More from Granddad’s memoirs of his youth in 19th century rural East Texas, as edited by my mom into a manuscript she titled “Pappa’s Childhood.”
We, on the farm, looked to the Fourth of July as a great day for we never worked on that day. We usually went picnicking, fishing, and hunting as a diversion and as a relief from work – a day of pleasure – for children as well as the older folks of the community and usually, we were run in in the afternoon with a rain. We always tried to have our cotton run around the last time and when the 4th was past we just run the middles out and that was “IT.” We had it layed by. In other words, we were through working the cotton except probably going over it with the hoe to get a few weeds that we had missed before. Sometimes on the Fourth, we had a picnic Communitywide and a speaking by the candidates if it happened to be an election year. One Fourth of July I well remember that we had a big day at Yantis, Texas. Dick Hubbard was running for governor. We had heard so much of his height (6 feet 4 or 6) and weight that most of the people had never seen the man and were desirous to seeing him. Truly, he was a sight to see and a great experience to hear, too. For when he was talking naturally along as in a speech, his voice seemed as the voice of a lion. And he seemed to be anointed. It seemed to be so strong that you could hear the singles of the housetop rattle. Well, he tipped the scales at 400 pounds and when he walked across the floor, you could hear as well as feel the floor give under his weight. That was a real experience for me and it gave us children to think as well as talk about. He was elected, but I was so young that I do not remember just how good a governor he made, but history gave him a good report. That Fourth of July was long remembered and went down with the children of the community as a great day.
In those days, there were so few people and so few idle people, that no one fished very much. So the fish were in abundance and I remember the first time that we went seining. The men began one day to talk of what they would do if they had a seine. My uncle was running a cotton gin and had several pattern of bagging of the Jute nature. He proposed that they take a piece of that and attach trace-chains to it for sinkers and staff at the last, and let us boys go along and hold it up behind. The next day in the afternoon, after they had constructed it, we went to the largest near stream (Lake Fork) and we did some fishing by seining. As there had never been any fishing like that ever done there, in the course of a very few hours, we had all the fish that we thought we could possibly use. We caught a bottom bed of two horse wagons full of fish. We had no way of taking care of it as we have today and we gave to the neighbors all that they could use. That evening, I remember that we ran onto a snag we thought and one of us boys examined to see what was holding the seine. It was a big turtle as big as a washtub. We had a time landing it, as it cut the seine up pretty bad before we got him out. That was my first experience fishing with a seine. From that time as long as I was tempted to go fishing, I never wanted to fish any other way than seining or grabbling.
I remember at one time that my conscience condemned me over taking a part in a play that had been me for a school exhibition. I just went to the teacher and told him that I couldn’t do that part, for that it was too bad and I couldn’t feel right about it since I had read it over; and if they could possibly get along with it without me that I just couldn’t do it. They let me out of the play, and after that they have always brought me the play and let me read it over and select the part that I could or would play. It worked out for the best.
Another thing that I noticed on the playgrounds: there were games that started on the playgrounds that I could not enter into with enthusiasm, and I just refused to do. Some of the boys resented my rebellion and took it up with the teachers. When it was found out that the game was of the nature that it was, the teachers not only wouldn’t do as the boys had asked, but they placed a ban on the games on the school grounds.
One day, when we were fixing to go squirrel hunting, I was sitting on the edge of the gallery and a boy friend of mine was tinkering with the gun in some way. It went off and just missed me and went through the top of the gallery and my mother intervened. She kept us from going on that hunt and ever after with that careless boy friend of mine. She only allowed me to hunt with a cousin of mine or by myself. It was on one of those occasions that I fired a shot at a big owl and missed. But I went home and told Mother that I killed the biggest old owl. She wanted to know why I did not bring him home, and you know what I told her? I told her the very wrong thing. I told her that it was so heavy that I could not carry it. Then she knew that I had not killed an owl at all for she knew that a matter of fact that the owl was just a bunch of feathers, and practically weighed nothing at all. After that, I was careful what I told her that I had wasted a shot for. I had to bring home the proof of what I shot at or have good alibi for it.
To be continued…