Pappa’s Childhood (part 1)

Early Massey Family household circa 1980s

G.M.C. Massey (standing, middle left) with family, East Texas circa 1890s

My Grandfather’s memoir manuscripts have provided numerous prior “guest blogger” posts here on the back porch. I also mentioned how my mother, Dell Buller, tried to edit his rambling and repetitive notes into a more straightforward timeline.

She pieced together”Pappa’s Childhood,” a 26-page start on untangling his autobiography. Here’s part 1 of that version. I’ll post the rest intermittently between now and what would have been Granddad’s 137th birthday, March 20.

I was born on the 20th of March in the year of our lord 1880 on what was at that time called the Williams Farm in Hopkins County near Winnsboro, Texas.

I had the measles at the age of one year. My mother told me that the measles did not make me sick enough that I had to be confined to the bed, but she had to keep me tied to the bedpost, or set the table leg on my dress tail to keep me from crawling out of the house. There no screen doors to shut me in and the weather was so warm at times that the wooden door could not be allowed to be shut and kept shut. On top of the measles, I had the whooping cough and neither did that bother me. But soon thereafter, I took a very serious stomach trouble called Cholera-In-Fantum, at that time a very serious disease among children. I didn’t overcome this till I was about 4 years of age, but from there I have been very secure in my health.

When I was just past two years old, I remember that my Father was making syrup from ribbon cane when a customer for the syrup mill came up in the afternoon and jumped down off the load of cane. He came running down the slant to the evaporator where the juice was cooked into syrup. He was talking and not noticing where he was standing. As he came in line of the “skimming hole” (Editor’s footnote: a pit dug near the evaporator about 6 feet by 3 feet and 18 inches deep, where the skimmings were held by day. Then at night, they were transferred to the hog pen where they became part of the meat hog diet.) He stepped right into the hole that was nearly full. Such a splash and what a mess he was. It was about u-p to his knees. The laugh was long and loud and there were many people there to laugh. It was really funny, but I loved him so very much, that I went to him in tears and told him how sorry I was. He cuddled me up and told me that he would remember me.

When I was three years old, my Father bought a quarter section in what was at that time called “The Big Woods,” a very heavily wooded section near the “Cross Timbers” near a tributary to the Sabine River. We were about 3 miles from where the little town of Yantis now is. It was a few years later that the post office at Yantis was established. I remember that my Father was Justice of the Peace at that time and he swore in the first Postmaster who was George Yantis. He named the post office after him and as a town grew up about the post office (housed in the Postmaster’s home), the people gave the town the same name.

My father began improving the place in “The Big Woods” and built us a log house on it. Late in the fall of 1883, we moved to this place. Father was very busy trying to subdue enough of the growth that he could make a crop. His method of clearing off the land was to cut the underbrush and deaden the other growth that could not be used in fencing.

In those days, the deer would entirely destroy the feed stuff of every nature that the people grew if you did not do something to prevent them. The country was so heavily timbered that if a man had 30 or 40 acres cleared, there was so much more uncleared that the wild animals had more territory than the farmers, so the farmers got to grouping their farms. When a man bought a piece to improve, he would buy adjacent to someone that he knew and appreciated.

There was no one nearer than two miles of us, so that was really a lonesome place to live. At night, we were able to hear every kind of varmint and wild-natured animal. Sometimes, deer would meddle around the place and we were able to get a deer in our own yard. Before we had neighbors building around us, we had a time keeping the deer from eating our feedcrops. Sometimes we could see two different droves of deer feeding in our feed at the same time. In the daytime, we were able to get a deer and a mess of squirrels where we were out.

Being the oldest child, I was allowed to go with my father many times on his work. I remember on one occasion we were about out of venison and my father carried me along to watch for deer as he was riving boards (splitting wood to make shingles). He very much wanted to get a venison, so he wanted me to watch since he would be stopped over much of the time. I was just a child and I became very busy playing with sticks and splinters and such little boards as were culls as far as what my father was looking for. Three deer came up near us and could not see me for a log in the way. They could not make out what my father was as he was stooped over riving boards and they began to paw the ground with their hooves and snort and that got our attention. We both raised up. Of course they ran off before father was able to get to his gun. Then father blamed me for not watching, and I said, “Well, if you had had that gun near you, you would have been able to get one at least.” And Father just went down to the gap and got one that night anyway.

To be continued…

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About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
This entry was posted in anecdotes, Buller, Family, G.M.C. Massey, Memoirs, Texas and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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