AND NEWBORN ANIMALS
The smell of the clean fresh air in the spring or summer at sun-up is something I shall never forget. If there was a little breeze blowing, one could enjoy the fragrance of sweet clover, a variety of trees and flowers in bloom, or the corrals, depending on which way the breeze was blowing. Spring was especially wonderful because so many new things were happening.
Mother and I would mark eggs to be put under a setting hen, then I could hardly wait until the baby chicks started hatching. I’ve spent many hours watching the chicks break through their shell. Communication from mother hen to her tiny baby chicks is both interesting and amazing. When the chicks were no more than a few days old, Mother would let an old hen and her brood outside in order that the hen might forage for herself, as well as to obtain gravel for her crop. No doubt the wide open freedom was a challenge to the chicks, and at times they might scatter widely. Usually the old hen kept a constant CLUCK CLUCK going, but when the chicks became too scattered, she would make a special sound and the chicks would rally close by immediately. And again, if the chicks were scattered and the old hen spotted a hawk flying, she would make her distress sound and the chicks would come at full speed and run completely under her.
Calves and colts wore being born, and it was always interesting to watch the birth, then follow the newborn’s struggle to get on its feet. Little pigs were also being born almost on a production line basis. It’s interesting to know that nature has provided the new born with the instinct to know just where to go for nourishment the minute they are able To stand on their feet. It is also wonderful that nature has arranged for most animals to be born in the spring, thereby providing warmth and a variety of food for growth.
Spring also meant many new flowers in bloom, honey bees working furiously gathering nectar, until their load would be so heavy they could hardly fly. It was not hard to find young life in many forms out in the spring pasture, baby quails so tiny they seemed about the size of an ordinary thimble, baby cottontails and jackrabbits, skunks, badgers, coyotes, prairie dogs, kangaroo rats, etc. In the spring ditch I could find clusters of frog eggs hatching into tadpoles, water dogs and water :rats that may have been a type of muskrat, lots of minnows, water skater’s, snakes of several kinds, butterflies of many sizes and colors, dragon flies, and turtles, some of which were about the size of a dine. Not all of them were good. Some that weren’t were: spiders, tarantulas, centipedes, vinegaron, and rattlesnakes.
I spent many hours playing with the things I could catch now and then. I caught lizards, horned toads, minnows, turtles, and garden snakes. We were careful not to let the turtles or frogs wet on our hands, as we had been told that would cause warts. It was fun to catch a good sized lizard and tie a string on it and follow it all over creation. We had one small lizard, which when mature, would be about five inches long, tail and all. If you were chasing the lizard and were getting too close, it would break its tail about in half and the tip would start wiggling very fast. I have no idea how this little fellow could uncouple its tail, but no doubt did so in the hope of distracting you and saving its own life. Usually the ruse worked with me because it was more fun to hold it in your hand and watch the wiggling tail….besides, it wouldn’t bite. I wonder if they night have had some way of recoupling the tail to their own stub, as it was unusual to see a bobtailed lizard.
We also had a big flying beetle we called “June Bug”, which I could catch now and then. I’d tie a long string to it, then run along following it in flight.
It was fascinating to watch the spider web when a fly or some sort of a bug would run into it. The spider would rush out from hiding and quickly spin an additional web over the victim. Sometimes when businos5 was really rushing the spider ran frantically tram one catch to another only partically securing then until he had time to come back and complete the job. We had several moths that caused the spiders some frustration. These moths had a coating on their body and wings much like dust or mold, and when they flew into the web, the coating would stick but the moths would bounce off and fly away. The spider seemed to scurry all over the web in disbelief.
The black ants were most interesting, and as I look back on it now, I wonder how many of them could have been in one of their mounds. They were always rushing about and working so hard. There would be lines of three or four ants wide for hundreds of feet, many of them carrying objects several times their own size. Occasionally they would catch a big grasshopper napping… that would be a real struggle. Ants must have some means of communication as when help was needed they would pile in from all directions. They did lack leadership though, because most of the time they would be working against each other.
Another bug of interest was the doodle bug, a little gray fellow about the size of a match head. They would find a nice soft sandy spot, then dig furiously, throwing dirt in every direction until at completion they located themselves in the bottom of a nice funnel shaped hole with just enough dust over themselves for hiding. Sometimes they did not have long to wait for an ant or other snail insect to come along and fall into the funnel. While the victim was trying to climb out, the doodle bug would come out of hiding and the battle would be on. The doodle bug was equipped with large pincher jaws, much like a crab when unfolded, so anything that could not quickly escape from the funnel seemed easy prey.
The tumble bug was a real character in the bug family. Their main interest seemed to be in fresh cow dung, where they would cut out and form a ball several times their own size, then start the laborous task of rolling it to their home. They worked upside down with their short front legs on the ground and their hind end and long rear legs on the ball. Moving their load through a mass of weeds and grass was quite a problem. Many times they would start off in one direction working furiously for awhile, then turn and reverse themselves. Now and then I would tease them by taking a straw to push their ball ahead. They would get all upset and run around wildly as though looking for an adversary.
The chaparral (road runner) was an odd looking bird. He had a small body with long legs, tail and neck, also a long sharp beak. It could run like a streak of lightning and its main delight seemed to be in catching snakes and swallowing them whole. When the chaparral spots a snake it raises a group of feathers on top of its head, forming a war bonnet, and that apparently is a signal for challenge. If a snake is located among rocks, that makes for an easy chore; but if not, the bird pecks and herds the snake until a rock is located, then it will grab the snake by the tail whipping it from side to side over the rock until it seems to be dead. The bird would then stand watch for some tine to make sure there was no sign of life, but to be double sure, it would peck the snake’s head to a pulp. Next came the slow process of swallowing the snake, which might take many hours.
Speaking of snakes, years later I saw a very interesting sight which I watched for an hour or so before the climax came. I was riding along when my horse heard a rattle and stopped short. Just ahead in a little clearing was a hugh rattlesnake about five feet long and a bull snake not quite so big, squared off for battle. This was going to be fun so I let my horse graze while I climbed up on a big rock to watch. At first the bull snake started in a large circle around the rattler, moving rather slowly, but as time wore on he picked up speed while gradually closing the circle a little until finally the bull snake was going very fast and still closing the circle. Suddenly the snakes lunged together wrapping around each other in a death gripping spiral that lay out reasonably straight on the ground. At long last they relaxed with the bullsnake the winner. Then, “To the Victor Go the Spoils,” so he started the long slow process of swallowing the rattler.
About half way up in the spring pasture was a colony of prairie dogs and we refered to the area as ‘Prairie Dog Town.” The little dogs were always interesting to watch. Their holes were arranged in such a fashion as to use all of the dirt from the hole to make a fairly high mound completely around the hole. I suppose the mound served two real good purposes. One would be that in heavy rains their hole would not be come flooded, and another reason is that the height served as a vantage point for more distant observation. If a person or a strange animal came in sight many of then would get up on their mounds, stand erect on their hind legs, and bark in a continuous chatter. There was always a sentry on duty. If a dog decided to go front one hole to another it was always at a dead run, much the same as a baseball player stealing a base. While these little fellows weren’t the best of eating, if rabbit supply was short, I’d take a few, which Mother could cook real well. Shooting and getting theta required skill and knowledge of their habits. It was useless to shoot then on or near their hole as they seemed to have a way of living long enough to drag themselves into the hole. Even if they were off base a little, you’d have to hurry to make the pick up before a buddy ran out to drag it back to the hole. In shooting a squirrel, you never shoot for their body but you aim directly under them. The explosion of dirt or bark is sufficient to kill a squirrel, but that won’t work on a prairie dog. You just. about have to shoot its head off. In hot weather snakes like to keep in the shade, so if one happened by a hole in “Dog Town” it might go in. The dogs oust have some method of communication as just the minute a snake went in a hole, several dogs would rush there and start covering the hole, and since a snake cannot dig, its fate is sealed for sure.
Doves and killdeer were numerous, both with identical nesting habits. They would build a very sparce nest by using no more than a dozen or so short straws or twigs. Usually the location was in a wash where gravel and small rocks helped to camouflage their eggs. During the nesting period if someone or a strange animal came close to their nest, the mother bird would start running away limping, dragging a wing, and often flopping around on the ground pretending to be wounded. All of these actions were taken in the hope of attracting attention to themselves rather than to their nests or young ones. We had several types of doves, but I would be unable to identify them. Some built small nests in tree branches and if someone came near, their actions would be the same as those that nested on the ground.
I should mention another unusual and very pretty bird that was quite common, the “butcher bird.” It was very industrious as well as beautiful with its combination of white and soft blue color. While the other birds seemed to look for bugs, grasshoppers, and other types of food only as their appetite demanded, the butcher bird was never idle. When its appetite was satisfied, it would continue to catch a variety of insects and would stick them on barbs of the wire fencing, sharp sticks, or would wedge then in forks of small tree branches. The mesquite bush, with its hundreds of thorns, served as an ideal storage place. Like the ants, those birds were no doubt storing food for the winter, but unfortuantely, tho cache was also available to other birds that had contributed nothing.
That in a way parallels our society of today. There are so tawny people who won’t work and contribute nothing to society, yet are quite willing and eager to seek a handout from welfare funds that are made available through the fruitful efforts of good hard working citizens. Recently, I had quite a lengthy discussion with a better graded Hippie (if they can be graded), who is a professor at a local college. I listened, in disgust, to his theories of life, and how society should be conducted until I was no longer willing to listen to such tripe. I asked him if he knew how sour dough bread was made. He did, and explained in detail the starting process as well as the necessity of replacing withdrawals for the “starter’s” continued success. When he had finished, I told him I thought our society and life on earth was like that, in that you must continue to put something into it in exchange for what you take out.
Now, back to the story. Spring also meant getting rid of long underwear and being able to go barefoot. But if you looked the least bit “puny” it also meant a dose of sulphur and molasses or calomel followed by castor oil. Our medicine chest was a carefully kept box located in the dining room closet. It contained calomel, castor oil, dry sulphur, arnica and cloverine salve, flax seed, cascara, iodine, peroxide, champhor, musterole, plus a few other fine home remedies. Fat salt pork was used to cover (overnight) sores, festers, boils, hidden splinters or thorns, in order to bring to the surface or to a head any infection, as well as to reduce the soreness. (I still use that very helpful remedy when necessary.) The medicine box also contained bandages that could be recognized as strips from a garment once worn by a family member.
We always had several milk cows, and of course that meant a calf for each in the calf corral. They provided endless hours of fun in petting the new: smaller ones and roping and riding the larger ones. I quickly learned to pick the wooly ones for riding, as the longer hair was something to hold onto.
One of the old cows was Mother’s favorite pet that she called “Old Jersey”. One day we looked out in the field and Old Jersey was peacefully grazing in the young alfalfa. Somehow she had managed to escape her pen. Mother and I started running as fast as we could to get her out because alfalfa causes a gas and results in serious bloating in the number one stomach which has no outlet except through the mouth. We caught Old Jersey and led her to an irrigation ditch where we made her stand with fore legs up on the bank and hind legs in the ditch. I held her head while Mother worked the stomach area furiously with her hands, adding an occasional kick for good measure. At long last belching started and everything was okay. If that type of relief from the gas could not be accomplished, then it would be necessary to stab with a sharp knife just in front of the left hip. The terrible odor from that stomach would make rotten eggs seem fragrant by comparison.
At one time we milked a number of cows and milk was plentiful. We would often bring in a motherless calf, commonly refered to as a “doggie,” and allow it to enjoy warm nourishing milk from one of the cows. In the milking process there was always some milk left in the bag for the calves and the doggie along with them. The get-together between cow and calf is always a smelling and licking action which usually meant a front approach. Somehow, and probably after taking some abuse, the doggie knew it would not be treated with such favor, so it more or less sneaked around to the back end. Only back teats were available to it there, and if while sucking in that position nature made demands on the cow, the poor doggie was sure to be covered with any resulting discharge, and that added to its already underpriveleged life. I wonder if the expression, “sucking the hind teat” could have originiated with the poor doggie.
In thinking of the frustrations of youth, I’m reminded of another incident along about this age. Dad subscribed to a paper from somewhere in Kansas. I think it might have been the ‘Kansas City Star” or “Cappers Weekly.” That is where he kept up with the news of the world as well as to what was happening in the running of our government. When he finished reading the paper he never failed to shake his head and say, “I don’t know what the world is coming to.” Now I’m saying it. Anyway, my section was the funnies, Mutt and Jeff, Katzenjammer Kids, Jiggs, Barney Google, as well as the pictures in the ads. One ad that I never tired of looking at was of a boy wearing a fur cap and carrying some traps over his shoulder. It was the Funston and Co. who sold trapping supplies and bought furs. Finally I just could not do without traps so I started saving money for them. At last I had enough to buy a dozen suitable for skunk, coon, muskrat, coyote, etc. So away went the money and order, and then I could hardly, wait until the shipment came. At last they came and at a good time, as there was a few inches of snow on the ground and I felt it was an ideal tine for trapping. The next morning I was up at the crack of dawn and tied the traps with some bait to my saddle and away I went to the cedar brakes near the Pecos River to set them. I could hardly sleep that night for thinking~ about what I night have in the traps the next morning. When I arrived at the first trap the next morning there were strange foot tracks following my trapline. Then the big heartbreak came, someone had followed me and taken all but two of my traps. One of them had a weasel in it, which I turned loose. While it would have been hard to measure my dejection, I’m sure I felt then that nothing in my life would ever hurt more. Those disappointments were soon softened with some pleasure such as a little single shot .22 that Louis gave me the first visit after he and Agnes were married.
GUNS AND SHOOTING
Now and then Louis Sr. would come with Agnes for a visit and while they were there he taught me how to handle and shoot, as well as care for, a little .22 single shot rifle he gave me. He was a wonderful shot and was always looking for a rabbit head sticking up. With his coaching and some practice there were few that I missed. Many times I’d get on my horse and go up in the spring pasture where I could get two or three rabbits for supper without much trouble. Fried rabbit, cream gravy, and hot biscuits the way Mother fixed it was something like a Thanksgiving Dinner to me.
In thinking of shooting; just below the end of our property was a hater resevoir, about 100 feet square, where in the winter time I always saw a few ducks each time I rode by. One time I decided to borrow Dad’s double-barreled shotgun and try my luck. I tied my horse quite a way off and crawled to what I thought would be the right distance. When I peeked up through some shrubbery and over the bank, I could see several mallards swimming peacefully in a little bunch. I had heard the older fellows talk about shooting ducks so I figured the best thing to do was cock both triggers on the old double-barreled gun and fire one while the ducks were on the water then fire the other as they started to rise in flight. I wasn’t big enough to cock the triggers the normal way, so I had to stand the gun on its stock then push with all my might with the heel of my hand. The next problem was a lack of strength to hold the gun up in position to shoot. After a lot of effort and weaving around I pulled one trigger but both fired. It kicked me right flat on the seat of my britches and I felt as though my whole shoulder was torn loose and hanging in shreds. I also saw a lot of bright stars and the worst part of it was that I never knocked a feather off. Mother hadn’t seen me take the gun, but she did see me bringing it back and lit into me for taking.’ it because I was too little to shoot it. I told her about the ducks but sure didn’t tell about the awful kick. I doubt that I fooled her much because she also wanted to know why I was walking a bit sideways. I have never figured out why mothers were so nosey and always seemed to know the right questions to ask.
I had almost a similar experience a while later when I was down in the back field with a sharecropper who was harvesting corn. We were sitting down talking when we saw a large bunch of cranes land in the cornfield real close by. The sharecropper went to his wagon and brought back a rifle. It was real heavy, long hexigon barrel, 45-90, an old buffalo gun. As I look back on it now, I’m sure he meant only to have a joke by handing it to me; but I didn’t have gumption enough not to take it. He tried to show me how to kneel down and hold the barrel up resting my elbow on my knee. That wouldn’t work so I held it against a cornstalk. He set the trigger and I took aim,. There were so many cranes in the corn row that I had visions of getting at least a dozen. When I pulled the trigger, the whole world exploded and the cranes flew peacefully away. The explosion and kick stunned me and felt like the shotgun nearly tore my shoulder off. No birds
AGNES GETS MARRIED
Agnes was married at home in l9l5 when I was nine years old. I remember it so well. She had been home getting things ready, then Louis came down from Amarillo by train for the wedding. A few days before, Judge and I had been fooling around trying to level some soil in the garden by using the metal band from a buggy wheel. We were using a horse to pull it, but it was too light and when we stood on the back end it stretched into a heart shape. When Agnes saw it she mounted it on a table behind where she and Louis were to stand, and decorated it with roses and other flowers from the yard and garden.
Early in the morning of the big day Mother insisted I get cleaned up and dressed in my best suit. (The only one I had, in fact, knee pants). After I was all done up in my best, I went out behind the haystack and corrals to smoke a couple of cigarettes, then sat down directly in the hot sun for awhile. I don’t know if it was the smokes or the hot sun that fouled things up, but I got so sick it ruined everything for me. After the ceremony there was a big dinner and if I had not already been sick, I could have accomplished the same results by stuffing myself with all the good food. There was much I’d never eaten before and all so good.
AGNES AND NURSING
Several years later Agnes came for a visit bringing her first son, Louis Jr. he was setting to be a good sized boy and she had been trying to wean him from nursing. Apparently she had tried about everything by way of discouraging Jr., such putting a variety of foul or bitter tasting things on the nipple, but the boy could not be discouraged. Next, she tried painting her breast with black ink, and while that caused him to Raise a rumpus, , he was still determined to nurse. At last Agnes took command and told Jr. there would be no more nursing. I’m not sure whether she had a breast pump and broke it or didn’t have one to start with but anyway her breast was swelling with a supply of milk and no way to get relief.
Up to that point I had been an interested but innocent bystander, when suddenly she decided I might nurse the breast for relief. Of course I refused. Then Mother got into the act! After much pleading and wrestling me up into position, I still refused to open my mouth and perform the duty, for which I got. a good swat on the rear end, but was let go. Whew! Close call.
POPULATION EXPL0SION (RABBITS)
Before leaving this age bracket I should mention a pleasure that turned into a headache. One of our neighbors a mile or so away had a few hutches of big brown rabbits that completely fascinated me. The man had offered to sell me a buck and two does for two dollars. After considerable coaxing, Mother finally agreed and helped me build a place to keep them. In a very short tine the does were pulling hair from their necks and stomaches to make nest, then in another few days the nests were filled with a whole hunch of little black rabbits about the size of one-half my thumb. Within about a week their eyes opened and fur started to grow. I’d spend hours and hours play with them.
The headache began in about a year. In spite of selling a few fryers (young rabbits) and eating all we could, there was such a population explosion that I just opened the pens and let the whole caboddle run wilds
Now back to the fun department. At school recesses we’d have fun spinning tops, playing leapfrog, shooting marbles, as well as playing many games such as “shinny on your own side.” It was played by choosing sides of equal numbers and designating a goal for each side. Each player had a stick about three feet long and a tin can was placed in the center as the object of battle. I don’t remember any particular rules except that the stick was the only way the can could be moved. At the “go” signal the struggle would get real fierce. There were lots of bruised shins and all too frequently a good fist fight. I suppose this game eight have been a remote form of hockey.
We also played “Dare Base,” which was a matter of selecting two lines about 100 feet apart where the players would stand with one or two staying in the center. At the “go” signal, the players would try to cross from one side to the other without being tagged by the one in the center. If you were tagged then you had to stay in the center until you were able to tag someone crossing. My running speed was not the best, so I spent a lot of time in the center trying to catch someone else.
There was no playground equipment except a pipe frame with two swings on it and an extension on one end with a bar for chinning or some simple acrobatics. Neither was there any playground supervison except with the possibility of a teacher coming outside if too many fist fights got going or if some Mexican flashed a knife. During the fall and winter we also played a lot with tops and marbles. Tops were always a good game and it was not restricted to size or age. One game I remember started by making a two or three foot circle in the dirt. Next we’d put a chip of wood in the center to provide a target to “peg”. The object or the game was to peg just in the right spot to knock the target out of the ring, yet the player’s top must also spin outside the circle. If it did not then the next player would peg the top until it was outside. Sometimes a mean little rascal would sharpen the point on his top and now and then when he pegged an oppenent’s top it would split open. Sometimes that little trick was paid for by getting a bloody nose. We had many kinds of games and in some we’d play for keeps. In the spring about everything was baseball. Since there was almost no money for equipment we had to do a lot of improvising. We even made our own baseballs sometimes.
FIGHTING BEHIND THE SCHOOL and BOXING
We always looked forward to a good snowfall in the winter, as we had great fun rolling huge snowballs into two lines to serve as forts, then we‘d choose sides and have snowball fights. The larger boys could make the snowballs awfully hard and sometime they’d put a rock in for good measure. To get hit with one of those balls was painful.
Fist fights were as common as recess. Usually the older boys would promote a fight between two smaller ones by making up some wild tale which we’d always fall for. I’ve had my eyes blackened and nose flattened so many times I have lost count. Usually the best fights would be after school down behind some old building.
I remember one time that seems funny to me now. I was fighting a little red-headed boy about my size. We were pretty well matched and it went on for quite some time. Finally I knocked him down and climbed on top to hold him there to make him say he’d had enough. BANG! His little bother had grabbed a stick and hit me in the back of the head knocking me cold.
Judge was always my champion. If someone larger picked on me they sure had him to whip. Actually, I think he was the best rough and tumble “free for all’ fighter I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen him in some really tough ones with guys older and larger that lasted an hour or so, but I never saw him lose or be knocked down. Later on I could out-box him. He fought like Jack Dempsy and I ran in circles like Gene Tunney. He was always so aggravated because I wouldn’t try to slug it out with him. That would have been just short of suicide on my part.
In high school I enjoyed the boxing meets we’d have now and then. There was no such thing as training or having someone in your corner to comfort you or advise you. Your opponent was picked by size and weight and you hoped for the best. I remember one night there was to be a big deal at school, of which boxing was to be a big attraction. I was asked to box a boy I had fought before and actually I was looking forward to it. Right at the last moment he didn’t show and in desperation they picked the son of a local blacksmith. A long armed ape who was a good twenty pounds heavier and at least four to five Inches taller than I, faced me. It looked like he had more muscles in his arms than I had in my whole body. I was sure he could flatten me with one punch if I didn’t stay away, so for three long two minute rounds I ran circles around him hitting with everything I had and then getting away. I’m sure I had the fight in the bag and I was really looking for the final bell. When it did come I dropped my weary arms, but he swung and hit me right in the solar plexis, knocking me through the ropes and out cold. He had committed a rank foul, but I was the one who was suffering. I couldn’t breath right for several days.
Later on when I first went to California, I boxed twice at the American legion as a curtain raiser. There were three two-minute rounds, $5 to the winner and $3 to the loser. Once I drew a Mexican and the next time a Phillipino. Those guys were like trying to fight a swarm of bees. In fact, that was the way it had to be. Fight with all you had from gong to gong or the fight would be stopped and neither fighter drew anything. I was lucky both times to get a draw and split an $8 pot. That was enough. The fighters trained in stables all over town, but I didn’t have time for that, and too, I was convinced that I wasn’t cut from championship stock.
SCHOOL and HALLOWEEN PRANKS
I should go back a few years and tell about some fun we had around Halloween. The time I’m thinking of’ was when I was about thirteen or fourteen. A whole bunch of boys on horseback would gather at some selected spot where we’d try to think up some mischief that was not destructive. One night we thought it would be a good joke to put Mrs. Harrison’s old milk cow up on the second floor of an old abandoned hotel. In the first place, it was a challenge to get the cow, as she was in a pen right by the house. Actually, with all the practice we had, we might have been good recruits for some cloak and dagger outfit. We accomplished the first part okay, but we had a barrel of fun getting the cow up the stairway in darkness to the second floor. By tail twisting and brute force we finally got the cow into one of the rooms. Mrs. Harrison was a little upset when she couldn’t find the cow the next morning, but she did get a laugh out of it when she finally located the cow before the day was out. I guess she and the children had great fun trying to get the cow back down the stairs. Another time we borrowed a buggy, tore it apart, then reassembled it on top of the outdoor toilet at the railroad station.
In thinking of mischief, I’m reminded of one of many pranks the older boys at school played with almost disastrous results. When we came in from recess once, the big boys put a handful of 30-30 rifle shells in the big, potbellied stove. Apparently the fire was burning low because it took a while for the explosions to start; but when they did start, everyone started running outside. There was only one door to get out so it was almost mass mayhem with the teacher right in the middle of the escape. This one trick caused several parents to get into the act trying to find out just who threw the ammunition in the stove, but they may as well have saved their breath because the boys wouldn’t talk.
VIEWING A GUN FROM THE WRONG END
One balmy summer evening Judge and I were riding along on horseback when we passed a place where two other brothers lived. We stopped to visit and for some reason, which I do not now recall, the brothers invited us to go for a ride in their car.
Our travel was nothing more than aimlessly wandering along country roads when we began to see steam coming from the radiator. That was distressing because we weren’t too close to a source of water. We slowed down in the hope of continuing until we located water, when suddenly we came to a lane which we knew led to a farm house only a short distance away.
The farm was owned and operated by an elderly part-time minister whose sincerity and dedication to his faith we had reason to question. It was early in the evening and we were sure that someone would be up to let us have a container to get water from their well.
As we came within about 200 feet of the house we noticed there was water in an irrigation ditch running under a small bridge in the lane. We stopped there and it was decided that Judge and the older brother would walk on to the house to get a container while the younger brother and I stayed by the car. There was some light from the moon and stars so there was no trouble in following the path to the house.
While they were on their way, my partner and I talked while walking slowly toward the bridge. Just off the lane, beside the ditch, was a thick growth of Johnson grass that stood about four feet in height. Just as we reached the far side of the bridge the preacher raised up out of the grass and levelled a double-barreled shotgun directly at my head. The barrel’s end was not more then a foot from my face.
As the old fellow reached his full height with the gun well-aimed, he said, “Who are you and what are you doing here?” I was completely speechless, but after what seemed like ages my partner tried to explain that we needed water for the car. The preacher did not believe him and would not lower the gun. Then my partner thought to call the other boys and tell them to come back.
After much explaining about who we were and our need for water, the old fellow finally lowered the gun and went to a nearby shed to get a bucket for us. When the radiator was filled we returned the bucket with thanks. Even though we were completely puzzled by the gun act we did not ask for an explanation; but we were not too long in getting the complete story.
The next morning after breakfast Judge and I were called into the next room where stood a very stern looking parent, our Dad. He cleared his throat and came right to the point. The preacher had called him, but had put an entirely different twist to the display of the evening before.
It seems that the old minister-farmer was very fond of cider and had made a couple of barrels for his pleasure, but just about the time of its maturity someone had entered the shed and drained off a big part of his treasure. He was convinced we were the culprits and were returning for the remainder.
While we were absolutely innocent, I’m not certain Dad was completely convinced of it. However we were sent on our way with the admonition to be certain we were not involved in the future.
In another incident a year or so later, I was to feel the pressure of steel against my ribs, rather than to visualize my gravestone in the end of a gun barrel.
The setting was at a country dance at a ranch across the Pecos River. In the wee hours of the morning, after some early birds had departed, dancing was at its best because of more room. A rancher’s daughter, whom I’d known for many years, care over and asked if I’d dance the next waltz with her. Would I? You bet! She was a beautiful dark-haired girl just my size, a comfortable armful and a dream to dance with. (This girl and her sister had unusual first names I’d not heard before and have not heard since- Ona and Ora.)
Since a waltz was so popular, the musicians (two violinists and one guitarist) often played two or three in a row--and so it happened this time. She was the type who enjoyed dancing very close, with heads together, and so we dreamed through a very enjoyable dance.
The evening was warm, so when the dance was finished we walked out on the porch where others were enjoying cooler fresh air. We had walked to the porch edge when suddenly my arm was grabbed forcefully, yanking me off the porch. When I was able to regain my feet, my attacker jammed a gun in my ribs and said, “That will be the last time you will ever dance with my girl!”
Since a jealous boy friend could be dangerous, especially with a gun in his pocket, I readily agreed--so long as it was okay with the girl.
END OF TIME ?
In the fall, after harvest and frost, it was a common practice to burn the dead grass and weeds in the ditches and on the fence lines. Most generally we left that job for nights right after supper.
One night Judge and I had been burning for some time down in a back field when we began to notice light flashes going across the sky north of us. At first we thought it might be lightning, and we considered it interesting; but then when it continued we became concerned. At times the sky would light up a good bit, then next we would see a big wide streak go across the sky and sweep down to the horizon.
We were getting well disturbed when we heard Dad calling for us, so we rode quickly to the house. On arrival we found him quite excited- he said many people had called on the phone and there had also been some horseback riders as well an a few cars stop at the house. All were very disturbed and excited, and a few were predicting the lights as signs of the ending of time.
Since the lights were all from the north, apparently someone thought to call Roswell (50 miles north) to see if they had some idea as to what was causing the lights.
It was soon discovered that the Army had moved a Signal Corps unit in and they were practicing with new high-powered search lights to be used for night aircraft identification.
FIRST DAY AT SCHOOL and LATER SCHOOL EXPERIENCES
Now back to earlier days. I remember my first day at school. We walked through the spring pasture then to the little house on the hill beyond town. It. was about a two and a half mile walk. I walked to school with the big kids, but the first day I cane home by myself because they yelled at me so much for being so slow. I must have really come home slowly because the family was eating supper when I arrived. Certainly I got a scolding; but as I look back on it now, I’m sure they weren’t too worried as they: could see me coming for over a mile. Sometimes in the winter we would stop and build a fire as we’d get awfully cold; and if the north wind was blowing during our return home, we frequently suffered walking right head into it. That two and a half miles seemed to never end.
Judge and I went to the Dayton school until I was in about the sixth grade, then for one year we went to Atoka, which was about three and a half miles north. That was a little too far to walk, so we rode horse-back. In the winter it was mighty tough to ride directly into the snow and cold north wind.
Somewhere Judge acquired an old broken down bicycle that had no air in the tires or chain drive, and the handle bar would not clamp securely to the steering post. The thing was too tall for me to get aboard, so that left all of the fun for Judge. We would put a rope on the contraption and tie the other end to the saddle horn and away we’d go. The so-called roads were just dirt and filled with holes and ruts, so with a horse in a run it was quite a picnic especially when the bike hit a hole and the steering arrangement went haywire. Judge stayed pretty well bruised and skinned up, so we finally abandoned the thing.
A funny and almost disastrous thing happened in school one day. It must have been a study period because everything was so quiet. Judge sat just in front of me. I happened to look down at the floor and just to the right of his desk there was a large waterdog (salamander) crawling along next to the wall. I hit Judge on the shoulder and in loud clear tones I said, ‘Look at that S.O.B.’ WOW! The teacher came unglued. I don’t recall that she spanked me, but we did have to stay after school and that night I carried home a letter to Dad. Dad never spanked me in his life, but he had a way of scolding that hurt much more.
In thinking of spanking incidents, I remember once at the Dayton school one of my little Mexican friends was due for a spanking on the hand. The teacher had him lay his hand on hers, but when she came down for a good whack with the ruler, he jerked his hand away. Hitting her own hand made a loud sound and all of the children laughed. Either the jerk or the laughing made her mad. She sat aside her dignity and really took him apart. I doubt that she hurt him very much as those little fellows were wiry and accustomed to rough horse play.
TYPHOID FEVER - APPENDICITIS
Somewhere along about the time I was six or seven I got typhoid fever. At first I was only sick a week or two, but there must have been a relapse and I was in bed for about six months. That was awfully hard on Mother as she already had her hands full. I cried a lot and I suppose it was because I was so sick and so hungry. All the doctor would permit was liquids like tomato soup, chicken broth, scalded milk, and a few things like that. Mother had to feed me completely and for the first several months I was not even permitted to be propped up on a pillow or turn on my side except when the bed was being changed, so my entire range of view was the ceiling. I remember how wonderful it was in the spring, when I began to recover and was propped up so I could see outside. Then later to sit up in a chair and still later to be able to sit in the sun on the porch.
I had little more than recovered from this when again I got real sick and it was some time before the doctor located the trouble. I remember late one afternoon they called the doctor suddenly as they must have felt I was nearing the end of my rope. Dad had closed the store to be there and the whole family was around my bed. The doctor was checking me over when all of a sudden I felt wonderful and relaxed into a coma as I heard the doctor say, “I’m sorry folks, but he is gone.” I could hear them crying and Dad trying to comfort Mother. I suppose they soon discovered I had not died, but I didn’t awaken until the following morning when they were making preparations to take me to the Artesia Hospital for an operation. Apparently there was an abscess on my appendix and it had burst. I remember being on the operation table with a sheet over me. One doctor was at head holding a small strainer with gauze on it where he was dropping chloroform. He had me counting and when I got to seventy-two I couldn’t say seventy-three. He said it for me several times, and when I couldn’t repeat it he told the doctor that I was asleep. I was actually still awake when they made the cut, and I remember the doctor saying what a mess things were in.
I don’t remember how long I was in the hospital, but it was several, weeks at least. It was a dreary place and I was so sick; but the one bright spot was my nurse, Mrs. Goodnight. She made special custards for me and I’m sure I’ve never tasted better since then.
Walter lived in Artesia then and I was moved to his place from the hospital where I stayed for about a month. Mother stayed to take care of me. Every two or three days the operated spot had to be cleaned and redressed, which was a very painful procedure. They used wide and heavy adhesive tape completely around my body, and when that was removed, it almost took the hide. There was a very definite OUCH in that stuff. apparently some disagreement came up with Bessie and Walter, so away we went home.
Home again and another big job for Mother to care for me. It was several months before I was able to do much for myself. ‘When I was getting in fair shape, Mother and I went by train to Amarillo, Texas to visit Ellen, Clara, Agnes, and Mary. They all lived in town and it must have been a good visit for Mother, but I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the smell of the city and there were too many people. (About 5,000 in population as I remember.) Nor did I like the little yards we had to play in.
VISIT TO AMARILLO - NEW THINGS and SIGHTS
Going up on the train was quite an experience. Since there was no dining car on that train, we had to pack all of our food in shoe boxes. As I look on it now we almost had to take enough for three meals. I think the distance was only about 300 miles, but it took a night and a day to make the trip. About halfway on the trip we came to Clovis, New Mexico, a railroad junction. We had to change trains to go on to Amarillo. As we got off the train I saw something that was new and it fascinated me no end. A black man in a white jacket beating on a big round brass disc and yelling at the top of his voice, “Eat your dinner at the Harvey House, Fried fish and ‘Cockeyed’ Beans.” That’s the way it sounded to me. While we were waiting to get on our new train I saw many other new and confusing things such as too many people hurrying everywhere as well as men yelling, ‘Taxi,’ which I didn’t understand, pushcarts with fruit, baggage, etc. Also, there were many teams of horses hitched to buggies or wagons loaded with boxes. Too many new things to see. All the while Mother seemed to have a death grip on me so that we didn’t get separated. I’m sure everything was just as confusing to her.
All the girls met us, and when we got off the train, there was again too much confusion. Everybody seemed to be yelling. The trainman, taxi drivers, fruit peddlers, and kids selling newspapers. I was ready to go home then. I liked cows and horses but not so many strange people.
I saw my first movie while there. Clara took me down, then came after me. Charlie Chaplin was one show and Fatty Arbuckle was another show. I also saw my first street car there. By todays comparison it must have bake like Toonerville Trolley. I don’t recall how long we stayed, but I do remember how glad I was to get home. The city was no place for me.
DEATH OF A SMALL CHILD - LITTLE BOY NURSING
For some unaccountable reason the song, “Shall We Gather at the River has popped into my mind which in turn made no think of a real sad scene when I was about four or five years old. A little child had died and I recall vividly the last little way to where it was buried on the bank of the Penasco River. There didn’t seem to be very many people, but the one I remember so well was the mother. She was tall, raw boned, with coarse features. She wore a long black dress and a big bonnet that came way out in front of her face. She was crying as though her heart would break. The coffin was just a little board box that no doubt some friend had made. It was riding on an old weather-beaten flat bed wagon and the father was leading the team of horses that were pulling it. Mother and I and a few others were waiting by the little grave that had been dug. The father and another man lifted the coffin to the side of the grave and then everybody came in close and started singing the song, “Shall We Gather at the River.” To hear that song always brings back that memory. That night Mother told Dad how sad the occasion was.
The lady resembled another woman Mother and I visited now and then. She had a little boy just my age. One day while we were playing he said he had to run home a minute. I ran right after him. His Mother was sitting in a little rocking chair talking, and the little boy went over and pulled out her breast and began to nurse while standing beside her. I thought that was real funny because we were far too big for that sort of thing.
AUNT BECKY AND UNCLE TOL
In that same area was another family we’d visit now and then, Aunt Becky and Uncle Tol. So help me, the man’s name was “Tolerable.” Aunt Becky was small and slender with a hatchet face. She kept her hair skinned back and twisted into a knot at the back of her head. She was quite a spitfire and her language was not always too clean. She dipped snuff and was never seen without a ‘Snuff Stick” in the side of her mouth.
Once while Mother was going to be away for a day or so, she arranged for Aunt Becky to come down and do the cooking. One day while she was there, Charley came by. He poured himself a cup of her coffee, then after a few sips chided her about the weak coffee saying it tasted like water. She flew at him like an old setting hen, and yelling in anger, ‘When I make coffee, I make coffee. When I make water, I make water.” Needless to say, he left quickly to escape more of her sharp tongue.
Uncle Tol was quiet a character, too. He had a monstrous mustache and a long chin beard. He had one short leg, but wore a built up shoe to help even things up. He always carried a big beautifully carved cane that I thought was wonderful.
CHURCH and ACTIVITIES
Somewhere along about this time we used to go to the church at Dayton. I remember very little about it except that it was a big one-room affair with wooden benches. Mother had a problem with me because when I sat on the bench with my legs hanging down, they’d hurt so I either wanted to sit Indian fashion or stand. Dad led the singing. He had a good voice and I can still see him standing in front waving his arms to promote the song. The songs I remember were, “Bringing in the Sheaves,” “Rock of Ages”, “When the Roll is Called up Yonder,” and “His Amazing Grace.” My sisters told me that at one time Dad also did an excellent job of playing the organ. I don’t know if Mother was bashful or couldn’t sing, but her voice was always low. I remember too how good it felt to get home and have my new shoes off.
Riding to church in the buggy was a problem for me as there was just enough room in the one seat for Mother and Dad. The foot space in front of the dash board was also limited, but that was the only place available for me. The old horse was constantly breaking wind, which went right in my face; but there was no way around it. So going to church, or any place for that matter, when Dad occupied my place beside Mother was not something to look forward to. Judge and the girls usually walked and in good weather that was okay, but during the winter a person really had to want to go to church, otherwise the hardship was discouraging.
The church was also used for other social functions, except dancing. I remember the “Box Suppers” that were held to raise money for some good cause. Each woman and girl would fix a lunch and wrap it in a box with the fanciest trimming they had. At the appointed time the boxes would be auctioned off, and the high bidder would have the one who made the lunch for his partner. Of course, that little community was no different than others in that there was always some woman more attractive than the rest, and there was always wild bidding when a box came up that looked like it might belong to some outstanding belle. Sometimes boxes would go for as high as four or five dollars, yet others would bring as little as one dollar. Naturally that created ill feelings.
MY FIRST JOB
My first paying job came when I was nine years old. I remember so well when a neighbor rode up to ask Mother if I might ride the bailer team for them. The pay was seventy-five cents per day to ride on an old flop-eared mule, hitched with on old horse, going around in a circle pulling the long arm that provided power for an old compress hay bailer. The day began about seven a.m. and ended somewhere before six p.m. The men hay hands were paid from $2 to $2.50 per day. Before the summer was over, I rode a hay rake putting the hay in windrows. My legs weren’t long enough to reach the trip lever, so I had to stand on the tongue. I also drove a team hitched to a hay mower. Again my legs weren’t long enough to ride the seat, so I stood on the axle and leaned against the seat post. Anytime it was necessary to raise the cutting blade, I had to stop the team and get off, then rear with all my might on the lever to raise the blade. Later I worked for several outfits driving teams for a variety of purposes.
COMING HOME ON A LATE WINTER’S NIGHT
In starting this little story I had not intended to flatter myself with much of a history other than to bring out the difference in our way of life in that country which imposed upon each, regardless of size or age, a certain unquestioned responsibility to share the labors necessary for living , which in itself, in my opinion, has a great bearing on life’s successes. For a moment let us go directly to a comparison you might appreciate.
Just imagine yourself coming hone late on a winter evening, either on horseback or with a team. The tack would have to be put away, and if the stock was to be kept in the corral, feed would have to be dug out, most of the time in darkness or by what light the sky provided. In that smogless country the millions of stars provided a lot of light even when the moon was not out. Then to the house, but instead of flipping a switch for light you struck a match and found the coal oil lamp. Next, instead of turning a dial for heat, you’d cut kindling and bui1d a fire in the cook stove which after fifteen or twenty minutes and a lot of coaxing, might be warm enough to take off your heavy coat. Even before the room was warm, you’d probably be getting a pan, flour, baking powder, milk, etc., and start from scratch to make biscuits. Next came the choice of what else to eat, but instead of going to the refrigerator for some prepackaged delicacy, we had something a little more difficult. If you were foolish enough to want fried chicken, it meant taking a light to the hen house to select the victim, wring its neck, scald and pick the feathers off, gut it, and cut it up ready for cooking. You no doubt would have another choice by going to what we called the “smoke house” where meat was kept hanging after cold weather started. You could cut your requirement from a side of beef or pork and then go to the storage section, where Mother always kept fruit and vegetables she had canned that could be added to the fare. Before the cooking was complete you must not forget to get a bucket of water from the spring ditch to heat on the stove to clean up the mess. Also, if the wood box was not full, you might have to again take the light out to the wood pile and cut wood for your present needs and also enough to start a fire the next morning. It was just short of criminal to leave on empty wood box. Altogether, from start to finish, getting a meal, eating, then cleaning up the mess could be well over an hour. When the eating was complete and not yet bedtime, you had a choice of sitting and talking or just sitting. You might find something to read, but that was no bargain by coal oil lamplight. Later on we did acquire a Victrola with about fifty records, but only around twenty of then were worth listening to. It was surprising that we didn’t mind listening to the same records for years. I’m afraid that by today’s standards no one would listen to them because good needles were not always available so the scratchy tunes could sometimes be fierce.
SHARECROPPERS HARVESTING GRAIN
Dad, of course, always seemed to find more than enough for us to do. The place on which we lived had nearly 400 acres, but only about halt was suitable for farming. All but ten to fifteen acres were let out to share croppers. One year, about 1918 or 1919, one of Dad’s sharecroppers had planted one area in oats and barley. At harvest time I suppose there wasn’t enough to have a threshing machine come in, so they cut the grain with a regular hay mower, then raked it into windrows. The grain was then loaded on a flatbed wagon and hauled to a central spot where it was piled loose into a big mound. When hauling complete, they built a circular fence around the stack: about twelve feet out, then put a canvas cover over the area between the stack and the fence. Four or five men stood near the stacked grain, and with pitchforks threw small shocks onto the canvas. About twenty horses were put into the fenced area and a small boy was mounted on a sorry looking nag and it was the boy’s job to keep the horse troting around and around. My brother and I watched this procedure with a great interest from the time harvesting started. The cutting, raking and stacking was natural and even the fence building was no surprise as the fields would be used for winter pasture, so the grains stack would be protected by the fence. When the canvas was put down we were puzzled. Then when the grain was forked onto the canvas and the horses turned into the fenced ores we were stumped. We told Dad of the strange happenings and after a good laugh he explained that that was the way grain harvesting had been handled long before a threshing machine had been invented. As the horses trotted over the shocks, the grain would be released from the dry shell covering. After a time the horses would be stopped and the grain-stripped stalks would be thrown by the pitchfork handlers to the outside. Next, shovels would be used to pile the grain on a big canvas outside. On a good windy day the men would use shovels to throw the grain into the air where the chaf and dirt would be blown out of the seed. This process is called winnowing. In looking at the number of men and great amount of work for this type of harvesting, I’d say the threshing machine was a great invention.
HAVING FUN – THE CIRCUS
Again, back to the fun department. There was a man who lived north of us, and while he must have been two or three times my age, he always came by to see if I could go with him on trips he would take now and then. Sometimes we’d go on horseback out to their cattle ranch several miles west and might stay a day or so. Whenever there was to be a circus in Roswell (fifty miles north) or in Carlsbad (thirty-five miles south), he’d always come for me.
What a thrill to see my first circus, I was about nine or ten years old when this same man asked me to go with him to Roswell. We left in the late afternoon and it must have been in the fall of the year as I remember we had the side curtains on the car, but I suppose the curtains would have been put on even for a summer rain. I do recall being cold all the way up and back, as I no doubt didn’t start out with a good coat. The distance was only fifty miles, but the country roads we had to travel certainly didn’t lend themselves to much speed. What with a combination of the sharp 90 degree turns at section lines, narrow, only dirt without any coating, and at time there would be one hole after another miles, It was quite difficult. The car lights were run off of a magneto, so if you could maintain a good speed the lights were fairly bright, but when it was necessary to slow down, the lights would dim to a point that it was difficult to see ahead - and right at the time when bright lights were needed the most.
At long last we arrived to begin the thrills and excitement of an almost unbelieveable adventure. The first thing we did was to almost get run over by an elephant. We had just stepped between two cars and my friend almost collided with a man in a red suit who was running along holding onto an elephant’s ear with a stick. The animal was trotting and right behind it was another elephant holding on to the leader’s tail, then another and another. There may have been five or six altogether. They had no sooner passed when the last one decided to turn loose and let out a horrible screaming noise. That just about did it for me, as I was almost in a state of shock when I saw that first monstrous animal coming right for us.
We must have been just about on time for the big show, as we didn’t spend any time at the carnival or side shows. The circus was truly a joy and something I could hardly believe. There was so much going on at one time I’m sure I felt cheated because I could not watch everything. Naturally the clowns fascinated me, the horseback riders were almost unbelievable, the lions and tigers gave me goosebumps, and the aeriel performers were something I couldn’t watch because it made me hurt.
I don’t recall the name of the circus, but as years went by, we had several come through the country such as: P.T. Barnum, Ringling Brothers, Bailey Shows, and Cole Brothers as well as another one or two smaller outfits whose names I do not remember. I tried to never miss one as the carnivals, side shows and other attractions were so fascinating.
It was easy to spend a lot of money on the side shows, but so many were phony. Jo Jo, the dog-faced boy, was about as dog-faced as I was, The Spider Lady, who had a human head and a spider body, was something I rushed into see, but while standing there trying to figure out how such a thing could be, a man beside me said the thing was a fake. I felt sorry for the bearded lady and the fat lady who was so large she couldn’t walk. The sword swallower and fire eater were interesting, but not worth seeing twice. The knife thrower, who used a woman target, caused a variety of reactions: fear, strain, and anxiety. But again, it was not worth seeing twice. Some of the so-called forms of magic like sawing a woman in half or locking a woman in a small box and then passing swords through in several directions were interesting, but somehow I knew I was being tricked. I never tired of the magicians and their many slight of hand tricks. In fact, I am still fascinated watching a good one.
The Ferris wheel was fun except the real high ones scared me and caused me to hurt coming down so fast. The Merry-go-round was real fun and I never seemed to tire of listening to the Calliope music such as “Skaters Waltz” and “Over the Waves.” I always picked the moving horses and sometimes I would ride quite a while trying to get a brass ring which was good for a free ride.
The circus people were a strange breed, especially those running the carnival stands and side shows. The barkers and hucksters were something I’d never seen and certainly couldn’t figure out. It was almost a show in itself watching a good fast talker go through his routine of facial expressions and hand motions.
Of course, I was as gullible as any young country boy; and I’ll not forget the first money I spent trying to outguess the shell game. After most of my money had been spent at it, I felt very foolish because I suddenly realized I had been “taken in.’ I never again tried the shell game.
It would be rare to go hone with money in your pocket after hot dogs, root beer, caramel corn, candied apples, peanuts, and visiting the many little booths where there were games of chance like throwing balls to knock rag dolls off a board, pitching hoops at pegs, tossing balls at numbered holes in a board, etc. All this for some cheap prize which I rarely won.
Later, when I was in my middle teens, I discovered almost a guaranteed route to bankruptcy--take a girl along to the circus who suddenly decided she couldn’t do without a kewpie doll. At one booth a girl kept urging me to win until I had spent $12.00 and was broke. No doubt I could have bought the kewpie for about $2.00. Being broke was a feeling I didn’t enjoy, but somehow the circus atmosphere, being in an entirely different world with people milling around, side show barkers, bright 1ights all put together seemed to be something that caused me to lose judgment. In your language of today, you might say, “I lost my cool.”
TRIP TO CARLSBAD
I shall never forget the first trip I made with this neighbor to Carlsbad. I was on horseback, not too far from home when he came by in a car and asked me to go with him. I tied my horse to a fence and away we went. I don’t recall why we didn’t take the trouble to go back and let Mother know where we were going, but the tact is we didn’t, which was a worry to me all the way down and back. When we arrived at Carlsbad, I was in a worse mess. At that time the town had almost 3500 people and to me everything was confusing. Cars, trucks, buggies, wagons, horseback riders, and people seemed to be everywhere. My friend dumped me off right in the middle of the whole mess and said, he’d be back before too long. I’m sure I’ve never felt so alone in the world, but finally I started looking in the store windows, also watching for someone I might know. So many people, and all strangers. While I was just fooling along crossing between two buildings there came the most frightening sound I’ve ever heard. There was a big red truck coming right at me, while making a very frightening noise. Someone yelled at me to jump and right at the last moment I did. That fire truck seemed to miss me only by inches. It was almost dark when my, friend came back for me, and I was still scared out of my wits also about the fact he might have forgotten me plus what I had to look forward to when I got home a couple of hours later.
TOWN OF DAYTON DIMINISHING IN SIZE
Shortly before this time, our little town of Dayton was quite a community with probably eighty to one hundred homes including the adobies in tho Mexican part of town. I should imagine there were about 500 people, and things were thriving with a bank, hotel, saloon, drug store, dry goods store, bakery, blacksmith shop, two grocery stores, post office, etc. However, just the minute prohibition came into effect, the town started drying up and people moving away. There must have been some other economic factor, because I can’t imagine a small town being supported by one saloon. Anyway, businesses did gradually close one by one and by the time I left that country there were only about ten people left in or near the town of Dayton. During the earlier more prosperous times, new people coming into the country seemed to have good equipment and gave some appearance of means and respectability, however, as the area died down the only people that came were poor white trash in real junky covered wagons and poor teams.
COVERED WAGONS and SICKNESS
The last of the covered wagons I saw coming across the Sandhills from Texas brought in three poor and trashy families. Each family had a wagon and all of their possessions were in it. Two of the wagons were being pulled by horses so poor they seemed to wobble with each step they took. The third wagon was being pulled by ten burros. The lead was a pair of nice looking burros, but the next two teams were made up of four smaller burros each. Where the Plains road amounted to only two ruts, there was quite a scramble among the little fellows in the hookup of four because each wanted to walk in the rut rather than on an edge. When they’d hit a sandy area, the load was almost too much for even ten, but the old man driving them must have been a master of burro language, because with his choice vocabulary and some encouragement from a long bull. whip, they’d dig right down and get the wagon through.
I remember one of the families who moved in. Right after their kids started school several of us broke out with the Seven Year Itch. Oh, what a horrible mess that was. Of course, it didn’t last for seven years, but it seemed like it. We really suffered with itching all over that just about put us out of our minds. The only time we would get relief was when we went to bed. Mother would load the blankets with cornmeal and when we lay down we’d rub the meal all over our body. I remember sores so large that I couldn’t cover them with my hand. Another time, when I was about seventeen, I was blessed with a multitude of boils for several months, many of them double headers. If I remember correctly, I had sixty-nine going at one time. Several of them in uncomfortable and embarassing places.
We had other forms of excitement, such as roving bands of gypsies. The first experience with gypsies that I remember was one day while Mother and I were alone out by the milk cooler (see below), on the north side of the house. She spotted a bunch of them coming down the road, “hell bent for election.” She grabbed me and we ran into the house where she made straight for the old double barrelled shot gun that always stood behind the door. By that time the gypsies were at the front of the house and a number of them were climbing out of their wagons. Two or three started toward the house, but a bunch were headed on the run toward the barns and corrals. Mother stepped out on the porch and leveled the gun at those approaching the house and at the same time yelled at the others to “Get out.” Without any questions of her intentions, they all ran back to their wagons and left in a cloud of dust. It was a frightening thing, but during the summer months, we learned to expect them several times. Once they took us by surprise and were able to get away with several chickens before Mother could get to the gun.
The gypsies traveled in what we called light weight covered spring wagons, and their teams were usually about the size of small saddle horses. They seemed to travel in groups of six or eight wagons with several out riders driving a few extra horses. They lived off of what they could plunder and steal. Usually Mother was pretty quiet, but when something like this came up, she would explode like a Mexican firecracker and could use a few well chosen words that left no doubt about what she meant.
Now about the “milk cooler.” Since ice or refrigeration was not available, there were only two methods of keeping things cool during warm weather. One was to place the item to be kept cool in the spring ditch, or use what we refered to as “the cooler.” The one we used at the time I’m thinking of was built by Dick. It was a skeleton frame box about two end one half feet square and three feet tall. The frame was covered with burlap and had a burlap front flap to fasten down to keep insects out. The shelves were filled with holes for air circulation. The box was on a stand about four feet high and the top platform held a five gallon container to hold water for the cooling process. Four holes were punctured in the sides of the can near the bottom and then partly plugged with a stick to regulate the dripping water which would run over the top platform and begin to soak the burlap sides. Since cooling is a process of evaporation, it is amazing how nice and cool milk, butter, and other items kept in this “evaporative cooler” were. During the hot summer this thing added one more aggravation to my play schedule, as I had to fill the cooler’s water container about twice each day by carrying water from the spring ditch.
EVERY DAY WORK
IRON POT USED FOR WASHING
Now to some of the work and drudgery of our everyday life, such as a huge weeks washing to be done. Monday seemed to be the chosen day. Measured by today’s simple procedure, it was quite a project. Mother had a large cast iron pot in the backyard where clothes wore boiled. It was about 30 inches in diameter and 24 inches deep and was held off the ground by three legs sitting on rocks to keep it from sinking into the ground. Water had to be carried from the spring ditch to fill the pot. My first recollection of helping was to carry water in two five pound lard pails that would hold about 1/2 gallon each. Again, that got to be quite a job if there was snow on the ground and a north wind was blowing. Wood had to be cut and a fire built. Coloring dyes in those days weren’t so good, so only the white clothes wore boiled. When that was complete, we would pick out the hot garments and put them into a pan and carry them to a tub on the back porch where Mother washed them on a scrub board. Sometimes she would save the socks and handkerchiefs for me to do. After the scrubbing, we’d rinse them thru two tubs of clear water, the last tub had blueing in it. Then we would have to starch some of the things before carrying them out to hang on the line.
As years went by, I realized more what a hard job this must have been for Mother, especially in winter when there were so many heavy things like woolen underwear, wool blankets, etc. It was truly a back breaker for an older woman who had worked so hard all of her life.
We also used the same pot for making all the soap we used. This was a mixture of water, grease, lye, ashes, and only Mother knew what else. Again, it was a matter of carrying water, building a fire, etc. While the concoction was cooking, it was my job to stand on the box and stir until we’d let the fire die down and the soap would begin to cool and thicken. Just at the right time, Mother would cut it in squares and we’d set it out on boards to dry. I recall once when she bought a bar of a popular laundry soap, she fussed when she thought it did not do as well as her own.
This big pot was also used at hog killing time. Usually that came after the first frost and the beginning of cold weather. Again this meant carrying water to fill the pot, cutting lots of wood, sharpening many knives, etc. When I was very small, I remember how frightening and exciting everything was. The poor victim would be selected, then caught amid a terrific amount of squealing by the pig and yelling and struggling by the men. Finally it would be held in position to be hit in the head with an axe; then the big heavy throat was cut with a real long butcher knife so that it would bleed freely and quickly. Then it would be dragged onto a slab by the pot, where generous amounts of scalding water would be poured over it to loosen the hair in order that it might be scrapped off close to the hide. Next the pig would be pulled off the ground by pulleys in a nearby tree where butchering could be completed. The finish of the job was always a gay time because it. meant good fried liver with wonderful cream gravy, pork chops and spare ribs, which usually was the first fresh meat we’d had since the winter before, except chicken. Lack of refrigeration surely had its drawbacks.
Occasionally we’d kill a beef and use the same tree and equipment for pulling it up, but the scalding process was not necessary. I remember several times when Judge and I would kill a young steer and peddle the meat in four quarters. We made no attempt to cut the meat. We’d split the animal right down the back bone, then cut the halves evenly in two. The last I remember selling brought twelve and one half cents per pound for the fore quarters and fifteen cents per pound for the hind quarters. An ordinary two year old range steer that had not been fattened would bring us about $50.00. Today a good spring calf will bring $150.00 on the hoof at. fall market. We’d ordinarily figure our steer cost us about $20.00 then.
FEEDING THE LIVEST0CK
The winter weather offered other problems, such as getting up really early~ break the ice in the ditch so livestock could water, then some would have to be carried to the chickens because when there was snow on the ground, or when it was very cold, the chickens would not leave their houses. (I don’t know where the expression, “less sense than a chicken” could have come from.) Feeding them and gathering eggs was both a morning and afternoon job. Mother always had about fifty chickens which kept us in eggs as well as fryers in the spring and summer and stewing hens in the fall.
In the chicken yard, behind the “chic sales,” Mother cultivated and guarded several sunflower plants that had the largest sunflowers I’ve ever seen. Most of them were at least a foot across the seed part. We were always fascinated with the flower constantly turning so it would face the sun. When the seeds matured and gradually dropped to the ground, the chickens would have quite a feast. Close by the sunflower plants were four or five castor bean plants. I don’t recall that they had any particular beauty, and I’m not sure just why Mother continued to care for them. She carefully picked the beans before they were ripe so they would not fall for the chickens to eat. I’m sure the thought of eating one of the beans never entered our minds, but just in case we did eat one, we were promised a spasm of fits and maybe death. But if you didn’t die, you were sure to suffer insanity. (As years have gone by, Judge and I have wondered if perhaps we didn’t eat a bean or two accidently, and have many laughs over the prospect.)
There was also the job of getting hay from a big stack, corn from the barn, etc., to feed the cows, horses and pigs. In real cold weather this could get to be a real job for a little guy. Tears would be running down the cheeks and nose running a steady stream.
I suppose I was no different than other small children in that I wanted to be helpful only when it was convenient to me. One of the many jobs I didn’t look forward to was helping Mother churn butter. The churn was a crock about two feet tall and about one foot wide at the bottom. The top was recessed to hold a wooden lid. The agitator was about the size of a broom handle with a wooden X screwed to the bottom end. Again, I stood on a box and pumped the handle up and down until I felt as though my arms would break. It seemed forever before the butter would begin to form, and at that point Mother would have to take over as I could not work the agitation when it began to collect the butter. If, after considerable churning the butter did not start to form, Mother would warm the churn by placing it in a pan of warm water. When this process was finished, the mess was strained and the buttermilk was poured into jars for table use. The remaining butter looked like pop corn in shape and would have to be worked with a hand paddle to get out all possible moisture. Salt and a smidgen of sugar would be added during the working and then the finished product would be hand pressed into a one pound wooden mold. Usually, each week Mother and I would go by buggy to Artesia, about eight miles north, where we either traded or sold butter and eggs. That money was supposed to be her own, but she usually managed to spend it on things the children needed.
Her favorite buggy horse was a big fly-speckeld, off-white horse named “Gilbert.” He was an animal with almost human intelligence. At the buggy he treated Mother with all due respect, but as a saddle and roping horse, he had few equals. When the grandchildren came for visits, they would climb all over and under him, but he would never treat them with anything but kindness. He must have pegged them as city kids who didn’t know any better.
MOTHER ALWAYS BEING BUSY
Mother was always busy and never seemed to sit down to rest. Recently I ran across a poem that seemed to describe her very well:
Mother, on a winter’s day,
Milked the cows and fed them hay,
Slopped the hogs, saddled the mule,
And got the children off to school.
Did a washing, mopped the floors,
Washed the windows and did some chores,
Cooked a dish of home dried fruit,
Pressed her husbands Sunday suit,
Swept the parlor, made the bed,
Baked a dozen loaves of bread,
Split some firewood and lugged it in,
Enough to fill the kitchen bin.
Cleaned the lamps and put in oil,
Stewed some apples she thought might spoil,
Churned some butter, baked a cake,
Then exclaimed, “For mercy’s sake,
The calves have got out of the pen!”
Went out and chased them in again,
Gathered the eggs and locked the stable,
Back to the house and set the table,
Cooked a supper that was delicious,
And afterwards washed all the dishes,
Fed the cat, and sprinkled the clothes,
Mended a basket full of clothes,
Then opened the organ and began to play:
“When you come to the end of a perfect day.”
While I’m sure she wasn’t quite that busy each day, the poem does point out very well the duties of a woman in the early days, who lived in a rural area.
There was a big wooden bucket by her chair filled with mending to be done. She whistled while she worked, no particular tune, just whistled. She was handy at doing almost anything. She kept things patched up, mending fences around the yard or corrals, sawed boards for repairing the chicken house, fixed gates, etc. I was always right there helping her. These jobs were for good weather and when it was otherwise, there always seemed to be a never ending amount of things to do on the inside. She liked to make quilts. The quilting frames hung from the ceiling in the “girls” room. She let me help at times, by pushing the needle up from the underside, but otherwise I would just play in the room.
There was a Singer Sewing machine in the room and my main plaything was riding the hood cover for a horse. At the time I am thinking of, my legs were not long enough to reach the floor, so I was frequently scolded for scratching the sides of the hood when I insisted on kicking my horse to make it go faster.
Later on Mother let me help mend some of the simple things and help with the ironing. Ironing certainly was not a good job in the summertime as the irons had to be heated on the cook stove and for hot irons that meant a big fire. It must have been especially bad for Mother because the old time women wore so many clothes. She wore a gingham dress and three or four petticoats. She made all of her own clothes, oven her brassieres, which were made from bleached flour sacks. My summer underwear was also made from that. All of her life her dresses were worn at a length of about six inches off of the floor.
She was good at repairing our shoes. She had a last, a metal form on a stand, with four different shoe sizes. I’ve watched her many times measure the leather from all directions to be sure she was getting the most out of it.
WHEN CLARA VISITED AND HAYSTACK WAS SET ON FIRE
Once Clara was at our house for a visit with her two boys, Harold and Orvis. They were helping me take slop to the pigs, and on the way we passed a haystack. I have no idea what possessed me to show off, but nevertheless, I lit a match to the hay intending to show the boys how fast I could put it out with some of the slop. The fire got out of hand and Mother and Leatha had to come running with extra water to put the fire out. Once the fire was out, Mother practically yanked my arm off leading me over to an old mowing machine. She pulled a board off of a nearby box, then bent me over the mower wheel where she started a real fracas She was surely working me over and was talking all the while, but with the loud whacking noise going on in the area of my seat end, I couldn’t hear what she was saying. While I was squalling to high heaven, I think it was probably the easiest spanking I ever remember, and it was probably intended to be the hardest.
One time many years later, Judge and I were picking some of his, cotton. We had quite a pile, about 600 or 700 pounds thrown loosely over an area about a ten foot circle and several feet deep. We were having a rest and cigarette break. In lighting his cigarette, Judge then touched the match to some of the cotton on the edge of the pile. Swoosh--the blaze covered the pile before we could get up. It was just as though gasoline had been ignited, but when the outside fuzz had been burned away, we didn’t have too much trouble putting out the rest of the fire. It did have a change in color, however, from white to almost black.
MOTHER’S “WORDS OF WISDOM”
Mother had many cute sayings which we have enjoyed repeating all our lives. While the sayings may not have been original, she was possessed with considerable wit and was always quick with rebuttal. If the meal she prepared wasn’t too good, she’d say, “Done or raw, it will fill your craw.” If a girl made a good marriage, she’d say, “She drove her geese to a good market.” A misunderstanding of some sort might rate this comment, “May as well be shot for a sheep as a goat.” Others were, “Don’t become too friendly as familiarity breeds contempt;” “Idle hands are the tool of the Devil;” “Stay sweet and kind, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar;” “If you want the calf, just salt the cow, but look the cow over carefully, because the calf will be like her.”
If she didn’t like your advise, she’d say, “Don’t try to tell your grandmother how to pick ducks.”
If two people who married and didn’t amount to much, she’d say, “It’s better to spoil one home than two.”
If someone criticized what she was doing, it might draw a comment like, “It’s my soap and water, so I’ll wash when and how I please.”
If someone wasn’t too smart, it would be, “They don’t know Sicum.”
If you were supposed to be doing something or going after something in a hurry, but were just fooling around, she would say, “Now you’d better light a shuck.”
She disliked a “phoney,” so for a person who acted all too important she would comment, “I could make a lot of money if I could buy that fellow for what he is worth and then sell him for what he thinks he’s worth.”
She always looked askance at salesmen. She said they could “talk water uphill.” “In making a deal don’t hold back anything that belongs to the deal...let the tallow go with the hide.”
In refering to a small place where people lived, she might say, “It’s not big enough to cuss a cat without getting fur in your mouth.”
Sometimes when a couple married too young or were lacking in experience, she would remark, “Green apples don’t have much flavor.”
I beleive she may have rephrased an old saying to suit herself and it turned out, “Fine feathers don’t always make fine birds.”
MOTHER and DAD’S EDUCATION and BELIEFS
Neither Mother or Dad had any formal education. Dad had been at school only part of two years to learn the “Three R’s,” but Mother never attended school. Over a period of years she taught herself to read, but she was never able to sign her name. However, she possessed an unusual amount of native intelligence. Dad could figure with the best of them, and the respect for his judgement and fair play brought many people to him for advise on a variety of problem, and even to settle disputes.
Both were great believers in the “Good Book” and held a very tight set of beliefs on moral standards. They lived by the Ten Commandments. Their honesty and the value of their spoken words were great assets. Long many years later when I went to work for Bank of America, I had to get a recommendation from back home. The only person I could think of was an old timer by the name of Bullock, who at one time had a business in Artesia. The Bank’s personnel manager showed me the old gentleman’s answer. In very shakey handwriting it said, “I don’t rightly remember the boy, but if he is anything like his Dad, be sure to hire him.”
Mother and Dad never seemed to interfere with each other’s business. She ran the household, and he managed all the business affairs. While Dad was quite a sharp trader in so many respects, there are times when I’m quite sure he would have done well to have consulted Mother. Dad trusted just about everyone, but Mother had an uncanny way of arriving at conclusions and was not always quite so generous.
In so far as family management was concerned, there was no doubt that Dad ruled the roost, but we children weren’t always so easily fooled because we were sure that Dad had been told what to say to us. In those days it was not. uncommon for a woman to remain in the background, and with few exceptions like Carrie Nation, the records only showed when they were born, when they married, and when they died. In other words, HATCHED, MATCHED, AND DISPATCHED.
Mother and Dad’s lack of formal education was not a serious drawback. Their self-teaching and power of observation kept them on an even keel with their surroundings. This was not true of all the old timers, and I remember some when I was quite young who had a special jargon. There has always seemed to be some comedy built around the language used by the mountain folks in some of the southern states and these people, at one time, may have been residents there. An example of their way of talking might go something like this - if a rider came by to visit a friend, “Jest dropped by to swap howdies.” The other would reply, “Well, lite and sit a spell, rest your saddle and blow yer horse.” An interpretation of that would be, “Just come by to say hello.” The other would be, “Get down for a rest, loosen the cinch so your horse can breathe easier and rest.”
A few other expressions are:
Fetch . . . . . . Bring
Younguns . . . . . Children
Swap . . . . . . Trade
T’other . . . . . The other
Tom Foolery . . . . . Foolishness
I’d be obliged . . . . . Please
I’m recollecting . . . . Recalling
Fer piece . . . . . Quite a distance
Right smart . . . . . Considerable
Near ‘bout . . . . . Almost
‘Haint aimin to . . . . Don’t intend to
Right good turn . . . . Did well
Fair weather twixt us . . . . Get along well
Box yer jaw . . . . . Slap you
Addle pated . . . . . A fool
‘Hit makes me no never mind . . Doesn’t matter
Vow and declare . . . . I’m amazed
Birthing . . . . . Child birth
Dowdy or tacky . . . . Not well dressed
Tote . . . . . . Carry
I ain’t aiming to toady up to him none . I’ll ask no favors
REPAIRING TOOLS and EQUIPMENT
We had very little machinery, but whenever some of it broke we could find some way to fix it for further use. Mending leather harnesses or saddles was much easier.
If a small hole developed in a metal bucket, dish, or tub, it would be a rare thing to throw it away. You would use a nail or awl to rout out the edges. Next, you’d take a small piece of cloth, catch the center with your thumb and forefinger, while using the other hand to fold the rest of the cloth back. Then place the small end of the cloth into the hole to be repaired, and with a twisting motion, pull the cloth very tight into the hole. Then trim the cloth inside and outside, and the container was almost as good as new. Some of our containers had several such repairs.
If the handle of a fork, rake, shovel, or axe should break, it was a simple matter of putting the break bock into place and wrapping it many times with baling wire to make the tool usable again.
“Making do” was a common expression as well as being the practical thing to do. In a rural area, such as where we lived, it was not always convenient to run to a store to replace some broken item. We wore boots, shoes, and clothes that had been mended, patched, and at times a patch on top of a patch, so that by today’s standards they would have been just short of disgraceful. It was not always a case of not being able to afford better; rather there seemed to be a certain pride in being able to get by with what one had.
One big spring project was to get the garden planted. I would estimate the plot to be about 200 feet square, much too big as far as I was concerned. Usually the ground was plowed and harrowed by a share cropper, but now and then we did it with our own team and plow. Further smoothing and conditioning was done with a hoe and rake, then Mother would make rows or hills for me to plant seeds as she directed. During the growing period many other distasteful jobs arose such as hoeing or pulling weeds and when the tomato vines were in full bloom we’d have to go out before sun-up to pick the big tomato worms from the vines. These worms were collected in a bucket and fed to the chickens, and what a wild scramble there would be far that delicacy.
When the garden began to ripen, the kitchen activity picked up quite a bit. Mother was always busy canning vegetables that could be enjoyed during the winter months. While there was an abundance of fresh vegetables on the table during the summer months, a future planning no doubt arranged for a surplus to be canned. The garden did supply us with much delicious food such as big beautiful beefsteak tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, summer squash, string beans, bell peppers, fresh corn, cantaloupe, watermelon, lettuce, radishes, pumpkins, etc. By fall the pantry and storage room shelves were loaded with canned pickles, chowder, tomatoes, pumpkin, string beans, corn, etc. Then came the ripening of many fruits. We had a few apples peaches, apricots and crabapples from the “ Old Place” and in addition there would always be some wagon peddlers come from the mountains where especially good fruit was grown. Occasionally Mother and I would go in the buggy to Hope, where she enjoyed visiting old friends, then we’d return with pears, plums, prune, as well as more apples and peaches. In our area one orchard had a breed of apples I’ve not seen anywhere else in the world. It was called ‘ArkansasBlack.” The skin of the apple was black and the meat was almost yellow. They were excellent for eating.
At times Mother would run short of fruit jars, so she would scrounge the countryside for jugs and whiskey bottles. Since the neck would be too small for her purpose, she would soak a heavy twine string in kerosene and wrap a layer or two around the bottle at the place she had selected for breaking, then light a match to the string all around. As the string burned and the glass became hot at that point, you’d soon hear a “ping’, and the bottle most generally broke in a nice even ring all around. Next, she’d use a rock to rub the sharp edge to avoid an easy cut later.
I was always real glad to see the canning time come to an end, because it seemed to me that I’d had more than my share of turning the apple peeler, turning the grinder for making chowder or carrying piles of wood for the cooking fire. Then, of course, all of that work interfered with my play time.
As I look back on it now, I’m sure my memory has been brightened by time and love; I’m quite certain I’ve never tasted jams, jellies, and other canned produce with the wonderful flavor that Mother could put into them. Hers was truly a labor of love.
Dad had a general merchandise store in Dayton. On week days, after breakfast, he would light up a cigar and start walking to the store which was about two and a half miles from our house. He liked to walk and as he started out he would square his shoulders back and set a pace that was almost impossible to keep up with.
Early on Sunday mornings during the summer months, Dad would take a towel and a bar of soap and walk to the Penasco River, close to a mile away and there would have his weekly bath. Afterwards he more than likely would walk over most of the 360 acres just for exercise. Even in winter when snow might be on the ground, he’d take off like a young colt and walk for a couple of hours.
In the evening, after supper when the day was done, he liked to sit in his big rocking chair and have me get up in his lap. At the time I first remember this, he had a big beard that I had to hold away from my face. He chewed tobacco, as well as smoked cigars, and his beard always smelled real strong of both.
HORSES AND BRANDING
Dad also was an excellent judge of horses. My first memory of him with horses was at branding time. He had somewhere between 300 and 400 range horses and along in November (depending on the signs of the moon) they would be brought from their range into the spring pasture. From there they would be taken in smaller bunches of thirty to fifty into the round corral where the colts would be roped and branded and the studs castrated, except a few chosen ones that were to be sold as studs. The colts were also weaned and separated from the herd so that they could start a life of their own. This separation also served another purpose, because if the colt was left with its mother to suck, it would weaken the mare and she might have a bad time getting through a hard winter if feed was short.
Dad separated other horses and mares to be sold, some locally, but most of there were shipped to Texasor Arkansas, and one time I remember even to Louisiana. For the most part his horses were a good grade, mostly for saddle stock and a few were heavy enough for work horses. In earlier years, before my time, Dad was known to have the best horses in the country. At that time he branded W.F.D., but by the time I remember, he had changed to X on the jaw, J on the shoulder, and a Bar on the hip.
Most of the horses had long tails and manes that gathered cockleburs and other such trash, so those selected for sale had to be roped and thrown so that their mane could be roached (you might call it a crew-cut) and the burrs combed out of their tail.
The horses were very wild and when I was little, it all was so exciting to see them roped and watch the struggle before they were finally subdued. There always seemed to be plenty of men to help with this work. I don’t know if they were hired, or were just good neighbors. Charley and Dick were always a big part of the show.
Dad frequently bought or traded for horses, which meant that the brand they were wearing had to be cancelled by burning through the old one and rebranding with our brand. However, I remember one time when he bought both the horses and the brand from the S.H. outfit. There were over l50 head, but in that case, rebranding was not necessary. The S.H. stock, for the most part, were what we called a Spanish strain. Most of them were brown, bay or sorrel, small and very wiry, but not worth too much. As saddle horses though, in the mountain country, they could outdo larger horses and were much safer; as they were quick on their feet and there was less danger of falling. Regardless of how long they were ridden or how tired they were, you always had to watch them as they were also very tricky.
After the branding, cutting and separating was completed, everything except the colts and sale horses were put on their winter range. Dad leased grazing land from several places. One I remember well was the sandhills east of the Pecos River, which is now a very rich oil field. For a winter range, that area offered two advantages. If the weather was good, they would graze the plains and sandhills; but in bad weather, with snow and cold winds, they would seek shelter in the cedar breaks along the river. The colts were turned into a pasture closer to home because for a few days they had to be watched closely, especially the ones that had been castrated. If the weather was cold they would just stand in one place and get stiff, so each morning it was necessary to ride out and run them a little way. If they were not moved, sometimes a blood clot would form and cause a problem.
I remember one winter when I’m sure I wasn’t more than five or six, Judge and I saddled our horses before sunup to go out and move the colts They were pastured about two miles from home. It was snowing like fury, and now and then we would get lost. Before we got back, we were just about frozen stiff, and I was crying so hard that Mother thought something serious had happened.
Judge and I did a lot of riding for Dad, and when I was small I had to be sure to pick my spot in case I had to get off the horse. I had to be sure there was a stump, big rock, or fence post I could climb to get my foot back into the stirrup to get on. Once I remember when absolutely nothing was available, so I tied my rope to the saddlehorn and let it hang down so I could climb back on. That was okay on that particular horse, but they weren’t all so kind.
In mentioning the snow, cold weather, and riding for Dad, I’m reminded of another time when I was still quite young. We had a real cold north wind and lots of snow for many days. The poor old cows were beginning to die up against a drift fence about three or four miles west of home. Cows weren’t worth much, but at least the hides would bring in two or three dollars, so Judge and I would ride out as early as we were able to see and skin as many as we could before school time. We’d stretch the hides on the fence to dry and to be recovered later.
One morning we found an old man who no doubt was a tramp. He had lost his way in the storm and had fallen and was frozen stiff. We told Dad about it, and he passed the word on to the sheriff. There was no identity as I remember, so when the ground thawed a hole was dug and he was buried there.
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