When daddy returned after three years of being away from his family, we were all three years older. My number three brother had graduated high school, our sister was a senior. Brother number four was in high school. Family dynamics had changed. Daddy was the patriarch of the family. He ruled with an iron hand.
As I look back on things, he must have felt that he had lost control of the family and it was not to his liking. The following months and years were tumulus. For him it must have been like trying to put bubbles back into a bottle.
Back in 1942, Buda was a tiny little village. Its population may have been 200- 300, yet, our school was a beautiful white stucco Spanish style building with red tile roof. It was a U-shaped building with a large weeping willow tree in the center of the court yard. There was a long porch that ran along the inside of the building. It was a beautiful school building. High school grades were on one side of the U and the lower grades on the other side with a large auditorium in the center.
Daddy sold our farm near Buda and moved us to Arkansas.
When we moved to Arkansas, we had no electricity. No running water. No indoor plumbing. My new school was a small, unpainted, one room school building, with one teacher. Today, when I hear students complain that their schools not having the latest in the high-tech gadgets, I wish they could step back into that time zone and experience what it is like to do without. However, class structure was very much like, “back home.” We said the Pledge of Allegiance each morning. We learned; cursive hand writing, our multiplication tables, division, fractions, history, geography, English and more, just the same as we would have in the beautiful building in Buda.
In the center of the room was a round, pot-bellied stove fueled by coal. There was no playground, no slides, tetter-totters, ball diamonds nor gymnasiums. We invented our own games. At Christmastime, our teacher excused us from class for one afternoon. All students went with her onto a farmer’s property (with permission of course!) to cut a cedar Christmas tree. While the boys picked out and cut down the tree, the girls collected red berries to make strings of red berries to decorate the tree. We also made popcorn ropes and paper chains for decorations.
We always had a Christmas program. We sang and recited poems and the Christmas story was read from the Bible. It was generally cold, so the old potbellied stove always kept us warm. All the mothers, daddies, grandparents and other neighbors always attended and supported the neighborhood school. Those were special times. Generally, a very underweight, malnourished-looking, rather moth-eaten Santa made an appearance handing out candy canes and fruit.
An outdoor game we played was “Annie-over,” meaning throwing a ball over the school house roof, someone catching the ball on the other side and trying to run around the building in time to tag someone out. It worked well except when someone ran the wrong way and collided with another fast runner…forehead meets nose…not a pretty sight. That was the voice of experience. There were many other games such as rolling hoops with a stick and anything we could imagine or create. One young student had a pet donkey, Jenny, that he would bring to school. The kids took turns riding Jenny during recess.
We brought our lunches, no hot cafeteria meals there. I ate many ham or sausage and biscuit sandwiches for lunch and homemade fried pies.
One of the chores at school was to go to the hand pump and pump a bucket of cool, fresh water. It was placed on a shelf in the back of the schoolroom with a community dipper ready to quench the thirst of any thirsty student. Restrooms? Boys had an outhouse on the right side of the schoolhouse and the girl’s was on the left side.
Oh, did I say it was a two-mile walk—each way –to school? Rain, shine, snow or sleet… you walked! But, at least it was not uphill both ways.
Just received the word, my first book, “Dreams and Wishes, Wishes and Dreams,” will be available immediately on Amazon.com, and Googleplay.com. It can be ordered from Lifeway. And, can be ordered from barnesandnobles.com in 48 hours.The e-book for Kendall and Nook will be available in about two weeks.This thing is literally hot off the press today. If whomever you order from wants to know the name of the publisher, it is Westbow Publishers, a DIVISION OF THOMAS NELSON & ZONDERVAN. I hope you enjoy work of fiction. It is a Christian based romance novel of a struggling, impoverished girl who works to overcome the bad things life has thrown at her.
1 John 5:14-15 “And, this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”
The war continued. Eventually, one of my brothers whom we had not heard from in several months came home unexpectedly. Mother was delighted to have one her service men home for a visit.
She had prepared a meal and as we sat around the large old, round, wooden dining table, she walked around serving mashed potatoes to each plate. As she walked past my brother, she looked down on top of his head and saw a large white scar, which stood out clearly against his dark hair. Mother had a tendency to faint when excited. So, another brother jumped up and grabbed the mashed potatoes from her hands, while another sibling helped her to a chair as she gasped out, “What happened to you?”
He was alive and well and he assured her “It was nothing.” Doesn’t that sound like a guy? He had crashed landed his bullet riddled airplane onto the aircraft carrier and had experienced a significant head injury in the process. After he was rescued from the plane, then it was pushed over the side of the ship since it was damaged beyond repair. That explained why we had not heard from him for several months.
Through all the hardships and trials, each evening, our mother would call us kids in for Bible reading and prayer. We prayed for our three men who were serving our country. I am not sure what she read to us, but the Book of James certainly describes very clearly about being tested and tried. Families at home tried to scrape by and do the best they could. They wanted their men on foreign soil to be proud of them because they knew their men were willing to sacrifice their lives for freedom for their families in America.
Each summer, our city cousins would spend the summer with us. There were three of them. Suddenly, our mother went from four kids to take care of to seven. Naturally, we kids thought it was wonderful having our cousins for that length of time. There was a girl cousin the same age of my sister, a boy that was near the age of brother number three and a girl two years younger than me. Those were exciting times.
The younger cousin and I played dolls and entertained ourselves in the house, while the big kids went down to the barn and were providing entertainment for themselves.
Little cousin and I went to the barn to check out all the laughing and squeals and sounds of a good time. We sure didn’t want to miss anything fun. I stuck my head around a corner just in time to meet a fast-thrown fresh egg. Yes, they were having an egg fight My tears and wails broke up the party and brought an irate mama down to see what was going on. So much for gathering eggs that day.
Another time, brother number four was hunting fur-bearing animals. Apparently, an animal had crawled into a big hole. He leaned down and looked to see what might be inside. He soon knew…and so did the neighborhood. It was a skunk.
Eventually, the war ended. Our family was blessed because all three of our heroes came marching home. God had blessed our family.
Next, Daddy came home…
Brother number four purchased a straw hat. He was so proud of it. But, he made the mistake of wearing it to the barn and near our saddle horse, Rex.
Thank you very much, Rex did not like any head covering. He wanted to see and know who was approaching him. He walked right up to my brother caught that hat in his mouth, shook it vigorously and took a big chomp out of the top of said hat. Nothing like having a well-ventilated hat in the broiling heat of the Texas sun.
Neighbors soon learned that mother owned a “canner” and could can and seal vegetables in tin cans. They began to bring their harvest to mother and Laney for them to can their vegetables on the shares. As a result, Emmitt and Laney and mother and four young kids had enough food.
Neighbors bartered for things they needed. There was even black-market sugar that someone had brought in from Mexico. A neighbor, who could afford to buy the fifty-pound bag of sugar, sold it in small parcels to the rest of us. Housewives would buy five pounds or whatever they could afford or barter.
During that same time frame, a pickup truck came through the neighborhood selling fresh pineapples brought in from Mexico, or perhaps it would be oranges or grapefruit. At such times, our mother would raid her little change purse shaking out the last few nickels, dimes or quarters to see how much she could afford to purchase.
In those days, no one locked their doors. There was no need to. Neighbors could be trusted. Society as a general rule was honest. As an example of honesty, daddy had saved pennies for me. He mailed me a roll of pennies—yes, through the U. S. Postal Service! He mailed them in a penny wrapper with just our name and address stuck to the outside. Would that happen in today’s society? That roll of pennies was from a serviceman and the U. S. Postal Service respected him and all the others serving our country.
Patriotism was very strong on all levels of society. In those days, the worst thing anyone could be called was, “draft-dodger.”
Washday was always a grueling day for mother and my sister. My sister was almost eight years older than I and was mother’s right hand. Each week they had a mountain of clothes, sheets, and towels to wash. The routine was to sort and stack everything into piles: the white articles, light-colored things, colored items, and work clothes.
On wash day, Mother would have gotten up early in the morning and would have filled the outdoor cast iron wash pot with water drawn by hand from the cistern. A bar of lye soap was tossed in the pot of water to begin melting. A wood fire was built under the wash pot to heat the water. She would have water in another container with a rub-board, (aka wash board) and a bar of lye soap.
While the water was heating, she and brother number three milked the cows before she had cooked breakfast for her family.
She assigned the big kids the job of filling two wash tubs with water for rinsing clothes. One tub always had “bluing” in the water to brighten the white things. Someone was sent to wipe off the clothes line with a damp cloth before clothes were hung to dry.
Each piece of clothing was given a going over by hand scrubbing, each troublesome spot with lye soap. That was the process for pre-washing things that were especially dirty such as; socks, underwear, shirt collars, etc. Each article was given a good scrubbing with lye soap before being tossed into the boiling hot water in the wash pot. It was a housewife’s point of pride to have a sparking. white laundry hanging on the clothes line.
Mother or my sister would put the right amount of pre-treated white things in the big old cast iron wash pot leaving enough room for articles to be boiled, constantly being punched down and stirred around. After each pot-full of clothing was sufficiently, boiled, punched and stirred, then each piece was lifted out with a strong stick or wooden paddle and drained, then placed in the first tub of rinse water. (Fresh water was often added to the wash pot and rinse water tubs) Each article was chugged up and down in the rinse water, then was wrung out by hand and placed into the next tub of rinse water. Each stack of laundry was treated the same way. Wash day required strong hands and shoulders to do all the lifting and wringing of each piece of laundry—large or small. Mother’s hands were often chapped and almost raw after so much hard work. For large pieces such as sheets, it would take two people to wring out an article. And, Of course, it took two people to wring out heavy denim or ducking work clothes and shirts.
Every stack of laundry went through the same water in the wash pot. More water was often added. When laundry came out of the final rinse water, it was wrung out, then each piece was clipped securely, by clothes pins, to the clothes line to be whipped and blown dry by the wind. This process went on week after week, summer, winter spring or fall…no matter the weather, it was outside.
The night after the laundry was done, and beds were made, we all crawled into sheets and pillow cases that smelled fresh, clean and comforting.
Aren’t you thankful for your modern-day laundry room with all the fancy gadgets? Remember there were no wrinkle-free clothing in those days. However, no artificial fragrances added to today’s wash can replicate the fresh smell of line dried sheets.
Cotton was king and everything was make out of 100% cotton; meaning, it had to be ironed. Yes, everything had to be ironed with a flat iron that was heated on a wood stove… that is if electricity had not come to your country. But, ironing was scheduled for another day.
Next, brother number four purchased a new straw hat…
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9
Our house was on a hill. At the foot of the hill lived my number-four brother’s best friend. To me, he was one of the big kids. I adored my five older siblings, and this neighbor kid was up there close to them in importance in my eyes. To me, my siblings knew everything! One day this big kid came up to our house and asked me to help him with a science experience he had read about at school. In all my six-year-old wisdom, I was indeed honored to help him. I felt very important as we walked the half mile to his house and then down to the barn.
With the new-found knowledge of an eleven-year-old boy, he explained, what the science book said, “When dropped from a height, a cat will always land on his feet.” I was to help disprove this hypothesis. He carefully helped me into the barn loft and positioned me at the opened door overlooking the barn lot. He made sure I understood to not move or I would fall out.
He went back down the ladder to the ground below and carried old Bo-Jack, his daddy’s favorite cat, up the ladder and placed the trusting animal into my outstretched arms. The cat loved me and I loved him –up to this point in time.
Next, he gave the following instructions, “Wait until I get back down on the ground, then I will tell you what to do.” He left me stroking ole Bo-Jack who was purring with pleasure with each stroke of my hand.
The big kid walked out into my view down below and instructed me to, “Turn Bo-Jack up-side down. Catch hold of his front feet with one hand and his back feet in your other hand.” I did as I was directed.
Then he said, “Lean over and drop the cat out the door.”
One very startled cat flipped over and landed on his feet.
My trusty leader thought it must be a fluke. Therefore, the experiment was repeated two more times before the budding scientist was convinced cats do land on their feet.
I might have been a very little girl, but I had long since learned from my siblings to read body language and facial expressions, which came in handy the next day.
The next day my budding scientist friend and I were playing at his house when his daddy came in and said, “I don’t know what is wrong with old Bo-Jack. He must have been in a terrible fight last night. He can hardly walk.” I looked at my friend and he was very quiet. I followed his example.
Years later we had a good laugh about poor Bo-Jack. By then, my down the hill neighbor was the Superintendent of Hays Country School Systems and I was an Associate School Psychologist/Counselor in another school district.
During those times, when our mother could not afford to buy wheat flour, she would hand grate almost-dried field corn. Before the war broke out, daddy had taken a piece of sheet metal or tin, used a hammer and a nail to make row after row of holes in the metal. Once the piece of metal was completely covered with nail holes, he carefully bent the metal into a half moon, elongated shape and nailed it to a board with the nail protrusions sticking out—very similar, only on a larger scale, to the hand-held grater in my kitchen. Through the eyes and memory of a three or four-year-old child, I would say it was about one and one-half to two feet long. Mother would carefully grate ear after ear of corn to make fresh cornmeal. Then for breakfast, she would make a cornmeal mush served with butter, cream and sugar. Also, she used the rest of the freshly grated meal to make corn bread—sometimes she made corn-pone fried in a skillet.
She did what she had to do to feed her family. She was the hardest working, most industrious woman I have ever known.
More stories to follow…
My fourth brother and I used to lay on the grass under a huge mulberry tree in our front yard watching airplanes. Our property was on the fly-path of military airplanes. Neighbors and adults told us which planes were stationed at Kelly AFB, San Antonio, or Gary Air Base, San Marcos, or the ones stationed at a base in Waco. We became every proficient at naming various military planes. We were very fascinated with P-51 Mustang fighter planes, though our brother was flying a Grumman Wildcat. Gary Air Base was a training base. Pilots learned to fly a glider before they flew a regular aircraft. It was an exciting day when one of the gliders broke loose and landed on a neighboring farm.
In our part of America, rationing was in progress. Sugar, coffee, shoes, gasoline, tires, and many other items could only be bought if you had war ration stamps. I still have a few that mother saved.
We had very little money. Times were extremely hard. I remember mother using her ration stamps to buy shoes for her children; while she cut cardboard innersoles to cover the large holes in her own shoes. I suppose I remember the shoe problem more vividly than other areas of our hardship was because when I was six or seven years of age, my feet outgrew my shoes. My toes were all crunched up inside my little shoes. Mother had no money and no more ration stamps to buy shoes for me, so she took a butcher knife and hammer and cut the toes out of my shoes. I wore them to school in comfort…until some of the children who were better off economically than our family saw my shoes. They immediately began taunting and teasing me.
Mother proudly hung a flag with three stars on it in the front window. Her attitude was, “We will make it somehow.”
We were living on a very poor dirt farm east of Buda, Texas. I remember during the summer’s heat the ground would become so dry that huge cracks would form. The ground looked like a big puzzle that had not been completely connected.
We were struggling, just barely making it. Then one day, God sent a precious little black couple to our front door, who had no place to live. On the back of our poor little farm was a little abandoned house. They asked if they could live there. The man, Emmitt, said, “I see your men folks are gone to war. I will work your ground on the shares with you if we can live in that little house.” Mother was delighted. That little couple became like family to us. Matter of fact on some days I loved them better than some of my family…well, maybe not quite, but there were those times I would have traded off my brother that was just older than me. She and Emmitt were old enough to be our grandparents. Laney and mother would shell beans, make homemade lye soap, can corn, beans and peas; butcher chickens and worked side by side, shoulder to shoulder.
[Many years later, when I was married and our first child arrived, one of the first persons I took my baby to meet was Laney. I weighed about one-hundred pounds and was not as soft as Laney. When Laney took my tiny baby and rested that infant on her ample bosoms, that little tiny baby girl snuggled down and must have thought she was in heaven.]
(More to follow)
“All things work together for good for those who love the Lord.” Philippians 4:13 (Women’s Devotional Bible, New International Version)
Grab yourself a cup of coffee and come join me as I open another door in the hallway of my memory.
To pick up where we left off in Blog number one, my big ole family had been living in Dripping Springs, Texas, and moved to Buda, Texas, when I was four.
In September 1939, WW II began in Europe before I celebrated my third birthday. Within three years, my two oldest brothers joined the military. The last family picture of the six children together was taken about that time. Also, in that time frame, our daddy joined the navy too. He said, “If my boys can join the military, so can I.”
Patriotism was alive and well. The Pledge of Allegiance was said before each class day began at school. In many classrooms, the Bible was read. The American flag with its 48 stars was proudly displayed in windows or doors in most homes and almost all businesses.
I remember troop trains leaving Austin, Texas, with men leaning out the train windows waving at their families until the train made a bend in the tracks and sight was lost of their loved ones. Everyone knew that a large number of those men would never return. Each family feared their loved one might be one of the ones never to return home.
One of my brothers was a Navy fighter pilot and flew off an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific. The oldest brother joined the army. The government said he was more valuable to them serving at his civilian job at Kelly AFB, San Antonio and working with computers. Our daddy was stationed in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. (Years later, I gave daddy’s little military ribbons to one of the sons of my fighter pilot brother.)
That left mother at home with four younger children. My number three brother, nine years older than me, began working for a dairy, helping milk twenty cows twice a day. He walked a mile each way. He received $1.00 a day. He managed to continue attending high school and working long hours.
(To be continued in next blog.)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
Thank you for dropping by. Please come in and pull up a chair and let’s have a little visit. Would you like a cup of tea or coffee? Do you prefer a fancy tea cup or a coffee mug? Fill it with your choice of hot beverage and join me at the old, antique round table. It is like me. We are neither in showroom condition as we were back when the table was new or when I was young. The table has gouges, scratches, and marks from years of faithful use thus giving it a certain charm. But, that is okay, because my skin is not smooth and wrinkle free like it once was either. Therefore, we are a good match.
This table and I have heard many stories, some heartbreaking and others were joyous. Each week, if you drop by, we will sit and have a little visit as I walk down the corridors of my mind where I will unlock one of the many doors along the hallway of my memory as I share a little story or a life experience.
This old table served many families long before I arrived in 1936. For many of you, who may not be aware of it, America had a Great Depression about that time. My father was a school teacher and a little, part-time country preacher. School teachers were paid a pitifully small salary during those years. I suppose the amount of pay was dependent on how much tax money the tax collectors could raise for education. His preaching was not a paid position. Worshippers brought him eggs, or a chicken, fresh meat or perhaps on rare occasions someone might place a dollar in his hand!
There were six children in my family. In those days, everyone we knew was poor, but as I look back now, we must have been about the poorest. Everyone wore hand-me-downs and were thankful to receive them from a cousin, friend or older sibling.
Mother made many of my dresses out of flour sacks. I didn’t realize that we were, in fact, poor until I was thirty years old. We were comfortable with who we were. All our friends were in the same boat that we were in.
In the summer time, families would get together for ice cream suppers or some sort of activity involving food. It was always an outdoor activity. Lanterns or kerosene oil lamps provided light as we sat under ancient live oak trees. Electricity had not come to the county where we lived. When the families gathered together, adults would tell stories.
As a three or four-year-old child, I loved listening to them spin their yarns. Sometimes the same stories were told that we had heard before but each time embellishments might have been added. None the less, everyone would laugh or oooh and awe as if hearing it for the first time. Some of the people were better storytellers than others, but it was always entertaining.
Grandparents would tell stories of coming to Texas from Georgia or Alabama when they were small children. They arrived either by boat across the Gulf of Mexico or by wagon train bumping along roadless country sides. Stories were told of the hardships of the travelers. Speakers were careful to imply how good we were having it at our time in life compared to what they had endured as they made their journey to our state.
Mothers would spread blankets on the ground for the children to sit or lay on. Many times, I would be listening to the stories, while hearing hoot owls calling to one another in the trees and crickets chirping. My eyelids would gradually grow heavy and before I knew it I would wake up the next morning in my bed and wonder what wonderful stories I had missed. It was a peaceful time of life for me. I had my parents, grandparents, and my wonderful older siblings; four brothers and one sister.
Little did I know that in a very short period of time things would change significantly for our family and for the world.