|Notes for William Smith Byford|
(The following was copied from "SCROGGINS ACRES" - a genealogy of the SCROGGINS family, written and published by Lois Loma Scroggins in 1989.)
"Backward, Turn Backward, O Time in Your Flight - Make Me a Child Again, Just for tonight---"
MY YESTERDAY YEARS - by William Smith Byford
The first thing I remember was sleeping in the back of a moving wagon, on some bedding. A little pup ran over my face, barking and scratching. I raised up and looked out and saw a big bear tied to a tree. A bunch of dogs were fighting it. The pup had been put in the wagon because it had sore feet. We were on our way from Kentucky to Arkansas. Then the lights went out and the next thing I remember was some log houses. I could get out one side - the other was too high -- then darkness again.
The next day I saw a big orchard, with the finest peaches, apples, pears, and plums. I was then about two years old. I had a sis about two years older than me, and a sis who was very small. I would fight MARY and she would whip me, then I would fight ANNIE, and Mother would whip me. It looked unfair to me but Mother told me that nice little boys did not fight with their sisters, so, I would take my revenge out on the dogs.
I remember going across a river, to a field with Daddy, to look at steaks he had driven in the ground where deer would jump over the fence and eat peas. Some would have blood around them where the deer had jumped on the sharp points - we would get some of them to eat, others would get away.
I remember going down to the river with Mother on wash days. It was great sport to throw rocks in the water to see the waves spread out. Mother told me how close to the water I could go, but if you got bigger rocks - and got closer to the water the waves would get bigger! ALAS! My fun was short -- Mama saw me - yelled - grabbed me - took me up on the bank and sat me under a
tree - told me to stay put - and gave me a spanking! I found out a little
learning can be dangerous.
I remember going with Daddy into the woods where he had built a pole pen, covered it with brush, made a trap door, and baited it with corn to catch wild turkeys. Sometimes it would be so full of such flapping of wings! I thought it was "Great Doins!". Daddy would take them to Hot Springs to sell them, and would take me with him. We would stay all night, coming home the next day.
Chapter 2 THE SCROGGINS FAMILY
Along those times I remember a nice old lady who would visit us often. She was Mother's (HANNAH TABITHA CAROLINE SCROGGINS Byford) mother (Ellendar Wells SCROGGINS). She would have with her 2 boys and a girl. I was told to call her Gra-ma.
The oldest boy was Uncle BOBBY (ROBERT ALLEN) - The girl was Aunt Lizzie (ELIZABETH). The other boy being younger we just called him STUART.
Gra-ma was a widow -- she had a neighbor widower, a Mr Worthy, with 2 boys and 2 girls. One day they came to our house with a paper which they gave to Daddy. It had big red lines and writing on it. Daddy was a JP. He made them, Mama told us, man and wife.
STUART came to live with us to help Daddy with crops. One day a tree fell across the fence with the top inside. Daddy told STUART to cut the limbs off. He let the axe glance off, and into the top of his foot. He bled to death that night. (Since they were still in Arkansas this happened ca 18??)
Uncle BOBBY married on of the Worthy girls - Mahala -- the other one was crippled, and Aunt LIZZIE married Ambrose Worthy. Ambrose died and Aunt LIZZIE married his brother, Jim. She died about a year later.
Mr Worthy died and Gra-ma came to live with us (they had a son). Uncle BOBBY's wife died, leaving 4 little girls, so Gran-ma went to live with him and raise his children. They all married and had families. 2 of them are
dead, the other 2 living at Red Rock and Heavener, Oklahoma. I know very little of them. BOBBY married again and had another family. They are around Heavener, I went to see uncle BOBBY 1925-26. He died about 1928, about 72 years old. Grandma was about 86 when BOBBY married the 2nd time. She came back to live with us and stayed until several years after we moved to Stratford, Oklahoma.
Chapter 3 THE ABEL FAMILY
As far back as I can remember we had nieghbors, Uncle Kiah Abel, Aunt Elizabeth and their family. She was a half sis to Daddy (Marion Houston Byford) and the only relation of his that I ever knew. Their oldest boy, Noble (called Nobe) was almost grown. He taught school, studied medicine and became a doctor - - went to Texas, where he married a daughter of a well to do doctor, got a good start, made lots of cash. He came to Oklahoma City, where he owned the Oklahoma City Sanitorium. He died there. Lina, the oldest girl, m a man
of the same name - Able. JOHN died when nearly grown. Nancy married Dock Taylor -- had several children -- went to Texas, but returned here, where Dock taught school at the Byford School. I had left there by then. A girl called "Dooley" married, lived in Arkansas, then went to Heavener, Okla. The youngest child died in Arkansas, when he was young. I forgot a girl, older than Lina - married jack Elledge, went to Texas and I lost track of them.
Thus falls the curtain on all the relation I ever knew, except some
SCROGGINS, in Texas, that I visited once. Daddy had a lot of half bros - bros of Aunt Eliz. but I never saw them. I have one uncle not accounted for yet. I will take him when the time comes.
Chapter 4 MY YESTERDAYS
About this time I remember the doctor coming to our house--little ANNIE was sick, though I did not know what it meant at that time. In a few days the neighbors gathered at our house - we all drove off somewhere - they sang and talked awhile - then they filled up a big hole and we started home. I was just learning to whistle and I was real proud of it, so I started to whistle.
Mama told me to stop, which I did, but I started again, and Mama slapped me. I hushed then! I did not know anything about dying and funerals, but when I couldn't whistle, that was TRADGEDY! I ask Mother when we got home why I couldn't whistle. She told me "ANNIE was dead," covered up in that hole back there, and wouldn't be back, ever, and folks just didn't whistle when their folks died. I hadn't thought of ANNIE, but I began looking around, and it
seemed like she just couldn't be gone forever? She had gotten big enough to play with me.
Then, one day there was a tiny baby there. Old Doc Spooner, they told me, had found it where the cows had been hooking in an old clay root, and he had brought it in and gave it to Mother. I looked around all the holes and banks I could find, for several days, thought I might find Me one, but no luck. Well they named him TOMMY (THOMAS JEFFERSON), but nicknamed him Spooner, after the old doctor. That name hung on him until he was grown.
Abouth this time folks began to say school, school. That was the main
subject. MARY, it seemed, had been elacted for school. We lived about 2 miles from the school house and MARYwas afraid to go by herself, so I was appointed Chief Guard and protector for her. I was under school age but they got me in some way. I had a great time. I made MARY carry my books & lunch, so I could kill bumble bees, and knock the leaves off the bushes & weeds along the road.
When we got there the first morning I thought the whole world had come to school - 25 or 30 little tots like us, then some bigger ones. They were running all about and acting like wild Indians. A man with a mustache and a mean look came to the door and rang a bell. Everybody started to the house and I followed. We all got in and found places on logs split open with legs put under them. This was the kind of desks we had in them days. The teacher gave orders for everybody to bring their books and get their assignments. He
finally got to me. I went up with many misgivings. I passed up my little blue back speller. he opened it and turned to a page with verticle rows of little hicheys, and told me they were ABC's and that I should learn their names.Gee, but I have had many hard lessons and examples since, but none ever looked so big, and hard as thet one! This started me on a hard campaign for knowledge, which I have kept up until today --I have learned many things, but not nearly enough.
Everything got so still and I was lonesome, so I tried to start a
conversation with some of the boys close to me. They just gave me a stony stare - they had been to school before! The teacher informed me that he didn't allow talking in school.
I noticed on a plate lots of apples, peaches, and grapes -- I wonder what they meant but I didn't ask. Finally the teacher said something, I didn't hear what, but all the others seemed to know. Everybody jumped and yelled at the same time. They climbed the wall, got the fruit and started eating it -- Well, that was a bet sister & I had overlooked! I sure wanted some of it, but I didn't ask - but we were prepared the next time!! After running around and yelling a while we heard thet little bell again, so, back to my little hickeys.
After what seemed eons of time they yelled dinner! Everone made for a big spring close by -- I saw more bottles than there is in a beer joint, all full of good cold milk -- bet number 2 that sis and I had overlooked -- I sure wanted some, but again, I didn't ask, even when I watched as some of it was being poured out, but my bottle was in the puddle with the rest the next day, and Mother had fixed us a little sack of fruit too. Except for those little hickeys, this would have been a perfect day.
The boys had a game they called Base. They drew two lines about 40 yards apart -- elect two captains -- pick their players one at a time, then each captain would take his team behind the lines. The Modus - Operandi was to send a man as close to the other line as was thought safe -- the other captain would send another man after him -- when one side had caught all the boys they had won the game.
No one would choose me because I was too small. Finally I told one of the captains I could catch anyone on the ground. He laughed at me but finally told me to get on of them, and I got him quick. They got to picking me first but I got to getting around them so fast they quit playing Base unless I was left out. I could beat big, little, old and young. I was a prodogy, just too fast to be natural.
Well, we finally ended that term and I knwe all them hickeys -- next term I used them. I spelled ba ca da fa ga and I thought my troubles were over, but the spelling got worse. -- then we had a little reader that told about cats &
dogs & cows & hogs and a little mouse who lived in the barn -- they gave me a book full of figures. It had tables of figures in it and they told me I must learn them all, by heart. Amoung them was the multiplication table -- It made them little hickeys look like 30 cents, but I finally got them., but they kept making them harder and harder.
On day some men were working on the road and dug up a stump- and found a baby boy? so my mother called him JOHN.
Daddy bought a new place, built a new house and we moved about a mile from where we did live. He cleared a field in a rich bottom. There were lots of big white oak trees on it. HE cut them and made a rail fence, so high the deer couldn't jump over it.
Uncle BOBBY SCROGGINS came to visit us on a Saturday. That night it rained, and the wind blew hard. Next morning we went out to see the crops. While walking through teh corn we spotted some deer tracks so we knew the fence was down somewhere -- found where a tree had fallen across the fence -- fixed it, then got the dogs who soon found the deet and caught it. I remember how it bawled!
One day some men were working on the road (really) by our house -- I was sitting on the fence watching them, when we saw 5 men comming down the road - 4 on horses - 1 afoot. When they saw the crowd of men they stopped, and the man walking got behind one of the others, and they came on by us. They were riding good horses and had bed rolls tied to their saddles. They spoke to us and rode on. The next day a bunch of men came hunting them -- said they were
the JAMES BOYS and their gang - said they had robbed the County Fair, at Hot Springs, Arkansas and in the fight one of the horses had been killed. This was my first knowledge of the James Boys. It is still a vivid picture in my mind.
Then more school, fishing, playing, eating. I remember Daddy taking me with him up the river late afternoons, where he would hide on the bank, and kill beavers about sundown, when they came back out to feed. I would have to hide in the weeds and keep still. I was scared! I thought those boogers would get me for sure, and mosquitoes would cover me, but I must not move!
I was playing in the yard one day when a big man with a big mustache rode up and began to ask me questions. Mother heard us and came to the door. She gave a Commanche yell, jumped about 10 feet in the yard, knocking down a 6 rail fence getting to the road. They went into a huddle, and when they broke loose I found out that he was her long lost bro, Uncle BILLY SCROGGINS (WILLIAM
I don't know what they talked about but it was continous chatter. Then Daddy came home and they sat chairs out in the yard and started talking. I took a stand close by and listened. It registered on my mind something like this; -- that he lived at a place where the mountains were high and rough -- that the bear played with the children -- deer ran with the cattle -- owls roosted with the chickens -- they used wild cats for yard dogs -- flapjackls grew on the bushes, and the streams flowed with honey!! I don't know just what picture Daddy drew but by suppertime he told Mama we were going to Blackfork, Arkansas!! They were living in Missouri at this time.
So we gathered the crop, sold the farm and headed for the promised land. I left the old Walnut Bottom and it fond recollections. It wa a wonderful trip. I helped drive the cattle and saw many fights. I remember passing through Mount Ida, where the great Lon Warneke was born and raised -- I remember crossing the LaFourche River -- I was scared. After several days we came up over a mountain and looked down on the Blackfork, a fine clear stream, running over rocks and winding around the mountains.
Daddy had been down some time before and arranged for a place, but, when we arrived the people had not left, so we all had to camp in the same house. It snowed the night we got there, and the people couldn't move out for a week -- it sure was crowded -- it sure was crowded but we had a lot of good wood and pine, and a good fireplace.
In this family there was a boy just older than I was -- I wrote him a letter since I came here, talking about the snowstorm we were in -- heard from him about 2 weeks ago -- said I had made him recall things he had forgotten, and he mentioned things I had forgotten. It is nice to hear from people you knew
a long time ago -- he is a salesman, P.M. Claunts, McAllen, Texas. There was a large family of them -- he says there is only one sis left, older than he --"Thus wastes Man".
The folks finally moved out and we settled down to the usual routine of moving into a new place.
One day Daddy hitched up the team to the wagon and we went to see uncle BILLY. We had never seen his family. I found a boy just younger than me, HOUSTON SCROGGINS, named after Daddy. We got to be great pals. On our way over we passed a big house and saw a boy playing in the yard, about my size. HOUSTON said he was Jodie Walker -- This was my first introduction to J.P. Walker, now at Garr Corner, 4 miles east of Stratford, Oklahoma.
This is where the writing ends. William Smith Byford died before finishing this writing.
He was an outdoor man and loved to fish and hunt. He spent much of his time in this kind of sport. His death was due to a heart attack at Atoka, OK where he had been winding up some of his business matters, Monday 7Jun1948 at 6:30PM (from Charles R. Jones per LaHonda Comeaux 3Feb1997)
"W.S. Byford, the subject of this sketch whose likeness we here present is Prof. W.S. Byford. He was born Feb. 28 1870, at Mayfield, Graves County, Kentucky. Moved from there to Saline County, Ark., thence to Scott County, Ark. In 1884 he moved to Choctaw Nation, and in 1890 to McGee, Chickisaw Nation. His father has been a teacher for many years, hence W.S. learned to sing when he was very young. He began teaching in 1892. Has been a close student of the works of Drs. G. F. Root and H. R. Palmer. In 1896 he attended
Prof. S. J. Oslin's Normal Music School at Commerce, Texas, since which time he has conducted some very successful work. In 1899 he entered the Western Normal College of Music, where he graduated. He is a very promising writer of words and music. The musical world may expect much good work from him."
A TOUCHING TRIBUTE
Clint Baird, of Hollidays Cove, W. Va., sends the Standard a touching tribute to the memory of William S. Byford, an old houseboat friend with whom he lived for two years on Little River, Ark. during the depression of the '30s. His friend was a recluse who had at one time filled an important place in the scheme of life. He had been a musician and teacher of music, but a twist in domestic life had sent him into the wilderness. The tribute, in a way, is a classic. It follows:
In memory of William S. Byford, my Arkansas houseboat pal.
You know, Dad, people write nice poems and verses in memory of thier loved ones but I know you wouldn't like it that way. You would want is as Old Rain-in-the-Face would write it. You were a swell old man. I never heard you swear or tell a dirty story during the years I lived with you in the houseboat on Little River. You always gave me the best pieces of the rabbits and squirrels. nothing was too good for me.
Remember the time you bragged what a crack shot you were when a rabbit jumped up and you missed it? What a kick I got out of it. Remember when the mule kicked the dog in the nose and knocked him cold? He wasn't much of a hunter after that. Remember the big fish that got stuck under out boat when Neeley and I were out fishing and it raised one end of the boat out of the water?
Remember the day that big fish ran head long into my boat and nearly knocked me out into the river? Remember how I used to swim in the river until we caught that big garfish? After that I took my bath in a two gallon bucket. Remember the night those people came down from Ft. Smith to spear fish and they saw such big ones near the riffles that they were afraid to spear them?
Remember Old Rip, the big catfish? He would tear up all our tackles.
I went into the blacksmith shop and made big fish hooks out of the tines of a pitchfork and put them on the ends of dog chains, but we never got him. Remember how you made fun of my pancakes? You called them old leather. It's a
wonder you lived to be 80. Remember how I used to get up and get breakfast, then you would grab your shotgun and beat it for the squirrel dens and I would take a sack and beat it for our neighbors watermelon patch. I always did have a weakness for watermelons.
Remember during the depression, when millions were going hungry? Our bill of fare was fish, turtles, big bull frogs, rabbits, squirrels, quail, duck, possom, muscadine (big wild grapes), wild figs, persimmons, beans corn potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, and of course, melons. We didn't go hungry, did you Dad? Remember the day you dropped your false teeth in the river and after that had to "gum it"?
I was glad you liked the little rifle with scope I sent you as well as the
shot gun. I am glad now I sent you the new 30-30 rifle last fall. I never
dreamed it would be your last deer hunt. now that you're gone I never want to see Little River again. Some day we are going to meet again, I can imagine you saying, "Why hello, "Old Rain-in-the-Face," and I'll say, "Why , hello Dad, how's fishing?" Dad, I'm going to miss you an awful lot. Goodby.
|Last Modified Jul 27, 2002||Created Feb 27, 2008 by EasyTree for Windows|