Saturday, March 4, 2017



This is the second of  a three-part post.

Grandmother had come out on the porch and sat down in her rocking chair by this time and was listening to what Granddaddy was telling me.  When he said he went to work in the coal mines after they were married, she said:

“He only worked in the coal mines for about three months, as I didn’t like for him to work in there.  It was too dangerous.”

Then Granddaddy continued:

"In the coal mines, I ran a machine to cut boards.  Worked eight hours a day and went back lots of nights and worked extra blasting out the next day’s work so loaders could work next morning taking coal out."

At this point, it reminded Grandmother that she went down in the mines with him once, and she told this story:

“One time your daddy and I went down into the coal mines with him at night when they were to blast out a section so there would be coal to dig out for the next day’s work.  We wore carbide lights on our foreheads.  When the blast went off with a huge and deafening noise, we stood behind one of the coal pillars.  And after it was over, we were all covered with coal dust and were black as could be.  And I had worn my new red dress.” 

Grandmother laughed at her remembrance, and continued:

“I had to give all of us a bath in a zinc tub, and it took lots of scrubbing to get clean.”

By this time, Granddaddy had thought of another story he wanted to tell me about learning to box:

"I learned to box while I was in the army.  A man named Hackett from Boston, Massachusetts, who was our cook, taught me a lot about boxing.  And I got to be pretty good, too.  One time after I was out of the army, the brother of one of the boys in McHenry came to visit him.  He had just gotten out of the Navy.  Well, he started boasting around town that he sure wished he could find somebody to box a round with him.  But nobody would.  Finally, I told a friend of mine that if he kept on boasting what a good boxer he was that I was just going to take him on.  Well, that word got back to the Navy man, and so they rigged up a match for us to box each other in the Odd Fellows Hall for a percentage of the sales.  Neither one of us got knocked out, but people who were watching said I got in the most licks.  We got very little money for boxing.  We wore regular boxing gloves, but not like the ones we have now.  These were a lot thinner."

Grandmother had sat quietly while he was telling this story.  I asked her if she went to watch it, and she replied, emphatically:

“No mam, I did not!  I was so outdone with him for making that match that I didn’t go watch, and I told him I didn’t care if he got whipped real good.”  She chuckled to herself.  “But I helped nurse his bruises when he got home that night.”

I changed the subject here and asked Granddaddy to tell me about his marriage.

"Well, after I asked her to marry me, I went to our Baptist preacher by the name of Preacher Gordon and asked him to marry us at a certain hour of the day.  The preacher told me he was sorry but that he had already promised to marry somebody else at that particular hour.  Preacher Gordon said, “Could you wait until another time so I could have time to marry both couples that day?”  Granddaddy said he told him:  “No, I can’t change the hour, but I can change preachers.”  And I did, and so Pendleton Taylor, another Baptist preacher, married us.  We had a home wedding at her house with just family and friends there.  When the coal mines went on strike, I went to farming on Ben Amos’ farm.  Raised mostly corn and tobacco.  I did that for two or three years, and then went back to the mines.  Gilbert was a baby when we lived on that farm.  Eula Mae was born there."

When I asked how they met each other and about their courting days, Grandmother told this:

“We were raised in the same community, being neighbors, and we attended the Select School together.  The first date we ever had was to go to church.  Daddy did not have his own buggy and always hired one to go courting in.  I always thought he tried to pick the wildest horse he could get at the livery stable.”

"One time we had a horse that balked a lot hitched to the buggy.  He balked every time we came to a hill.  And there were lots of hills.  When the horse balked, it scared me and I would get out and walk.  One time when that old horse balked, daddy got so mad at the horse that he got out and jerked back on the reins and it scared the horse.  He reared backwards so far that he fell over into the buggy and broke the buggy shaft and turned it over.  But we righted it, and daddy fixed it together again with hickory bark that he stripped off a sapling tree." (Granddaddy called grandmother “mama” and she usually called him “daddy” because that is what they got used to calling each other when their children were small.) 

Granddaddy remembered another story about that balking horse:

"Another time, Jerri, at Easter time, we went up to stay all night with my sister, Delaney Duvall, and going home the next day, the horse balked…it was a gentle horse, but he just balked on level ground.  Eva got out to walk and told me she would just walk up the road a piece and if I ever got the horse started again, I could just pick her up when I got even with her.  When I got him started, I was afraid to stop the horse for fear he would balk again, so when I came alongside of her, she just jumped in while it was still going, and it was the wonder she didn’t miss her footing and get run over by the back wheels!"

I looked at Grandmother, surprised that she was so daring in her youth.  But she reminded me that when you are young, you are not afraid of anything much.  I asked her how old she was when this took place and she said she was about twenty years old at the time.  Then she continued:

“I remember that just like it was yesterday.  That was an old iron gray mare, and she tore up my daddy’s buggy once.  She kicked the dash board in with her hind feet, turning the buggy over and tearing it to pieces, until she stripped the harness and we had to walk home.”

Next, I asked about how they happened to move to Texas, and Granddaddy summed it up:

"Well, you know, Auntie and Uncle lived at Edgerly, Louisiana.  And one time when they came back home for a visit, we all got to talking and I decided to move my family up there and go to work in the oil fields.  I worked on a drilling rig, twelve hours a day for $3.00 a day.  Steak was thirty-five cents a pound.  We went by train from Kentucky to Louisiana. It was a long trip for the children. Gilbert had his sixth birthday in Edgerly, which was about seventeen miles from Lake Charles."

"While we lived in Edgerly, it was the time of the great flu epidemic and all of us had it except Eula Mae.  We were very sick.  Lots of people died, including the mother of Gilbert’s playmates next door.  Gilbert had a relapse with the flu and almost died…and he thought he was going to die.  The doctor was called, and he came and convinced Gilbert that he wasn’t going to die like he thought he was.  We called Dr. Brooks, who was a good doctor, and he told Gilbert that he couldn’t die, even if he wanted to."

Grandmother remembered that while they were living in Edgerly, the school children had to dress up for the Mardi Gras in costumes, and Gilbert didn’t have one.  So when he came home from school, grandmother got some soot out of the stovepipe and blacked his face and hands, and gave him some old ragged clothes to wear, and he went back to school dressed as a tramp.

She also told the following story about “Ole Meaness” which she used to tell us, many times, when we were children and had to take naps.  She would say, “Now come lay down and be real still and I’ll tell you a story about your daddy when he was a little boy.”

"When we lived at Edgerly, Gilbert, Eula Mae and Joye used to go down to an old pond of water that had a buggy sitting out in the middle of it.  They liked to wade out in the water and sit in the buggy and fish from it.  They tied pieces of bacon on a string and tried to catch crawfish.  Now, there were lots of snakes and lily pads in that waterhole, and I was afraid for them to go down there.  Because I was afraid a water moccasin would bite them.  But every chance they got, they would sneak off down there anyway.  Finally, I told daddy he was going to have to do something about those kids getting out in that water." 

"So, he hired an old gray-haired Negro to scare them away from the water hole.  His name was Ole Meaness and he took a gunny sack and walked down the path to the water, shaking that sack open, and declaring he was going to catch them and make soap out of them.  And they jumped out of that buggy, splashing out of that pond and ran for home as fast as their legs would carry them.  They were hollering and crying, they were so scared.  They didn’t even take time to open the gate, but went over the top of the fence as fast as they could go.  And Ole Meaness was chasing them, kind of slowly, all the way to the fence."

"Those kids ran into the house, Joye was the last one coming.  And Gilbert ran and hid under the bed, and Eula Mae jumped right in the middle of the bed, muddy and mossy as she could be.  She was almost hysterical she was so scared.   It was a wonder she didn’t have a heart attack.  I liked to never have got her calmed down.  Them that wasn’t crying was as white as a sheet.  And it broke those kids from going to that waterhole.  And after that, I never did…not once…have to tell them not to go down there fishing again, because they never went back."

Granddaddy took up the story again and told about moving from Edgerly to another oil boom town where work was supposed to be plentiful.

"From Edgerly we moved to Burkburnett, Texas and Iowa Park where I worked in a refinery on a pipe machine.  While we were living there, your grandmother had typhoid fever and was in bed for 121 days.  She nearly died.  About that time, I had a chance to buy a wagon and a team of two horses from a man who was selling out.  But the team cost four or five hundred dollars and that was a lot of money then.  Anyway, I told Bob Counts that I sure wished I had the money to buy the team and wagon.  And, Jerri, Mr. Counts knew how sick my wife had been and what a hard time we were having.  And he told me if I wanted that team and wagon to go tell the man and he would loan me the money.  I made a note for it and bought the team, and hired another man to drive it for me, and I kept running my pipe machine.  The man drove the wagon eighteen miles to the North Field every day, loaded with oil field equipment.  I got paid $12 a day for my team and two horses."

"And I worked all over the oil fields in Texas, the East Texas Oil Field, down in the Valley in South Texas, Mexia, and the Panhandle, and just wherever there was a boom going and there was work for me.  And then I worked once at Fort Hood, where I was a carpenter’s helper.  Then I quit there, and went to work at the prison camp in Mexia during World War II, so that I would be able to live at home."

"When Bob Smith, Eula Mae’s husband, left to go into service in the Navy on a mine sweeper, we moved to Leoti, Kansas where Bob and Eula Mae had a grocery store, and I helped Eula Mae run the store while Bob served his time in the Navy.  And from there we came back to Texas and bought this place where we are living now.  And you know the rest."

Part III will be posted in a few days.

No comments:

Post a Comment