Guest blogger G.M.C. Massey, my grandfather, continues the tale of his childhood in rural East Texas in this next segment from my mom’s edit of his notes, Pappa’s Childhood.
I remember when I was 8 years old, my father was boiling off syrup for a neighbor and I was picking cotton by myself. The cotton stalks were so high that I couldn’t see the passing people on the public road. We didn’t have any highways. But as I watched a wagon pass, I could only see the wagon sheet on the account of the road being worn down and the fence high as well as my size at that time. I mused on what I could not see. I imagined that there was no team drawing that load, and from that stemmed the thought that some day, I would see wagons going along that had no team tied to them.
In 1890, I went with my father to Sulphur Springs and we visited the ice plant and I saw the machine at work. After that, we could have ice in the summer if we could afford it.
As a school boy, I heard several stories of the Indians and they always filled me with wonder and awe. One day, Mother revealed that I had Indian blood in me – that she was a quarter Indian herself. I knew there was a great difference between an Indian that was not civilized and a part Indian that was amalgamated with the White Blood, and was as well domesticated as our was; but when I thought of Oklahoma and the Indian I had the idea of a the wild Indian – that looked upon the white man as an enemy. I still held them in admiration as far as courage and bravery and stealth were concerned.
When I was nine years of age, it was announced that Oklahoma State was going to be carved out of the Indian territory. The people were allowed to make a run from the state line for a quarter section of land (160 acres). The land was surveyed out and a stake set for each quarter. They used horses to make the run, and the first man to put his stake on the quarter was allowed to keep it. That caused some of the runners to commit a crime against others for if some of them found their quarter, or their most desired quarter occupied, they might kill and conceal their crime till the matter was settled in their favor. Anyway, that was my first understanding about Oklahoma affairs.
I remember as a child that when I had an urge to do something that there was a thing of some sort deep within me that said to me DON’T. Sometimes I did and at other times I didn’t. And I noticed too that I would feel that I had done right and that at other times I had done the very wrong thing. Even then I realized that I was always haunted by something that was tugging at my heart to do the right thing. In every instance that I can remember, I have had a warfare going on within me.
In my early years, it was very far to the pine mills where lumber could be obtained for building. There were not yet any hard-wood mills established, therefore the men of the country had to resort to their ingenuity to furnish such materials as were needed to accomplish the purposes that arose in their improvements of the frontier conditions. They used the red oak trees that was one of the prevailing quick growths of the big woods.
They would cut down the trees and saw them into blocks of from two feet in length to five feet in length. They would stand them on end and block them into many bolts. When they were yet standing on ends, they would also hart them by separating the bolt from the inner part, or hart from the sap part. In the case of a very large tree, they would double hart the bolts in the case of palings, at least. Then, with an implement called “Fro,” they would accomplish the further splitting of the bolts of timber to the thickness required for the purpose that it was intended: boards for covering a building for the purpose of sheltering from the rain; or of fencing the garden or yard from the animals that roamed the outside or the fowls of domestication from spoiling the vegetables or the growing flowers of the yard.
When the hard-wood mills were established, they could lay aside the crude ways of obtaining these building materials. They obtained the boards and palings very much easier, and of course, they were very much easier to build with, too. With the invention of the various forms of building wire (barbed wire, hog wire, and poultry netting – then screen wire), we have gone a long way in the inventions of these things.
To be continued…