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..............
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)
1 A Lad Called Spooner
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.
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.
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.
2 Westward Ho!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
3 Bear Tales
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
4 Pen Pals
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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,
5 The Black Crow
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.
6 On To Old McGee, Indian Territory
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
7 Old Mud Head
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.
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.
8 More Indian Tales
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.
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.
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.
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.
10 The Last Frontier
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
9 The Knot Was Tied
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
13 Osceola and Moorewood
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
14 Coyotes Howl
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?
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.
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.
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
15 Who’s Dat
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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!!
17 The Wind Blows Free
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
18 My Headache
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.
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.
19 Our Offspring
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
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.
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.
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.
20 The Twilight Zone
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
guess this is the end of my stories. I wish anyone who reads these pages the
This book was