Pappa’s Childhood (part 4)

G.M.C. Massey walking on sidewalkMore of Mom’s edit of Granddad’s memoir manuscripts. Some of this has been shared here before but presenting in sequence this time.

We only had ice cream when it snowed enough that we could gather it up. If we had ice in the summer, we had to gather it in the winter in sufficient quantities that we could keep it over till summer. In 1888, a Baptist preacher went to St. Louis to a convention and while there. He visited an ice plant. He witnessed the making of ice. When he returned to his church and reported that he had witnessed the making of ice up there, his congregation didn’t believe him. They preferred charges against him for lying and turned him out of the church for lying.

There were so many varmints that we had to give the chickens and other fowls plenty protection or the coons, rats, opossums, owls, and hawks would get them. I remember that on one occasion, we had an old straw-necked game hen that had a few chickens. That particular hen was bad to fight anyway. One late afternoon, I had just fed the old hen and her two-week old chickens and was sitting on the doorsteps eating a pan of clabber and watching then when all of a sudden we heard a great commotion. A blue darter hawk dived down and grabbed up one of the chicks and the hen mounted up like a volcano. She rode the hawk to a great distance till the hawk let the chick loose. The chick fell in a bunch of grass in the corner of the fence and the old hen followed the chick to the ground. Soon, she had her little brood along her side as they had been before the attack. We had to doctor the chick, but the hawk failed to get to eat that chicken for her dinner that day.

My parents were poor and needy but they were religiously inclined. They were of the Primitive Baptist Faith and didn’t believe in Sunday school at all so outside of the home teaching, I knew very little of religion. When I was small, I was interested several times in religion and would feel something tugging at my heartstrings. If I had had any teaching along that line it is impossible to know what the effect might have been.

The country was wild and undeveloped. Our neighbors were none in sight, and most of them from a mile to many miles. But at that, they saw after one another in sickness, death, or in distress than people do here where they live as close as 50 to 100 feet of each other. It makes me ashamed now when I think of it.

Then we only had oxen for drawing the wagon. I mean WE. Other people that were more fortunate had horses or mules for beasts of burden, but as for us, we drove to church in an ox-wagon. My father kept a horse to pull the plow and to ride, but if we needed to go in the wagon, he yoked up the oxen. He also used the oxen to haul railroad ties for the purpose of cash for groceries, etc.

We lived so far out from town and our mode of travel was so slow that about two trips to town a year was all we made. It was 18 miles to town and it took three days to make the round trip if there was much business to attend to. The roads were rough, muddy, or sand.

I remember very well that when the fall of the year came that Father was careful to pay all his outstanding obligations before he would take us to town to get the necessary clothes for winter. I noticed that he was very careful to not buy anything that he couldn’t pay for; and that caused him to do the things by himself that he so much needed to have a helper to do. He went so long without a team for he wasn’t able to buy a horse without owing for it when he had no assurance of a way to pay for it.

At that time, we had very little conveniences and nothing of the modern way of living. My mother did all of her cooking on the fireplace, and it was the same fireplace that we all had to use to keep ourselves warm. We roasted sweet potatoes and eggs in the hot embers and also roasting ears. We had no coal, but an abundance of wood. We had potracks in the chimney that were used to boil the vegetables in pots that hung on the potracks during the morning hours, and a big oven that they cooked bread by getting the oven hot and then putting the biscuit dough or the corncake dough into it. Then the lid over that with the hot coals over that. The results were the best bread that you have stuck your tooth in. We had then the very best eating that anyone had ever had since. But it was very trying on the mothers of that time who had all of this to do while it was in the way of the ones that bathed themselves in indolence about the fireside. Many times that I can remember my father was the victim of a wrenched back for he was improving a new farm and the loads that he sometimes had to take were entirely too much for a man to carry by himself. When one of these cases turned up, it was sometimes weeks before he could navigate to any advantage. He would bake his back to the fireside by lying before the fire at first and later by sitting straddle of a chair with his back to the fire.

Mother had to make all of our clothes – shirts, coats, pants, and even our socks and gloves. She did all her sewing on her fingers as were not able to afford a sewing machine. I remember the first time that she had an opportunity to buy one. A machine agent came to our place and he was a local man. He knew us very well and he offered to take some cattle in on the machine. I offered to put my only yearling in on it at $5.00 and my father had three or four head that he put in. We owed about $40 on it to be paid that fall. I was twelve years of age, so before that time my mother had to do all of her sewing on her fingers, and she made all of our clothes, our under clothes, our shirts, our pants, evens Father’s pants as well as all of the bedclothes, even our socks, her stockings, our gloves and if I have missed anything, she made that, too. To cap it all off, she even carded the wool and the cotton and spun it into thread that she knitted into our socks and what have you. Don’t think that I missed out on any of that for I learned to do all of that as well as she could, but not as fast. I was sixteen years of age when I got my first ready made shirt and pants. The next year, I got my first ready made suit.

We were so poor that we didn’t have biscuit for breakfast (unless company came), only on Sunday morning. I had to carry cornbread to school for lunch and that just killed my soul. Then and there, I promised myself that if I ever married, I would have biscuit for every breakfast if I wanted it, and for any other meal, too.

When we were able to afford a team of horses for the wagon, I was big enough to plow and I realized what the extra horse really meant for I could see myself growing up.

To be continued…

About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
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