An Ordinary Man: The Autobiography of Harold Cunningham by Harold Cunningham - HTML preview
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From the front: Gage (2 yrs.), Bradley (4 yrs.), Shane (9 yrs), Jake (13 yrs.) -2008
Old Harold‘s Story
I‘ll start by making an excuse that anyone reading this will surely agree with me that I‘m sure not a professional writer. There will be mistakes, though time lines won‘t be right, all the names will be right. This is my story as I remember it. I‘m going back quite a few years and one hell of a lot of real estate has passed under these old feet so I hope you will read this and maybe not make some of the mistakes I did.
To start with; somewhere around four P.M. on the second day of July, 1927, I made my entrance into this world. This was at a small town in North Texas by the name of Archer City. My dad was an oil field mechanic and moved frequently from town to town following the work being done in the oil fields. I‘m not sure how long we lived at Archer City, for some reason my dad moved us to Houston, Texas where he had bought a house for my mom.
We lived on Vincent Street not far from the Buffalo Bayonne. I can just remember another kid by the name of Tommy Watson who lived down the block from us that I played with. In those days our parents didn‘t worry too much about their kids playing outside.
There was a vacant lot across the street from our house where my brother who was about 14 years old played baseball with a bunch of other boys. My dad always liked big cars and he had a big old yellow Buick convertible in the back yard. I would play in it once in awhile.
Dad was working in another town for the Humble Oil Company on their fleet of trucks.
He was working underneath one of the trucks and when he crawled out from under the truck the door was open and he struck the back of his head on the corner of the door. The injury was greater than anyone thought at the time. Later, as time went by he developed a blood clot and it caused him to be paralyzed on his right side. After that he couldn‘t work and the Great Depression was setting in, so he lost the house.
My mom‘s mother lived on a farm with a first cousin of ours named Alton Blundell. She had helped raise him from a little child since his dad, Uncle Johnny, had died.
Mom got all of our belongings packed up to leave Houston. My mother‘s brother, uncle Matt, came down with an old Model A Ford truck. After everything was loaded onto the truck, we drove away from our house in Houston and the last thing I can remember was my dad sitting on the front porch waving bye to us. My mother, uncle, and two sisters rode up front while my brother and I rode on top of the furniture back to my grandma‘s place at Thompsonville, Texas.
• • •My grandmother had this 210 acre farm where she had two houses. There was the big house and then the little house where the hired help live. ―We was poor‖ as the old saying goes. We didn‘t‘ know it and we were as happy as the richest kids could be. This is where I lived when I started school. We lived in this old house for about six years.
Sometimes before my grandmother Blundell died, all of her offspring gathered together for a reunion at my grandmother‘s house. She had a large house it had a porch full length front and back with a hallway down through the center of the house connecting them together.
My sister and I were the youngest to attend. I got into a lot of trouble that day. First there was a little girl there about three years old. I think she was a third cousin. She got my marbles and put them in her rubber panties. I pulled her panties off to retrieve them. That was my first spanking that day.
The ladies were making all these nice pies and chocolate was my favorite. The pies were sitting on a shelf by an open window so I slipped up by them and stuck my finger in one of the pies which was chocolate and got me a taste. Mom knew who the culprit was so here came another spanking.
The kids were the last ones to get to eat so when it came time to eat and after we had finished eating our dinner we got our pie. There was this first cousin of ours named Earl Blundell who was sitting next to me. He was already a grown man and I didn‘t like him.
The reason I didn‘t like him was because one day he and one of his friends were hunting squirrels they came by the little house where we were living. Earl had a shot gun and he told me to put my hands out and he would give me something. He turned the barrel of the gun down to my hand and out come a baby snake. We called that kind of baby snake a coach whip. Actually it was a blue racer. They were non poisonous, but it scared the hell out of me.
Anyway, back to the pie. Earl kept sliding his hand over to make me believe that he was going to steal my pie. My mom told Earl, ―You had better leave that boy alone.‖ But, he didn‘t and slid his hand over like he was going to take my pie. He got his hand over close enough to touch my pie and when he did I stabbed him in his hand with a fork. He wanted mom to give me a whipping, but she told him he was the one that should get a whipping since she had told him several times that he better not be messing with that boy.
Anyway that put a stop to that and I never ever had anymore dealing of any kind with Earl.
After all the men had eaten dinner they gathered up on the front porch. Some were sitting in chairs and others sitting along the edge of the porch. Smoking was the big thing for men in those days. So they all put out there ―ready rolls‖ and lit themselves up one and also comparing the different brands with each other. They only smoked their store bought cigarettes on special occasions. They would smoke one up then thump the butt out into the yard. I would make like I was playing with my snuff bottles, I was using as cars until I could get close enough to one of the longer butts. Then I would pick it up go around to the back of the house where Grandmas two holer outhouse was. I would go inside the outhouse take a piece of the old catalog paper, wrap it around the end of the cigarette light it up and make like I was smoking. I was bad about playing with matches.
On one of my trips to the outhouse I lit up my make believe cigarette and the paper I had wrapped around it caught on fire. It burned my nose, so of course, I threw it down. It fell inside one of the holes where I couldn‘t get to it, set the paper afire at the bottom of the hole, and then all hell broke loose as it set the outhouse on fire and burned it down.
All the men were trying to put the fire out with a bucket brigade but it didn‘t work. I saw mom heading for the peach orchard to get her a good switch to give me a gook licking for playing with matches. I remember a couple of my uncles trying to get mom not to give me a licking because by this time they were all laughing so hard because I had tried to smoke and burned the shit house down. Their pleas got nowhere as mom gave me a real good whipping telling me, ―I‘ll teach you to play with matches!‖ That was the third and last whipping I got that day.
By this time my brother had joined the CCC and was stationed at Bastrop, he was learning about building things with wood. He got to come home once in awhile, and one weekend he came home cut down a big black jack oak tree out back of our little house.
He cut this up into lengths to fit into the wood cook stove and also the fireplace for the winter that was coming on down from the North.
Mom and my brother piled the limbs that couldn‘t be used as fire wood in a pile about one hundred feet from our house about two months later he came home again and I heard my mother and him talking about the brush pile being dry enough to burn.
This was before my grandma had died and one day while mom was over at grandmas taking care of her I decided to test the brush pile to see if it was ready to burn. I made a little pile of leaves set them on fire and sure enough the brush pile was ready to burn.
Mom saw the smoke from grandma‘s house and here she come over the little hill and heading straight for the peach orchard to get a switch. I was trying to put out the fire carrying a one gallon lard can full of water from the cistern to the fire. It didn‘t‘ do any good.
Mom caught me and gave me a good switching telling me all the time that, ―I‘ll teach you to play with matches!‖—I don‘t know when I no longer wanted to play with matches.
• • •One night after school I was playing in the backyard and it was beginning to get dark.
Mom always made us kids get in the house before dark as she was afraid the copperhead snakes would be out and about. Anyway, she called me several times, but I didn‘t pay any attention. There was about ten acres back of the house where our old cow named Pet grazed. When I didn‘t pay any attention to what mom told me or I just ignored her, she came out of the house with a switch.
I was about seven years old and thought I could outrun my mom. I started to run away from her and about every step I took she hit me with the switch across my butt. I thought maybe if I would just stop and take my whipping it would all be over. But, mom had other ideas. When I started to stop she said, ―No, no, run now, run!‖ and she whipped my butt all over that ten acres it seemed like anyway.
I never ran from my mom again. I want you to know our mom loved us kids and was never mean, we deserved every bit of what we got. I know our mom loved us more than anything. But she had a hard time during the Depression trying to farm and raise the three of us. Thank God she had the good fortune to make us kids learn what was right and what was wrong.
• • •Since there was hardly any toys to play with my sister Ruth, Mildred, and myself had to make up our own games to entertain ourselves. Some of the things we did outside the house was to go down by the little creek that made its channel through the property.
There was water probably from a spring that kept some mud puddles with water in them the year around.
We would take lids from cans and bottles then make up mud to the right consistency and press it into the lids so that we could then turn them over and make mud pies, layer cakes, and whatever else we could think of. We tried to find different shapes of lids to try and out do the other in these designs.
Also around these mud puddles would be crawdad holes where they made little mud castles to trap bugs and anything else that had a mishap and fell in to eat. Mom would give us a small piece of bacon in which we would tie on the end of a string then drop it down in the crawdad hole. The crawdad would grab it with its claws and wouldn‘t let go.
We could pull them out of the hole if they were large enough we would keep them and take them back to the house for mom to fry the tails. The larger the crawdad castle the larger the crawdad was that was using it as his home. These crawdads had large pinchers and could make you hurt when he clamped down on your finger.
When we got tired of playing with mud pies and crawdad we would find doodle bugs residences and take a small stick or straw to push it down to the bottom of his home and move it around chanting ―doddle bug, doodle bug, come get your coffee. Your house is on fire, your house in on fire!‖ The doodle bug would come to the top. Doodle bugs like sandy soil as their little homes were shaped like a funnel. When a bug or ant or any small insect fell in, it couldn‘t climb out because of the loose sand of the sides of the funnel type hole and the doodle bug had a meal. We didn‘t do anything with the doodle bugs just catch them and play with them as they were not very big and safe to handle.
All of us had our own swing made from old automobile tires or maybe sometimes if we could find a good board and some small chain we would make a real swing. Sometimes we got these swings going so high I often wonder how we kept from hurting ourselves.
When mom wasn‘t around we would play Annie Over. The way this was played you would take a rubber ball throw it over the top of the roof so it could roll down the other side. The person on that side would try to catch it. The game needed at least two players one on each side of the house. The one who was in possession of the ball would holler
―Annie!‖ and the person on the other side would say, ―Over!‖ The person throwing the ball tried to throw it somewhere so the other person couldn‘t catch it. This was a no no game because the ball could crack or break the wooden shingles and cause the roof to leak. That‘s why you only played it when you knew it was safe from mama‘s all seeing watchful eyes.
At night we played hide and seek in the house, but it was a small house and not many places to hide. It was fun. Then when we went to bed the kerosene lamp put out enough illumination so that we could make all kinds of shadow formations with our hands that were projected onto the wall.
Also sometimes, one of us would perform some deed that earned you a whipping, while that kid was getting spanked the other two would sneak a peek and laugh and giggle about the one getting the whipping. Then mom would catch the two that were laughing and give them a spanking also telling them, ―You think this is funny?‖
In the spring when the wild flowers bloomed, our meadows around the place would be alive with all kinds of flowers there was this one we called sweet William. It was more like a wild phlox, but there were so many designs inside the blooms. We would see how many different kinds of designs we could find.
Then we got to chase grasshoppers that were as large as humming birds. These grasshoppers would have all different shades of colors and designs when they would fly and spread their wings. They could fly a really long way so we had to be very stealthy to catch one.
Anyway we always had something to do that kept us occupied. We didn‘t get into that much trouble, but of course we were not angels.
• • •You know many years have passed
When your grandson pulls the
Skin up on your arm and asks,
―Grandma are you old?‖
• • •My grandma got very sick as she was getting up in age. Since my mom was the one living closest to her mother it fell to her to take the job as caretaker. Mom had a lot of chores plus trying to raise all of her kids.
I remember an incident that has stayed with me all my life. When I was about eight years old and my little sister was about five, we were playing, and my sister Mildred did something that made me mad, so I slapped her and made her cry. My mom didn‘t‘ whip me, she said, ―Harold, you are a boy; a man; and stronger than girls, so therefore, you should never hit a female or a girl!‖ She said, ―You see that old bull cow don‘t you?‖ I said, ―Yes.‖ So she went on to say, ―Have you ever seen a bull fight a cow?‖ I said, ―No.‖
She went on to say, ―You are a bull and the girl is a cow so don‘t you ever hit a girl.‖ So far I have never, ever (though my patience has been tried) hit or slapped another female.
• • •Way back in 1934 there was this old black man by the name of Edmond Flowers.
Edmond had four girls and one boy that he was raising and taking care of by himself. I don‘t know what the arrangement were, but mom let him and his family live in the little house after grandma passed on. I know mom charged him no rent and they didn‘t have to do any chores for the rent. My mom was good hearted like about 80 percent of the people who lived around that part of the country.
Contrary to what has always been the incorrect stories, and word of mouth propaganda about how mean and wicked we white folks were to the black folks is a lot of lies. There were some real mean people I will admit, but most people were Christian in their actions and we didn‘t want to inflick injury on anyone. We were made to live apart, but that still didn‘t‘ give way to being unnecessarily mean. That was the law at that period of time.
Anyway, Edmond would cut wood for mom which she paid him to do if she had any money. If not, then she would barter for his work. I was always down in the woods with Edmond when he was cutting wood. He would show me how to stack the wood, how much wood it would take to make a cord. He had no education, but he knew all about the woods and farming.
I really liked Edmond, and when mom went to town (when she could) she would bring my sisters and I five or six sticks of candy, like lemon, peppermint or orange flavor. I would save a piece and take it down to Edmond. He would make over me like I just gave him a mule and ten acres.
Anyway, Edmond was raising all those kids himself. I think his wife had passed on. I don‘t remember what the boy‘s name was, but the girls‘ names were Edna, Bootles, Little Bit, and Girl Baby. These were their real names!
Edna would help mom when mom could pay her or barter for her help. Most of the time mom had Edna help with the laundry. They had to build a fire around a big iron kettle to boil the clothes in, if it was something that needed it. All the laundry was pushed up and down on a rub board then rinsed and hung on a clothes line.
Edna dipped snuff like all the women (or most of them) did. She would make a ball out of the snuff and place it in her lower lip. One day, when no one was around my little sister Mildred and I found a snuff can hidden away under the back steps to the house. We opened it and found several balls of snuff about the size of a marble. Nothing could stop us, so we had to try our hand at dipping snuff. We put one in our lower lip and made like we knew how it was done. The only thing about this was that we swallowed some of the juice. Mom found both of us sick as we could be. Mom didn‘t say anything just put us to bed.
Little Bit and Bootles, I don‘t remember or know what they did, but Girl Baby went to school about two miles away where there was a school for the blacks.
Mom had planted about one acre of Irish potatoes and they were getting to be about half grown. She had Edmond come over and take the one old mule she owned, and hook it up to a plow to clean out between the rows. I kept pestering her to let me do some of the plowing. Finally, mom told Edmond, ―Go ahead, let him try.‖ So Edmond put the reins around my shoulders, set the plow up in the middle of the two rows, and let me go. I went about ten or twenty feet when the plow fell over to one side and I couldn‘t keep it up right. The old mule started going across the rows since I was most probably pulling the reins, telling him to go that way. I was digging up the potato plants, and Edmond had to run out and get things under control.
My mom had sent off and ordered several strawberry plants to put in her garden.
Strawberries were little known around that area during the 1930‘s. Anyway, they came along and thrived very well. One day, mom was picking some of the strawberries when Little Bit and Bootles came by, stopped and was talking to mom. Little Bit wanted to know what kind of berries mom was picking. Mom told her they were strawberries. Little Bit then told mom, ―I sho do like strawberries, but I ain‘t never taste one.‖ Mom gave here some to taste.
I‘m not sure what happened to Edmond and his girls, but I think they moved to Wealder, Texas about eight miles away where Edmond got a job in the Gin. The Gin was where they took the seeds out of the cotton and baled it. There was also a grist mill, where you could take your corn and have it made into corn meal.—Sure hope he found peace.
• • •Old is when you no longer
Can drive or shoot marbles
-Old Harold 2010
• • •
My brother walked about four miles one way to school in Thompsonville. He graduated from the high school there which at that time was only ten grades. My sister Ruth and I went to a small one room school about two miles from where we lived. We walked that two miles each day, and we were not allowed to miss a day unless we were really sick or the creeks were flooding the countryside. There were no bridges over the creeks.
The teacher (a Miss Jones) had to teach eight grades in that one room schoolhouse. The name of the school was Unity. I completed the third grade at this school. There were four of us in the first grade. We usually finished our assignments early and Miss Jones would let us go outside and play until school was out at four P.M.
Since we let our chickens roost in the trees behind the house the owls would catch one now and then. There was an old varmint trap with jaws on it to hold whatever got caught or tripped it stored in the hen house. This trap belonged to my brother Olan who was away in the Tree Army. He had used it to trap skunks and possums. Since he wasn‘t using it, I decided to make use of it.
I got a tall pole, put it up out back of the house, and tied it to a fence post. Owls and hawks like to sit on top of anything that is higher than the surrounding territory so they can see anything small moving around in the grass or brush.
I set my trap on top of this pole and tied it to the top of the pole with a piece of chain. The next morning my mom said, ―I think you have caught yourself an owl in your trap.‖ Sure enough! I looked out back and saw an owl trying to get away, flying around and then just hanging down the side of the pole.
I took me a stick, proceeded out to where the trap was and it was a very big owl that acted like it was going to attack me. He started to fly around so I hit him on the head with my stick. He quit moving so I assumed I had killed him.
Anyway, I took him out of the trap, carried him down to the backward where the chickens were eating grain my mom had put out for them. I just laid him on the ground and went on in the house to finish getting ready for school.
After a little while we heard the chickens start clucking and cackling. When we looked outside there was the old owl having come to just sitting on the ground looking all the chickens over. After a little while he flew away. I never caught anymore owls.
• • •The uglier I get on the outside-
The prettier I get on the inside.
• • •At recess everyone in the school would usually play softball. We played what we called
―work-up‖ since we didn‘t‘ have enough players to make up two teams. When school let out for the lunch recess, and everyone had eaten you ran out, and got a position wherever you could. Everyone wanted to work up to be able to get to bat.
The school had two old outhouses, one for the girls and the other one for the boys. One day, I moved up to second base and I had a pretty good chance to have a turn at bat. I needed to go to the outhouse to pee, but if I left to go, I would lose my spot, so I peed on the second base. My cousin Edella saw me and reported me to the teacher that I was going to the bathroom (or ―outhouse‖) on second base. I not only lost my spot, the teacher took me inside, and I got spanked and could not go back outside. There went my chance to become a star!
• • •Boys grow into men
Men grow into old men
Old men get ancient
Leaving your heritage
• • •Along about the winter of 1934 when I was seven years old, my mom came down with the flu and she was really sick. She couldn‘t get up out of bed to do any of the chores, so she called my sister Ruth and myself in to explain what had to be done. She told Ruth that she would have to do the cooking for all of the family.
Mom told me since I was the only man around that I was now the man of the house and that I would have to do the outside chores. That meant I had to slop the hog, feed the chickens, and milk the cow. She said the cow had to be milked or she would go dry. I had never milked a cow before. I watched mom and that was all the training I had. Anyway, I got the milk bucket and stool and then proceeded to do some milking. Well, I started pulling on the teats, and at first I wasn‘t being too successful, but after awhile I started getting some milk just a little drizzle at first. I finally got some milk in the bucket and thought it was enough. I think old Pet the cow had got tired of me pulling and pushing, so about the time I started to get up she kicked the milk bucket over and slapped me upside the head with her tail.—No milk that first day.
• • •Ruth was eleven years old and knew how to cook since mom had always taught her how to keep house. She got my little sister and I fed, got Mildred dressed, then we were ready to go to school. I had the diarrhea a little bit and had to go to the potty. I pulled my overalls down to do my duty, but I didn‘t get them down fast enough. So, I did a little job in my pants. I took some dry grass and leaves, cleaned my pants the best I could, and went on to school. I was afraid to go back home since we were not allowed to miss school unless it was a real emergency.
While I was sitting in class with this dried poopie in my pants the other kids were looking at me and holding their noses and saying phew. I didn‘t want them to think anything was wrong so I would point at my sister across the room and told them that she had messed in her pants. I did stay in school all day and was happy to get home. Mom got after me of course for not coming back home.—Always blame someone else when you can get away with it.
• • •At first there was an itty bitty
Notice from my lower intestine
That something was wrong, but I
Didn‘t heed the warning. Then the
Big pain came, and it was too late.
The sphincter nerve couldn‘t hold.
Old Harold- 2010
• • •One of the subjects you had to take was spelling. We were assigned so many words each day out of our spelling book. After we were able to spell all the words being checked out by Miss Jones we then had to make up a sentence using one of the words in each sentence. One day, we had the word God, so to try and get some brownie points in I went up to Miss Jones and asked her how to spell teacher. I then went back to my desk and made up the sentence –God makes teachers.- Then my friend Julio made up the sentence
–I went to town and I God some apples.- The teacher then came over and told us to forget about using that word in a sentence.
• • •When Christmas time arrived during the Depression, there would be a lot of talk and excitement among the kids at school. There would be lots of stories about what Santa Claus was going to bring, and how he would find us. Most of the kids from six to eight years of age still believed in Santa Claus. Maybe we really wanted to believe in something even if it was a myth.
The first time my faith in a Santa Claus was broken, was when my second cousin David Kelso told me there was no such thing as a Santa Claus. David was in the seventh or eighth grade and about fourteen years old. He said all the things you get are because your mama or papa gets them.
I went straight home to mama and told her what David had told me. I was crying and wanted to know if there was no Santa Claus, who was going to bring me a present this Christmas? I was seven years old at the time and all my beliefs were being shattered.
My mother said, ―Well, we are not going to believe David right now for we will still believe in Santa Claus.‖ ―Don‘t worry about anything.‖ She said, ―Let‘s you, me, Ruth, and Mildred go down in the pasture and cut our Christmas tree because it is time we get together and decorate it.‖
We got our Christmas tree and mom showed us how to nail a board on the bottom so it wouldn‘t fall over. She then set it up in one corner of the front room. She got a piece of white cloth and wrapped it around the bottom of the tree. She told us this would make it like snow was on the ground under the tree.
Mom left it up to us kids to decorate the tree. Mom would pop some popcorn then we would take a needle and thread and make a popcorn chain to go around the tree. We also took different colors of poster paper we got from school and cut it into strips. We made some glue out of flour and water. The ends of the strips of poster paper were glued together to make a circle or a loop. The loops were then looped together so that a continuous chain would be made and wrapped around the tree. Mom always had some kind of aluminum foil, or we would take the foil out of a pack of cigarettes, cut it into long strips about one quarter inch wide. We would drape them over the limbs and leaves of the tree to simulate icicles. Last, my sister Ruth would cut out a large star and it was attached to the very top of the tree. We had a lot of fun and thought the tree was just beautiful.
Mom usually made a doll for each of my sisters. She would make dolls like Raggedy Anna and Raggedy Andy. She would also make a new dress for each of my sister out of flour sacks which were made of print material. For me, she would try and get me something she could maybe buy. One time, I got a small sack of clay marbles. Another time I got a real store bought little dump truck. I played a game by myself which I called
―cars.‖ I used my grandma‘s empty Garrett Snuff bottles for cars as they were square. I would make roads all over the yard. When I got my little dump truck I really went into road building.
We also had to put up our socks under the fire place mantle. We would find the largest sock we could find so that Santa would have a lot of room to put a lot of toys in it.
Christmas morning would come and we would jump up and go to open our presents.
Mom always seemed to have enough money to purchase three of those red, net type socks, that would have an orange, apple, pecans, English walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, and another nut that looked like an acorn. We called it a chink-a-pin. Mom, during the night had got up and hung those net socks from the mantle.
Once, our Aunt Fannie (mom‘s oldest sister) and her daughter Marie came down to our house form San Antonio. They were driving a 1936 Chevrolet four door car. We went to San Antonio where Aunt Fannie owned a real big house to enjoy Christmas. Aunt Fannie‘s home was a very nice home out on Rigsby Avenue. All us kids (I‘m talking about myself and my sisters) thought they were really rich and I guess they were. All her family, three daughters and one son had good jobs. Also Uncle Smith (Aunt Fannie‘s husband) ran a small store where he sold candy, Ice cream, bread etc.
Christmas morning arrived and a lot of people came that I didn‘t know, but they were my kin folk. Before anyone got to open their presents, Aunt Fannie had everyone gather around the front room where the Christmas tree was. One of her daughters played the piano. Her name was Raye and everyone sang Charismas carols such as Dashing through the Snow, Silent Night and other songs. Then we were allowed to open our presents. The only song I knew was Silent Night and a little bit of Dashing through the Snow.
I got a real factory made truck, some real marbles, fire crackers, and new shirts and pants.
My Aunt and her kids really made a big Christmas for us. Something someone like my sisters and I would never forget.
On the trip to San Antonio from our place I got to ride in the front seat between my Aunt Fannie and her daughter Marie. The dash board was lit up and there was a speedometer with a reel that turned over after each mile. This let the driver know how far they had traveled. Marie had me watch that little reel, and every time it turned over another mile I had to tell her. This kept me busy so the grownups could talk, and it put me to sleep.
Anyway, that‘s the best I can remember Christmas in the Depression. We were as happy or maybe more happy than the kids are today with all their presents they are given. We didn‘t even know that we were supposed to be unhappy.
• • •Long before cotton picking machines were invented, cotton had to be picked by hand.
During the Depression, Texas farmers cultivated a few acres every year to make enough money to get them through the winter.
When I was about six years old, mom had maybe twenty acres in cotton. No irrigation, just what water the heavens allowed us each year. She had a good crop of cotton and when it came time to pick the cotton everyone came around to help get it harvested. Then we helped the other people.
I remember going to the field with mom and she had a long cotton sack that when it was full maybe held fifty to seventy pounds. It would be really hot, and at the end of the rows of cotton there would be a large ceramic jug filled with water with a gunny sack wrapped around it all wet down to keep it cool.
Since I was a little bit too young to pull a cotton sack, I would pick cotton and put it in mom‘s sack. The sun would be so hot the women would have their big homemade bonnets on to shade their heads. The soil was somewhat sandy and hot as it could be. It would burn my feet so I would jump from one bunch of green grass to the next to keep my feet from getting burned. We were bare footed since there was no money for shoes.
Mom had an old pair of tennis shoes that the tops were almost worn out and she had the soles wired with bailing wire around the top so the soles of the shoes wouldn‘t come off and let her feet get burned.
When I was eight years old mom let me go over to Uncle Matt‘s place. Uncle Matt was mom‘s brother, and he owned a farm about three miles from our farm. Uncle Matt and Aunt Mary, his wife, were both deaf and it was hard to talk to them. Uncle Matt was going to let me pick cotton and pay me fifteen cents a hundred pounds. He made me a short sack that I could pull. Picking cotton was really hard to do.
The first week or so, I didn‘t‘ get too much picked each day. But, as time went by, I got better and I would gain a little bit each day. After about two weeks I really started picking cotton with earnest. I remember I got one hundred and six pounds picked in one day. That was a really proud mile stone for me. We started when the sun came up, and quit when the sun went down. Someone who has never picked cotton may think a hundred pounds for a day isn‘t very much, but I‘ll give anyone a hundred dollars if they can pick a hundred pounds in a day. -That is if it is their first time to pick cotton.
I lived with Uncle Matt about four weeks then went home. I had earned one dollar and sixty five cents for four weeks of work. I was rich! In the evening after supper and all the chores had been attended to, Uncle Matt and Aunt Mary would sit on the front porch where Aunt Mary would dip snuff and spit while Uncle Matt would smoke his Bull Durman Tobacco.
Uncle Matt told me stories about how this neighbor‘s jackass was always jumping his fence and eating his corn in the field. Anyway, Uncle Matt said he caught that old jackass, took some Hy-life and a corn cob then rubbed the Hy-life on the corn cob and then rubbed the donkey‘s ass with the corn cob. He said that old donkey jumped his fence three times trying to get away. He said the last time he saw that donkey it was headed down the road toward highway 90, where it passed a Greyhound bus driving 60 miles an hour. He claimed the donkey never came back. He told me this was the best humdinger he ever saw.
He also told me a story about a bunch of young girls and boys that came out on a Sunday afternoon getting into his watermelon patch. He said they were high-faluten kids that didn‘t have any manners. They would bust open his best watermelons and just eat the heart out of them. Anyway, he said he fixed them up the next time they came out, for he cut a plug out of the big melons close the road and poured some Croton Oil ₁ into the melons.
He said sure enough, here they came that Sunday evening, two boys and two girls they were laughing and having all kinds of fun. They busted open a couple of the melons he had doctored up and in just about five minutes the girls and boys had to pull their pants off and go to the toilet right out in the field close to each other. Anyway, he also said this was a real humdinger and he didn‘t ever see them again. I‘m not sure if those stories were to entertain me or if they were real. My better judgment tells me they were real because Uncle Matt was a real disciplinarian and protected his property with a vengeance.
• • •My sister Ruth told me that a millionaire
was a really rich person.
I told her when I got big
I was going to be a ―ten-thousandaire.‖
• • •After three years at Unity School they closed the school and we were transferred to Harwood School. We now had to catch a bus, ride for ten miles to this small town of Harwood.
When I was nine years old and in the fourth grade this girl in my class Aura Lea Huff made me a Valentine. She didn‘t know it, but I was totally in love with her. To show her how much, I wanted to give her something. Hershey‘s Chocolate Kisses were five for a penny.
I figured if I took one egg a day from the eggs our chickens laid, in twelve days I would have a dozen eggs and could sell them for a dime. I started stealing an egg a day; hiding them in a hole on the way to school. This hole was located down a little lane we used to walk down to get to the school bus stop.
After a time, I finally got what I thought was a dozen eggs. I put them in a sack and took them to school with me. At noon recess I told my friend Troy McCall about the eggs and asked him to go with me to Ledbetter‘s Market so I could sell them.
Troy and I got out the eggs and was looking at them. I found that I only had eleven eggs.
I needed one more egg for my dozen, so Troy had a boiled egg in his lunch bag. We put the boiled egg in the sack and went down to Ledbetter‘s. Every time I saw them buy eggs they would candle them. To candle eggs they would put them over a strong light and they could see through an egg to see if any of them were bad. Anyway, they didn‘t‘ do that this day. We got the dime, went to Spears Market and bought ten cents worth of kisses. I took them to school and gave them to Aura Lea. -She didn‘t seem to be impressed.
• • •By this time my dad had gotten rid of the house in Houston, so he moved in with us at Grandma‘s place. My grandma had died the year before, so mom was trying to farm the place and whatever else needed to be done so we could have a living. Dad was not in any condition to help mom so she had to carry the whole load. Every year before school would start mama would inform all of her kids, ―Well, it‘s about time for all of you to get a cleaning out.‖ She would make each one of us take what she called a cathartic.
This was usually a dose of black draught or a big dose of Castor Oil. Talk about bad tasting! Along about sundown you could go out into the middle of the road, stand flat footed and shit in a dump truck. You were somehow now germ free. After about three days and you had regained your freedom from the sand box and thought everything was O.K. Here would come mom, ―Now it‘s time for your yearly worming.‖ We had to take some kind of big old pill that would prolong the agony. After mom checked your stool and no worms were found, you were pronounced school worthy.
Then when I got up in age (about 75 years old), my doctor told me that he thought I needed a colonoscopy. So he gave me a referral slip for this doctor that performed this procedure. I went to see this doctor and his office lady gave me an appointment along with a page of instructions and two prescriptions. I left, went to the drug store, and got the prescriptions filled on the way home.
One of the instructions was to have someone drive me to and from his office the day the procedure was performed. I couldn‘t have anything to eat for twenty-four hours. During this time I had to drink maybe two quarts of some kind of liquid. You didn‘t want to get very far away from the sand box. The morning before the procedure, I had to take this enema.
I followed the instructions to a ‗T‘. I called my friend John McAndrew and he drove me over and waited for me. The doctor had me lay on this table with one of those split-down-the-back gowns. He, I‘m sure put me to sleep. Anyway after I was awake he said the procedure was complete and that everything was O.K. He then told me, ―You were really clean inside.‖ ―You followed the instructions good.‖ -I said, ―Yeah, my mama would be proud.‖
• • •The winds and rain are in
Turmoil, I think God‘s mad at Hell.
Old Harold 2011
• • •During the 1930‘s the men had no way to make themselves any money so all the farmers and their boys hunted for opossums, skunks, and now and then a fox to skin. They would take the skins and stretch them over a board they had made. They let it dry, usually by hanging it on the fence or clothes line. After they stretched the skin, they would put salt all over the inside of the skin to preserve it, so it wouldn‘t spoil. The skins were stretched inside out. They would then take them to town after they were dried out and sell them to a buyer that paid them according to the grade of the skin. A really good skin would maybe bring two dollars.
Everyone owned a gun. At least a 22 rifle, because when you shot the varmint, you didn‘t want to damage the skin and you always tried to shoot it between the eyes. When you were hunting, which was most always in the dark, most everyone had a carbide light that had a little tank under a larger reflector. The tank was filled up with carbide, then water was poured over it and this created gas what we know today as acetylene. They would turn a little valve that allowed enough of this gas when lit would make a small flame in the center of the reflector which made enough light to see up into the trees. When the dog had treed a varmint their eyes would shine real bright then a good shooter could hit him right between the eyes. All the guys, even most kids, had a rifle by the time they were ten or eleven years old and most were expert shots.
• • •This one night I was invited to go along with my second cousin Nile Blundell (nicknamed Dinkey) and Fred McCall who was the dad of my good buddy Troy McCall.
Dinkey had this black dog named Bob cause his tail had been cut off. We were hunting for awhile and Bob had not struck a trail for a opossum as that was what he was trained to hunt. So Fred and Dinkey decided to make a little camp and a fire so we could make coffee and eat left over biscuits they had packed.
While we were sitting there, Fred and Dinkey started telling stories about the wild panthers that were around to Troy and I. They talked about how they had been stalked by them even down the roads. They made it sound so real that chill bumps would run up and down your body. About two o‘clock A.M., Fred and Dinkey decided to call it a night and go home. We had not got any animals that night.
Old Bob the dog was still out hunting. Dinkey tried to call him in, but he didn‘t respond.
When they called the dogs in, everyone that hunted with dogs had an old cow horn they had made into a horn to blow and this was a signal for the dogs to come on into camp.
Bob didn‘t come when Dinkey blew this horn.
Anyway, we started home. Fred and Troy dropped off first at the road going down to their house. Dinkey and I continued on for about one quarter mile where he took off down his road to his house. That left me by myself to walk another quarter mile to my house. I got about half way to my house where the old creek bed was. There was a big patch of weeds that grew up to about six feet tall. They were called Senna Beans and when they were dry the least little movement made the seed pods rattle quite loud.
I was walking along all alone already scared, thinking about those panthers Fred and Dinkey had talked about. The senna beans started to rattle, and I started running. I fell down and while I was down I picked up a nice round rock. I started running again, but the sound of those senna beans were getting louder. By this time I was about one hundred yards from my house and I had to go up this trail from the road to our house. I was running like crazy, hollering, ―Mama! Mama!‖
I didn‘t know my big brother had come home from the Tree Army (the CCC) for the weekend. So my mom and by brother Olan came running out of the house to see what I was squalling about. It was a bright moonlit night, and just about the time I got to my front porch, here came Old Bob running up. I was so embarrassed to have my brother see me in this condition. After all, he was my hero. I picked up an old limb I had been using as a ball bat and started chasing Old Bob trying to kill him. My brother came and got me settled down, took the stick away, and told me to leave Old Bob alone. -That was my first and last hunting trip.
The men would also go out and hunt squirrels and the big reddish brown fox squirrels if they could find them (because most of them had been hunted down). They would bring them home, then the ladies would skin them, and since squirrels shed a lot of hair the women folks would hold them over an open flame to singe the hair off the meat of the squirrels. Then they cut the squirrel up and most of the time made squirrel and dumplings.—Tasted just like chicken!
• • •The first time I was allowed to drive the mules hitched up to the wagon was during the Depression. Everyone in one form or another used the barter system. When you wanted corn meal, while shucking the corn to feed the pigs, chickens, and mules or horses, you would come across a nice looking ear of corn and put it aside. When there was enough corn in this pile it was loaded on your wagon, taken down to the grist Mill where the man that owned the mill would make your corn up into cornmeal. The man at the mill would take half and give you half back.
Mom and all the other farmers planted ten or fifteen rows of syrup cane. The most popular was Blue Ribbon Cane. It made the best molasses. It wasn‘t real dark. After the cane grew to maturity we had to strip all the leaves off and cut the heads of grain from the top of the stalk. The grain heads were saved for the next year‘s seed or they were good chicken feed. After it was stripped and toped it was cut down and piled up along the rows. The mules were then hitched up to the wagon driven along the rows, and the piles of cane were loaded on the wagon. Then we would start our trip to the syrup mill. The syrup mill we used was owned by a man named Whittenburg near Thompsonville.
My mom and I set out with our load of cane to the syrup mill. Mom was driving the horses and wagon, and after a little while she asked me if I would like to drive the horses and wagon. That was a great thrill for me, so I got right up in the seat and drove the horses all the way to the mill.
This was my first time to go to the syrup mill. Mr. Whittenburg had some kind of apparatus set up to squeeze the juice out of the cane. This piece of equipment had three large rollers set up on a frame work which would resemble a carrousel. It had a long arm sticking out one side. To make it go around, there was a mule or donkey hitched to this long arm and the animal had to walk in a circle. The cane was fed into these rollers, the juice came out, went down one chute until enough was collected, then it was transferred to the cooker where it was made into syrup or better known as sorghum molasses.
When the juice was cooking it made a lot of foam, and this foam was raked off into another chute which led down to a hog pen. I was watching these hogs, and they didn‘t seem to be getting around like most hogs I had seen. I later found out that the foam was fermenting, causing the hogs to get drunk. They would run into the fence, wobble all around the yard, fall down, and go to sleep until it was time to get up and try it again. I remember laughing so, and having a big time watching those hogs.
After the syrup was cooked and made into molasses, Mr. Whittenburg would put it into gallon cans and then it was divided up; one half to him, and the other half to mom. We got back about ten gallons which lasted for a year or until the next season.
• • •My brother Olan was home for a weekend from the Tree Army – better known as the CCC—and late in the evening, just before dark he and mom were sitting on the front porch of the little house that had been built for hired help to live in. This house was later willed to my mom after grandma died.
We had a large cedar tree in our front yard about forty feet from the front porch. Olan and mom were talking grown-up talk while my sister Ruth and I was swinging on some old tire swings we had tied to a couple of limbs of the tree.
Ruth jumped off her swing and was on her way over to the porch when about half way there a copperhead was crawling across the yard at the same time. My brother saw the snake, but it was too late to keep Ruth from stepping too close to it. It bit her on the top of the foot. All the kids went bare footed as there was no money to buy shoes. My sister was about eleven years old.
There was no transportation to take her to town where the doctor was. Wealder was the nearest town, and it was eight miles away. My brother killed the snake and verified that it was a copperhead. My mom told me to go ahead of her and my brother to Grandma‘s house where her brother, Uncle George, was visiting Grandma for the night. Uncle Georgie was supposed to know the verses from the bible to read when you got snake bit. I ran over to Grandma‘s house which was about four hundred yards from our house. I told Uncle Georgie what had happened and he got the bible out. Mom along with my brother Olan carried my sister Ruth over to the house.
Uncle Georgie read from the Bible and they put my sister‘s foot in a pan of kerosene oil.
The pan was deep enough to cover her whole foot. She kept her foot in the kerosene all night and the next morning her leg and foot was black and green all the way up to her hip.
After about three days she was back out playing and having a good time.
The point of this story is to let you know how things were treated and that all of our people everywhere lived on faith alone. My sister is O.K. and is 88 years old, still going like a tornado through a chicken house. –Thank the Lord.
• • •Once in awhile mom would allow me to walk across the field to Troy McCall‘s house to play for the day. Most of the time, we would take our sling shots and go bird hunting. A sling shot consists of a forked limb from a tree limb with a rubber band tied to each fork and a leather patch tied to the ends of the rubber bands. We cut the rubber bands from an old car inner tube which was made form real rubber, since we didn‘t have synthetic tubes at this time.
A small stone, preferably a round stone (if you could find one), was placed in this leather patch. Then you would draw the rubber bands back as far as you could then turn them loose so that your stone would be propelled out at a good rate of speed. If you were a good shot (or lucky), the stone would hit a bird or whatever target you were trying to hit.
Troy and I was out hunting around the area and we wondered over into a field near Troy‘s house that was owned by a Mr. Lech and Mrs. Tech McBride. Mr. McBride let his chickens roam all over the place. Troy and I started chasing the chickens. After awhile we would run a chicken long enough that it would give out and sit down. We could then pick it up. At first we let them go then I had the bright idea to take a couple of the hen‘s home with me.
We caught a couple of hens. I tied them up and staked them out in the pasture in front of Troy‘s house. I intended to pick them up on my way home, and take them out behind our house in the woods then turn them loose. When they came down to our house I would claim them. When they laid eggs I would keep the eggs and sell them on my way to school.
When Troy and I had to quit playing and it was time for me to go home, I proceeded out to the wooded area near the front of Troy‘s house to retrieve my chickens. As I started to pick the chickens up they started squawking and making all kinds of wounded chicken sounds like no tomorrow was coming. I got scared and left the chicken where they were.
Troy‘s mother came out and saw me going home. She found out from Troy what was going on and made him go out and get the chickens, and take them back to Mr.
McBride‘s place. He then had to apologize for having caught the chickens. I almost lost a friend, it was the end of my new business, and I was made to understand that I was being a thief for trying to steal chickens.—I had a warm rear end for a few days.
• • •The Depression had got real bad by this time. My brother left home, joined the CCC or the Tree Army as it was called then. He made twenty-five dollars a month, and sent half of the money home for my mom. My dad had a stroke and was paralyzed on his right side. His paralysis slowly moved over to his left side and he had lost some of his senses.
He would do a lot of crazy things, and we were afraid of him, although I don‘t think he was in much condition to harm any of us. My dad had always been a very good man, not mean. This put another burden on my mother. There were no rest homes or half way houses in those days, so my dad was sent off to San Antonio where they had an insane asylum. That‘s where he died. If you think, the rest homes and rehab facilities are bad now, you would not want to see or know about the conditions that were available for people who were incapacitated in the 1930‘s.
• • •When my sister Mildred and I had a secret we really knew how not to tell anyone. While we were still living on the old farm of grandmas in the little house, mom somehow through bartering (which was the way you got most of your supplies), had obtained a hundred pounds of corn meal and a hundred pounds of flour.
Mom instructed all of us kids not to tell anyone, especially Edna which was one of the girls that used to live on our place. Edna, the eldest daughter of Edmond Flowers was a hard working black lady. She came over about once every two weeks and helped mom do the washing. Mom said if we told her about the corn meal and flour she would want some of it to take home.
Well, Edna came over the next day and was walking up the path from the road when me and my sister Mildred saw her. We ran right down that path to meet Edna, and I said, ―I bet your can‘t guess what we got in our house.‖ Edna said, ―No Mister Harold, what do you have at your house?‖ I said, ―A hundred pounds of corn meal and a hundred pounds of flour.‖ We thought we were really well off, and everyone should know about it. I don‘t remember what the outcome was.
• • •During the Depression to make a few dollars to buy the essentials, mom would send off and order twenty-five or thirty turkeys to raise and sell in the fall. After the turkeys got large enough they were let go to free range and feed themselves. Mama always kept this one old turkey hen and she would take over this bunch of new turkeys. Every evening before dark, mom would stand in the back yard and go, ―Gobble, gobble gobble.‖ several times and the old turkey hen had also learned to gobble and answer her back. Pretty soon that old turkey hen and the rest of the turkeys would come to the back yard where mom fed them shelled corn they would then fly up into the trees in the back yard, and roost until morning when Mom gave them a little corn and away they would go.
Our neighbors across the field from where we lived also would raise about the same amount of turkeys, but they didn‘t take care of them like mom. The turkeys belonged to my friend Troy McCall‘s mom and dad. Fred and May McCall didn‘t‘ seem to care if their turkeys came over to our place and eat the Hy-gear and corn right off the stalk.
Mom got mad about this so she went over to see May McCall and told her about the turkeys destroying her crops. May seemed to think that it was alright because it would make her turkeys fat.
The next time the McCall turkeys came over to our property tearing down the corn in the field mom took me along with her and we herded the turkeys back over to the McCall‘s.
Mom called May out from over the fence to our property, and told her the next time her turkeys came over she was going to pen them up and keep them.
Anyway, some angry words were passed and we started back home. Mom was walking back home with me right beside her, only I was walking backwards. May hollered at mom and said, ―Mandy, what is wrong with that boy walking backwards like that?!‖
Mom hollered back at her, ―Oh, he has a big hole in the seat of his pants, and he is afraid you might see his ass end!‖—Mom didn‘t have any more problems with the turkeys.
• • •My mom had to clean out the chicken houses by raking the chicken droppings up and then putting them in the garden for fertilizer. Anyway, over the years breathing in all this kind of junk, she developed a cough. After going to see a doctor he told her she had T.B.
At that time if you had Tuberculosis, it was like having leprosy. Everyone avoided you.
Texas had a Tuberculosis hospital near San Angelo, called Sanatorium, Texas. It was like a small city out on the prairie. My sisters and I were tested for T.B. and were told that we were infected. We were all sent out to this T.B. hospital for six months. We got out there and I completed the sixth and seventh grades in that six months.
Mom was on the side of the hospital which was about three or four blocks away from me and my sisters. I was assigned to the boy‘s quarters and my sisters were assigned to the girl‘s quarters. They were right beside each other, but we were not allowed to visit. We couldn‘t even see each other since they had everything fenced off. We got to go visit mom every Sunday.
• • •My brother had already joined the Army in 1936 when he became eighteen years old. He sent mom half of his pay each month. My brother was a real hero to myself and my sisters. There was no one as tough as my brother. I used to threaten some of the bullies at school, ―My brother will be coming home soon, and I‘m going to tell him about you, and he will come and whip you and your brother!‖
Mom had twenty-five acres for her part of the farm grandma had left to all her kids. Mom sold her twenty-five acres to her brother (Uncle Matt) for ten dollars an acre. With that money and what my brother sent home is what we lived on after we were discharged from the hospital.
All of us, my sisters and mom were discharged from the hospital after the six months treatment. My sisters and I tested negative for T.B., but my mother was in very serious condition. They told her she should find some place for her kids as she only had about six months to live. She told them they were wrong, that she had brought us kids into this world and she was going to live long enough to see all of us grown and able to support ourselves.
We never got adopted, my mom died at age sixty-four – eighteen years after they told her she would die. She raised all of us to be honest, independent, and responsible for our own actions. So far, as I know, none of us has failed her. If you do something wrong say so and make amends immediately.
• • •After being discharged, mom contacted her brother (Uncle William) in Luling, Texas to try and find a place for us to live. My uncle was well known around Luling. Uncle William was my favorite uncle, and I must have loved him because I was with him every minute he was around.
My Uncle William liked his adult beverages. He had an old horse that he rode the four miles into Luling every Saturday morning then he would ride across the San Marcos river bridge into Guadalupe County where there was a liquor store. He would purchase six bottles of wine and one half pint of whiskey. Then he would ride over to Kruze‘s Market where they had a BBQ place in the rear of the store. Uncle William would sit down, have him some BBQ, and then drink his pint of whiskey with a couple of beers. Then he would get on his horse and ride home. The old horse even knew how to open the main gate close to the road.
This one Saturday, Mom and all us kids went out to visit Aunt Kate and Uncle William.
Aunt Kate was a small woman, but a real settler. She dipped snuff like most all women in that era. She could pop a fly at fifteen feet. A real spitter with that old Garnets Snuff. It was raining as the old saying goes in Texas ―like cats and dogs.‖
I saw Uncle William on his horse come in the gate it was about four o‘clock P.M. I ran to tell Aunt Kate that Uncle William was coming. Aunt Kate said, ―Yes, but Blundell will be O.K.‖ The old horse walked right up to the yard gate, and it was raining hard. Uncle William was just sitting on the horse not moving. I told Aunt Kate that Uncle William was outside. She says, ―Blundell will be all right.‖
Anyway, after a little while Uncle William started leaning to one side and finally slid off into the mud and water. I ran into the house again and told Aunt Kate that Uncle William had fallen off his horse and into the water. Aunt Kate‘s response was, ―That‘s O.K., Blundell will be alright.‖ After some time Uncle William got up, came on the porch where Aunt Kate made him stop, go around to the back of the house so he could change clothes. -Uncle William was still a good man.
• • •The bravest thing I have ever
Seen, is a woman pedestrian
Challenging a woman driver at an
Intersection, leading into Wal-Mart.
• • •Uncle William had taken care of several ranches for a man named Earl Bridges. My Uncle‘s name was William Blundell. He was my favorite Uncle. I followed him everywhere when I could. Uncle William found us a place where he used to live out of town about three miles where no one was around.
When we arrived in Luling everyone was afraid of us and would only talk to us through closed windows or doors. We moved out to this place and since we had no way of getting to Luling for groceries mom found or asked someone for help. I don‘t know what or whom. I suppose one of the churches was told about us and our plight.
There was this really nice lady by the name of Mrs. Price that would come out once a week to see what or how she could help us. She wasn‘t afraid of us. I have often wished I could have found her later to thank her for all her kindness. She drove a tan Willis car.
We lived at this location for approximately one year, until it was time for school to start again. Mom wanted us to go to school so she found some way, somehow to rent this little one bedroom house at 1322 Fannin St. for ten dollars a month. After awhile we were accepted somewhat. Everyone left us alone.
At first they wouldn‘t let us go to school because of the T.B. scare back in those days.
Mom did get an order from the state health doctor for us to go to school. He sent a letter to mom and told her if they (the school board) didn‘t enroll us in school to let him know and he would make a personal trip to Luling to see that we went to school. My sisters both started school, but I wouldn‘t go since I didn‘t have any friends to speak of.
I got a job. I don‘t remember how, with a man by the name of Derwood Williams, throwing the San Antonio Light Newspaper. Later, I got another job with a Mr. Wright using an old bicycle that my Aunt in San Antonia had brought down for me. This paper was the San Antonio Express, which was a smaller sized paper then the Light. All of the kids that were paper boys during this period of time hung out at the Wilson Hotel or at the Night Hawk Café. The night attendant for the hotel was an old black man named Ben.
Ben put up with a lot of crap from all these boys. Man would he ever get after us.
There was this old pin ball machine in the lobby and we were always trying to figure out a way to cheat the machine to get free games. Ben knew all the tricks that we could pull.
Back in the good old days every town or village had what was known as the ―village idiot‖ and the ―town drunk.‖ Luling had this village idiot which was a really harmless kid that hung around the Wilson Hotel selling the American Austin Statesman, an Austin newspaper. He went by the name of Jimmy. Jimmy‘s paper came in about an hour earlier than everyone else‘s on the Kerrville Bus Line. All the other papers came in from San Antonio on the Greyhound Bus Line.
Jimmy would be waiting at the bus stop to sell his papers when the passengers would get off to have refreshments or something to eat at the dining room in the Wilson Hotel. A couple of the newspaper boys would tease Jimmy by making believe they were going to buy a paper from him. They would start to give him a nickel for his paper then jerk their hand back telling him, ―Naw, I don‘t want this paper.‖
On several occasions, when the bus came in the passengers would see Jimmy and want to buy a paper, Jimmy would look at the person and say, ―No, you don‘t you son-of-a-bitch, you will just make like you are going to pay me a nickel then jerk it back.‖ Of course, the person who wanted to buy the paper wouldn‘t know what to do, and the paper boys who had been teasing Jimmy would get a great laugh.
• • •Jimmy had a stray dog he had found somewhere and it was a large short haired dog. One day, Jimmy painted the dog red with its tail and ears green. The dog almost died, but it got well after being cleaned. Then a few days later, he painted the dog green with a red tail and red ears. The dog didn‘t make it after that.
Jimmy also raised Bantam chickens and had several coops in his backyard. Jimmy would sell you one of his chickens then go out at night find where the chicken was, and steal it back.
As time went by, Jimmy grew larger and began to retaliate against the teasing he was getting from a lot of people in town. One day, he got mad at someone and threw a rock at the person and broke a store window. Well, I guess someone made a complaint or his folks thought it was time to put Jimmy away. The town constable Quill Stagner went down to Jimmy‘s to take him to someplace in Austin. He asked Jimmy to come and take a ride with him, but Jimmy refused and Mr. Stagner kept on pleading with him. Jimmy told him, ―You don‘t want me to ride with you.‖ ―You just want to take me to jail for stealing chickens.‖ They finally took Jimmy away and as far as I know, no one ever saw him again.
• • •We had two town drunks. One named Percy and the other one went by the name of Willie. The talk around town was that Percy climbed atop of the water tower downtown, or up on the walkway around it and was going to jump off. This is hearsay, but it was big news around town for awhile.
When we wanted something to drink or have ourselves a little party, we would pick up Percy or Willie and drive them across the San Marcos River Bridge to the liquor store.
We would give him enough money to buy whatever we wanted and him a bottle also.
One time this boy named James had an old Model A Ford car. He picked up Willie and took him over to the liquor store to get some booze. On the way back, James started running off the side of the road hitting the mail boxes. He turned back too quick and rolled the Model A over on its side. Willie was in the back seat, but no one got hurt.
James and his buddies got out, got a fence post and somehow turned the car back on its wheels.
Willie was sitting against a fence post and they asked him if he was ready to go to town.
Willie said, ―Hell no!‖ ―You guys are trying to kill me!‖ He didn‘t ride back in that car.
One guy that was always being the smart ass of the crowd claimed he had pissed in a whiskey bottle and gave it to Percy. He said Percy took the bottle and took a drink out of it. This guy thought he had done something real funny.