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´╗┐Title: The Life of Me; an autobiography
Author: Johnson, Clarence Edgar, 1906-1994
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Life of Me; an autobiography" ***

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Clarence Edgar Johnson

Copyright 1978

  Clarence Edgar Johnson
  2538 Chestnut
  San Angelo, Texas 76901



  Ima, my wife

  Virgil Dennis, our first son

  David Larry, our youngest son

  and especially to our late daughter,
  Anita Joyce.



1.  Grandparents, Parents, And Our First Farm
2.  Early Childhood At The Flint Farm
3.  At The Exum Farm After I Was Five
4.  Social Living, Loving, Listening, And Learning
5.  Books, Folklore, Medicine, And Dreams
6.  Prosperity, Animals, Growing Up
7.  Dry Year On The Texas Plains, 1917
8.  Moved To Jones County.  Picked Cotton In Oklahoma
9.  Back To Our Lamesa Farm In 1919.  School At Ballard
10. Sold Farm, Moved To Hamlin
11. Road Work At Gorman, Texas
12. My Inventions And High School Days
13. My Travels To The Gulf, McCamey, And Denver
14. Haul Maize, Repair Trucks, Turn Trucks Over
15. Got Married, Drove Truck, Farmed, Cattle Drive
16. At Royston Until World War II
17. World War II Was On. We Went to California
18. Back At Royston. Worked At Gin And For Neighbors
19. Tour Pike's Peak, Moved To Arkansas, Went To College


This writing grew out of a request from my daughter, Anita, that
I write to her concerning me, my family, my parents and their
families; how we lived, how we grew up; our ideals, our customs,
and our social life.

The original writings were in the form of letters written to
Anita during the last few years.  When my sons, Dennis and Larry,
learned of the letters, they also asked for copies.

As I began writing, I soon realized that I knew very little about
the details of the lives of my parents and grandparents.

So I set out to tell my children a few things about myself and to
leave unmentioned some things which I do not want them to know
about me.  I also included some things about a few kinfolks and
neighbors who had a part in molding the character whom my
children now refer to as "Dad."

It was hoped that the letters would aid in their better
understanding of how certain teachings and ideals had been handed
down through generations, and that they might better understand
why they grew up under those rules and customs.

Others also may be interested in the way one family lived in the
Southwest around the turn of the century and later.

                          Clarence Edgar Johnson

(Drawing) The house where I was born

(Photo) Smokehouse at the Flint farm.   Clarence, Earl, Joel,
Albert, and Susie.

(Photo) Our Exum home

(Photo) The lake by our front yard

(Photo) Sunday morning, going to church

(Photo) At the Exum farm.   Joel, Clarence, Earl, Albert

(Photo) Our merry-go-round

(Photo) At our home on the plains.   Mama, William Robert, Ollie
Mae, Clarence, Albert, Joel, Earl



My Johnson grandparents reared nine children.  Andrew was the
oldest and was a half brother to the other eight.  Joe was
Grandma's first born, second was my father, William Franklin.
All but one of them lived and thrived and raised children.
That's why I have dozens of cousins.

When my father was born, the family lived in Bosque County,
Texas, somewhere about Meridian.  They were ranchers and owned a
bunch of cattle.  Some 20 years later we find the family in
Concho County somewhere near Paint Rock or in between Paint Rock
and where the little town of Melvin now stands.

At least two of the boys, Joe and Will, worked for the Melvin
brothers on their ranch.  I have heard Papa tell of breaking
saddle horses for the brothers as well as trail driving near San

In the meantime the weather turned dry, grass became scarce, and
the Johnsons drove their cattle to Indian Territory, (Oklahoma)
looking for grass in about the year of 1894--that is, all but
Joe.  He stayed with his job in Texas.

About a year after the family moved to Oklahoma, Will Johnson got
a neighbor boy to go with him back to their place in Texas to
bring another wagon load of household goods.  They were gone
about two weeks.

While the family was in Oklahoma, Will--who was about 20--taught
school two terms at Nubbin Ridge, somewhere near Duncan.
Simpson, being about 17 at the time, was not about to go to
school to a teacher who was his older brother, so he saddled his
horse and slipped away back to Melvin's ranch, to be with his
brother Joe.  He said he got tired of riding but not nearly as
tired as his horse.  The journey was about 300 miles.  He was on
the trail three days and nights and had to stop at times to let
his horse rest.  When he got to the ranch, Joe wrote to the
family saying that Simpson was with him and for them not to
worry.  They had suspected where he had gone but were not sure.

My Gaddie grandparents reared five children, three boys and two
girls.  Emma, my mother, was next to the youngest.  Hugh was her
younger brother.  When my mother was born the family lived in
Larue County, Kentucky, near Hodgensville.  Their farm joined the
Lincoln farm.  She and Abraham Lincoln drew water from the same
well but not at the same time.  The Lincoln family had moved away
some years before the Gaddies moved there.  The well was on the
fence row between the two farms.

When Emma was four years old her family moved to Dallas County,
Texas.  Then they moved to Grayson County, where Emma started to
school at age seven.  When she was nine they moved back to their
old home place in Kentucky.  Again, when she was 13, they moved
to Dallas County, and at age 16 the family moved to a farm some
eight miles southeast of Duncan, Oklahoma.

About the same time the Gaddie family moved to their farm near
Duncan, we find the Johnson family leaving Texas where the
weather turned dry and the grass became scarce and the Johnsons
drove their cattle to Indian Territory looking for grass, and
they found that grass near Duncan, Oklahoma.

They stayed in Oklahoma about four years and during that time at
least two of the boys were busy at things other than sitting
around watching cattle grow.  Andrew had married a girl named
Mary, and Will had met this pretty little freckle faced girl from

So then, as you can see, here in farming and cattle country near
Duncan is where the Johnsons met up with the Gaddies.  This is
where a schoolteaching cowboy named Will met a country farmer's
daughter named Emma Lee.  This is where the falling in love took
place.  And this is where Will married Emma in the fall of 1896.
She was 18, he was 22.  They were my parents.

After living in Oklahoma that four years, Grandpa Johnson went
back to Texas looking for land to buy.  He found what he wanted
and bought 1,000 acres of unimproved land in Jones County about
three miles southeast of Hamlin.  Then he went back to Oklahoma
to get the family.

So by the time Grandpa Johnson was ready to start his journey
back to Texas with his family, the family had increased by two
daughters-in-law and two grandchildren.  Will and Emma had a son,
Frank, six weeks old.  Andrew and Mary had a daughter, Ruth, only
three weeks old.  Some thought that Ruth was too young to make
the trip in the cold of winter.  But they all came through in
wagons and drove their cattle.  That was in January of 1898.

In later years Mama told me that she thought she would have
frozen to death if it had not been for Frank in her lap to help
keep her warm.  The trip took two weeks in the dead of winter and
it rained every day of the trip.

Since there were no improvements on the Johnson land, they all
rented other farms for a year or two while they made
improvements.  Papa and Mama rented and farmed one year in Fisher
County.  Much of the well water in that county tastes so strongly
of gypsum that people have to haul their drinking water from the
better wells.  So, the story is told that when they were driving
their covered wagon to Fisher County, they stopped and asked a
man, "How far is it to Fisher County?"

The man said, "You are still about ten miles away."

"How can we tell when we get there?"

"You will see farmers hauling water in barrels in wagons."

"Have they always had to haul water in Fisher County?"

"Yes, but during the World Flood they didn't have to haul it so
far.  The flood water came within a half-mile of Roby."

I guess Grandpa farmed at least one year in Fisher County.  They
tell me that Ed, one of the younger boys, went to school in that
county at White Pond one year.

Grandpa had bought the l,000 acres for all the family.  Andrew
and Will were the first ones to buy their portions of 100 acres
each.  The raw land had cost $3 an acre.  Papa's farm cost him

Papa was fast becoming a good carpenter and he did his part in
helping build a two-story house on Grandpa's portion of the land.
The house is still in good shape and has a family living in it 77
years later.

Andrew first lived in a dugout on his 100 acres.  They used the
dugout for a kitchen and storm cellar many years after they built
a house beside it.

Papa's land was in the southeast corner of the 1,000 acre tract.
He built his house about a quarter-mile south of Grandpa's house.
It is still standing also.  Since that time some of the Johnson
boys and girls have bought and sold and swapped portions of the
land.  But most of it is still in the hands of the Johnson boys
and girls or their sons and daughters.

After farming in Fisher County in the year of 1898, Papa moved to
a farm in Jones County, a mile northeast of Neinda, and farmed
there in 1899.  And there, in a half-dugout, my sister, Susie,
was born.

Many years later as we would drive by the farm in our hack, on
our way to church at Neinda, our parents would point out the old
dugout and explain, "There is where we used to live."  Year after
year as the old dugout deteriorated and began caving in, we still
went by it on our way to church and there was always something
fascinating about it to us kids as one or more of us would point
to the old dwelling and say, "There's where Mama and Papa used to

During the two years my parents farmed away from their own farm,
they spent many days of hard work driving back and forth,
building a house, clearing some of the land, and building fences
on their land.  And of course they had to have a well drilled and
put up a windmill and water tank.

At the end of that two years, they took their two children and
moved into their new house on the first farm they had ever owned.
And Papa, with the aid of an efficient helpmate, continued to
improve the farm.  They built a big barn and shelters for cows,
hogs, horses, poultry, a hack, buggy, harness, and other things.
And the family continued to grow.  George was born in 1900 and a
daughter in 1901.  George lived 26 months and died with the
croup.  The daughter lived only two weeks.  Earl was born in 1902
and Joel in 1904.  This was the state of the family in 1906, the
year Grandpa died in his home, and the year I was born.  Aunts,
Uncles, and cousins lived on three sides of us, and Grandma lived
in the big house a quarter-mile north of us.

My parents were getting quite a collection of children by this
time.  And it is not always easy to find family hand-me-down
names for that many kids.  So by the time the seventh one arrived
they had to go outside the family for a name.  I don't know how
far out they went but they came back with what I have always
thought was a "far out" name, Clarence Edgar, and they pinned it
on me.  I was born January 11, 1906, in Jones County, West Texas,
in the middle of a large family.  Frank was eight years old when
I was born, Susie was seven, Earl three, and Joel 16 months.
There were three others born later, Albert, Ollie Mae, and
William Robert.  So, as you can see, my parents thrived and grew
rich--if you count children as wealth.  There were ten of us,
eight of whom attained full size and strength.

Five years after I was born, we moved to another farm about a
half-mile east.  Albert was born at the first place we lived and
William Robert was born at the second farm.  I know Ollie Mae was
born sometime in between those two boys, but I don't know where
she was born.  I'm sure it wasn't between the two farms.
Wherever it was, she became one of us and is still with us.

Mama told me that the $300 they paid Grandpa for the farm was the
hardest debt they ever had to pay off.

Money was hard to come by for a young couple just starting out.

Mama also told me all about how her family had moved from
Kentucky to Dallas County, Texas, then again to Grayson County,
then back to Kentucky, then again to Dallas County, and finally
to Oklahoma.

During all this time Mama's younger brother Hugh was trailing
along two years behind her.  They were seven and nine years old
when they moved back to their old home in Kentucky.  There were
200 acres in the farm, and these two kids had four years in which
to explore the meadows, the hills, the streams, and the
woodlands.  There were three springs of water, acres and acres of
wild berries, wild nuts, cherries, peaches, apples, and papaws.
There were many kinds of birds as well as coons and skunks.  And
for delicious food, there were swamp rabbits and opossums.

I was a young boy when Mama first told me that Hugh was her
favorite brother.  It didn't mean much to me at that time.  But
after I was a grown man, she told in detail how she and Hugh had
roamed together over the old farm during those four years, how
they had picked wild berries, and how they had carried them to
the store in Hodgensville and had sold them for ten cents a

Emma's older sister and an older brother had long since married
and lived far away.  Henry was still at home but he was older
than Emma and too busy at other things to be interested in that
kid stuff.  No wonder Hugh was her favorite brother.  They had
played together, explored together, and had grown up together.

When I was young I heard Mama tell that her brother Hugh was shot
to death one day while out on his horse.  I didn't know whether
the Gaddies were living in Kentucky, Texas, or Oklahoma when he
got shot.  When I heard how Hugh had died, I was old enough to
know about Kentucky moonshiners, Texas cattle rustlers, and
Oklahoma desperadoes.  I wondered if any of them had played a
part in his death, but I didn't ask any questions .

Mama told me later that Hugh was a cowboy, had gotten his pay and
was riding home when a man shot him in the back and took his

I was sorry I had ever wondered.

Mama told me that her brother Henry and the blacks around Duncan
were not very friendly toward each other.  At least one time, the
blacks held hands and formed a human chain across the road to
keep Henry from coming by.  But Henry whipped up his horses and
drove right through the crowd.  After that he carried a long
blacksnake whip to use on them if they ever got close to his
wagon again.

Part of the tradition that was handed down to us from the Gaddies
and the Johnsons was that there were only three things to drink--
water, sweet milk, and buttermilk.  You might include clabber if
you like.  But then, clabber was more of an "eat" than a drink.
Soda pop was for the wealthy and foolhardy, and coffee was not
permitted for three reasons:  it cost money, it was unnecessary
and it was not good for you.  Money was for necessities.  Any
drinks stronger than these mentioned were strictly forbidden.

Even the sound of the word "whiskey" carried with it an inkling
of sin and dishonor.  Whiskey without drunkenness was improbable,
and drunkenness was about as low as a person could go.

Mama grew up to hate whiskey because of its effect on men and
because it tasted bad.  However, there was always a jug of it
under her father's bed--for medical use only.  Any symptom of
disease was treated immediately with whiskey.  Mama hated the
taste of it.

Mama told us about a man--perhaps an uncle--who was sick in bed
and who was fond of whiskey.  As he lay in bed, a few friends and
kinfolks stopped by to see him.  And one by one he asked them to
mix him a little toddy.  They did.

And wouldn't you know it, five or six toddies all in one man at
one time made the man forget he was sick on disease and it made
him fairly sick on whiskey which was what he had planned to be.

After I came into the Johnson family, Mama's people lived so far
away I didn't get to know much about them.

We didn't get around to visiting them much.  But I remember we
did go to Duncan one time to visit some of them.  It seems that
the trip was made in about the year of 1916.  We went in our 1914
model Reo car.

I guess I was about ten years old.  I don't remember much about
the people we went to see, but I remember the white rabbits and
prairie dogs they had for pets.  They were running all over the
place.  I suppose it was Uncle Henry's place and I believe the
pets were Leo's, Uncle Henry's son.  Leo was perhaps four years
older than I was--maybe even more.

I think I met Mama's sister and her older brother, Will, a time
or two; I'm not sure.  But Henry was the only one of them I ever
really knew.

Henry and his wife, I think her name was Emma also, came to
Hamlin to visit Mama and Papa a couple of times after I was
married.  Then, when I was attending college in Arkansas, my
wife, Ima, and our youngest son, Larry, and I stopped by to visit
Uncle Henry two or three times.

During one of those visits, Uncle Henry went out into his garage
and took a book from the bottom of an old trunk.  The book was
similar to a ledger, about seven inches wide and ten inches long,
with a flexible cover.  In the book were 54 songs, handwritten
with pen and ink, most of them in my father's hand, a few written
by my mother.

It was my father's book which he had carried to parties and
singings while he lived in Oklahoma.  When he heard a song he
liked, he would write the words in his book of songs.  Other boys
and girls had their books of songs also, including Uncle Henry.

Uncle Henry also had a mother-in-law--or rather, I think it was
his mother-in-law-to-be--who gave him trouble at times.  One time
she got mad at him for some reason and burned his book of songs.
So Papa loaned Henry his song book.

Then the Johnsons moved away to Texas before Henry returned the
book.  When he was through with the book, Henry hesitated to make
a 400 mile round trip in a covered wagon just to return a
borrowed book.  So he didn't return it right away.  He put it
away for safekeeping.  It was forgotten until Henry mentioned it
during a visit to Texas to see Mama and Papa 50 years later

Mama was about 80 years old when Uncle Henry took the book from
the old trunk and asked me to take it to her.  Papa had died many
years before.

I have one copy of those songs and there is a copy of them filed
away at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Neither the Johnsons nor the Gaddies had any part in the Oklahoma
land rush.  That took place in 1889, a few years before either
family arrived in Oklahoma.

I never once saw my Grandma Gaddie.  She passed away in Oklahoma
in 1912.  She suffered a sunstroke and died two weeks later.

Some years after that, Grandpa Gaddie came to live with us in
Texas.  I don't remember exactly when he came, but he passed away
while we were living on the Exum place, and we moved from there
in 1917.  He seemed quite old, maybe old ahead of his time
because of hard work and the severity of life at that time in our

Anyhow, he could do light odd jobs about the farm.  There were
always outside chores to be done.  We kids were glad to have him
help us do them.  And he kept us kids company at times when there
was no work to be done.

But Grandpa was much more of a stranger to us than Grandma
Johnson was.  She lived only a half-mile away; we grew up with
her.  But I guess we hadn't seen Grandpa Gaddie more than once or
twice before he came to live with us.

Grandpa was never much of a bother in any way.  He was never
bedfast and never had to be waited on.  It didn't take much to
feed him.  We raised almost everything we ate and he brought
plenty of clothing with him when he came.  The entire family
didn't require much money, and we had plenty of other things in

Grandpa was agreeable and compatible.  He was never grouchy.  He
had a room and a bed of his own in our home and he soon became
just one of the family and was accepted by all of us.

Then one morning Grandpa didn't come to breakfast.  A knock on
his door brought no answer.  Had he slipped out and gone for a
walk?  No one had noticed him out anywhere.  This was unusual for
Grandpa.  He was usually there on time for meals so the rest of
us wouldn't have to wait for him.  In our home no one ever
started helping his plate at meal time until all were seated and
the blessing was asked.

Papa knocked on Grandpa's door again, then he called to him, but
there was still no answer.  As Mama and Papa opened the door to
his room, there he was, still in bed, still asleep--but he was
not breathing.  It seemed that Grandpa just went to sleep and
didn't wake up.

Papa went to Hamlin that morning in a wagon and brought back a
casket.  The women dressed Grandpa in his best suit.  Some men
went to the graveyard and dug a grave.  Others went to tell the
preacher, and found him plowing in his field.  He stopped plowing
and went home to clean up and eat dinner.

Grandpa was placed in his casket and loaded into a wagon.  Then
about three o'clock we drove him to the Neinda graveyard where
the preacher and other friends were gathered.  And there, that
afternoon, we laid him away in his final resting place.

It's amazing sometimes, how a very little thing can stick in the
memory of a little boy, and that's the way it was this time, just
a simple little statement made by an older brother one morning--a
couple of mornings after we had buried Grandpa.  Four of us boys
slept in the west room of our home, the room usually referred to
as "the boys room."  We boys were getting out of bed and getting
dressed when Frank said, "Well, Grandpa's in heaven by now."
That was all he said.  That was enough.  After that, an air of
reverence filled the room.  And as we finished dressing, we left
the room one by one, in complete silence.  Frank had no way of
knowing how much I honored and respected him for that little
statement and the thought that went with it.  I was too young and
timid to know how to tell him.

That's about all of my childhood memories concerning the Gaddies.
In later years I had a desire to learn more about my mother's
people.  But as I began digging into census records, I soon found
that Grandma Gaddie had a first cousin by the name of Jesse
-yes, that's right--"The" Jesse James.  So my desire suddenly
changed to fear and I gave up digging into records.



The first farm we owned, the one where I was born, is still
spoken of as the Flint place, because we sold it to a family
named Flint.  So at times I may refer back to it as the Flint

Since I was only five when we moved away from the Flint place, I
remember only a few things which took place while we lived there.

I remember we had old hens that laid eggs for us to go gather up
and take to the house in a bucket.  Sometimes the bucket would
get so heavy I couldn't carry it.  And sometimes we had to get
eggs out from under old setting hens that wouldn't get off their
nests.  They would peck me to keep me away.  I was too little to
get those eggs.  Mama or some of the bigger kids would have to
get them.

But if the old setting hen was off the nest, I knew which eggs to
get and which ones to leave in the nest.  The ones she was
setting on to hatch out little chickens were marked all over with
a lead pencil.  The ones that didn't have marks on them were
fresh eggs that had been laid that day.

Some city folks are confused at times about some of the words we
farmers use.  For instance, take the words sitting and setting.
The truth is, if an old hen is on an egg that she has just laid,
and if she is planning to go away in a minute or two, she is just
sitting on the egg.  But if she is on the egg or eggs with the
intention of hatching out little chickens, then she is not
sitting, she is setting.

Even some people who are supposed to be smart don't know farm
words.  In college English, the teacher had us making sentences
using certain double words like, "_Look up_ a word in the
dictionary."  And "_Hand over_ your gun."

I made a sentence like, "The cow wouldn't _give down_ her milk."

The teacher gave me a zero on the sentence.  And when I asked her
why, she said, "A cow can not _hold up_ her milk nor _give down_
her milk."

I told her, "Lady, you may know your English, but you sure don't
know milk cows."

Now back to the Flint farm.

I was so little that, when I would throw out corn and maize seed
to feed the chickens, I couldn't throw it far enough away from
me.  Some of it would fall at my feet.  So the big chickens would
crowd around my feet to pick up the grains and I was afraid of so
many big hens so close to me.  And I really got scared when they
started pecking the feed out of my feed bucket.  Sometimes I
would drop the bucket and run away.

I remember seeing Papa digging up big trees where he was going to
make a field.  It wasn't far from our house.  Sometimes I would
go take him a drink of water.  And sometimes Mama would send me
to tell Papa dinner was ready.

While Papa was drinking his water and resting a bit, I liked to
get down in the big hole he dug around the bottom of a big tree.
The dirt was damp and cool in the hole.  Some of the holes were
so big and deep it was hard for me to crawl back out.

Sometimes our old surley (bull) was close by and I was afraid of
him, so Mama would leave me at the house to watch after Albert
while she took Papa a drink.  But if the cows were way over in
the other side of the pasture, I wasn't afraid to go.

I remember our garden just outside our yard.  I was big enough to
pick fresh beans and peas.  The older ones in the family taught
me how to break the peas off the vines without breaking the
vines.  Mama could pick them so easily, with just the right twist
of her hands.  But I had to hold the vine with one hand while I
twisted the peas off with the other hand.

I had the smartest Mama.  She could do so many things, and she
could do them so easily.

I especially remember one little incident that took place in our
home when I was three.  Most of the things I remember from my
early childhood have been almost forgotten and I now remember
them through special effort and recall.  But this one brief
moment has lived with me and was never put aside to be recalled

Mama was sitting in a chair in our living room.  Albert was in
her lap getting his natural milk breakfast.  I was in a hurry for
the baby to get through nursing so I could play with him down on
the floor.  In the meantime, I was standing leaning against Mama
and playing with the baby--playing with his hands and feet,
rubbing and patting his "tummy," and sometimes tickling him to
make him laugh.

Now all this activity caused a lot of wiggling and squirming in
Mama's lap.  And it also caused a lot of letting go of, and
getting back to, the baby's morning meal.  This kind of playing
with the baby might have aggravated some mothers and might have
brought a word of scorn, or at least an expression of impatient
dissatisfaction from them, but not from this mother.  She was one
of a kind.  She seemed to enjoy it all.  She was my Mama.

I was standing on Mama's left.  When Albert finished and was
full, Mama stood him down on the floor on her right.  And while
he was standing there holding to her dress for support, before
Mama put his breakfast away, back into her blouse, she looked
over at me and very motherly asked, "Now, do you want some of the
baby's milk?"

I didn't say a word.  I just bashfully backed away a step or so
and looked up at her and thought something like, "That's for the
baby, not for me."

For the first time in my life I was consciously aware of my
mother's love for me, in that brief moment, because of that
simple little gesture.  The poet expressed it better than I can,
when he wrote, ". . .the love of a mother for her son that
transcends all other affections of the soul."  I was deeply moved
by the thought that, although she had another little one to hold
closely and love and nourish, she had not pushed me aside.  Her
love included me too.

As the years went by, sometimes all seemed hopeless and I would
ask myself, "What the heck?  Who cares anyway?"  And always that
little three-year-old kid would give me the answer, "Mama does."

I remember the windmill by our garden and the water tank way up
high on the tower.  When the wind blew and the mill was pumping
water, we could open a faucet at the top of the well and get a
drink of fresh cold water.  We had a tin cup hanging on a nail on
the windmill tower to drink out of.  And we kept some water
hanging up on our back porch in a wooden water bucket made out of
cedar.  There was a dipper in the bucket that we all drank out

Once when Papa was building his big barn at the Flint place,
before he got it finished, a strong wind hit it and leaned it way
over, but it didn't blow it all the way down.  Papa took a block
and tackle and got some men to help him and they pulled it back
up straight.

Our house had three rooms.  One of them was a kitchen and dining
room together.  There was a long porch at the front of the house
and an L-shaped porch on the back.  There were flower beds and
flowers in our front yard, and morning glory vines on the front
yard fence and china trees in the back yard.  They made good
shades to play in.

There was a hog pen on the north side of the barn, with sheds to
protect the hogs from the summer heat and the winter cold.  The
horse lots and cow lots were on the south side of the barn, with
sheds to shelter the stock.  Feed troughs were under the sheds
and feed was stored in the big barn.

I remember the hill west of the barn about a hundred yards.  It
wasn't a steep hill--just a gentle rise in the land.  But it was
high enough to get up on and see Uncle Andrew's house and
Grandma's house.  I couldn't see Grandma's house as good as I
could Uncle Andrew's because hers had so many big trees all
around it.

I remember we had a syrup mill too, up on the slope northwest of
the barn.  We had a horse that would go round and round and make
the big iron rollers squeeze the juice out of the cane stalks.
The juice would run down a spout and we would catch it in
buckets.  Then Mama would cook the juice in a big pan over a fire
out there in the pasture.

Of course Frank and Susie and Earl would all help keep the fire
going and help Papa keep putting cane stalks through the big
rollers.  Joel would help a little bit, but I was just in the
way.  And Albert had to be looked after too.

Sometimes the cows and horses would come and try to eat the cane
and we had to put them in pens by the barn.  When we finished
squeezing the juice out, we would let them all come out of the
pen and eat the stalks we didn't want any more.

When we got the juice cooked enough it was good ribbon cane syrup
and we would put it in big jugs and take it down in the cellar.
But not all of it.  We would take some of it in the kitchen to

I remember a big pile of wood and lots of mesquite posts.  They
were southwest of the barn on the slope of the hill.  The wind
had been blowing and lots of sand had drifted up in piles by the
woodpile.  Some of our plows and wagons were out there too by the
woodpile.  The posts were leaning up against big trees.

Just north of the hog pen was our stack lot with big stacks of
bundled feed in it.  And when I think of the stack lot, I think
of a little black horse we had named Keno, because all too often
Old Keno was in the stack lot without an invitation.  He was not
a big work horse, yet he could hold his own when hitched to a
cultivator.  And he could outdo all the others at acrobatics.

Yes, Old Keno was a fence jumper.  We often found him in the corn
patch or maize patch, what time he wasn't in the stack lot.
That's probably the reason I always remember him as being fat and
having a shiny coat; he got more than his share of goodies to

Anyway, one time I remember seeing Old Keno in the stack lot when
we were coming home from church or from Uncle Andrew's.  We drove
up from the west and as we came over the rise west of the barn,
there he was, in the stack lot again.

I really believe we were coming home from church because we were
all dressed up and were in our new hack.

We had an old buggy and I think we had an old hack.  I think I
sort of remember when we got the new hack.  The old one was good
enough for everyday use, and so was the old buggy.  But for
really stepping out in style, that shining black new hack was
something else.  For Sunday and for going to town, we used the
new one.  It had two seats, rubber tires, and a beautiful glossy
black finish--with tiny little yellow pinstripes at just the
right places.  When Papa hitched his two trotting horses to it,
it was truly a carriage to be proud of.

We also went socializing in the new hack.  And Papa never fooled
around with a walking team, they always trotted.  Even when we
drove 18 miles to Anson to visit the Hood family on Sundays, our
team trotted practically all the way.  And then they trotted back
the same day.

As I said, Old Keno was eating more than his share of the grain
from the bundles of feed, and he was wasting a lot also.

I was in the front seat with Papa and some of the other kids.  I
was probably in Papa's lap, I don't remember.  Mama was in the
back seat with some of the others.  In fact, Mama always rode in
the back seat.  There is no picture in my memory of Mama ever
riding in the front seat of our hack.  I don't really know why
she chose the back seat.  Fact is, it never occurred to me until
now that she may not have chosen the back seat; she may not have
had a choice.  While she was with us, it never entered my mind to
ask her why.  But now as I ponder these things, I wish I had.  If
she were sitting here in the room with me now, I would stop
writing long enough to look up and ask, "Mama, why did you always
sit in the back seat of our hack?"

And I haven't the slightest doubt that she would answer, "Why,
Willie and you children always rode in the front seat.  There
wasn't room for me."

Anyway, I was less than five years old, probably less than four.
And I don't remember what else Mama was doing, but I'll bet a
dollar she was holding Albert in her lap.  And I'll bet another
dollar I can guess what Albert was doing.  Since baby bottles
were almost unheard of in those days, and were not needed in our
family, he was probably getting his milk from some other source,
as mother nature meant for him to.

Be that as it may, Old Keno was eating at the feed stack and he
seemed to be much happier than Papa was to see him there.  I
don't remember what Papa said, if anything, but I do remember
that Mama expressed her disapproval of Old Keno's bad manners by
calling him a scoundrel.  That was the name Mama gave to
troublesome animals and mean people.

There was plenty of work to be done on the farm, and we kids
learned to work early in life.  Joel was just 16 months older
than I was, and one spring, when he was too young to go to
school, Papa had him planting in the field with a two-row
planter.  In the afternoons, when Earl got home from school, he
would relieve Joel, so Joel could go home and play the rest of
the day.

Then one day Joel got a foot hurt and couldn't run the planter.
So I had to take his place on the planter for a few days.
Planting had to go on.  I don't remember how old I was at that
time.  I do know for sure I was planting at the Flint place.  And
we moved from that place in January--the same January in which I
became five years old.  So, I must have been planting when I was
a little over four years old or when I was just past three, I'm
not sure which.  I am sure, however, I was older than two,
because, when I was only two, Earl was too young to go to school.

If it were not for skeptics, I could go ahead with my memoirs.
But I feel I should detour here and explain a thing or two, or
some folks will think I am lying.  One man has already questioned
my story about the two-row planter.  He thought they hadn't made
a two-row planter as early as 1910.  This one happened to be a
special type planter.  I have never seen but two of them in my

But you could be sure, if William Franklin Johnson heard of a
farm implement that he thought could be used to do a better job
on the farm, he would get it, if at all possible.  And if it
wouldn't do to suit him, he would make it do whatever he wanted
it to do.

I remember having seen Papa, as early as the Flint place, mind
you, using a combination cultivator-planter.  He could cultivate
his young feed or cotton and, at the same time, plant new seeds
in the skips where the first planting had not come up to a good

He built the implement himself.  That was ingenuity.  He was my

This special two-row planter that I used was pulled by two big,
gentle horses.  They knew how to follow the furrows and stay on
the rows.  And they knew that "whoa" meant stop, even when a
three-year-old said it.  What's more, Papa was plowing along
beside me, just a few rows away, and he worked the lever and
turned my team around at both ends of the rows.

Now, that doesn't sound so far out, does it?

I'll bet the people around the little town of McCaulley would
believe me without an explanation.  They had a man in their
community who used a dog to do his plowing for him.  It's true.
And the man didn't have to be there to work the levers for him
and turn the team around at the end of the rows.

There were no rows.  He was flatbreaking his ground, going round
and round.  His mules followed the furrow all day long and the
man only had to sit there hour after hour doing nothing.  Then he
got the idea of tying his lines up and slipping off to the house
without his mules knowing he was gone.

This worked well except when the mules would stop once in awhile,
and he would have to go start them again.  So, next he put his
little dog on the plow seat.  The dog liked to ride so well that,
when the team would begin stopping, he would bark to keep them

People could hardly believe their eyes--the very idea--a dog
plowing while his master sat on his porch in the shade.

Now, Papa didn't have a dog, so he used me.

We Texans have to be careful what we say and to whom we say it.
When I start talking with a man, the first thing I want to know
is, where is he from?

I know, Texans have a reputation of being big liars.  It is true,
all Texans are capable of lying, but they are not all liars.
They don't have to lie.  In Texas the truth is wild enough.

If I am talking with a man from north of the Mason-Dixon line, I
only have to tell the truth and he thinks I am telling a big
Texas lie.  But if the man is from Oklahoma, I sometimes have to
lie just a little to make the story interesting to him.  Those
Okies are almost as bad as Texans about story telling.

Some people think Texas is a state, but it's not.  Texas is a
state of mind, an attitude, a broad open expanse of freedom and
liberty known only to Texans.  It's a feeling you can never get
just by living in Texas, you've got to be born in Texas.

There are other happenings dating back to the Flint place.  Here
are a couple which took place before my time.  I can only relate
them to you as they were told to me.

We don't know where Frank got his first taste of chewing tobacco,
but he liked it and he wanted another taste.  It was only a half-
mile from our house over to Uncle Andrew's.  Now, Uncle Andrew
chewed tobacco and Frank knew it.  So, Frank found it easy to get
Mama to let him walk over there to play with Ruth.  He also found
it easy to ask Ruth if she knew where her dad kept his tobacco.

She knew all right, and she found it easy to "snitch" a chew for
Frank.  She also had the forethought to make sure she took enough
for both of them.  But, now that they had the tobacco in their
possession, it wouldn't be smart to risk being caught playing
around the house with tobacco in their mouths.

So, now Frank tells Aunt Mary he came over to see if Ruth could
come over to his house and play.  Yes, Aunt Mary would allow her
to go, which was a perfect set-up for five-year-old kids.  They
could chew the tobacco all the way from Ruth's house over to
Frank's house, just so they got rid of it before they got there.
Who cares how long it might take two little kids to walk a half
mile?  They could chew a long time.

However, one little problem developed.  The tobacco didn't affect
Frank at all, but before they got to Frank's house, Ruth was as
sick as a horse.

Naturally, they didn't dare tell why she was sick.  And she was
sure she would feel better in a little while.

Another little story came to me from Susie, my older sister.  She
was always having to see after the baby of the family.  At this
time Albert was the baby and I was about three years old.  She
probably had to take care of me also, when I was a baby.  But on
this particular day--the day of the snuff--Mama, Grandma, and I
went out to the garden.  Susie wanted to go but had to stay in
the house with Albert.

This was one of the few times during my childhood that I was just
the right size, and here I am, unable to remember a thing about
it.  Susie had to tell me about it.  If I had been any smaller, I
might have had to stay in the house with Susie and Albert.  And
if I had been any larger, I might have had to watch after Albert
while Susie went to the garden.

Anyway, Susie's brain was partly angry but mostly just idle, so
the devil used it for his workshop.

Grandma had put her snuffbox on the door casing above the kitchen
door.  Susie had never been allowed to taste snuff, but she
reasoned that it must be something special, because Grandma
"dipped" it all the time.

Many's the time Grandma would send me to the "branch" (creek) to
bring her a small hackberry limb for a tooth brush.  (It was
really a snuff brush.)  She would take a hackberry twig about
twice as big and twice as long as a wooden match and chew on one
end until it "frazzled" out into a bristle.  Then she would dip
the damp bristle into her snuff, put it in her mouth, and work
happily for hours, with the "brush" extending out one corner of
her mouth.

Now, this picture of contentment on Grandma's face as she dipped
and worked, is what the devil showed to Susie when he told her
she ought to climb up on the kitchen cabinet and get her some of
that delicious brown snuff in the little tin box.

She climbed up in a chair and got up on the cabinet, only to find
that she couldn't reach the snuff.  But she didn't give up.  She
climbed back down and put a chair up on the cabinet.  Then she
climbed up in the bottom chair to get onto the cabinet so she
could get up in the top chair.  And by leaning way over, she
could reach the snuffbox.

Now, Susie didn't want to climb down to dip her snuff.  It would
be too hard to have to climb all the way back up to put the snuff
back on the shelf over the door.  So she just sat down in the
upper chair and began dipping the snuff.

That's about all the story.  At least that's all she remembered.
She never did know how she got down from the chairs and the
cabinet.  She only remembers that, when she began to regain
consciousness, she was a mighty sick little girl, and snuff had
lost its charm and glitter.



We, the Will Johnsons, owned this first farm 12 years.  Then in
the fall of 1910, Papa bought the Exum farm, just east of us.  It
was much larger and it fitted our needs better.  There were 332
acres in the place, and we paid $9,000 for it.

When January rolled around, it was time for us to move onto the
Exum place.  And on the day we moved that half-mile, I had to
stay at our old home.  I was allowed to help load the wagons at
our old farm, but they wouldn't let me go with them to our new
home to unload the wagons.  Of course, that hurt my feelings

But I was hurt even worse when one of the older boys came running
back to the house to get a gun to kill a skunk down on the
creek--and Mama wouldn't let me go with him.

She said, "No, you can't go.  You're too little."

I didn't understand how Mama could be so mistaken in my size.  I
was as big as most of the other boys, I thought, and smarter than
some of them.

After we got moved to the new home, again Papa set out to build
whatever buildings we needed to suit our wants.  There was
already a house and a good size barn.  And when Papa finished
building, there were shelters for tools, livestock, poultry, and
a blacksmith shop.

He made a large, roomy cellar at our new home.  I can't remember
ever having to go to the cellar because of a storm, but it was
there just in case.  And it was good for storing fruits,
vegetables, and canned goods.

One time Papa brought home a stalk of bananas and hung it down in
the cellar.  Down there it would be protected from the heat of
the days and the freezing nights.  Papa explained to us that we
should eat the ripest bananas first before they got too ripe and
had to be thrown away.  Then some of the older kids jokingly told
that Papa said, "Eat the rotten ones first and wait till the
others rot to eat them."

We were poor in terms of money, yet we had as much as or more
than the average family in our community.  Papa was a carpenter,
a blacksmith, a good farmer.  And when automobiles came along, he
became a mechanic.

We never left our hack out in the weather, we had a shed to
shelter it.  Our barn was second to none in our neighborhood,
especially by the time we finished building sheds and stalls on
both sides of it.  Later on, we got a car and built a shed for
it.  We didn't call it a garage, it was a car shed.  And one time
Papa bought another house, moved it up beside ours, and joined
them together.

We had a good well of water, a big windmill, and a cypress water
tank on a tower about ten feet tall.  The tower under the tank
was boarded up on all four sides to form a room that was used for
keeping milk, butter, watermelons, and other things cool.
Screened windows allowed the wind to pass through.  That was
about the coolest place on the farm.

Next to the windmill was a garden, fenced rabbit proof and
irrigated with water from the well.  Every summer we had roasting
ears, popcorn, cantaloupes, watermelons, peanuts, okra, squash,
pumpkins, and more kinds of beans and peas than I can name.

The barn was filled with feed heads, corn, and cottonseed, both
for planting and for feeding.  There was room in the barn and
adjoining sheds for horses, cows, chickens and hogs.  And up in
the loft, there were peanuts still on the vines.

Some of our neighbors had given up trying to grow peanuts because
rabbits ate so many of the vines.  It was all but impossible to
keep the rabbits out of the patch.  But we always grew peanuts
anyway.  When neighbors asked Papa how he managed to grow so many
good peanuts, he told them he just planted enough for the rabbits
and the youngsters too.  I can't remember when we didn't have
enough peanuts in the barn loft to last all winter.  We stored
them on the vines and then we picked them off as we needed them,
and fed the vines to the stock.

I remember one sunny afternoon, four or five of us boys were
sitting up in the barn over the horse stalls eating peanuts.  I
was sitting on a board that was nailed to the underside of the
ceiling joists.  Well, the nails pulled out of the board and I
fell to the ground and hit my head on a wooden block.  The block
proved to be tougher than my head.  It cut a two-inch gash in my
scalp above my right ear.  Papa took me to our family doctor and
had it sewed up.

The story was told on us boys that, when we were all little, a
mule kicked one of us in the head, and that boy was never quite
normal after that.  But then, as we grew older, we all got to
acting so much alike that Mama and Papa couldn't tell which one
of us the mule had kicked.

Many years later, during the depression of the 1930s, a neighbor
was giving me a homemade haircut one Sunday afternoon and, when
he discovered the scar on my head, he laughed and said, "Now I
know which one the mule kicked."

Now let's get back to the story of when I was a boy on the Exum
farm.  I started to school when I was seven.  In fact, most kids
started at seven in those days.  And since I was seven when
school started in September, that meant I had been seven since
last January 11th.  In other words I was almost eight.

While we lived at the Exum place, we went to school at Wise
Chapel, which was about three miles northeast of our home.  In
winter we faced cold northers many mornings, and in the
afternoons, we often faced strong southwesterly winds on our way

As we walked to school, other pupils from other farms joined us,
and then still others.  By the time we arrived at school, there
might be as many as 20 of us in one bunch.  One of the families
whose kids walked with us was the Bruner family.  Papa's younger
brother, Ed, married Eva Bruner.

What do you mean, "Did we walk that three miles to school?"

Of course we walked--except maybe two or three times a year when
the weather was extremely bad.

I might as well take time right here to mention another little
incident which took place along our school trail.  It involved
one of the Bruner boys.  And what happened to that boy should
never happen to anyone.  But when you get that many school kids
in one bunch, most anything is apt to happen, and it did this

In the first place, I guess school trails shouldn't cut across
pastures, but they did.  In the second place, I haven't been able
to figure out why God made prickly pears, but He did.  In the
third place, if school kids are going to use the trails which
wind in and out among the thorny bushes and cactus plants, they
should never scuffle near prickly pears, but they did.  And in
the fourth place, if a boy scuffles and falls down, he should
never sit right flat down in a prickly pear, but he did.

After he got up, he went straight home.  His mother took the
tweezers and removed all the large thorns and many of the small
ones.  Then they took him to Mama because, they said, her eyes
were better.  She removed all she could see, which left the boy
in fairly good shape, I suppose, all things considered.

What we now know as kindergarten was unknown when I started to
school.  Beginners started in the Primer, and the Primer was not
a grade in school--it was a book.  As Webster defines it, "an
elementary book for teaching children to read."

We went to school to learn to read, write, spell, and work
arithmetic problems--and to obey the teacher.

We also learned many other things that were not a part of the
regular curriculum and which were not necessarily sanctioned by
those in authority.  We grouped them all together and called them

In my first year, I went through the Primer, the first grade, and
far into the second grade.  I was almost ready for the third
grade at the beginning of my second year.  According to my
teacher and my parents, I was smart and well behaved.  I was a
good little boy.

Even at that early age, the teacher granted me special privileges
and I was in love with her.  My love and admiration for all
teachers, especially women teachers, went with me all through
high school and college, at times causing my wife some

During that first year in school, one side of my face became
paralyzed.  I was an ugly sight, especially when I laughed or
smiled.  Half of my face would smile and the other half would
just hang there, doing nothing.

The doctor prescribed some red medicine that Susie carried to
school every day and poured some down me ever-so-often.  It
tasted awful.  I was glad it was a beautiful red color.  I don't
believe I could have stood it if it had been brown.

Anyway, I slowly got over most of my ailment, but I'm sure it was
hard for my family to get rid of the horrible picture my
condition had printed on their memories.

Unfortunately, my paralysis was not my only ugliness.  I was born
with a "wen" in the corner of one eye next to my nose.  It was a
lump about the size of the end of my thumb--that of course,
depending on what age I was when you measured the end of my
thumb, and how much of my thumb you included in the measurement.
After all, how much of a thumb can you measure and still call it
the end.

At any rate, I was far from beautiful, even before the sagging of
half my face.

Not so with the rest of my family.  Papa was stately, superior in
quality, as generous as he was elegant, and he was a handsome

Mama was a lovely woman.  I can remember back to when she was
about 33, and I can imagine how beautiful she must have looked to
Will Johnson 15 years earlier.  When I was very young, I liked to
watch her do her long hair up into one big plat, then coil it
round and round on top of her head and pin it so it wouldn't come

Frank was handsome and admirable in the eyes of a younger brother
my age.  Susie was a good-looking girl.  However, all girls
looked good to me--as they were supposed to.  Earl's presence
would improve the looks of almost any group of kids.  And Joel
was downright pretty, that is, for a boy.  Although Albert and
William Robert were younger than I, and at times little more than
pesky little brothers, still I could easily see that they both
had something to be desired far above that which looked back at
me from my mirror.  And of course, Ollie Mae was as beautiful as
anything I had ever seen until I became 18 and fell in love.

The unsightly wen stayed with me until I was about 17--or
whenever it was I started shaving.  I couldn't bear the looks of
me in the mirror as I shaved.  So, one afternoon I drove over to
the Stamford Sanitarium and asked a doctor to remove it.  He got
me on the operating table and then asked me if I wanted him to
put me to sleep.

I told him, "No, I want to watch what you are going to do to me."

So he handed me a mirror and began whittling on me.  And when he
had finished the operation, he sewed me up, stuck a patch over
the place, and told me to let someone else drive me back to
Hamlin.  But since it was only 22 miles, and since I had driven
over there alone, and since there was no one to drive me back, I
drove myself back and I've been disobeying doctors ever since.

But, we're getting ahead of our story.  Let's get back to our
younger days when my little sister was about two years old and
she had two or three brothers who were not much older.  One of
those brothers noticed, as most little brothers do sooner or
later, that there was a difference in his and her ways of
draining water.

For example, when he had to go, he would merely stand behind a
tree or go around behind the smokehouse, let it flow and watch it
fall.  Or he might play fireman up the side of the smokehouse
wall.  Or maybe aim at a beetle or a red ant and watch him
struggle to survive.

On the other hand, his little sister would squat and her dress
would hide the entire operation.  But the day he became curious
about her method of operation and got nosy enough to peep to see
what was taking place, he committed the unpardonable sin.  And it
would have caused extreme pain in the region of the lower hind
part of that small boy if his mother had learned of what he had
done.  What she would have done to him would have been a big
price for a little boy to have to pay for a little knowledge that
most little boys get for free these days.  But he didn't get
caught.  That was the beginning of a lot of secret things that
little boy did throughout his childhood--secrets he didn't share
with anyone.

We four boys went out together most of the time, both to work and
to play.  But at the Exum place, Ollie Mae was getting big enough
to want to go with us when we went to play.  Her presence created
a little problem we boys hadn't had before, especially when there
wasn't a good hiding place.

I remember one day out in the pasture where there were no trees
or bushes to hide behind, one of the smaller boys had to drain
his water and he solved his problem in his own way.  He simply
said, "Ollie Mae, look the other way."  She did, then he turned
his back and minded his little business.

In the fall of the year, we often missed some schooling because
of so much cotton to be picked.  However, we didn't lose as much
time from school as some of the families around us.  Many a time
we would eat an early breakfast, go to the cotton patch and pick
for an hour or two and then go directly from there to school.  In
the afternoons we would go directly from school to the cotton
patch, pick cotton until dark and then go home for supper.

In my boyhood days, eating breakfast or supper in daylight was a
luxury many of us couldn't afford.  Cotton picking often went on
until spring and sometimes we'd have to lose a few days of
schooling in the spring in order to get the last of the cotton
out of the field in time for planting.

But our work was not always hard field work.  Sometimes there was
more pleasant work to be done, like going with Papa in the wagon
to haul a load of wood, or maybe to haul a hog over to a

That kind of work was more or less dangerous when too many small
boys went along.  So some of us smaller ones would have to stay
home with Mama.

Papa always kept a box of sugar stick candy locked in the bottom
of his trunk for the purpose of bribing us smaller ones on those
occasions.  I really shouldn't call it bribery; rather, it was a
consolation offered to us younger ones who had to stay home.

When Papa would go somewhere alone in the wagon, it didn't hurt
us so much.  Mama would explain that he was going on a mission
where little boys were not supposed to go, and we would accept it
gracefully, since we all had to stay home.  But if one or two of
the boys rode away with him, that was hard for us smaller ones to

But we couldn't throw a fit, because fits were not allowed in our
family.  We just had to suffer the heartbreak in silence and a
fair amount of dignity.  And as they would drive away, it seems I
can still hear Mama saying to us, "Come on, children, let's go
get a stick of candy."  And of course, that would help our
feelings somewhat, bless our little hearts.

Sometimes the smaller children would each get a stick of candy
for staying home while the larger ones went down on the creek in
Grandma's pasture.  However, wading in water in our own pasture
after summer rain showers usually included all of us, the
youngest and all.  It was understood that the oldest of the bunch
was always the boss and had the responsibility for the safety and
well-being of the entire party.

Whether we were working or playing, that rule of command held
true in our family.  And it was not the only ironclad ruling in
the Johnson family--rulings which stood through the years without
question and with no thought of breaking.

We always had a set of four boxing gloves.  I say always because
I can't remember when we didn't have them.  And in boxing, we
obeyed the rules of not hitting in the face nor below the belt.
Another strict rule was, "Don't get mad at your opponent when he
is giving you a beating.  If you get mad, you mustn't play
anymore."  The same held true in wrestling.  If you couldn't
stand to be pinned down, you just didn't wrestle.

You can bet your boots, we all boxed and we all wrestled.  No one
wanted to be left out of the action.  And the only way to stay in
the action was to obey the rules and take whatever the other one
dished out.

This didn't mean that the big kids were unmerciful to the little
ones.  There was another rule, "Don't hurt the little ones.
Don't hold the little one down after he yells 'calf rope.'  Back
away and let him have a new start."

We all played "rough and rowdy," but always with smiles on our
faces.  And the rules of fair play applied to our animals also.

We had a big dog that was part Collie and part Shepherd.  He grew
up with us kids and became one of the family.  We named him
Scotch.  Papa brought him to us kids at the Exum place when he
was a wee, little woolly ball of bouncing, playful puppy.  Papa
had given five dollars for him, which was a lot of money for our
family in those days.  He was the only dog our family ever owned.

According to his bloodlines, he was half Collie and half
Shepherd, but according to us Johnson kids, he was just all dog--
a gentleman canine of the highest order, a true friend, guardian
and protector of children, truly a little boy's best friend.

We were taught never to abuse Old Scotch while he was a puppy,
and as he grew older, we couldn't abuse him, he wouldn't allow
it.  And we were told never to call him without a good reason,
such as to feed him, play with him or let him go hunting with us.
Papa told us that if the dog trusted us, he would obey us better.

I guess that was good advice.  At any rate, Old Scotch obeyed
orders and commands better and more promptly than any other dog I
have ever seen, either in or out of the movies.  He even obeyed
requests which were not meant as commands.

We kids didn't really know how to train the dog.  We just let him
grow up with us and by the time he was a year old, he was smarter
and better looking than most of us kids.

However, we did teach Old Scotch to do a few simple little
-nothing spectacular.  He would sit down when we told him to.
And he would hold still while we placed a small stick on top of
his nose, and remain still until we counted to three.  Then at
the count of three, he would quickly flip it off his nose and
catch it in his mouth.  Then of course, he expected a pat of
congratulations and a kind word or two.

We taught him to keep the chickens off the porch and out of the
yard.  That was an easy job.  He soon learned to do it without
having to be told.

We kids liked to sit under the steering wheel of our car and
pretend we were driving.  Soon Old Scotch was doing the same
thing.  Sometimes when we kids opened the car door, we would have
to hurry or Old Scotch would beat us to the steering wheel.  He
was only playing with us kids when he did that.  He wouldn't do
Papa that way.

One of his favorite games was to take a stick in his mouth and
challenge us to a game of wolf-over-the-river.  He liked for us
to try to catch him and take the stick.  He also liked to play
catch--but only with a rubber ball.  We would pitch the ball to
him and he would catch it and return it to us.  However, there
was a strict rule in this game--never throw a hard ball to him,
because that would hurt his teeth and he would begin to distrust
and disobey us.

He learned not to trust some of the neighbor kids.  They
sometimes threw him a hard ball.  They didn't "Do unto Old Scotch
as they would have Old Scotch do unto them."

At times we would offer the dog something to eat that he had
never seen nor tasted before, and if he wasn't sure of it, he
might reject it.  But he seemed to have enough faith in us boys
to think that, if he could see us eat some of it, then he would
not be afraid to try it.  So, we would let him see us eat some of
it, or at least we would pretend to eat it.

Our dog didn't have the long Collie-like nose, but rather a
beautiful short nose like the Alaskan Husky.  Nor was his coat
long and stringy but was short and heavy, more like the wool of a
sheep before shearing.  His color was a deep reddish brown, with
just the right touches of white about the head.  His body was
round and full.  His shoulders and hips were broad, as though
somewhere in his ancestry there was most certainly a St. Bernard.

Old Scotch couldn't bear the sound of thunder.  During a
thunderstorm he wanted to go in the house and get under a bed.
That's the only time we ever let him in the house.  The noise
must have hurt his ears.  Firecrackers affected him the same way.
He would tolerate the noise of a rifle when he was out hunting
with us, but he wouldn't allow even his best friends to aim
anything at him.

Needless to say, we would never aim a gun at him any more than we
would aim one at each other.  But a broomstick or a hoe handle
was like a gun to Old Scotch.  When we aimed something at him, he
wouldn't bite us to really tear us apart, but he would certainly
bite hard enough to make us drop the object we were pointing at
him.  He would growl in a way that told us for sure that he would
not allow anyone to point anything at him.

Old Scotch saved us many a step and earned his keep many times
over.  We kept our milk-pen calves in the lot through the day.
Then we kept our milk cows in the lot at night and let the calves
run out to graze.  Next morning we would tell Old Scotch to go
get the calves and he would.  He wouldn't get the horses nor the
other cows--only the milk-pen calves.

After we ate breakfast and did the morning chores and were ready
to harness the horses for plowing, we would send Old Scotch after
the horses and he would get only the horses, no cows nor calves.
In the afternoon we would tell him to go get the milk cows and he
would bring only the cows, no horses.

When we called our dog, we didn't say, "Here, Scotch!  Here,
here, here."  The word we used wasn't "here," it was "how."  And
no matter how far away he was, he would come immediately when he
heard us call.  He only paused long enough to make sure it was
one of our family calling him and to get the direction from which
the call came.

And when he came to us, he didn't come walking nor trotting, but
loping.  And he didn't stop a few steps away nor lower his head
and ears, nor did he approach with his tail down.  He bounced
right up beside us, full of life and gusto as if to ask, "Oh boy!
What kind of excitement do you have planned for me this time?"

It's a common thing to see a two-car family in the 1970's, but we
were a two-car family as early as 1916.  We still had the Reo and
Papa bought a Big Six seven-passenger Buick touring car.  Old
Scotch knew that Buick by sound.  Uncle Robert had a Little Six
Buick that sounded almost like the Big Six.  Our dog could
recognize the sound of those Buicks a half-mile away.

When other cars drove by along the road, Old Scotch would pay no
attention to them.  We had taught him not to chase cars.  But
when either of those Buicks came along, he would run out to greet
it a quarter-mile away.  He also accepted Robert as a personal
friend as well as a friend to our family.

Then one day Old Scotch didn't come when we called him.  Nor did
he come the next day.  We had no idea where he had gone nor why.
Of course, we kept hoping that some day he would return.  But
days became weeks and weeks became months and the dog was still
missing.  By this time we had given up all hope of ever seeing
him again.

Papa and Mama taught us to be nice to our animals and taught us
how to get Old Scotch to obey us.  And there seemed to be no end
to the little things they taught us how to do.  In a jiffy they
could cut a slot in the side of a pumpkin leaf stem and make us a
horn to blow.  They showed us how to put a chicken's head under
his wing, swing him a few times and lay him down on the ground,
fast asleep.  Papa taught us how to tie a certain kind of a knot
in a rope for one occasion and another kind for another purpose.
And he taught us how to make a loop for roping calves.

We owed a lot to our parents for making our lives pleasant and
exciting.  They were among the most respected parents in our
community.  They were leaders--not in organizations concerned
with business or big government, nor in local clubs, but they
were upstanding church-goers with high standards of moral
character and integrity.  As in play, so in life, they wanted
their children to abide by a set of rules which would lead them
into a good life--a life of knowledge of the difference between
good and evil, with a desire to do the good and shun the evil.

They may not have thought of God as some of us do today but I am
sure they did what they thought was right, and they did it with
consistency and sincerity.  More than that we have no right to

Some families have their own little unique customs.  I suppose we
were one of those families.  When visiting with other families,
it seemed odd to me to hear them call their babies by their given
names.  We always called our youngest one "Baby" until the next
one arrived.  Then we called the new one "Baby" and the one
before him had to take on his rightful name.

This went on until my younger brother was born.  Joel, just older
than I, couldn't say Clarence, so he called me Big Baby and he
called the new one Baby.  No, he wasn't slow about learning to
talk.  You see, we didn't give him much time.  He was only
sixteen months old when I came along, and he was just three when
the new one came.  Another custom not common to all families was,
we smaller ones wore dresses around home for the first three or
four years of our lives.  It made diapering much easier and saved
a lot of laundering.  Come to think of it, I never heard of
diapers until I was almost grown.  They were not diapers, they
were breeches--in our family they were "britches."  That's the
only thing I ever heard them called until I was a mature man.

We were poor people, living the simple life.  I wasn't any poorer
than the rest of my family, but I was the simplest one.

We also had this custom of competing among ourselves.  In most
everything we did, there was an element of competition and hurry.
Our parents had a way of causing us kids to apply pressure to
each other.  They found that it worked better than when parents
tried to force kids to work faster.

In the cotton patch you could hear us kids saying such things as,
"I picked more cotton than you did."  Or if we were hoeing you
might hear something like, "Come on, Slow Poke."

The plan worked well.  No one wanted to be outdone by a brother,
especially a little brother.  And if a little brother could
outshine a big brother, even just once in awhile, that was a real
feather in the little one's cap.

Oh, yes!  There was hurry and there was pressure.  But it didn't
seem to get us down as it does some people today.  We had no
psychologists in those days to tell us that pressures would warp
a kid's brain.  We didn't know that competition and hurry would
drive us crazy until these educated people told us about it.

So we lived hard, we worked hard, and we played hard.  Then we
were able to go to bed and sleep hard.  Never in my life did I
ever hear Mama or Papa say, "I didn't sleep well last night,
because I felt tense and worried."

There was really nothing to worry about like there is today.
They didn't worry that we kids might go away from home and get
into trouble.  We didn't have to leave home to get into trouble.
We kids made our own trouble right at home.  We had a lot of fun
doing a lot of different things.  Most of our troubles were
brought on accidentally, we didn't deliberately plan them.

There was no worry about the family losing anything, we had
nothing to lose.  No one would steal from us because no one
wanted what we had.  So, whatever pressures we might encounter
during the day were dispelled during a night of welcome rest.

In the cotton patch Mama and Papa encouraged us to see who could
pick 100 bolls first.  The first one to pick his 100 bolls would
call out, "hundred."  Then each of the others would call out the
number of bolls they had picked during the same time.

This competition got more bales of cotton to the gin in a shorter
period of time.  But, as in all activities where kids are
involved, we sometimes had little disagreements.

I had this thing of humming or singing a song while I picked
cotton and counted my bolls.  I found that the mental work I was
doing was relaxing and it allowed my hands to do their work
faster.  And now, 65 years later, I learn that I was doing
something a little bit kin to what they call Yoga.

At any rate, it really worked for me.  I could pick cotton faster
than a brother or two who were older than I was.  Now, I didn't
necessarily use my system in order to get more of the family
cotton picked.  I used it mainly just to beat my older brothers
picking cotton, and that not for very long at a time.

But my little scheme backfired on me.  One of those brothers
couldn't stand to be outdone by a younger brother.  He told Mama
and Papa that I was lying and cheating, because he knew I
couldn't count bolls while I sang a song.  But he was wrong.  I
could.  Anyway, nothing I could say would make him believe me.  I
began to become an outcast among some of my brothers early in
life.  I believe there were times when some of them would have
been glad to "sell me into slavery" as Joseph's brothers did him.

But my parents didn't seem to doubt my word.  I really believe
they understood that I could do a thing or two that some of the
others could not do--and perhaps were not at all interested in

I believe little things like that were the beginning of a wee bit
of an unconscious rift between some of my brothers and me, and at
the same time, the making of a stronger bond between my parents
and me.

Looking back, I remember many times when Papa and I were doing
things together and there was no one else around.  I really don't
know why I was the only one there a lot of times.  Maybe I just
wanted to be in good company.  I loved and admired Papa and I
thought he was the best and nicest man in the world.  Or perhaps
I was with Papa because of my inquisitive mind concerning
mechanical things, like,

"How do you shoe a horse?"

"How do you tighten a loose wagon tire?"

"How do you make a row-binder do what you want it to do when the
manufacturer couldn't seem to do it?"

I watched him do all these things and many more.  And many of the
things he did fascinated me.

The situation was much the same between Mama and me.

"How do you churn milk and make butter?"

"How do you 'take up' the butter after it is churned?"

"How do you make those beautiful decorations on it later?"

"How do you weave a carpet on Grandma's loom?"

It seems I was always watching a lot of these goings-on while the
other kids were somewhere else doing whatever they liked to do.
And Mama and Papa were never too busy to answer my questions.  I
realize now how much more I could have learned if I had only
known how and when to ask more questions.

It seems that my parents favored and petted me at times.  I'm not
sure they did.  If they did, perhaps it was because they felt
sorry for their little ugly duckling.  And maybe I only imagined
they were especially nice to me.  Maybe they were that nice to
everyone.  Perhaps they were nice to me just to have me around
handy when they needed me to help them just a little bit.

This latter seems to be the most reasonable argument, after
considering some of my stupid exploits and my senseless reasoning
throughout my life.

Yet, it just might be possible that they were partial to me on
account of the wen, and later on, my paralysis--these factors
coupled with the fact that within the last four years along about
the time I was born, they had suffered the loss of a two-year-old
son, a two-week-old daughter, Mama's favorite brother, Hugh, and
Grandpa Johnson.

Who can measure the thoughts of loving parents as they view their
newborn child for the first time, anxious to know whether he or
she is beautiful and healthy and without blemish.

And who knows the anxiety of parents who, after seeing their
child with blemish, must wonder how his condition will affect his
relationship with others, how it will affect his outlook on life,
and whether it might grow worse and shorten his days.



There were so many little stories unfolding simultaneously that I
am going to be unable to keep them all up to date as I go along.
While I have been telling about some of our working habits and
our little family customs, I find that the story of my love life
has been neglected.  I must go back a way now and bring some of
my social living up to date.

Oh, yes!  I had a sweetheart.  Her name was Gladys, and I must
tell you about her.

You see, when we moved to the Exum farm, I was a little boy
barely five years old.  But then, when we had lived there a year
and a half, I was no longer just a little kid.  I was getting to
be a big boy, six and a half and going on seven.  And my ears
were getting bigger also.  I began to hear about sweethearts.
Susie was thirteen and was just the very one to explain it to me.

She told me once, jokingly, "A sweetheart is a chicken heart
baked in molasses."

But seriously, what she explained about sweethearts amounted to
something like this, "Sweethearts are one boy and one girl about
the same age who like each other and like to go together and like
to do things together.  He is her sweetheart and she is his

Now the Flints, who had moved onto our old farm, had a bunch of
boys and girls and we all played together.  The one I liked best
was Gladys.  She was just my size, she was six years old, and she
and I liked to go play together.  So, when I learned what
sweethearts were, I knew for a fact that Gladys was my sweetheart
because we liked each other and played together.

Of course, I didn't tell anyone, not even Gladys.  I didn't feel
any differently toward her.  We just went right on playing
together as we had been doing.  But I had this newly acquired
knowledge that she was my sweetheart.

No more than I knew or could understand about it all, I wondered
why boys and girls had sweethearts at all.  They were just like
other boys and girls except they were your own age.

I never heard of any parents who objected to their older boys and
girls having sweethearts and dating.  (In those days we called it
"going together.") But in our immediate community, there were
some pretty strict rules to govern their behavior.

The "good" people in our community didn't allow their boys and
girls to dance.  So, there were no dances in our neighborhood
because there were no families that wanted to be branded as being
"not so good."  Instead of dances we had parties.  Many a Friday
night some good farm couple would give a party.  These parties
were always family affairs.  The young people didn't go to the
parties alone.  Their parents took them to the parties and then
the grown-ups took part in many of the games.

I remember two of the games they played.  They were "snap" and
"cross questions and crooked answers."  There were many others
but I can't recall them just now.  I was only eleven when we
moved out of that community, and we never had such parties at any
place we lived after that.

One night at one of the parties, Frank's girl "snapped" me.  (We
didn't call them girl-friends as we do today, just "Girls.") But
I was so timid I just backed away like the bashful country kid
that I was.  She told them she got "stood-up" and would have to
pick someone else.

I wanted to play in the games, but I realized that I was much
smaller than any of the others who took part in them, and I was
afraid I might do something wrong and cause them to laugh at me.

Two of the party song-and-dance "swings" they did were "Shoot the
Buffalo" and "Farmer by the Mill."  These were the promenade type
dances where they swung their partners kind of like in a square
dance.  Mr. Flint was about the best man in the neighborhood at
calling those dances.

Now I have gone and contradicted myself.  I first said we didn't
have dances.  Now I'm telling you we danced.  But this was not
the kind of dance where they waltzed around in each other's arms.
They were party dances.

When the party activities got under way, the people were seated
all around the room next to the walls.  Usually some were
standing in the adjoining rooms also, looking through the doors,
because the living room wasn't large enough to hold the crowd.
When that many came to a party, it was considered a good party.

A large crowd was just what they wanted.  More people meant more
games and more happy people playing games.  In general, when
there was a large crowd, things moved along at a faster pace.

The game of "snap" was usually played by the young set--that is,
the sweetheart set who enjoyed holding hands and chasing after
each other.

The game was easy to get started.  All it took was a girl and a
boy to stand in the middle of the room and hold hands, facing
each other.  Then the girls would "volunteer" one of their crowd
and push her forward to be "it."  Then the "it" girl would circle
the room looking for the boy she wanted for a partner.  When she
found him, she would snap her fingers in front of his face, just
as you would in school when you wanted to get the teacher's

This snap told the boy that he was her chosen, at least for a few
minutes.  As soon as she snapped her fingers, she would hurry to
the couple in the middle of the room and the boy she "snapped"
would chase after her.  His object was to touch the girl, and her
object was to try to prevent his touching her.

She would try to prolong the chase by dodging and sometimes
swinging around the couple in the center of the room.  And
sometimes the couple would prolong the chase by favoring the
girl.  They might raise their arms to let the girl go through
between them and then lower their arms quickly to stop the boy.
Or, if the boy was having a hard time catching her, they might
let her start through between them and then lower their arms
quickly and trap her in their arms.

As soon as the boy touched the girl, the chase was ended.  Then
the couple who had held hands would leave and let the new couple
hold hands in the center of the room while another chase took

This was not only a holding-hands game, at times it became a
contact game.  And yet, not too much contact, because the grown-
ups were watching.  Anyway, snap was a popular game at our

Now, this Friday night the party might be at the Johnsons, but
before the party was over, you could bet good money that the
agers would have talked another family into giving a party next
Friday night.

These were strictly play parties.  There were no refreshments
served, not a lot of cooking and fixing.  Just make sure the
house is clean, the yard is clean, and there are plenty of places
to park buggies, hacks, and wagons.  Then hope a big crowd begins
gathering soon after sundown.

Parties were preferred over dances because it was considered
immoral for a boy to put his arm around a girl before they were
married.  Sweethearts could hold hands in the presence of adults,
if it were in the process of playing a game.  But just to sit
this one out and hold hands was unthinkable.

A "good" mother would never tell her daughter it was all right
for her to hold hands in public, or to hug and kiss anywhere, on
her way to church or anywhere else, either afoot or in a buggy--
not even at night.

Somehow, I just can't help but believe that parents knew these
little things were going on between lovers, but they seemed to
think that if they told their kids it was all right for them to
do these things, it would be like saying "sic 'em" to a dog.
Putting it another way, parents were saying, "Don't ever let me
catch you doing such things."  And the kids were not actually
saying but were thinking, "Okay, I'll try not to let you catch me
when I do them."

Dances were looked down upon because they attracted boys who
drank, and girls with loose morals.  There were some boys and
girls who lived six or eight miles from us who were not wanted at
some of the parties given in our neighborhood, and were not
invited by some of our neighbors who were giving the parties.

But when my parents gave a party at our house, they invited
everyone who would come.  They thought it unmannerly to invite
certain ones and leave others out.  They seemed to figure that
their integrity would demand respect from the worst of them--and
it did.  There never was any trouble at our house--no drinking,
no fighting, no "cussing."

I remember one of those parties when some young people came in a
buggy from quite a distance away.  I think I was about nine years
old and, of course, I didn't know all about everything that went
on around me but I knew enough to realize there were some bad
feelings between their families and some of those in our
immediate neighborhood.  The main reason seemed to be that those
youngsters attended dances in other communities and some parents
in our neighborhood sure didn't approve of that.

The incident I remember had to do with their buggy horse which
got sick with a severe attack of colic while the party was going
on.  Someone had wandered outside and had discovered the horse in
great pain.  The boy who owned the animal had seen the disease
before and knew how quickly it could kill a good horse.  So he
offered to sell the animal to anyone for $10.  It would have been
a bargain for Papa, because he knew exactly what to do to cure
the horse.  And the horse was probably worth $50.

When Papa learned about the problem, he got a quart bottle,
filled it about a quarter-full of soda and then added about a
half-quart of kerosene.  Then he climbed up in a tree, pulled the
horse's head high in the air with the bridle reins and poured the
mixture down his throat.  Within ten minutes, the horse was
without pain and resting comfortably, except for a mighty bad
taste in his mouth.

I think the boy was truly grateful that Papa had not taken
advantage of him by buying the horse.  Will Johnson knew that a
good name was rather to be chosen than the value of a buggy

Along with sweethearts, there were a few other things I didn't
understand altogether.  One time during my younger days, I cut
out a picture of a baby buggy from a Sears, Roebuck catalog.  I
don't remember just how old I was at the time.  I was old enough
to do a pretty good job of cutting out, but I didn't do so well
with my reasoning.  I was disappointed to learn that the buggy
wouldn't sit up and roll.

That was not altogether a case of stupidity but rather, a lack of
research.  This was part of the research through which I learned
about the third dimension.

It's hard to believe a kid that stupid could become so smart
within the next few years and retain that smartness for the rest
of his life.

We also learned--not through research, but from concerned
parents, about the choice of words to use, the careful choice, I
might add.

Some words were strictly forbidden.  The word "bull" was one of
them.  We didn't dare use that word in the presence of Papa or
Mama.  And if any of the other kids heard us use it, they would
tattle on us.  So, we just didn't use it.  We were taught to use
the word "surley" instead.

As late as 1940 I knew middle-aged men who would not use the word
"bull" before a woman.  One old farmer said, "I don't know what
the world is coming to.  I believe the time will come when men
and women will use the word 'bull' in mixed company and think
nothing of it."

But that was in farming country.  In cattle country it was
different.  I'll bet a ranch boy wouldn't have known what a
surley was.  One of my rancher uncles was talking to a farmer who
had some calves he wanted to sell to the rancher.  He told the
rancher, "Three of those calves are still nursing."  Well, my
uncle and his daughter had to put forth an effort to hold back
their laughter.  They were not used to nursing calves.  In cattle
country calves don't nurse, they suck.

Continuing along that same line, up until I was a teenager, I
never heard the words "sex" or "male" or "female" used except by
some dirty-mouthed kid.  Even when I was in the seventh and
eighth grades, when I had to fill out certain school papers and
was told to put an M for male or an F for female, there was a wee
bit of embarrassment or shyness associated with the use of gender
words.  The use of the word "sex" was still guarded against,
except in writing.  The word was never spoken in mixed company.
The word "gender" was considered bad enough.

And speaking of dirty-mouthed kids--no one in our family ever
used any kind of dirty words, at least not in my presence.  Some
of the brothers I grew up with are in their seventies now and I
can truthfully say, I can not recall ever having heard one of
them "cuss" nor utter a dirty word.

We have all heard of that proverbial corner around which
prosperity is lurking.  Well, at the Exum place we finally
rounded that corner and bumped right into it.  We got a

I'm sure we didn't have a telephone at the Flint place.  But by
about the time I started to school, almost everyone in our
neighborhood had one.  There were maybe eight or ten parties on
the same line.

We owned our own telephone, put up our own lines, and bought our
own batteries.  Having so many on one line wasn't the best
arrangement but it was better than no phone at all.  It was a big
step forward at that time in the history of our community.

Every day at noon--straight up twelve o'clock--the operator would
ring a long, long ring.  We could set our clocks by it and we
could listen to the weather forecast immediately after the long
ring.  I don't know where they got the weather information,
probably from a record of what the weather did on that same day a
year ago, or maybe from the almanac.  Anyway, wherever they got
it, most of us listened to it and were stuck with it.

In the above paragraph I said the operator would ring.  That's
not exactly right.  It's true, she was a woman operator.  And we
kids knew she was a woman, but we didn't know she was an
operator.  We only knew her as "Central."  As far as we were
concerned, her name might just as well have been Mrs. Central.

At any rate, when we wanted to ring someone on our line, out our
direction from "Central," all we had to do was turn the crank and
ring their ring.  For instance, our ring was a long and four
shorts.  But, if we wanted to talk to someone on a line out
another direction from Hamlin, we had to ring a long ring to get
"Central" and get her to connect our line to the other line.
Then she would ring that party for us.

When any of us tried and tried to ring Central and couldn't get
her to answer, naturally all the phones on our line would be
ringing at the same time, and usually some neighbor on our line
would volunteer to ring for us and help us get through to
Central.  Perhaps the neighbor's phone had a stronger magneto, or
perhaps two or three of us ringing at the same time might send a
stronger current and get through to her.  We tried everything.

Come to think of it, there was the possibility that Central's
phone had been ringing from the beginning.  It was just barely
possible that she was eating a sandwich in another room.  And of
course, we shouldn't overlook the possibility that she might have
been out in the little house backed up to the alley.

Speaking of getting through to the operator, let me tell you
about one day when the operator got through to me.  Now, on this
particular day, Frank was the operator.  He was in command.

Frank, Earl, Joel and I were hoeing cotton.  Frank, being the
oldest and the one who would have to answer to Papa if the work
didn't get done, was working hard and was way out ahead of the
rest of us.  I was the youngest and least and was way behind, but
not too far behind to be able to talk to Earl and Joel.

After awhile Frank looked back and found us doing a lot of
standing and talking and not much working.  He shouted to us to
get to work.  We did for awhile because we knew Frank was boss.
But again we got to talking more than hoeing and Frank yelled
again, "Get to work back there!"

Now, I know it was hard on Frank, he being the oldest and having
all the responsibility for getting the hoeing done.  It was hard
on me too, just being the youngest with no responsibility.

Finally Frank got so far ahead that it seemed not so necessary to
obey him.  Some of us read the Bible with that same attitude.  We
seem to think that God has gone so far away we need not obey him
any more.  But I suppose God knows when we are loafing and
getting further behind, just as Frank knew about us boys that
day.  Anyway, we got more and more lax and Frank got more and
more tense.  Then he shouted again.  "Get to work back there!"

Earl looked at me and said, "Tell him to come and make you."

Now, Earl always was one to recommend that someone else do
something he wouldn't do for anything.  But Earl also knew me and
he was reasonably sure I would do it.  That would leave him
guiltless and he would get to see the fun.  His pleasure would be
twofold.  He would glory in the thought that he had caused me to
do something that we both knew I shouldn't do and he would enjoy
seeing me get a good licking which he knew I had needed many
times more than I had gotten.

At the same time, I was eager to show off and furnish
entertainment for my "fans."  So, I shouted back, "Come and make

And Frank did just that.

I knew what was coming long before he got to me.  I knew it would
hurt and I knew I deserved every bit of it.  But it was funny--in
a way.

By the time Frank got to me I was flat on my back with my feet
toward him.  I kicked furiously.  My laughing hindered me
somewhat but I managed to keep him at bay for awhile.

My feet were flying and aimed in his direction.  He circled
around me, trying to get at my weaker end--my head.  After two or
three rounds, he got me, and I got what was coming to me.

I was so tickled, it didn't seem to hurt at first.  But the more
I laughed the harder he whipped me.  If I remember right, I think
I quit laughing before he quit whipping.  Anyway, I had my fun
and my punishment, Earl and Joel saw a good show and Frank did
what he had to do.  And I worked harder after that.

Do you think I told Mama and Papa what Frank did to me?  Of
course not.  That would have brought a reprimand from them.  I
knew I had done wrong.  I also knew I had better let well enough

And did Frank tell them I had been a bad boy?  Certainly not.  He
had handled the situation well and we all knew he could do it
again next time.  That's the way our family discipline worked.

There were a lot of disadvantages to being little when I was
growing up.  I don't mean like the whipping I got from Frank.
That was okay.  I needed that.  I mean like things I wanted to
do.  There were so many things I wanted to do that Mama and Papa
wouldn't let me do.  They would say, "You're too little."

With Earl and Joel, it was different.  They were not too little--
never had been.  At least, if they had been, I couldn't remember

One thing I wanted to do was go hunting with Uncle Robert and his
greyhounds.  I remember I went one time, but most of the times I
was too little.  I had to stay home and hear them tell about the
rabbit hunt afterwards.

I guess the time they let me go was when they weren't going very
far and they figured I could keep up with the others for awhile.

Anyway, Robert had some dogs that were mighty fast and well
matched.  It was hard for a jack rabbit to get away from them.
Old Queen was his fastest one.  She was his lead dog.  Old Pluto
was almost as fast.  He would run in single file behind Old
Queen, and when a rabbit began to circle, Old Pluto would begin
to cut the corner to keep the rabbit going straight.

A rabbit likes to circle back to his home territory.  He knows
the lay of the land at home and figures he has a better chance to
survive.  But Robert's dogs wouldn't let him circle back.  That
seemed to frustrate him and make him easier to catch.

Robert also had about three other running dogs.  They were not
quite as fast as Queen and Pluto but they played important roles
in the pack.  They were good to spread out and help flush rabbits
out of the weeds and brush.  And they were also there at the end
of the chase to catch the rabbit in case he dodged quickly and
the two leading dogs failed to catch him.

When those dogs jumped a jack rabbit, you could just about write
him off as another dead rabbit.  About the only way a rabbit
could escape was to run into a patch of tall, thick feed where
the dogs couldn't see him.

Other men wanted to buy Robert's dogs at times but he took pride
in owning the best greyhounds for miles around, and his best ones
were not for sale.

Uncle Robert was a favorite of us boys.  He was Papa's youngest
brother and was only eight years older than Frank.  We liked just
about everything about him, especially the way he paid us when we
worked for him.  When we hoed or picked cotton for him, he paid
us as soon as we were through, and he paid us in cash, never by
check.  We hated checks.  Some men paid us boys by check, with
all our wages figured in together, usually along with Papa's.
Then we had to wait for Papa to go to town and get the money,
which might be as much as a week later.

But not so with Uncle Robert.  When time came for him to pay us
boys--as soon as the job was finished--he made it a point to have
a pocket full of coins so he could pay us then and there.  There
was no piece of paper, no writing and no waiting.  And he paid
each of us separately.

Another thing I was too little to do was go upstairs at
Grandma's.  Yet, I didn't mind that so much because I wasn't the
only one.  Even Earl and Joel couldn't go up there.

Robert and Ed were still living at home and not married.  Their
rooms were upstairs and they didn't want us little kids messing
around up there.  Besides, there was danger we might fall on the
steps and get hurt.

I didn't know at the time why they didn't want us to go upstairs.
They didn't tell us the truth about it.  What they told us was,
"If you go up there, the Old Bootjack will get you."  Well, I was
almost grown before I learned what a bootjack was.  Then it was
easy to see that a bootjack wouldn't hurt anyone, especially
little kids.  But the fear of it served its purpose.  And I
suppose we were not mentally warped because of having been fibbed

We learned other lessons also--some the expensive way.  I
remember, some of us Johnson kids were at Uncle John Hudson's
house one day, playing with all his kids, when we discovered a
pig out of his pen.

Now, Uncle John was away from home at that time and we thought we
should do him a big favor and get his pig back in the pen with
its mama.  I don't know why, he couldn't hurt anything, he was
too small.  But he had a pen and we kids thought a pig ought to
be in his pen.  So we got after him.

It was a hot day.  In fact, it was so hot that the sandy ground
burned our bare feet.  We were suffering from the heat but we
thought we must not stop until we caught him.  We felt duty bound
to get that pig back in his pen.

We chased him all over the place and finally caught him out in
the peach orchard.  Well, we were hot, the ground was hot, the
weather was hot, but most of all, that little pig was hot.

We carried our little prisoner and we all got under the shade of
a peach tree.  We kids cooled off right away, but the pig was so
tired and was breathing so fast, we thought we ought to cool him
off with some cool water.

We carried water from the windmill--good, cool water right out of
the well.  Then we poured it on the little pig--and he was dead
in about one minute flat.

We were sorry, but how were we to know that cold water would kill
a hot pig?  No one had ever told us it would.  We learned that
lesson the hard way--that is, hard on Uncle John.  And we learned
some other things too, when he learned about his pig.  Oh yes, he
told us a few things he wanted us to know.

Regardless of all the little mistakes we kids made, we generally
had the run of the farm at our Exum place, except for a few
things which were not allowed.  One of these was, "Don't climb on
the feed stacks."  That would destroy a lot of the feed and allow
rainwater to run in and ruin even more of it.  No problem there.
Most any kid could follow that line of reasoning.  But another
"Don't" that was not so easily understood was, "Don't play in the

What could it hurt to play in it?  It was in a nice bin, and we
would leave it in the bin.  Walking on it wouldn't hurt it.
Digging holes and tunnels in it wouldn't damage the seed.  This
was forbidden fruit we just couldn't understand.

So, the rule about not playing in the cottonseed had its effect
on cultivating our dishonesty.  It was so much fun, we went ahead
and played in the cottonseed bin anyway, when we thought the
coast was clear.  And I can't remember ever having gotten caught
at it.

I can understand it all now.  If we had been allowed to play in
the cottonseed, we might have gotten careless about wasting seed
out the door when we were having a cottonseed fight.  And, more
than likely, we would have left the door open at times for the
rain and rats and cows to get in.  And of course, a cave-in in
one of our tunnels might have trapped one of the smaller kids
when there were no large ones around for rescue work.  We hadn't
thought of that.

But we couldn't understand it at that time, and it seemed to us
that this cottonseed "don't" was not an absolute "don't," but
perhaps more of an "I don't think you ought to" kind of a
"don't."  So, when viewed from that angle, we didn't feel so
guilty.  We just played in the seed and enjoyed it.

But since there was at least a half-hearted rule against playing
in the cottonseed, we didn't dare leave the door open when we
were playing inside.  Papa could have spotted that open door a
quarter-mile away and, come supper time, we kids would have had
to answer a question or two.  Also, a few seeds outside on the
ground could have been seen by conservative parents or maybe by a
brother who was bent on "getting even" with another brother, and
at the same time, putting a fresh shine on his little halo by

In spite of all the drawbacks, we played in the cottonseed, and
naturally we stirred up dust.  And when the sun shone through the
cracks onto that dust, it was hard to see through it--it was sort
of like a wall that you could walk right through.

One day we were playing in the seed when the sun was shining
through a horizontal crack in the boards.  The dust in the
sunshine looked a lot like a large board, lying flat above the
seed.  I tried to crawl up on the dust as though it were a table
top.  But of course, it wouldn't hold me up.

I couldn't understand it.  So I stirred up more dust until it
became very dense.  Then I tried jumping up on it.  But it still
wouldn't hold me up.

Years later, I learned why.  The dust wasn't as dense as I was.

I have told you about a three or four-year-old boy planting with
a two-row planter, a dog plowing for his master, and Texas kids
trying to walk on dust clouds.  Don't go away, I have other true
stories to tell you.

As I mentioned before, I have heard Papa tell of trail driving
near San Angelo, Texas.  He was just a lad at that time--couldn't
have been more than 17 or 18 years old.  Here is what he told me
about 35 years later:

One time when they were on the trail, they had bedded their
cattle down one night near San Angelo and were sitting around the
camp fire doing nothing when one cowboy said, "Let's go into town
and get something to drink."

Another one said, "Good idea, but we're all broke and the boss is
two days behind.  How you gonna get whiskey without money?"

He said, "Saddle up and go with me and I'll show you."

Now this would be worth seeing, so quite a few of the boys rode
with him into town--carrying jugs half full of water.

History tells us that along about that time, San Angelo was made
up of at least 20 saloons and fewer than that number of all other
stores combined.

Before the cowboys reached town, they all knew just what to do.
After hiding their billfolds in their saddle bags, they each took
a jug and split up, one going to this saloon and one to that
saloon and so on.

Then each in turn told the bartender that they were out on the
trail with only half a jug of whiskey, and would he finish
filling it up?  After the jug was filled, the cowboy would reach
for his wallet only to "discover" that he had lost it.  The
bartender would just have to take back his half-gallon.  The poor
boy would have to "make out" with only his original half-gallon.

Now, with quite a few cowpokes pulling this little stunt in about
half the saloons in San Angelo, you can bet your boots they rode
back to camp with plenty of what they came for, a little weak,
but free.

When Papa was a boy, the lives of his entire family had to do
with saddle horses and cattle.  Even the little girls liked to
ride horses and play cowboy.  The youngest girl, Annie, was one
of those little girls.  But when Annie became big enough to do
chores, one of her chores was to churn the milk that made the
butter for the family.  And she hated to have to stay home and
churn while her brothers rode out into the pasture after the

Now, I'm not positive of this, but knowing Papa as I do, I
wouldn't be surprised if he had something to do with helping his
little sister solve her problem.  Whoever it was, the idea worked
well and made a little girl happy.  She would tie a jar of milk
to her saddle and ride on out with the boys, letting her horse do
the churning.

At the Exum farm Mr. Whatley's pasture joined our field.  And in
his pasture he had an old cow which was well educated in the art
of breaking through fences.  And she seemed to enjoy slipping
into our corn patch.

Now, the normal procedure for the average farmer was to put a
yoke on the neck of such an animal.  Of course, the purpose of
the yoke was to bridge across the wires and stop the cow from
going through the fence.

But this old cow soon learned to use the yoke to break the wires
so she could get through the fence easier.  And she had been
spending entirely too much of her time in our field.  Mr. Whatley
either could not or would not keep her out.  Papa thought he
ought to keep her out.

I never learned where Papa got the idea of shooting the cow--
whether it was his own idea or whether a neighbor had prescribed
the remedy.  And even though Papa was smart in most cases, I
really think he used poor judgment when he shot the cow.  He only
meant for the shots to sting her enough to make our corn patch
unpleasant for her.  But he either misjudged his distance from
the cow or he misread the size of shot in the shell he used.

When he shot the cow, she just stood there, I guess wondering
what hit her.  Papa doubted that he had hit her at all.  So he
moved up closer and fired a second shot, which really hurt the
old cow much more than Papa had meant to hurt her.

When Mr. Whatley took a look at his cow, he was hurt even more.
He told the County Judge about it and the judge told Papa to pay
Mr. Whatley for his wounded cow.

Papa argued that the cow had damaged his corn more than he had
damaged the cow--in fact, more than the cow was worth.  The judge
agreed, that might well be true, but it didn't give Papa the
right to go around shooting his neighbor's cow.  Besides, in this
case, the corn would get well much sooner than the cow would.

Papa paid Mr. Whatley for his cow, and went home a little poorer
and a lot wiser.  I don't think Papa ever shot another cow.  If
he did, he didn't tell us about it.



As I said earlier, I got along okay in school.  But throughout
school I was a slow reader.  And this reading slowness has
plagued me all my life.  It even caused me quite a bit of trouble
in college.  As a small boy, when Santa Claus brought me a book,
I was a little disappointed.  I'd much rather have gotten some
kind of a toy, especially one with wheels that would roll.

We kids learned early in life how to do things, purely a matter
of survival.  But learning the "why" of things often came through
reading and I was the slowest of readers.  Even in high school I
read very slowly, but I got what I read tolerably thorough.

I never read my history more than one time and I made "A"
throughout the course.  The same was true with stories and other
readings.  In college I only read my history once.  And I didn't
even review for the final test and came out with a "C."

There were a few books on the shelves in our house when I was a
boy.  Some had pictures, so I looked at them.  Some didn't have,
so I didn't look at them.  And I certainly didn't read them.

There were two books which stood out in our home, always
available and close at hand.  They were the Bible and the Sears,
Roebuck Catalog.  There were times when these two rivaled each
other in importance.  Yet they were both necessary, the Bible for
living and dying and the catalog for "What ye shall put on."  And
then the catalog, after a new one took its place each year,
became the forerunner of what we now know as bathroom tissue.

Each autumn after the first bale or two of cotton had been sold,
Papa and Mama would get the catalog down and make up an order
that would fill a wooden box half the size of a coffin.  Then we
would wait two or three weeks for the shipment to come from
Dallas.  Finally a postcard would come from the railroad depot in
Hamlin stating that the shipment had arrived.  The next time Papa
was in town in his wagon, he would go by and pick it up.

That night after supper we would all gather around for the grand
opening.  There was something in the box for one and all.

There was a pair of work shoes for each, and that pair would have
to last until the fall of next year.  Last year's would do to
wear to school awhile yet.  The new ones would do to wear for
Sundays until they began to look worn, then we could wear them to
school.  And they would last a long time if we would pull them
off as soon as we got in from school in the afternoons, and wear
our old ones for doing chores.  We could still wear our school
shoes for Sunday by shining them up a bit.  And of course, come
March the weather would be warm enough to go barefooted most of
the time.

There was underwear in the box, winter-weight that is.  We didn't
wear any in summer--just overalls and a shirt, that's all--well,
sometimes a straw hat.  And naturally we wore a cap in winter,
with ear flaps.  Each of us would get two suits of the underwear,
unless some of the smaller kids could wear some hand-me-downs,
and unless the hand-me-downs had already been handed down too
many times and were too far gone.

The winter caps came in the big box too, and two pairs of pants
for each boy, caps and pants all corduroy.  Needless to say, the
pants were the knee length kind, known as knickers, gathered with
elastic above the knees.  There were long pants for boys in their
late teens, and those came down to their shoe tops.  There were
socks too.  Socks were short and worn only by men and the big
boys with long pants.  Most of us boys got stockings which met
the knickers above the knees.  They were held up by garters of
black elastic.  The elastic also came in the box--yards of it.
And the garters were made to individual sizes by our mother whose
hands were never idle.  There might have been shirts in the big
box, though I think Mama made most all our shirts.

The corduroy knickers stood out full above the knees due to the
gathering by the elastic.  That caused the legs of the breeches
to rub together when we walked, and that rubbing caused a
swishing noise each time we took a step.  As we walked to school,
most of the boys went step, step, stepping along, but we Johnsons
went swish, swish, swishing along.  And everyone could hear that
we were wearing our new corduroy breeches.

There were things for the girls in the shipment too, and for
Mama.  But I didn't know what they got, except maybe a bundle of
cloth or two or three, to be made into dresses.  I suppose they
also made what they wore under the dresses.  But that was top
secret as far as we boys were concerned.  However, that didn't
bother me.  I was by women's clothing about like I was by Santa
Claus--not very inquisitive.  My field of research didn't include
girls' clothing.

As I grew older, of course, my attitude changed.  I became
somewhat interested in broadening my knowledge of girls and their
surroundings.  And so, with a feeling of guilt, and in strictest
privacy, I turned to the women's section of the Sear, Roebuck
Catalog for research and knowledge of the innermost secrets about
women's wear.

Now, in that big box from Sears, Roebuck there would be blue
denim for homemade overalls.  There would be pots and pans for
the kitchen, and gingham and calico and elastic and needles and
thread.  And there'd be a side or two of black harness leather
for making new lines and new traces and for repairing the old
ones.  Papa also used the same leather for shoe soles and heels.

There'd be shoe tacks and harness thread; bolts, nuts, and copper
rivets; leather lace for saddles, beeswax, welding flux and axle
grease; ropes for handling cows and horses, carpenter tools and
horse shoes.

And one year, for Frank and Susie, there was a phonograph and
some records.  Only I think the phonograph came in a separate
shipment later in the fall--perhaps for Christmas.

One of the favorite records for us smaller kids was "The Preacher
and the Bear."  After awhile those of us who couldn't read could
pick out that record easily because all the letters were worn off
the label.  Even people who could read couldn't read that one
because there was no reading on it.  We little kids had worn it
all off with our fingers making it go round and round.

In those days research and technology had not advanced to the
point where they could make a spring that wouldn't break.  Watch
springs broke in those days.  Cultivator seat springs broke.
Screen door springs broke.  And when automobiles came along,
their springs broke.

This phonograph had a wind-up spring, so it broke too.  That's
when we kids started putting our fingers on the label part of the
record and turning it ourselves.  Fingers got as good reception
as a spring, so we soon wore the label off playing our favorite

Sorry I wandered.  Let's get back to the big box.  In the box I
remember there was a big bolt of cotton-sack ducking.  We started
picking cotton in the fall with last year's old leftover sacks.
But now it was time for new sacks.  The old ones would make good
short sacks for the little kids.  The big new sacks would be for
those who picked the most cotton.

I didn't know it at the time but I learned later that the story
they used to tell us about Santa being overloaded on Christmas
Eve and couldn't bring all the toys was just not true.  The fact
was that Santa had ordered from Sears, Roebuck and they were out
of some of the items and would have to ship them later.  And by
the time those items arrived in Hamlin, Santa had to deliver them
a night or two later.

One year, in the big box, there was a set of shoe lasts and a
stand, for repairing all sizes of shoes.  I don't remember when
we got the set.  I think maybe it came to live with the family
before I did and it was as good as new after I was a grown man.
When Papa put new half soles on our shoes, he would punch holes
with an awl and we little kids always wanted to place the shoe
tacks in the holes.  Our helping didn't delay his work a great
deal--and he was always kind and patient with us as we labored
with him and got in his way.

Many of the items in the big box were surprising to us kids, but
a blue denim jacket was no surprise to Papa, because he was the
one who made out the order in the first place.  He also got
-a bundle of twelve pairs of gray Rockford work socks, also sock
supporters, suspenders, and sleeve holders.  Somewhere tucked
away among other relics of olden days, I think I still have a
pair of old sleeve holders.

You ask, "What are sleeve holders?"  Oh, I thought everybody knew
about sleeve holders.  In those days you didn't buy a shirt with
sleeves the length you wanted.  You just bought a shirt.  All the
sleeves were the same length--long enough for the longest arms.
Then you put on the little elastic holders and let them hold your
sleeves up to the desired length.  They were fancy little
miniature garters to wear over your shirt sleeves above the

I have on my shelf a copy of the 1902 Sears, Roebuck Catalog and
I checked up to see if the socks I mentioned really were Rockford
Brand.  They were--and the price was 55 cents for one dozen

In the big box there were also such items as safety pins, fruit
jar lids, Kodak film, Daisy fly poison, lamp wicks, and
sometimes, a few views for our stereo-scopes.

I'm sure there were other things in the big box.  I just can't
remember all that was in it.  One thing for sure, if we just had
to have it, it was in there.  If we didn't have to have it, we
didn't order it.

Now, a couple of nonessentials that were left off the order were
bicycle tires.  Papa knew that the old tires wouldn't hold air
and he knew they couldn't be patched.  But he knew they would
hold cotton.  So, he showed us how and we stuffed them full of
cotton.  And then we wrapped tire tape over the holes to keep the
cotton in.  And we wrapped tire tape around the tires and rims to
hold the tires on the rims.

You may ask, "Wasn't it hard to pedal?"  Boy!  I'll say it was
hard to pedal.  But I didn't care.  I couldn't reach the pedals
anyway.  Someone had to push me on it.  But I didn't have to push
anyone because I was too little to push anyone.  And the old bike
landed in the junk pile before I was big enough to push any of
the smaller ones on it.

Frank was through with the old bike when he handed it down to us
smaller kids.  He had gotten himself a motorcycle.  I believe it
was an Excelsior by name, although I think it was by name only.
It turned out to be not so hot.

The next thing I knew Frank owned a Buick automobile.  I think he
bought it from Uncle Simpson Johnson.  It had a four cylinder
engine, a spare tire, and a top that would fold down for easier
going when facing the wind.  The top could be put up to keep off
the rain and sunshine.  It was the model which had the two
leather straps running from the front corners of the top down to
the frame on both sides of the radiator.

Another thing I remember from my youth has to do with crazy
sayings which mean nothing in fact.  Some of them are about as
scientific as a black cat causing bad luck if he crosses your

Anyway, most of the parents in our neighborhood didn't want their
kids going out in the hot sun bareheaded.  They would tell the
kids, "If you go out bareheaded, the old buzzards will puke on
your head."

One Sunday we were visiting Uncle Andrew's family.  At least ten
of us boys and girls started out into the pasture and someone
noticed that Lela, the youngest girl, didn't have her bonnet on.
The older ones told her the buzzards would puke on her head if
she didn't go back and get her bonnet.

About 55 years later, Lela told me that she had always had a kind
feeling toward me since that day because I was the only one of
the whole bunch who would wait for her.  All the others ran off
from us and left us to catch up as best we could.

When we threw a stick and it went end over end or round and round
sideways, that was just plain throwing a stick.  But if we
pointed one end forward and shoved the stick forward by a thrust
on the back end of it, our scientific name for that operation was
"puking" the stick.  And we might start one end of a stick
through a hole in a fence or over a fence and "puke" it through
or over in the same manner.

Another thing grown-ups told us kids was, "If you want to see the
wind, you've got to suck the old sow."  Well, I wanted to be able
to see the wind, but that seemed a little far out, even to me.
And before I got around to qualifying, I learned that they were
fibbing to us about it.  You still couldn't see the wind.

Here's another one for you.  When we killed a snake, we kids
wondered why he wouldn't stop wiggling.  We could even cut his
head off and he would keep right on wiggling.  They told us a
snake wouldn't stop wiggling till sundown, unless you turn him
over and make him lie on his back, then he would stop wiggling.
Trouble was, we couldn't get him to lie on his back.  Even with
his head off, he would keep rolling back over on his stomach, as
long as he could wiggle.

On the Exum farm, our house was about a half-mile from Grandma's
two-story house.  One day Mama sent me to Grandma's.  I don't
remember what I went for, but I do remember that when I got
there, I couldn't find Grandma anywhere.  I went all through the
house looking for her.

I didn't find her but I found a full box of matches on one end of
her sewing machine, where she always kept them.  Now, everyone
knows that all little boys like to play with matches.  And since
I was one of those little boys, I, too, liked to play with
matches, especially since I knew I was not supposed to touch

So, I got a handful and went outside.  As I went, I struck them
on the porch wall, on the porch posts, on the bricks along the
flower beds and on the front yard fence.  Soon I was out of
matches and had to go back for more.

I figured that if a little handful of matches was that much fun,
a big handful would be a lot more fun.  My second handful was
really full.

This time I went out in the sand outside the yard and stood up a
row of matches in the sand with their tops up and close enough
together that the breeze would blow the flame from match to
match.  Then I lighted the match on the up-wind end of the row.
It worked perfectly and it was fun watching the flame leap from
match to match all the way to the far end.

I reasoned that too many missing matches would cause grown-ups to
become curious and begin asking questions.  And since they knew
that I had gone to Grandma's that day, I would be the first one
they would question.  So I limited my match pleasure to three
handfuls and then went home.

I still don't know why I was sent to Grandma's that day, but I
remember I was glad I went.  I came back with a deep, dark secret
of my own and a pleasurable memory to add to my storehouse.

In our youth, if any of us kids complained of feeling a little
under the weather, we were given a "scientific" medical
examination at bed time.  We had to stick out our tongue for our
parents to look at.  If there was the least bit of white coating
on the tongue, it meant we must take a calomel tablet and go to

I'm not sure I am spelling "calomel" correctly because I failed
to find the word in my small dictionary.  And I sort of doubt
that our family doctor knew how to spell it.  But it's just as
well.  I have yet to find a doctor who can write so anyone can
read what he wrote anyway.

But anyhow, that was the science of medicine in our family--if
the tongue is coated, take a pretty little pink tablet and wash
it down with a glass of water.

I hated even the thought of taking one.  The slightest taste of
one gagged me.  To prevent vomiting in the kitchen, I would ask
Mama if I could go out on the porch and take mine.

Now, I knew I wasn't apt to vomit on the kitchen floor, but Mama
didn't know it.  Another thing she didn't know was that there was
a knothole in the porch floor, under which, as years went by, a
small mound of pink tablets grew into a large mound.

They never caught me putting the tablets through the hole because
it was always dark.  No one ever took calomel in the daytime,
unless he had nothing else to do but sit around and wait for a
call to the bathroom, which was way out back in the cold--always
cold.  Not one of us ever had a coated tongue in the summertime.

Mama would say, "Hurry, now, it's cold out there."  I knew full
well it was cold out there.  But I wasn't about to take that
little pink tablet.  I was determined to go through ice or snow
or any other bad weather rather than have that little tablet go
through me.  It didn't take long for me to put a tablet through a
knothole, throw a glass of water out into the yard, and get back
into the warm kitchen.  I don't know how the other kids made out.
The knothole was my own secret which I shared with no one.

Looking back, I can easily see that I should have let the entire
family in on my secret.  They could have saved the cost of the
tablets as well as those miserable early morning trips to the
cold bathroom.  And as it turned out, the white coating on my
tongue disappeared during the night the same as theirs did.

I was about eight years old at the time--that is, at the time I
learned to use the knothole.  I enjoyed it until we moved away
from the Exum place.  By the time I was 12 or 14, I began to
understand the scripture where it reads, "As a man thinketh, so
is he."  The scriptures proved to be true.  I thought I didn't
want to take the tablets, so I didn't.  I thought I would get
well, so I did.

Another verse reads, "The Lord will provide."  We often overlook
the little things the Lord does for us, like putting knotholes in
the most convenient places.  Fifty years later, I learned that at
age eight I was a Christian Scientist.  They too, are a group of
people who do not believe in taking medicine.

Many years later, when I was 40 years old, a neighbor told me he
had fleas under his house and he wondered if I might know how to
get rid of them.  I told him, "Try Calomel.  I used it when I was
a kid and we didn't have fleas under our house."

When I was quite a small boy, a number of us were hoeing cotton
one day.  We had stopped at the end of the rows to get a drink
and sharpen our hoes.  Playfully, Frank picked me up and
pretended he was going to throw me over the fence and out into
the county road.  Well, he swung me over the fence and stood me
on my feet down in some weeds.  And there between my feet was a
beautiful little pocket knife.

This seemed almost too good to be true.  I was the happiest
little boy in the whole wide world.  I guess every boy wants a
pocket knife, and I had one--all my very own.

The others all looked at the knife and wished they had one like
it.  Jokingly, Frank said the knife was half his because, if he
hadn't pitched me over the fence, I wouldn't have found it.  So,
a few days later, when he asked if he could borrow it, naturally,
I loaned it to him, not because I thought it was half his, but
because he was my brother and wanted to borrow it.

Frank was going to school at Hamlin at that time and when I
thought it was time for him to return my knife, he told me that a
boy in town had borrowed it and wouldn't give it back.  And that
was the end of my knife.

Now, did I hate Frank for what he had done?  Of course not.  I
was too young to hate.  Hurt, yes, but hate, never!  I still
loved Frank just as much as I ever did.  And it was the same when
he had to correct me.  I loved him just as much while he was
whipping me as I did before he began and after he stopped.

At any rate, my little knife was gone for sure.  But a few weeks
later, I dreamed one night that I found another knife, just about
like the first one.  And, as before, I dreamed I found it by the
fence at the end of our cotton rows.  I dreamed I put the knife
in my pocket.  The next morning when I woke up, I went and
searched my pockets, but the knife wasn't there.

A few weeks later I dreamed of finding still another pocket
knife.  And I dreamed that I remembered having dreamed of finding
the first one but had lost it by putting it in my pocket instead
of holding onto it.  So this time I clutched it tightly in my
hand.  This time, I reasoned, it could not possibly get away from
me, even though I seemed to know I was dreaming.  I felt sure
there just had to be a way to pass from asleep to awake and bring
that knife with me.  But when I woke up, I was disappointed again
and had to conclude that it just couldn't be done.

After that decision, I began putting my dreams to better use.
When I dreamed a dream, and I seemed to realize that I was
dreaming, I would do things to entertain other kids--things no
one else could do, like sliding down the roof of a big barn,
dropping off the edge, and just before I hit the ground, I would
close my eyes so the fall wouldn't hurt me.

At other times I would tease a vicious bull until he would chase
after me, and just before he hit me I would laugh at him and
close my eyes.  He couldn't even find me, let alone hurt me.
Often I would open my eyes and get him to charge again, only to
lose me and miss me when I closed my eyes.

Our youngest son is named Larry.  And after he was a grown man, I
dreamed that he and I were going some place in a Model T Ford car
on a highway in Texas.  It had been raining for weeks and was
still raining.  The highway was muddy and the ruts were so deep
our axles were dragging.  We were wet, cold, tired, and stuck in
a mud hole.  Then the truth came to me.  I got in the car and
called to Larry to get in out of the rain and take it easy.  He
was puzzled, but he got in the car, sat down, and asked, "Why?"

I told him, "Relax and rest, I'll wake up in a few minutes and
everything will be all right.  I'm dreaming all this.  We're not
stuck out here in the mud.  It's not raining on us.  There are no
unpaved highways in Texas and no Model T cars on them.  I'm
dreaming that you are out here in this wet and cold with me.  You
are not really here.  You can't even hear me talking to you.  You
are lying up somewhere in a nice warm bed.  Come to think of it,
so am I."

I woke up sometime later and found things to be just the way I
had described them to Larry in my dream.

Another time I dreamed that Ima, my wife, and I were touring in
the mountains.  We had stopped at a lookout point and were
looking into the valley below.  Dinosaurs were grazing down there
and walking around.  One cute little fellow, with a neck about as
long as four telephone poles, came toward us and stuck his head
up over the rock banister where I stood.  Ima had gotten scared
and ran to the car.  I called to her, "Ima, don't be afraid.
Come back and let's pet him.  You know we're dreaming because
these things have been extinct for thousands of years.  Come on,
he won't hurt us and we'll be the only people living who ever
petted one--or even saw one."

In high school we were told that a long dream might take place
within a few seconds.  But I already knew it from first-hand

I was about nine years old when I had such an experience.  One
day I was riding in the back seat of our Reo car.  Papa was
driving at about his regular speed of twelve miles per hour down
a country road.  I was sleepy but still awake when we crossed Dry
Callie Creek on a noisy bridge.

Then I fell asleep and dreamed we went places and did things that
would have taken a couple of hours in real life.  When I woke up,
I thought I had slept all the way to town and almost all the way
back home.  I was disappointed because I had planned to buy some
candy while we were in town.

I looked around to see how far we were from home only to find
that we were about two hundred yards from the noisy bridge, and
were still on our way to town.



We were about the luckiest kids in the world.  We always had as
much or more than the average kids in our neighborhood.  And of
course, we had each other.  But most of all, we had parents who
had the knack of teaching us how to get pleasure from working and
how to make our own fun, using a minimum of worldly goods while
doing it.

For instance, we played a game called "Driving the Old Sow."  The
equipment for playing the game cost absolutely nothing.  It
consisted of one beat-up tin can and a mesquite stick for each
player.  We spent many happy hours playing the game, especially
when we had a bunch of other kids to play it with us.

Many of our playthings were not bought with a lot of money, but
were the result of our parents' ingenuity and willingness to
build things for us, as well as playing with us and teaching us
how to live more abundantly.

We were the only ones who had a merry-go-round all our own.  It
was a big one--a four-seater, big enough for grown people.  And
we had to hold on tightly or be slung off.  There was a special
seat for the smaller ones so they wouldn't get slung off.  And of
course it was propelled by boy power.

At Christmas we got our share of toys and things, and we got
candy and fruits too.  We had apples during the entire year, and
we got bananas a few times.  But we never saw oranges except at
Christmas time.

On Christmas Eve nights, before we went to bed, we placed chairs
around the living room with a name in each one.  Gifts from Santa
were never wrapped.  He put my things in the chair with my name
in it, and the others likewise.  Next morning no one was allowed
to go into the living room until all were ready to go in.

We were taught that our family should work together to make a
more abundant life for all in the family, and now I was beginning
to see families working and playing together to bring a better
life to all in the community.

The Stevens family lived about a mile from us and one day one of
the boys got married.  The whole neighborhood knew that the
newlyweds were spending the night there at his parents' home.

I was only about nine years old, and I can't remember much about
that one and only chivaree I ever attended.  In fact, I don't
think there was much to remember about it.  But when they
explained to me just how a chivaree was carried on, naturally I
wanted in on the action.  Any country kid could beat a bucket
with a stick.  And it seemed that all the little kids and big
kids and grow people were there with buckets and pans and sticks.

We waited until all the lights were out in the Stevens' house.
Then we silently surrounded the house and when the signal was
given we all marched around the house drumming up all the noise
we could make.

After a few minutes, someone came out of the house with a lighted
kerosene lantern.  Then the newlyweds came out on the porch.  I
suppose they figured we wouldn't go away until they came out.
The groom came out into the yard and said something like, "Ah,
come on that's enough noise, leave us alone."  The older ones in
our bunch exchanged a few friendly words with them and then we
all told them goodnight and went home.

Like all farm families, we had animals.  And when a cow found a
new calf out in our pasture, one or the other of us kids would
claim it for our own.  We would beg, "Papa, can I have it?"  or,
"Mama, can it be mine?"  Yes, they said it could be ours.  And
so, it belonged to one of us kids.

Just about everyone of us had a calf or a colt all our own--until
it came time to sell it.  Then guess whose it became.  Papa's,
naturally.  But then, those of us who were young enough to
believe it was really ours in the first place, were young enough
to forget our loss easily.  After all, there was no harm done.
It had been ours while it was little and cute.

We had one old mare that we called Old Ribbon.  She was not only
called Old Ribbon, she was old and her name was Ribbon.  She was
gentle and slow and patient with us young ones and didn't seem to
mind if four or five of us rode her at one time.

To get up on Old Ribbon we had to lead her up beside a stump or a
tub or a wagon tongue or something else we could climb up on and
then jump on her back.

Along with her other admirable characteristics, Old Ribbon was
also smart.  When she didn't want us to climb up on her, she
would move away just far enough that, when we tried to jump on
her back, we would land on the ground between her and whatever it
was we jumped from.

If we cheated on Old Ribbon and helped each other up without her
having to get near some climbable object, she was still patient
and gentle with us.  She wouldn't pitch us off.  She didn't have
to.  She knew where there was a low-hanging limb on a tree that
she would walk under.  And when she did, there was no way anyone
could stay on her back.  What's more, there was no way we little
kids could keep her from that low limb.  If we pulled her head to
one side, she would go sideways to the limb.  Then we had a
choice--jump off or be forced off.  The one in front could hang
onto the limb; the others would all fall in a pile behind Old
Ribbon.  We soon learned it was best to bail out beforehand.

But one day, I remember, Old Ribbon gave us a little trouble.
However, I'm sure she didn't do it intentionally.

When the Abilene and Southern Railroad was being built into
Hamlin, Papa got a job helping clear the right-of-way.  And it
was Mama's job to take Papa's lunch to him.  Pardon, in those
days it wasn't lunch--it was dinner, at or near midday.  Then we
had supper at the close of day.  Anyway, Mama and I would hook
Old Ribbon to the old buggy and take Papa his dinner every day.
One day we took Papa's dinner to him and found him sawing down
trees where the railroad was to cross Dry Callie Creek.  While we
were there, he sawed into the hollow of a big elm tree and water
gushed out.  After the tree fell, the hollow stump was standing
full of water.  Of course, you've got to be a little kid for
something like that to impress you.  And that's what I was.

But it was another day that Old Ribbon impressed me.  It was
almost dinner time when Mama and I hooked her to the old buggy to
take Papa his dinner.  As usual, I was in the seat with Mama, and
the grub box was in the floor at our feet.  It was covered with a
clean white cloth to keep the flies and dust away.

Now, we hadn't gone more than a hundred yards from our house when
Old Ribbon had to do what comes natural for all horses to do.
But this time Old Ribbon had symptoms of dysentery and gas.
Either one without the other wouldn't have been so bad.  But both
together made it plenty bad.

The dashboard was only half large enough.  It caught what it
could; Mama and I caught most of the rest.  And the white cloth
over Papa's dinner caught its share--but it wasn't white any
more.  In your eyes, it burned, in your nose, it smelled
terrible, and in your mouth, it tasted a lot like what it really

No question about it, there was just one thing to do, go back
home, wash up, wash the buggy, change clothes, change the cloth
over the dinner, hope it didn't go through onto the biscuits, get
going again and take Papa a late dinner.  Ho hum, dull life on
the farm, no excitement.

Papa may have been hungry by the time we got his dinner to him
and he may have been worried and weary.  He may have been upset
and Mama may have been upset but they couldn't afford to say
anything bad.  They didn't allow any sort of rough language in
our family.

Old Ribbon was a good gentle horse for Mama and us kids, but Papa
had some big horses he used to move heavy loads and haul his
cotton to the gin.  And in the rush cotton picking season, we
kids and Mama picked almost all of the cotton, while Papa took it
to town, got it ginned and then sold it.

There were many days when Papa would leave home before five
o'clock in the morning with a load of cotton, wait his turn at
the gin and not get home until after ten that night.

Ginning was slow in those days.  Sometimes it would mean that
Papa could get home an hour or two earlier if he could get to the
gin ahead of just one other farmer.  So, a good team was valuable
to a farmer during the cotton harvest season.

I never heard Papa tell of trying to go around another farmer on
his way to the gin.  But I have heard him tell of speeding up to
beat another man to a crossroads in order to be ahead of him when
they both turned the last corner toward town.  And I have heard
him tell of others trying to pass him on the road.  But I never
heard of one who succeeded.  Papa drove big horses with a lot of
endurance, and on a three-mile stretch of level road, they
usually held their own.

Despite all the work we had to do, we kids played a lot and had a
lot of fun.  When it rained at the Exum place, water ran out of
our pasture, across the parking area by our front yard, and
continued on down a road toward the blacksmith shop.

It had just come a hard rain and was still sprinkling a little.
So we took shovels and damned up the road where it was deepest
and not spread out so much.  Water was flowing into our small
lake almost as fast as we could build the dam.  The water backed
up and covered the parking area by our front yard.  By the time
the water stopped flowing and we stopped building the dam, water
was as much as three feet deep over an area as large as two or
three city lots.

I don't remember where Frank got his boat.  Nor do I know how
long he kept it nor whether he built it especially for that
occasion.  But I do know we went riding in his boat just outside
our front yard.  They even took Kodak pictures of us in the boat
on our little lake.

In two or three days the dam had to be destroyed and the lake
drained so we could use the road again and so we could get in and
out of our front yard.

The years passed quickly and during the period from 1912 to 1916
things were happening fast in our part of the country.  Hamlin
was growing up.  In the fall of the years, they had their fairs,
with their carnivals, large hot-air balloons, motorcycle races
and livestock shows.  Prosperity was spreading over our country
and everyone who wanted to work could get a job.

Frank took his horse and buggy and carried the mail at times, as
a substitute carrier.  But for some reason unknown to me, he
became disenchanted with the job and gave it up.

Papa bought our first auto in 1916.  It was a 1914 model Reo,
five-passenger touring car--the cost, $800.  We drove it until
1922, then junked it.

That Reo car had a feature I have never seen on any other car.
The left pedal was a clutch pedal the first half-way down.  The
remainder of the way down, it became a foot brake.  The right
pedal was an emergency brake.  Both had ratchet-type bars
underneath which held them down to the desired place.

Handy?  You bet!  Many car owners wished their cars had the
clutch and brake under one foot.  It was especially handy when
starting a car headed uphill, because it left the right foot free
to work the gas feed.

The old Reo didn't have a lot of power to brag about--maybe about
as much as a couple of wooden-legged donkeys.  I remember we went
to Lamesa in it one time.  Going up the Cap Rock, it just
couldn't make it alone.  The road was steep and rocky.  The
Buick, which we bought later, would go up the hill with all of us
still in the car.  But the Reo was different.

We not only had to get out and walk up, we had to push the Reo up
too.  There were about four or five of us pushing, and two of us
were carrying rocks to put behind the wheels when it stopped.
Then the driver would "rev" up the motor, let up on the clutch,
and with all of us working together, we would move the car
forward and upward two or three steps.  Then again, rocks behind
the wheels--quickly.

That kind of life gave people something to do besides griping and
asking Washington for handouts.  It also gave a man pride in
ownership, especially if the car he owned would outdo the car his
neighbor owned.

Bragging on your car was a way of life in early carhood days.  If
a man had a car that could do anything his neighbors couldn't do,
that was something to brag about.  No two cars were alike.

But now, 60 years later, we find that auto-makers have wiped out
all differences and are making all cars alike.  No matter which
company made the car you are driving today, you have nothing to
brag about.  Today's cars all have at least four things in
-they are too big, too powerful, too costly and burn too much

But it hasn't always been that way.  About the same year we
bought our Reo, a neighbor family of ours had a flat tire.  They
set the emergency brake while they jacked up the car to put the
spare on.  Then when they got going again, they forgot to release
the brake and drove about a half-mile with the brake on.  Later,
one of the boys in that family bragged that their car was so
powerful it went a half-mile with both hind wheels sliding.

My brother, Frank, got rid of his motorcycle and his Buick car
and bought a Grant auto.  It had a reputation of having great
power.  They said you could run the front bumper up against a
tree and it had enough power to sit there and spin the wheels on
dry land.  That was a lot of power for that time.

One fellow who didn't think too highly of the Grant said he knew
a man who bought one and, not having a garage to lock it in,
drove it out by his hog pen and chained it to the pen.  That
night some thieves came, cut the chain and stole the pen.

But before cars made it so handy for farmers to drive into town
to buy supplies, peddlers were already plentiful, bringing
supplies to the farmers.

Horse-drawn rigs were apt to pull up at our farm almost anytime.
They had for sale most anything you might want, from kitchen
utensils to medicine; hardware to veterinarian supplies; needles
and thread and blue denim.  You name it--they had it--even
horseshoes and nails.

With the new prosperity came growth, and as a country grows so do
her cities and towns.  And as towns prosper, they breed violence.

I was only a kid but I heard some grownups telling about a man
who got shot in Hamlin.  One man was after another man with a
shotgun.  He got off one good shot, which proved to be effective
enough.  The man who got shot ran into a hardware store, ran
through the store and out into the alley, up the alley a few
doors, then ran back into a drygoods store.  There he crawled
under a counter to hide and died.  That's how I remember it.
That's all I ever heard about it.  I don't know who got shot nor

During all this time, naturally, we kids were growing up too.
Frank was almost a grown man and Susie had fallen in love.  When
she was born, they named her Susie.  But it wasn't long till her
Aunt Annie nicknamed her "Sookie."  She hated that nickname ever-
so-much.  Nevertheless, she was stuck with it until she began to
get serious about having Dode Sanford over to our house for
supper quite a few times through the week and almost every Sunday
night.  Then she began asking us kids to call her Susie.  She
even gave us a penny now and then to do so.

Fifty years later she moved to California and changed her name
again--to Susan.  Some girls are just never satisfied with what
other people give them.  She still argues that she was named
Susan to begin with.  And she's probably right, Jones County
didn't start keeping records until four years later.

Anyway, Uncle Jim's farm joined our farm on the east.  Dode was
working for Uncle Jim on his farm.  That made Dode and Susie
door neighbors.  I think that was about the time I began to learn
a little bit about what being sweethearts was all about.

Well, the long-awaited day finally arrived and Susie and Dode got
married.  I don't remember much about it all.  In fact, I never
did know much about it.  They didn't tell me and I didn't know
enough about it to know what kind of questions to ask to find out
more.  If I remember right, it seems they just drove away in the
car one day with Papa, and when they returned, someone told me
they were married.  I couldn't tell by looking; they looked the
same as ever to me.  I was told they went to see a preacher but I
didn't know what for.

Even at that early date, the county began to need better roads.
Farmers were allowed to work on the county roads so-many days a
year as a way of paying their taxes.  The road work could be done
at a time most convenient to the individual farmers.  This was
not a matter of welfare handouts to farmers.  Rather, it was a
case where farmers worked together to improve conditions in their
community and still keep their money at home.

If a man was unable to do his share of the road work, the county
would collect tax money from that man and use it to hire another
man to work in his place.

Papa did his share of the county road work.  But with that work
added to all his regular farm work, he had to search for faster
and better ways to do some of his work.

You see, one of Papa's big problems was that he had a house full
of growing kids who could use a spoon right well at the dining
table, but were too little to use a feed-heading knife in the

There just wasn't enough time to head our feed in the fall.  Papa
had a row binder with which to bundle the feed.  But he wanted
feed heads in the barn to feed his work horses.

So he bundled the feed with his binder and shocked it up to dry.
While it was drying, he built a large knife, somewhat like those
paper cutters you have seen in print shops.  He bolted the cutter
to one sideboard of his wagon Then he would drive the wagon up
beside a shock of feed in the field, and while he placed the
heads of a bundle across the lower knife blade, one of us boys
would bring the upper blade down and cut the heads off the
bundle.  When the heads were cut off, they fell into the wagon.

The cutter worked quite well when Papa had the proper boy
operating the knife, but sometimes he had to use me to help him.

As I said, Papa and I did a lot of things together.  Cutting
heads off bundles was one of those things.  Almost cutting his
hand off was another.

One day Papa was placing the bundles into the cutter and I was
working the upper knife.  I thought he was ready for me to cut,
but he hadn't gotten his hand back out of the cutter.  It looked
to me like a bad cut.  It bled a lot at first.  I sure regretted
what I had done, but I guess it wasn't cut very badly because he
wrapped his bandanna around his hand and we went right on with
our work.

Papa was always and forever doing things that fascinated me and,
at the same time, taught us to use our heads and develop our

When we had used all the hot water washing our feet at bedtime,
and there was not enough water for Papa to wash his, he didn't
seem to mind.  He would get a wash pan of cold water, set it on
the hearth and put in live coals of fire until his water was hot
enough.  We kids liked to hear the hot coals sizzle in the water.

There were times when the kitchen was too cold for comfort at
early breakfast time.  Of course, the dining table was in the
cold kitchen.  Well, Papa would take an open-top, five-gallon can
with about four inches of ashes in the bottom and a few
shovelfulls of hot coals on top of the ashes and set the can
under the dining table.  That would warm our feet while we ate
breakfast.  And it would also help warm up the kitchen.

So, it was there at the Exum place that I spent six of the best
years of my life.  They were years of family contentment and
prosperity--we youngsters working, playing, exploring, wading in
the creek, hunting rabbits with air rifles, going to school;
gathering eggs, feeding chickens, feeding cows and horses;
playing in the barn, playing in the cottonseed, eating peanuts in
the barn loft, wading in puddles after summer showers; enjoying
the warm fire in the fireplace, washing our feet by the warm
hearth at bedtime, snuggling between warm blankets in cold
bedrooms; in short, growing up and enjoying every minute of it.



Papa had two rancher brothers, Joe and Simpson, who had remained
in the cattle business when all the rest of the Johnsons went to
farming.  And Papa preferred cattle ranching over cotton farming.
So he got the urge to get back to growing more cattle and not so
much cotton.

This was not just a far-out dream as if he didn't know what he
was doing.  After all, he had been in the cattle business with
his father until the time they all moved back to Texas from
Oklahoma.  At that time he went to farming because it required
far less capital to be a farmer than to be a rancher.  And he was
a young man just starting out on his own.

But now he had accumulated a little of this world's goods and he
thought it was time to step up to a larger place that would grow
enough cows and calves to afford a better future for him and his
family.  This was not just a wild adventure.  He knew it was
easier to grow a dollar's worth of calves than it was to grow a
dollar's worth of cotton.

We had prospered greatly during our six years on the Exum farm.
But our chances for expanding in Jones County were limited.  Most
of the good pasture land had been cleared and put into
cultivation.  But on the West Texas plains there was ample room
to expand.  The soil was rich for farming and yet not too
expensive for pasture land.

So in 1916 Papa went to that land of promise and bought a section
of unimproved land ten miles southwest of Lamesa.  It was a half-
mile wide and two miles long.  It was part of the old
Higginbotham Ranch.  The ranch was being sold piece-by-piece for
farms.  And it seemed to be a very good place to grow feed and

Now Papa knew he would have to have a place to live.  He knew he
couldn't move onto unimproved land and start making a living on
it.  So he also bought another smaller farm about five miles from
the large one.  It was fairly well improved.  His plan was to
live on the small farm while he sent us kids to school, built
five miles of wolf proof fence around the new land, had a well
drilled, put up a windmill and a water tank and built an eight-
room, two-story house to live in.  He did all this on the new

With that much completed, we moved onto the new farm and started
building a small barn, chicken house, car shed, tool house, storm
cellar, wash house, an out house, a yard fence, field fences and
cross fences.  This all took quite a spell but by this time the
place was fairly well improved.

But wait--before we did anything to either farm we moved into the
house on the small farm in the dead of winter.  Dode and Susie
moved in with us--or rather, we moved in with them.  The plan was
for them to farm the small place and we would farm and ranch the
large place.  We would live with Dode and Susie until we made the
other place livable.

There we were, all of us, in the cold winter, waiting for the
weather to cooperate so we could begin improving the raw land.

Meanwhile the family who sold us the small farm with the house on
it, and who had planned to be moved out by this date, had not
moved out.  And since it was coming a blue norther and snowing
outside.  They were not in a big hurry to move out.  But they
were kind to us and shared with us what they had--which was ours
of course.

There were four in their family.  They retained the kitchen with
a cookstove in it, the livingroom with a heating stove in it, and
a bedroom.  They let us have two small rooms in which to store
our furniture and cook and eat and sleep.

There was no flue for a stove in our part of the house.  We ran a
stovepipe out through one window and attached the lower end of it
to a small heating stove so we could fry flapjacks and heat the
room.  But when the wind blew from the wrong direction, the fire
smoked up our rooms and we had to aim the stovepipe out another
window more in keeping with the direction the wind was going.

It seems that the family in the other part of the house was named
Stewart--Mr. and Mrs. Stewart and their two kiddos.  Boy!  Did
they deal us misery by not sharing a greater portion of our house
with us.  I think I would hate everybody named Stewart except I'm
not quite sure Stewart is the right name.

Man, it was cold!  As I said, there were four of them in three of
our rooms with good stoves in two of the rooms.  And in the two
rooms that we had there was Papa, Mama, Susie, Dode, Earl, Joel,
Albert, Ollie Mae, William Robert, and me--ten of us.  And out in
the pasture were all our cows and horses, practically freezing to
death.  Mr. Stewart was using our sheds for his cows and horses.

Papa had bought two or three carloads of cows in Jones County and
had shipped them to Lamesa by rail, along with our horses,
household goods and farming tools.

You know the old saying, "Things could have been worse."  Well
this time we didn't think things could ever be worse.  But we
were wrong.  They did get worse; 1917 was a dry year.

We kids went to school while Dode and Papa went about farming the
small farm and improving the large one.  The dry weather
prevailed throughout the year.  Grazing dried up and cattle got
poor.  Papa did what he could to feed his family and his

The United States was at war with Germany and, luckily for us,
Uncle Sam was buying rabbits.  Jackrabbits brought ten cents each
and cottontails brought six or eight cents.  When we killed a
rabbit, all we had to do was cut open his abdomen and sling his
intestines out.  Then we pitched the rabbits into the wagon and
took them to town in the next two or three days.

We were looking for most any honorable way to pick up an extra
dollar.  I have seen Papa and Mama take a 22 rifle and a lunch
and some horse feed for their team and go out in a wagon and stay
all day, while we kids were in school.  Before night they would
come home with rabbits piled eight or ten inches deep all over
the wagon bed.

One man bought a single-shot 22-rifle and some shells on credit--
about eight dollars worth.  In one week he brought in enough
rabbits to pay off the debt.  That was one time you might say
rabbits saved our lives.

During the dry weather, while we were slowly losing about
everything we ever had, Papa hired out to haul cottonseed cake in
his wagon to ranchers somewhere west of Lamesa.  I didn't know
where he was taking it but there were times I didn't see him more
than once or twice a week.

Monroe Hamilton was one of our neighbors.  He and his family
lived about a mile from us.  During the drought of 1917 his work
horses got so weak and poor that they became exhausted while
plowing in the field.  They stopped in the middle of the field
and had to be unhitched and walked home.  He began feeding them
more and working them less while they regained their strength.
Mid-afternoon was about as long as they could keep working.

By the time the horses were strong enough to work all day again,
they had become accustomed to stopping their work about mid-
afternoon and they refused to pull the plow after that time of

One day Monroe became so unhappy with them that he unhitched them
in the field where they had staged their sit-down strike, drove
them to the barn, hitched them to his wagon and trotted them
eight miles to Lamesa to get the mail.  Then he trotted them
eight miles back home.  They had never experienced becoming
exhausted while pulling a wagon out on the road.  They were not
smart enough to pull a sit-down strike anywhere except plowing in
the field.

During World War I, Frank wanted to join the Army.  But Mama and
Papa did their part in talking him out of it.  He was too young
to be drafted.  But he wasn't at home much after that.  He worked
here and there in defense work.  He told us he worked awhile in a
powder factory in West Virginia.  After the war was over, he came
home in 1919 and worked some for Dawson County, doing some
mechanical work on a road grader tractor.  Finally, Papa bought a
big truck and let Frank take it and go wherever he could find a
job, hauling whatever anyone would pay him to haul.

Another source of income for us during the dry weather was in
gathering and selling dry bones.  There was a ready market for
bones in Lamesa.  A lot of cows had died here and there due to
dry weather and cold weather.  We hauled and sold quite a few

We also salvaged a lot of rawhides--dry rawhides.  We couldn't
sell them but we could use them ourselves.  They were hard and
stiff, but by soaking them in water we were able to straighten
them out, cut them into strips and use the strips for braiding
whips and making other useful articles to be used on the farm.

Despite all the work, we boys had some time off for fun and
adventure.  There were times after rains when it was too wet to
plow.  But then there might be bushes to be grubbed or we might
have to build fence or maybe chop wood or do any one of a dozen
things that kept bobbing up to be done.  If and when we got all
those things done, and then if it was still too wet to plow or
hoe weeds, then we had some time off for ourselves.  Also on
Saturday afternoons we took time off, unless there was something
which just had to be done.

We always had Sundays off for rest and play, but never for work
of any kind, that is, work which was of any monetary value,
except routine work like milking cows and feeding the livestock.
The question of work came up one Sunday afternoon when we put
some new tires on our car to go watch an airplane at Lamesa.  But
then, that was regarded as play since it involved only recreation
and had nothing to do with work which could in any way produce
anything of value.  Sunday was a day for going to church,
resting, visiting friends, playing games, reading, or just

Now, if we boys wanted to go out into the pasture and kill a
snake or two with sticks, that was okay.  And if we could get a
rabbit without a gun, that was all right too.  But, no guns on
Sundays.  When a rabbit ran into a prairie dog hole, we could
twist him out with a barbed wire.  That was okay on Sunday.

We would run a barbed wire down into the hole and twist it by
means of a crank at the upper end, which was nothing more than
the wire itself bent in the shape of a small crank.  As the wire
revolved over and over down in the hole, it would get the barbs
entangled in the rabbit's fur and we could pull him out of the
hole.  That was called "rabbit-twisting."

The idea of sin being connected with shooting a gun on Sunday had
probably been handed down from pioneer days when men lived by
hunting game.  In those days hunting was a means of making a
living, therefore it was work, and work was not to be done on

Despite the dry weather that seemed to threaten our very
existence, we used water from our well and grew quite a bit of
garden produce.  Our garden was like an oasis in a dust bowl.
And then, one day we received a bit of news that was like an
oasis of good news in our desert of bad news.

Uncle Robert got word to us that Old Scotch had returned home to
the Exum place.  Papa began getting the car ready immediately and
went after him.  I think maybe Joel went with Papa.

A family named Bristow was living on the Exum farm when Old
Scotch returned.  Mr. Bristow thought this might be our dog, but
he was not sure.  He said it looked as though the dog had
traveled a long, long way.  The first thing Old Scotch did was
lie down in the yard and rest.  Then he chased all the chickens
out of the yard as he had done many times before.  Next he went
into the house and slowly looked through all the rooms, as if
looking for something familiar to him.  Finding no one he knew,
he went back out into the yard to rest again.

Then Mr. Bristow phoned Robert Johnson to see if he might know
our dog.  Robert drove over in his Buick.  Old Scotch met him way
down the road and leaped for joy beside the car all the way back
to the house.  He had finally found new hope.  The Buick motor
was music to his ears and, although Robert was not home folks, at
least the dog knew him as a friendly neighbor.

When Robert got out of his car, Old Scotch leaped up into the
front seat, sat down and put his paws on the steering wheel.
When Robert saw him do that, he turned to Mr. Bristow and said,
"That's their dog all right."

We had no telephone on our farm on the plains.  And we were ten
miles from Lamesa.  I don't know how Robert got word to us about
Old Scotch, but Papa lost no time in bringing him home.  The
round trip was 280 miles.

When Papa brought the dog home he was covered with lice, there
were sores on his body, some of his beautiful coat had fallen
away and his feet were sore from traveling so far.  He had lost a
lot of weight, was poor and half starved.

We believe that some Gypsies stole him and tied him to their
wagon.  Gypsies came by our farm now and then, and both we and
our neighbors had a low opinion of them.  Theirs were the only
poor, skinny dogs we ever saw.

Anyway, we were mighty glad to have Old Scotch back with us and
we soon had him as fat and sassy and as good looking as ever.
And he was right there with us all the rest of his life.

Now that we had our dog back home, it was time again to settle
down to facing the realities of dry weather and sandstorms.  One
day there came a sandstorm from the southwest, as usual.  We had
many sandstorms but this one was not just one of the ordinary
ones.  This was an extra special--the granddaddy of all
sandstorms.  We kids were in school at Ballard and it got so dark
in the schoolhouse we couldn't see to read.  We could only sit
and talk or play games.  You could clean the dust from the top of
your desk, and two minutes later write your name with your finger
in the new dust.

When school was out at four o'clock in the afternoon, it was so
dark the teacher was afraid some of us couldn't make it home.
She held us there until our parents came for us.  The wind was
still very strong.  Everyone drove with their lights on, not to
see the road but to see each other.

We couldn't see the sunset--couldn't even see where the sun was
supposed to set.  We didn't believe there were any clouds, only
sand and dust.  But we really couldn't tell.  Anyway, dark came
way before its time.

At suppertime that night there was so much sand and dust in the
air in our kitchen that we ate supper with the tablecloth still
spread over the table, over the food, and over the plates we were
eating out of.  We held the cloth up with one hand to shelter our
plates while we reached under the cloth with the other hand to
bring food from our plates to our mouths.

During the afternoon, sand blinded the rabbits and they couldn't
find their way to their burrows.  Jackrabbits don't usually
burrow, but cottontails always do when they need shelter.  This
time it was different.  They needed shelter but couldn't find it.
This time they all sat behind bushes with their tails turned to
the wind and sand.

For hours the sand didn't let up.  About ten o'clock that night
the wind shifted around to the west, a little while later, to the
north, and then to the northeast.  It still didn't slow up.  Each
time it changed directions, it stirred up more sand.

As the wind shifted, so did the rabbits.  They moved around their
respective bushes, keeping behind the bushes from the sand, and
with their tails still windward.

When the wind came out of the north, it became very cold and
began to snow.  The temperature got down below zero that night
and many rabbits froze to death and were buried under the snow.

For a week or two after that storm, we went hunting and shot dead
rabbits, not knowing they were already dead.  They were still
sitting under bushes and looking very much like live rabbits.  We
continued to shoot dead rabbits until they were all eaten by
coyotes and buzzards.

It was reported that one rancher near Lamesa lost 500 cows that
night from the cold and the snow.

On one side of our house snow drifted into a huge pile halfway up
our windows.  After it melted, the sand which blew in with the
snow was at least two feet deep.  That was the first time I can
remember when snow was so dirty we couldn't make snow ice cream.
However, there were many other times later on.

Here is another little rabbit story.  On one occasion when Frank
was home, he went rabbit hunting with the other four of us boys.
We hadn't had much luck until almost sundown.  By that time we
were still about four or five miles from home and we came to
another windmill and waterhole.  There was a lot of sagebrush
around the waterhole and jackrabbits began to hop up here and
there.  This place was so far from civilization the rabbits were
not much afraid of us.  They would hop off a way and stop and sit
up and look back at us.

We all spread out and took a swath about the width of a city
block and circled the waterhole one time--and killed more
jackrabbits than we could carry home.  We swung some of them over
our shoulders, tied some to our overall suspenders and carried
some in our hands.  It was a long way home and we were plenty
tired before we got there.

During our stay on the plains, tractors had not yet established
themselves on American farms, at least not in our part of the
country.  Men were still raising fine work horses and looking
forward to raising even bigger and better ones.  A neighbor named
Debnam bought the biggest horse I ever hope to see.  A big man
had to reach high to touch his nose, and few men could reach the
top of his shoulders.  He was one of the six largest stallions in
the United States and he cost the man $3,600.  By the time he was
three years old he weighed 2600 pounds, and his feet were about
as large as a cedar water bucket.

Now Papa needed at least four of those fine work horses but he
didn't have the money to buy them, and he couldn't get the money.
And farm tractors were almost unheard of before the late 1920s.
However, there was a company that made an attachment to go on a
Model T Ford car which was supposed to make a tractor out of the
car.  The manufacturers name for the "thing" was "Pull-Ford."
Papa heard of a man who had such a contraption, so he went to
look at it.

Now, the fact that the man was not using the gadget should have
told Papa something.  Moreover, the fact that he was willing to
sell it at a bargain should have told Papa something more.  And
finally, when he went and looked at it and saw that it was
practically unused, that should have been the final message to

But Papa wasn't listening good.  He was a man in trouble.  Dry
weather and sand colic had claimed some of his best work horses.
And he could buy this thing for a lot less than four horses would
cost.  Anyway he bought the attachment and made it fit on the
Reo.  I suppose he reasoned that a Reo owner had more sense than
a Ford owner, and even if it was not a success on the man's Ford,
he could make it do the job on a Reo.

Well, anyway he bought it and brought it home and a few days
later he had it all rigged on the old car and ready to go.  It
didn't prove to be the best tractor in the world, in fact, it
might compare with a modern tractor of today about like the
Wright Brothers' first flying machine would compare with a

Anyhow it worked some.  It took one to drive the car and one to
ride the plow.  It didn't replace the horse in the field half as
well as the Reo car replaced the horse on the road.  Yet it
filled in somewhat when feed was scarce and horses were tired.
This monster didn't have to stop and rest, just stop to get water
and cool off.  As a tractor it wasn't so hot--it only got hot.

We didn't spend all of our time at hard work on the farm.  Come
Saturday afternoon, if we were pretty well caught up with our
farm work, we would spend an hour or two in Lamesa.

I remember one time we were in Lamesa, when I was eleven years
old.  I had spent all my money except a dime.  I wanted to buy a
pocketbook to put my money in.  There were four stores in town
that sold pocketbooks and I went to all of them but it was of no
use.  The cheapest one any of them had was ten cents.  Now, if I
spent my dime for one, I wouldn't have any money left to put in
it.  And if I didn't buy one, I was apt to lose my dime.  What
should I do?  That was a big decision for me to make.

I went back to each store time and again, hoping to find a five
cent pocketbook I had overlooked before.  But it just wasn't
there.  And I don't recall whether I bought a ten cent one or
kept my dime.

Now you may ask, "If you can't remember whether or not you bought
the purse, how can you remember it was on a Saturday?"  That's
easy.  Saturday was about the only day we went to town.  I was a
big boy before I learned that there were people in town on other
days of the week.  I hardly knew that stores opened except on

I remember another time in Lamesa when a kid about my size was
aggravating me.  Now, we kids were taught not to fight.  I grew
up not knowing how to fight, not wanting to fight and thinking
that boys who did fight were bad boys.  And here I was, faced
with the stark realization that I needed something I didn't
have--the ability to make a bully leave me alone.  I was about as
big as he was, but I was afraid he had the know-how to fight in a
way that could hurt a country boy like me.

I didn't want to fight the boy.  I only wanted him to go away and
leave me alone.  But he had other plans.  We went in and out
among the cars parked by the curb.  I was always in the lead, he
was after me.  Somehow I had hoped that I could lose him.  But he
kept coming back, pinching and hitting me a little harder each
time.  I really think my not fighting him encouraged him to get
tougher and rougher.

Then he got me out behind the cars, out near their back wheels,
and he was just about to really let me have it.  People on the
sidewalk couldn't see us.  It was just him and me.  I had to do
something--so I hit him and ran.  That proved to be the best
thing I could have done.  He came right after me.  I knew he
might hit me but he couldn't hit me in the face and bloody my
nose--I had my back to him.

I jumped up on the curb with the bully right on my heels.  The
first man I passed asked, "Is that boy bothering you?"  Before I
could answer him, the boy had turned and was going away.  He
didn't bother me any more.  He probably thought the stranger was
a friend of mine and that he had better leave me alone or else
the man would get him.

On another trip to Lamesa I went with Papa one day into the back
of a hardware store--back among the shelves of bolts and nuts and
things.  Way back there were stacks of silver dollars and half
dollars and other coins, lying there on a shelf where the store
was only half lighted.  Papa and the clerk were around behind
some other shelves.  They couldn't even see me.  It would have
been easy to slip some money into my pocket and walk away.  But I
didn't, and I have wondered a lot of times just why I didn't.

There was no question but that I knew it would be the wrong thing
to do.  Yet I don't believe the moral aspect kept me from taking
at least some of the money.  That is to say, I could have lived
with my conscience but I could not have lived with the
condemnation I would have gotten from my family, once they
learned about it.  And I knew that somehow they would learn about
it.  Then there would have been the "dishonoring" of thy father
and thy mother.

This would not have been a small thing, like talking back to
Frank in the cotton patch years ago.  That was an isolated case
of one boy doing wrong and receiving his punishment.  It was my
punishment alone, it hurt no one else in the family and it was
soon forgotten.  But taking any part of the money from the store
would have been altogether different.  There would have been no
way for me to take some of it, then take my punishment and not
hurt my folks.

Until the depression years of the 1930s, merchants never fooled
around with pennies.  If the wholesale cost of an item was four
cents, he would usually sell it for ten cents.  Then he could
sell the items at two for 15 cents and still make a good profit.

Well, Papa wanted to buy us kids some firecrackers but the war
was on and they had gone from five cents a package up to ten
cents a package.  With six kids at home, that would put quite a
strain on Papa's pocketbook.  So while he was figuring how many
to buy, my brother Joel began dickering with the clerk.

"Two for 15 cents?" he asked.

"Yes," came the reply.

"Four for a quarter?"

"Yes, I guess so."

"Nine for a half dollar?"

"Well, yes, okay."

Papa bought the nine packages and we all laughed at how far that
was from ten cents each.

Susie had gotten married about the time we moved to Lamesa.  And
with her away from home, Mama was always short handed in the
kitchen, there being so many men and boys in the family and only
one little girl still at home, and she was too little to be of
much help.  And since Mama's kitchen work extended to the milk
shed, the henhouse, the vegetable garden, the wash house, the
clothes line, the ironing board, the yard and a few other odd
jobs about the place, she had to cut all the corners she could.

She never put our eating dishes up in the cabinet.  After she
washed them, she stacked them back on the dining table and
covered them with a cloth.  So, she didn't have to place the
dishes at mealtime.  We simply sat down and got our own plates
and tools.  And we took only the tools we needed.  There was no
need to have to wash a knife, a fork and a spoon when a spoon was
all we needed to use.

We grew up not knowing there were different forks to use for
different things.  We used the rule of instinct in choosing the
tool to use.  That is, "If it's hard, use a knife, if it's soft,
use a fork, and if it's wet, use a spoon--except in the case of
molasses.  You sop molasses up with a piece of biscuit."

To save time and effort, Mama also left certain foods on the
dining table--the salt, sugar, pepper, syrup, honey, vinegar,
pepper sauce and other such things.  These were all covered with
the same cloth that covered our dishes.  We had no refrigerator.
Nothing would spoil at our house, we ate it before it had time to

Mama needed help to wash the dishes after supper.  But boys don't
like to wash dishes.  So Mama was in trouble--but not for long.
She came up with an ultimatum:  "You wash your own supper dishes
or eat out of your same plates for breakfast."

This was a boy's dream come true--no dish washing.  This was the
beginning of my sopping my plate clean.  We all did.  We could
lick our spoons as clean as any woman could wash them in a
dishpan.  And I seldom used any tool except a spoon.  Plates were
no problem either.  When it comes to shining plates, a good,
tough biscuit rind in the hands of a growing boy could just about
put a soap factory out of business.  And no matter what he sopped
out of his plate, it added flavor to his biscuit.

When we were through licking and sopping, each of us would place
our spoons on the table at our respective places, turn our plates
upside down over them and take off for things more interesting.
The last one to finish would help Mama spread a cloth over the
entire table and the job was completed.  Mama was out of the
kitchen in no time at all.  We had learned a long time ago not to
take anything on our plates that we couldn't eat.  Now that habit
was paying off.



The dry weather still prevailed, and in spite of all our efforts
to earn extra money, we were getting deeper into trouble month by
month.  By the summer of 1918 we were about finished in our new
venture.  There was no grazing and no money for livestock feed.
Cows and horses grazed the short grass, taking in sand with each
bite.  Sand clogged their stomachs and they died with sand colic.
Many died but a few didn't.

Something simply had to give.  We just had to try something else.
After a long heart-breaking battle against the elements, we
rounded up the remaining cattle and drove them to the railroad
stockyards at Lamesa.  That was a slow exodus.  They were so poor
and weak some fell by the wayside and didn't finish the ten-mile
drive.  Most of them did make it.  I don't know where Papa sold
them nor what he got for them.  I know he couldn't have gotten

After that, we sold the smaller farm and got rid of the Buick
car.  Susie and Dode moved onto the large farm, and the rest of
us moved to a farm near the community of Abbie, about nine miles
east of Hamlin.  We bought out a crop from someone in mid-summer.
It, too, proved to be a failure--we made three bales of cotton.

In that year and a half we had lost most of our money, our
cattle, quite a few of our horses and our best car.

After the crop failure at Abbie we had to try something else
again.  So we loaded the Reo car and went to Wichita Falls,
Texas, where the government was building an aviation camp to
train flyers for the war that was still going on.  Papa hired on
as a carpenter at six dollars a day.

Let me tell you about one night when some of us green-horn
country boys went to downtown Wichita Falls with Papa.  While he
was attending to some business, we boys got out of the car and
were looking at newspapers out in front of a drug store.  It must
have been a Saturday night because the newsracks were full of
Sunday funny papers.

We were keeping hands off and just seeing what we could see
without touching the papers when a stranger came by and told us,
"You boys can have all the funny papers you want.  They only want
the newspapers.  Help yourselves to all you want."

Boy!  We were sure pleased to hear that.  I was beginning to
believe that city life was much more interesting than the country
life we were used to.  The funnies were just what we wanted.  And
we were getting more than our share when a friend, Harry Stacy,
came along and informed us that, "If you boys don't want to get
put in jail, you better put those papers back in the racks and
get in that car in a hurry."  We did what he told us to do.

Harry was one of Frank's buddies.  He and Frank were carpentering
out at the aviation camp.  As far as I was concerned, I respected
Harry and I knew he had almost as much authority to spank us boys
as Frank had.  At least he was concerned about our well-being.
We didn't know that a stranger would lie like that to country
kids just to see them get into trouble.

Anyway, while Papa carpentered we lived in a tent--and it rained
and rained and rained, week after week.  Our tent didn't leak
from the top, but it might as well have.  Water soaked the ground
and came up in our tent as out of an artesian well.  Everything
was wet.  You could almost wring water out of the air in our

Mama had taken about all she thought she could.  She wanted to go
home to our farm at Abbie.  So Papa loaded us all up and drove
all one Saturday night.  We arrived at the farm about daybreak.
We hurried to get unloaded so Papa could drive back to Wichita
Falls Sunday and be there ready to work Monday morning.

But Mama didn't want to be on the Abbie farm without Papa there.
Of course he couldn't stay because he just had to make a living
for us.  He had to go back.  So we all loaded back into the car
and drove all day, back to the wet tent in a pasture about a
mile from where Papa was carpentering.

When it didn't rain so much, we boys walked from our tent to
nearby farms and picked cotton.  We got to making so much money
in the cotton patch that our parents reasoned that we all,
working together in the cotton patch, could do much better than
we could with the family split up, some picking cotton and Papa

Knowing that the cotton crops were good in parts of Oklahoma, we
got ready and headed for Duncan.  Before we got there we saw that
the cotton was really good--fields were white beyond our
expectations.  Many people were in war work and there was a
shortage of laborers for the harvest.

But before we got to where we were going, we lost a suitcase off
one front fender and hadn't noticed it was gone.  The loss was
discovered by one of the older boys when we stopped for one of
the little ones to hide behind a bush.  Naturally, we couldn't
just drive on and leave the suitcase.  We had to go back and find
it.  And about five miles back down the road we found it hanging
on a fence post.

It seemed we were always stopping for bushes and culverts.  I was
twelve years old and there were three others in the car who were
younger.  And no two little kids ever have to "go" at the same
time.  So it was stop here for one and stop there for another
one.  Lucky for us, we had to stop for another one before the
suitcase got many miles behind.

There were no service stations with fancy restrooms in those
-only greasy garages with gasoline pumps out in front on the
curbs and two-holers out back by the alley, all of which were
dirty and smelly.  Bushes along the road were much more sanitary.

However, I remember one garage that had indoor plumbing.  Years
ago, when I was just a little kid nine years old, Papa had gone
to a garage to get the carburetor adjusted on his car.  Joel and
I went with him.  And since it took the mechanic more than 15
minutes to do the work it was a good thing there was a place for
little boys to hide.

The nice man working on our car must have been a little boy
himself at one time or another, or maybe he had little boys of
his own.  At any rate, when he saw us whispering something in
Papa's ear, the man pointed to the stairway leading up to a
storeroom, in one corner of which was a little boy's room.

Yes, we found the room all right--and we used "the thing" in the
room.  But then we had a little trouble figuring out how to
operate the thing.  There was a wall-tank six-feet high on the
wall, with a lever extending outward from the top of it and a
long cord hanging down from the lever.  We couldn't figure
anything else to do, so we tried pulling on the cord.  That was
the secret--it worked.  Water came down from the wall-tank into
the bowl with a world of fury and gusto and noise.

Now we had another problem--should we have pulled the cord?  We
began to wish we had not.  The bowl was filling up fast.  We
couldn't stop the flow of water.  True, we had pulled on the cord
to start it, but we couldn't push up on the cord to stop it.  The
bowl was almost full now and the water showed no signs of

Just before the bowl ran over we ran downstairs.  We looked back,
expecting to see the water come flowing down through the upstairs
floor, or maybe down the stairway.  But it didn't run over.  We
had gotten scared all for nothing.  It was years later that we
learned about indoor plumbing having automatic cutoffs on the
water supply to the bowls.

Now getting back to our trip--before we found a farmer who needed
us, one tooth broke off the ring gear in the differential of our
car.  We were familiar with the sound--it had happened before.
But we drove on, listening to the click, click, in the car's rear
end every time the wheels went around.  Soon it ceased to be a
click, click, and became a wham, wham.  That meant there were two
teeth off.  It sounded bad; we couldn't go on.

With the differential sounding like it might go to pieces at any
minute, we decided that perhaps this was the cotton country we
had been searching for.  So we spotted a large patch of white
cotton and inquired about picking it.  The man said he didn't
need hands, but he thought Mr. Hammond wanted some pickers.  He
lived about three miles on down the road.

We phoned Mr. Hammond and found that we were in luck.  He wanted
us, and we certainly needed him.  He brought a team of mules and
towed our car to his place.  We unloaded and began picking
immediately, and before nightfall we had gathered hundreds of
pounds of cotton.

Papa caught a ride to Durant the next day and ordered a ring gear
for the car.  Before we had finished picking Mr. Hammond's cotton
the gear came by mail.  Papa jacked up the car, crawled under and
made the repair right there in the cotton field by our camp.

When we finished that patch, there were other fields waiting for
us.  We were making from $30 to $40 a day.  The work was hard but
we didn't mind.  We were finally getting a little money ahead.

I was twelve, and even at that age, I enjoyed helping the family
do what I knew had to be done.  I was growing up.  I was picking
more cotton in a day than I had ever picked before.  I enjoyed
figuring how much I picked and how much money I was making.  I
knew it wouldn't be my money, but I found pleasure in knowing how
much I was adding to the family income.

We quit picking cotton in time to get to Lamesa before Christmas.
We didn't go by our farm at Abbie, but went west into the Texas
panhandle.  Then we turned south to our Lamesa farm.

All in all it was an easy trip.  One stretch of road in Oklahoma
was through sandy post oak country.  Some of the trees were
fairly large, otherwise the land was like Texas shinnery.  The
county road didn't go through the worst of the sand but detoured
many miles out of the way to go around it.  In some places the
sand was higher than our car top.  One man who owned some of the
sandiest land had a road through his pasture so people could cut
through and save many miles.  He had built wooden runways over
the sand hills so cars could travel easily.  He charged a toll of
one dollar for each car.  We paid the toll and saved a good many

And then, of course we came to the Red River that forms the
boundary between Oklahoma and Texas.  Now, in that part of the
country there is just one way to get from Oklahoma to Texas and
that is to cross the river.  And I don't know of anyone who would
choose to stay in Oklahoma if he had a chance to go to Texas.
And that included us.  So we crossed the river.

I remember, there was a long, long bridge made of wood.  It never
occurred to me at the time just why it was made of wood instead
of concrete, this perhaps because I had never seen a concrete
bridge, and didn't know at that time they would have such things
in my lifetime.  Anyway, there was this nice bridge across the
big muddy river.  And about 200 yards down stream from the
bridge, there was a road where people could cross the river in
the mud and shallow water if they wanted to.

Now the next thing I knew, we were down there in that muddy road
while all the other cars were zipping across on the bridge.  I
wondered why we didn't ride across on the bridge.  We didn't even
ride across the river--well, yes, the driver rode--that was Papa,
but the rest of us didn't ride.  Papa was smart.  He was not only
smart, he was the only one who could drive the car.  The rest of
us didn't walk, either, we ran and pushed.  Part of the time we
were running and trying to keep up.  The rest of the time we were
pushing, trying to keep the car from stopping and sinking into
the quicksand.

I think the bridge we didn't cross on was a toll bridge.  My
memory doesn't tell me it was a toll bridge, but by way of
reasoning I can only conclude that it was.  Otherwise, why would
we Johnsons have been down there pushing in the mud when other
cars were crossing on the bridge?  And why did that man at the
bridge show Papa how to get down to that muddy road?  Why
wouldn't he let us cross on the bridge like the other cars were
doing?  Yes, it all adds up, that must have been a toll bridge.

But we didn't pay the toll.  And we had very little trouble
crossing on the low road.  Matter of fact, we didn't even stop,
that is, Papa didn't, except for us to catch up and load back
into the car.  We saved our money and lost very little time.

When we got into the Texas panhandle, we headed south toward
Lamesa.  We stayed awhile with Susie and Dode and then went on to
the rented farm at Abbie.

It was the end of the year now, and time to re-rent the Abbie
place for another year or give it up.  We gave it up and moved
back to the farm at Lamesa.  We moved west the first time by
railroad.  We went this time in two wagons.  It was January, 1919
and the weather was cold.

If I had known then what I know now, I think I might have asked
my parents how this wagon trip compared with another cold January
21 years ago when the Johnsons moved back to Texas from Oklahoma
in wagons.  At least this time we were not driving a herd of
cattle, only one old milk cow.  And the weather wasn't all that

I guess the coldest night was the one we spent in an old rundown
schoolhouse, after chasing the skunks and roadrunners out.  It
was somewhere in the bad lands near Gail.  The next morning it
was almost too cold to travel.  After going a few miles we
stopped and got around behind Gail Mountain out of the cold wind,
and built a fire to warm by.



So we moved back to our big farm near Lamesa and farmed there in
1919.  Susie and Dode moved to Hamlin.  They quit farming and
Dode got a job in town.

After those two dry years on the plains, there seemed to be more
coyotes than ever, at least we saw more of them.  The drought and
hunters had taken their toll of rabbits and I guess it was harder
for the coyotes to find something to eat.  They would come almost
to our barnyard in broad daylight in search of food.  Old Scotch
managed to keep them away from our chickens, but he was no match
for two or three of them at one time off out in the pasture, and
he was wise enough to know it.

I have seen him chase a lone coyote a few hundred yards away from
our house, but then that one would join another one and the two
of them would chase Old Scotch back into our yard.  Then with us
to back him up, he would chase them away again.  When there were
more than one, they made the dog stay in his place.

Now I guess you are wondering why we didn't shoot the coyotes
when they came that close.  The answer is simple.  Coyotes are
not stupid.  They can tell a boy from a man, and they can also
tell whether or not the boy has a gun.  They simply would not
come that close to a big boy with a gun.  We kids had guns but
they were small 22 caliber.  They were too small for coyotes.
And besides, the powder in the shells at that time was nothing
like as powerful as the powder we use today.

We four boys had our own guns and naturally Papa had his.  Albert
was the youngest of us four.  He had a gun by the time he was ten
and he killed his share of rabbits, prairie dogs and

You see, we did a lot of target practice with our guns.
Sometimes we would sit on our front porch and shoot nailheads in
the front yard fence.  We would also stand matches up in nail
holes in the fence and shoot the heads, striking the matches
without breaking the stems.  Shells cost us only eight cents for
a box of 50.

No one could deny that we were pretty good.  One man told that
Earl was so good with his rifle that we boys didn't climb trees
to pick peaches.  He said we other kids would walk around under
the trees with buckets and Earl would shoot the stems and let the
peaches fall into the buckets.  But Earl denied it, explaining
that we tried it but Papa made us quit because it bruised the
peaches when they fell.

Now Joel was a year-and-a-half older than I, and no question
about it, he was a smart boy.  He was almost as smart as I was.
But he was so good-looking the girls wouldn't leave him alone.
So he sort of drifted away from his smartness and concentrated on
dressing well and looking good.  He wound up selling men's
clothing, and later on, insurance.  But when he was a boy on the
farm at Lamesa, I remember he made a windmill.  I mean this was a
windmill to remember.  He set it up on a tower and made it pump
water.  And he made a real cylinder out of a piece of pipe, with
two leather valves attached to two wooden spools.  One spool
moved up and down, the other one was stationary at the lower end
of the pipe.  When the wind blew the mill would pump water from a
can that was buried in the ground, up through a little pipe, out
through another pipe and into a small watering trough.  The mill
must have been about two or three feet tall, tower and all.  And
the water it pumped would water a herd of about 20 tiny little
imaginary cows.

Joel also made a submarine out of a piece of two-by-four lumber.
He drilled a hole through it from one end to the other for a
rubber-band motor.  It would dive to the bottom of the water
trough, circle around about one time and then float back up to
the surface for a rewind.  He could set the sheet-iron fins in
different positions and make it cut di-dos in several different

I remember the mail car that came up to Lamesa daily from Big
Spring.  And naturally it had to go back daily or else it
wouldn't be there to come up again the next day.  Be that as it
may, besides hauling mail it also hauled passengers when there
were any who wanted to be hauled.  It was a seven-passenger car.
And by placing a board across the jump seats, it could carry nine
passengers with ease, all of them inside the car.

And what are jump seats?  Big cars had a lot of room between the
front seat and the back seat, somewhat like your living room at
home.  Jump seats were two in number and they folded down into
the back of the front seat.  They could be used if needed, or
folded down to give more room, when not needed.

Now there's nothing unusual about a mail car carrying mail
between two towns, nor about carrying passengers along with the
mail.  The point to notice here is the segregation of passengers
according to color and race at that date in our history.  Some
were not allowed to ride inside the car with those who were
commonly called "whites."

When there was a Negro or a Mexican passenger, he or she had to
ride on a seat on the running board and hold onto the windshield
post to stay on.  If there was one "white," one Negro and one
Mexican, there would be one riding in the car and one on each
running board.  The driver really had no choice in the matter.
It was not his fault.  It was the law of tradition--or, the law
of justice working in reverse.

We used that mail car once to bring a part for our car.  We had
planned a trip to Hamlin and on the day before we were to go, the
car broke a tooth off the ring gear in the differential.  The
garage man in Lamesa phoned Big Spring for a new gear.  The parts
man said he had the gear in stock and he would get it on the mail
car that very day.  It would be in Lamesa by noon, he promised.

Well, the mail car came but the gear didn't.  Nor did it come the
next day.  They phoned Big Spring again and learned that the man
who took the order for the gear had become sick suddenly and was
rushed to the hospital before he could write up the order.  We
finally got the gear, Papa made the repair, and we went to Hamlin
three days late.

Now this was no big deal-no great big story here.  But a boy
remembers a thing like this when he is 13 years old and he wanted
to go to Hamlin three days ago.

I remember another time when we made a trip to Hamlin running on
an old tire that was swelled up and about to blow out.  Rather,
it was trying to swell up but Papa wouldn't let it.  We couldn't
find a used tire in Lamesa but we figured we could get a good
deal on one in Hamlin.  So Papa bought a pair of leather bridle
reins.  Then he let the air out of the old tire, wrapped one rein
through the spokes and around the bad place on the tire and
buckled it down tightly.  And then when he pumped air into the
tire, the leather strap held the bad place in so it couldn't
swell up and blow out.  The strap lasted the 125 mile trip.  We
found the tire we needed in Hamlin.

Among other things I remember were the impressive sights on the
plains, like the great number of windmills and the great distance
you could see.  Almost every farm house had a windmill, and more
than half the houses in town had mills.  It seemed there were so
many mills there wouldn't have been enough wind to drive them

Since we had moved from a land of mesquite trees and since there
were no trees on the plains--except those planted near homes for
windbreakers--this country looked mighty bare.  You could see as
far as your eyes could stretch.  A newcomer might wonder whether
it might strain his eyes to look so far, until he became
accustomed to it.

The town of Lamesa was a small county seat.  On the courthouse
lawn were two windmills pumping water into a cypress tank high on
a tower.  The tallest mill was 80 feet and the tank was 60 feet.
That was the city water supply.  Some of the stores around the
square used city water and some had their own mills out back.

During the war the price of many things went higher and higher.
Gasoline was one of them.  It went from eight cents a gallon up
to 29 cents a gallon.  There were no drive-in service stations
then, only gas pumps on the curbs out front.  And of course they
were all pumped by hand.

One farmer started home one Saturday and drove up to a gas pump
and asked, "Gasoline up again?"  When they told him it was 29
cents a gallon, he said, "Put in one gallon.  That will get me
home and back."  Then after thinking it over for about two
seconds, he said, "No, put in a half-gallon.  That will get me
home and I ain't comin' back."

And food went up too.  Simpson and Jones ran a mercantile store
in Lamesa.  One day a customer said to Mr. Simpson, "You know
that quarter's worth of beans you sold me last week?  Well, the
sack had a hole in it and I lost two of them on the way home--and
the other one had a worm in it."

We went to town about once a week, but most of our time was spent
on the farm working, playing and going hunting.  Joel was
harrowing in the field one day, walking barefooted behind a
harrow in freshly stirred soil.  The harrow ran over a
rattlesnake, just a small one, about 18 inches long or so.

Well the snake was running for his very life--being tumbled and
tossed this way and that way.  Joel saw the snake, so he ran way
over to the right to avoid him.  About that same time, the snake
tumbled out from under the unfriendly harrow, still fighting for
survival.  And he didn't care which direction he went, so long as
it was away from the harrow, so he too, shot out to the right.

Now, when the snake got tangled up with Joel's bare feet, there
were about two or three seconds when it was hard to tell whether
the boy or the snake was trying the hardest to get away from the
other.  They both succeeded--momentarily.  But as soon as Joel
could stop the horses and tie up the lines, he went back and
demanded that the snake pay the supreme penalty.  Not that Joel
didn't appreciate the fact that the snake had not bitten him, nor
did Joel have anything personal against the snake.  It was just
that, since the snake was a snake, he had to go.

Earl, Joel, Clarence (that's me) and Albert were generally spoken
of as the four boys in our family.  Ollie Mae was younger than
Albert, and since she was a girl, she was sort of a different
kind of link in a long chain of boys.  And William Robert was
much too young to be in our group.  So we were the four boys.

Looking back, I am amazed that we four all reached adulthood.  I
don't mean from germs we got from not washing our plates--I mean
because of guns and knives and rattlesnakes and wild horses and

For instance, we boys were roping and riding horses one Sunday in
our horse lot.  We had one little mule colt about a year old that
was a real pet, and at times somewhat of a pest.  He was gentle
and liked to be curried and petted.  And naturally we enjoyed
feeding and petting him.  But on this particular day we were
roping and riding and, in general, scaring the horses, and some
of the time the horses were scaring us.

When the going got too rough for the little mule colt, he took
off and jumped the fence.  Now we didn't want him to run away, we
wanted him back in the pen.  So we thought we'd better get after
him in a hurry.  But our hurrying wasn't necessary.  Before any
of us could even get out of the pen, he was back at the gate,
looking over it and wanting back in.  We opened the gate and let
him in and the fun started all over again.

Of course we had neighbors on the plains, some near and some not
so near.  One neighbor was the Nolan family.  They had four or
five kids, and a reputation for stealing at times.  I was told
one farmer missed some oats and corn from his barn one time.  And
about that same time the Nolans began feeding their horses oats
and corn.  Most of us couldn't afford such feed for our horses,
and the Nolans were poorer than the most of us.  They said some
wolf hunters had given them the feed because they didn't want to
have to carry it back home.  The Nolans explained that the
hunters said the corn was to keep their horses fat and the oats
were to make them long-winded for chasing wolves.

One of our roads to Lamesa went by the Debnam place, the home of
another neighbor.  One of the Nolan boys often walked to town for
the mail.  It was only eight miles.  Mr. Hamilton told us that
one day the boy was riding with him in a wagon, and when they
were near the Debnam home, the boy pointed way over toward some
sand drifts and exclaimed, "Look, I see a hammer handle!"  Mr.
Hamilton stopped the wagon and let the boy go get it.  Only the
tip of the handle could be seen.  It seemed quite obvious he
could not have known it was a hammer handle from that distance
unless he had seen it before with more of it showing.  Anyway, he
pulled it out of the sand and shouted, "And there's a hammer on
the other end of it!"  We thought maybe he had stolen the hammer
from someone and had buried it there so he could pretend to find
it later.

Some time later we Johnson kids were hoeing in the cotton patch
with the Nolan kids and their mother.  And as usual, we talked
about everything, including the hammer incident.  And I, as could
be expected, not having mastered the art of keeping my big mouth
shut, said, "Yes, and we know where you got the oats and corn."

What happened next took me by surprise.  Now, it's one thing to
have an older brother whip you in the cotton patch when you yell
to him, "Come and make me!", as I told you earlier.  But it's
altogether a much more serious situation when you look up to see
a mad mother coming toward you with a hoe raised high in the air
and with fire in her eyes.  I believe to this day, if I had been
wearing shoes, they might have delayed me just enough to have
allowed her to hit me.  But I was barefooted and I took off like
Moody's goose.  The woman slammed her hoe down where I had been,
but wasn't any more.

We didn't visit the Nolans much, especially for meals.  In fact,
I think we only ate one meal at their house, and that was before
she got after me with the hoe.  At the close of the meal, Mrs.
Nolan went around the table pouring up the few drops and swallows
of milk which were left in each and every drinking glass,
explaining that there was no need to waste anything, she would
use the milk to make bread next time.  So, I can't remember ever
going back to the Nolans for a meal after that.

Along with all our other activities, we had to get a little book
learning.  So we four boys went to Ballard School, three-and-a-
half miles away.  It was a two-room school house but we had
classes in only one room.  The teacher lived in the other room
with her little five-year-old girl, her two-year-old boy, and a
pig.  The little boy needed attention periodically, you know,
like bathroom attention.  Sometimes his mother took him to the
bathroom and sometimes one of the older girl students took him.
And if you think the bathroom was in the house, you are wrong.
Now the pig needed to go to the bathroom too at times.  But he
didn't go anywhere--he just used the bathroom wherever he
happened to be at the time.  Nor did he seem to understand that
one room was the schoolroom and the other room was his.  He
didn't seem to realize he was a pig.  He thought he was a
"people" like the rest of us.  And when his little brother and
sister were in the schoolroom, that little pig wanted to be in
there too.  Needless to say, when he brought his bathroom
activities into the schoolroom, he disrupted the entire learning
process as prescribed by the school board and the State Education

Ollie Mae was not quite seven when we boys started to school at
Ballard in the fall of 1917.  Mama thought it was too far for her
to have to walk.  So she taught Ollie Mae at home through the
third grade.  Our little sister was deprived of all the higher
learning we others got at Ballard.

It wasn't all book learning at Ballard either.  One day a couple
of girls had to "be excused."  In a minute or so, they came
running back into the schoolroom with the news that there was a
rattlesnake in their closet.  (In those days they were closets,
not toilets.  And no one had ever heard of "rest rooms.") Anyway,
we got out there as fast as possible, some through the doors and
some jumped out the windows.  Sure, we killed the snake all
right, but it was hard for us to settle back down to school work.

Uncle Simpson was visiting us at that time and he was on his way
to Lamesa in his car and he happened to be passing by Ballard
School when we got news of the snake.  When he saw us leaving the
building as we did, he was somewhat shocked at our seeming total
disregard for discipline and order.  He thought we were getting
out for recess and he was used to seeing kids march out in a
straight line and stand at attention until the teacher said,
"Dismissed."  But back at home that night we told him he had
witnessed a crash operation in an emergency.  He was relieved to
learn that it was not always that way at our school.  We didn't
dare tell him how nearly this procedure approached the normal at

On our Lamesa farm, quite a lot of our raw land had catclaw
bushes on it.  When clearing the land for cultivation, we would
cut the bushes off just under the surface of the ground and wait
for strong winds to roll them away like tumbleweeds.  They would
cling together because of the claws on their branches, and often
long rolls of them could be seen rolling across the prairie.
Then they would collect against our fences and we would pitch
them over the fences and let them continue on their way.

And also, there were many whirlwinds on the plains--perhaps no
more than in other places we had lived, but they were more
conspicuous.  I was plowing in the field one day when I saw a
whirlwind coming across the field about a hundred yards away from
me.  At first it looked as though it had hit one end of one of
those rolls of catclaws and was rolling it along on the ground.
But a second look revealed that this was not the case.  The roll
of bushes seemed to get shorter and shorter until it was
completely gone.  All this took place within a short ten seconds
or less.

Then I realized that there had not been any catclaw bushes at
all.  The whirlwind, at its bottom end, was bent at a right angle
and was whirling horizontally along on the ground.  The balance
of it was standing upright.  The horizontal part quickly became
shorter and shorter until the entire whirlwind was standing

Do you think I rushed to tell my family about seeing this strange
thing?  Goodness no!  They wouldn't have believed me.  Why should
I make myself subject to being a bigger liar than I was thought
to be already?  I didn't even mention this incident until I was
grown and had kids of my own half grown.  I really believe to
this day this little story is one of the reasons my kids think I
am untruthful at times.  I don't really expect anyone to believe
it.  I sort of wish I had never told it.  But it really did
happen, and I hadn't been sucking the old sow, either.

The wind blew more and stronger on the plains than it did most
places.  So from the time we moved there we began to hear stories
about the wind.  For instance there was the story about the
family in the covered wagon who camped one night and tied their
horses to a bush.  About bedtime the wind came up and the sand
started blowing.  And next morning they were surprised to learn
that the bush was really a tall tree which had been almost buried
in the blowsand.  Through the night the sand had blown away and
by morning their horses were hanging 40 feet high up in the
tree--both of them dead.

Before they could cut the tree down and recover their ropes and
harness, the wind changed and the sand came back, burying the
horses and the tree.

Then there was the story about the family who went to their storm
cellar during a wind storm.  The wind blew harder and harder
until the cellar shook as if by an earthquake.  The man opened
the door to see what was happening.  The cellar was rolling
across the prairie and the man fell out.  He ran back to get in
the hole where the cellar had been, but the hole had blown away

The same wind blew the man's well up out of the ground and
wrapped it around a telephone pole.  Most of the water ran out
before he could get it plugged up and put a faucet in the bottom
of it.  After that he didn't have to pump water, he only had to
open the faucet and let it flow.

The story was told on us boys that we were not used to the strong
wind and were always asking Papa if we could quit work and go in
the house until the wind calmed down.  They told that Papa
settled the question once and for all one day.  He hung a trace
chain on the clothes line and told us, "As long as the bottom end
of the chain is hanging down, go ahead and work.  When the chain
blows up in a horizontal position and waves like a flag in the
wind, take off a few minutes and wait for it to settle back down
a bit."

One man told us he had a rainwater barrel by his house.  And
since it hadn't rained for six months, the barrel was empty.  One
night about bedtime a southwest wind hit with all its fury and
blew the barrel away.  It continued to blow for three days and
three nights.  There were no fences, so the barrel rolled on and
on.  Then the wind changed and there came a blue norther from the
northeast.  Three days and nights later, about bedtime again,
they heard something bump against their house.  They took the
lantern and went out to see what it was and found that their
water barrel had returned home, but it had rolled so far it had
worn down to about the size of a nail keg.



By the summer of 1919 things were looking somewhat better.  Papa
had ordered two new tires for the Reo.  They had come in but
there had been no hurry to put them on the car.  They were lying
there in the garage beside the old car which had been mothballed
for quite a few months.

Then one Sunday afternoon we saw an airplane flying around over
at Lamesa.  It was a small two-seater like they flew in the war.
Anyway, there we were sitting at home and watching the action
from ten miles away, when Papa asked if any of us would like to
drive over there and watch the airplane.  OH BOY!  Would we!  We
got busy right away putting the new tires on the car, pumping up
all four tires, and getting the old car to run again after quite
a spell of sitting.  Then we drove over, watched the action from
up close, then went back home.

While in Lamesa watching the plane, we learned that the pilot was
taking up passengers, that is, anyone who wanted to pay ten
dollars to ride.  And he would loop-the-loop for an extra ten
dollars each loop.  One man paid $40 to ride and loop three times
in rapid succession.  It was hard for us to imagine anyone having
that kind of money to spend for so little in so short a time.

Our parents wanted to be good to us kids, but being good to us
didn't include spending a lot of money on us.  By their ingenuity
and hard work, they had a way of stretching a few dollars beyond
contentment and happiness, almost to abundance.  We each had a
saddle and a horse to ride, including Ollie Mae, but not William
Robert.  Papa braided quirts for all of us.  He would take the
leather uppers of worn-out shoes, cut them into long strips, and
make quirts as good as the best.  He cut up Ollie Mae's old high
top red shoes and made the prettiest little red quirt you ever
saw.  And as I mentioned before, we boys had our guns.

The Higginbotham Ranch was in a rundown condition and was being
sold piece by piece to farmers.  Most all the ranch houses were
vacant and much of the pastureland had become a dust bowl.
Tumbleweeds had caught against the fences and sand had drifted
into the weeds, burying both the fences and the weeds in many
places.  There were abandoned houses here and there on the ranch.
The vacant houses had most all the windows broken out.  Most of
the doors were off their hinges or broken or had been taken by
someone who had a need for them.  We boys often took Old Scotch
and our guns and our horses and went to a lot of the old houses--
just exploring to see what was there.

In one of the old houses, behind a door casing, I found a 22
rifle.  It worked but not well.  It wouldn't shoot where I aimed
it; the barrel had a curve in it.  If I had found the old gun
when I was younger, I might have thought I could shoot around
corners with it.  But I was much smarter now and I knew you
couldn't shoot a curve with a gun.  no matter how crooked the
barrel was.

Actually the curve in the gun barrel was no problem.  Papa showed
me how to straighten it by placing it on a four-by-four, then
placing a block of wood on it at just the right place and hitting
it with a big hammer.  Oh, yes, I got it fairly true, but not
true enough for hunting rabbits.  But then, I had my good new gun
for rabbits.  I learned a lot about guns by having the old gun
around to play with.

One day we four boys got off out behind the barn, hiding from
Papa, and made shotguns out of our rifles.  We would take the
bullet out of a 22 shell, place the shell in the chamber, pour
some powder from a shotgun shell down the barrel, stuff in a
little paper for wadding, then put in a few shot from the shotgun
shell, and a little more wadding to hold the shot in place.  Then
we would aim and fire.  But the little birdshot wouldn't even go
through an old rusted out washtub.  After a couple of tries, I
put more powder in my gun next time.  They still wouldn't go
through the tub.  The other boys were afraid to put a lot of
powder, but I wasn't.  So I put twice as much powder the next
time--I really put in an overdose and a few extra shot.

Well, yes, the pellets went through the tub this time for sure,
but the gun went the other way--right through the stock.  The
metal body of the gun split the wood stock and came almost to my
shoulder.  Smoke filled my eyes and a cloud of smoke rose above
my head like an Indian smoke signal.  It seemed that maybe it was
trying to tell us something, so we listened, and we stopped
muzzleloading our guns.

Once during a big, big rain the swamps caught a lot of water, and
ducks became plentiful on them.  A neighbor man and Frank and we
four boys went duck hunting.  The swamps were four or five miles
apart.  There was a lot of water and plenty of ducks, but there
were practically no trees or bushes to sneak up behind.  The
ducks could see us coming and fly away.  We met with failure at
swamp after swamp--no ducks for us, anyhow not many.

By two o'clock in the afternoon we were circling back toward home
but were still about seven miles from home, and with only three
little ducks about the size of quail--well, maybe a little
bigger, and we were very tired and hungry.  We had been walking
since early breakfast.  It had been a long day and we had covered
many miles.

Finally we decided to eat the ducks we had.  At a vacant ranch
house we found a rusty syrup bucket.  There was water at the
windmill.  And in the barn we found some cattle salt with some
black stock powder mixed in it.  First we built a fire.  Then we
picked the ducks and boiled them in the rusty bucket, salting the
stew with the black and white salt.  We could hardly wait for it
to cook.

We had walked at least 25 or 30 miles, and if you think walking
that distance in eight hours doesn't make victuals taste good,
you are plum loco, no matter what they are cooked in or seasoned
with.  That was, beyond a doubt the best food I had ever tasted
in my life.  We divided the meat as equally as possible, and it
came out to about one fifth as much as each of us needed.  Then
we drank the soup--two swallows for you, two for him, two for me,
and so on, right out of the rusty bucket.  When a feather came
floating along, we didn't risk wasting a single drop of soup.  We
would let it go into our mouth, suck the juice out of it, then
spit it out.

We always had some good neighbors wherever we lived.  One fall we
headed maize for a good neighbor.  He was to pay us $2.50 for
each wagon load.  But the stalks had fallen down so badly in
places that heading went very slowly and we couldn't make much
money at it.  Papa tried to get the man, Mr. Wood, to pay us
three dollars a load.  Mr. Wood thought we were just trying to
get more pay for less work, and he wouldn't pay it, so we quit.
Then Mr. Wood finished heading the maize himself.  Now, I say he
was a good neighbor because, when he saw how much trouble it was
to head the fallen stalks, he came and paid us fifty cents extra
for each load we had gathered.  My parents made a practice of
praising the good in people and they taught us kids that "By
their fruits ye shall know them."

Yes, our parents taught us a lot of things.  But there were other
things which were not taught in our family.  We kids just had to
learn about these things as best we could.  Along about my early
teens, I began to learn about new-born calves and colts and
babies.  Up until then, all I knew was that horses and cows found
their babies out in the pasture, and doctors brought babies to
women at times.  And about Santa Claus, I wasn't curious about
him, I was just happy about him.  I well remember how
disappointed I was when I learned the truth about Santa.  And my
newly acquired knowledge about babies brought a bit of
disappointment concerning the moral character of adults.

We learned some of our lessons the hard way.  I remember one
Sunday afternoon we boys were riding young unbroken horses while
Mama was away from home and Papa was sleeping.  We knew we were
not supposed to ride wild horses unless Papa was with us.  He had
told us never to do so.  It wasn't that we deliberately disobeyed
Papa.  It was that we thought we had learned a lot since he last
told us that, and perhaps the rule didn't apply any longer.  And
besides, we were riding a real gentle unbroken filly.

Anyway, Joel was on the horse and we were holding the reins when
she went sideways and fell and rolled over on Joel.  She mashed
the wind out of him and left him unconscious.  It looked bad to
me.  There he was, just lying there doing nothing.  I knew Papa
would be unhappy with our disobedience, but when there is
something that needs to be done, you just do it.  I was scared
and I hated to have to face Papa but I didn't hesitate a second.
I ran as fast as I could to get him.  I was about 12 or 13.  Was
I scared?  Brave?  Loyal to Joel?  Trustworthy?  Devoted to duty?
I don't really know.  I only knew there was something that had to
be done and my sense of duty was stronger than my fear of having
to face Papa with my confession of disobedience, so I did what
had to be done.

Lucky for all of us, Joel went down lengthways in a furrow
between two ridges.  The ridges held the horse up somewhat.  Joel
wasn't really hurt--just had the wind knocked out of him and it
left him unconscious for a few minutes.

Along about this same time in my boyhood, I had something that
one of my brothers wanted to buy from me.  I don't remember what
it was but I do remember I offered it to him for eight cents.  He
offered me a nickel for it.  He had a nickel and four pennies.  I
finally offered to take the nickel if he would pitch the four
pennies up and give me all that fell "heads."  We didn't make the
deal because Earl learned what I had offered to do and he shamed
me scornfully.  He said, "That's just the same as shooting dice
or playing poker."  I didn't know how to shoot dice nor play
poker.  I only knew that either one was a bad thing to do.  I was
deeply hurt, not because Earl had scolded or shamed me, but just
to think that I would bring dishonor to my family by even
thinking of gambling, after all the moral training my parents had
given me.  Also there was the element of ignorance.  I hadn't
realized that such an act would be gambling, and I was too proud
to admit my ignorance.

Anyway, I resolved to myself then and there never to do a thing
like that again as long as I lived, never to gamble in any way.
But, like Adam in the garden of Eden when he blamed a woman for
his disobedience, I too can say, "A woman tempted me and I did
gamble."  I'll tell you about it later.

This last year we were on the plains, it looked like we were sure
to make good.  But it seemed that fate was trying our patience.
I think the devil also had a hand in the turn of events.  I never
did like that guy.  Sometimes I think he is still after me.

Anyway in late summer Papa and the neighbors looked at our cotton
crop and came to the conclusion that we couldn't keep from making
100 bales.  And cotton sold that year at $200 a bale.  It looked
as though the Lord had finally smiled on us as he did on Job.
But I guess we hadn't suffered as much nor repented as well as
Job had.  When the Lord favored us with a good rain one Sunday
afternoon, our neighbors saw the rain and said, "Man, that
Johnson family sure must be living right.  Look at the rain the
Lord sent them."

But what the neighbors didn't know was that the devil had put a
boll worm in each and every drop of that rain.  None of us knew
about the devil and his pesky worms until later.

What happened?  We made 20 bales instead of 100, about enough to
pay the taxes, interest, and the annual note.  If the devil had
left us alone, we would have had about $16,000 left over.

So now what?  Sell out, of course--sell out and get out.  We sold
the farm for $25 an acre; we had paid $18.  That would have been
a good profit on the place except for the fact that the
improvements we had made on the place cost about as much as we
made on it.  So we just about broke even.  But the value of land
had begun to rise and we didn't know it.  Before we moved off the
place, even before Mama signed the deed, the farm sold again for
$10 an acre more than we got for it.  When Mama learned about the
last price it brought, she said, "I don't think I'll sign the

Papa told her, "Oh yes you will."

Of course, Mama had not really meant what she said.

So, due to three years of drought and crop failures, we had gone
broke.  Then we moved to Hamlin--all of us without money, and
Mama and Papa very weary.  In a short three years we had gone
from a good life on the Exum farm to poverty in a rundown house
in a one-horse town.

This gives you some idea of the financial state of the family at
that time.  This might also give you an idea of the patience of a
couple who had come through this valley of gloom and
destruction--came through in fairly good moral condition, and
continued on to guide their children along the right path.

OKAY!  Okay, so we didn't stay on the right path all the way.  At
least we were told which way to go.  We were not all angels, but
at least we tried hard at first to hide our devilish ways.

That last fall on the plains, Papa didn't have enough money to
pay us kids for gathering cotton.  But he promised to pay us so-
much a 100 pounds and told us to keep an account of how much he
owed us, and he would pay us gradually and eventually.

We each kept an account in our little books.  When we boys wanted
to buy or sell among ourselves, we would show the transaction in
our little ledgers.  Evidently some of my brothers didn't put
much stock in Papa's ability to pay later, or they got a little
pay from him now and then much faster than I did, or something.
Anyway, after we moved to Hamlin, I still had my book which
showed a balance of quite a few dollars that Papa owed me.  I
hadn't gotten all my money, but I hadn't needed as much as some
of the others.  And I thought it my duty to spend less and
thereby help Papa out over a longer period of time.

Furthermore, at that early age I was getting a thrill out of
watching my balance grow.  I had sold quite a few items to my
brothers without cash.  We had simply subtracted the amount from
their books and added the figures to my balance.  I actually had
over $23 in my balance when one brother accused me of cheating
and stealing.  They could have checked up on me.  I had every
transaction written down.  But I threw the book away rather than
have my family doubt my honesty.



While we had been working on the farm six days a week and resting
on Sunday, there were millions in this country living in cities
and working on Sunday.  Then we moved to town and Sunday became a
way of life for us also--but not all at once.  At first our
working on Sunday came gradually and very reluctantly.  But many
town-people had no stumps to dig up, no cotton to pick, no fields
to plow, no weeds to hoe, nothing to make them tired enough
during the week that they needed to rest on Sunday.  So, instead
of sitting and resting, they played golf on Sunday.  Now, Earl
became a good golf caddie.  But he couldn't just caddie on week
days and rest on Sundays.  Golfers liked him and wanted him to
caddie for them on Sundays also.

Well, the love of money may be the root of all evil, but in
Earl's case it was not so much the love of it as it was the
necessity of it.  Earl liked to eat, so he caddied on Sundays.

At the same time, Papa got involved in trucking and there were
times when his services were needed on Sundays as well as during
the week.  He just simply couldn't get it all done during the
week.  It became a real emergency when one of his customers had
to have his goods hauled on Sunday so that he could begin his
work on Monday morning.

We all know that it is perfectly all right to help the scriptural
ox out of the ditch on Sunday.  And when a trucker helps the ox
out on Sunday, and receives good pay for doing it, he soon gets
in the habit of wanting to help the ox out every Sunday.  It even
comes to the point where a man might push the ox into the ditch
on Saturday in order to get to help him out on Sunday, for pay of

If I wanted to try to justify our working on Sundays, I might
mention that it was hard to make ends meet even at that.  We
lived three years in Hamlin before we gave up the old kerosene
lamps and moved up to electric lights.  Even then it took some
planning.  The meter deposit was three dollars and we spent five
dollars for a bunch of used insulated wire and light fixtures.
It wasn't easy to get eight dollars ahead in just three short
years, but we did it.  We still didn't have screens on our
windows, nor did we have an icebox.  I took some scrap lumber and
built an icebox just large enough to hold a dime's worth of ice,
a pound of butter, and a quart of milk.  The ice would last two
days.  Most of the milk stayed in the milk cooler on the back
porch, with damp clothes spread over the containers.  It would
have cost too much to refrigerate all the milk.

When I was 13 I made the interesting discovery that a flashlight
consisted of nothing more than two cells, a bulb, a container for
the cells, and some kind of switch.  I couldn't afford to buy a
flashlight so I made me one.  I used a radiator hose to put the
cells in, a copper wire for a bulb holder, and I pushed the bulb
down against the center post of the cell to switch the light on.
I was beginning to learn a little about electricity.  This was
the beginning of my knowledge of how to wire our house for
electric lights.  Yes, I did the wiring; we couldn't afford to
hire it done.

Shortly after we moved to Hamlin there was another new adventure
in our lives.  It involved a little detour to Gorman, Texas, to
do some road work.  You remember the truck that Papa let Frank
use to go everywhere and haul whatever people would pay him to
haul.  Well, by the time we landed in Hamlin, Frank was getting
tired of hauling everything for everybody.  So Papa inherited one
good used truck from one tired-of-trucking boy named Frank.  Papa
also had a friend named Marvin Hood who was building a paved road
near Gorman.  I think it was generally understood that Marvin
could use some of us if we would come on down to his camp.  We
needed to work--for pay, that is--so we took the truck and an old
Dodge car and went to see Marvin.

Sure enough, Marvin could use us four boys, and Papa could haul
supplies in his truck.  We lived in a canvas tent in a pasture
about a half-mile from the rock quarry from which they were
getting rock for the road.  Albert became waterboy; Earl was
powder monkey, in charge of all blasting.  Joel operated a road
grader which was pulled by horses.  I fired a steam boiler and
made steam for a steam drill to drill holes into the earth.  And
into these holes Earl would put his dynamite and blasting powder,
which, when set off by a fuse and blasting cap, excavated the
rocks which were crushed and then hauled and placed on the road
which Joel had smoothed so perfectly with his little grader.  We
were doing so many things for Marvin, I wondered how he managed
before we got there.

Marvin paid his hands three dollars a day and they paid him one
dollar a day to eat at his cook shack.  We didn't eat there; we
could eat much cheaper at our tent.  There were two men cooking
for the crew, but they got to drinking so much and cooking so
badly that Marvin was losing some of his workers.  He had a
problem.  So Marvin came to Mama and asked her to cook for him.
He hired a farm woman to help Mama and together they cooked for
the men.  And Marvin let our family eat at the cook shack at half

As usual Mama wouldn't throw out any food if it could be used in
any way.  She took the left-over biscuits and made coldbread
pudding out of them.  At first the men were reluctant to sample
the dish.  But after getting a taste of it, most of them asked
for more--and they called it "make-'em-eat-it."

Sometimes Earl would find a can of powder that had been wet or
had sweated in the can and was lumpy.  He was told to pile those
cans out behind the mule barn and not try to use the lumpy
powder.  Well now, that pile of 12 or 15 cans of blasting powder,
which no one wanted, seemed to me to be an excellent source of
fun, as well as research material.  So, unbeknowing to all
others, I toted a can of the stuff home to our tent one day.
Then I decided that Papa might frown on the idea of my having 50
pounds (or maybe it was 25 pounds) of powder about our tent,
especially if he found it hidden under his bed, so I thought I
had better do a lot of experimenting in as short a time as
possible, before anyone else came home.  I felt that any one of
my brothers would scold me for taking a can of powder home to
play with.  And I was sure he would not be able nor willing to
keep such news to himself.  I'd better work fast and let it
remain my own little secret.  After all, muzzleloading a rifle
was child's play as compared to playing with 50 pounds of
blasting powder.  So I'd better try to get by with this powder as
I had gotten away with other secret adventures--all alone.  How I
longed to share some of my good times with my brothers, but I
didn't dare try.  Such secrets can only be kept by one person.  A
partner would be sure to spoil things.

Sometimes a kid's reasoning without certain knowledge can lead to
trouble.  I reasoned that, since a big stick of wood burns slower
and longer than a small stick, a large rick of powder would burn
more slowly and thereby afford more pleasure and excitement.  I
even envisioned me walking along beside the burning powder as it
wiggled and twisted here and there, as a snake would crawl across
the pasture.  I remembered the matches I had stood up in the sand
at Grandma's, and how the flame had leaped from match to match
until it reached the last one.  And that's what I wanted to do
with a string of powder--light it at one end and watch the flame
slowly travel to the other end.  I had plenty of powder so I
piled it up into a rick about two inches high and as long as from
here to yonder.

And that was when I learned, by experience, that big powder burns
faster than little powder.  When I lighted one end of the powder-
snake, it blasted fire and smoke right up into my face.  I fell
back quickly for protection.  Then I reopened my eyes just in
time to see my fireball fizzle out at the far end of the rick of
powder.  I hardly saw any of what happened--it was all gone in
two or three seconds.  I was glad no one else had seen it.
Needless to say, that ended my monkeying around with powder,
trying to play powder monkey.

There was no one at the quarry who really knew how to blast
efficiently.  But then one day a man came out and showed Earl how
to use electric blasting caps instead of the fuses he had been
using.  By drilling shallow holes, placing less explosives in
each hole, and setting them off all at once, electrically, the
blasting was much more efficient and a lot safer.  Before that
time, the custom was to set off a small blast in the bottom of a
deep hole for the purpose of opening up a "pocket" large enough
to hold as many as eight cans of powder and 80 sticks of
dynamite.  That didn't result in a lot of usable rock for the
road we were building.  Instead, it mostly made a big hole in the
ground and sent rocks high into the air.

Earl did most of his blasting late in the afternoons after work
hours when the workers were out of the quarry.  When he was ready
to set off a blast, he yelled, "FIRE IN THE HOLE," and everybody
took cover, and the most reliable cover was a lot of distance.  I
saw a few rocks as large as your fist fall a half-mile away.  One
time a rock about the size of a basketball went so high and came
down so fast that it came down through the roof of the cook
shack, came on down through the ceiling, landed in a stack of
metal dinner plates and took them down through the table and on
down through the floor.  Another time, one man got under a wagon
for protection.  The heavy wagon bed protected him from the
falling rocks, but one huge rock rolled against a wheel and
scooted the wagon sideways a couple of feet.

They told us that before we went to work there, one blast failed
to go off for some reason.  They waited ever so long and it still
didn't go off.  Then finally they cautiously ventured out from
hiding and it blew up with Marvin standing almost on top of it.
It must have been a small charge or it might have killed him.  He
said, however, it was big enough.  He said he looked down on
trees during his flight.  I don't know, really.  Of course it
could be true, it happened in Texas you know.

One day a man signed on to work for Marvin, worked a couple of
days, and disappeared without asking for his pay.  We had not
known it at the time--even the bookkeeper thought nothing of it,
but when a couple of men came out a week later and arrested one
of the mule-skinners, (lingo meaning mule driver) we put two and
two together and came up with the answer.  The man who had worked
two days was an undercover agent for the F. B. I.

When arrested for manslaughter, the mule driver told the agents
he had been expecting them.  He had planned to work until payday
and move on.  They got him just before payday.  He had been going
to church regularly and had preached a few times in a little
country church near by.

Well, we Johnsons were making money and things were looking good.
But we might have suspected something would go wrong.  I guess we
should have moved on as the arrested man had been doing for
months.  But we, like he, stayed too long.  Anytime our present
and future looked that rosy, we might have known that financial
disaster was lurking near by.  The old devil was after me again.
To calm our financial tempest, my family might have to throw me
overboard, as the sailors did Jonah.

This time the bank went broke--the bank in which the road-
building company had its money, the money which was paid to
Marvin Hood month by month.  He couldn't pay us.  He couldn't
even pay himself.  Papa often paid cash out of his own pocket for
supplies for Marvin.  Then Marvin would repay him on payday.  The
bank closure caught Papa without any cash.  And Marvin couldn't
get any money to repay Papa.  He couldn't even get a little money
to help us get back to Hamlin.

We had the truck and the Dodge car.  I don't know how we made it.
I think we drove part way on kerosene; we could buy it for only
four or five cents a gallon.  And of course we arrived home
hungry.  Duck soup from a rusty bucket would have tasted good.
After years of negotiating, Papa finally got about half the money
Marvin owed him, and that included two of the wagons used for
hauling the crushed rock at Gorman.

While there at Gorman, Old Scotch took sick with what was
commonly known as sore mouth, and after many days of severe
suffering, he finally died.

If Old Scotch had died suddenly before his period of suffering,
it would have been almost like losing one of the family.  He was
one of the family and had been in the family longer than some of
us could remember.  We wouldn't have sold him for any amount of
money.  But, though we regarded him highly, since we had found no
means of alleviating his suffering, and since he had suffered for
so long, his death didn't bother us quite so much.  We hated to
see him go but were glad his pain had ended.

I don't really know what was done for Old Scotch during his
sickness.  That fell in Papa's line of duty.  I would guess that
he asked the advice of a druggist or an M.D., or maybe other
owners of dogs.  Veterinarians were practically nonexistent.  If
there had been one around he would have been called an animal
doctor.  I seriously doubt that we did much of anything for the
dog which could in any way be classed as veterinary medicine, as
we know it today.

All my memories of Old Scotch are pleasant ones except for those
last miserable days of his life.  He seemed to always be in the
right place at the right time.  And I don't recall that he ever
once did anything wrong.  There is no way of knowing how many
times, if ever, he saved one of us from the poisonous bite of a

On our Lamesa farm rattlesnakes were everywhere, not every day,
but at one time or another.  They were in pastures, in cow
trails, beside cow trails, in the garden in shades of potato
vines, in chicken houses, in feed barns, in the corn patch and in
the watermelon patch.  Wherever they were, there was a 50-50
chance Old Scotch had been there ahead of us.  And when there was
a snake, he often found it first.

When there was something he wanted us to know about, he barked.
And the tone of his bark told us whether the something was
dangerous or only a horned toad to be played with for a moment
and then ignored.  A cow in the yard brought a bark in a tone
which seemed to say, "Come and help me, or at least come and
close the gate after I drive her out."  Chickens in the yard
brought no bark at all.  He could handle chickens alone.  A skunk
or a badger brought a bark from Old Scotch which told us he would
like to have some of us around if only to keep him company and
help him make decisions, and maybe take note of the swell job he
was doing.  After driving it away, he would always accept a
congratulatory pat on his head, if we had one to offer.  And he
was most certain we would have.

Old Scotch knew things instinctively.  Of course, we all know
that dogs know a lot of dog things by instinct.  But Old Scotch
knew human things which he had never been taught.  One day Papa
was building fence on our Lamesa farm.  We boys were in school,
so Old Scotch was with Papa, also building fence and looking
after Papa.  As the morning warmed up, Papa pulled off his blue
denim jumper and laid it down.  He probably laid it on the
ground, there not being many bushes in Dawson County large enough
to hang a jumper up on.  Anyway, when he finished doing what he
was doing at that place, he started walking along the fence to
his next place of work.

Then he noticed an enthusiastic whine from the dog, which was
really a half-whine-half-yelp expression, but anyhow, it got
Papa's attention.  He looked back.  The dog was sitting there
pleading with Papa.  He first looked at the jumper and whined,
then at Papa and yelped, and wagged his tail in a manner that
could mean only one thing, "You are forgetting your jumper and I
don't want to stay here and watch after it.  I want to go with

Papa went back and let him know he got the message, but that he
hadn't meant to take the jumper.  Then he spoke to the dog in
words which he could understand real well because he had heard
them often through the years, "It's all right.  Leave it alone.
You can go."

And with a happy little yelp which meant, "Thank you," and with
an enthusiastic wag of his tail, he quickly bounced up beside his
master seeking a pat of approval before going on his way out
front to clear Papa's path of any and all vermin, and to warn him
of any danger that might lurk in his path.

Old Scotch may not have been the fightingest dog in the world,
but there is no doubt he was the whippingest.  So far as I know,
he whipped every dog that ever challenged him, and quite a few
who came in peace with no thought of conquest.  Once I saw two
dogs jump him at the same time.  Either one of the dogs was as
large as Old Scotch, but he whipped them both and sent them
scampering away.  He didn't suffer a scratch.  I'll admit he had
a slight edge that time; he was fighting on his home ground and
the cheering section was on his side.

Once a man came to see Papa about something and he allowed his
dog to come along.  His dog was about as large as our dog.  And
while the men were talking business, the two dogs went about
their business of getting acquainted with each other.  It seemed
they were getting to be friends until the fight started.  The
speed with which Old Scotch struck the other dog took him by
complete surprise, and he went backward and sideways, almost
losing his balance.

Then almost as quickly as the fight had started, Papa brought it
to a halt with the command, "Scotch, stop that!"  Whether the
command was "sic 'em" or "stop that," Old Scotch usually
responded immediately.  In this particular case, a "sic 'em"
started the fight and the "stop that" ended it.

As we all know, dogs have a keen sense of hearing.  They can hear
sounds that we humans can't hear.  And as we also know, 12-year-
old boys like to see dogs fight.  Show me one who doesn't and
I'll help you try to find out what is wrong with the boy.  I was
12 at that time.

Old Scotch was by far the easiest dog I ever saw to sic onto
anything he wanted to get onto.  And he usually wanted to get
onto any dog that happened to be close when one of us boys said,
"Sic 'em."  I think maybe this was because the dog lived such a
lonely life.  Of course, he had us humans to keep him company,
but there were no other dogs about the place to accept any of the
commands to sic 'em.  So he had to be alert at all times and do
all the dirty work himself.  He was so accustomed to the word sic
'em, and he had become so easy on trigger, he was off and away
before the full word was spoken.  He didn't wait to hear the
"'em" part of the word, he didn't even need the "c" part, but
only the "si" sound, and he only needed to hear that part in a

Now, that was all I said that day--just an almost noiseless
"si"--a mere hiss of wind through my upper front teeth.  And I
remember, Old Scotch looked up at me as if to ask, "Did I hear
what I hope I heard?"

I looked at him and winked one eye and barely nodded my head
toward the other dog and smiled and very quietly--almost
-repeated, "Si-," and in a split second he was all over the other
dog like a crow on a Junebug.

After Papa had stopped the fight, Old Scotch looked at me with a
question-mark expression on his face.  I smiled back at him just
to let him know he had not misunderstood me, and he came over to
me for a pat of approval, which I gave freely.

No one had heard the "si-" except the dog and me.  It would be
our little secret.  I certainly wouldn't tell, and he couldn't
tell.  I gave him a few friendly pats; he licked my hand and
wagged his tail--the only way he knew how to say, "Thank you, it
was fun while it lasted."  Then he went back to investigating and
making friends with the other dog.



In the meantime, after we got back home to Hamlin, Papa gradually
got into the trucking business.  The truck replaced the horse in
our lives and after a few years we sold our horses.  Then Papa
began to wonder if a truck would pull a trailer.  He had a good
wagon he didn't need, so he thought to himself, "Why not make a
trailer out of a wagon?"  He tried it and it worked.  He cut the
tongue off short, hooked it behind his truck and hauled
cottonseed to the oil mill at Hamlin from gins in Hamlin and from
gins in small towns near Hamlin.

While Papa was experimenting with new innovations, I was doing
some experimenting on my own in my spare time.  Before we got
electricity in our home, I had learned that the telephone company
was in the habit of throwing away dozens of old batteries from
time to time.  Most of them were dead, others were sick and
dying, but a few of them still had a little life in them.  By
connecting enough live ones together, I had enough current to
light flashlight bulbs.

I had brought back hundreds of feet of small insulated wire from
electric blasting caps at Gorman.  I strung the wire all through
our house and had little night lights in all our rooms even
before we got city current.  Although the lights were small, they
gave enough light to prevent most of the skinned shins which were
usually caused by vicious chairs that jumped out and tackled a
fellow as he made his way from his bed to the back door on his
nightly journeys to the outhouse.

I also had an Erector Set which had a little motor that ran off
the old batteries.  It came in handy in a lot of my experiments.
We heated a part of our house with a wood-burning heater.  I
didn't like to get up and build a fire on a cold morning.  So I
got to thinking, "Why not make my old alarm clock light my fire?"
One night I rigged the thing up before I went to bed.  The next
morning when the alarm went off, it started the motor that struck
the match that lighted the kerosene that lighted the kindling
that lighted the wood that heated the room.

Well, did it work?  Sure it worked, cross my heart.  But it
wasn't practical.  I didn't expect it to be.  It was more trouble
to rig all that stuff up the night before, than it was to build a
fire next morning and jump back into bed while the room warmed
up.  I just wanted to see if I could do it, and I could.

Once I hooked a bunch of those old dry cells to an auto horn and
it really sounded loud in the house.  Then one night while Joel
was away from home, I made a pressure switch and put it under his
mattress so that when he got into bed it would honk the horn
under his bed.  He was out with his girl and I knew he'd come in
after we were all in bed, and more than likely all asleep.  So I
began to have second thoughts about my little scheme.  Papa and
Mama would be sure to frown on the idea of being waked up in the
middle of the night by what would seem to be an automobile coming
through our bedroom honking its horn.  And I knew they would
frown on me for doing it.  So I got cold feet and disconnected
the thing before Joel got home.

During the 1930's many farm families had battery lights in their
homes.  They had "windchargers" to keep their batteries charged.
The windcharger was a wind-driven generator.  The more the wind
blew the more it would keep their batteries charged.  In 1921,
when I was fifteen years old, I made the first wind-driven
electric plant I ever saw or had ever heard of.  I took a magneto
off an old car and changed the wiring in the inside so it would
put out an alternating current instead of a jump spark.  It
wouldn't charge a battery but it would light a flashlight bulb
when the wind blew.  I mounted the plant on top of our house
above my room.  I left the light switched on all the time.  It
burned day and night, if the wind blew.  And the brightness of
the light was a good indication of how fast the wind was blowing.

After we got city current I did further experimenting and learned
more about electricity.  For instance, I liked to get a little
shock now and then from the city current.  And I learned that I
could touch the two wires just a wee bit with the tips of my
thumbs and fingers and enjoy a little electrical tingle.  One day
I tied two metal handles onto the ends of two wires so I could
get a better hold and enjoy even more shock.  I already knew that
a tighter grip on the handles would give me a stronger shock.
But what I didn't know was that when the shock reached a certain
degree of intensity, it would cause my hands to grip even harder,
and I found myself unable to open my hands to free myself.  Lucky
for me, I had tied the wires onto the light fixture hanging in
the center of the room.  I couldn't open my hands, but I dropped
to the floor and pulled the wires loose from the fixtures.

One day Albert found an old sewing machine motor in a trash pile
in an alley.  I was glad when he decided to sell it to me.  That
was another one of my dreams come true.  I was ready to do more
research and playing.  The motor did a lot of things for me, but
the thing that was worth the most to the family was the fly-
chaser I made out of it.

In those days we Johnsons still didn't have screens on our
windows and doors.  We just barely had windows and doors.
Anyway, I took the electric motor and mounted it on a wooden box
with its shaft sticking up.  Then I fastened a stick to the motor
shaft and a fringed cloth to the stick so that the fringe would
float three inches above the food on the dining table.  When I
placed this monster in the middle of Mama's table, she was not at
all pleased.

You see, Mama remembered some of my earlier gadgets, one of which
had blown up all over her kitchen stove, cabinet, walls and
floor.  Some of it even hit the ceiling.  Nevertheless, by the
time Mama became brave enough to come near her dining table on
this particular day--the day of the fly-chaser--I had the motor
in the middle of the dining table, sending the fringed cloth
round and round, shooing all the flies away.  It proved to be a
lifesaver.  No fly ever lighted within its magic circle.  Mama
could place all the food on the table and feel sure that no fly
would ever light on any of it.

After Mama realized the value of this latest invention, she got
back on speaking terms with me.  And I sort of guessed she might
be happy in the thought that her little ugly duckling might just
make his mark in the world after all .

Oh yes, I mentioned the blow-up in Mama's kitchen.  That was
quite a different story.  I had gotten this toy steam engine for
Christmas.  To make it run I had to fill the boiler with water,
light the alcohol burner under it, and then wait ten minutes for
the steam to make the wheels start turning.  Then about two
minutes later the boiler was dry of water and the whole operation
had to be done over.  That amounted to too much waiting and not
enough wheel turning to suit me.

I reasoned that a larger boiler wouldn't have to be filled so
often, and there would be more action each time I heated it.  So
I put a valve stem from an inner tube in the lid of a gallon
syrup bucket.  And I ran a small rubber hose from the valve stem
to a little pipe on the boiler of the toy steam engine.  Next I
filled the bucket with water and placed it on Mama's wood
cookstove and waited--and waited and waited.

And that's when it happened.  It blew up.  The lid hit the
ceiling, and water hit the four walls and everything in the
kitchen.  I was glad Mama wasn't in the kitchen.  The noise alone
was enough to scare her half out of her mind, and it brought her
running in a hurry.  And now let us have a moment of silence
while you imagine what Mama said to me.  Of course I was sorry it
happened.  The kitchen might never be the same again.  And I was
sorry to have scared her.  But mostly I was afraid she wouldn't
let me do experiments in her kitchen again.

After the steam cleared out of the kitchen, Mama allowed me to
return to the scene just long enough to remove the "thing" to my
own room.  Then I found that the little rubber tube was stopped
up.  Steam couldn't get through it.

Oh well, air seemed to be much safer and faster anyhow.  So I
borrowed Papa's tire pump and pumped air into the little toy
boiler.  That worked just fine.  One stroke of the pump and the
wheels started turning.  Only trouble was, I had borrowed the
tire pump without asking, and the next time Papa needed it, it
was out of place and he couldn't find it.  Again I was in the

Electricity seemed to be in my life to stay.  At age sixteen I
owned my first electric train.  It was not the steam-locomotive
type, but the true original electric-type engine.  I bought the
train myself and it proved to be a lot of fun.  By that time I
had known the truth about Santa for a couple of years and I
figured he wouldn't be bringing me one.  So I started saving up
my nickels and dimes and bought my own train.  A year or so later
I bought my first and only bicycle.  It lasted me until I bought
my first car.

By that time I had begun to believe a fellow could do about
anything he set his mind to.  So I gave a kid a dollar for an old
one-cylinder gasoline engine with its carburetor missing.  I knew
I couldn't buy a carburetor for it, but I was confident enough,
or foolish enough to believe I could make the thing run without
one.  I was right; I could and I did.  That is, I made it run
without a real factory-built carburetor.  The one I gave it was a
small tin can stuffed with rags that were saturated in gasoline.
The vapor from the can was the gas that it ran on.

I made the little engine pull Mama's washing machine--which she
was in the habit of making me pull.  Of course it was more work
keeping the engine running than it would have been just simply
running the washer by hand.  But it was more fun my way.  And
besides, I liked to do things that others couldn't do,--things
some mechanics said couldn't be done.

When I got hold of an extra dime now and then, which was not
needed for something else, I would go see a movie.  But my slow
reading caused me to miss part of the story during the old silent
movie days.  So I began dreaming of the time when we would be
able to go to a movie and listen to the stars talk and sing.  I
worked the whole thing out and told my parents and some of my
friends just how it would be done and how the mechanism would be
set up.  Some of them listened, but some of them walked away,
slowly wagging their heads as if to say, "Poor Clarence, he
finally flipped his flopper.  He has gone plum crazy."

Three years later they came out with a stupid phonograph and
tried to keep the talking on the record correlated with the
picture on the screen.  It was four years after I invented the
talking picture that they finally put the sound on the movie film
where I had put it in the first place.

I was out front on automobile generators too.  In the early
1920's generators were dealing us plenty of trouble.  Their
commutators were the biggest headaches.  By 1924 I had invented a
direct-current generator without a commutator but with two
collector rings instead.  I even applied for a patent on my
invention.  But I ran out of money and had to give it up.  Then
39 years later, in 1963, most all American-built cars came out
with my generator on them.  They are now called alternators.  Of
course my generator was not exactly like the alternator.  We
didn't have diodes in 1924.  My generator didn't need diodes.

Along with my experimenting, I was reading mechanics magazines
and in one of them I saw the International Correspondence School
advertisement and enrolled in an electrical engineering course.
I learned a lot from it but I was not financially able to buy all
the things I needed to do the experiments which would have helped
me learn and understand much more.  Furthermore, there was not
another kid in town with whom I could work and study, nor who was
interested in learning about electricity with me.  So, electrical
engineering lost much of its charm and glamour.  However, during
my high school days, my classmates and teachers nicknamed me
"Edison."  I kept the stage lights in repair for all events.  And
when an office light needed attention, they sent for me.  They
never required me to buy a ticket to any school activity.  I kept
the lights working all over the building.  I carried a key to the
building and came and went as I pleased, day and night.

Along with my other activities, I have studied and practiced a
little bit of character reading.  Since my teens I have had this
thing about being somewhat able to read a person's character on
sight--at least I liked to try.  When I was 18 I was visiting a
kid in another town and he showed me a picture of his high school
class, 32 kids.  I looked at the picture, then I pointed to one
girl and told my friend that she was the top student in his class
in English.  My friend was surprised but he admitted that I was
correct.  He became even more surprised when I picked the best
math student, the most mischievous boy, the one who liked to play
good clean practical jokes, the one who was the most active in
the art of deceit designed to really hurt others, the best
football player, best all-round athlete, and several others.
After I had finished, the boy told me I got about 20 of them just
right, ten partially right, and two absolutely wrong.  Oh well,
you can't win them all.

I have been in business off and on many years in my life and I
can't remember having lost a penny on a cold check or a bad debt.
I have a way of trusting people that I judge to be okay and it
seems that they want to prove that I have not misjudged them.

This ability to judge rightly has helped me and others many
times.  One day a stranger was driving through Hamlin on his way
to Bronte where he was to go to work on a ranch.  He was out of
money.  I bought him five gallons of gas and a quart of oil.
Three days later I received the money from him by mail.

Why did I trust the stranger?  I don't know.  He looked okay.  He
acted okay.  He didn't ask for credit nor any other favor.
Instead, he asked if he might camp out behind our service station
for three or four days.  My boss told him it was all right.  Then
when he asked to borrow a pencil and a piece of paper, I learned
he was planning to write his employer a letter and ask him to
send a couple of dollars for gas and oil so he could finish his
trip.  I bought him the gas and oil and told him to get going and
get on the job.  Then he offered to leave his saddle as security.
I told him I didn't need security, "Just send me the money when
you get it."  And he did.

I've always been that way about my money.  I would rather see my
money used for home missions than for foreign missions.  I like
to see results.  In the case of foreign missions, I never know
how my money is being handled nor what it does for people.  To be
sure, this man repaid me, but if he had not, I would still prefer
home missionary work.  That may not be the right attitude, but
it's the way I feel.

This new-fangled city living didn't take all the country out of
us boys right away.  We often went hiking along the creek that
runs through the south end of Hamlin.  One day we slipped out of
our clothes and were swimming in the Orient Lake when a group of
women and little kids came to fish in the lake.  Boy, I thought
we were in trouble for sure this time.  But Joel came to the
rescue.  He always was a smooth talker, and this time it paid off
for all of us.  He yelled out to them that we were swimming
without our swim suits, and if they would go back around the
bend, we would be out in about three minutes and then they could
come on and fish.  They did and all was well.

Soon after we moved to Hamlin we owned an old Dodge car, about a
1918 model.  It was probably the one we drove to Gorman, although
we did own two other Dodges through the years.  Anyway, this old
car had so much play in the gears and the differential and the
axles that you could let up slowly on the clutch, and when all
the slack finally wound out of all the gears, the car would leap
forward.  And if the motor didn't die, you were off and going.

Our car shed opened to the alley.  To get into the shed we had to
drive up the alley, circle into the shed and stop the car just
before it hit a solid board wall.  At least it was a board wall,
and we had thought it was solid until Albert proved differently.
Anyhow, the wall separated the car from the back yard, which, in
turn, connected with the back door of Mama's kitchen.  Now, this
back yard had within its boundaries a number of clotheslines, a
storm cellar and a couple of huge mulberry trees, under which a
dozen or so old laying hens reclined in shaded pools of dust and
ashes while off duty from producing the better half of many
nourishing breakfasts for a bunch of growing kids.

Well, on this particular day, Albert had some reason for wanting
to go some place in that old Dodge car.  It didn't have a
starter; we had to crank it.  Albert, being just a small boy, was
not big enough to stand out in front of the bumper of the car
while he applied the necessary heave and pull to roll the motor
over compression.  So, as usual, he was standing between the
front bumper and the car when things began to happen.  The old
car was easy to crank.  Usually just once over and the engine
would start.

And so it was this time--once over and wham!  Albert had
forgotten to shift it out of low gear.  The motor had gotten up
pretty good speed by the time all the gears took up the slack and
the hind wheels began to push forward.  It was a good thing
Albert was too little to stand in front of the bumper, it would
have crushed both his legs as it went about the business of
pushing the entire end out of the shed.  It's a fact.  The bottom
of the wall held in place while all the nails pulled out along
the top of the wall.  The car simply laid that big solid wall
flat in the back yard and then climbed on top of it.  It was
headed right for the storm cellar when Albert switched off the

Now you think I'm fibbing.  You wonder, "How did Albert get there
to switch off the motor?"  It wasn't easy.  It took a little
agility and a lot of speed, and Albert proved he had plenty of
both.  When the car began going forward Albert went down and
under it.  Then in the split-second it took the car to demolish
the end of the garage, Albert seized the opportunity to shoot out
from under one side of the car, behind the front wheel and before
the back wheel got him.  Then he leaped up and jumped into the
car and stopped it on top of one end of the garage, a couple of
clothes line poles, and one very dead old hen.  The hen, of
course, was a welcome sight on the dining table at our next meal.
And Albert was also a welcome sight, sitting there eating his
share of the old hen, without a scratch on him.

When we moved to Hamlin the school authorities wanted to put us
all back a grade or two.  We didn't thrill to that idea, so Earl
drove the Old Reo car and we went to Wise Chapel School a-year-
and-a-half.  It was only five miles and our teacher rode with us
and helped pay expenses.

But this country schooling couldn't go on forever.  So when we
entered Hamlin school I was almost sixteen and they put me back
to the seventh grade.  And then at Christmas time our teacher got
married and quit teaching.  She was replaced by a man teacher who
was not altogether outstanding in his knowledge of math.  I
worked some math problems he couldn't work and I taught our class
at times when the problems were too difficult for him.  He seemed
to resent this and I am sure it was my fault.  I was not well-
versed in the art of diplomacy and I didn't know how to go beyond
his ability without hurting his pride.

As a result, at the end of that year I learned that I was third
in my class.  We all felt sure a certain little girl would be
first.  I thought I would be second.  But instead, a boy named
Jack was salutatorian that year.  I didn't really think any more
about the matter until the next year when I learned, quite by
accident, that the teacher had given the honor to Jack which was
rightfully mine.  I had made higher grades than he did.  No, I
didn't hate the teacher for having done that to me, nor did I
like him for it.  I reasoned that he had just made an honest
mistake in figuring our grades.  As I said, he was not
outstanding in math.

There was only one high school teacher I didn't especially like.
She taught Latin.  The rule of the school was that an excused
absence was not to lower a student's grade.  Rather, his grade
was to be averaged according to those days he was present, and
the exam scores.  I constantly made "A" when I was in class in
spite of the fact that I missed a lot of classes while on
business ventures for our class and for the school.  I thought,
and some other teachers thought that, if I could make "A in class
and on tests, while attending class only three-fourths of the
time, I ought to have an "A" for the course.  Instead, I got a
"C".  Except for that one course, I made B-plus and better
throughout my high school years.  It wasn't all that bad though,
having a "C" in Latin.  I knew I was an "A" student and my
teacher knew I was an "A" student; I was just a little
disappointed not to have an "A" on my report card so my family
would know I was an "A" student.

Since we had missed so much schooling because of poverty and
because of cotton harvest and because of having attended small
country schools, naturally we were all put back a grade or two
when we entered Hamlin school.  I wasn't the only one.  Joel says
he was put back a grade so many times, he went through one grade
three times making "As" every time.  In my Freshman year, I was
about the age of many of the Juniors.  And because of a lack of
material possessions, I found schooling less alluring than it
might have been.

So, about the last of November I dropped out of high school and
took a job with West Texas Utilities Co.  The job title was
"Night Engineer" and the salary was more than a lot of grown men
made.  Regardless of the title that went with my job, what I
really did was make ice at the ice plant at night.  Anyway, two
years later, with my savings to back me up, I quit my job and
reentered Hamlin High School, about the last of November.

By that late date I was a Freshman at age eighteen, finishing my
freshman year at nineteen.  However, I was not looked down upon,
even by the so-called elite.  The most respected Seniors welcomed
me into their school activities.  But I realized my social
retardation and stood apart, by my own choice, in certain
extracurricular activities.

Even after starting school three months late that fall, I still
made good grades and picked up four credits, which was normal.
The following summer I did some extra studying, wrote some book
reports, took tests on the work, and made three extra credits.
That made seven; I needed nine more to graduate.  Once in awhile
a good strong student was allowed to take five subjects.  My
record convinced the teachers that I could do even more than
five.  So, with their help, we persuaded the superintendent to
let me take seven subjects that second year.  B-plus was the
lowest grade I made that year, despite the extra load.  We tried
to get the superintendent to let me take all nine, but he
refused.  I could have made it easily, but we couldn't get his
permission to let me try it.

By the end of my second year I was 21 and had 14 credits.  I
needed two more.  I enrolled again that fall, but before I got my
books, Papa told me he needed another truck driver and couldn't
afford to hire one and keep me in school.  So I quit school and
drove a truck for him.

While I was in school I was not thought of as a "book-worm,"
probably because I didn't spend all that much time studying.  I
lettered in football that second year.  I also took first place
in the half-mile run, shot put, discus throwing, and something
else.  Would you believe it:  I've forgotten what the fourth
event was.  Along with athletics, I also took first place in

While I was a Freshman, I was assistant editor of our school
paper which rated second in the state.  With all four grades
competing in writing "Class yell," "Class song," and designing
"Class pennant," I wrote the song which won first place and
designed the pennant that won first place.

We had another contest to see which class could raise the most
money to pay on the doctor bill for one of our football players.
We Freshmen won that contest.

In my Junior year we had a contest to determine which class could
publish the best edition of our school paper.  When it came our
turn, we Juniors won first place and sold three times as many
papers as any other class.  I also painted all the posters for
advertising games, plays, and other school activities.  And then
I placed them in store windows all over town.  I was allowed to
take a student with me on these poster ventures.  Only one
requirement, he had to have an "A" rating in his grades.  And I
must say, looking back from where I sit today, I can easily see
how my stupidity stood out in those days; I always chose boys to
go with me.

We Juniors put on a play which we presented in Hamlin and in
other towns nearby.  We first put the play on in Hamlin at the
picture show as a dress rehearsal and we charged admission.  Then
we presented it again a few weeks later at the same theatre and
played to a full house.  Then we played it at the same place a
third time by popular request.  The play went over so well in
Hamlin, we decided to present it in other towns around.  I know
we played it in Rotan and I believe the other town was Anson.
The name of the play was "Clarence," and I played the title role.
You may remember, Booth Tarkington was the author.

Naturally, all this publicity didn't hide me from public view.  I
was well known around the little town of 2,500.  During that time
I also worked in garages, filling stations, grocery stores, tire
shops, and welding shops, besides driving a truck now and then
when I was needed.

I painted all the posters for advertising the play which we put
on in Hamlin and other towns around.  Usually four of us Juniors
went to other towns to place them in store windows.  We didn't go
after school; we went during school hours, and only straight "A"
students could go.

One day four of us were delivering posters to Rotan--two boys and
two girls.  The other boy was driving and I was in the back seat
with one of the girls.  She was not "my" girl--just a nice
respectable school girl.  I don't think I even had a girl to call
my own, or maybe I did.  If I had one, it was one of the
teachers, which was strictly against board rules, so we had to
keep it secret.  No student was allowed to date a teacher.  Well
anyway, there we were in the back seat of the car, me socially
handicapped, and they having all kinds of fun teasing me about
being so timid and bashful.  They got a big kick out of watching
the girl edge over toward me and seeing me slowly scoot away from
her.  I was just being cautious.  How was I to know what a city
girl might do to a country boy like me.

Our school athletic club was always short of money for uniforms,
balls, bats, and other equipment.  To help make money for the
club, we sold candy in one hallway at high school.  I did all the
buying, keeping the records, and half the selling.  Another
regular job for me was making whitewash and marking off the
football and baseball fields.

Now you can begin to see why I didn't have to ask permission to
go and come when I needed to.  It would have been a waste of
time.  And I just didn't have all that much time to waste.  I was
busy.  They granted me the privilege of going without asking and
I was careful not to abuse that privilege.  They usually knew
where I was and which student I had picked to go with me.  You
may also be getting the idea that I could have carried nine
subjects that Junior year.  I did all these extras, took seven
full courses, and made "B-plus" and "A" all the way.

By this time I had begun to learn a little diplomacy which I had
lacked in the seventh grade.  During my Freshman year--my second
one, that is--Miss Packwood was in her first year of teaching.
In her history class I sat on the front row right by her desk.
Four boys sat in four seats on the back row and gave her a rough
time, cutting up and constantly disrupting the class.  They got
so bad that she actually cried at times.  The boys didn't know it
but I did.  She tried hard to hide her frustration and emotions.
But she was at a loss to know what she should do next.

I caught those four boys out at the toilet one day and had a
diplomatic conference with them.  I placed myself in the group of
five who were dealing our teacher misery.  I pleaded to them
concerning our responsibility to her.  "How would we like for
someone to do to our sister what we are doing to this girl?"

Well sir, the results of that little conference surprised even
me.  Not a single one of those boys bothered that teacher another
time the rest of that year.  I never told Miss Packwood what had
taken place, nor did I ever mention it again to the boys.
Although I had not been guilty of any of the wrongdoings, in my
talk with the boys, I included myself as one of them and shared
the blame in order that they might listen to my argument.  I was
proud of the boys for listening to me and I was proud of me for
having been able to influence them, and help a friend who was in

The last year Coach Hinton was at Hamlin High, Superintendent
Greene asked him to come two weeks before school started and get
the football boys into training.  Coach asked about pay for the
two weeks.  Mr. Greene seemed to think the board would be glad to
pay him for his time.  Then he told Mr. Hinton, "If they will not
pay you, you can take your pay out of the athletic fund."  Mr.
Hinton came early and kept his part of the bargain.

As it turned out, the board didn't pay for the two weeks.  Mr.
Hinton waited and waited and they still didn't pay.  He was too
much of a gentleman to ask for the money.  He figured perhaps
they would pay him at the end of the school year, but they
didn't.  So he took his pay out of the athletic fund as Mr.
Greene suggested.  And at that point some of his so-called "best
friends" turned against him, telling that he stole the money and
left town.  It simply wasn't true.  I knew about Mr. Greene's
promise.  There was never any reason for anyone to doubt Mr.
Hinton's honesty.  He was never anything less than a gentleman.

You may have the idea that I am telling you I didn't get into
trouble at school.  That's just not true.  However, I didn't
deliberately plan it.  Most of my trouble was accidental.  For
instance, during the Christmas holidays one year, workmen
revarnished the desks in the study hall.  When school reopened,
the varnish was dry, but you know how fresh varnish is, even
after it is dry.  When you sit on it for an hour your pants sort
of cling to it.  Well, as I have told you, we were a poor family,
and I had the pants to prove it.  My pants were old and thin, but
there were no holes in them when I sat down.  And there was only
one hole when I got up an hour later--a big one.  I first
suspected something was wrong when I felt a breeze.  I knew it
for sure when I looked down and saw the seat of my pants still
clinging to the new varnish.

Needless to say, that was another time I didn't ask for
permission to leave the building.  I backed out the door, hurried
down the stairway and ran, trying not to turn my back on anyone
all the way home.

While I was a Freshman in high school, one of my jobs at home was
to hitch up a team of horses each day after school, drive seven
miles to the Neinda gin, load a wagon with cottonseed, drive back
home and leave it for Papa to unload the next day.  But then one
day I didn't make my regular trip.

In school that afternoon our teacher was called from the room for
a long-distance phone call.  She was gone a long time, and the
longer she stayed away the worse things got in our room.  Long
before she returned kids were throwing erasers, throwing books,
running around the room, fighting, and even running out one door,
down the hall, and back into the room through another door.

When the teacher returned, she caught them in the act.  I say
"them" because I made it a point not to do anything contrary to
rules.  I had special privileges I didn't want to lose.  I wanted
to be trusted.  As a matter of fact, there were two of us who did
nothing wrong--Mable Hudson and I.  But the teacher didn't know
that.  She told us she was ashamed of everyone of us.  And she
kept us all in an hour after school.

That was the cause of my missing my Neinda trip and that was why
Papa was not at all happy.  In fact he was very unhappy.  He
asked why I was late.  I told him I had to stay in.  He asked
what I had done to have to stay in.  I told him, "Nothing."

He was sure I was lying, because, he said, "Teachers don't keep
kids in for nothing."  Then he added, "I thought I had at least
one boy I could trust to behave and tell the truth."

It was too late to haul cottonseed that day.  I felt I had let
the family down, but through no fault of my own.  Or maybe it was
my fault.  Maybe I should have explained to the teacher, but I
didn't.  Nor did I explain further to Papa.  He didn't seem to be
in the mood for further talk from me.

My teachers knew me pretty well.  A little explaining might have
done the trick.  They knew I had never lied to them.  On the
other hand, if I had explained to the teacher, and if she had not
kept me in, I would have been called "teacher's pet" and she
might have wound up being hated by my classmates.  I found myself
in an awkward situation where I didn't know what to do nor what
to say.  So I kept quiet and found myself being punished by the
ones who meant the most to me, my teacher and my father.

Did I turn against them because they told me they were ashamed of
me?  Certainly not.  I understood how it looked to them.  They
didn't ask any further questions, and I offered no further
explanation.  They still trusted me and I trusted them.  And I
didn't lose any of my special privileges at home or at school.

Throughout my school years, the first day of April was a special
day for school kids.  The afternoon of April Fools' Day was a
period for students to have a good time.  If the teachers would
not allow a fun-party that afternoon, some of the pupils, if not
all of them, would run away from school.  This was customary, and
if most of the kids ran away, it was generally understood that
there would be little or no punishment.

I was only about nine years old the first time I ran away from
school on April Fools' Day.  Three of us boys slipped away at
noon and soon after one-o'clock we saw that we were alone.  We
also knew we couldn't return to school because we would be
punished for being late for our one-o'clock class.

We realized we were in trouble and would have to try to think of
a way out.  But first of all, we had to get farther away from the
schoolhouse so the teacher wouldn't be able to find us with a
search party.  In fact, we ran so far away and spent such a
miserable afternoon that we failed to see the other students
going home from school.  We had planned to join them and all
arrive home at the same time.  And after that--well, that was as
far as a nine-year-old could plan.  After that I had no idea how
any good thing could happen to me.

But we were caught in our own trap.  Since it was April Fools'
afternoon, the teachers turned out school early.  The other kids
got home an hour earlier than usual.  And what I got when I got
home was no surprise.  My biggest surprise was that I didn't get
a whipping.  Of course I got a good talking-to, but no whipping.
That little experience taught me to be better organized next time
before attempting mutiny in any form.

I believe the next time I ran away from school on April Fools'
Day was when I was a Freshman in Hamlin High School.  Now, it was
such a long time ago I know I will not get every little detail
exactly right, but for all practical purposes and intent, it
happened about like this.  We were well organized, to say the

It was April Fool's Day, one o'clock in the afternoon.  We
students were all seated in the study hall, each at his regularly
assigned desk.  In the parking lot out front were two trucks and
a number of automobiles, all parked orderly and aimed in the
direction of the Double Mountain River.

The entire student body had been warned that the school board
would not tolerate running away on the first of April.  Those who
did would have all their grades lowered by ten points.

When the one o'clock bell rang, the study hall teacher said,
"Rise and pass to your classes."

We stood up and passed all right, but not to our classrooms.  We
marched out of the study hall and downstairs, taking a select
group of teachers with us.  By the time the superintendent
realized what was happening, we were all loaded into our vehicles
and heading for a sandy playground in the channel of the river.
The kidnapped teachers gave us very little trouble.  They liked

We were told later that three girls showed up for class in one
room.  Their teacher asked, "What are you girls doing here?"

They told her they didn't want their grades to be lowered ten

And the teacher told them, "No one is going to knock ten points
off your grades.  Get on out from here and have a good time."

We were not only organized in making our get-away, we had also
arranged for a little bit of entertainment by surprise.  Three of
us boys had made a man-size straw dummy, and while all the other
students and teachers were playing in the sand down in the river,
we boys secretly took our dummy up on a high cliff across the
river, and there on the edge of that cliff, in plain view of the
spectators below, Virgil Davis and I got into an argument which
ended in a fight.

Before we took the straw dummy up on the cliff, we arranged for
one boy to remain in the crowd below to call attention to our
fight up on the cliff.  We boxed and pushed and shoved and rolled
and tumbled.  Then we rolled behind some bushes to where we had
the dummy hidden.  And when I came back into view, I was
wrestling the dummy instead of Virgil.  When we rolled near the
edge of the cliff, we struggled to our feet and I knocked him
over the edge and he fell to the river below.

This was no big deal but it was different, and it brought a few
screams from the gallery below.

By the first day of April the following year, the school board
had decided that this April Fool thing had gone too far, and they
convinced us kids that they meant business.  We knew there was no
way we could pull another stunt like we pulled the year before
and get away with it.  We accepted the new ruling and had no
intention of causing any trouble.

However, just before the lunch hour that day I was talking with
some boys and jokingly said, "We'd better not run away but when
they tell us to pass to classes, we could just remain seated."  I
hadn't really meant it and we didn't plan action.  If I had meant
it, I would have suggested that we remain seated only a minute or
less, just to demonstrate student solidarity, and that not in
defiance, but rather in fun.

But I underestimated the effects of my little suggestion and the
solidarity of the student body.  When one o'clock came and the
teacher said, "Rise and pass to your classes," not one student
got up.  I was surprised.  Something was happening here beyond
any suggestion I had made.

Other teachers got together, whispered a few words in their
huddle and one of them gave the order again, but still no one
made a move.  Then Mr. Hinton came out, spoke a few words of
advice to us and asked us to go to our classes.  This time three
girls got up and went to class, perhaps the same three who showed
up for class the year before.

By this time I had begun to feel guilty and uneasy.  I didn't
know who had planned all this nor whether it was the result of my
suggestion, but I knew I could be held responsible because of
what I had said.  The thing had gotten out of hand and someone
could get hurt.  I knew that someone could be me.  This just
wasn't right, but I didn't want to be the one to spoil something
someone else had planned, if indeed someone else had planned it,
so I went along with the scheme.

Next, Mr. Greene called a student into his office.  I don't
remember who the student was, but he soon came back and took his
seat with the rest of us.  And again, another teacher asked us to
respond, but we didn't.

Then Mr. Greene sent for me, and at that moment I guess I felt
smaller than I had ever felt in my life.  I think I could have
crawled through the knothole in our back porch, through which I
put so many calomel tablets when I was a little kid.  I thought
to myself, "This time they have caught me, I'm guilty, I'll be
kicked out of school, and I have no idea how severely Papa will
punish me this time."

But my worry had not been necessary.  I learned right away that
Mr. Greene and the teachers were not looking for someone to blame
for this unpleasant incident, but rather, they were looking for a
leader--a Moses, mind you, to lead these students out of the
study hall and into the classrooms, thereby keeping us all out of
serious trouble.

I went back and took my seat in the study hall.  Again one of the
teachers said, "Rise and pass to your classes."

And again no one moved.  Then, about two seconds later, I stood
up and said, "Let's all rise and go to our classes," and every
student obeyed.

They just needed a leader, and I was there at the right time.
They might not have followed me ten minutes earlier.  And another
thing they were waiting for was one of their own to lead them, so
they would not have to yield to authority.



As I look back I can easily see that all the ventures our family
had been caught up in through the years added up to a lot of
worry for parents with a bunch of kids to feed, shelter and
educate.  But to me they were stepping stones to a better future.
Partly because of those experiences, I was building a confidence
in myself which culminated in my being unafraid to tackle most
anything--either with or without money, perhaps foolhardy at
times, but nevertheless, still unafraid.

By this time I had done quite a bit of running around, but most
all of it was close to home.  I had never seen a desert, a big
river, big mountains, nor an ocean.  There were other things I
wanted to see too, but at age nineteen I suddenly had this
overwhelming desire to see an ocean,--not just any ocean, but
rather one particular ocean, the Gulf of Mexico.  Now, I knew the
Gulf was not a real ocean, but I reasoned that it was big enough
to please me.  It must look a lot like an ocean.  And since I
happened to know that there was a good-looking little girl
spending her vacation swimming in the Gulf that summer, I made up
my mind right away that the Gulf was indeed the ocean I wanted to

I had this Model T--whoa, let's stop right here long enough to
let the younger generations know that the Ford Model T was never
called Model T until the Model A came along in 1928.  Up until
that time they were just plain Fords, all practically alike
except in 1924 they began coming with balloon tires.  And in
those days all cars, regardless of brand name and year of
manufacture, were black.

Anyway, getting on with my story, I had this Ford touring car and
I wanted to see the ocean.  It was only 350 miles to the Gulf,
and it would take about four gallons of gas for each 100 miles--
and gas was 9 cents a gallon--add two quarts of oil at 10 cents a
quart--total one way only $1.50.  My goodness, I could drive down
there and back and eat a week on five dollars.  No problem, I had
$11 in my pocket.  With that kind of money I could rent a cabin
and have money left over for a few movie tickets at 15 cents

So, a day-and-a-half later I was standing there on the beach
looking at that big body of water with that little body of a girl
swimming in it.  We had a wonderful time for a week, and my
financial estimate turned out to be almost correct.  To get back
to Hamlin, I only needed $1 more than I had.  And that was on
account of the girl's little brother.  I hadn't figured there
would be three of us so much of the time.  But I soon learned
that the third party could add up to an extra dollar in just a
few days, as well as taking away a lot of the pleasure I had

And so, that was another time I started home on just a little
money.  I knew that the girl or her father would have been glad
to lend me a dollar.  But I wasn't about to let them know I was
that near broke.  I was a big boy, an independent man, out on my
own.  At least that's the way I wanted it to look to them.  But
to me it looked altogether different.

I had $1.20 in my pocket when I headed out for Hamlin.  But I
wasn't afraid; there was no anxiety.  I had been in tight spots
before.  There was not even any hurry.  I stopped along the road
to pick up hitch-hikers.  One fellow I picked up was heading for
a ranch somewhere near Mason.  He rode with me a long way.  His
home was about six miles off the highway in wild country, and it
was a hot day.  I told him my money situation and he told me how
he hated the thought of having to walk six miles on a hot day
carrying a suitcase.  I offered to drive him home for a dollar.
It was a deal.  I drove him right up to his house, he paid me the
dollar, and I sailed right on into Hamlin without any trouble.

I think a lot of my self-confidence came from reading the Bible
and one other little book.  After we moved to Hamlin, someone
gave me a set of little leather-backed books.  They were so small
four of them would fit in my shirt pocket, maybe even five or
six.  One was titled "As A Man Thinketh."  It was my favorite.  I
read it through many times and kept it long after the others had
disappeared one by one.  It was rich food for thought and it
strengthened my trust in me and in my fellow man.  Its teachings
helped me over many a rough spot.  Wherever I was, whatever I was
doing, whatever the circumstances, its philosophy made me
unafraid.  And being unafraid, I would tackle most anything.

For instance, there was a kid in Hamlin who had an old motorcycle
he couldn't get to run.  For some reason he thought I might be
able to make it run, so he brought it to me to piddle with.  It
didn't take long for me to get the motor running.  But I should
have looked it over better before I tried to ride it.  It proved
to be quite a wreck and it had certain parts which were ready to
come apart from other parts which were supposed to stay connected

After I started the machine, I took it out on main street and
headed toward down-town Hamlin.  It was going pretty good when I
discovered the throttle wire had broken and the throttle insisted
on remaining wide open.  I tried to cut off the gasoline at the
carburetor, but it was too hot to handle.  By this time I was a
lot closer to town than I meant to be and was traveling a lot
faster than I wanted to be.  I couldn't switch the thing off
because it had no switch.  It usually died when I closed the
throttle, but this time I couldn't close the throttle.

What should I do?  I could jump off and let the thing go.  But
then there was a good chance the machine would suffer great
damage.  I was certain I would suffer, and I didn't like the idea
of looking at my own blood.  Nor would I enjoy hurting here and
there all over my body.

Quickly I thought about what made the thing go, gasoline and
spark.  The gasoline was beyond my control.  The spark--let's
-can't get to the spark plug wires, but I can get to the magneto.
Two clips held the back end of the magneto on.  Did I dare try to
steer the thing with one hand at the speed I was going, while I
leaned over and tried to take the mag apart with my other hand?
Why not try it?  If I fall, so what?  I was going to fall anyway.
And I just might succeed.  It was my only hope, I had to succeed.
So I did it.  I took the mag apart and it stopped.  And that's
the way this motorcycle story ended, just one city block short of
down-town Hamlin.

A few years later I bought myself a good used motorcycle.  It was
an Indian Scout and it proved to be the best little machine I
could ever hope to own.  It could do everything but cook.  We
kids had a lot of fun riding it all over Hamlin.  On the paved
street I had as many as six of us on it at once, one on the
handle bars, two on the gas tank, me on the seat and two on
behind.  Sure I was in the driver's seat; it was mine wasn't it?

I well remember one time I got on the little machine and went
down through San Angelo and on out to McCamey.  The trucking
business was slow at that time and I wasn't especially needed at

It began to rain as I rode west out of San Angelo.  And as I went
farther west I ran onto a lot of new road construction.  The road
became muddy and boggy beyond description, and the rain kept
falling.  Of course you know you can't ride a motorcycle on
slick, muddy roads, nor in water on muddy roads.  But you can
walk along beside it and hold it up and guide it while the motor
pulls it along.  That is, you can until the water gets too deep,
like where it flows across the road in cement dips.  That's what
I was doing until I came to one such place and I knew the water
was far too deep to try to cross.  It was a real river of water.
I doubt that an army tank could have made it across.  Anyway,
cars and trucks couldn't have crossed it.  Come to think of it,
there were no cars nor trucks on the road.  I hadn't seen one
during the last two or three hours.  In fact, I think there was
only one person on that sloppy road between San Angelo and
McCamey--and he was a crazy kid on a motorcycle.

Some people might wonder why the boy didn't turn around and go
back.  But I knew the kid personally, and I knew he wasn't in the
habit of starting something and then turning back.  He never even
gave it a thought that he should go back.  He was headed west,
and turning back wouldn't get him out west.

There was a railroad beside the highway.  If I could get my cycle
up on the railroad, I could cross the creek on the railroad
bridge.  But there was a ditch full of rushing water between me
and the railroad.  The banks of the ditch were steep, especially
on the side next to the railroad.  The water in the ditch was at
least waist deep and the ditch was twice that deep.  So now what
do I do?  There was just one thing to do, build a bridge across
the ditch.

I started walking along the railroad and finally found one loose
crosstie.  I put it on my shoulder, carried it and placed it
across the ditch.  It was just long enough.  But I knew I
couldn't very well balance a motorcycle on one slick crosstie
without another tie for me to walk on beside the machine .  Again
I looked all up and down the railroad but there wasn't another
tie nor a piece of lumber--not even a fence post.  I finally
thought to myself, "So what?  Let's not just stand here in the
rain doing nothing.  Let's try it."  We did.  That is, we tried
it.  We didn't make it, but we got half way across before I
slipped and fell.

Even before I hit the water, I glanced back and saw the
motorcycle leaning toward me and I thought to myself, "Boy, you
better hit that water on the run or that thing is going to be
right down on top of you."  So I dived down stream.  The rushing
water helped carry me from beneath the falling motorcycle.

I struggled to my feet against the angry current, blew muddy
water out of my mouth, brushed it out of my eyes and witnessed
the worst setback I had suffered in my life.

The bridge was okay, but the idea that I could balance me and a
motorcycle on one narrow crosstie was a complete failure.  We
didn't make it across the bridge and the cycle didn't stay up
there on it.  But I knew where my little Scout was hiding.  I
could see one handle bar sticking up out of the water.

There was probably no other person within forty miles, but as I
stood there in that muddy water, I seemed to hear Someone shout
to me, "All right Boy, don't just stand there!  Get busy and get
that thing out of there before it gets full of muddy water."  I
fought my way upstream, stumbling over the cycle on my way to the
visible handle bar.  I got two hands full of motorcycle and tried
to stand it up on its wheels, but it wasn't easy.  And even when
I got it up, it was still mostly under water.

The banks of the ditch were steep and slick.  It was hard for me
to stand, and the swift current was not friendly.  I slipped and
fell a time or two.  It seemed hopeless and the little Scout was
so heavy.  And then I seemed to hear that inner voice again,
"Heave, Boy, heave!  No, stupid, not back on the highway--up on
the railroad!  First one end, now the other end.  Tumble it over,
you can't mess it up any more than it is already.  Okay, so you
did it.  Now wash your nasty self up and get out of that muddy

Now I was faced with still another problem, would the machine
ever run again?  I doubted it, not for days anyway.  But it was a
long way to anywhere from this place.  If the motor wouldn't run,
I would really be in trouble.  It would be too hard to push in
the mud.  I had nothing to eat, there was not a house in sight,
and there was certainly no place to spread a blanket to sleep
through the night.  So I had to try something, but what?  While I
was trying to find the answer to that question, I got straddle of
the little Scout to sit and rest and think.  Then, mostly through
force of habit, and with no faith nor hope whatsoever, I gave the
starter a kick.  It didn't start but it sounded like it had
always sounded, not bad, not full of muddy water.  I figured even
if it wouldn't start, another kick wouldn't harm it.  So I gave
it a second try.  It still didn't start.

Then I remembered that there had been times under normal
circumstances when it required four or five kicks to start the
motor.  So with that in mind, the faith and hope which I had
rejected a short time before, were feebly creeping back into my
mind.  And with that change in my attitude, I kicked the starting
pedal the third time.  Well, you can't imagine my surprise when
it started and ran like a new cycle on that third try.  I was
thrilled and overjoyed.  I had always had faith in myself, but
until now I had never had that much faith in motors.  After that,
I felt there was no place I couldn't go with a machine like that
working for me.

I crossed the big water on the railroad bridge and then got back
on the muddy highway.  The next time I came to a dip with a lot
of water in it, I walked right through with that little Scout
puffing along beside me.  When water came up over the exhaust
pipe, it kept puffing right along.  Then water got up over the
magneto, then over the spark plugs, and the motor never missed a
shot.  However, I watched closely to see that water didn't get
into the carburetor suction.  Everything else was under water and
the motor still ran perfectly.  She was a real little Scout.  If
she could have cooked, I would have married her.

But years later when I finally did get married, I could easily
see that I would have gotten very little comfort from snuggling
up to a wet motorcycle on a cold winter night.

The road and the rain were the same all the way to McCamey.
There was an oil boom out there.  Jobs were plentiful.  Crime and
violence were apt to show up at any time.  They told me a man was
shot down in the street the day before I got there.  I couldn't
prove it if I had wanted to.  They had already carried him away,
and I didn't look for the man who shot him.

I got a job with the Sun Oil Company and worked two days.  The
hottest sun that ever hovered over a desert came out to greet us
early in the morning and remained all day.  By midafternoon it
was unbearable.  In those two days I decided that cutting grease-
wood to clear a right-of-way for a pipe line was not for me.  I
would much rather do carpenter work.  The wage for carpenters was
nine dollars a day; helpers got six dollars.  I was not a
carpenter, so I thought it best to tell the truth.  I signed on
as a helper.

They were just about to start building a bunk house when I went
to work.  The carpenters came to me with a problem none of them
could solve.  They knew how long to build the house and they knew
how many windows to put in it and they knew how wide each window
was, but they couldn't figure out how much space to leave between
the windows.  They asked me if I was good at math and could I
figure it out for them.  I was good, I could figure it out for
them, I did figure it out for them, then we went to work on the

After working at that job a few days, I decided that carpentering
in McCamey was not to be my vocation either.  I was a home-loving
boy and McCamey was not my home.  A dollar a day in Hamlin
appealed to me more than six dollars a day in McCamey.  In the
first place I didn't really want to work.  I mostly wanted to run
around a little, see a little of the outside world and see how
other people had to work.

By this time I was running low on money and payday was a week
away.  I had to decide quickly whether I wanted to work here or
go home.  If I stayed, the company would advance me a little
money for board until payday.  But my real question was, did I
want to work that long.  I couldn't afford to get too low on
money and be forced to stay until payday, if I really wanted to
go home.  It took about three minutes for me to make up my mind.
During that three minutes I counted my money and found almost
enough to take me home.  My decision was final, I was going to
Hamlin.  It was after work hours and the office was closed.  But
they had my address and knew where to send my pay, come payday.

Again I counted my money.  It hadn't increased at all.  I
couldn't get all the way home on it, but I could get a lot closer
than I was at the time.  It was 240 miles to Hamlin.  I would
have to eat at least one meal and I would have to spend a night
on the road somewhere.  I counted my money a third time.  Would
you believe it, 95 cents, that's all.  It seemed mighty small and
weak, considering what all I was planning for it to do for me.
But there was really nothing to worry about; I had a half-tank of
gas and I wouldn't need more than a quart of oil.  With any luck
at all I figured I ought to get close to Sweetwater before I ran
out of money and gas and oil.  And Sweetwater was only 45 miles
from Hamlin.

It was almost sundown and I hadn't eaten since noon.  Any kind of
a little meal would take all of my 95 cents.  So I went to a
grocery store and paid a dime for two eggs.  Then I went out
back, cracked them one at a time and let them slide their way
down.  They didn't make the best tasting meal in the world, but
our football coach had convinced me that it was a nourishing one.

By now it had stopped raining but the road was rough and the ruts
were deep.  Travel was slow on a motorcycle.  It was way after
dark by the time I got to Rankin, still 225 miles from Hamlin.
But I didn't like to travel in the dark so I camped for the

I spread my blanket on the board walk by the front door of a
small store and went to bed.  Before sleep overtook me, I thought
back on the last few days and on the beautiful night, and
especially on the tomorrow I was about to experience.  Could I go
all day with nothing to eat?  Sure I could.  I had gone almost
that long before without food.  I knew that only one of us could
afford to eat this time--either that little Indian Scout or me.
This time I had to take care of her first.  She would take me
home, I could eat after I got there.

Next morning before the town's people began to stir, I rolled up
my blanket and was on my way.  In San Angelo I drained my
pocketbook for gas and oil.  On the road between there and
Sweetwater, I drained the Scout's gas tank.  I pulled into a
filling station in Sweetwater with barely enough gas in my tank
to wet the end of a stick.  I gave the man a check for a dollar,
filled up with gas and oil and got home with seventy cents in my
pocket--and mighty hungry.

When I got my check for carpenter work in McCamey, I found that
they paid me nine dollars a day instead of six.  Maybe they paid
six dollars a day to those who couldn't figure feet and inches
between windows.

If you are beginning to get the idea that I was spoiled and
didn't like to work, you are half right, I was spoiled.  But the
part about not liking to work is wrong.  I liked to work; I was
just choosy about the kind of work and where the work happened to
be located.  I had begun to realize that there was no need to go
way off somewhere looking for work.

Perhaps that realization was the reason for my riding a train to
Denver just to get a job washing dishes in a cafe.  And a few
days later I went high in the Rockies to work at a sawmill.  That
was knowledge working in reverse.  I knew better; I just wanted
to see some more of the world.  In the Bible we are told to get
knowledge and wisdom, then it adds, "And with all thy getting,
get understanding."  I suppose the understanding was the
ingredient which was lacking in my getting.

Anyway, I landed at a sawmill 75 miles west of Denver, doing
whatever they asked me to do.  It was cold up there; man, I mean
it was plenty cold!  One morning it was 20 below zero, and that
was two weeks before Thanksgiving.  The lumber mill was in a
valley between high mountains.  During the three weeks I was
there I saw the sun a couple of times.  It didn't rise over the
peaks until about nine-thirty in the morning and it set behind
other peaks at four-thirty in the afternoon.  We went to work
before daylight and quit after dark.  In the extreme cold, when
the wind was calm, as I walked through the cold air, it felt like
hot branding irons against my face.

One day five of us men were moving some cord wood and restacking
it in another place.  The foreman came and asked if any of us had
ever driven a truck.  I kept quiet because I had already seen the
old truck and I didn't want any part of trying to drive it in the
snow.  It had solid rubber tires, no doors on the cab, and no
antifreeze in its leaky radiator.  The earth was completely
covered with snow.  I suppose there was earth somewhere under the
snow; however, I didn't see any of it while I was there.  Besides
all that, there was not a level place within 50 miles.
Everything was uphill, downhill, or leaning to one side or the

The other four men were eager to get out of the job we were
doing, so each one tried to tell the foreman that he would be
just the man to drive the truck.  I kept my back to the foreman
and kept working while he talked to the other men.  I thought I
might be lucky enough to escape having to drive the old truck.
But no such luck.  The foreman came up behind me, tapped me on
the shoulder and asked, "You ever drive a truck?"

I could not tell a lie, so I told him, "A little."  Then he and I
went away together to one old dilapidated truck.

That was another case of my getting more understanding through
experience and research, neither of which was intentional.  Now,
you may or may not know that, in a snowy place like that, where
snow is forever, the snow in the ruts of a road is hard-packed
snow, and stacked up, and the snow on either side of the ruts is
loose, fluffy snow.

When driving on a muddy road, your truck is apt to slide into the
ruts and you might not be able to get it out.  But on a snowy
road, your truck is more than apt to slide off the ruts and you
might not be able to get it back up on them.  And if you get your
front wheels off the ruts to the right and your hind wheels off
to the left, you have just about had it, especially a truck with
solid rubber tires.

I was using the truck to haul crossties to the Moffat Tunnel.
The ties were to be used in the railroad through the tunnel.  The
tunnel was eight miles long and would cut 25 miles off the
railroad distance through the Rockies.  The railroad which served
our mill was curved one way or the other just about every foot of
its entire length.  A 30-car train would have three engines
pulling it.  And the three engines would not all be at the front
end of the train.  That would have a tendency to pull the cars
off the rails on sharp curves.  So, the engines were placed at
regular intervals between the cars.  Even with all safety
precautions we constantly heard of derailments and the loss of
freight cars down the mountain sides.  The trains had no time
schedules; they got there when they could.

I signed on for that lumber mill job at an employment agency in
Denver and rode a bus to the mill.  Naturally I was not clothed
for that cold weather.  But the bookkeeper at the mill told me to
go to the company store, get what I needed and have it charged.
That was before I started to work.  That same night, in the bunk
house, one man was raving mad because they wouldn't credit him at
the company store.  He and I had come out on the same bus and
were to begin work the next morning.  I kept quiet about my
credit.  I didn't want him mad at me like he was at the company.

One day the foreman told me to go to the tool house and bring him
a half-dozen picaroons.  Now, I knew how many a half dozen was,
but I didn't have the slightest idea what a picaroon looked like
nor what it was used for.  What's more I was too proud, or too
stupid to tell him I didn't know.  So I went to the tool house
and looked at all the tools.  I knew the names of all the tools
except one.  I took him six of those, hoping they were picaroons.
I don't know what I would have done if there had been two kinds
of tools I didn't know the names of.  Anyhow, he thanked me and I
went back to my other work.

In case you may not know, a picaroon is like a single-bladed ax
on a regular ax handle, except most of the ax blade is cut away,
leaving only a pick instead of a blade.  The workman can thrust
the pick into the side of a log to roll it over, or he can stab
it into the end of a small log and lift the log into a desired

Another time, the foreman came to me and asked whether I could
handle a horse.  Again I could not tell a lie.  However, I knew
he was speaking of Old Nig, and I also knew it would be a
pleasure for me to work for Old Nig.

Now, Old Nig was a black horse, and I'm not sure, but I think his
color had something to do with his being named Nig.  This horse
had won first place in the state one year for his skill in the
art of log-skidding.  That alone meant that Old Nig was a horse
to respect as well as to obey.  I had watched a few men work with
the horse but had never seen one of them stay with him for long.
In fact, Old Nig changed drivers three times one day.  He simply
wouldn't put up with anyone who cussed him or scolded him.  He
knew more about the log-skidding business than most of the men he
had to put up with.  He didn't need anyone to drive him nor try
to boss him around.  Mostly what Old Nig needed was a man to work
for him, to pull his single-tree back when he backed up, so he
wouldn't step on it, and he needed a man to hook him onto the
next log.  He had no hands or he could have done it himself.

If you scolded or cussed Old Nig, he would bite you, if and when
he got the chance.  Or he might stomp his hind foot and switch
his tail just to remind you there was fire in that end of him
too.  One man who worked with the horse was so afraid he might
say the wrong thing to him that he put a rein on his bridle and
led him around all day without saying anything to him.

So, when they put me with Old Nig, I already knew more about the
horse than I did about log-skidding.  We got along well together.
What I didn't know about the job, he did.  I just talked to Old
Nig as I would talk to you; that is, I would be as kind to you as
I was to Old Nig as long as you did your work as well as he did
his.  I didn't care whether he had a bridle on or not.  I didn't
need to lead him nor drive him.  He knew where to go and what to
do.  And without a bridle, he could see better how to do his
work.  I would tell the horse when to back up another few inches
and when to get over to the right or to the left.  Principally I
was his hooker-upper and his unhooker.

One day we were sorting a pile of logs, skidding the small ones
over by a pile of other small ones, the medium size ones by a
pile of medium ones and so on.  But there was not a pile of large
ones on the yard.  So I hooked Old Nig to a large log and told
him I'd have to find out where to put it.  Then I went to the
office and asked the foreman where to put the big logs.  In the
meantime, the horse took the log to the proper place but I didn't
know it.  He was already standing there waiting for me to unhook
him from it.  The foreman came to the door, pointed, and said,
"Put it up there where Old Nig took it.  He knows where."

Thanksgiving came and went, and the sawmill changed owners.  The
foreman told me that the new owner thought he could run the mill
with fewer workers.  I was laid off.  However, he was sure that,
if I wanted to stay around a week or two, they would need me.  He
also told me that, if I wanted to leave, I had better go right
away because that place was often snowbound by this time of the
year and there was no way out until next spring.  So again I
landed back in Hamlin with a little more knowledge of the outside
world and perhaps just a wee bit more understanding.  I got a job
in Hamlin and soon paid Papa back the $22 he had wired me for a
railroad ticket home from Denver.

Papa was always kind to me in spite of all my failures and my
goings and comings.  I respected him for it and was proud of him.
I was proud of Mama too, but there was an unspoken mutual feeling
of trust and regard between Papa and me that reached beyond the
bounds of a boy's expectations.  The following poem which I wrote
while I was in Denver, expresses, in some small measure, my
feelings toward my father.

  Daddy, if the Lord had made you
     A companion fit for me,
   If He'd made you noble minded,
     As I think a man should be,
   If He'd given you a courage
     And a will to fight and win,
   If He'd made your life a great one
     From beginning to the end,
   If He'd made you with integrity
     Higher than the highest star,
   Then He would have made you, Daddy,
     Just exactly as you are.



While I was running around I was getting a lot of experience,
some knowledge, and perhaps a little wisdom.  But I didn't seem
to be getting rid of all my stupidity.  Perhaps stupid is not the
word to use here.  I don't really believe I was a stupid kid.
But let's just say I was a normal boy who did stupid things at

Anyway, when I look back on some of those things I did in my
younger days, as well as some in my older days, it causes me to
be a little more lenient with youngsters these days who sometimes
do things without thinking.  I have not always taken time to look
back on my own mistakes

For instance, after I was old enough to hitch a team to a wagon
and haul cottonseed from the Neinda gin to the oilmill at Hamlin,
I was still not smart enough to cover up all my crazy deeds.
What did I do this time?  Nothing much, really.

I remember once one of my brothers and I bought a big box of
matches in Neinda and lighted the weeds and grass along the fence
rows from there almost to Hamlin.  We would strike the matches
and throw them into the grass and weeds.  It's a wonder we didn't
set our load of cottonseed on fire.  It was after dark and the
fires made beautiful fireworks.  We even wondered why farmers
didn't do this more often.  We thought we were really doing them
a favor, cleaning up their fence row.  And it was a lot of fun.

"And with all thy getting, get understanding."  Well, we got some
understanding when a farmer drove up beside our wagon in his car,
and very politely explained that he realized we boys had not
thought about the fence posts we were burning and the wires we
were damaging by heating them too much.  Then he added that he
knew our daddy, and he knew that Papa wouldn't want us to do what
we were doing.  Then he promised not to tell Papa, if we wouldn't
set any more fires.

He was right; we hadn't thought of the damage we were doing.  We
were sorry, of course.  And we certainly didn't want to do
anything that would reflect on Papa and the family's good name.
Nor did we want Papa to know what we had done.  I guess he never
found out or he would have said something to us about it.

While we lived in Hamlin, Papa had an old farm twelve miles
northwest of town.  The field was covered in Johnson grass and we
tried to help the grass grow by plowing the field every year.  We
had a breaking plow, a mowing machine, a hay rake and a hay
baler, all horse-drawn.  We baled the hay and stored it to sell
in winter when it would bring a better price.  There was an old
rundown house on the farm.  I went out to plow the field at times
and I slept in the house rather than drive back and forth to
Hamlin.  There were no near neighbors.  It was way, way out, and
staying there at night proved to be challenging and quite scary.

The doors of the old house were only half there--sagging,
splintered, and broken, and the windows were all broken out.

Noises jumped out at me from every dark corner.  The silence
seemed to amplify every noise.  Mice sounded like jungle beasts
and packrats made loud noises like goats playing on the roof.
Daybreak was always welcome, melting the darkness and pushing
back the veil of fear.

The warehouse which my brother Earl still uses as a freight depot
was originally built for hay storage.  In haying season we baled
the hay and hauled it to that hay barn.  In the hay field, we
usually had, among other things, canned pork and beans for
dinner.  Once in awhile we had pork and beans at home for a meal,
but Albert said they didn't taste good unless he was sitting on a
bale of hay.

Papa also had another farm twelve miles south of Hamlin, in deep
shinnery sand.  I'm not sure how he got hold of it nor why he
owned it.  I think he had to take it in on a land deal of some
sort in order to get the other party to take something off his
hands that he had and didn't want.  Now he had a sandy farm on
his hands that he couldn't use and didn't want.  There wasn't
much of anything of value on the land--a rundown peach orchard
and a half-dugout.  There was a dug well by the house four feet
across and 60 feet deep.  There was never any water in it, but
100 yards away out in the orchard was another well about three
feet deep with water standing within a foot of the top of the
ground.  There was no cover over it; you just walked up and
dipped a bucket of water any time you wanted it.  And when you
were not dipping, the cows and horses could drink from it.

In the early 1920's many of our inter-city buses were marked with
well-painted names, such as MISS DALLAS or MISS ABILENE.  Well, I
had a Model T Ford touring car and I thought I might just as well
join the parade.  First I got a set of good used tires off a big
Buick.  They were about four sizes too big for the Ford, but I
put them on anyway.  And with only ten pounds of air in the
tires, it rode very smoothly and it looked like a clubfooted

Then I cut the top down small to cover only the back seat.  And I
put a windshield on the back of the front seat.  That made two
windshields, one in front of the driver and one in front of the
passengers in the back seat.  It made a beautiful limousine, with
the driver sitting out in the sun and weather.  To top it all off
I painted her name on both front doors--MISS FORTUNE.  Of course
we kids had a million dollars worth of fun with it.

After we Johnsons got a little money ahead, we made some
improvements on our house.  For one thing, we added a long back
porch, all glassed-in with windows the entire length of it.  Then
we added a bathroom with all the fixtures.  And on the back porch
we put a lavatory to wash our face and hands in, when the
bathroom door happened to be locked.  Sometimes we kids would
come in to wash up after unloading a load of hay, and when two or
three of us were using the lavatory at the same time, one of us
might casually flip a few drops of water in another one's face.
Now that usually called for retaliation, which took place
immediately.  And that in turn called for counter-retaliation
with a lot more than just a few drops of water--perhaps a big
handful and then a cupful.

By this time we usually heard from Mama from wherever she
happened to be, as she shouted, "Stop that."  And if she came out
to enforce her command, she might get some of the same.  Of
course Mama knew what she would get into, and I really think she
wanted into it.  She only pretended she wanted us to stop.  It
made it funnier that way and it relieved her of the
responsibility for having instigated the action.  Mama had
running water in the kitchen which was just as wet as the water
we had on the porch and there was a 50-50 chance that she had
some already drawn up in a stew pan.  So when she said, "Stop
it," she may as well have said, "Stop it after we all get wet."
We usually ended up being as wet as if we had jumped in the lake,
and everyone laughing.

This was the age of cars and we had our share of them through the
years.  The same old Dodge that ran over Albert and killed the
hen for supper had a magneto that kept giving trouble, and it
cost a fortune to have it repaired each time.  This was before I
had learned much about cars.  In fact, this old car taught me a
lot about other cars to come.

The car had a battery.  So, I thought I could use Model T coils
to make the spark and use the mag as a distributor.  That would
be less expensive than trying to keep the mag in repair.  I got
it all rigged up and it worked some, but it was not a success.
The battery didn't fire the Model T coils well enough.  That was
another one of my ideas I flunked out on.

There was a farm family in our neighborhood by the name of Owen.
And in that family was a boy named Bill.  My brother Frank ran
around quite a bit with Bill.  Pretty soon Bill's sister, Mattie,
got to running around with Frank.  Bill had a younger brother
named Joe, and I got to running around with Joe.  To complicate
things still further, Joe had a younger sister named Faye, and
she got to running around with me.  That seems like a lot of
running around for just a few kids, but it happens that way

One day I was out on the farm visiting with Joe, and now and then
I was glancing in the direction of Faye when Joe and I discovered
Frank's trunk in Mattie's bedroom, which was quite all right
since Frank and Mattie were married by this time.

Joe and I knew that Frank kept a 45 revolver in the bottom of his
trunk.  We also knew that Frank and Mattie were not home that
day.  Faye and her parents were home but they didn't know that
Joe and I were prowling in Frank's trunk.  We were whispering and

We took the 45 and a bunch of shells and slipped off out into the
pasture to shoot something.  A gallon can was the only thing that
would sit still for us, so we fired at it.  We tried and tried
but decided we must be too far away; we never did hit it.  I had
thought that a 45 would shoot as far as six or eight steps, but I
guess not.  Or it could be we missed because the gun kept kicking
up at the front end every time we pulled the trigger.

Anyway, we didn't know that Frank had returned home and we were
so wrapped up in our target practice that we didn't see him until
he was right upon us.  Then it was too late to run.  And for one
time in my life I couldn't think of anything to say.  We just
stood there in surprise, prepared for the worst.  Then we got a
bigger surprise.  Frank walked up to us and said, "There are
plenty of shells in the bottom of my trunk when you run out."
And with that, he gave us a few pointers on firing a pistol and
walked away.

Before Papa got his freight line from Hamlin to Stamford, he had
one truck and was looking for anything to haul that would help us
make a living.  He took one job of hauling that shouldn't happen
to a dog.  There was a man buying maize heads one summer and
shipping them by rail to somewhere.  This was the surplus maize
farmers had left from last year's crop, after they had used all
they needed for feed through the winter and spring.  The man
bought the maize from farmers and then told us where to go pick
it up.  Then we hauled it from the farms and loaded it into
railroad boxcars.

You may not know it, but each and every maize seed has a little
stinger on it.  These stingers are bad enough when you get the
heads out of the field in the fall and fork them into a storage
bin.  In the fall you are working most of the time out in the
open air.  But when that feed lies in storage all winter, it
dries out month after month and it collects dust from West Texas
weather and from the grains themselves where mice, rats, and
birds have eaten, slept and roosted.  And then, when you load it
into a truck, you have to get in the storage bin, under a sheet
metal roof, with a blazing sun bearing down on the roof.  And
each little stinger on each grain is harder and more brittle than
it was in the fall, and all these stingers break off the seeds
more easily, more of them mix in with the dust, and they get into
your eyes, your nose, down your collar and lodge in the wrinkles
of your stomach, and they get in under your arms and around the
tops of your shoes and they dig into your ankles.  Eventually,
there is not any place on your body that doesn't sting and itch.
What's more, the stinging and itching goes on after a bath.  Now
I believe you will agree with me--it shouldn't happen to a dog.
When you have a job like that, you hate it, you detest it, and
you dread having to face it the next day.  But you do it, and you
keep on doing it until the job is finished, because you like to
eat, and the job pays money and you have to earn money in order
to eat.

Do you get the picture?  Well, wait a minute, I'm only half
through.  We have yet to haul the maize to the railroad car, fork
it into the car, then get into the car and pitch it all the way
back to both ends and all the way to the ceiling.  Did you ever
work in a boxcar on a hot day in summertime?  You choke on dust,
you sweat, and each and every drop of sweat becomes a parking lot
for dust and maize stingers that show no mercy.

Of course it helps to get home after a day of such torture and
get a good bath.  But some of the cars we loaded were in Roby.
After a day of agony, we had to drive 22 miles over rough,
crooked roads in a slow truck before we could get a bath.

In war, I have heard of torturing prisoners to get information
from them.  I have often wondered if they have thought of trying
the maize-torture treatment.

There were other better jobs of course.  One of my first jobs on
Saturdays during my school years, aside from working for Papa,
was in a grocery store.  Mr. Gay was operating the Farm Bureau
store.  He offered me a job and I took it.

Come Saturday morning, Mr. Gay put me to sacking up beans, peas
and potatoes in paper bags, getting them ready to sell.  During
the day we ran out of one item and a customer asked me where he
would find another grocery store.  I told him, but when the rush
was over and we were alone, Mr. Gay told me never to send a
customer to our competitor.  He said tell them to try the drug
store up on the corner.  Then he added, "And if we run out of
coffee, sell them split peas."

At the end of that first Saturday Mr. Gay paid me three dollars.
I told him that was twice as much as he had offered me.  He said
he had fired two boys he was paying $1.50 each and that I did
more work than both of them together.  He paid me three dollars a
day all the time I worked for him.

Another job in my younger days was working at Hudson's Filling
Station for Sox and Red Hudson.  The pay was ten cents an hour--
keep my own time and pay myself from the cash register every
Saturday night.

We did some overhauls and a lot of tune-up work.  One farmer had
a Model T Ford that had a weak magneto.  It would run only on the
battery and Fords didn't run good except on mag.  He needed $21
for a motor overhaul.  But he was a poor boy and didn't have that
kind of money.  So I asked him if I might take a look at his coil
points.  He told me I couldn't do them any good, he had just come
from the Ford garage where a mechanic had adjusted them.  But Sox
told him, "Let Clarence look at them, he won't do them any harm."

Now, the Ford mechanic only knew how to set the points for a
strong magneto, and this mag was weak.  I knew that a weak mag
needed a weak diet, so I adjusted his points so that a weak mag
would fire them.  Fifteen minutes later the man drove away with
his car running like a new one--on the magneto.  A year later he
was still running on the mag and had not had the motor
overhauled.  What did we charge the man?  Nothing.  He was a
regular customer, and we did little things like that for our

Speaking of repairing, one night I was driving a truck from Ft.
Worth to Hamlin.  The rotor in the distributor was a slip-on
thing made of bakelite.  I knew it was cracked but it was still
working well.  However, before I got home it broke into a lot of
little pieces so small there was no way to use any part of it.
It happened at night and caught me without a flashlight, way out
in the country between towns.  Working in the dark, feeling my
way, I wrapped adhesive tape all over the upper end of the shaft.
Then I stuck part of a safety pin through the tape to what I
thought was about the right distance, and it worked.  It gave no
more trouble all the way home.

For some reason that same truck kept burning out bearings in the
back connecting rod.  Each time it happened, it cost $26 to have
a mechanic repair it.  The next time it burned out, I asked Papa
to let me repair it.  I figured there had to be a reason for this
continuing trouble, and it seemed that mechanics were not hunting
the cause, but were only replacing the bearing each time.  I had
been thinking about the thing and I sort of figured I knew what
was wrong, and I thought I knew more than the general run of
mechanics.  But Earl told Papa not to let me try repairing it.
He said, "Clarence is not a mechanic; he can't do that job."

And Papa told him, "It looks like the ones who have been trying
it are not mechanics either.  At least it won't cost me $26."

So Papa let me do the repair work, and that was the last time
that bearing ever gave trouble.  We drove the old truck for years
and then sold it to Calvin Carriker for a farm truck.  The
bearing lasted the life of the truck, and unless someone looked
in after the truck was junked, no one knows how I remedied the
problem.  I can't help it if I'm smarter than the average
mechanic--and Earl.

You may think I'm bragging.  Of course I'm bragging.  But it's
all right to brag on yourself; the Bible says so, according to a
Baptist deacon I knew in Arkansas.  He would quote, "Blessed is
the man who tooteth his own horn, because, if a man tooteth not
his own horn, lo, it shall not be tooted."  And if you asked him
where he finds that in the Bible, he would say, "In the book of

Now, I guess you are wondering where in the Bible is this book of
Fizzlums.  Well, the deacon and I both knew an old man, a good
man who read his Bible but didn't go to church much, and he had a
very limited formal education.  However, he remembered that in
English spelling, Ph is pronounced like F.  So when he came to
Psalms in the Bible, he got a little confused and got Ph and Ps
mixed up and tried to pronounce Psalms as though it were spelled
Falms.  Now, you've got to admit that is a hard word to
pronounce.  But the old man had worked on it for years and it
finally became "Fizzlums".  And that's where the deacon found the
horn-tooting scripture.

At one time Jones County was one of the most productive cotton
counties in Texas.  Hamlin was in the heart of cotton country.
In cotton picking time Black people came from East Texas by the
hundreds to help pick the cotton.  Most of them who had cars had
Ford cars.  Now the headlights on Fords were a constant source of
trouble, especially if kids riding on the front fenders happened
to accidentally kick the wires loose from the headlights.  Most
mechanics wanted to repair the lighting system with a lot of new
parts at a cost of maybe two dollars to four dollars.  But each
cottonpicker told other cottonpickers that there was a boy (me)
down there at Hudson's Filling Station that would fix their
lights for maybe a quarter--not over 50 cents.

And so it came to pass that, on Saturday nights a lot of lights
needed fixing so that a lot of hard-working boys could do a lot
of stepping out with a lot of girls.  Most of them didn't need
lights during the week.  But Saturday was payday, time to
celebrate and have a good time.  And besides, the next day was
Sunday, a day of rest.  No one picked cotton on Sundays.

I usually made quite a few quarters on Saturday nights after my
regular hours.  As a matter of fact, I often made more money
after my quitting time than I had made all day, because after
that time, all I took in for labor was mine.

But even this filling station work wasn't all rosy.  One night a
burglar broke into our station.  He came in through a back window
and took a few little things, including some money.  The next day
I made a switch that would turn on a light when the window was
raised, and I slept in the back room.  We knew he would be
frightened away by a light switching on, so I hid the bulb down
in my pajamas so it would wake me up but not light up the room.
The burglar came back one night and raised the window, but he
didn't come in.  He left the window up and ran.  We didn't catch
him but he stopped visiting us.

Another burglar visited me while I was working at another filling
station.  I was sleeping in the station, way up on top of a tire
rack.  The kid woke me up prying up the back window.  I watched
him come in and go to the cash register.  He had his back to me
and didn't even know I was there.  I had no gun or anything, not
even a ball bat.  We were not expecting burglars.  Rather, we
offered all night emergency service and I slept there to serve
anyone who was caught in an emergency.

Well, since I had no gun, I reached up on a shelf and got a
bottle of shellac in each hand and told the boy to stay where he
was and raise his hands.  He obeyed, which was both a surprise
and a relief to me.  Then I climbed down, turned on all the
lights inside and outside and waited for the nightwatchman to
come by.  The boy was about 16, and well behaved.  I didn't have
to capture him--didn't even touch him.  We talked and he waited
patiently.  We learned later that he had broken into three
stations that night in Hamlin and had gotten less than fifty
cents, poor kid.

We were living in town but we still liked to go hunting out in
the country once in awhile.  One day Earl, Joel and I had been
out shooting rabbits and prairie dogs with our 22 rifles.  When
we came back, Earl got out of the car downtown and asked Joel to
take his gun in the house when we got home.  His gun was the
hammerless type; you couldn't easily tell when it was loaded or
unloaded.  When Joel carried his own gun and Earl's gun into the
house, Mama said, "Oh, I'm so afraid of guns!  Are you sure they
are unloaded?"

Joel told her that he was sure about his own, but he didn't know
about Earl's.  Then he aimed Earl's at the ceiling and pulled the
trigger.  It shot a hole through the ceiling, and Joel turned to
Mama and calmly said, "Now it's unloaded."

Do I always have to tell you what Mama said?  Can't you just

Now, Joel didn't only shoot small holes through ceilings; one day
he was sitting in his room with his pump shotgun lying across his
lap.  He had finished cleaning it and was throwing shells in and
out of the barrel, distributing oil to all working parts.  He
must have gotten some of the oil on his thumb, because it slipped
off the hammer accidentally and fired one of the shells, and it
made the prettiest little round hole--about an inch across--
through the inside window facing, the shiplap wallboard, the
outside weatherboarding and the outside window facing.
Fortunately, there was no one out in the yard at that place at
that time.  Joel argued that the added ventilation would
contribute to his better health.

Joel also had his fling at truck driving for Papa.  On one
particular day he was driving on a dirt road, and I really think
the road was wet and slick, but rumor has it that he just might
have gone to sleep.  Anyhow, his truck wound up in a ditch.  It
didn't roll all the way over, but it leaned over against the far
bank with two wheels up in the air.  His cargo was scattered
along a farmer's fence and some of it went through the fence into
the pasture.  But Joel was lucky.  The only damage suffered was
loss of time, a lot of work, and one torn sack of flour.

We owned a lot of trucks through the years, but Papa's first
truck, which he had let Frank have, and which Frank had let Papa
have back later, was a Master by name.  It really was a good
truck in its day.  It had no battery; a magneto fired the plugs
to make the engine run and a presto gas tank on one running board
furnished gas for the headlights.  When night came, you pulled
over and stopped, turned on the presto gas, and lighted the
headlamps with a match.

Now, presto lights were not the best lights in the world.  They
were not so much for lighting the way to see where you were going
as they were to let others see that you were coming.  At today's
speed it seems that presto lights might not show more than a few
feet ahead.  A fast driver of today might have to slow up to
allow the light beams to get on out front a little way.

Anyhow, that's the way it was one night when Papa was driving and
I, too young to drive, was keeping him company.  We were in a
little town somewhere in Texas and as you know, every little town
has a river running through it, or at least a small creek.  I
have never been able to understand why people want to run a
stream through their city.  They know that when the city grows
larger, the mayor will have trouble getting enough money to build
bridges over it.  And each and every bridge is going to be a
traffic hazard.  Now, this bridge in this little town was not
much longer than our truck but it served its purpose; it was a

When a car with electric lights turned a corner and faced us, we
were blinded and our presto lights seemed to go out altogether.
They didn't even shine down as far as the road at our front
wheels.  Nor did they show us the bridge with its little wooden
banisters.  Well, I did see one banister a little--not much--but
Papa didn't see it at all.  He didn't even know there was a creek
nor a bridge ahead of us.

As a matter of fact, Papa couldn't see the road or anything.  But
he figured that was not reason enough for him to stop and let the
car with bright lights go by.  He wasn't going more than ten
miles an hour and he was reasonably certain there was nothing in
the road to run over or bump into.  All would be well just as
soon as those bright lights got out of his eyes.

But the bridge got to us before our lights showed it to Papa, and
our two right wheels didn't even touch the bridge.  Our bumper
took the entire banister and laid it out in the road ahead of us.
Our front axle skidded all the way across the creek, riding the
edge of the bridge.  Our right front wheel went sailing across
the stream in mid-air and rolled onto solid ground before our
truck had time to turn over and fall off the bridge into the
creek.  So there we were, the two front wheels on solid ground,
the left rear wheel on the shaky bridge, and the other rear wheel
dangling in space over a creek of running water.

As we came to an abrupt stop, with the truck leaning and rocking
right and left, Papa asked, "What was that?"

I told him, "You missed a bridge."

He said, "I didn't see a bridge."

By this time the car with the bright lights had gone away and we
were left alone hanging over the side of a small bridge over a
small stream in a small town.

The truck was leaning sharply toward my side.  It had no doors,
only curtains for bad weather.  And since the weather was good,
the curtains were stored away under the seat.  Papa could get out
easily on his side.  I climbed out on the running board on my
side, then up over the front fender, and jumped down off the
front bumper.  By this time our presto lights had gotten out
front again and were shining their beams to show me where to

We got a man to try to pull our truck off the bridge with his
truck, but his truck couldn't drag ours.  However, he finally got
our truck off the bridge by lunging against the chain six or
eight times, moving our truck a few inches each time.

Nothing was damaged except the bridge banister.  We had already
pitched it out of the road, so we paid the nice man for his
services and drove on our way.  I never did learn who repaired
the banister.  It couldn't have been the mayor; the town wasn't
big enough for a mayor.

Joel was not alone in this business of turning trucks over.  As I
have just told you, Papa tried hard to turn one over into a
creek, but failed.  Then he got another chance some time later
and made it okay.  Dode and Albert also contributed their bit
toward making it a family affair.

Albert was driving down a dirt road with a full load of freight.
He didn't know that a rain cloud had crossed the road ahead of
him, dumping its water on the road.  No cars had driven over the
wet road since the shower, so it didn't show to be anything but a
nice dry road.  But the road was slick and it came as a surprise,
and Albert found his truck skidding out of control.  It turned
sideways and scooted until it had almost stopped, then it lay
over on its side very gently, so as not to damage any of its
cargo as it poured it out onto the road.  The truck was not
damaged either.  There was only one little bit of damage.
Included in his load was a small mirror which he placed on the
seat beside himself for safety.  It got broken.

A part of the road between Roby and Rotan was graveled, and along
the graveled part were two rounding curves which were quite an
improvement over the sharp turns so common in those days.  You
could sail right on around the curves without slowing down much,
since we didn't get up an awful lot of speed any time, even on
straight roads.

One day a fellow who was riding with Dode bet him he couldn't go
around both curves and not get under 25 miles an hour.  The bet
was on--perhaps a dime or maybe a cold drink.  He made it around
the first curve okay, but the gravel was heavier on the second
curve and the truck lost its footing, skidded, and turned over.
It just lay over on its side and didn't hurt anything except
maybe Dode's pride, and of course he lost his bet.

When Papa was just getting into the trucking business, he had two
trucks, and one of them was a Maxwell.  I think he bought out a
truck line from somebody and inherited the old truck, or maybe
the man gave it to him.  I can't really believe Papa bought it.
If he did, anything he gave for it was too much.  It didn't have
enough power to pull the hat off your head without getting a run
on it.  Anyway, one time Papa had it loaded with something and
was hauling it to somewhere.  Now, on this road to somewhere
there was a hill he was supposed to go up.  But the old Maxwell
just couldn't make it up; it went as far as it could and stopped.
That was when Papa learned that the brakes would hold better
going forward than backward.  Going backward the brakes were as
weak as the motor.  They simply wouldn't hold it.  The brakes and
the gears together wouldn't hold the Maxwell and the load.  The
truck, the load, and the driver all went slowly backward down the

Now to keep from backing off a bluff on one side of the road,
Papa steered the truck toward the mountain on the other side.
When it backed up on the side of the mountain a way, it leaned so
much it turned over and dumped the load right in the middle of
the road.

As I said, the old Maxwell was not powerful.  When you got it
loaded, it would take a mile of straight level road for it to get
up to 25 miles an hour.  So when we got up a little speed we sure
hated to have to slow down for anything.

So it was one day with Joel or Albert driving and I was co-pilot.
I really believe it was Joel driving because there was a time
when Albert was too little to drive, not for long, mind you, but
for awhile.

Anyway we had just gotten up speed when, way down the road ahead
of us, one farmer in a Ford car and another one in a wagon
stopped in the road to talk with each other.  They were stopped
with their front ends--their vehicles that is--headed toward us
and outward, one toward one ditch and the other one toward the
other ditch.  Their back wheels were about far enough apart for a
truck to go between, or was there room?  As we came nearer, it
looked doubtful.  But then, they could see us coming and they
were still in their vehicles and ready to drive on.  We thought
surely one of them would drive forward a step or two and that
would make plenty of room for us to go between them.  There was
certainly not room to go around them on either side.

With the two rigs aimed outward, they were like a big funnel,
with us heading into the big end, and their two hind wheels
forming the little end of the funnel.  By this time it was plain
to see that neither man had any intention of moving his rig.
Also, by this time, other things became obvious.  First, it was
too late to stop; our brakes were not that good.  Second, there
was not room to go between them without hitting.  Third, there
was enough room to go between by hitting both vehicles just the
right amount.  So my driver said, "Hang on."  Then he aimed at
the center of the funnel and kept the gas feed down to the

The fenders on the old truck, just in normal driving, flopped
like a crow's wings trying to fly upstream in a sandstorm.  The
engine hood had the sides removed to let more air through, and
the top part of the hood was tied on with haywire.  Now, when our
front fenders came in contact with the Ford car and the wagon
wheel, they went way up and came way back down, and their
flopping broke the wire that held the hood on.  I thought sure
the hood would blow up against the windshield, but it didn't.

The old truck had no doors, just curtains, and they were not in
use.  I grabbed a left hand full of windshield post, stepped my
right foot out on the running board, leaned out over the hood and
wrestled it back down into place.  I was the main reason it
didn't blow up against the windshield.

We didn't lose any speed, so by the time I got the parts of the
hood back into place we were too far away to see whether the
farmers were angry, disgusted, or just plain surprised--more than
likely all three.

This little incident took place a couple of miles out of Stamford
on our way to Hamlin.  This was Earl's daily run, but on this
particular day Earl had more freight than he could haul and had
phoned for us to come to Stamford for the second load.  Joel and
I had driven over and got it.

When we got to Hamlin with our load we told Earl what had
happened.  And the next day, Earl was stopped and confronted by
two not-so-happy farmers.  They seemed to think that he was the
one who had done unto them what Joel and I had done.  But Earl
convinced them that it couldn't have been him, he was in Hamlin
at that time of the day, and he could prove it.  Moreover, he
drove a Dodge truck, not a Maxwell.  Thanks to Earl, they never
did learn who ran their little roadblock.

On another occasion, Earl and I were going back home from
somewhere in an empty truck and Earl was driving.  But then when
he discovered a bumblebee in the cab with us, it only took Earl
about two seconds to quit driving.  In that two seconds he pulled
the emergency brake lever back as far as he could and the ratchet
held it there.  Then he opened his door with his left hand,
stepped his left foot out on the runningboard, his right foot
shoved the brake pedal down and his right hand steered the truck
while it hurried to a sliding stop.  Neither of us got stung and
the bee got away.  But the big surprise was the sudden appearance
of a whole flock of red apples rolling along the road from behind
us, some of them continuing on their way down the road ahead of

Then suddenly there was this stranger getting out of his pickup
truck--the pickup that had bumped into the back of our truck, the
pickup that had been loaded with big red apples.  The stranger
came up to Earl and asked why he had stopped so quickly right in
the middle of the road without any warning.  Earl seemed to be
completely out of good answers at the time.  So he sort of
hesitated and sheepishly looked around as if searching for some
kind of an answer, and there it was as big as day--a railroad
across the road in front of us with the usual sign reading, STOP,
LOOK, and LISTEN.  Earl pointed to the sign and told the man he
was obeying the sign.  The stranger calmed down, and he and his
boys began picking up apples.

We would haul just about anything in those days if it wasn't
against the law.  One time Earl and I loaded a truck with East
Texas ribbon cane molasses from a railroad car in Hamlin and
helped the owner peddle it from town to town.  He didn't sell it
all the first day so we stayed over in Throckmorton that night.
Earl and I slept in the back of the truck on the cases of
molasses.  We spread a couple of quilts under us and a couple
over us, then we spread a tarp over the quilts and molasses and
all.  Next morning we also had a couple of inches of snow on top
of the tarp.  Rough, you say?  Sure, a little, but it sure beat
hauling maize all to pieces.

While the others of us were doing all this hauling, Frank had
opened a garage in Hamlin and was doing mechanical work.  One day
Frank was going to be away and he asked me to take over for him
that day.  There was only one mechanical job to do, unless others
showed up.  It was an Overland Whippet with a loose timing chain.
The loose chain had let the camshaft get out of time with the
crankshaft.  Frank asked me to fix it for the man.

He explained to me that the way to do the job was to take the
radiator off, take the front end of the motor loose from the
frame, jack up the motor, take off the timing gear cover, put the
sprockets back in proper timing, and then replace all that stuff
I had taken off.

Now Frank knew there was no need to tell me how to do the job.  I
already knew how.  And he should have known that I would do it my
way as soon as he was gone.  His way was a long drawn-out bunch
of foolishness, involving a lot of work.  And that work would
cost a poor man a lot of money which he didn't have.  The man was
a stranger to me but I knew he was poor, because he owned a
Whippet.  No man could own a Whippet very long and not be poor.
So I did the job the easy way.

I unscrewed a small plug from the timing gear cover, stuck a
screwdriver through the hole and jumped the sprockets back into
proper timing.  Then I screwed the plug back in and charged the
man a dollar.  When Frank returned, he was not at all happy with
what I had done.  He said, "That's not the way to time a car."

I said, "Maybe not, but it makes happy customers."  And that's
the one thing Frank needed a lot more of.



A year or two after I quite high school I got married.  It was
either in 1928 or 1929.  The stock market crash came in one of
those years and I got married in the other one.  I keep getting
them mixed up.  I know we got married June the second, and I
believe it was in 1928.

After our honeymoon Ima and I became sadly disappointed.  Things
were not as we had expected them to be.  For years we had been
courting and seeing a lot of movies.  And every love story we
ever saw ended by showing the couple getting married and living
happily ever after.  They didn't say one single word about the
husband having to drive a truck six days a week, and sometimes on
Sundays, nor the wife having to wash and iron and cook and keep
house.  Those were our big disappointments.  We got married and
had to work hard ever after.

After we married Ima and I lived in Hamlin in Papa's rent house
west of the truck warehouse.  I was driving a truck on a daily
run to Abilene and back to Hamlin.  That was when I learned that
a truck driver could live on two meals a day.  I didn't have time
to eat three meals.

The rule of command, mentioned earlier, where the oldest in the
group had authority over, and the responsibility for all the
younger ones, proved to be a poor ruling after kids become men.
So I began to drift way from doing any and all things whatsoever
Earl told me to do.  After all, I was a big boy now, even big
enough to drive a truck to Abilene, which was twice as far away
from Hamlin as Earl drove his truck.  His regular run was only to

At times I even hauled a lot more freight than Earl did.  I had
to deal with people he didn't even know and I had to conform to
trucking methods which he had not been exposed to.  Why, I saw
trucks on U.S. Highway 80 headed for California with greater
loads than Earl's truck and cargo combined.  I saw those same
trucks return with more miles added to their speedometers in one
week than Earl might drive in ten weeks.  I witnessed the advent
of balloon tires on front wheels of large trucks and I saw them
run as many miles as heavy duty, high pressure tires had been
running on front wheels, and at half the cost--this before Earl
realized that balloons were even being used on trucks.

Conflict between Earl and me was inevitable.  I realized that he
was not just trying to shove me around--not trying to be bossy
just to see if he could be.  Rather he was trying to do what he
thought was best for the company.  But he didn't always know what
was best for the company.  Progress had gotten way out ahead of
Earl and he had not realized it.  What was good for Earl and the
truck line to Stamford was not necessarily good for me and the
truck line to Abilene.

So, one day I thought it was time to disobey Earl and make some
decisions of my own.  I fought back.  I was tired of listening to
him and doing all the things his way.  But he didn't think it was
time for me to be weaned as yet, so he fought back also.

We didn't take time to put the boxing gloves on; we just went to
slugging, bare fisted.  I wasn't mad at him, just tired of taking
orders which didn't always fit the occasion.  However, I was glad
he remembered Papa's old rule of not hitting each other in the
face.  That could have hurt; noses bleed and teeth cost money.
Our chests took a terrible beating--at least mine did.  I'll
admit he hurt me, and I tried to hurt him.  It was not that I
really wanted to hurt him, I just wanted him to get the idea that
I was driving my truck and he was driving his.  He was too small
to drive both of them.

Finally I said, "Boy, I'm tired and sore.  How about you?"

He said, "Naw, I'm not tired."

I told him, "You sure jarred me.  Did I hurt you?"

Again he said, "No, I'm not hurt nor tired."

Anyway, we stopped hitting each other, We rested awhile, got us a
drink of water, and went on with the business of getting our
trucks and cargo ready to roll.  All this took place without a
cross word from either of us--and without a witness.  And with no
witness, I can tell it like I want to; it's my word against his.

About this time, Papa needed a good used tire for his Hupmobile.
Earl was unable to find a suitable one in Stamford, so I was
asked to pick up one in Abilene.  And Earl warned, "Be sure you
don't get a Goodrich."

Well, I looked all over Abilene and the only tire I found that I
would consider buying was a Goodrich--a half inch oversize.  It
only cost $4.50, so I bought it.  Of course I didn't buy a
Goodrich just to bug Earl, but when I showed up in Hamlin with
it, you would have thought I had set fire to another keg of
powder--with Earl sitting on it.  He was sure the tire would
break and blow out.  Besides, he had told me not to get that

I told him that if it blew out, I would pay for it.  But it
didn't blow out; it gave good service.  This was another case
where I had to make a decision without Earl's presence.  It
proved to be a good decision.  It was another step toward my
independence from Earl.

During this time I'd had experience with oversize tires and low
air pressure on my own car, and it worked well.  I had also seen
trucks running through Abilene with low pressure in front tires,
and it worked there also.  So, I wasn't surprised that it worked
on the Hupmobile.

One year Papa bought a new Dodge truck with all four wheels and
tires the same size.  Up until that year they had used much
smaller tires on the front wheels.  But this truck had heavy-duty
wheels and tires in front just like the ones on the back.

I told Papa that, if he had the money and wanted to invest in two
balloon tires for the front, at $30 each, he could save the $60
heavy-duty tires to use on the back wheels later when needed.

Earl told Papa that I was crazy to think that a $30 tire would
run as far as a $60 tire.

Papa listened to me and bought the balloons, and they did run as
far.  This pushed me a little further away from my big brother.
Of course, I though it was time he should review some facts and
notice that I might have a little more sense than he was giving
me credit for.  If Earl had been willing to follow a leader, who
knows, he and I might have worked happily together ever after.

Other problems came up in Abilene, the likes of which Earl never
had to face in Stamford.  One day the shipping clerk at Wm.
Cameron Company told me he had a shipment of windows going to
Stamford and he wondered if I wanted to haul them. I told him,
"No, Earl told me to let Rountree's truck haul all shipments to

The clerk asked, "Clarence, when are you going to stop listening
to Earl and start telling Earl?"

Well, Earl was the acting manager of the truck lines--not
authorized, but acting, and he had told me not to pick up any
Stamford freight.

Then the clerk told me that the man in Stamford ordered the
windows shipped either by Johnson or by rail. Then the clerk
added, "By law we can force you to haul them, but we wouldn't do
that. We'll just ship them by rail."

Now, I never did enjoy holding back when there was something to
be done. I had always been a "go-getter."  But now I was being
held back by an invisible force 40 miles away, Earl. And I was
beginning to feel about as useless as a knot on a stick, and I
was being treated as such by big freight men who were beginning
to wonder why W. F. Johnson didn't get a driver with the ability
to solicit and haul freight.  Competition was the name of the
game and I wasn't competing.

Anyhow, in this case, if I hauled the windows, I wouldn't be
competing with Rountree, it would be with the railroad.  I
reasoned that Earl shouldn't be opposed to that.  But my Stamford
freight had to go by way of Hamlin, and Earl would have to take
it from Hamlin to Stamford the following morning.

I made my decision, loaded the windows, and took them to Hamlin.
But Earl was very unhappy with me.  He was never one to calmly
ask, "Why?"--and then listen to reason.  He had one
uncompromising attitude, "I told you what to do.  You must do

Naturally, Earl was upset toward his little brother.  He even
refused to haul the windows, and went to Stamford without them.
Finally, after two or three phone calls from the consignee to Wm.
Cameron Company and then to Papa, Earl delivered the windows,
reluctantly and under protest, and only at Papa's order.  And
Papa told me to get all the Stamford freight I could, and he told
Earl to deliver whatever I brought to him.

Although Papa was owner of the truck lines and was supposed to be
in full command, Earl had ways of making life miserable for both
Papa and me.  And as time went by, our relationship didn't

Remember now, this is my version.  If Earl were writing this, I'm
sure it would read differently.  And actually, it wasn't all that
bad.  Earl was a good boy, and he still is.  He's my brother.  I
loved him then, and I still love him.  That was a long time ago.
I don't hold any of this against him.  I'd do anything I could
for him.  And I don't think he holds anything against me, except
maybe my writing about it like this.  But then, we are big boys
now and we probably don't have more than forty years left to
enjoy living and reminiscing.  Why not enjoy it while we can?

I was a Jonah to Earl and perhaps to Papa also.  At any rate,
Papa found a way to throw me overboard.  In 1931 he asked me if I
would like to farm.  He said he would invest money in a farm for
me like he had invested in a truck for each of the other boys and
I could pay him rent from the farm.

I agreed and he made a down payment on a farm nine miles
southwest of Roscoe, Texas.  That is where Ima and I lived during
the year of 1932, and that is where we lived when Dennis, our
first born, came to live with us.

But the national economy was such that many farmers lost their
farms to mortgage holders.  By the end of 1932 the Federal Land
Bank had repossessed more farms than they knew what to do with.
I was told that they were begging farmers to hold onto their
farms without making their annual payments--pay only the interest
and let the principal wait until they were able to pay.  By this
time Papa could buy better farms for less money than he still
owed on this one.  So he let it go back to the mortgage holder.

At the beginning of 1933 we moved onto Uncle Jim Johnson's farm
at Royston, 14 miles west of Hamlin.  He offered to sell me the
place for five thousand dollars, with nothing down and nothing
per year except the interest until I was able to pay some on the
principal.  I turned it down.  During the depression of the 1930s
there were a good many years that the farm didn't make enough to
feed our family and pay the interest.

Then soon after we moved to Royston, Papa came to me and told me
that he would have to sell the plow-tools and horses to me
"Because," he said, "They keep hounding me and won't leave me
alone as long as I try to help you as I am helping the others."
He didn't tell me who "they" were and I didn't ask him; I didn't
even care who they were.

The 1930s hit most all of us pretty hard, including those who
were still in the trucking business.  I knew men with families
drawing wages of less than two dollars a day.  When I was
building a tractor, I hired a man, who was a good welder and
mechanic, for 50 cents a day plus a hamburger for lunch.  The
burger cost me a dime.  Those were the good old days.  It was a
wonderful depression but I'm glad it's over.

Dennis was eight months old when we moved to the Royston farm.
The farm had been neglected for years and things were quite run-
down--fences, barn, the house, everything.

My youngest brother lived with us three months after we moved to
Royston.  He and I would take our 22 rifles and go out after the
milk cows in the afternoon, and it was a common thing for each of
us to kill from three to ten rabbits each day.  Our pasture had
the smell of dead rabbits for three months.

Rattlesnakes were also plentiful on our farm during warm weather.
We even killed one in our back room--that is, Ima did, with a 22
rifle.  And when Anita was two years old, Ima and I were out
early one morning milking cows and when Anita woke up she came
out to join us.  Ima picked her up and carried her back to the
house, and there under the icebox, right by the door through
which Anita had passed, was a rattlesnake.

Big rats and mice had their heyday the first few months we lived
there.  Rats would often wake us up at night gnawing holes up
through the floor in our house.  We managed to catch those in the
house in traps, but those under the house sometimes kept us awake
gnawing.  I got out of bed one night and poured carbolic acid
around a hole where one had been gnawing up through the floor.
Later that same night one woke me up again and I found the hole
large enough for a rat to come through, and I found the rat in
the house feeling very sick--from acid poisoning.

We often saw mice run from furniture to furniture or peep out
from their hiding places.  Many times I carried my rifle to the
dining table with me and also placed it by my side when I sat
down to read.  If a mouse hesitated just a moment he was apt to
find himself to be a dead duck.  One more little bullet hole
added to the big holes in the floor didn't mean a thing in that
house.  Of course, as we continued living there we made some
improvements and it became quite comfortable.

When Dennis was two years old, just about a month before Anita
was born, Ima, Dennis, my brother, my brother's wife, and I all
went to the Rocky Mountains sightseeing.  We were driving my old
Dodge sedan that wouldn't stay in high gear, leastwise it
wouldn't voluntarily.  We had to prop the gearshift lever in high
with a forked mesquite limb about a foot long.

There in the Rockies one afternoon we had left Cripple Creek and
were driving down Phantom Canyon when night overtook us.  But
before night had come on so strongly, we had gotten a good view
of the canyon.  On one side of our car we could see straight down
hundreds of feet, and on the other side the mountain was straight
up just about as far.  And every few miles the road crossed to
the other side of the deep gorge over dilapidated bridges with
big holes in their floors.  Most of the bridges had been patched
with boards running lenghthways.  And some of the patch-boards
had holes in them also, and some of them were broken and split
up.  Others had come un-nailed and were loose and out of place.

Once we came to an abrupt stop on a bridge when a front wheel
pushed one end of a board down through a big hole and kicked the
other end up against our differential.  We had to back up and
detour around loose boards and big holes in the floor of the
bridge,--all this at night, high above the floor of the gorge
below.  They condemned the bridges and closed the road soon after
we made that trip.  As a matter of fact, ours may have been the
last car over it before they closed it.

We didn't have much time nor money for such trips.  We were too
busy farming and raising cattle.  The pasture on our Royston farm
was a mile and a half long, and when Dennis was three years old
he often went with me to drive the milk cows home in the
afternoons.  He usually walked all the way there and half way
back.  Then he would ride my back the rest of the way home.  Just
as my father and I did a lot of things together when I was a
small boy, so did my children and I do a lot of things together

While we lived on the Royston farm, Ima was telling me about the
death of a kinsman at Gordon.  Ima didn't attend the funeral but
many of her people did.  Families had gathered from far and near
to pay their respects and to attend the funeral the next day.
The house where visiting was taking place that night had no
electric lights but was lighted instead by kerosene lamps.  Ima's
sister, Mary Beth, was five years old at the time, and when one
of the men struck a match to light his pipe, she said, "Oooooh!
Don't it get light when you strike a match."

The story is told that just before it got dark that night, one
woman, perhaps an Aunt Minnie or an Aunt Hattie,--she was blessed
with an oversupply of aunts by both names--anyhow, one of the
women went out on the back porch and, looking toward the
outhouse, said, "I want to get a good view of that outhouse
before dark.  I have an idea I'll have to make a beeline for it
before morning and it's going to be dark."

Well by midnight all were bedded down, on beds, on cots, on
pallets, in hallways and in corners.  Then for the next three or
four hours all was relatively quiet except for snoring and other
occasional noises made unintentionally.

Then there was the movement of a person--perhaps a woman--maybe
the same woman who took a good look across the back yard just
before dark.  It was dark in the house now, and she couldn't be
seen, but her movement could be followed by your ears as the
floor squeaked and groaned under her weight, as she tiptoed
between the pallets and through the hall door, getting faster now
as she neared the back porch, and still faster as she left the
porch and crossed the back yard.  Then suddenly and without
warning there was the noise of a heavy soft object against a
clothes line, followed by the noise of the same soft object as it
fell flat on the ground.  And then, after a moment of silence,
there came the voice of a woman sitting on the ground and saying,
"Oh well, I wouldn't have made it anyway."

I have a lot of memories of things that happened at Royston when
our kids were growing up.  I was working on the windmill down in
the field one day, about a half-mile from our house.  I needed a
wrench from home and I needed Ima to help me a little.  It was
getting late and I wanted to keep working, so I sent Dennis and
Anita in the car to get Ima and the wrench.  I told Dennis not to
try to turn the corner up by the barn, but to switch off the
motor there and walk to the house and tell Ima what I needed.  I
put the two kids in the front seat of the car, then I put the car
in low gear, got it started toward home, and then I got out.

Dennis was upwards of five years old, at least past four.  He
could drive the car by getting up in the seat on his knees.  All
he had to do was guide it and switch off the motor when he got to
where he was going.  But Dennis thought he was smarter than I
was.  He still thinks that at times even now.  I can't seem to
convince him otherwise.

Anyway, he thought he could turn the corner by the barn, and he
almost did.  But he sideswiped a fence, taking a post or two with
him until the car got so involved in the barbed wire it couldn't
go any further and the motor died.

The little wreck scared both of the kids.  They got out of the
car and went to the house, Dennis crying and Anita trying to tell
Ima what had happened.  Ima was about as upset as a wet hen in a
rainstorm as Anita told her, "Car run in pense."  Ima was still
upset when she drove the car back to the windmill.  She seemed to
think I had done something wrong.  How was I to know that Dennis
wasn't as smart as I had been at his age?  My goodness, I was
planting with a two-row planter before that age.  Was Ima going
to admit that her son wasn't as smart as his pa?

I had always wanted to become a school teacher.  I thought I had
the ability to teach kids a lot of things.  At times it seemed
hopeless but I kept trying and some of my ideas worked.  When
Dennis was about four, Ima saw him reach up under a car fender,
break off a chunk of dried mud and start eating it.  She scolded
him and told him to stop it.  But after Ima went in the house I
took Dennis around the other side of the car, where Ima couldn't
see us from her kitchen window, and showed him a lot of good
lumps of dried mud and I told him he could eat all he wanted.  He
ate a little and quit, and we never caught him eating any dirt
after that.

During the 1930s most of my brothers and sisters were married and
had kids of their own and we often took our little children and
all went to visit Papa and Mama on Sundays.  During those visits,
many times my brothers would go away to do their thing and I
would be left in the house with Mama and Papa and a bunch of
sisters and sisters-in-law.  Then when Papa would leave to go
play golf, which I didn't have enough money to do, I would find
myself with a house full of women.

So one day Mama asked me why I didn't go on out with the other
boys.  She said, "There must be something wrong with you.  You
just can't get along with your brothers."  Well, I got out all
right as she suggested, and I found them out in the freight
warehouse, drinking beer and shooting dice.  If I'd had a dollar,
I guess I might have been out shooting golf with Papa.  But all I
had was 18 cents, so I asked if I could get in their game.

They let me in and I soon had $1.50.  I decided this game was
more interesting than I had thought.  At this rate thought I
might really learn to like it.  Then after playing quite awhile
they planned to stop the game at a certain time, and since I was
not "hooked" on the game as yet, I began trying to lose back down
to my original 18 cents.

But I wasn't that lucky.  I kept winning now and then and when
the game ended, I still had 98 cents.  I took my 18 cents and
left the 80 cents lying there.  I told them I was only playing
for fun, it was their money.  But they said they were playing for
keeps and didn't take it.

Later that day some of the smaller grandkids were playing in the
warehouse and took the 80 pennies into the house and showed them
to their Grandma.

Meanwhile, my brothers had gone some place in their cars and I
went back in the house.  Mama was afraid the little ones had
gotten into Earl's desk out in the warehouse and had taken his
money.  She asked me if I knew about the money.  I told her,
"Yes, I won it in a crap game with my brothers, and I tried to
give it back but they left it on the loading dock."

Mama asked, "Is that what they do on Sunday afternoons?"

I told her, "Yes, that and drink beer."

She was horrified as she asked, "Why haven't you told me this

I told her, "Because you never asked me before.'

She said, "Well, don't you ever do that again."

I said, "Okay, I won't unless you tell me to again."

I often wondered if some of my brothers sort of hated me because
I wouldn't drink and gamble with them.  It wasn't that I thought
I was too good to do those things.  I just didn't enjoy doing
them and didn't want to.  I didn't hate them for doing what they
did, so why should they cast me out for not joining them?

A little note here, Joel was working in Stamford in a drygoods
store in those days.  He wasn't included with us in these
gambling and drinking affairs.  Now, I only gambled one time and
I didn't drink their beer.  I tried it one time and couldn't
stand the stuff.  I was sick with influenza and they told me it
would be good for me.  I took two swallows and decided to leave
off drinking and keep the flu.

But now back to the farm at Royston.  Most people think of cattle
drives as something that happened long ago; and that's mostly
true.  But soon after we moved to Royston, I got Lester Whitley
to help me drive a little herd of cows to Carriker's farm in Kent
County.  Lester would ride Old Nancy and I would ride Old Buck.
We would carry a bite to eat for lunch, but there was no need to
go to a lot of trouble and try to take everything as though we
were heading up the trail to Abilene, Kansas, like back in 1885.
After all, we wouldn't be far away by nightfall, and my brother
would have all day to put a few things in my car and drive out to
find us about sundown.  He would need to bring us something to
drink, something to eat, something to sleep on and some horse
feed and a rope or two.

Lester and I got an early start and had the cows headed in the
right direction when we learned that we had one old Jersey cow
that thought she was a racehorse.  Right away she started running
straight up the road ahead of all the others.  And she kept right
on trotting until one of us got ahead of her and brought her
back.  We could see we really needed three horses, one for that
old trotter and two for the rest of the herd.  But we had to get
by with one for her and one for the others.  We thought surely
she would settle down after awhile but she didn't.  It was the
same thing all day long, one of us behind to drive and one in
front to hold her back.

Sundown found us about where we had planned to be.  There was a
place where the fence was set quite a way back from the road,
embracing an extra two or three acres of Johnson grass and weeds
and a puddle of water, all within the right-of-way.  So we turned
the cattle into that little pocket and held them there while they
grazed and settled down.

If it had not been for that one old cantankerous Jersey cow, our
entire day would have been dull and uneventful.  There wouldn't
have been anything of value to mention in our story during that
day.  Without that cow, our story could just as well have started
after we got them bedded down for the night.

We could have begun our story with,--We waited and we waited.  It
got dark, and we still waited for my little brother to drive up
in the car, but he didn't.  We had no horse feed, so we didn't
feed our horses.  We had only one rope, so we staked Old Buck out
and hoped that Old Nancy would stay with him through the night.
She was tired from the day's work and fortunately she didn't try
to leave.  Nor did the Jersey cow give any further trouble.  I
know she was tired.  There is no way a cow can run as far as she
had run that day and not be tired.

We had gathered firewood before dark and our fire was warm and
friendly in the cool of the darkness.  It seemed that we should
be eating something in the light of the campfire, but there was
nothing to eat.  I kept thinking that perhaps my brother would
show up yet.  Maybe he had car trouble.  Any one of a dozen
things could have happened to delay him.

Now, when a man is hungry, he can take a drink of water and go to
sleep in a warm bed and forget his hunger until morning.  But we
had no water and no warm bed, and the night was too cold to sleep
without cover.  We built a large fire but it cooked us on one
side while the other side froze.  And I've got to tell you,
saddles make very poor pillows.  In the movies I have seen
cowboys use saddles for pillows, but this was no movie, this was
for real.  And furthermore, I was no cowboy, just a poor farmer
trying to pick up an extra dollar to keep body and soul together
while fighting my way through a wicked depression.

Again it looked as if the devil was after me for sure.  But I
didn't really think he would stoop so low as to get my own blood
brother to help him.  I didn't see how the devil could do this to
me, after all the things I had done for him.  Just the thought of
some of the things I had done for him caused my spine to tingle,
and I moved a little closer to the fire.  I wondered whether it
was the chill of the night, my fear of the darkness, or the
thoughts of my past that made me shiver and move closer.  Anyway
the night was totally dark and cold and damp, and I was
completely miserable.  In such misery the one best thing I could
wish for was daybreak, and when it finally began to push the
black out of the eastern sky, it was a welcome sight, and I was

We saddled up early and pushed on.  Before noon we left the
highway and funneled the herd through a gate and out into open
ranch pasture.  Still the Jersey cow simply refused to stay with
the others.  On the highway she could only go forward between the
fences, but here in the pasture she could go all directions.
When we came to the next ranch house, we borrowed a corral long
enough to catch the cow and put one end of a rope around her
horns and the other end around the neck of a large Hereford cow.
That ended our trouble with the Jersey cow.  Things went so
smoothly after that, we could hardly believe it.

When we got to the nearest corner of the Carriker pasture, it was
still a long way to the gate that opened into the pasture.  We
were tired, sleepy, hungry, thirsty, weary, and almost entirely
angry at one little brother who had contributed so much to our
misery.  So instead of making the long drive to the gate, we took
wires loose from the fence posts, tied the bottom wires down,
propped the top ones up, and drove the herd through the fence and
into the pasture.  This ended our drive, but there was still one
little chore to do.

I wanted to cut the rope between the Jersey cow and the Hereford
cow and let them run free.  The terrain was rough and almost
completely covered with trees and cedar bushes.  I prepared my
catch rope and made one desperate attempt to rope one of the
cows.  I threw the loop and it went over one horn of the
Hereford.  I knew the herd would vanish into the brush before I
could get ready and try again.  So I jumped to the ground and
tried to flip the rope around the other horn also.  I had hoped
to delay them long enough to rush in and cut the rope between
them.  But I had no such luck.  My throw rope came off the one
horn and they quickly disappeared into the thick brush.  They
were all gone, vanished into the bushes.

I looked for Old Buck and he was gone too.  Then I looked for
Lester and he was nowhere in sight.  I called to him and he came
riding up out of the brush.  I asked if he had seen Old Buck.  He
hadn't, but he rode off to find him.  We found Old Buck working
alone and holding back a bunch of cows that were trying to run
away.  There were two ways for the herd to escape.  Lester had
gone one way and had tried to hold the cows back, but had failed.
Old Buck had gone the other way alone and had cut off the escape
route of the other half of the herd.  Not a single cow had gotten
by him, but the two cows we wanted had escaped down the way
Lester had gone.  I could write a book telling about the splendid
work Old Buck did for me while we were together.

Anyway, we fastened the fence wires back in place and were riding
toward home when night overtook us out on the highway.  After
dark some men from our community drove by in their car,
recognized us, offered to take us home and we accepted.  We still
had only one rope, so we staked out Old Buck as we had done the
night before and hoped that Nancy would stay with him one more

Needless to say, when I got home I ate everything I could get my
hands on.  I was hungry enough to eat anything that wouldn't
fight back and couldn't outrun me.  And my bed was so much better
than the one that had tortured me the night before.

Early the next day when we returned to get our horses, Old Nancy
was not there.  We searched for her but in vain.  We returned to
the area every day for a week looking for horse tracks either in
the lane or in the pastures on both sides of the highway.  But we
found no clue whatsoever as to where she had gone.  Then finally
a thought came to me.  Down in the valley of Texas there was a
woman I had heard on radio--I believe her name was Ethel Duncan--
who claimed to have aided many people in locating lost articles.
If you would send her a dollar she would answer three questions
for you.  I knew it would be worth a dollar to me to have her
answer just one question.  So we went to the telegraph office in
Rotan and I wrote my question on a telegram form, "Where can I
find my lost saddle mare?"  The telegraph operator read the
question, looked at me, and shook his head just a little, as if
to say, "There's one born every minute."  But money talks, and
since I had the dollar to send to Ethel and enough left over to
pay the man for sending it to her at McAllen, he took my money
and sent the question and the dollar.

About an hour later the following message came over the wire, "In
my opinion your mare is grazing along the right-of-way of the
railroad which runs into Rotan from Nugent, about three miles
from home."

The railroad ran beside the County road all the way to my home in
Royston.  It would be easy to look for the mare, and we did look
all the way home.  But there was nothing, no horse, no cow, no
sign of any animal of any kind, except maybe a few jackrabbits.
There were not even any horse tracks.

Well that was the last straw.  As far as I was concerned, the
mare was gone for good.  I gave up.  I had spent too much time
away from my farming already.  There was work to be done and I
had better get with it.  I knew we would miss Old Nancy, but we
could live without her.

Then at home, while I was getting ready to get back to plowing,
some thoughts were running through my mind.  I read the telegram
again.". . .along the railroad which runs into Rotan from
Nugent."  I knew it didn't run from Nugent, but then it did run
to Rotan.  I couldn't see anything wrong with that.  But wait--
something still wasn't clear.  I was trying to figure whether
there was something I was overlooking.  I read a little further,
". . .about three miles from home, "THAT'S IT, HOME.  Where was
my home?  Was it Royston?  Was it my house?  Come to think of it,
neither of those places was mentioned in my telegram to Ethel,
Rotan was the only place mentioned.  That had to be it, three
miles from Rotan.  That would be about nine miles from my home.

I got back in my car and drove almost to Rotan.  When I thought
Rotan was still about three miles away, I pulled up to a farm
house and asked a farmer whether he had seen a stray mare.

"How long she been gone?" the farmer asked.

"One week today," I answered.

"Nope, haven't seen her.  Got one been here two weeks; couldn't
be yorn."

"Mind if I see her?"

"Nope, she's out in the lot with the other horses."

We walked to the horse lot and I looked.

"That's her all right," I told him.

"How long you say she's been gone?"

"One week today."

"Seems like she's been here a lot longer'n that.  No, guess
not,--today's Wednesday ain't it?  Yep, yep, that's right, she
come last Wednesday.  That's the day I drove into town.  She was
here when I got back."

I changed the subject, anxious to check on Miss Duncan's
accuracy.  I asked the man,

"How far is it to Rotan?"

"Three-and-a-half miles."

"Do you happen to know where that little mare was about an hour-
and-a-half ago?"

"Yep, she was down in the back of the pasture."

"Which way does your pasture run from here?"

"Down that way toward town."

"How big is your pasture; how far is it to the back side?"

"A half-mile."

"Do you remember if the mare was near the railroad fence, or out
in the other side of the pasture?"

"Yep, she was agin the railroad.  But why all these questions?"

Then I told him the whole story--the cattle drive, the lack of a
rope to tie the mare, our week of searching, the telegram, and I
let him read the reply.  After he finished reading it he said,

"That's right, she was three miles from Rotan by the railroad."

So we finally got the mare back and we were happy about that.
Now there is still the question as to why my brother didn't bring
the things we needed.  He had a simple answer:  He didn't want
to.  No further explanation, no apology, no feeling of guilt, no
regrets--just simply didn't want to.



During the 17 years we lived on the farm at Royston there were a
number of other stories, some good, and some not so good.

Wes Kennedy and his family lived about a mile northeast of
Royston and they had three big dogs that had the bad habit of
chasing automobiles and barking and snapping at the front wheels.
The dogs chased the family car the same as they did strange cars
which passed by along the road.  Wes tried every way he knew to
break the dogs from the bad habit, but every effort had failed.

Now the story goes that one member of the Royston Spit-and-
Whittle Club suggested that he tie a burlap bag to the spokes of
his front wheels.  As the dogs snapped at the wheels, they were
supposed to get their teeth caught in the burlap, this would hurt
their teeth and break them from chasing cars.

They say Wes was anxious to try it, so he tied a potato sack to
one front wheel and drove right on home.  As usual the three dogs
came out to meet him, growling and snapping at the turning
wheels, and the scheme really worked.  The dog that snapped the
spinning sack never chased another car as long as he lived--which
was about five seconds.  You see, dogs with broken necks seldom
chase cars.  Oh well, they still had two big dogs and that was
enough for the whole family.

Wes and his wife also had quite a few boys and girls, a lot of
little ones and at least one big one--a girl.  I was told that
there was a difference of opinion as to just how big the girl
really was.  Wes thought of her as just a little girl, but she
thought she was big enough to go with the boys.  And her mother,
having been a girl once herself, sort of agreed with the girl.
Since her dad objected so vigorously, the girl, with the aid of
her mother, devised a little scheme which was designed to satisfy
the girl and yet not be too painful to her father, especially
since he was not to know what was taking place.  Anyway, the way
I heard it, the kids were hoeing cotton one particular
afternoon--who knows how many kids, maybe eight, maybe ten,
anyway enough that one girl more or less would hardly be noticed
by a father who was often busy at some other job which in most
cases was easier than hoeing cotton.

The cotton rows butted up against a county road about a half-mile
from the house.  And in the weeds along the road ditch was a
perfect place for the girl to hide a paper bag full of her clean
clothes.  And after sundown was a perfect time for her to
exchange her hoe for that bag of clothes.  So, when the other
kids put down their hoes for the night, Wes didn't count kids and
didn't notice that the big girl was missing.  She had hoed to the
far end of the rows and had not returned with the others on that
last round after sundown.

Meanwhile, the girl's prince charming didn't carry her away on
his white steed, but rather in his black Model A Ford.  She kept
her date with her boy and then spent the night with her girl
friend.  Next morning the girl, dressed again in her work
clothes, picked up her hoe at the far end of the cotton rows and
joined her brothers and sisters in the field on their first round
of hoeing.  No one ever told her dad about the incident, so he
lived happily ever after.

In those days, when I wasn't too busy farming, I earned a little
money at other things.  I did road work for Fisher County quite a
few months one year.  One day I was hauling caliche in the county
truck to fill in holes in the road by a bridge.  When I was
hauling my last load for the day, I was not in any particular
hurry, so I stopped by my home to let Dennis and Anita go with
me.  I wanted them to get a lot of experience at a lot of
different things, as I had done when I was a boy.  I didn't want
them to grow up in ignorance.  There were times, I'm sure, Ima
wondered whether I wanted them to grow up at all.  Well this was
one of those occasions.  I was glad Ima wasn't along.

The kids played around while I unloaded the truck.  And after I
had finished my work, I took one of the sideboards from the
truck, which was a two-by-eight twelve feet long, and I placed it
across the buttment of the bridge.  With me on one end and the
kids on the other, I could see-saw them up and down and they
could splash their feet in the water.  What could be more fun to
a three-year-old and a five-year-old?  We had fun and all went
well until time to load up and go home.

Dennis was out on the end of the board and I told him to sit
still and let Anita get up first and come to me out on the road,
then it would be his turn.  Well, Anita got up and was walking
toward me when Dennis decided he wanted to be first.  Nothing I
could do or say would make him change his mind.  I just couldn't
get him to sit that extra few seconds.  He got to his feet and
tried to pass Anita on the eight-inch board.  And of course,
since Dennis was biggest, Anita went off into the water--head
first.  I couldn't turn loose of the board quickly and jump in
after her; I had to hold on while Dennis came on out and got off
the board.  By this time Anita had come up again and I lowered
the board to her.  She crawled upon it and came out with mud in
both hands and was laughing.  Excitedly she said, "Daddy, me pick
up mud mit me hands."

It was not the time of year to go swimming because the weather
and water were both too cold.  But inside the truck cab, with the
glasses up, it was hot.  So I put Anita up in the seat with all
her clothes off and she was comfortable right away.  Her clothes
dried out before we got home and we put them back on her.  I sort
of hoped that Ima wouldn't have to know about the accident, but
do you think Anita could keep it secret?  Goodness no!  She had
to go and tell Ima the whole story, in her own small way.

I worked off-and-on for Calvin Carriker all the years we lived at
Royston.  Along with his farming he also operated a grocery
store, a filling station, and the post office.  Ed Lewis worked
full time for Calvin for years, and at one time was driving a
stripped down Model T Ford, and there was something wrong with
the T which Ed had not been able to remedy.  At slow speed it
skipped on one cylinder; at high speed it ran okay.  When I speak
of high and low speeds, I'm speaking in the neighborhood of,
"Under ten miles an hour it skipped and over fifteen it didn't."

One day after a rain, Calvin asked me why didn't I help Ed, and
the two of us get the old car to running better, since it was too
wet to work in the field.  I asked Ed what all he had done to the
motor, and after he told me, I told him it had a broken piston.
But Ed said he had looked at the pistons when he had the head off
grinding the valves, and the pistons were okay.

I told him, "Okay, let's run through it once more.  You have put
in new plugs, timer, manifold, gaskets, and ground the valves.
You have replaced everything that could cause it to skip on one
cylinder except a bad piston."

Then Calvin said to me, "Why don't you take the piston out while
Ed gets a piston from somewhere?"

Looking at the pistons from the top, Ed couldn't see the broken
piston, but when we took it out, we found it broken on one side
all the way from the bottom up to the top ring groove.  We
replaced that one bad piston and the old car ran okay.

There were other troubles with automobiles in those days.  Today
some of us older people are inclined to talk about the good old
days and tell of how we were born during the horse-and-buggy days
and how we lived through the Model T era, the Great Depression of
the 1930s and into the Jet Age.  However, most of us have failed
to inform the younger generations about the "broken-fender" age
and the "drain-your-car-every-night" era.  These two periods
overlapped to a considerable degree and ran concurrently much of
the time.

That was when car fenders were bolted to the running board at one
end and the other end of the fender was allowed to vibrate and
flop up and down--especially on rough roads, and there were no
smooth ones.  The constant flopping caused the fenders to begin
to break directly above each wheel.  This called for a welding
job to repair the break.  Then a few weeks later the fender was
beginning to break again in the same place.  And this called for
yet another repair job, and this went on and on throughout the
entire life of the car.  It happened to all cars alike--the
Essex, the Nash, the Whippet, and even the Hupmobile.

This broken-fender age lasted from about 1928 until the late
1950s, and for me it extended into the 1960s because the only
cars I could afford were old and well used and the fenders had
been repaired by any number of other previous owners.

Why didn't fenders break before 1928?  A number of reasons.  They
were much smaller and lighter, and therefore they didn't flop and
bend and break.  Furthermore, cars were slower, and many of them
didn't last long enough to run far enough to break their fenders.
The fenders outlasted many of the motors

Now, concerning the drain-your-car-every-cold-night age.  Wood
alcohol was about the only antifreeze we had, and it would boil
away easily.  Also it would evaporate and it was expensive,
Furthermore, after making a long drive or pulling a heavy load,
you never knew whether you still had enough alcohol to protect
your motor from a freeze-up.  Nor did we have efficient weather
forecasts telling us just how cold it was going to get before
morning.  Therefore, most of us didn't use alcohol.  We just used
water and drained it out in cold weather.

So, all cars had a handy little faucet under the radiator.  And
most cars had another faucet on one side of the motor.  Together
they made it real easy to drain the water out.  By raising one
side of the engine hood, I could lean across the fender and reach
both faucets easily, even in the dark, as I often did.

On one particular winter night, it was about midnight when a
norther hit and woke me up.  I knew I should have drained the car
before I went to bed But being a gambler at heart, as well as
being lazy all over, I took a chance--and lost.  And with a fresh
norther roaring outside, there was just one thing to do, go drain
the car.  So, clothed in my shorts and my house shoes, and hidden
behind a cloak of darkness, I hurried out to drain the car.  I
quickly raised one side of the hood, leaned across the cold
fender, and in a jiffy I had both faucets open.

Then as I raised my weight off the fender, a sharp pain in the
skin of my stomach reminded me that I was living in the age of
broken fenders.  When I leaned across the fender, my weight had
caused the crack in the fender to open, and as I lifted my weight
the fender bit me right in the stomach.  I had to push my weight
back down on the fender and hold its mouth open with my hands
while I carefully removed my stomach.

Despite the mechanical problems we had suffered during the 1920s,
by the early 1930s the automobile was a proven necessity and the
farm tractor was beginning to crowd in and push the horse off the
farm.  So I decided to cash in on my horses before the price

In the spring of 1934, when a lot of farmers were buying horses
for the coming farming season, I sold all my work horses.  Now, I
didn't have a tractor and I couldn't afford to buy one, but I
figured I could build one.  I had never seen a home-made
tractor--never even heard of one.  But now that I had sold all my
horses, I was left with no choice except to build one.

Again it was a matter of trusting my own judgment and going out
on my own.  Again there was no turning back; I had to go forward.
I used a truck differential and a car motor.  And by the time I
got it all together and put plows on it, my cost was $250.  I
have seen tractors that others have built since then, and I
helped neighbors build a few, but that first one I built beat
them all.  I farmed with it two years, then sold it for as much
as it had cost me, and then I bought a used Farmall.

While I was dealing with horses and tractors, our kids were
making history on their own.  They had this little white mama dog
that had never had pups and they had an old mama cat that had
come from no-telling-where, and she had stopped over at our place
long enough to give birth to three kittens.  But while her
kittens were still suckling, the old cat up and died.  And the
next thing we knew that little dog had adopted those three
kittens and was letting them nurse.  We never did know whether
they got any milk for their effort, but they really put forth the
effort.  I had never heard of a dog being that friendly with any
member of the cat family.

During the lean years, when I had time to work for the other
fellow a little, I wasn't content to hoe or drive his tractor for
a dollar a day.  Instead, I was always looking for a way to make
money easier and faster.  Now, running a row binder didn't
necessarily make money easier, but it made it quite a bit faster.

One fall I took my row binder and car and tractor and Ima, and we
all went out and made $300 in a single month, cutting feed for
neighbors.  That was clear money above all operating expenses,
car expenses, binder repairs, and a babysitter at home for Dennis
and Anita.

Now you may think I'm a male chauvinist, listing Ima along with
my other property that I took.  But I didn't mean it that way.  I
simply meant to list her with the items I took.  You see, I had
to take her, she wouldn't go voluntarily.

During that month, we slept in a bed on top of our car.  We had
all the tools we needed for repairing the binder right in the
middle of any field.  And we always had plenty of hot bath water
right from the tractor radiator.  It was clean water--we put in
fresh clear water daily.

We also found other ways to pick up a few extra dollars.  When
World War II was in full swing and scrap metal was bringing a
good price, we took a few loads of scrap to Sweetwater and sold
it.  While unloading there one day, I noticed an old Buick car in
the scrap pile.  I looked it over, and the more I looked at it
the better it looked to me.  Finally I paid the man $30 for it,
pumped up the tires, put in a one-dollar battery and drove it
home.  It proved to be one of the best running cars I had ever
owned.  We drove it two years and then swapped it off for a $45
milk cow.

It seems that about half the years we lived at Royston were dry
years and that about half of every wet year was dry.  So there
were a lot of dry times when I was not farming because there was
no farming to be done.  On one of those occasions I rented an old
blacksmith shop at Royston--nothing in it, just four walls and a
roof.  I think I paid two dollars a month for the use of it,
which was all it was worth, considering the sandy dirt floor that
came with it, and with no windows for light.  It had big doors at
one end for cars to come through, some of which I repaired and
some I wrecked out and sold for parts.  In addition, I stocked
and sold a few new parts too.

Wes Kennedy came into my shop one day and showed me some auto
light bulbs he had bought at Sweetwater at 20 cents each.  And he
added, "Some places get 35 cents for them."

I showed him the same kind of bulbs in my shelves which I was
selling at 15 cents.  He looked at them and said, "I didn't know
you sold light bulbs.  You mean you sell them for 15 cents?"

I told him, "Yes, they cost me 8 cents, and I've got to make a
little profit on them to stay in business."

Of course, we laughed at Wes, and he laughed with us, for
thinking he had found such a big bargain at Sweetwater, and had
overlooked a bigger bargain right at home.

This shop work went on for about three months.  Then one day it
rained and I closed up shop and went back to farming.  Instead of
working at a dollar a day, I cleared about $3 a day in the shop.



Well, the Great Depression was not something we would want to
live through again, but all in all it wasn't so bad.  We were
broke, but then, so were our neighbors.  We had plenty to eat and
wear--and we had each other.  The lean years seemed to bring us
even closer together; we had to stay together, we didn't have
enough money to go our separate ways.  And of course we had our

Dennis was ten and Anita was eight when Larry became one of the
family in 1942.  And then when he was six weeks old, the little
tyke almost left us for good.  He was one sick little baby.  We
took him to a chiropractor who gave him adjustments and told us
to feed him goat's milk.  I drove all over the country looking
for a goat that was giving milk.  After finding one I kept
looking for more goats that would be giving milk after the first
one stopped.  It took awhile, but then I found a man with a whole
herd of goats.  He didn't need them because he was going to war,
so we bought all twelve of them.

When we sold out a year later and went to California to get into
war work, we bought goat's milk on the way out there and for
eight months after we got there.  In El Paso we bought milk from
a man who owned a herd of registered goats.  He sold goats for as
much as $80 each.  The ones we had at Royston were of the $4
variety.  I was glad the El Paso milk wasn't registered; we
couldn't have afforded it.

Bill Carriker, a neighbor at Royston, said Larry was sure going
to be mad when he grew up and learned that his mama had been a

When our two oldest kids were little bitty kids, and we had this
two-holer off down there under the shade of a mesquite tree, Ima
said to me one day, "I wish you would go down there and peep and
see what those kids are doing.  They've been in there a long
time.  No telling what they're doing in there."

I peeped, all right, and found them just sitting there, doing
their thing and talking with each other.

As our country got deeper into World War II, the quality of
kerosene went way down.  It didn't burn well enough in our Servel
refrigerator to make the box cold, and it left a lot of soot on
the wick.  So I mixed white gasoline with the kerosene to bring
the quality back up.  I told my neighbors the good news but they
were afraid to mix the gasoline in.  So they suffered with warm
refrigerators while we enjoyed cold luxury.  Again I was out
front, but my neighbors thought I was crazy.

We heated our Royston home with oil.  It was much more convenient
than wood.  And although we had plenty of wood, the oil proved to
be cheaper than hauling and bothering with the wood.

We had an oil heating stove that heated all four rooms of our
house.  It would burn used lube oil with just a little kerosene
mixed with it.  Some filling stations in Hamlin saved their used
oil for us.  We lighted our heater in the fall and didn't shut it
off until spring.  I kept an expense account one winter and our
entire fuel bill was $12.

By 1940 the price of cream was up and a year later it was up even
more.  We had a lot of cows that gave a little milk each, and we
already had a cream separator.  So we bought a gasoline engine to
run the separator and I started milking the cows and selling
cream.  That paid so well that we started feeding the cows more
and selling more cream.  Our cream was bringing three dollars a
day and we were feeding the skim milk to hogs that were gaining
two dollars a day.  Oh boy!  The depression seemed to be over for
us.  But it turned out that this business had another side to it.
The work was killing us.

I sat there milking by hand three hours in the morning and three
hours in the afternoon, and the weather was hot.  By the time I
had milked those twenty cows, I could almost swim in my own
sweat.  When I walked I could hear it squash in my shoes; and I
smelled so bad I had to bathe before the tractor would let me get
close to it.  There was only one good thing about it; it beat
maize hauling ten to one.

While I was milking one cow, Anita was feeding the next one and
getting her ready to be milked, Dennis was carrying milk to the
house and pouring it into the separator which was being driven by
the gasoline engine, and Ima was filling in here and there and
keeping house and seeing after Larry.

The kids always wanted me to milk Old Pet last.  They could ride
her out of the pen and up by the house as she went on her way to
the field to graze.  They got a free ride home and Old Pet didn't
mind.  She wouldn't pitch nor run, but just walk as though there
were no kids around.

But there was one day Anita fell off Old Pet.  They were riding
the cow in the cow lot after a rain and the lot was boggy and
messy.  Dennis was in front and Anita was on behind him.  The cow
started under a low shed and Dennis realized that he would be
dragged off it he didn't do something.  There was no way to stop
the cow nor turn her, so Dennis did something all right.  He
grabbed hold of a joist above his head to avoid being dragged off
into the filth below.  Meantime, since Anita was behind Dennis,
she couldn't reach anything to hold onto, so she was forced off
backward and landed in a sitting position, momentarily, until she
lost her balance and fell backward in six inches of cow-lot

Guess what Ima thought when Anita got to the house.  She could
hardly recognize her little girl, but she could tell where her
little girl had been.  The evidence was not all on her back.  She
had to roll over on her stomach to get up and out, so her front
and her long hair had quite a bit of evidence on them also.

Experimenting had taught us that cows would do almost as well
grazing sudan grass a couple of hours in the morning and a couple
of hours in the afternoon, as they would if they grazed all day,
and the grazing would last twice as long.  So when the weather
was dry and grazing was scarce, we would drive the cows out and
close the gate after a couple of hours grazing each morning.
Then we would turn them back in at four o'clock in the afternoon.
But this presented a problem.  We were not always home at four in
the afternoon.  What could we do about that?  Let the alarm clock
turn them in, of course.  And that is what we did.  I rigged it
up and it worked perfectly.  It opened the gate a lot better than
it built the fire in the wood heater many years before.

We had no electricity on the farm until 1949.  Before that time
rural electricity was only a promise of better things to come.
Sometimes the summer heat teamed up with the lack of a breeze to
make the weather almost unbearable.  But since I wasn't very well
known in Washington at that time, and since I wasn't personally
acquainted with my congressmen, I didn't ask them for an air
conditioning unit.  Instead, I did what I could on my own.  I
took the gas engine from the cream separator and put it on an oil
drum outside one window.  Then I put a large fan blade on the
shaft, aimed it toward a window, cranked it up and let it blow
air through the window and all through the house.  It was far
short of air conditioning like we have today, but it was a
lifesaver sometimes, and it wasn't inflationary.

Now, all this hard work, dry weather, inconveniences, and low
farm wages got us to wondering if we might be missing something.
So in the fall of 1943 we toyed with the idea of getting into war
work.  Later the toying became a definite plan which led to the
purchase of a travel trailer.  In November we stored our
furniture, left our farm machinery for Earl to sell, and headed
for California.  We knew some folks who had gone to California
from Royston and they told us to come on out, the wages were
fine.  We called it war work, but its purpose was twofold, to
help produce the weapons of war and to help the Clarence Johnsons
make more money faster.  But getting into war work wasn't all
that easy.

Before I could work at any job I had to get a release from
farming, because farming was an essential industry in the total
effort toward winning the war.  I went to the Sweetwater
Employment Agency Office and they couldn't give me a release.
They sent me to the Abilene office, and Abilene didn't have the
authority to grant me a release either.  They told me I would
have to go to the Sweetwater office.  I told them that Sweetwater
had sent me to Abilene.  Then they told me I would have to go to

But I didn't go to Dallas, I went home.  I figured that Dallas
might send me to Chicago and Chicago might send me to Washington,
and I didn't want to go to Washington.  I kept hoping someone
would send me to Los Angeles, because that's where I wanted to
go.  But they didn't.  So we got ready and headed for California
anyway.  Crazy, you say?  Sure, most of my friends thought so,
too.  But I knew what I was doing.  I was backing my judgment and
going out on my own again, like building a tractor, like
repairing a motor bearing, like not letting Federal Offices shove
me around.

Every town of any size had an Employment Agency.  Every Agency
had the authority to grant a permit to work.  All I needed was to
qualify for a permit.  They called the permit an availability
slip.  And without the slip, no one could hire me.  They didn't
want people switching from job to job.  They wanted all of us to
stay put and produce goods to win the war.  Now, I was producing
about enough on the farm to feed my family.  And I figured most
any of my neighbors could make the old farm produce that much
while I was away.  That's one reason we headed west.

We stopped somewhere west of Hamlin and east of California and I
applied for a permit.  They handed me a form and I filled it out.
But, since I was a farmer, they couldn't release me and give me a
work slip.  So, what now, go back?  Certainly not.  California
was west and that's where we were going.  We never could get
there by turning back.

So we drove on westward and I tried another office.  I filled out
a form just like the one before, only this time I knew not to be
a farmer.  This time I was a welder, self employed.  Now,
actually that was no fib.  Many of my friends back home would
tell you I was a better welder than I was a farmer.  In fact, I
was better at a lot of things than I was at farming.  I was a
lousy farmer.

Welding rated high in war work, so I had no trouble getting the
work slip this time.  Now we could go on to California without
looking for Employment Agencies.

At Vega Aircraft in Burbank they wanted me to build boxes.  But
welding paid more money, so I went to an employment agency
looking for a welding job.  They said they had no welding jobs
open at present, I would have to wait until one opened up.  I
asked if I could go on out to Vega and build boxes, but they told
me welding was a much higher skill and I would not be allowed to
work below my highest skill.  Then I asked the man, "What do I do
while I am waiting, starve to death?"  He didn't know about that,
but he knew I could not take the box-building job.  And that's
when I told him, "That's what you think, you just come along with
me and watch me."  I went out to Vega the next day and signed up
and went to work.

At Royston labor was a dollar a day, out here I was making $12.35
a day.  Then after a few days, Ima told me I would have to take
off from work and help her get the kids started in school.  I
told her that if she couldn't do that without me, we didn't have
any business in California.

After thinking it over a few days, we decided that Ima and the
kids might be a lot better off back home in Texas.  So, I quit my
job and asked for my availability slip, but they wouldn't give it
to me.  So I took my family to Texas without it.  Lucky for me, I
had a pocket full of gasoline ration coupons left over from
farming, and I knew how to get another work slip.  I was still a
welder and had not been employed in war work as a welder.  When I
applied again for an availability slip, I didn't have to tell a
fib, I only withheld some of the truth.

I left Ima and the kiddos at Hamlin and I drove on to Orange,
Texas, to work at ship building.  I signed on as a welder and of
course they took my availability slip.  Then after that, the
welding foreman told me they didn't need welders, and I learned
that I would have to work at common labor at about half the pay.
I told them, "No, thanks.  How do I get out of this place?"  The
gates were locked and I couldn't get out to go to the office
until noon.  That was fine with me.  I had my work badge on and I
could go anywhere I wanted to.  I made like a VIP and had a
holiday.  I figured no one would stop me, and even if they did,
they couldn't fire me because I wasn't working.  I made a two-
hour tour of the shipyard, saw everything and answered to no one.

At noon I went back to the office where they had fibbed to me and
asked for my availability slip, but they wouldn't return it.  I
asked, "Where is the next man higher up?"  They showed me his
office and I told him my story.  But he was not impressed and he
could not return my slip either.  Then I asked him who was the
top man.  By this time I was tired of going up step by step.  He
told me and I went to see him and told him the same story.  It
was easy to tell by now, I had it memorized word for word.  I
told the same story and got the same results.  Finally I told
him, "It looks like you fellows want my slip more than I do.
Okay, you can keep it.  I'm going to California and go to work at
a better job."  He warned me that I would get into trouble and
couldn't get a job without the slip.  But I told him to just come
along and watch me, I'd show him.

I drove back through Hamlin and took Ima and the kids to San
Angelo.  They stayed there with Ima's folks and I went to
California alone.

At the employment office in California, I told the lady I didn't
want to get into trouble, so I wanted to tell her the whole story
and then ask her what I should do.  She told me that wouldn't be
necessary, and added, "Texas and California are two different
countries; I'll give you another slip.  We need you out here."  I
took the slip--my third one--and went back to work at the same
job at Vega, through the same office where they kept my first
slip when I quit and went back to Texas.  I gave them this new
slip and I guess they were happy, now they had two of my slips.
Anyway, I went back to building boxes for them.

All that running around had cost me quite a bit of money.  I
needed to make up for some of the loss so I worked ten hours a
day at my regular job, got off at five in the afternoon, ate
supper at the company cafe, drove seven miles and went to work at
another plant that belonged to the same company.  This second job
paid time-and-a-half, and I could work an hour or all night, they
didn't care which.  The work was there to be done and laborers
were scarce.  I usually worked until ten o'clock and got to bed
by eleven, so I wouldn't lose too much sleep.  However, on
Saturdays I worked all night.

Then one day I got this telegram from Ima that read something
like this, "Can you meet me at the Union Depot on Thursday, March
19th at 5:45?"

Well, on my way down to my other place of work I had noticed a
telegraph office.  So I stopped in one afternoon and sent Ima a
reply.  After all, she had asked a question; the least I could do
was to answer it.  But I didn't see any need to send her a long
message.  I figured we could talk with each other after she got
to California.

Now, if her telegram had said, "Meet me at a certain place at a
certain time on a certain day, I could have replied, "Okay."  But
since she put it in the form of a question, I replied, "Yes."

I wrote her name at the top of the form, my name at the bottom,
and handed it to the man behind the Counter.  He looked at it,
and then he read it, which didn't take long, and turned to me and
asked, "Is this all?"

I told him, "Yes, that's enough."

And it proved to be plenty because, on that appointed day at the
appointed hour and at the appointed place, here came that woman
with those three kiddos, and they all looked mighty good to me.

I don't think I ever got around to telling Ima how proud I was of
her for having learned so fast.  Only three short months before,
she couldn't take three kids to school a few miles away in
Burbank.  Now she had learned how to take those same three kids
halfway across this big nation of ours.

When they returned to Burbank, Larry was just a bit over a year
old and mighty spoiled.  Remember, he had been sick when he was
very young, and I have yet to see a sick little baby who doesn't
become spoiled.  He would cry at the drop of a hat, and when it
was time for him to sleep, Ima would have to rock him to sleep.
He had no intention of going to sleep without being rocked.  Then
she would try to get him down on the bed without waking him.  She
failed more times than not.  And after each failure the rocking
had to be done all over again.

Larry also gave Ima trouble in other ways.  When supper was
ready, she had trouble getting him to come in and eat.  And when
she finally got him in, he would fuss and cry while she washed
his hands and face and got his food from the stove to his plate.
Then they would have another fuss-and-cry battle at bedtime.  She
could never get him to go to bed without crying and having to be

Then Ima went to work at Lockheed Aircraft during the summer.
Her hours were from four until midnight.  So it became my job to
get Larry in, get him to eat, and get him to bed.  Now, I had
heard that, in order to train a dog, you have to know more than
the dog.  And I figured the same was true with training little
boys.  And I also figured I was smarter than most any little kid
18 months old.  So the first thing I did was shift most of the
responsibility to Larry.  I didn't try to get him in, I didn't
try to get him to eat, and I didn't try to get him to go to bed.
I reasoned that he would come in when he wanted to, eat when he
was hungry, and sleep when he was sleepy.  In short, I left him

We lived in a trailer park.  And when all the other kids were
called in at night, Larry found no pleasure in playing alone, so
he came in out of the dark.  And he didn't fuss while I put his
food on his plate.  I knew when he was coming in for supper.  I
could hear all the other kids going home, and I had his supper on
his plate ready for him when he got there.  When he came in
through the door.  I would wipe his hands and face with a wet
cloth.  Usually I was through with that little chore before he
had time to cry.  Then I would tell him to climb up there and eat
it.  That is, I told him the first day; after that he didn't have
to be told.  He ate like a horse because by that late hour he was
half starved.

At bedtime Anita and Dennis would go to bed in our trailer, and
Larry and I would be left alone in our cabin.  I knew what was
coming next so I was prepared.  I beat him to the punch, so there
was no fussing at bedtime either.  And not one time did I ever
have to rock him to sleep or tell him it was time to go to bed.

Larry had a regular baby bed and he also had this habit of never
going to sleep without his bottle.  Even when Larry woke up
during the night, Ima would have to get up and get his bottle and
then try to rock him back to sleep.  But when Ima started working
at Lockheed, we stopped all that monkey business.

I put a pull-chain switch in the light fixture in the middle of
the ceiling.  Then I put a long pull-cord that would hang loosely
across Larry's bed and I tied it to the far corner of his bed.
He could reach the cord easily while lying on his back in bed.
Then I put two of his bottles in two corners of his bed, down by
the mattress so they couldn't fall out or turn over.  One was for
going to sleep and the other was for going back to sleep after he
woke up during the night.

He must have been fascinated by the newness of the whole thing
because he listened well as I explained it all to him and showed
him just how to reach up and turn out the light before he
finished his bottle, and how to wave his hand sideways to find
the light cord in the dark, how to get his second bottle when his
first one ran empty, and how to be quiet and not wake me up.

After that first night I would merely say something like,
"Goodnight, Larry, I'm going to sleep.  You can go to bed when
you want to."  Most of the time I went to sleep while he was
still playing in the floor.  I often woke up with him lying in
his bed nursing his bottle with the light on, but not one time
did I ever wake up to find the light on after he had gone to
sleep.  And he never cried.

Larry was 18 months old in May.  When he made up his mind to go
some place, he didn't fool around.  He didn't walk, he ran.  He
learned to run about the same time he learned to walk.  At our
trailer court he was known as Cyclone Johnson.

During the summer of 1944, by correspondence, we made a deal with
Uncle Jim to buy the Royston farm from him.  So we began thinking
about when we should be getting back to Texas.  Benny Carriker
was living on the farm at that time and when I let him know that
we were buying the farm, he wrote that he wanted to move to town
by the first of September and we could move onto the place at
that time.  So we loaded up and moved back to Texas in the latter
part of August.  But we didn't hurry right straight back to

We reasoned that we might never be in that part of the country
again and I wanted to see a part of Death Valley.  I had read
quite a bit about it and it fascinated me.  So we drove about
three hundred miles out of our way that trip just to see the
valley.  But when we came near it, we learned that the touring
season in Death Valley was in winter time.  In August it was
really a valley of death and almost void of people, especially
tourists--and more especially, during the war.  Okay, so I goofed

At least we were not bothered with traffic.  And since we were
about the only ones using the road, and since there were some
long downhill slopes, and since Dennis had his bicycle in our
trailer, he wanted to ride it down at least one of those long
slopes.  So we got his bicycle out and he got on it and he must
have coasted for miles, I don't know how far.  We saw one highway
sign that read, "Next seven miles downhill."

Then coming up out of Panamint Valley our car had a vaporlock in
the gas line.  I could blow hard into the gas tank and blow gas
into the carburetor.  Then the motor would start but by the time
it got the car and trailer going up the hill, the carburetor
would be empty again.

Now, we had quite a few tools in the car and I always carried
some emergency repair parts.  A good supply of survival items was
a "must" with me.  I was sure I would need them some day.  And
this looked like a good place to use some of them.  We drilled a
hole in the gas tank cap, cut a valve stem out of an old inner
tube and fitted it into the hole.  Then Dennis sat in the back
seat with a tire pump, pumping air through a long hose into the
stem in the gas cap.  He pumped and I drove.  We came right on up
out of the valley without any more trouble.  After we reached the
top, he quit pumping and we had no more vapor lock.  This goes to
show why I never throw anything away.  Even today I still carry a
good supply of old tire tubes, valve stems, lengths of rubber
hose, and plenty of hay wire.

We stopped for gas at Stovepipe Wells and the man there seemed to
think we would make it okay.  The temperature was only 113
degrees.  I've seen it hotter than that in Phoenix and they
thought nothing of it.

We arrived at Royston only to find that Benny Carriker had
changed his mind.  He wanted to stay on the farm until the first
of the year, and of course we couldn't move in.  So, now what?
It would be four months before we could get possession of the
farm.  So we moved in with Mama and Papa in Hamlin and I looked
for a job.  I thought just about anything would do for four
months.  I signed on at the Gyp Mill and went to work making wall
boards.  I worked just one day at the mill, the hardest work I
had done in years.

When the alarm clock sounded the next morning, it was raining all
over the place.  It took me about five seconds to decide what to
do.  Of course I had been thinking quite a bit about it before.
The rain merely pushed me over the line of decision.

The road was not paved from Hamlin to the mill.  It would be a
mess every time it rained.  What's more, the work there was four
times as hard as building boxes in California.  So I shut off the
alarm and rolled over to go back to sleep.  Ima asked me what I
was going to do.  I told her I was going to get some sleep and
then go to California.  And as usual she thought I was crazy.

Well, I sort of agreed with Ima, but not altogether.  This job
would just barely pay for rent and groceries.  Out west we could
live on half my salary and save the other half.  So, Burbank,
we're coming again.  But this time I had an additional problem.

For the first time, I was about out of gasoline ration coupons.
And when I went to the ration board in Hamlin, the lady told me I
would have to work at least six months before I could get gas
coupons to go somewhere else.  I was in trouble and I could see
that I was going to have trouble convincing her.  But I told her
the whole story.  I really spread it on thick and made it sound
rather pitiful--at least I thought I did.  I told her I knew I
was needed on the farm here, but the other man had changed his
mind and I couldn't get on the farm.  It was not my planning nor
my fault that I couldn't move onto the farm.  I couldn't help it.
And now I was needed in war work in Burbank.

After all my pleading she had the same answer, "No gas coupons."

Well, I could see that I was getting nowhere with the lady.  I
figured I had to change my approach or I would never get to
Burbank.  So I stopped begging and pleading with her, and with a
little more firmness in my voice, I said, "Now look, Lady, I'm
going to California and I am going to get gas coupons one way or
another, and however I get them, it is going to take the same
amount of gas to make the trip, and if you will just issue me the
coupons it will save me an awful lot of trouble and I will get on
out there faster and get on the job sooner."

Well, I could hardly believe my ears.  She asked me how much gas
I needed.  I told her and she gave me the coupons.  We were on
our way west again.

If all Americans had helped out as much as I did during the war,
I know we would have lost to the enemy.

Ima cried off and on all the way out there this trip.  It had
been hard to find a place to live the first time.  She just knew
we couldn't find a place this time.  And it proved to be just
that way--that is, for average people.  But I wasn't going to
settle for being just average.  I knew there was a place for us
to live somewhere in California.  I simply had to get busy and
find it.

When we finally got to California, we heard the same story
everywhere we tried, "No vacancy."  Real estate firms gave us the
same answer.  But I reasoned that, if you go fishing and don't
catch a fish the first hour, you don't just lie down and cry; you
fish some more.  There's got to be a fish somewhere in the lake.
You just go find him.

After a few hours of the same kind of disappointment a realtor
had a listing, "Garage apartment for rent."

The lady asked, "Do you have children?"

I replied, "Yes, three."

"Sorry, no children allowed."

"Would you give me the address?"

"There's no need, no children allowed."

"Would you just give me the address and let the owner tell us,
'No children allowed'?"

By this time I knew she was anxious to get rid of me, so she gave
me the address.  It proved to be quite near, so we drove out to
the place and talked with the woman about twenty minutes.  Then
we parked our trailer beside the apartment and moved in.  Then
Ima really cried, but for a different reason.  She was so happy.
This proved to be the best place we had ever lived while in
California.  And our landlady was a queen.

I went back on the same job, building boxes.  Vega had sold out
to Lockheed but the change was not noticeable.  Lockheed was
looking forward to the time when the war would be ended and the
company would have to operate with more efficiency.  They
encouraged employees to submit ideas that might save the company
money and speed up work.  If an idea was good enough to be
adopted and put into use, they would pay for it.  I submitted a
few ideas, some good, some bad.  In all they paid $72 for my

Much of the time I was at Lockheed I worked in a department where
we coated aircraft parts with oil and other coatings for their
protection against rust and salt water.  The oil was heated
before it was applied to the parts.  Then when it cooled it
became a tough, durable coating.  Electric heating units heated
the oil, and it got to where the units were not working right.
So I asked the electricians to remedy the problem.  They mostly
ignored my request.  After all, who was I, certainly not a
bigshot.  They didn't have to obey my request.  They treated me
as though I were a rug for them to wipe their feet on.  And after
having trodden me under foot they walked away in a manner
altogether unmannerly in the eyes of a Texas farmer.  I don't
think they were really a bad sort, maybe just native Californians
acting natural.  And maybe they were not quite at home when
dealing with a Texas farmer who was also acting natural.

Now, I thought I could repair the heating units, but I knew that
a country boy like me might get into trouble with the union if I
did anything except just what my card said I could do.  So, one
day when no one was looking, I repaired the units and got the
thing to working like it should work.  Then in about three weeks
the unfriendly pair of electricians came and notified me that
they were ready to repair my hot-oil bathtub.  When I told them
it had been repaired, they were surprised.  They didn't know
there were other repairmen around.  They asked who did it and I
told them.  But they didn't believe me.  They left quietly,
acting as though they thought I was pulling their leg.

One month the box-building crew was packing airplane nosecones
for shipment.  They had two men, each working ten hours a day,
sawing plywood lumber into oddly shaped pieces to fit snugly
against the fragile parts to protect against breakage.  I was
working in the hot-oil department and I had improved the
efficiency of the department to the point where my job was easy
and I had a lot of time to loaf.

Many of the boards the men were sawing were inaccurate and had to
be thrown away as scrap lumber.  I recognized their problem and
set about to find a solution.  Then, working in my spare time one
afternoon, I built a jig, made of plywood and fitted onto a
sawtable, that enabled me to saw out the pieces accurately and

The next day I used two hours of my spare time and sawed more
pieces than the other two men had been sawing in 20 man-hours.
Not only that, my pieces fitted better and there were none to
throw away.  From then on, I sawed out all the pieces in my spare
time, and the two sawmen went back to packing nosecones.

One of the Lockheed supervisors saw a lot of the little
efficiencies in my work and he told me that, after the war, if I
would team up with him, we could make a million dollars.  He said
that with my brain and his "gab" we could improve the efficiency
of factories all over America.

For an example, they gave me charge of the hot-oil department
which had been keeping two men busy.  I soon had it so I could
handle it alone.  Then I made more improvements and could loaf
half the time.  When I took over the job of sawing the plywood
pieces, I was doing the work that four men had been doing, and
still had time to loaf and see who else needed help.  Lockheed
was paying me $12 a day and I was saving them the other $36 a

During those four months that fall, there was an awareness in the
back of my mind that the day was coming when we would need gas to
get back to Texas in December.  I had saved all the coupons I
could, but it looked as though we might be about 25 gallons
short.  And since I hadn't worked six months at this job, I knew
I wouldn't be able to get coupons this time.  So, I asked my
straw-boss, "Don't you have a gasoline camp stove up overhead in
your garage?"

He said, "Sure have.  You can use it any time you want to."

I said, "I don't want to use it, just want to borrow it."

We left it up in his garage.  But now that I had one, I went to
the ration board and applied for gasoline coupons for it.  The
lady at the board told me she thought 50 gallons would last six
months and she issued me coupons for that amount.  And so, in
just a few minutes I walked out of there a lot happier than I was
when I walked in.

Now we had plenty of coupons to take us to Texas.  But we still
had a little problem.  The coupons each called for two gallons
and each one had "stove" printed across the front.  Some service
station workers might frown on the idea of pumping stove gas into
Buick automobiles.  So we bought our stove gas in five gallon
cans and then poured it into the Buick's tank after we got away
from the station.  The Buick liked it.  It didn't know the

Now, you can be sure I didn't enjoy doing these little things
which were maybe just a little bit outside the rigid rules laid
down by Washington.  Of course I didn't.  And I'm sure Moses
didn't enjoy seeing the waters of the Red Sea close in and engulf
thousands of Pharaoh's soldiers.  But we both did what we had to
do.  I was crossing a Red Sea 1200 miles across--and I made it,
just as he made it.  I'll admit there's one little difference
here, God told Moses to do what he did.  I'm not quite sure God
was the one who told me to do what I did.  Maybe the devil made
me do it.

Anyway, we got back to the Royston farm that last time and stayed
until we moved to Arkansas five years later.  It was the first of
the year of 1945 and Uncle Jim had not yet started to have the
papers fixed up for me to buy the farm.  I asked him to go ahead
and get the abstract in shape for me as agreed.  But three months
later he still had not begun.  It looked as though he had decided
not to let me have it.  I couldn't buy it without his
cooperation.  So I finally made a deal with him to operate the
farm on a percentage basis.



Throughout all these years, as our children were growing up, we
tried to train them to work out their own problems, answer their
own questions, and make their own decisions.  One Sunday
afternoon when the Willinghams were visiting us, Mary and Anita
came skipping around the house to ask me if they could go to
Hamlin in our car and get some ice to make ice cream.  Anita was
probably fifteen years old and Mary fourteen.  I asked Anita if
she had a driver's license.  Of course she didn't have, but she
could drive on back streets and be okay.  Then I asked her, "And
where is the ice plant?"

"It's on Main street, but we could walk and carry the ice to a
back street."

"It's 14 miles there and 14 back.  You still think it's all

"Sure, that's not far."

"What if you have a flat?  Can you put the spare on?"

"Oooh, I hadn't thought of that.  We better not try it."

Now, if Anita had known at that time about the traveling I had
done alone when I was not much older than 15, I think she might
have argued that Hamlin was not nearly as far away as McCamey or
the Gulf of Mexico or Denver.  And if she had brought up that
argument, I think I would have handed her the keys and said,
"Good luck Be careful."

At that age Anita hadn't yet mastered the art of arguing.  But
she was willing and practicing.  Dennis was going to town one
night to a show or something and he asked Anita if she wanted to
go.  But she said, "No, Vera and Coy are coming over here tonight
and I want to stay home and listen to Vera and Daddy argue."

She listened well and learned fast.  I don't believe I have won
an argument with her since that time.

There was always something happening on the farm, some good, some
bad.  One year weaning pigs got so cheap that I couldn't resist
the urge to buy some of them and let them run wild about the
place.  At the Abilene auction sale, I bid on a bunch of the
prettiest little black pigs I ever saw.  They were selling by the
pound.  I usually bought the ones that sold by the head, because
I didn't have much idea how much a pig would weigh out.  But this
bunch only cost $1.16 each.  There were eight in the bunch.  I
took them home and turned them loose.  Then I bought others from
time to time, and we soon had lots of pigs running all over the
place.  Of course, when they got older, we put them in pens.

Ima ran over one of our pigs in her car one day and killed him.
He was about a 25-pounder.  We butchered him and he made such
good eating, we decided that was a good size to butcher next

When Max Carriker learned that we had all those pigs running
around the place, he asked about letting him take some of them
and sell them.  He had a Model A coupe with a pig box in the back
end.  We told him to come any time and take all he wanted.  He
sold them at five dollars each and paid me three dollars for the
ones he sold.  He brought back the ones he didn't sell each day
and turned them loose again.  He and I both picked up a few
dollars on my cheap pigs.  Our neighbors didn't know that the pig
market had hit bottom.

A neighbor boy and Dennis were out in our pasture one day with
their 22 rifles, hunting rabbits and snakes and whatever.  After
hunting for hours, they came running to the house all excited and
out of breath, and told us they had killed something, they didn't
know what it was, but wanted us to come quickly.  We went and
found that they had killed a bobcat.  He was the first one we had
seen or heard of in that part of the country, and it was the
first one the boys had ever seen.

They had been up on Cedar Knob Mountain looking around, and there
was that bobcat 12 or 14 feet directly below them, lying in the
shade on a ledge.  Apparently the cat didn't see the boys.  They
stepped back quickly and planned their strategy.  One boy had a
pump-gun, the other one a single shot.  They planned to advance
quietly to the spot above the cat, take good aim and both begin
firing.  The boy with the single shot gun carried an extra shell
in his hand ready to reload as quickly as possible.  Then they
walked slowly to their vantage point and carried out their

By the time the boy with the single shot gun had reloaded and
fired his second shell, the other boy had emptied the magazine on
his gun--all 15 shells, and the bobcat lay very dead.  But they
didn't know what it was that they had killed, so they didn't go
near it, but ran home for help.

We skinned the cat to get his pelt, and would you believe it, we
found two bullet holes--and only two--in his head, and none
anywhere else.  We believe that the boys killed him with their
first two shots and missed him completely with all the others.

We lived on that farm 17 years, and if we had lived there 50
more, I believe something new would have happened the last day we
lived there, as well as each and every week during that time.

One fall I got a job helping at the Royston gin.  I had my
welding torch and all my tools in a closed-in trailer.  When I
wasn't helping gin cotton I was repairing gin machinery.  One
Saturday they put me to helping load bales of cotton on trucks to
be hauled to the Hamlin Compress.  The trucks were large truck
and trailer jobs.  We stood up one layer of bales on the truck,
then we stood up another layer of bales on the first layer.  Then
we placed another layer lying down on top of those two layers.
Now, doing all that purely by main strength and awkwardness took
a lot of energy and manpower.  By the end of the day I was
possessed with a lot of awkwardness, and all my manpower was
gone.  So I used my head.

At the close of work that Saturday, I took all my tools home, and
Sunday after church I built an A-frame on the back of my tractor,
tall enough to lift bales of cotton three-layers high up on a
truck.  The tractor motor did all the work.  No man ever had to
lift another bale of cotton as long as I worked there.  The men
laughed at me for being so lazy.  After that they said, "Give
Johnson the hard jobs, he'll make them easy."

Along with all our work, we had our share of fun.  Clarence Clark
was a farmer who lived about a mile from the Royston store, and
he loved a good joke as much as or more than the next fellow.
And he also liked to play practical jokes on other people.  Nor
did he seem to mind if one of his jokes backfired right in his

One day a bunch of us were sitting around outside the store
waiting for the mail to run--gabbing and "spittin and whittlin,"
when a man drove up with a fairly good-looking used, wooden
icebox in his pick-up.  Clark didn't move from his sitting
position, but asked the stranger, in a loud voice, "How much for
the icebox?"

The man said, "I'll take ten dollars for it."

Now Clarence didn't need the icebox--he didn't even want it.  He
had one just like it, only better.  So, his idea was to play
around with the stranger awhile, exchange a few words, sort of
horse-trade with him a bit, and then let him go on his way with
his icebox.

He reasoned that if he offered anywhere near $10, the stranger
might accept his offer and he would be stuck with a box he didn't
want and wished he didn't have.  But by any standard, no horse-
trader is going to sell anything for half what he's asking for
-leastwise, not without coming down slowly, a step at a time.
So, Clark thought five dollars would be a safe offer.  So, when
the man said, "I'll take ten dollars for it,"  Clark didn't
hesitate to say, "I'll give you five."

Nor did the stranger hesitate to say, "I'll take it."

Clark said, "You'll have to deliver it."

"Sure will.  Where to?"

"About a mile.  Follow me."

Clark drove his car and the man followed in his pick-up.  As the
man backed up to the back porch, Mrs. Clark came out of the
kitchen and asked, "What have we got here?

Her husband said, "We've got an icebox."

"We don't need it.  We've got one icebox."

"You're wrong, woman, we've got two iceboxes."

I don't know what they ever did with the old box, but I'm sure he
didn't let it bother him in the least.

At the Royston gin, the house in which we stored our cotton was
about 30 or 40 steps away from the office building.  The door
leading into the cotton house was on the far side, away from the
office.  The door opened to the outside, and the V-space behind
the open door made a nice little outhouse for men, who, for any
reason at all, preferred not to walk the long distance to the
holer when all they wanted to do was stand and drain a load of
water against the cotton house wall.

One day I was up in a farmer's trailer unloading his cotton into
the cotton house when Clarence Clark came out from the office and
stood half hidden, his front half that is, behind the
aforementioned door, and began his little chore of getting rid of
excess waste water.  Whereupon, I seized the opportunity to play
a practical joke on this practical jokester, Mr. Clark.

I went to the back of the trailer, leaned out over the tailgate
so I could see around the corner of the cotton house and, looking
toward the office, I said in a loud voice, "No, ma'am, he's not
here now, but he was here a few minutes ago."

Of course, I was only pretending.  There wasn't a woman within a
half-mile.  But, you know, my performance did exactly what I had
hoped it would do, only more so.  In a fraction of a second,
Clark had put away his drainer before he had time to stop the
flow of water.  I could tell by the way he stepped out from his
hiding place that dampness was already down beyond his socks and
into at least one shoe.  Then in about three seconds, when he
realized what I had done to him, he looked up at me and said,
"Johnson, I'll kill you for that."  But he didn't.  And I'm sure
he felt better when he got home and got a bath and put on dry

Now, changing the subject, Anita came home from School one day
and asked, "Daddy, why is it that, when kids at school tell a
joke or a story, the goofy guy in the story is always named
Clarence?"  You know, I couldn't think of a good answer to give
her, and I still can't.

During those years on the Royston farm, we witnessed the advent
of cattle auction sales in our part of the country, and of course
they led to other little happenings.  I might as well tell about
one or two of them right about here.

From our home it was only 30 miles to Sweetwater and 50 miles to
Abilene.  Those two cities together had at least three cattle
sales a week.  I was sitting at one of those sales one day,
waiting for the cows to start selling, when they began selling a
lot of odds-and-ends prior to selling the cattle.

There are times when these odds-and-ends can defy the
imagination.  Some of the items I have seen sell at such times
were old saddles, new saddles, lariat ropes, milk goats, six
bantam hens with matching rooster, three quart-bottles of screw
worm medicine, a set of badly used harness, four weaning size
hound pups, and many others.

Well, on this particular day, I was just sitting there being
bored when suddenly here comes a sorrel saddle horse for sale.
The bidding got off to a slow start and didn't speed up an awful
lot.  This gave me time to start thinking, but I started in the
wrong direction.  True, he was a good-looking animal--beautiful,
not a blemish on him, tall and strong, just the horse for me.

Now, what I should have been thinking was, "If he's all that
good, why isn't he bringing more money?  Why aren't more men
bidding on him?"  I think I figured out the answers just about
the time I made the final bid on the old horse.  I think everyone
there that day, except me, knew the horse, had owned him a week
or two and had brought him back to sell to somebody like me,
someone who had not owned him and didn't know about him.  In
fact, I sold him the following week.  Only I didn't take him back
to the sale, I sold him to a cow-buyer who didn't know him.  And
he took him back to the sale a week later.

Anyway, the bidding had only reached $20 when I offered $22.50.
But just as I announced my bid, something told me I shouldn't
have.  And since no one would raise my bid to $25, nor to $24--
not even to $23, I found myself with a horse I wasn't quite sure
I wanted.  I really think the owner had bid the $20 and waited
for a sucker like me to raise his bid.

But at home the next day, Dennis rode the horse over to a
neighbor's place and came back with a good report.  He said the
horse was lively, spirited, and altogether well behaved.  I was
beginning to feel better about my purchase, until a few days
later when Anita tried the new horse.

Now, I'm not altogether sure she really wanted to ride the horse.
It might have been my idea, or maybe it was Dennis' idea.  One
thing I do know for certain, it wasn't Ima's idea.  However,
there Anita was, up on the horse in our front yard, when the wind
began flopping her neck scarf.  And that was when the old horse
began to come unwound.

I was holding the reins and managing to keep his front end fairly
quiet and close to the ground, but his hind end kept bouncing up
and down, getting higher and higher until Anita landed on the
ground right by his front feet.  That's when we learned that
anything waving or flopping drove the horse crazy and made him
pitch.  He was not a flag-waving patriotic horse.

The man I sold the horse to learned the same thing the hard way
when his hat almost blew off and he reached up quickly to grab
it.  He said he barely managed to stay on top, but got off as
soon as the horse stopped bucking, and walked him to the barn.
Next day he took the horse to the cow sale and auctioned him off.

Fortunately, Anita's fall off the horse didn't hurt her, but it
sure scared Ima.  And now, 40 years later, she still tells people
how foolish I was for letting Anita get on the horse.  But I say,
"Why shouldn't she have ridden any horse she wanted to?  After
all, she was thirteen years old, and has been riding horses and
cows for twelve years."

Ima insisted that she was going to rear her children correctly--
protect them, see after them, teach them good manners, good moral
standards and religious ethics.  And the thought of all this
brings to memory the time Anita was three years old, went to
sleep in church one night, fell off the seat and broke her collar
bone.  Now, the way I see it, the moral to all this is, ride more
bucking horses and stay away from church.  At least, if your
pastor can't keep you awake during his talk, sit on the floor.

There seemed to be no end to new experiences and challenges.
When I was working at Carriker's river farm, one afternoon at
quitting time, Calvin told me to let Dennis saddle old Pony Boy
the next morning and ride him over to the river farm.

I asked, "Why not haul him in my trailer as I come to work?"

Calvin said, "He has never been in a trailer, can't get him in

It was a six-mile trip and I saw no need for the horse to have to
go that far on foot when he could just as well ride.  So, next
morning I hauled him over in my trailer and Calvin was surprised.
He wondered how I loaded the horse.

I told him it was fairly easy.  First I tried leading him into
the trailer just as I would any horse.  He was almost through the
loading chute when he decided to retreat.  In fact, he retreated
all the way back down the chute and out into the corral.  Then I
said to him, "Okay old boy, since you like to back so well, just
go ahead and back."

I backed him across the lot until his tail hit the fence on the
other side of the lot.  By this time he seemed to be getting the
"hang" of it and didn't seem to mind backing up.  So I backed him
along the fence all the way around to the loading chute, then up
through the chute and into the trailer, and closed the tailgate.
The entire operation didn't take more than a couple of minutes,
and it saved Old Pony Boy a long, hard journey on foot.  I really
believe he enjoyed the ride, though he never mentioned it to me.

It seems like I mentioned before, that I had never lost a penny
on a bad debt.  However, there might have been a time or two when
I almost did, but it was when I was farming, and not while I was
in business.

Yes, this happened at Royston.  Hobb Reed and Hester Hammitt each
owed me two dollars.  Hobb had promised to pay me his two dollars
as soon as he got out his first bale of cotton.  Well, he got out
his first bale, then his second bale, and still hadn't made a
move toward paying me.  So one day, in the store, back by the
post office, I asked him about it.  He said, "Johnson, I'm not
going to pay you until Hester pays you."

I asked him, "What if I told Bill Carriker I wasn't going to pay
my grocery bill until everyone else paid him?"  Then I added,
"And besides, you promised to pay me when you got out your first
bale of cotton, and you didn't."

Hobb asked, "Johnson, are you calling me a liar?"

I said, "Call it whatever you like, you promised to pay me and
you didn't."

Then he told me, "Johnson, come outside here, I'll just whip

And I said, "Okay, but remember, after you whip me, you still owe
me two dollars."

Then suddenly, he became calm again as he said, "Come over here
to the cash register, I'll just pay you."

Thank goodness we didn't go outside while he was in a bad mood.
He was a lot bigger than I was and he might have half killed me.

While we lived at Royston, Papa had an old Chevrolet car that he
was through with and he wanted to give it to Dennis.  It was an
old, old car, just had a seat and a pick-up bed, no cab at all,
tires not worth 50 cents each, all leaking, radiator leaking,
using oil, dripping oil, and no license plates.  And besides all
that, Dennis didn't have a driver's license.  I didn't want
Dennis to own the old car.  But I saw later that I had made a
mistake, and told the family so.

Looking back, I can see why I should have allowed Dennis to own
the old car.  But at the time, I reasoned:  Dennis couldn't
repair a flat, I would have to do it.  With no license, he could
only drive it out in the pasture.  Thorns would puncture his
tires.  We had no money to waste on the old car.  We had a car
and two pick-ups, and Dennis had not shown any inclination toward
repairing nor maintaining the ones we had.  Besides, one neighbor
boy had an old car like that, and one day he was driving down the
road and the motor fell out.  No kidding, the front end of the
motor dropped down and stuck in the ground.

But who knows, this old car might have been just the thing to
spark Dennis' enthusiasm and spur him on, all the way up to
greasy hands and skinned knuckles.  And it might have built up
his confidence in himself.  Anyway, I regret very much that I
didn't allow him to own the old car and play with it.  Some of my
kinfolks thought I was sort of, if not altogether, cruel to the
boy.  They convinced me but it was too late.  The damage had been
done, never to be undone.

Years later, after I had made a lot of changes in my way of
thinking, and had repented for many of my shortcomings, there
came a time when a daughter of one of those same kinfolks wanted
to own a saddle horse in the city where they lived.  And there
was a time when it looked as though the girl was fighting a
losing battle with her mother, who was not altogether in favor of
her owning the horse in town.  The mother was finally getting a
look at a situation similar to the one I had years ago, but from
a different viewpoint--viewing her own pocketbook instead of
mine.  I sent word to the mother not to be cruel to her daughter
as I had been to Dennis.  I told her, "By all means, let the girl
have the horse, regardless of the cost."  The girl got the horse
all right, but he cost a fortune in trouble, money and

During those last years we lived at Royston, Calvin Carriker
built a new house at his River Farm and wanted to put a butane
log in the fireplace.  But he was unable to find an artificial
log that would burn butane, they all burned natural gas.  He
searched everywhere, and finally brought home a gas log and asked
me to change it over to burn butane.  I worked on it in my spare
time for several days, as well as some time that was not spare.
I even went to junk yards and got parts that I had to drill and
shape and alter until they would do what I wanted them to do.

After a good many days, I had it burning pretty good.  Calvin
stopped by the shop one day and left his wife, Nell, sitting in
the car.  Then, when he saw how well the log was burning, he
called her to come and see it.  She came in, looked at it and
asked, "Calvin, is that the log you bought at Rotan?"

He told her it was, and she said, "Calvin, didn't you tell
Clarence that the factory man said they hadn't been able to make
a log that would burn butane successfully?"

Calvin said, "No, if I had told him that, he might not have fixed
it.  He didn't know it couldn't be done."

I remember one day one of Calvin's bulls got through the fence
and into the pasture west of his barn.  He saddled a horse and
went into the neighbor's pasture after him.  Well, he came back
telling Max and me about a rattlesnake he had seen, but couldn't
find anything to kill it with.  He wanted the three of us to go
hunt the snake and kill it.  Max took a 22 rifle and Calvin and I
each took a hoe.

It was early spring and the snakes had begun to come out of their
dens in the heat of the day.  The grass was short but we took no
chances.  We walked side by side, very slowly, and watched
closely.  We soon found our first snake, lying at the mouth of a
hole, which was about like a hole a badger might have dug.  We
stopped and stood motionless, whispering plans of what we should
do--or at least try to do.  We decided that Max was to shoot the
snake, and in case he missed, Calvin and I would cut him to
pieces with our hoes.  Our idea was to hurry and try to keep him
from escaping into the hole.  Well, we got all set, Max slowly
raised his gun, aimed, and fired.

We still don't know whether or not Max hit the snake.  We do
know, however, that the snake went into the hole, along with four
or five or six others.  Who knows how many?  It all happened so
fast.  We just stood there--frozen in our tracks, trembling,
scared and surprised.  We had not seen any except the one snake
lying near the opening of the den.  We quickly looked down around
our feet to see whether there might be others that we had not
seen.  If there happened to be one behind me that wanted to get
into that hole, I sure wanted to jump aside and let him go by.

It was some time before we regained our composure.  We were well
aware that we must be more cautious and watch more closely than
we had been.  Then we walked forward, more slowly, closer
together, almost stumbling over each other.  We walked about 100
yards, moved over a way and took another swath coming back the
same 100 yards--and killed 27 rattlesnakes.  There were others,
to be sure, but we had had enough for one day.  And somehow,
hunting rattlers was not as alluring as it had been an hour
before.  We planned to go back some day, but we just never did
get around to it.

All my life I have seen cattle round-ups, but people always seem
to do things the hard way.  And that wasn't for me.  A cattle
round-up at our Royston farm was unlike any other round-up in the
world, so far as I know.  We had saddle horses but we hardly
needed them.  Our cows were in the habit of coming into the feed-
lot to eat bundled feed.  By simply closing the gate behind them,
the round-up was ended.  The work we had to do next would take a
little more time than the rounding up did.  But it was easier and
faster than any system I have ever seen.

At least once each year, we had to brand all the new calves,
those we had bought as well as those we had raised.  We had to
reduce the little bull calves to steers, vaccinate all young
cattle against blackleg, both young and old had to be vaccinated
against some other disease--I have forgotten what it was called,
and I'll bet a quarter we farmers didn't call it by the same name
that veterinarians called it.  And finally, all calves that had
not been dehorned had to have their horns cut off.  I remember
one time we had 25 cows, a large bull, and 55 calves to work.
That meant 135 vaccine shots, 30 to be branded, about 20 to be
dehorned, and maybe 15 little bull calves to be worked on.

Anita was big enough to keep a fire going and to keep branding
irons hot and to hand them through the fence to me.  Dennis was
big enough to help drive the cattle into the stanchion, hand the
vaccinating needles to me, bring in more cattle from the feed
lot, and turn out the ones we were through with.  I was big
enough to catch the cattle in the stanchion, vaccinate in the
shoulder with one needle, in the hip with another, brand a Lazy-J
on the left hip, cut off their horns, and work the little bull

We never fooled around with a chute because we found that cattle
were reluctant to enter a chute.  That would be too slow and too
much work.  Instead, we used a stanchion that was installed
permanently between two small pens.  It opened large enough for
the largest bull to go through and it closed small enough to hold
the smallest calf.  And it wasn't all that expensive.  It
probably cost me $1 for second-hand lumber and 50 cents for a
rope to pull the top ends of the bars together.

It was easy to get the cows to go through the stanchion since it
formed a gate between the two pens.  Our milk cows passed through
it every day.  Most any cow or calf would be glad to go from one
pen to another, especially if there were some cows in the other

The system was fast, and by far the easiest I have ever worked
with.  We three did the 80 cattle one morning but finished a
little late for dinner.  We sat down to a one-o'clock meal
instead of a twelve-o'clock meal.

I mentioned before that we sometimes cut feed for the public.  At
first, Ima went along to drive the car.  But later on, I build an
iron "basket" at the back bumper of the car to carry the front
wheels of the tractor.  Then I could drive the car and trail the
tractor and the binder, and Ima could stay home.  One patch of
feed was 50 miles away in Kent County.  Where the road was so
sandy that the car couldn't pull the tractor and binder, I would
crank the tractor motor and let the tractor push, with no driver
on it.  And we learned that low air pressure in the auto tires
would allow it to go most anywhere in sand.  We parked that Buick
on top of nearly every sand hill in Carriker's big sand field.

When the binder needed a repair job underneath, we threw a chain
over the top of the binder and hooked one end to the frame and
the other end to the tractor.  Just a little pull with the
tractor would roll the binder over for easy access to the

By the end of World War II, our old coal oil cookstove was pretty
well rusted out and was looking like a reject from a junk heap.
Ima was looking forward to something better.  In fact, she knew
exactly what that something was, a new butane range.  She and I
went to Stamford one day to inquire as to whether we would be
able to get a butane tank and how much it might cost.  We got
this information from the appliance dealer.  He could sell us the
butane and tank, but we might have to wait a year for a permit to
buy a stove.  He told us we might go to the ration board and find
out.  Now, I knew we couldn't get a permit from the Stamford
board, because that was in Jones County and we lived in Fisher

The ration board was only a short distance away, so I went over
to ask a question or two.  But the woman in charge ignored my
questions and, very undiplomatically, ordered me to, "Sit over at
that table and fill out this form."

I filled out the form and presented it to the not-so-friendly
woman.  She looked it over, mumbled a few words, which I couldn't
understand, placed another paper before me and said, "Sign here."

I still wondered how long I might have to wait for the lady to
answer a simple question or two but by this time I was afraid to
ask.  I sure didn't want to make her mad, she might never answer
my questions.  So, when she told me to sign, I lost no time in
signing the paper.  I didn't know what I was signing and I didn't
much care.  I only hoped that she would answer my questions when
I got through signing all the forms she kept handing me.

When I finally got through signing all the papers and gave them
back to her, she still wouldn't talk to me, but she gave me a
certificate which would allow an appliance dealer to sell me a
butane cook stove without either of us being subject to
confinement in a Federal Penal Institution.

I went back and showed the certificate to the appliance dealer,
and he was really surprised as he asked, "How did you get that?
I have customers who have been waiting a year for one and are
still waiting.  Some of them would be glad to pay you $100 for

I told him I just filled out some papers, and the nice lady gave
it to me.

There was no need to lie in filling out the forms.  I told the
truth all the way.  One question I had to answer was, "Where do
you live?"

My answer was, "On a farm near Hamlin."

If it had asked, "In which county do you live?"  I would still be
waiting for the certificate.  The lady and Hamlin were both in
Jones County.  I lived in Fisher County.



As you know, Frank was the oldest in our family, and when I was
growing up, he was away from home a lot.  I had long since become
accustomed to his being away from home.  He even went to college
awhile, I believe it was Denton State.  But he didn't go very
long.  I didn't know whether he quit because of a lack of
finances or because of a lack of interest and drive.  I was the
only other one of us who ever left home to work or run around--
except Joel.  He went as far as Stamford and worked there for
years in a drygoods store.  And later, of course, he had his
portable skating rink and he took it from here to there.  Then he
settled down with it in Brownwood.

My working away from home never amounted to much.  However, I
wouldn't take a pretty penny for the educational benefits I
gained from my traveling around.  It increased my desire for more
learning, and it gave me confidence in my ability to do more
things.  It made me more mobile and took away my fear of strange

In fact, I thought so much of my education gained through travel
that I wanted us to travel a lot with our children.  But we were
poor and couldn't travel first class, which would have pleased
some members of my family.  As for me, I would have been glad to
travel second class or third class rather than not travel at all.
As is evident, I have roughed it much of my life.  Later, when I
wanted to travel with our kids, I would have gotten a lot of
pleasure from roughing it again, going places and seeing things,
camping out, and visiting the wild.  Some of our traveling proved
to be a big failure because some of the family didn't especially
care to put up with some of the roughing they had to go through
with at times.

For instance, we drove up Pike's Peak once in our Dodge Command
car.  There was nothing wrong with the car.  It was built capable
of traveling across the Sahara Desert trouble-free.  It was Army
surplus, four-wheel drive and as solid as they come.  Many cars
get too hot climbing the Peak, but this one didn't, although it
was in the heat of summer.  It had an army canvas top and
curtains to match.  But since it was beautiful weather, we had
the curtains packed away under the back seat.  And although it
was summertime at the foot of the mountain, it was not summer on

The weather on Pike's Peak can change from sunshine to snow and
from snow to sleet quicker than perhaps anywhere else in these
United States.  And the sky can pour out the abundance of her
elements faster than is sometimes enjoyable to those upon whom
she so recently spread her sunshine.  And that is just what she
did to us that day.  Her elements were in the form of rain, snow,
and large sleet.  The sleet was sort of a cross between pure
white sleet and large, soft hail.

Now, the road up Pike's Peak is, for the most part, void of
suitable parking places, even for emergencies.  And all this
sleet and ice falling suddenly out of the sky did create an
emergency.  However, before we arrived at an emergency parking
place, Ima was very unhappily sitting in a puddle of snow and
sleet and ice that had fallen into the front seat and had worked
its way down to the back side of her lap.

When we found a little place to pull over and stop, we put up the
curtains.  But Ima's unhappiness remained with her much longer
than I had hoped it would.  The truth is, she carried a large
portion of it, as well as a little bit of dampness, all the way
back down the mountain to Colorado Springs.  And there, we found
the same type of slush curb to curb four inches deep.

I never quite forgave the weather for that little stunt it pulled
on us.  It was a long time before I could get the family to go
with me again anywhere outside our home county.

Time not only "waits for no man," it seems to go faster and
faster.  We were getting older and our kids were growing up.
Dennis finished high school in Hamlin in June of 1949.  In the
fall of that same year he began to hear advertisements on radio
about cheap farm land in Arkansas, and he sent for a catalog of
listings.  When it arrived, I had to admit there were some
interesting bargains offered in it.  The more Dennis read the
catalog and listened to the radio, the more he was convinced that
out there somewhere in this big country of ours, there was
something we had been missing.  Then one day he said to me,
"Daddy, let's go look at some of these places.  All we are doing
here is working ourselves to death and getting nowhere."

We talked it over and I agreed that, if it suited the rest of the
family, we would go look.  Dennis and I went first, not to buy,
but only to shop around.  We went to Ft. Smith, Arkansas, and
looked all the way from 60 miles north of there to 60 miles south
of there.  We liked what we saw and the prices were right.  Then
we returned home, and Ima and I went to Arkansas, this time not
just looking; we were buying.  After looking a few days, we found
and bought a small farm three miles south of Mansfield.

We moved onto the place in the early spring of 1950.  Anita
stayed with the Tarlington Willingham family to finish out her
Sophomore year in Hamlin High School.  She joined us that summer
and spent her Junior year in Mansfield High School.  Then she did
some special work during the next summer and, in the fall of
1951, instead of entering Mansfield High as a Senior, she entered
the University of Arkansas as a Freshman.

Three years later Dennis also entered the University as a
Freshman.  Then three years after that, Dennis and Anita both
came to me and told me it was my time next.  They promised to see
me through.  They would handle the finances; it would be up to me
to make my grades.

One of my dreams when I was 20 years old, was to finish high
school, go to college, and become a school teacher.  It was 31
years later that my three children decided it was time for me to
realize that dream.  At first I argued against the idea, half-
heartedly, but was pleased when they insisted.  And I must admit
that I have thoroughly enjoyed the good life which they have
afforded me, beginning with those first days of college in 1957.
By that time Dennis was a college Senior, Anita was teaching in
college, and Larry was a high school Freshman.

Oh yes, I even enjoyed the struggle during those early college
days, even when it became doubtful that I would make passing
grades in one or two subjects.  The challenges encountered there
and afterward have renewed within me the will to work for
something better, and a desire to better understand why I work at

Early in my college days I realized that I must make some changes
in my way of thinking toward others, and my attitude toward some
of my ideals, which I had cultivated since early childhood.  I
saw a need for conformity in certain cases, rather than
uncompromising individualism, so long as it didn't interfere with
my integrity.  Such a change didn't come easily; I am still
trying, but old habits from the past keep causing me to backslide
at times.

However, I think my greatest change is one that can not be seen
by others--an inner feeling of well-being that tells me, "Don't
worry about your past mistakes.  You can not go back and correct
them.  And you will make other mistakes tomorrow.  Mistakes are a
part of the natural order of human living.  Have a good day today
and be content with whatever tomorrow may bring."

I spent three regular school years and three summers in college,
and enjoyed every minute of it.  I was on the honor roll half the
time.  I also did a little teaching in General Shop in Junior
High Training School.  One day when the Professor had to be away,
I even took it upon myself to break one of his rules and allow
the boys to make knives.  I told him about it when he returned,
and I told him why I did it.  He agreed that it was a good idea.

Then I served one semester as student teacher in a college
machine shop course, ranked highest in my class in economics,
first in woodshop class, second in machine shop, and made "C" in
United States History without having to study it.  After all, I
remembered most of it from having lived through so much of it.  I
cheated on two exams, just a little, not even enough for my
conscience to bother me, caught two professors cheating on my
exams--cheating in my favor, to help me make passing grades.

During my first two semesters, it seemed that I got very little
help from my teachers.  There I was, an old man sitting in class
with a group of 20-year-old boys and girls.  It seemed that the
teachers had the idea that I would drop out as soon as the going
got tough, so why should they waste time on me?

Then when they saw I was there to stay, they seemed to want to
help me get on through.  From then on, things got easier.
Finally I graduated and went out to face the same world that I
had been facing for 55 years, only this time I had the diploma
which caused adults to look up to me and kids to look down on me.

My first year of teaching was in a 21-teacher school in
Farmington, Arkansas.  Enough interesting things took place there
that year to fill a good size book.

In September of 1961 I began teaching 6th grade in an Indian
School on the Navaho Indian Reservation near Winslow, Arizona.  I
taught there at Leupp just six weeks.  Then I resigned my
position and moved to San Angelo, Texas, because of Ima's health.
There I spent my first year teaching Wood Shop at Lee Junior High
School.  And I taught nine years in Special Education.

At age 65 San Angelo Schools retired me.  I could have gone on
and taught in some other town, but who wants to teach when he can
retire and loaf?  Not me.  So, I retired and loafed.  Ima and I
bought a travel trailer and did more than our share of traveling
the next two-and-a-half years.  In fact, we traveled so much that
the nation began to run short of gasoline.  It doubled in price
and we thought we ought to slow down and let some others do some
traveling also.  Now, all I have to do is sit around and write
and let you know what I have been doing these past 72 years.

Since I have retired, I have a lot of time to loaf and sit and
think.  At first it hurt my conscience to loaf; I had to force
myself to sit down, and I still find it difficult to think.  But
I am having a wonderful time since I have learned to look at life
from a different angle.

When I was young my parents took me to Sunday School and Church.
They taught me that it was good to keep the Sabbath, respect the
preacher, honor my father and my mother, and be kind to others.
I knew I was good because I did all those things.

But, as I became older, I began to feel that something was wrong.
Life was passing me by.  Church had lost its charm.  When the
preacher preached hellfire and brimstone to sinners, I felt left
out.  I knew he wasn't preaching to me because I was good, and
had been all my life.  I put my dollar in the collection plate
only to feel that I had been cheated--not getting my money's
worth, always listening to sermons preached to bad people.

But now I'm happy again.  I have changed my entire life style--
what I do, what I think, and what I say.  Now I make it a point
to insult someone, cheat someone, lie to someone, be mean to
someone at least once each week.  Now the preacher is back on
speaking terms with me.  He preaches directly to me every Sunday.
I give my dollar to the church and come away with the feeling
that I have gotten more than my money's worth.  It's a good


Clarence Johnson -- January 11, 1906 -- November 9, 1994

Clarence Johnson died quietly in his sleep at daybreak on
November 9, 1994.  He had been ill for about three months.  He
was 88 years old.

This book was scanned and edited by David Larry Johnson in loving
memory of his Dad.


Abbie, from Wichita Falls to Abbie.................. 94
Abbie, from Abbie to Lamesa in wagons............... 99
Abbie, moved there from Lamesa...................... 93
Account books, we boys kept.........................117
Age 4, CJ plant in field............................ 18
Airplane, At Lamesa, World War One..................111
Albert, Dodge car ran over him......................136
Alternator, CJ invented it, 39 years early..........134
Anita fell in water.................................200
Anita wanted to drive without a license.............233
Anita fell off horse................................229
Anita went to college...............................240
April Fool's day at Wise Chapel, age 8 or 9.........145
April Fool's day at Hamlin School...........146-147-148
Apartment, in California, we hunted one.............218
Arkansas, Dennis & CJ went to look for farm.........240
Arkansas, we moved to from Royston..................240
As a man thinketh...................................151
Auto, Dennis drive at age 4 or 5....................189
Auto, WFJ's first car............................... 74
Auction sale, odds and ends, saddle horse...........228
Availability slip, to get into War-Work.............209
Baby, big baby, wore dresses for years.............. 35
Babies, CJ learned about, & calves & colts..........114
Ballard School, near Lamesa farm....................106
Barn blew part way down............................. 15
Bank went broke, had road building money in.........124
Batteries, old, from phone company..................129
Beer, CJ tried to drink some........................191
Bible and Sears Roebuck Catalog..................... 57
Bicycle tires not in big box........................ 61
Bicycle, Dennis rode his into Death Valley..........216
Big Box from Sears & Roebuck........................ 57
Big Spring Mail car, to Lamesa......................101
Binder, pulled it and tractor behind car............235
Bed, Larry's in travel trailer......................215
Blasting powder, CJ play with.......................121
Blow-up in Mama's kitchen...........................132
Bob cat, Royston farm...............................224
Bones, we gathered and sold at Lamesa............... 83
Boot Jack at Grandma's house........................ 51
Boxing gloves in our family......................... 30
Brag on self........................................170
Bruner boy, prickly pear............................ 26
Brag on what cars would do.......................... 75
Bridge, Papa drive truck off of.....................174
Broken fender era...................................201
Bull called Surley.................................. 45
Burglar in filling station..........................172
Butter, Annie churn it in jar on saddle............. 54
Bushes and culverts, we stopped for many of them.... 95
California, we went into War-Work...................210
California, we went again in August 1943............217
Car, old Chevrolet, WFJ wanted to give to Dennis....231
Cattle round-up at CJ's Royston farm................234
Cattle drive to Kent County.........................192
Calomel tablets, hole in porch floor................ 64
Calves, nursing, sucking............................ 45
Calves, can it be mine?............................. 70
Cap Rock, Reo had to be helped up it................ 74
Catalog, Sears...................................... 57
Catclaws and whirlwind..............................108
Candy, sugar stick in Papa's trunk.................. 30
Car trouble, ring gear on way to Oklahoma........... 96
Caddie, Earl did....................................119
Candy, CJ sold it in Hamlin School..................141
Car, model "T", Ed Lewis & CJ repaired motor........200
Car, CJ bought Buick for $30........................204
Central, telephone operator......................... 47
Cellar at Exum farm, bananas hung in it............. 23
Chivaree............................................ 70
Churn, Annie tied milk jar to saddle................ 54
Character reading at sight..........................134
CJ plant in field at age 3 or 4..................... 18
CJ liked to watch parents and learn................. 38
CJ slow reader...................................... 57
CJ went to college..................................240
CJ frank whipped.................................... 47
CJ woman chased with hoe............................105
CJ gambled, didn't know it was gambling.............115
CJ in 7th grade in Hamlin School....................137
CJ hole in pants in school..........................143
CJ got 110 volt shock...............................131
CJ kept Larry while Ima worked at Lockheed......214-215
Clark, Clarence, ice box and at gin.............226-227
Clean out plates and eat out of them next time...... 91
Cows, milk them and sell cream......................207
Cows, drove them to R R stock pens at Lamesa........ 93
Cow, Papa shot cow.................................. 55
Cow, give-down milk, English in college............. 12
Cook stove, ration board at Stamford................236
College, CJ started at age 51 ......................240
Colt, can it be mine?............................... 70
Command, rule of, or line of, in our family......... 30
Cottonseed, we play in............................52-53
Cottonseed, haul and set fires......................163
Cottonseed, CJ haul after school, had to stay in....143
Cotton picking in Oklahoma.......................... 97
Cotton, Papa took to gin from farm.................. 72
Cotton, good in 1919, until worms hit it............116
Coin purse, (pocketbook) CJ wanted to buy one....... 88
Count, bolls of cotton while picking them........... 37
Conflict, between Earl and CJ...............182-183-184
Coach Hinton, came early & didn't get paid..........142
Coyotes, more of them, chase dog back home..........100
Cream, sold during World War II.....................207
Crazy sayings,...................................... 62
Cripple Creek, vacation trip to.....................187
Cows, froze to death at Lamesa...................... 86
Cycle, Frank, motorcycle............................ 86
Dancing, parents didn't approve of.................. 41
Death Valley, we went through.......................216
Dennis, finished High School in 1949................239
Dennis went to college..............................240
Dennis drove car at age 4 or 5......................189
Dennis ate dirt from under car fender...............190
Dennis, 3-years-old, walked mile and half for cows..188
Dirty words not used in our family.................. 46
Dog plow in field................................... 19
Dog, Old Scotch, tricks he did..............31,32,33,34
Dog, Old Scotch, sick & died at road camp...........124
Dog, Old Scotch, fight other dogs...................126
Dog, Old Scotch, paid his way on Lamesa farm........126
Dogs, Robert's greyhounds........................... 49
Dogs, Wes Kennedy's, chase cars.....................198
Dodge car, had magneto, I used Ford coils...........166
Debnam, big, big horse.............................. 87
Desert, Death Valley, we went to it.................216
Denver, CJ went & worked in lumber camp.............158
Drain your car every night era......................201
Drain car, CJ did one cold night at midnight........202
Dreams, CJ had..................................66 & 67
Drinks, Johnsons, water, sweetmilk, buttermilk......  7
Dry, Roby, during World Flood.......................  3
Driving Old Sow, kid's game......................... 69
Drop out, CJ dropped out of high school.............139
Duck hunting, on plains, duck soup..................113
Dug-out, CJ's parents lived in one..................  4
Earl shot peaches off trees .......it was told......101
Earl, powder monkey, road work at Gorman............121
Earl, boss of truck lines, CJ objected at time......181
Eggs, CJ gathered them at early age................. 12
Electric lights, we got them in Hamlin..............119
Electric train, CJ got his first one................133
Electrical Engineering Course, CJ took by mail......134
Employment office in California.....................210
Emma and Will got married...........................  2
Engine, gasoline, made it run washing machine.......133
Erector set, CJ made things with it.................129
Exum Farm, bought it in fall 1910, moved to it...... 23
Exum Farm, six good years........................... 78
Exum Farm, sold it & moved to Lamesa................ 79
Farm, Mama & Papa bought their first one............  4
Farm in shinnery south of Hamlin....................164
Farm, Johnsongrass hay farm.........................164
Farm, CJ & Ima moved to in 1932.....................185
Farm, Royston, we bought from Jim Johnson...........215
Farm, Royston, Jim wouldn't fix up papers, no deal..221
F.B.I. Came for one mule driver at road camp........123
Fender, broken fender era...........................201
Feed stacks, don't climb on......................... 52
Fence building, WFJ, Old Scotch helped him..........126
Fight, Earl and CJ..................................182
Fight, CJ & kid at Lamesa........................... 89
Fight, Old Scotch, CJ sic him on other dog..........126
Fight, Hob Reed and CJ, almost but not quite........230
Fire, we kids set fence row afire...................163
FIRE IN THE HOLE....................................123
Firecrackers, at Lamesa, 9 for half dollar.......... 90
Fire in bucket under dining table................... 78
Fizzlums, book in Bible.............................171
Fly chaser, CJ invented.............................131
Flash light, CJ made his first one..................120
Fleas under man's house............................. 66
Forecast, weather, on telephone..................... 46
Frank whipped CJ in cotton patch.................... 47
Frank carried U.S. Mail in buggy.................... 74
Frank bought Grant automobile....................... 75
Frank away from home at Lamesa...................... 82
Freshman, CJ, high school, at age 18................139
Funny papers, at Wichita Falls...................... 93
Gamble, CJ, didn't realize it was gambling..........115
Gamble, CJ shoot dice...............................190
Games we played..................................... 69
Games, party games,................................. 41
Garage, CJ had at Royston...........................204
Gaddies, we visited them in Oklahoma................  8
Gaddie, Grandpa came to live with us, and died...9 & 10
Garden at Exum farm................................. 24
Gasoline, World War One, up to 29 cents gallon......103
Gay, Mr. Gay hired CJ in grocery store..............169
Gin at Royston, CJ worked there.....................225
Gladys Flint, sweetheart............................ 40
Getting ready to go to California, War Work.........209
Good-looking, my family............................. 27
Good years, 6 at Exum Farm.......................... 78
Gorman, Texas, we went to build road................120
Goats, Larry needed goat's milk, we bought goats....206
Grant auto, Frank bought one........................ 75
Grandma's house, CJ played with matches............. 63
Grub trees, WFJ clearing land at Flint farm......... 13
Gun, CJ found one in old house......................112
Gun, Frank's pistol, CJ & Joe shoot it..............167
Gun, Joel shoot hole in wall........................173
Guns, we boys muzzle-loading ours...................112
Gulf of Mexico, CJ went there.......................149
Gypmill, CJ got job there, August 1943..............217
Hammer, boy found one on road to Lamesa.............106
Hack, our new one................................... 17
Haul cottonseed cake, WFJ, to ranchers, Lamesa...... 82
Heat in Royston home, used old lube oil.............207
High prices, World-War-one, gasoline 29C gallon.....103
Hinton, Mr., coach at Hamlin High School............143
High School, CJ took 7 subjects.....................139
Hole in pants, CJ in high school....................143
Hot water, Papa put hot coals in pan of water....... 78
Hoeing cotton, woman chased CJ with hoe.............106
Horn, auto horn in Joel's bed.......................130
Horn-tooting Scripture..............................171
Horse, Old Ribbon, buggy horse...................... 72
Horse, sick at party,............................... 44
Horse, lost, Old Nancy, saddle mare.................195
Horse, Old Pony Boy, Carriker's saddle horse........230
Horse, Old Keno, at Flint farm...................... 16
Horse, Mr. Debnam, huge stallion.................... 87
Horse, rolled over on Joel..........................114
Horse, Old Nig, at saw mill in Rocky Mountains......160
Horses, Mr. Hamilton's, tired in field.............. 82
Horses, we kids roped and rode......................105
Hudson, Sox & Red, CJ worked for them...............169
Ice, CJ made ice at West Texas Utilities, Hamlin....139
Ice box, Clarence Clark, and cotton gin.............226
Ideas, CJ at Lockheed in California.................219
Ima's kinfolks, death in Gordon, light, match.......188
Ima's kinfolks, Wouldn't have made it anyway........188
Ima worked at Lockheed..............................215
Jesse James, CJ's 3rd cousin........................ 11
Joel, with rattlesnake in field.....................104
Joel, horse fell on him.............................115
Joel, shot hole in wall.............................173
Joel was smart too, made windmill and submarine.....101
Joel, Earl's gun, "Now it's not loaded."............173
Joel, turn truck over...............................173
Job for CJ at McCamey, Texas........................155
Johnsongrass hay farm...............................164
Jump seats in car...................................102
Kerosene lamps, we quit using them in Hamlin........119
Kerosene, quality poor, mixed gasoline with it......207
Kerosene, we heated house with it & old lube oil....207
Kicked by mule, kid................................. 25
Kitchen, how Mama saved time........................ 91
Kennedy girl, slipped away from her dad.............198
Knife, CJ found one................................. 66
Knife, large, for cutting heads off bundles......... 77
Lake, by yard at Exum farm.......................... 73
Lamesa, we moved to, first time, from Hamlin........ 79
Lamesa, we drove to from Oklahoma................... 97
Lamesa, WFJ bought 2 farms.......................... 79
Lamesa, we moved to, from Abbie, in 2 wagons........ 99
Larry, CJ kept him nights, in California............214
Larry, born 1942....................................206
Larry was spoiled, rocked him to sleep..............213
Land rush, Gaddies nor Johnsons were in it..........  9
Leather from Sears, in big box...................... 59
Lick plates clean, at Lamesa farm................... 91
Little sister, look the other way................... 28
Light fire in wood stove with alarm clock...........129
Lost, Old Nancy, saddle mare................195-196-197
Log, butane, for fireplace, Carriker................232
Mail car, Lamesa to Big Spring, Passengers......101-102
Maize, we haul......................................167
Match, gets light when strike one...................188
Matches, CJ play with at Grandma's.................. 63
Mama rode in back seat of hack...................... 17
Mama had love for baby and for me too............... 14
Married, CJ got.....................................181
Machine shop, CJ taught in college..................241
McCamey, CJ left and went back to Hamlin............156
McCamey, CJ went to on motorcycle...................152
Medicine, calomel tablets, hole in porch floor...... 64
Merry-go-round, we had at Exum farm................. 69
Miss Fortune, Ford car..............................165
Milk, saved to make bread...........................106
Mice, CJ shoot in house with 22-rifle...............187
Motorcycle, CJ repair, couldn't stop it.............151
Motorcycle, Frank got one........................... 62
Motorcycle, CJ got one..............................152
Motor, sewing machine, Albert found, sold to CJ.....131
Moved into house on small Lamesa farm............... 80
Moved to Lamesa by rail............................. 81
Moved to Lamesa in two wagons....................... 99
Moved back to Hamlin after selling Lamesa farm......117
Moved to Royston farm, Ima, Dennis & CJ, 1933.......186
Moved, Johnsons, back to Texas from Oklahoma........  3
Moving picture machine, talking, CJ invented........133
Mule kicked kid in head............................. 25
Mule colt, jumped out & wanted back in pen..........105
Nursing calves, Sucking calves...................... 45
Neighbors, had reputation for stealing..............105
Night lights in house from old batteries............129
Nig, Old, black horse at lumber camp................160
Oklahoma, from Wichita Falls, pick cotton........... 95
Oklahoma, Reo car trouble........................... 96
Oklahoma, Grandpa Johnson moved to for grazing......  1
Old Scotch, our family dog.......................... 31
Old Scotch returned to Exum farm.................... 84
Old Scotch, fight...............................126-127
Old Ribbon, buggy horse and kids ride............... 71
Old Ribbon take Papa's dinner....................... 72
Old Nig, horse at lumber camp in mountains..........160
Operator, telephone................................. 47
Orange, Texas, CJ went to...........................211
Overtime, work in California........................212
Owed me $2, Hob Reed, at Royston....................230
Pants, hole in CJ's in school.......................143
Packwood, Miss, teacher in Hamlin school............142
Parents & CJ doing things together.................. 38
Party games......................................... 41
Paralysis, CJ....................................... 27
Parents taught us many things....................... 34
Parents, ours, leaders in the community............. 35
Parties preferred over dances because............... 43
Papa & coals of fire for heating water.............. 78
Peddlers came to farms.............................. 75
Peanuts in barn loft at Exum farm................... 24
Phantom Canyon, on vacation trip....................187
Phonograph, Frank and Susie got one................. 60
Pick cotton, count bolls............................ 37
Pig, Uncle John's, hot weather, pig out of pen...... 51
Pig at Ballard School,..............................107
Pigs ran wild at our Royston farm...................224
Pikes Peak, our trip to.............................238
Picaroons, tools at lumber camp.....................160
Pistol, Frank's, Joe and CJ shoot it................166
Plant, CJ plant in field at early age............... 18
Play, school play, take posters to other towns......141
Poem, to my father, WFJ.............................162
Pocketbook, coin purse, CJ wanted to buy one........ 88
Preacher and the bear, song on phonograph record.... 60
Prickly pear, boy sat down in one................... 26
Quirts, WFJ made them for us kids, taught us how....111
Rabbits, Government bought at Lamesa................ 81
Rabbits, twist them out of holes.................... 83
Rabbits, froze to death on plains................... 86
Race, to cotton gin................................. 73
Races, motorcycles at Hamlin Fair................... 73
Rawhides on plains.................................. 83
Rats, at Royston farm...............................187
Ration coupons, gasoline, to go back to Calif.......218
Ration coupons, gasoline for cookstove..............221
Rankin, Texas, CJ slept there one night.............157
Record, Preacher & the bear......................... 60
Reed, Hob, owed me $2...............................230
Reo, our first car.................................. 74
Reo, ring gear broke tooth on way to Oklahoma....... 96
Rest room in garage, CJ and Joel used it............ 95
Retired and traveled................................242
Red River, we forded it in Reo...................... 98
Repair truck, CJ repaired rotor arm.................170
Repair car lights for cotton pickers & others.......171
Repair cars in garage at Royston....................204
Ribbon, Old, one of our horses...................... 72
Road work, WFJ do work to pay taxes................. 77
Robert, Uncle, paid us cash for work we did......... 50
Roundup time at CJ's farm...........................234
Rowbinder, Ima & CJ cut feed with...................204
Royston, Ima & CJ moved there in 1933...............186
Road work at Gorman, Texas..........................120
Rocky Mountains, we made trip there in 1934.........187
Rule of command in our family....................... 30
Santa Claus, CJ didn't know about him...............114
Sand storms, the worst one.......................... 85
Sayings, crazy...................................... 62
Sand & dust in air in kitchen....................... 86
Sand colic, our horses died with it................. 93
Saw mill in Rocky Mountains, west of Denver.........158
Saw mill, CJ left there and went to Hamlin..........161
Scotch, Old, our dog................................ 31
School, Ballard, on plains, teacher lived in........106
School, we drove from Hamlin to Wise Chapel.........137
School at Hamlin, CJ in 7th grade at age 16.........138
School, CJ started at age 7, Wise Chapel............ 25
Sears Roebuck and Bible............................. 57
Sears, order, big box............................... 57
Seventh grade, CJ in Hamlin School..................137
Sex, male and female................................ 46
Shipyards at Orange, Texas..........................211
Shot, WFJ shot cow.................................. 55
Shot, man got shot in Hamlin........................ 76
Shoe last, from Sears, in big box................... 60
Sister, little, look the other way.................. 28
Simpson Johnson, went to Melvin's ranch.............  1
Slow reader, CJ didn't like books................... 57
Snake in girl's toilet, at Ballard..................107
Snakes, hunt rattlesnakes near Roby.................233
Snakes, rattle, at Royston farm.....................186
Snuff, Susie tried it, got sick..................... 21
Sop plates clean at Lamesa farm..................... 91
Song book, WFJ's, Henry Gaddie kept it years........  8
Sookie, Susie's nick name........................... 76
Sold big farm at Lamesa.............................116
Stove, gasoline, CJ borrowed in California..........221
Stovepipe Wells, in Death Valley, California........216
Steam engine, toy, heat water on cookstove..........132
Surley, another name for bull....................... 45
Susie got married................................... 76
Suitcase, lost off Reo fender....................... 95
Sunday work, we began to do it......................119
Sweetheart, CJ's, Gladys Flint...................... 40
Syrup Mill, at Flint farm........................... 15
Syrup, molasses, Earl and CJ haul it, sleep out.....179
Talking picture show, CJ invented it................133
Target practice, with our 22 rifles.................100
Telegrams, Ima & CJ sent to each other..............213
Teacher's pet, CJ................................... 27
Telephone, we got our first one..................... 46
Temptation, CJ tempted to steal money in store...... 90
Telephone company, old dry cells....................129
Teacher, Miss Packwood, boys gave her trouble.......142
Texas, CJ took Ima and kids back to from Calif......211
Texas, we went back to in August 1943...............215
Teach, CJ, general and machine shops, in college....241
Teach, CJ, one year public school in Arkansas.......242
Texas, a state of mind.............................. 20
Tires, bicycle, cotton in tires,.................... 61
Tire about to blow out, bridle rein around it.......103
Toddy, man sick in bed,.............................  7
Tobacco, Frank and Ruth liked it.................... 20
Rest rooms dirty, we used bushes & culverts......... 95
Toll road in Oklahoma over sand dunes in pasture.... 97
Trucking business, WFJ got into.....................129
Truck line to Abilene, CJ drove.....................181
Truck turnovers, Joel 173, Albert, Dode, & WFJ......176
Truck run off bridge, WFJ & CJ......................174
Truck, Joel drove between car and wagon, hit both...177
Truck in mountains west of Denver, CJ drove it......158
Truck, Earl, bumblebee in cab, apples on road.......178
Tractor, CJ built one at Royston farm...............203
Tractor, "Pull-Ford" at Lamesa farm................. 87
Train, Ima and kids rode to California..............213
Travel, CJ and family, to Pikes Peak................238
Traveled after retirement...........................242
Trail drive, near San Angelo, whiskey for free...... 53
Tumbleweeds and sand bury fences on Texas plains....112
Wash dishes or lick plates clean.................... 91
Water fight, we boys and Mama.......................165
Weather forecast, daily on telephone................ 46
Wen, beside CJ's nose............................... 28
Weather, cold, rabbits and cows froze to death...... 86
Whip, Frank whipped CJ in field..................... 47
Whirlwind and catclaw bushes........................108
Whiskey free, cowboys camped near San Angelo........ 53
Whiskey as a medicine, Gaddie's home................  7
Wichita Falls, we went in 1918, WFJ carpenter....... 93
Wichita Falls, we kids picked cotton................ 94
Wind, stories about strong wind on plains...........109
Windmill and garden at Exum farm.................... 24
Women's' wear, CJ consulted Sears catalog pictures.. 59
Windmills, many on plains & courthouse lawn.........103
Work on Sundays, we began to........................119
Windcharger, CJ built one before farmers got them...130
Work hard, sleep hard, worry none................... 36

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