Up to the time that I was nearly 15 years of age, I lived in a community that had no churches. It was a new community and the schoolhouse was the center of all community gatherings. There were about four different church groups that held their services at the schoolhouse. Sunday School was all together and therefore none of the denominations were as fervent as they might have been if they had been free to teach all of the doctrine that their church believed. I guess that was the cause of there being so little interest in the Sunday School. I reckon that was the reason that there were so many boys that were out on the branches, creeks, and ball games on Sundays. Almost every Sunday, there was a crowd of boys that gathered at the various homes of the different boys. Sometimes, we would play games at the home where we had gathered, and sometimes we would go where we had the consent of the parents to ride the calves, or the yearlings. We would make up a small purse for the boy that could 4ide some outlaw of a large calf or a wild yearling the fartherest. I remember one time that we had up a large variety of bad yearlings and wild cows. So we made up about two dollars for the one that could ride a three or four year old bull that we had on that day. A young man all dressed up for church proposed to ride the bull to a finish if we would make it another dollar. He would guarantee that he would ride to a finish so we made it up right there on the spot. We throwed down the rope that was on the bull after that young man had mounted the bull and was straight on him and given us the word go. Well, I just never saw such pitching in my whole life. He rode him well till the bull made a quick turn and bawled so loud that it was deafening to us. The young man went off over the bull’s head, and the bull stepped on the man’s leg and tore the fellow’s breeches so badly that we gave the man the three dollars anyway for he would have to buy another pair of pants.
Then it happened. A cowboy from Oklahoma just made a turn for the steer. He had no help to catch him, nor to mount him, nor to ride him. You could tell from his action that the way that bull had acted and treated his former rider had activated this man to that place; that he was master of the situation. This cowboy took care of him in good order. The bull tried in every way to get rid of him, even to lying down and rolling over. But the cowboy just stepped off as he lay down and back on him as he got to his feet. It did not take much of the punishment the boy dealt the bull to bring the bull to the place where we were all standing. And he stood still till the man got down. There was nothing left on the bull to show that he had been used at all except there was not a dry hair on the bull. He looked every inch a well-worked steer. When the crowd wanted to pay this cowboy for the riding, “No,” was his answer. That broke up the game that day, but we kept up the game for the sport and we usually paid off for the one that could ride a bad yearling the fartherest.
As to our calf riding, if we did not have any calves of our neighborhood that we were allowed to ride, as we grew a little older, we would round up a few wild ones out of the woods. We would accept bids from the boys that wanted to ride, and what they were really willing to ride on a guarantee basis. In so doing, we made a little profit over what it cost us to get the cattle up and clear up what damage was accrued, if any. Many of us that had never known anything about riding learned how to ride. Some did make very good riders in after years.
Some Sundays, we would go foraging. If we did not make our meal on that day, we did not eat at all. We would take our bows and arrows and sling shots, and of course, our dogs. For that was usually the place our dinner came from. If it was fall of the year, we would gather and eat blackhaws, persimmons, and huckleberries. Sometimes, we had pretty good luck with the bows and arrows and sling shots and brought down a good bird or two. But always the dogs would tree two or three rabbits. Very often, we had barbecued rabbit and sweet potatoes.
One day the dogs ran two rabbits into the same hollow log. That log was only about 4 or 5 feet long ad was open at both ends. Those were the easiest ones to capture pf any that we ever caught. They were the fattest, too. It was about 1 pm when we got them so we were ready to cook and eat. We went to the creek to find plenty of water. It happened also there was a large flat sand rock there in the run of the creek. It was rather cool in January and we built up a big fire on that sand rock and cooked our meat. We had brought along several biscuits and salt aplenty. We pretty soon had the meat cooked and we had a feast that we certainly enjoyed. As it was so cool and our appetite was satisfied, we kept setting on that big flat rock. On account of it being so cool, we lingered along and fed more and more wood to the fire. When we were about ready to leave, although we were all still on the rock, the old sand rock got so hot that it exploded with a loud blast and shed us all off into that water. As luck would have it, there was not one of us that was hurt, but we were all scared in an inch of our lives. After that, when we got ready to build a fire, we were always sure that it was not on a sand rock.
To be continued…