Continuing with my Mom’s edit of the beginning of her father’s autobiography, here is part 2, describing growing up in late 19th Century East Texas.
Something that made an indelible impression on me when I was very young was what they called then as “fire-hunting.” They would put on a cap that carried a place for a lamp with a bull’s eye in the reflector. When they were hunting at night, they lighted that lamp and when they caught a glimpse of a set of eyes they could get a bead on the eyes and shoot at them. They would kill deer or anything that you could arrange to see. I’ve known horses, cows, and other animals as well as birds to be killed that way. After a few mistakes like that the people discarded that method of hunting, but the deer were a menace to the farmers because there was so little of the land in cultivation. There were no stocklaws to keep up anything and of course the wild animals had to be fenced against. The deer pastured on the crops so much that drastic measures had to be used to keep them from eating up the feed crops. It was very hard to fence against deer for they are so agile that they can scan any kind of construction that a man could afford to build. For that reason, the men put up scary-crows at the places that deer would ordinarily enter. They would way-lay them at the trails they had made and shoot them down. They would eat the deer for food as well as getting rid of their devastation of their crops, for the deer ate up the feed crops if they were not exterminated or made so afraid that they didn’t bother as much as they had been. Then it seemed that an isolated farm was more at their mercy than a farm was that was lying alongside with other farms. So with the settling up of the country much of the destruction of the crops by the undomesticated animals dwindled to a minimum.
The very next year, we had two neighbors to move nearer. One moved on the south of us and the other on the north of us. Each of them was my uncle. They were brothers-in-law to my father. They were not only our neighbors, but were near and dear. It meant very much to us children as it gave us playmates for the growing up. It meant much to our parents as they too needed to have someone with whom to share the responsibilities of citizenship of a newly settled country.
I was the only child of the family at that time. (My parents lost the two oldest and the one that followed me.) So I was the third child and the only one living when we moved to this place. But in the winter that we moved there and before I was four, the stork visited us and I had a brother, Charlie, to help brighten up the home.
I remember one time when I was a little boy trying to step in my father’s tracks when he was hunting. My father was long-legged man that stepped a yard at every step and more without effort and it was really an undertaking for a boy as small as I was to step in his tracks. Once I was so close upon him that when he stopped suddenly (for he was trying to slip up on some prey), I butted against him so hard that he rebuked me for being so close to him. Then I had to explain that I was trying to step in his tracks.
In my upbringing, we did not have the advantage of toys to play with but had to make our own. We had supposed families and everything that made for domestication as well as schools for the education of our supposed children. We tried to adjust our play lives to the realities of adult life. We traded in the animals and land or locations where we resided. We made mud horses and the mud man also that went with that game. We had our own paper money that so necessary to carry on the game. We also had the corn-cob hogs. And a little later on, there came the stick horse and our race-horse games. When we a little later started our career as scholars and enlarged our relationship with other children of our age, we became enamored with other means of entertainments, such as ball games, playing Deer and Hunting bears and other large game. Then too we grew to like hunting rabbits and squirrels and birds with blow guns, bows and arrows, and a little later with a target, and a little later still with the double barreled shotgun.
When I was six years old, I did the milking of three cows when my sister was born, as I had been helping my mother milk since I was four years old. Father, who didn’t know how to milk, went with me to the cow-pen and roped the calves off till I could milk the mothers. I know that I mush have been very slow on the account of my age and size. I did the milking till my mother got able to do it.
It was always strange to me that a boy raised back there when my father came up to manhood did not know how to milk. I visited my father and mother when he was 65 years old and my mother was in very bad health, and all the children were away from home and my father was doing the milking, but he was very slow and anxious to shift it off on me while I was visiting them. Of course, I was very glad to be of that much help.