Grandpa Byford's Life in his own words.  Taken from his autobiography of 1966.

Thanks to Brenda Scroggins for passing this on in electronic form..............

A lad called Spooner. Stories told by a gentle, white haired little man, a twinkle in his eyes, who is now 91 years young. They were written down just as he told them, by his daughters and they are recorded here in his own words, as nearly as possible. We are grateful to Thomas Jefferson Byford and 2 daughters for sharing these stories with us. (From the book Facts and Fancies of Scroggins Acres)  


Chapter 1 A Lad Called Spooner 

It was a cold December day when I first got a glimpse of this old world. My parents were Houston Marion Byford and Hannah Tabitha Caroline Scroggins, both born in Mississippi. My eldest sister, Mary, was also born in Mississippi. From Corinth Mississippi, the family moved to Mayfield, Graves County, Kentucky, in the late 1860’s where my eldest brother, William Smith Byford was born. The family then moved to Saline County, Arkansas. This is where my life began, Wednesday December 9, 1874. Besides my loving parents there were two sisters and a brother to greet me. They welcomed me into this wonderful world of ours with open arms. My parents named me after a great man, however the nickname “Spooner” stuck by me, the doctor who delivered me happened to be Dr. Spooner, carried his name until I was a young man. Finally dropped that handle and relatives and friends started calling me just plain ole “Tommy”, which I thought it should have been from the start, since I had no intentions of following in the presidents or the doctors footsteps. Plain Tommy fits me better. My youngest sister, Annie died at about 6 years and was buried not far from where we lived. Three things happened while we lived in Saline County that I can remember very well; Annie and I were playing in the rain, dad scolded us and told us if we didn’t get in out of the rain, he would whip us.  

The second thing, my uncle had gone fishing and we heard him yelling for dad to come and help him, that he had more fish than he could get to the house. Dad said, “I’ll go help him, but if he doesn’t have all those fish, I’m going to work him over!” It wasn’t long before I saw them coming, with all the fish that they could possibly carry! I can still see that large “catch” of fish to this very day. 

The 3rd is a never to be forgotten episode. We were living on the north fork of the Saline River. My mother’s youngest brother, Uncle Stuart, was living with us helping dad on the farm. The wind had blown a sapling over on the fence inside the lot. Dad told him to go and chop the limbs off. I was just a little lad but big enough to tag along. I was chattering to Uncle Stuart as he worked. As he was chopping, the axe slipped and cut his foot almost off. I started crying and screaming as loud as I could, but he told me to hush up and the poor fellow hobbled to the house. Dad went for the doctor, but mother had no way to care for her brother while he was gone. He bled to death that night. These are three things I have never been able to forget thru all these years.


Chapter 2  Westward Ho! 

We moved to Scott County, Arkansas around 1879, I imagine, as we are listed in the 1880 census records, by Frederick Brooks June 19, 1880, Blackfork township District 22 #2, 142. Before we left Saline County there were 2 more brothers added to our family, John Houston and James Robert. John was 3 when the census was taken. Robert, or “Dock” was 1. They have James R. listed as “Doctor” Byford. I was 5. 

While we were moving from Saline John and I rode in Scot Abel’s wagon, as it was the wagon that hauled the sweet potatoes and other things for the families. We ate raw sweet potatoes all the way. There were four wagons moving at the same time, our family, Uncle Kish Abel’s, Scott Abel and family and my grandmother.  

While we were living in Blackfork I went to school about 3 days to a cousin of mine by the name of Nobe Abel. There weren’t any free public schools then. I attended several subscription schools for short periods of time. One school I attended at McGee School was after our family. I went to school to my sister Mary. This schoolhouse served as both school and church. The old schoolhouse has been torn down and another built in its place. I didn’t get to go to school often. With so many children in the family to be clothed and fed, daddy needed all the help he could get to help work the crops. I always loved farming, and all kinds of outdoor activities whether it was work or play. Daddy always called on me when he needed help as he knew I was ready and willing and a hard worker, so most of my schooling went begging. Too bad, too. I always sorta dreamed of becoming a great lawyer someday. I still think I could have been one, and a good one too, had I had the chance to finish school and learn all the things it takes to become a lawyer. 

But a writer I am not, as you can see. I want to leave behind some of my favorite stories and cherished memories for my children, grandchildren, etc. to read thru the years ahead. Many have heard these stories over and over first hand and they never seem to grow tired of them. I just hope the future generations will get a few laughs as they follow my adventures, told here.  

When I was about 6 I went with my dad to visit some neighbors. They had a son about my age and we were playing in a little bunkhouse, off a way from the main house, while the grownups were visiting inside, and having a friendly little nip now and then. My young friend decided to go into the house for some reason. Someone filled a glass for him to bring back to the bunkhouse to share with me. When he came back he told me they had told him to tell me to drink every drop of it. Naturally, I did just that, not knowing I was consuming his portion as well as my own. It wasn’t very long after I had downed the beverage until I spotted a powder horn hanging on the wall, so I proceeded to get it down, fill up a pipe that was laying handy, and put it in my mouth!! You guessed it! I lit it up and BOOM went the powder, along with all the eyebrows and lashes I had! I went home without my eyebrows and lashes, but a lot smarter little boy!!, taught a very valuable lesson I have never forgotten.  

My father was a musician and a singing teacher. He made a small fiddle, about a quarter of the size of a regular fiddle. Dad could sing, play the fiddle and accordion. He took a group of us little fellows, about 7 and 8 years old, to a singing convention picnic, at Waldron, Arkansas. We won the blue ribbon, and returned home a very happy singing class.


Chapter 3 Bear Tales 

The family moves on into LeFlore County, Oklahoma. One night a little jersey bull came up to the farm. I had the notion I was going to rope and tie that little fellow. Well I did. I thought it was great fun, and it was, until I started to untie him! The more I worked to untie him the harder he made it for me - he was tied to that tree for good, it looked like, realizing I was going to have to cut my little rope, I worked all the harder, finally I had to cut my rope and free the bull. I had learned another lesson. 

My dad was voted the best bear hunter in eastern Oklahoma. I was the youngest, starting out at the age of 8 years. I went with the men, but stayed mostly between the mountains and whittled while waiting for the hunters to return. I had a double barrel muzzle-loading shotgun. From 3 to 5 men would go together with their own pack of dogs. An old gentleman, by the name of Mark Stevens, (everyone called him Uncle Mart) was always ready to go bear hunting. He always like to roast the head and eat it. He raked the live coals, put in ashes, then dirt and coal on top of the head to cook it. When it was done he took it out to cool. Dad said, “Uncle Mart, aren’t you afraid the dogs will eat your bear head?” “No, b-gad, ole Tally won’t let them eat it!” Ole Tally was one of his dogs. About 20 minutes he would go to see if his bear head was cool to eat. Ole Tally had eaten most of it. Goes to prove you can’t trust a dog.  

Once we were camped out at the north side of Winding Stairs Mountains. Uncle Mart had an old muzzle-loading rifle, that wouldn’t kill a bear, although he said it would. It shot like an auger. His boy told him to take a six shooter. They all left out before daybreak that morning. Uncle Mart found the bear first, an old bear and 3 or 4 cubs. He shot the old bear then stopped to reload “Old Mandy”, as he called his gun. The cubs were all playing around. The bear was still there. Before he got “Mandy” reloaded, dad and Uncle Billy Scroggins dogs came up and ran the bears off. Dad and Uncle Billy killed the old bear and two of the cubs. Uncle Mart went over to them and said, “B-gad, Mr. Byford, that old bear killed your young dog.” They had seen the young dog coming to them, covered with blood, but he seemed to be all right. They were busy skinning the old bear. Dad said, “Uncle Mart you didn’t hit that bear.” When they skinned it down to the nose, they found she had been shot in the nostrils and her jaw was broken. Dad said, “Uncle Mart, why didn’t take that six shooter and kill the bear and her cubs?” He replied, “B-gad, didn’t know I had it!” 

I spent a lot of time alone in those mountains. The men would go off hunting, get on a trail and lose track of time. I guess they forgot about a frightened little boy, back in those mountains, all alone. Sometimes I would be alone all night, and a lot times until 11 or 12 midnight before they would come back. To an 8 year old boy that seems like a lot longer than you can imagine, knowing there were wild animals out there, just waiting for dark, to start hunting for their food.

On the Blackfork River, where the highway is now, I went swimming and nearly drowned. I had gone under 3 times, clear to the bottom, but I finally made it across to safety. We lived in the bend of the Blackfork River, between Blackfork and Haw Creek, where the Walker Highway is now. I went back to the old place in 1958, but I didn’t see the old house. I didn’t have much time to look around. It was getting late and we had to get back to Oklahoma City. We had a lot of pets when we lived there. We had a pet bear with a long chain on him. Once when dad stepped out on the porch, the bear jumped up and put both fore feet on dad’s chest, dad knocked him loose, tied him to the porch post, got the gun and killed him. He was just too mean to keep any longer. Our pet deer would come into the house and eat off the table if we would let him. One day he came home with a broken leg and we had to butcher him, so ends another pet. The pet coon got into the safe and ate everything we had. Our well was on the porch. He went outside and fell into it. When we went to draw water the next day we noticed the water being all muddy. We looked in the well. There was our pet coon swimming around. Guess he had been there nearly all night. We let the bucket down and he climbed in. We pulled him up and gave him another chance. Just before we moved to this place, the people who had been living there said the bear would walk on the porch at night. These people had gone off, leaving the children alone, one day. A panther took their baby to her den and laid it down. When the parents returned home one of the children, who had followed along behind the panther, showed them where it had taken the baby. There were real lucky and have God to thank for this blessing. The children were unharmed. The panther had carried the baby by its dress, and was just waiting for her cubs to kill it. I was always afraid of the panthers. When I heard one of them scream I always headed for home, no matter where I was or what I was doing! I was always afraid of the big rattlesnakes.  

On my way to visit Uncle Billy Scroggins, one day, I saw a young colt in the woods, and to me it looked like a panther, with big shining eyes. I ran to Uncle Billy scared almost to death, to tell him of the panther I had seen. I am sure that he knew, all along, that it was not a panther, but he went back with me to look for it. Even after I realized it wasn’t a panther I had seen I was too stubborn to admit it to him. Guess I was afraid of being ribbed about it, so I just stuck to my original story for several years afterwards.  

The post office and town of LeFlore County was Page, named after William Page, a full blood Choctaw Indian. Dad had Page’s land leased, paid him $5 a year lease money. One day Will Page and I were out in a boat, on the same river where I had almost drown the year before. Will kept telling me he was going to turn the boat over. He was just trying to scare me, but finally the boat did overturn, spilling us both in the river, fully dressed, shoes and all. We had been gigging at the time of the boat ride, so we had to go back home and get into dry clothes, then go back to the river to get the gig and boat out of the water.


Chapter 4 Pen Pals 

When I was about 8 a convict escaped from the Pen, in Little Rock. His name was Marion Odom. He came to the home of his cousin, not far from where we lived, at McGee, Oklahoma. My brother Billy and I were at John Step’s house, Odom’s cousin, when he came in that night. He came in shooting, and telling where he was from, bragging about being a jailbird. After a few weeks he started getting into trouble. Dad told Mr. Step he should make Odom leave before the law came after him. John said that he just might get one of the lawmen, himself. Another neighbor, Mr. Slusher, had moved 18 miles west of Fort Smith, on the river. He was a Deputy U. S. Marshall. He went to Fort Smith to obtain a warrant for Odom’s arrest. Judge Parker told him that Odom was a bad one and that he should try something else first. Slusher told him he wanted to bring him in, so he got the warrant. As he came thru Fort Smith he deputized 3 men, told them to wait until dark and he would contact them at our place. They were to come in that night and wait for his signal. When Slusher arrived he deputized Dad, told him to lie on top of the barn, and keep anyone from climbing up there. Another deputy was stationed under the bush arbor in front of the barn. The barn had a rail fence in front to keep the stock out. There was also a brush arbor at a place, called Clabber Flat, near McGee, where he went to church. The church was located on a flat bottom piece of land, in a little valley, so to speak. The folks in this community were so poor they, practically, had to live on clabber milk, so they called this place Clabber Flat. Anyway, this place at Clabber Flat was the place to take Odom, or so he told Billy and me. 

The plan was to take a chain and lock and sit behind Odom. When the Services were dismissed and Odom rose to leave, Slusher would grab him and call for help. My brother Billy told me the Marshall was going to get into trouble, that the only way to get Odom was to have a gun on him before he spoke, then he could take him without anyone getting hurt.  

Odom had more outlaws with him. That Saturday night Billy and I went to John Step’s house to see if they were planning on attending church the next day. We played a few games of pitch. When we were getting ready to leave Billy said, “See you at church tomorrow.” Step said, “I guess so, if they don’t have a d--- Marshall for dinner.” The next morning I went to church with the Marshall. The outlaws were already there, and seated. The Marshall sat down behind the outlaws. I sat down beside the Marshall. A man left went outside where he found the Marshall’s horse, tied up in the timber. He came back and whispered something to the outlaw. Odom stood up. The Marshall grabbed him and called for help, as was planned, but Odom had a knife. He slashed the Marshall’s leg open to the hip. The deputy that was supposed to help him was on the other side of the arbor. When he stood up to help another outlaw put a knife to his throat. Mr. Step hit the Marshall on the head, fractured his skull. He fell back on the seat beside me. Dad came running up. Mr. Step hit him on the back of the head too, taking 23 stitches to close the wound. As Step ran through the crowd dad shot at him 5 times, but couldn’t see very well, the blood from the wound was filling his eyes. The other deputies didn’t know the out laws had hidden their guns behind the house. They came out shooting. Odom was behind a tree. About that time Billy and Richard Lewis came up, the lawmen started shooting at the outlaw, and shot all the bark off the tree. Women and children were running and screaming. The outlaws got away, both of them. 

Billy and Richard took the Marshall by the arms and helped him to the house. He had a loss of memory for quite a while, even asked who I was. Thought I was one of the outlaw’s friends. I rode my horse to Blackfork after the doctor for him, and every 3 or 4 days afterward, to get medicine and supplies. The men on both sides were afraid to get out; afraid the other bunch would shoot them. My folks thought it would be safer for a boy to go after ammunition. The Marshall stayed at our house nearly 2 months before he was able to return home. When he did go back to Fort Smith they took his badge away from him.  

Then they sent a bunch of 5men from Fort Smith to take Odom. Lige and Charley Barnhill were among them. They arrived in a hack. On the way they had caught a bootlegger and took a lot of whiskey from his still, and brought both the whiskey and the man with them. When they were about 3 miles from our house they pulled off the road at the edge of a mountain to talk things over, to decide which way to go. After discussing the situation one fellow said that he would take some of the whiskey and go in alone. They gave him a bottle and a horse. He rode up to the house where the outlaws were staying. When a woman came to the door he asked the way to McAlester. He went inside and told her he was a bootlegger and the damn law was after him. He told her just what he would do if he had someone to help him. The woman got to drinking, got about half drunk, and told him where the outlaws were, and when they would be back. Then the man rode on to our house and asked the way to McAlester. Uncle Billy told him to go back the way he had come that was the only way to get there. The men had sent him to talk to dad, to see if he could give them any info as to where the outlaws were hiding. Richard Lewis was at our house. This man gave him and Billy some whiskey. Before dad left he told him not to give not to give the boys any more whiskey. He said he wouldn’t but before dad was out of site the 3 of them were drunk. 

The lawman wanted Richard to ride out and look around a bit. He took dad’s old pistol with him, although it didn’t have a hammer. They got down from their horses and sat down by a pine tree, and he asked Richard to let him see his pistol. As Richard handed it to him he told him to be careful. The lawman said, “This thing won’t shoot.” He got fooled, but good! Shot himself thru the leg. The bullet hit our house and bounced back into the yard. I went and picked it up. They rode back and came in. Richard was trying awfully hard to keep from laughing. Billy asked what had happened. Richard said, “The damn fool shot himself!” Mother tried to get him to let her doctor the wound but he said it would be all right by morning. He ask them to not tell anyone he had been shot, as he wouldn’t have the law know for a thousand dollars. He got back on his horse and started back to their camp. He caught the man who had found their horses hid in the timber, but he turned him loose, and went on to camp. Dad said when he came into camp he was hollering like he was going to die, he just couldn’t stand it anymore. He got off his horse but the others sent him back to our house. Again, I had to go after the doctor, at Blackfork. He stayed with us several months until he was ready to go home. I had to ride to Blackfork every few days for medicine.  

The law came from Fort Smith again. This time they caught Mr. Step and took him back to Fort Smith for trial. He was sentenced to 6 years in the pen. It was almost 3 years later that they caught Odom. He was taken to prison in Little Rock, Arkansas.


Chapter 5 The Black Crow 

I know another outlaw, by the name of Jack Crow. He was a Negro, married to a white woman. He lived 6 or 7 miles back into the mountains from where we lived. He had killed 5 or 6 white men. When they would send lawmen from Fort Smith after him, the people were not to tell him the law was coming after him, so he could get away. Finally they sent 5 lawmen after him. They came by our house, and said they were aiming to get him this time. The next morning there was a big snow on the ground so they took some rich pine along to build a fire. They found one man on the way and took him along so he couldn’t warn Jack Crow. It was awfully cold and snowing. Jack Crow was in the house. The lawmen surrounded the house, and the Marshall called for him to come out. When he didn’t they began shooting. He told them if they would stop shooting they would come out, he was afraid they were going to kill his children. But, he didn’t keep his word, and the lawmen set fire to the back of his house, he told them that if they would put out the fire he would come out, again he did not surrender. They set fire to the house again and told him the only way out was for him to push open the door and come out with his hands in the air. He came out and they put the handcuffs on him. He begged them to take them off, as they would freeze his arms off. They took them off, but told him if he tried anything, or anyone tried to help him, in any way, they would kill him. They took him into Fort Smith. As they rode down the street, he was whooping and hollering for everyone to come see “ole Jack Crow”. They gave him a trial and hung him a few weeks later.


Chapter 6 On To Old McGee, Indian Territory 

My first cattle drive was from LeFlore County to about 3 miles south of the present town of Stratford, Oklahoma. I was about 13. We were moving over 30 head of cattle. We crossed the Kiamichi River. The wagons were taken across on a ferryboat, owned by a colored man, named Byrd. The cattle swam across. While they were crossing they started milling around and nearly drown. Finally one of them started to the back and the others followed. This river was about 100 feet deep. 

From there we went to a place about 3 miles west of McAlester and made camp. One of the steers got loose and went back. After the work steer got away, I herded the cattle and tied the work steer up. We used mules and steers to work. The sight where we were camped was where they were clearing the right of way for the Choctaw Railroad. In those days when an Indian would violate a law, some of the other Indians would tie him up and whip him. They didn’t have to bring him in, they just told him to be at a certain place, at a certain time, and he would be there. If they broke the law too many times they would be tied to a tree and shot. I knew one-quarter blood Indian, named Haywood Parnell, who had broken some rule and the leaders told him to be at a certain place, but he didn’t show up. An Indian lawman, named Peter Consaw, came by our place hunting for him. We told him that Parnell had headed back into the mountains. He went after him but didn’t catch him. When Consaw came back by our place, he said, “Heap big balaghi,” which in Indian language meant, “Big run.” Consaw was tickled. 

I also knew an Indian, named Eli Sealy. He preached his wife’s funeral, in a log schoolhouse, with split log seats, the coffin rested on logs. Sealy preached with a long six shooter buckled to his side. I couldn’t understand a word that he said, except, Lord Jesus, which they all say in English.  

Charley Strickland was another Indian. One day he was going to Pauls Valley (originally named Smith). He had to pass Wes Harris’s house. Wes stopped him and invited him in the yard, then held a gun on the Indian and made him dance. Later Strickland got the gun on Wes, but Wes told him there wasn’t any reason for them to have any trouble, so they started to Pauls Valley together. Wes came home alone, When Charley came back by, Wes again invited him to come inside. Wes had his six shooter ready to kill him, but Charley beat him to the draw, and killed Wes. Then Charley stood on top of the body and gobbled like a turkey. He said he really hated to kill Wes, but he had to, or be killed.  

Our new home was bout 3 miles southwest of Stratford, Oklahoma. There wasn’t enough water there for the stock. An Indian, named Keal, had the Keal Branch or Creek. He decided to fence the water off to keep the stock out. The neighbors all got together and decided to appoint someone to go and have a talk with Keal, to try to convince him to leave part of the water outside the fence. The men elected to serve were my dad, my wife’s father, John Henry Lumpkins, and a brother-in-law, Henry Newton Jones. They went to see Mr. Keal. When they got there, a big Indian, from Stonewall, Oklahoma, was there. They ask him about leaving some of the water outside. “What the hell do I care if all the white trash die and go to hell?” They started building the fence. Our men went to talk with the boss of the fence builders. They told him to take his men out and stay. He took them and left. In a few days they started building the fence again, this time on the prairie, so they could see. They kept a lookout at all times. They first started building in the timber, but they were afraid they couldn’t see if others were coming upon them. They built a 3 barbed wire fence, that night it was cut 3 times between every post. That sure made Keal mad, and he said he would build it back, with gold barbs, but he never did.


Chapter 7 Old Mud Head 

We had a school teacher, near McGee, but he really didn’t know much more than the children, if he knew as much. My brother Billy asks him several questions and he would always say, “I can’t give that answer right off. My head isn’t clear.” He was always complaining of having a muddled head, or mud in his head, until he couldn’t think of the answers when we ask him a question. Billy was getting pretty mad and was threatening to knock some of that mud out of his head someday. Clear things up for him.  

The teacher always told is that if anyone ever passed by the schoolhouse for us not to look up, just continue our work as though nothing has happened. Now, that is pretty hard to do, especially when we hardly ever had anyone passing by. We were all anxious to watch them, as long as out eyes would let us see. One day the ole teacher was looking out the window, watching some traveler go by. Billy sees his chance to clear the teacher’s muddy head, so he takes my baseball, throws it, and hits the teacher in the back of the head. Now I wasn’t worried about the teacher being hurt, or how much Billy had knocked out of his head. My one and only concern was how would I ever get my baseball back? None would tell who threw the baseball, or who the ball belonged to. As it happened, the teacher boarded at out house. I waited for my chance. When he went to bed he took the ball out of his pocket, and put it in his boot. When all was quiet and still, I rescued my little baseball from that mean old teacher. I’ve pondered a lot of times if he didn’t know all along who the owner of the baseball was, and he made it easy for me to get it back by putting it in his boot?? I imagine he knew I was watching to see where he put it when he went to bed.


Chapter 8 More Indian Tales 

In some places, when an Indian died, they put coffee, sugar, or whatever he liked best, or had been fond of in his lifetime, in the grave with the body. They would put the amount they thought would be plenty for him to eat until he reached his “Happy Hunting Grounds”. Their favorite possessions were placed on top of the grave, knives, bows and arrows, guns, etc. 

At Weatherford I saw a little Cheyenne Indian boy eating the entrails of a cow. He had it wrapped around his neck and was chewing and sucking at one end of it. Old Roman Nose ate some meat from cattle that had died of blackleg, he almost died. There was a village of Cheyenne Indians in their teepees, on the banks of the Washita River, near Hammon, Oklahoma. I looked over the site where General Custer slaughtered all the Indians, Battle of Washita, 1868. It has now been made a State Park area. It was about 2 miles north of the town of Cheyenne. Custer killed men, women, and children. Chief Black Kettle was also slain in the battle. Fighting took place on the Washita River. The bank on the north side was straight up, the Indians couldn’t get away. The soldiers approached from the south. A deep snow lay on the ground. They went in just at daybreak, killed the people, horses, cattle, even the dogs, and everything that was alive. Only a few of the braves were able to flee. They went to the Cheyenne Village near Hammon, where they remained for several years. For many years the skull of old Chief Black Kettle was on display at the office of the Cheyenne Star newspaper. Finally the Indians succeeded in having the bones of the old Chief properly buried near the site of the great battle. I think it was just horrible the way the Indians were treated. They didn’t have a chance. The soldiers came down from Fort Supply, Oklahoma. 

The Indians have come a long way in education, from teepees to college. I was raised around the civilized tribes, the Chickasaw, Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole and Potawatomi, in the Indian Territory, near Stratford. There weren’t any laws in Oklahoma. The Cherokee had to go to Fort Smith for law. The Choctaw to Texas. I grew to manhood in this area, met and married my wife there.  

When my eldest brother Billy was living at McGee, he was taking a little magazine, called Grit. His time had expired on the magazine and in place of having it renewed he would just send a penny postcard, every week, for sample copies. He had a continued story started and he didn’t want to miss anything. After so long he got a notice that he had a package at the Wynnewood Express Office, sent collect. He rode over to pick it up. The package contained several bricks, along with the following note; “You seem to like our sample paper so well, we thought you might like a sample of our bricks!” He didn’t waste any time renewing his subscription, and kept it until the time of his death, 1948.


Chapter 10 The Last Frontier 

When I went to Custer County to file on my 160 acre homestead, 1899, my brother-in-law, Eugene Lewis, went with me. It took us about a week to go from McGee to our new homestead, in a covered wagon. My farm I filed on is located about 9 miles south of Leedy, Oklahoma. We camped on the place that I had filed on. One of the men built a fire to cook, the grass caught fire, burned my harness and the paint off my new wagon. The country was all prairie, what few people who lived there made their homes in half dugouts. There were no roads. The next day we went to Arapahoe, County Seat of Custer County, February 14th. to file the papers. Mr. Lumpkins and Henry Jones had already filed, but they went with us. It was a nice warm day and we drove about a quarter of a mile east of town and camped on a small creek. The next morning we walked to town to finish the papers and eat breakfast. It came a real bad snowstorm and Henry went without food all day. He almost froze to death, his gloves were frozen t his hands. Gene and I started back to McGee, the other 2 back to their claims. We got as far as Weatherford, thawed out, and stayed in the wagon yard that night. It was quite a snowstorm, 8 days before we got home.  

In May 1899, I began moving my family. Beulah was about 4 years old and Era was 13 months. My wife’s grandmother and step grandfather (Robinson) moved the same time we did. Her brother, Gene Lewis, moved that fall. While moving, someplace in Caddo County, we passed Indian teepees. We saw a dead Indian lying out on a rail pen. We drove a little further, crossed a creek and made camp. While we were eating supper a big old mean looking Indian, with just a blanket around him, came up. He got into our food so we gave him some to keep him from getting all of it. He ate like he was half starved. Finally he got all he wanted, then asked for tobacco. I gave him a chew and he went back to his teepee. We knew that if we didn’t leave they would all be back for food. We drove until about 10 that night. As we didn’t find food or water we slept in our wagons. About 3 days later we arrived at our claims.  

Everything looked just beautiful, May being a lovely month of the year. Green grass and trees, wild flowers, birds singing a lovely chorus, quail, mockingbirds, scissor tails, robins, cardinals. Wren and Finch. One bird I have always loved to listen to is the curlew bird. They are noted for their shrill voice. We also had prairie chicken and other kinds of wild birds.  

The coyotes or small wolves were thick. Not to mention fleas. The fleas were so thick we could hardly sleep. Sometimes I would crawl up on the roof to catch a few winks. They were in the sand and in the dirt. Ticks and grasshoppers were plentiful as well.  

Our first house was a half dugout, with one door and one window. The schoolhouse was made of sod. It also served the purpose of singing school and other entertainment. Our water came from a creek, and the spring came up from gyprock creek bank. 

I bought a cricket sod plow to plant kaffar corn. We made our planter from a wash pan, punched holes in the bottom and nailed a board to the top, put the seed in the pan and placed it on the plow. As the sod turned, the device dropped the seed. The next round covered it up. We planted every 3rd round. Planted maize the same way. We planted corn with a hand planter similar to a posthole digger. As we pushed the diggers in the ground, pulled the handles apart, the seed corn dropped in the hole. We had to shell all our seed corn by hand. The kaffar corn and maize on an old fashioned washboard. After shelling a few heads of grain on the washboard your hands would be sore from blisters until it was hard to shell much at a time.  

We raised real good gardens. Had plenty of wild greens; polk salads, dandelions, sourdock and others to eat before the garden was ready, wild blue currants, plums and possum grapes. Emma was a wonderful helpmate and wife. She made delicious jams, jellies and preserves. Canned fruits and vegetables every summer, for out table during the long winter months. We had our own beehives. Wild animals were plentiful. When I was a child, going to school, we had cornbread and molasses every morning for breakfast. On Sunday we had hot biscuits. 

We had a dog that was a real good watchdog. We called him Trip. He would stay and guard everything we left in the field, and the children while they were working in the field. That was a great help as we had snakes around the place. Old Trip started with us on our first visit back to McGee, 1902 - 03. His feet got too sore to travel but he wouldn’t let us put him in the wagon, so we lost a very valuable friend, Old Trip. 

We lived in our half dugout until 1903-04, on the west side of our farm, then built a 2 room on the east side, on the section line. I dug a well and put up a windmill, to furnish water for the stock. The water was so hard we could hardly cook with it. Coffee made with gyp water has a very bitter taste. Impossible to cook dried beans soft enough to eat, trying to drink it was even worse, like taking a dose of bad medicine, especially it is had been drawn for awhile. About the only way you could drink it was when it was first drawn and still cold, then it wasn’t too good! We drank it at times. 

We later added another 2 rooms to our little house. I built a cistern on the south side of the house to catch rainwater for drinking and cooking. At times when we didn’t catch enough to last us we would dip up the clean snow and put it in the cistern to melt, for drinking water, to hold us over until our spring rains came along to refill our cistern. 

The old house stood for several years. Finally it was torn down and a new one rebuilt, near where the first had stood for so many years. I planted a walnut tree when we first moved to this place. The old tree still stands, but it sure looks bad, getting along in years too. We sat out lilac bushes around the house, that grew so large, and every summer were just covered with the most beautiful lilacs you would ever want to see.


Chapter 9 The Knot Was Tied

I grew up in the Chickasaw Indian Nation County. Met and married my wife Mary Emma Lumpkins there. It was Thursday, September 27, 1894. The postmaster at McGee, Mr. Billy Mode, ordered our marriage license from Ardmore, Oklahoma The Reverend H. Tom Drury, performed the ceremony. We lived in a little house in back of dad’s house for quite a while. Emma and I both joined the Free Will Baptist Church.  

Thru the years, from 1868-1897, my parents were blessed with 13 children. Six girls and seven boys, all of who lived to be grown, with the exception of little Annie and a baby boy, Charley Stutson, named for a famous debater. The girls were Mary Ellen, Annie, Martha Rovilla, Abbie, Maggie Lena and Ethel Lillie. The boys were William Smith, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, John Houston, James Robert and Charley Stutson.  

Mother died shortly after little Charley Stutson was born. Emma and I cared for the baby until he passed away, when he was about 10 months old. (Mother died of blood poisoning). We also helped take care of the smaller children. Dad lived until 1911. Grandmother Scroggins Worthy lived with us. She was such a dear old lady. We loved her very much. One of my uncles came and took her to live with him when we moved out west. I have been told she lived with Uncle Billy until her death, and was near 100 when she died.  

My brother Billy began teaching music in 1892 associated with Drs G. F. Root and H. R. Palmer. In 1896 Billy attended Professor S. J. Oslins Norman Music School, at Commerce, Texas. In 1899 he entered the Western Normal College of Music, Dallas, Texas, where he graduated. 

One day before we left the Indian Territory, Mr. Lumpkins and I was looking for some horses that had strayed off. Some men, in an old hack, were driving along in front of us. We let them get ahead a ways. They came to a gate that had to be opened and stopped, and were down, kinda out of sight, as we came up to open the gate. They raised up, with their guns, ready to shoot and asked us what we were looking for. We told them we were “turkey hunting”. This was the famous Dalton Boys!!. Belle Star, the famous outlaw woman was in the hack. They used to come to dad’s farm to buy horses. He raised fine full blood horses, the kind outlaws wanted. They needed fast running horses, to get away, after a hold-up or robbery. 

When our eldest girl was small, and we were having a hard time getting a start, a fellow close by had an old cow that kept getting in my feed corn, etc. I was getting pretty aggravated. I caught her in my feed one day, so I picked up a good sized flint rock and threw it at her. I just wanted to run her back where she belonged. The rock hit just the right place to burst her skull. She dropped dead in her tracks. I hitched a mule to her and drug her back in a pasture off the road.  

A few days later another neighbor came over. He said, “I-Jacks, my hogs sure are getting fat!” I was sure glad to hear it. I knew they must be eating that old cow. I’m sure he knew it too. I had no idea that rock would kill that cow. I was very young and scared of what the owner might think or do, so I just dragged her off out of sight. I have often wondered if the owner ever knew what happened to his cow. As well as I can remember now, she belonged to Will Evans. Too bad he didn’t keep his cows at home.


Chapter 11 Texmo  

Texmo was the largest town in this area, between the Washita and Canadian Rivers, before the turn of the century. Jim Parks was sent to Northeastern Roger Mills County as U S Land Commissioner. He laid off a town site and since his wife was from Texas, and he from Missouri, they called the town Texmo. The town grew and prospered under Territorial Government, having a wide trade territory that extended from Cheyenne, on the southwest side to Rhea on the north east side. Weatherford was the nearest railroad town, from which supplies were hauled in horse drawn wagons, called freighters. Later the Rock Island railway reached Elk City, which was much closer. In this new town civic, religious and cultured life was carried on. Educational foundations were sternly laid. Texmo had a weekly newspaper called the Texmo Times, published by J. H. Hankins and later by Al Bradshaw, whose wife, Effie, was postmistress.  

Main street had the usual businesses found in any town; Parks Hotel + General Store (John Wesley Holmes) + General Telephone Office + Cotton Exchange Bank (Mr. Wheatcroft - C A Hoor - Austin Good, owners), the cashier was J R Mullins + Drug Store, owned by Dr. Frank W. Allen - operated by A. A. Butler, who was killed in the Leedey tornado, 1947 + Lumber yards (Billy Wells & Sherm Sturgess) + Dry Goods and General Clothing (R. J. Ratliff & Ballis Martin) + Grocery Store (John Dick) + Ratliff Store. Attorneys; Gip Moore & T. L Turner. Francis Crow ran a loan office. The Grist Mill & Livery was owned by Dan Sailing. Gellie Garwood had a wagon yard and rooming house, where travelers, drummers, salesmen, etc. were put up, run by Charley Rector. At different times by W. N. “Buddy” Edwards and Gip Moore. Blacksmith shop, Tin Shop and cotton gin, by Al “Happy” and Ed Smith. Carpenters who lived in or near the town photographer. A Baptist and Methodist Church held their Services, Reverend H. C. Gullege officiated at weddings. The four room schoolhouse was educational home to the youth of Texmo. It was built with a stage and used for community gatherings, plays and traveling shows. 

Dr. Frank W. Allen had just graduated from a school in Virginia, who, with his young bride, Mary, a nurse, decided to “go west” and lend their services to the hardy pioneers. He never spared himself, or his horse, when he received a call that someone was ill. Often he carried his pill bag on horseback, when roads were impassable for his buggy, knowing he would not receive money for his call. Sometimes he was paid with salt pork, chickens, eggs, grain and even wild game.  

A natural bridge a few hundred yards south of town, and west of the Whitson place was the favorite spot for picture taking and picnics. The bridge is still there but it has had years of silt accumulation.


Chapter 12 Rhea 

Rhea was only a wide road in the road, so to speak, however, the cattle trail can still be seen just west of Rhea Cemetery. John Campbell had the first store and post office, selling supplies to cowboys driving cattle from Texas to the railroad in Kansas. Emma’s sister Camilla and her husband Jesse Morgan Parnell and family lived up the creek from the Campbell family. Bud Parnell had a gristmill, where the neighbors took their corn to be ground into meal. A Star Route brought mail to Rhea, then to Leedey. Anyone could put up a wooden box and the carrier would deliver the mail. A man named Fulbright was the first carrier. Later my wife’s uncle, George Cash, carried the mail. He was so accurate the people on his route could set their timepiece by him.


Chapter 13 Osceola and Moorewood 

Osceola was named for Chief Osceola, a Seminole Indian. We rode a horse there every week or 2 to pick up the mail, when we first moved to the homestead. At the turn of the century Osceola was the largest town in Custer County. It was quite a bustling little place until the railroad by passed it. Then it slowly died. It was located on Barnitz Creek. In its time it boasted 2 general stores, post office, drug store, cotton gin, hotel, school, several churches and saloons. A large Baptist Church was just across the road, east of the cemetery, where our 3 little ones and Grandmother Robinson are buried.  

My brother Billy first married Leuvinia Lewis, after her death he married her niece, Dolly Rogers. Later, while living in Osceola and working at Tharpe’s General Store, he met and married Minnie Belle Absher, 1902, niece of Dr. John R. Absher, the frontier doctor and owner of the drug store.  

In the early 1900’s there was a small town by the name of Moorewood, got its name from 2 families. The Moores on the north and the Woods on the south. On the Woods side there was the railroad depot, the grain elevator, the general store and schoolhouse. On the Moore side was the gristmill, the blacksmith shop, a general and hardware store, bank, Baptist Church, Masonic Lodge, and a hotel. About all that is left now is the Masonic Lodge, on the north, elevator and depot on the south. Everett Moore, grandson of the Moore family, now owns a good bottom farm that did belong to the Wood family. 

The Masonic Lodge, at Texmo, was formed and organized by my brother Billy. It later moved to Moorewood, called the Texmo Lodge # 156 AF and AM. I joined this lodge, was initiated May 9, 1914, passed June 6, 1914 and raised July 4, 1914, still a member, a 32nd degree Mason. Located about 5 miles east of Moorewood. 

After we moved to the east side of the farm, on the section line, they built a road through, close to our house. We had another post office, named Bell. Henry Jones ran this combined store and post office. Dr. George Lee went to this area and put in the post office. Finas Woods said he would donate 2 acres of land if they would name it after his wife, whose name was Bell. It was there about 3 years before it burned down. 

Last of all, we got a post office at Butler, which still serves the people of that area. Butler is about 18 miles southeast of the old homestead. Our little daughter Averil Lee, who died in infancy, was named for Dr. George Lee. He was the doctor who delivered out eldest granddaughter, Ora Lee Bollinger. 

One day Mr. Lumpkins, his son Roy, Henry Jones, Gene Lewis and I went to cut posts for our fence, across the Canadian River, about 40 miles. It was pretty warm, a light rain was falling. We had finished loading our wagons when a man came by and told is there was a headrise coming down the river. Gene and I decided to unload our post and leave there. Mr. Lumpkins and Henry decided to stay until morning. Gene and I crossed the river, then took the wrong road, came to a dead end, had to turn around. Just as we found the right road Mr. Lumpkins and Henry came along, so we followed them. We reached the Bar X Ranch just at nightfall. We had to take chunks of burning wood to thaw the snaps and buckles on the harness to get them off. It came a big snowstorm and snowed all night. Gene and I would have frozen to death if we hadn’t found the other 2 men. We made it on in home the next day, without my posts. About 10 days later we went back for them but someone had beaten me to it. More posts to cut. We started back home but was caught in another snowstorm. Got as far as old Leedey and spent the night. Went home the next day. 

Some of the posts were in deep canyon, we had to pull them out with log chains and mules. It was government land that the posts were on. I believe some of those posts are still standing on the old homestead. 

Leedey was named after Amos Leedey, a Baptist preacher. The finest doctor in Rhea was Granville Speers. Our son was named after him, Granville. Dr. Frank W. Allen moved his drugstore to Leedey. He had a Maxwell automobile. Dr. Dobson was also at Rhea. Dr. W. Ezra Saba moved to Leedey, fresh out of medical school, some years before the railroad came. He was always laughing and joking, telling about when he was running a drug store. This was one of his favorites; “Companies were always sending him samples. He had a jug behind the counter, and when he was unable to identify some of the drugs, he would just pour them into this jug. When someone came in whose case he could not diagnose, he would give them a dose out of this jug!”


Chapter 14 Coyotes Howl 

I did a lot of trapping after I moved to western Oklahoma, a few years back , when I was younger, able to walk and carry a lot of traps. Setting traps is hard work, lot more than people realize. But trapping was a sport I really enjoyed, better than eating. Everyone who knows me knows how I enjoy eating. Trapping was a hobby for me. Custer County claims to raise more coyotes than any other county in Oklahoma. The coyote is a very smart and cunning animal. Smart about not getting caught in a trap. They are the hardest of all animals to trap. I had quite an experience, one day, when I went to my traps. I had caught a large police dog in one. I was nearly 5 miles from home, it was snowing. I only had one bullet for my 22. I shot and killed the dog, but I couldn’t get him out of the trap. I had to take a knife and cut his leg off at the joint. I threw the dog in a deep canyon, then had to carry the trap home, with the dog’s leg in it. Another time I caught a bulldog. I roped him and put a gunnysack over his head to try and get him out. The sack slipped off and he jumped for my throat. Lucky I had a good hold on that rope, close to his head. I could jerk his head so he couldn’t bite me. That’s all that saved me from that that dog. Heard later that he was a vicious dog, came up from Texas. I am as much afraid of a dog as I am of a bear, anyway. There was a fence near the traps. Finally I got the rope around a post, pulled the dog up there and shot him 3 times knocked him in the head 3 or 4 times, then threw him in an old abandoned cistern. Can you just imagine how scare I really was?  

Once I had caught a coyote. He pulled the stob up and went to the canyon where it was sandy, and I trailed him where he was dragging the trap. The trail gave out. I backtracked until I found a thicket. I knew he had gone in there. I poked the gun in first, then went in. He had his mouth open, right at me. This greeting didn’t look so good to me, either. I have carried several home alive, always wore a thick leather jacket. A few times I have been bitten thru it. The small ones make cute pets, however I could never convince my wife of that. She did hate coyotes. They had feasted on so many of her chickens and even pet cats that she had. When coyotes grow older they will go back wild, anyway. A coyote is smart enough that, if he is tied with a long rope, he will go back to the stob that he is tied to, wait for a chicken to come close, then he will have enough loose rope to catch it. Now don’t tell me that that isn’t plenty smart.  

Coyotes will snap at anything he sees. I was trapping about 3 miles east of Moorewood. Everyone had to pen their chickens and turkeys because the coyotes were so thick. I trapped there for quite a while. After so many coyotes have been killed, the others will stop bothering for a long, long while. I was out hunting one night. It was awfully dark and I stepped off into space, off a 6 foot cliff. It was sandy, that was about all that saved me.  

I had a pard that lived at Leedey, named Merle Stewart. We hunted and trapped together for several years, day in and day out, in the winter time. This particular time we were at Blackbull Crossing, during coyote trapping, also hunting smaller game. Hunting along the river bottom, we found a horse tied there, with a Winchester tied to the saddle. We went around the horse and back to our camp. Three or four nights later we went back there, in the ole Model T. As we came to the bridge there was a post in the road, right at the bridge. We went down the road a little ways when came to another horse, with a Winchester tied to the saddle. We moved on. I told Merle, “There’s that horse over there again, with the Winchester tied to him.” He answered, “Hell that’s nothing! There is a man on my side with a Winchester on ME!!” We expected to get shot any minute. These men had a whiskey still on the east side of the bridge. They put the post out to keep cars from crossing and catching them at work. Since we had walked across they let us go. Also we were headed in the opposite direction.


Chapter 15 Who’s Dat 

After I was a grown young man, I was driving a herd of cattle from McGee to western Oklahoma. I went thru Purcell, going north thru a lane, when I met about 8 colored men, with about 500 cattle, 5 and 6 year old steers. I rode right into the middle of them. straight into the herd. Of course I just had to swing back in with them, cut south until we came to the next road going west, cut my cattle out. It was sure some stunt for an old cattle driver to pull. I sure felt silly. The Negroes didn’t look too happy, having my herd mixed with theirs either.  

In the fall of 1899, after we had moved to the homestead, I went back to McGee to drive Gene’s cattle thru for him, when they were moving to their homestead. I drove my own thru as well. I had to leave them at the time we moved, until I could get shelters made to house them in for the winter. Emma’s uncle, George Cash, a crippled fellow, went along to help me drive the cattle. He was partially paralyzed from being thrown from a horse, when he was a young fellow. While driving the cattle thru we found a place to camp. George, Gene and I went looking for wood. When he came back a colored woman was there. She had Gene’s wife about scared to death. She told us we were on her land and couldn’t camp there unless we paid her 25cents a head for the cattle. She was afraid they would eat her corn. I asked her if they had gathered the corn and she said, “No”. We stayed, but we didn’t sleep. Sat in the wagons all night, with our guns ready. It was a real mean place. Someone had killed a woman’s husband shortly before. We were right in the middle of an all Negro Settlement. The next morning I went to her house and knocked on her door. She said, “Who’s dat?” I asked her to sell me some corn. She told me to go into the barn, Louis James was down there, and he would sell me some. I asked him if he had all the corn gathered and he said, “Yes, yes, all gathered.” So you see that old colored sister lied to me about not having the corn gathered in order to collect the money on the cattle, that she knew couldn’t possibly break in and eat the corn, that wasn’t there! 

We went on to Walnut Creek about 4 miles northeast of Weatherford. There was a Quarantine Line from Arkansas to Texas, east and west. There was only one man, on a horse, to run that line. We couldn’t find that man so we just roped and threw the cattle, got the ticks off. We had to repeat this every three days for 2 months. Never did find that inspector. Finally we just went around Weatherford and on to our homestead. 

Gene and Fannie had filed on a homestead, just north, joining mine, built a house not far from ours. We built a little store on his property and ran it for quite a while. It was a very small general store. Later I bought him out. He moved back to Indian Territory, stayed a little while, then returned to his homestead. I believe they lived there until about 1911, then moved back to Stratford, to stay.  

After we moved to the east side of our homestead I put out a large orchard, and we raised the largest orchard of any one around. Everything seemed to grow. People from far and near came to get fruit to can for the winter. We had several varieties of peaches, plums, apples, grapes and cherries. Emma worked hard, putting fruit and vegetables for the winter months.  

I raised hogs, and as soon as the weather got cold enough we would butcher from one to three hogs for the winter. I built a little smokehouse. We would have the meat up on rafters, cut green limbs, build a fire under the meat, smoke it a week or so to cure it out, salt the hams and pack them in a large meat box, in one end of the smokehouse. Before we could eat all the meat some of it got pretty strong. Emma always made a lot of it up into sausage, headcheese, souse, etc. as well as rendering lard out of the fat pieces. She made all of our lye soap to wash our clothes. Waste fat and lye made real good soap.  

We had to hang out clothes on bushes and barbed wire fences before we had clotheslines. We also made cottage cheese from clabbered milk. In those days people used about everything they had. They had to save everything they could to make ends meet and to feed their families. We milked our cows, churned our butter, with an old type churn with a wooden dasher that we worked up and down until the cream turned into butter. I also dug a storm cellar, which served as a storage place for our fruit and vegetables, as well as refuge from the storms. In the spring and summer we had a lot of these storms. IN fact, a few of these tornados got a little too close for comfort. We have spent many a night in the dugout, waiting for the storm clouds to pass our house, until we felt safe enough to go back to the house. The pioneer days were rough and lots of hard work, but we were young then, and enjoyed it. Always looking forward to better times.

Chapter 16 The New Deal

I worked on the W P A Project for a while. I had to get up real early and ride horseback to the project. It sure did get cold sometimes. Part of the time I had to ride 6 or 7 miles, back and forth. It I was a minute late they would dock my pay, but it didn’t seem to make any difference if I worked much or not, once I got there. They did some good work, some of the concrete culverts are still good. (1966) 

It was during these years when I was still living on the farm, they came out with what they called. “The New Deal”. To me it seemed more like a very rotten deal. The people were having a hard time getting by as it was. Some were almost near starvation. No one had very much money, or anything else. Then came the work to kill our cattle. A man came out from Elk City, and told my neighbors, 6 or 7 miles around, to bring their cattle and put them in my corral. Then the “Big Guy”, from Elk City, got in the corral and shot the cattle. They were falling all over each other, and bawling. Blood was running out of the corral. When he would shoot a calf, with that big gun, it would almost knock the calf thru the fence. The people were not allowed to eat the meat. We couldn’t even save the hides. We took a team of horses and drug the dead cattle off for the coyotes to eat. At the same time the New Deal had us kill all our baby pigs just as soon as they were born.  

They had the New Deal on the cotton, too. They selected a committee of 3 men; W. E. Britton, Art Burnett and myself. They sent us a list of all the people in our township, listing how much cotton each farmer could plant. We were to go and tell them how much they were allowed. If they planted more they just had to plow it under. Then they sent us to tell them how much lint they were allowed. If they got too much they couldn’t sell it. This was our New Deal, they told us, but to us poor farmers, IT SMELLED!!


Chapter 17 The Wind Blows Free 

On the 29th March 1939 we had a real bad dust storm. We had many of these in our early years in Western Oklahoma. This one the dirt was so deep, in the house, we had to take shovels to get it out. It covered everything, got in our food and everything we had. That year I ate enough dirt to last a lifetime. At times the dust was in our eyes until we could hardly see, and in our lungs so we could hardly breathe. We would take damp rags and lay over our faces to keep from inhaling so much dust. We would almost choke when we tried to sleep. When we had to go outside to do the chores we tied rags around our mouth and nose. The sand blew so hard it cut into the flesh. The dust killed the crops in several counties in Western Oklahoma. I have seen my share of sandstorms and snowstorms in this area. 

We had a real bad snowstorm in 1919. Emma and the two small children had gone to Stratford to visit our families. I had to drive to Moorehead to meet their train on their return home. I couldn’t see the road, the snow was so deep. It covered the fences along the way and I just had to drive along on top of the fence. Another great snowstorm came one night when it wasn’t too cold and windy. The cattle were in the pasture about a half mile from the barn. They bedded down where they were instead of coming into the shelter. When I went to see about them the next morning, the snow had covered them up. Only their noses were sticking out. I had to shovel them out. On several occasions the hogs would be covered with snow if they were in a low place.  

When we went to Floss, 35 miles, or Elk City, 45 miles, or Weatherford, it would take 3 or 4 days to make the trip if there wasn’t any snow. A week, it we were caught in a storm. Those were the days of horse and wagon, sometimes called “The Good Old Days.” 

We had one blowing snow April 6, 1938. There were 200 head of cattle frozen to death in one field close to Arapahoe. When the wind and snow is blowing the cattle will start drifting south. When they come to a fence they will just stand there until they freeze.  

One experience I had, some 40 odd years ago, I guess it has been long enough now that I dare tell it. One Sunday my wife’s nephew and his family came to spend the day. I had just traded for a different Model T car. The nephew wanted to try it out, so we got in. He was driving. The neighbors had gone to church that morning. As we drove by their farm an old sow jumped out of the weeds and ran right in front of the car. The crank handle hit her, and went completely thru her. As soon as the neighbor returned home we went over to help butcher the sow, knowing she would die anyway. I guess we were just too chicken, or plain ashamed, to explain what had happened. Mrs. ---- thought the old cow had hooked the sow. She told us she had been after her husband for a long time to de-horn that cow and he wouldn’t do it, and now it had torn the guts out of the old sow. She asked us to help butcher, but we were able to put her insides back in place, sewed up the wound and she did just fine. We stayed and helped him de-horn the cow. I still smile when I think of it. I had a lot of things happen to me in my 91 years on this earth, but this one really stands out in memory. 

I had always been told to cure a bloated cow was to count two ribs back then stick a butcher knife in her to let the gas out of her pouch. Well I had been to the dentist to get me a new set of pearly white teeth, set in solid gold. The dentist guaranteed them. He had an awful hard time getting them made. Had his wife around helping him, him cussing considerably until she became embarrassed and walked out, leaving him to finish the job alone. Anyway, I had a cow bloat up so I proceeded to jam the butcher knife in her. She hauled off and kicked my new teeth out. Just ruined them, beside s busting my mouth to rip. Being that my new teeth were guaranteed, I returned to the dentist. He said, “It looks like you would have known better than to chew on hard candy. I didn’t tell him what had really happened. He replaced my teeth, but he was awfully mad.


Chapter 18 My Headache 

Charley Fisher lived in Moorewood, operated the post office and depot. He asked if we would like to move to his ranch, near Moorewood, and look after his stock. We had sold our homestead to our son, Bill, and had decided to move by ourselves anyway. We moved in 1939 just after the cattle slaughtering.  

We were getting along just fine until one night I took a bad headache. I got up thinking I knew where Emma kept her baking soda, a remedy I used for headaches. Emma had either moved the soda. or I was mistaken about where it was. To make a long story short, I got hold of a box of sodium fluoride. Emma had this on hand to dust her baby chicks to get rid of mites. Yep, you guessed it. I took a big teaspoon of the stuff. Since I had not lit the kerosene lamp I hadn’t noticed what I was taken. I swallowed it, started back to the bedroom and fell on the floor right close to a crate of eggs. Emma heard the crash and wanted to know what had happened. I told her I had taken some soda, but it didn’t taste like soda. She guessed, at once, what I had done, jumped out of bed and started breaking eggs. She poured them down me as long as she could get me to open my mouth, then she helped me get up. I took one step and fell across the bed. This time I couldn’t get up. I told her to go for help about a half mile through the pasture along a trail. A big frost was on the ground and it was bitter cold. Emma had never been on this trail and it was about 10 PM or so. She had two creeks to cross, there was also a big white faced bull in the pasture that would chase every woman he saw. Besides being afraid of that bull, the neighbors had two dogs that would bite. Emma was a stranger and was expecting to be bitten. The moon was out and shining bright, helping her find the trail. It must have taken a lot of courage for her to go, as she didn’t expect to find me alive when she returned. I was already unconscious, no telephone or any way to call a doctor. When we are put to a test we can, and will, do a lot of things we don’t think we could ever do. Will Rogers, his wife and three daughters were the neighbors. Mr. Rogers was in bed sick. The girls had gone to Butler to a dance, about 20 miles away. She and Emma came back to our house. I was bent over double with cramps, my arms and legs were drawn up. Mrs. Rogers milked the cow and poured the milk down me until I began to vomit it up. The raw eggs had collected the poison. Later two of the Rogers girls came to help. The other stayed to guide the doctor to our place. They were pulling my arms and legs, straightening them all the time.  

Dr. Ezra Saba came out about 2 am and sat there until morning. He said the raw eggs had saved my life. They had collected the poison keeping it out of the bloodstream. He gave me some white powder (slippery elm I imagine, an old time method). It could have been something left from his little jug under the counter? Ha! Anyway, a tablespoon every 4 hours would put a new lining in my stomach. The doctor admitted that the eggs had saved my life, but I would have died anyway, had it not been for the white power. He was kind on expecting my stomach to be part paralyzed anyway and that not one in 50 million survived so much sodium fluoride.


Chapter 19 Our Offspring 

After we moved to our homestead there were 5 more children added to our household; a girl Averil Lee, a boy, Roy Houston and a girl who would have been called Ethel. They all died very young and are buried in Osceola Cemetery. The twin sister to Ethel, named Mary Edith, is married to Elmer Andrew Holmes, the proud mother of 3 girls and 2 boys. Our youngest child, William Granville Byford, lives on the old homestead, Route 1, Butler, Oklahoma, married to the former Leone Mae Mullins. They have one son, Billy Vern. The two girls that moved to the farm with us, in the covered wagon, were Beulah and Era. Beulah Rovilla married Elbert Henry Bollinger. Beulah passed away February 1, 1922 and is buried in Fairlawn Cemetery, Oklahoma City, three daughters and two sons. Era Mae married Olin Ray Webb, 2 girls and 2 boys. I make my home with Era Mae at present. I have 31 grand and great grandchildren, and 14 great-great grandchildren. As of 1965. 

Emma and I moved to Oklahoma City about 1955. Emma passed away September 19, 1961. We laid her to rest in Sunny Lane Cemetery Oklahoma City, 21st day of September. 

My eldest grandson, Bill Bollinger and his wife Ann came to Emma’s funeral and asked me to go stay with them for a while. They do photography work, traveling in every state. To get away from my grief and sorrow I decided to go with them. We left the next day after the funeral, first going to Flagstaff Arizona, 900 miles, checked into a hotel about 1 am. About 2 AM someone came down the hall knocking on the doors, yelling that the hotel was on fire. When they opened my door the smoke was so thick it nearly got the best of me. Being a person never to be caught without a hat, I grabbed my hat and headed for the lobby. I left my clothes, shoes and everything but what I was wearing, but I had my hat. A big man came into the lobby, wearing only his shorts, and a six shooter in his hand. Said he wanted to check in if he could find a room that wasn’t on fire. The cops came after him and took him away.  

I have been a friendly, talkative person all my life and I met and talked to a lot of people this trip. A never to be forgotten time. I saw many things I had never dreamed of. I’ve been glad that I was able to go on that trip, able to enjoy it, for it was to be my last trip.


Chapter 20 The Twilight Zone 

I had always picked and sold dewberries every summer and on that year (1963), May 31, I had been picking berries. It was pretty hot that day. After supper I was watching TV, when I realized I wasn’t feeling as well as I should. I told Era I didn’t think I could make it to my bedroom so she took hold of me to help me up. My feet dragged and she had a terrible time getting me into bed. All thru the night she would come see about me and find me turned around in bed. I suppose I had been trying to get up. The next day I picked a few berries. My brother-in-law and his wife came over and we tried to play some dominoes, but I could hardly hold anything in my left hand. The dominoes would slide thru my fingers to the floor. In the evening Edith came over and stayed all night. We tried to play dominoes but I couldn’t see very well, and my tongue felt thick. I mumbled badly when I tried to speak and my mouth drooped on the left side. I knew there was some berried to pick so I went out and tried again. The sun was hot and I kept getting slower and slower. I went to the house and sat down. The girls kept telling me to forget the berries.  

Monday morning I was still not improved and the girls took me to Dr. Diehl’s office in Mayfair Shopping Center. My blood pressure was way too high. Not long before this it had been low. All my life I had had low blood pressure, so everyone was shocked to know that my pressure was now high. High enough for a stroke. I also had hardening of the arteries, so the doctor told us that as soon as a bed was available I would have to go to the hospital. I entered Deaconess Hospital June 7, 1963 and stayed until the 21st. From there I went to Edith’s and stayed until July 21st then returned to Era’s. I guess I got too hot riding in the car, too much heat on my head as I went to bed as soon as I got home. Later, when I tried to get up I fell on the floor. It was another stroke and I was back in the hospital the next day, in an ambulance, there until the 1st of August. I couldn’t stand on my feet or feed myself. The doctor said I should go to a Nursing Home, took me by ambulance to what they call a “Rest Home”. It wasn’t what I would have called very restful. The rooms were dark and gloomy. They had outside ventilating blinds that looked just like the bars on a jailhouse. I had never been so miserable in my whole life, homesick, disgusted and discouraged. 

The girls told me that as soon as I could walk, even a tiny little bit, enough to get to the bath room, they would come and get me. I didn’t waste any time trying. I told Era to bring my walking stick. I got to where I could get around with a little help and was doing a pretty good job of feeding myself. On the 9th August I had Era call an ambulance for me and I went over to Edith’s house. At that time we didn’t have a cooler at home and no way to break the heat. Since the heat had caused the stroke, I sure didn’t want another one. I certainly didn’t want to go back to that “Twilight Zone,” ever again.  

I was far from being myself, but with a little help, I could go to the bathroom, sit in the living room and eat my meals from a card table. I stayed with Edith until the 25th September, then went back home, to Era’s. 

It has been the same ever since, from one house to the other. Looking back now, I fully believe that if I had gone home, instead of the “Twilight Zone” I would still be an invalid, doubt if I would have tried to walk or feed myself, thinking I couldn’t do it. That by working so hard to get out of that place, it was a blessing in disguise. Goes to prove “god works in mysterious ways. His wonders to perform.” A Miracle of God that I am here, telling you these things. I get around very well in the house, and when the weather is warm I sit under a shade tree, look around at the beautiful world and listen to the songs of the birds I love so well. I am thankful, so many people, at 91 are bedfast, just from old age.  

My last trip to the hospital was in July 1965. I stayed 2 weeks. I don’t mind going to the hospital, the doctors and nurses were all good to me. We should appreciate doctors like my Dr. Diehl.  

I guess this is the end of my stories. I wish anyone who reads these pages the very best.


Thomas Jefferson Byford.



This book was copyrighted 1966