Linden Tree Leaves

Genealogy and Ancestry Explorations


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Nona’s Stories: County Picnic and Threshing

On July 4th there was always a County Picnic at Leonard, Texas, about seven miles  from where we lived. And everybody for miles around came. We had to get up at 4: a.m. packed our picnic lunch of fried chicken and all that goes with it—cakes and pies and a big pan of blackberry cobbler.

Of course, we went by wagon—no one had cars then! Dad put quilts in the back of the wagon so us kids could sleep if we got tired—we always slept on the way home. Along the way we were joined by other wagons. On this one day Dad arranged with Jake Mackey—our “top hired hand” to take care of the chores, for it was usually midnight by the time we got home.

We had a wonderful time—most of the people only saw each other this one time during the year.

There were all kinds of games—Dad played on the baseball team. There were potato sack races, horseshoe pitching contests, etc.

And the first balloon I ever saw. Nothing like the beautiful modern balloons—but a balloon never the less.

And on this once a year day us kids were allowed to have one bottled drink, a pink concoction called “Strawberryade” and it didn’t really taste much like strawberries. We were never allowed to drink tea or coffee on the grounds they were not good for us. We had lots of milk—and drank lots of it.

We so seldom had any children to play with—when not in school—we really enjoyed all the children at the picnic—playing such  games as “drop the handkerchief,” “ring around the rosie,” “hide and seek” etc. We really worked up an appetite!

After the picnic time, work on the farm really started. Gathering the corn—Dad took some each of our yellow and white corn to the grist mill and had it ground into corn meal—a big barrel of each. It was stored in the “smokehouse” for use until the next corn crop. Corn bread was so good with all the vegetables.

And cotton-picking time started, too. Old black Uncle Jim—Aunt Em’s husband—came over from Grandma Burns’ farm to “boss” the negro cotton pickers, for they would do very little work while Dad was gone to town with a wagon of cotton. Dad also farmed Grandma Burns’ farm.

Just about then the “threshing crews” came to thresh the wheat and oats. It had been “reaped” by the reaper, piled into windrows to ripen and dry. The threshing crew was about six men with a grain thresher that went from farm to  farm at threshing time. All the men from nearby farms brought their wagons and teams to haul the wheat and oats to the thresher. Everyone helped the neighbors then—when the threshing crew moved on to the next farm, everyone went there to help. This was another red letter day for us kids, for the women and children from neighboring farms came along in the wagons to help with all the cooking—there were 25 or 30 men working with the threshing. They brought along all kids of cakes, pies, fried and baked chicken, etc. to help out. These were the children that went to the same school we went to, and we had lots of fun.

“Saw horses” were set up and foot wide boards twelve feet long made a long table under the shade of the big oak tree in the front yard. There wasn’t room in the house. This “make do” table went from farm to farm with the threshing crew, and all the women also went from farm to farm to help.

Us kids had a lot of fun climbing to the tops of the new haystacks and sliding down. When the threshing crew went on to the next farm, it was our turn to go help them, as they had done for us.

Dad took some of our wheat to the flour mill and had at least three barrels milled for flour, we used more flour than corn-meal.

The threshed oats and wheat was sacked in “grass” sacks—sometimes called “toesacks.” I don’t know how that name came into being. The grain was hauled to Trenton and sold to grain dealers.

We raised cane for stock feed, and Dad took some to the cane press where it was made into syrup—and some made into the thick, dark sorgum which was a must for making big iron skillets of gingerbread which we loved on cold winter nights—with plenty of good real butter with hot gingerbread, or cold with whipped cream and applesauce.

We had gallons of honey, syrup, and sorgum stored in the smoke house on shelves.

Dad was kept busy all during Spring and Summer with our two bee apiaries. Taking off honey, and capturing swarms of bees. One apiary was in the peach orchard beside our yard—on the East side—a hive under each peach tree. The other was in the upland pear orchard

(continued in next letter)

Nona


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Nona’s Stories: Chores

In late Spring, about the time school was out, our chores really increased.

We always had a large garden in order to have plenty of vegetables to eat, and to can. There were very few cans of fruits or vegetables on the shelves of the General Stores. It was my chore to gather the cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbages, etc. every morning so Mother could make pickles—sweet, sour, and great white stoneware crocks of dill pickles, and big crocks of sourkrout out of the cabbage; sweet red bell peppers, cucumber and green bell pepper relishes. Jars and jars of canned tomatoes, tomato juice, catsup, chili sauce, and red and yellow tomato preserves.

There was always large kettles on the big iron stove, and the delicious smell of spices all through the house. It was Ralph and Harry’s duty to keep the big wood-box in the kitchen filled with wood, for the stove was in use all day long.

After the glass jars were cool, we removed them to the storm cellar. It was lined with shelves, and the colorful glass jars looked just like jewels on the shelves.

Later on in the Spring the blackberries and strawberries began to ripen, and the wild red plums. These grew in thickets so thick one could hardly make a way through them. The plums dropped off the trees—which never grew taller than six feet or so, and the seeds came up year after year until they were a thicket.

Gathering these were Ralph and Harry’s chore.

The plums were not much larger than a large cherry, and were unbelievably sour, but they made wonderful red jelly.

It was my job to gather the strawberries and blackberries every morning. I didn’t mind the strawberries, they were easy, but I hated to gather the blackberries—we had two long rows across the big garden—I think they are the thorniest thing that ever grew– you couldn’t wear gloves—they just got caught on the thorns—and got full of the thorns—so did my hands! In the afternoon I sat under the big oak tree in the front yard, and tried to pick the thorns out of my hands, refusing the help offered by Ralph and Harry.—I told them they picked the thorns out like they were grabbing tree stumps!

My thorn-studded hands distressed Grandma Burns so much she insisted I wear the little white gloves she had bought when my fingers looked so “awful” when the mice bit me, to church. I can’t say they improved my hands  as much as they improved the outer appearance.

Along about this time the Mother hens were beginning to hatch the baby chicks. We had three pens of chickens—one of Rhode Island Reds, one of Barred Plymouth Rocks, and one of Buff Orphentons, besides the cages of the “game” chickens—these Dad too care of. There were the Fighting Cocks he shipped to Old Mexico, Spain, and Cuba, where cock fighting was legal. They paid good prices for the fighting cocks, Those chickens were really mean.

It was my duty to gather the eggs (except the game chicken eggs) and Ralph and Harry’s duty to feed the chickens and lock them up at night. The Mother hens and chicks had snakeproof coops, the other chickens were locked in hen houses. There were lots of wild cats in the bottoms—and the edge of the bottoms was only about the distance of a city block and a half from our house.

These were domestic cats that had reverted to a wild state, and were nearly twice as large as the ordinary house cat.

Probably because there was so many rodents in the bottoms to feed on—but they liked chickens and could kill a full grown chicken, I remember them killing one of our hens that had “stollen” her nest out in the clover patch and we couldn’t find her.

By noon we usually had all our chores done—mine also was to do the churning. Our milk cows were Brown Swiss cows. They were larger than Jersey cows, and gave very rich milk. The cream on top was of the pans of milk was thick and rich—it was wonderful spooned over bowls of strawberries or other fruit—or for whipped cream over pies. It made lots of rich butter for the hot biscuits we had ever meal.

We usually spent the afternoons under the oak tree in the front yard, it being too hot to do anything else, until time to do the evening chores. We didn’t mind doing them, all farm children had chores to do, it was a way of life then. And the unbreakable rule was “work before play.”

Jack, our bulldog, was specially trained to stay with and guard us kids, he was always upset, torn between what he thought was his duty to stay with me while I was picking blackberries, or go with Ralph and Harry to gather the wild plums. With the result he wore himself out racing to where they were and back to me, exhausting himself.

-Nona


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Nona’s Stories: Aunt Laura’s Doll

When we lived in North Texas Aunt Laura was Post Mistress of the Post Office and sometimes I visited her there while waiting for Dad to finish his errands in town.

On one of those visits she showed me the most beautiful doll I ever saw. She had won it in some sort of contest.

It was a German bisque doll about 28 inches tall, with long brown curls of real hair, dressed in a pale yellow, lace trimmed long dress and white kid shoes.

She remarked that she had never cared for dolls and was going to give it away. I hoped—but didn’t dare say—that she would give it to me. How I longed for that doll! I even dreamed about it at night. But the next time I was at the Post Office she told me she had given it to the daughter of a friend of hers. It just about broke my heart, but I never told anyone how much I wanted that doll. But I did make a promise to myself that if I ever had a little girl (or a granddaughter, I would see to it that she had pretty dolls, and I’m glad I can say I’ve kept that promise.

I had only two dolls when I was a child, the rag doll named Mary Jane that was burned because it had been in contact with the rabid dog, and a black haired china headed doll—and it burned when our house burned down.

Now I have several dolls! All of which will someday go to my beloved granddaughters. But to this day I still find myself looking for a doll like the one Aunt Laura gave away. It meant so little to her and so much to me

-Nona


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Nona’s Stories: When the Cotton Gin Burned

I wouldn’t tell this story, lest no one believe it, except that everyone in the family knows about it. And Ralph and Harry remember it well.

I was about six years old, and this happened in late summer when the cotton was being picked and ginned.

The gin was near Grandpa H.T. Saunders’ house in Trenton, and right on the railroad, for convenience in loading and shipping the baled cotton.

Late one afternoon Dad and one of the hired hands took two wagon loads—(these had high sideboards on them in order to hold enough cotton to make a standard size bale of cotton)- to town to be ginned. There were so many loads of cotton ahead of him that there was not time to gin our cotton that day. So dad unhitched the two teams from the wagons, leaving the wagons loaded with cotton in the gin yard, putting the teams in Grandpa’s lot—he had a big lot where he ketp a cow and his own horse, a fawn colored little mare named “Fanny.”

Dad and the hired hand, Jake Macky, walked the two miles back to our house.

In the middle of the night Dad woke from a “nightmare” in which he “saw” the gin on fire, many men fighting the fire—there were no fire trucks then like we now have—he “saw” men pushing our two wagons of cotton away from the gin our of danger. While he was telling Mother about the nightmare, and how vividly he saw all that was taking place, the telephone rang.

Dad and Mother were sleeping in the East bedroom, the telephone was in the living room by the front door—the living room was on the West side of the house. When Dad went into the living room, he saw the Western sky was glowing red—it was Grandma Saunders calling to tell Dad the gin was burning, but that some of the men had pushed both of our wagons of cotton out of danger. Everything had happened exactly as Dad had “seen” it in the nightmare. Dad dressed and walked the two miles to town to help fight the gin fire. We watched from the windows on each side of the fireplace in the living room—you can see these windows in the picture of our old home place I sent you recently. We lived East of Trenton.

Sometimes the red glow of the fire would flare up as the fire reached walls and roofs of the gin. Cotton fire is very hard to extinguish as it smolders for so long. All the bales of cotton had to be broken open and wet down. The blackened cotton was a big loss to many farmers. It was days before the smoldering cotton was finally wet enough to stop burning.

Men had to carry water in buckets from Grandpa’s house to wet down the cotton. Grandma Saunders made coffee and cooked meals for them as they fought the fire in relays. Dad stayed in town two days and nights as he helped, sleeping for short periods at Grandma’s.

After this gin burned cotton had to be hauled a much greater distance to be ginned and shipped by train.

-Nona


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Nona’s Stories: The Tornado Struck the House

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Dad, Ralph and Harry, taken about the year of the tornado. I was about six years old.

On a still, hot and sultry afternoon in late Summer, dark clouds started gathering.

Both our cotton-bale wagons were full of cotton. Dad told the negro cotton-pickers to go home, that he would pay them for a full day’s work. There was no place to put the cotton they picked except to pile it on the ground, and if it rained it would be ruined.

Dad and Jake Mackey started to Trenton, two miles West of where we lived, with the two wagons of cotton. He told us kids—Ralph, Harry, and myself—to stay close to home as it looked like we were going to get rain.

So we each filled a large pan with the black soil, took a pail of water, and went out to the big oak tree in our front yard. The black soil was gummy when wet, but dried very hard. It was excellent for modeling. We never made mud pies as most children do, but modeled animals, birds, etc. Baked in the hot sun, then painted with the casin paint Dad made for us, they made quite nice toys. We kept our collections stashed under the house to keep them dry. I must admit some of the animals we modeled—the likes of which was never seen by man!

Just above where the branches of the oak tree branched out was a hollow. Here lived “Screechy, Our Friend” – a little gray screech owl. It wasn’t a pet, but was used to us and wasn’t the least frightened of us. Often just before dusk it perched in the entrance of it’s hollow and watched us playing under the tree. We loved to hear it’s trembluous call at night.

Jack, our Bulldog, whose duty it was to ride herd on us kids, and for which he was specially trained, was always with us. When we were playing he either sat patiently by, or lay dozing– often opening his eyes to be sure we were all there. But on this afternoon Jack was acting strangely. He acted uneasy, walking around us nervously—he even sat on our freshly modeled animals—placing himself between us and our “works of art.” Ralph thought he might be thirsty, so went and got him a pan of water—he just took one “lap” of it—as if he was just doing so to please Ralph. He took my sleeve in his teeth and tugged on it—causing me to ruin the “cow” I was modeling. I scolded him, but he wouldn’t let go—just tugged harder.

It suddenly began to get dark—we all looked up at the same time—and saw the funnel descending over the field in front of our house—it faced South. That funnel descending out of those low, swirling, boiling, black clouds was an awesome and frightening sight. Ralph shouted “Tornado!” He and Harry each grabbed one of my hands and more or less dragged me—Jack had grabbed the front of my dress and was pulling me—I couldn’t run for stumbling over him.

Mother had been making jam and canning fruit in the kitchen, which was on the North of the house. When it suddenly grew dark she started to the front door to call us—as she passed through the living room she saw the tornado funnel through the front door. Dutch was asleep in the big cradle in front of the living room window—she grabbed a quilty and threw it over her. By this time we had reached the house, and headed for the back door on our way to the storm cellar—knowing we couldn’t make it in time—and that we couldn’t lift the heavy storm cellar door—she called to us not to go outside—then everything went black—the sound of the tornado was like a thousand trains rushing by at high speed whin it hit the house. We kids and Jack crouched back of the big cast iron range—it sat out about two or three feet from the wall. Something flying through the air—everything, it seemed was flying through the air—had hit me in the face, stunning me and starting a profuse nosebleed. I still have a slight scar along the right side of my nose.

Mother was caught in the door between the kitchen and dining room as it slammed shut, and badly bruised. Although she lived many years afterward, she never completely recovered and eventually died of peritonitis on June 2nd, 1916. After we had moved to Uvalde on Dec. 14th, 1914.

It was probably only minutes—but it seemed much longer—it was over. I opened my eyes—it’s impossible to keep ones eyes open during a tornado—and we had always been cautioned to protect our eyes with our arms should we ever be caught in a tornado—and saw such destruction. I couldn’t bear to look at it. The roof of the house and back porch was gone—the back door was hanging by only the lower hinge. Everything looked strangely unreal.

After making sure I only had a smashed nose and wasn’t badly hurt, Ralph and Harry went to check on Mother and Dutch. They helped Mother up off the floor and to a bed—then checked on Dutch. She was still sound asleep! She says she is kidded to this day about sleeping through the tornado.

In the front bedroom Ralph found “Old Red” our big Rhode Island Red rooster half lying on his side with his eyes closed—Ralph thought he was dead and started to pick him up. Old Red opened his eyes, then stood up shakily, turned round and round, then flapped his wings and crowed. He was comical looking—all his feathers were gone except a ruff around his neck, a few feathers on his wings and a few scraggly tail feathers. Ralph picked him up off the dresser top and carried him back to the kitchen where I was still crouched back of the range. My nose was still bleeding. I had been holding my nose trying to stop the flow of blood and it had run between my fingers, down my arms, and all down the front of my dress. Ralph told me cheerfully that I looked like an awful mess.

Just then we heard men’s voices in the yard and one of them came up on the back porch and called “Hello! Anyone hurt?” I looked up, and I guess seeing all the blood on me he thought I was badly hurt. He said “Ok! My gosh!” Jack charged him, snarling furiously. He retreated to the back yard, and Jack returned to stand guard over me.

Just then it started hailing hard—and since there was no roof, the hail fell on the still hot stove, bouncing off onto the floor—then it started raining hard—a cold rain—clouds of steam rose from the hot stove, but I was shivering with cold.

More men were arriving by that time, but every time one of them came near the back porch Jack chased him back to the yard. They all knew Jack and feared him. Of course Jack had no way of knowing the men had come to help us.

The tornado had picked up the bee hives in the orchard—and bees were all over everything in the house—the rain has plastered their wings against everything, but they were still very much alive and capable of stinging—and in a very bad temper.

After it seemed like hours, Dad and some men from town, and others that had joined him on the way arrived. He said he and Jake had just reached the cotton gin when they saw the tornado and knew it was just about where our house was. He asked the men at the Gin to take care of the cotton, and take the teams of mules to Grandpa Saunders’ place which was near by. He ran to Grandpa’s and tried to call home, but of course the lines were down. Then he and Jake and some of the men from the Gin started home.

He said they ran until they were exhausted. By the time they reached the Johnson farm—about half way home—they could see the tornado damage at our house. Mrs. Johnson ran out to the road and told him the men from their place had already gone to see about us. He said he could hear the farm bells ringing on the adjoining farms—and the deeper tones of the larger, heavier bell at the John Marshall farm just East of ours—but no sound coming from our place. These bells were never rung except to call the field hands in at noon and in case of trouble—a call for help that all people on nearby farms answered. They were ringing for help for us, as they had seen the tornado hit our house. He said when he saw the group of men standing in our back yard, he thought we had all been killed.

Jack was still standing guard over me, and even with Dad home, he was unwilling to leave me or allow any of the men to enter the house. So Dad had to tie him up. He watched the men with distrust, a low growl rumbling in his chest, sometimes baring his teeth when one of them came close. Once when one of them walked over and asked me how I felt, Jack lunged at him and would have bit him if he hadn’t’ quickly stepped back out of reach.

Some of the men went to round up a team—allthe live-stock had been so frightened they were scattered over the fields North of the house—there was a smaller wagon in the wagon yard, though overturned, it was undamaged. It was getting late—almost dusk.

Dad scooped up some hail, put it in a washcloth and told me to hold it against my bleeding nose.

Everything in the house—including us—was soaking wet from the heavy rain—which by this time had stopped—except the quilts in the big quilt chest. Dad got them out and wrapped us in them. The men had hitched the team to the wagon and brought it as near as they could to the back porch. Dad was going to take us all to Grandma Burns’ house to stay until our house could be repaired and made liveable again.

As we came out on the back porch– it was on the west side of the house—the sun had just gone down—the rays reflected against the dark storm clouds still in the sky. It was weird and unreal—destruction everywhere. The smoke-house near the back porch was smashed—lying on it’s side. The big mulberry tree beside it was broken off about two feet above the ground—the tree nowhere in sight. (In one of the colored photos I sent you with Dutch and Polly sitting on the roots of this tree on their visit back there, you can see the stump of the original tree that was broken off by the tornado—another tree grew from a sprout at the side.)

The tall shade trees were stripped of most of their branches, the bark on them ripped off. They were killed—these you can see in the larger picture of Dad and some of our hired hands in the Bee Apiary in the orchard. Many of the fruit trees were also broken off.

The roof of the big barn had been lifted off and dropped in the barnyard. Most of the planking of the walls ripped off.

The wheat strawstack next to the barn was gone, but straws from it had been driven like nails into the sold oak hand-hewn corner post of the barn. These were about a foot square, hewn from a single tree. Some straws protruded seven or eight inches, but when Dad tried to pull them out they broke off.

Later that Fall a block was cut out of one of the corner posts and taken ot the Texas State Fair at Dallas where it was exhibited.

It may still be there.

Just before the tornado struck Ralph had been using a dime to make imprints on something he was modeling, he dropped the dime as we started to the house—he went out to the front yard before we left for Grandma Burns’ house—and found the dime where he had dropped it.

But the big oak tree was a sad sight. It had been literally twisted off just above the hollow where “Screechy, Our Friend” lived, long twisted splinters pointed skyward. The whole top of the tree had been slammed against the front of our house, caving in the roof of the front porch.

I was so worried about the little screech owl that Jake Mackey climbed up to check on it. It was alive, warm and safe.

The tree was later cut down—I’ll tell you next how it could have caused the death of all of us had it not been for Jack.

The field in front of our house where the tornado funnel descended, and across which the little brook flowed, had been white with cotton—it was as bare as if it had been swept by a giant broom. And the field next to it where the tall stalks of corn had stood—was just as bare.

It was after dark when we reached Grandma Burns’ house. She was greatly relieved, and Aunt Em thanked the “Good Lawd” for “sparing” us. Since the telephone lines at our house were down, there had been no way to let them know we were alright. Dad called Grandma Saunders and told her we were all safe.

Dad returned to our house, leaving Jack with us.

Mother was put to bed, and Grandma Burns and Aunt Em set about bathing us kids and washing our hair, then we, too, after supper, were bundled into bed. Aunt Em washed all our clothes that night so we could wear them again next day—they were the only clothes we had with us—she also did this every night during the week we stayed there.

My nose-bleed had finally stopped, but my face was swollen from the blow of the object that had hit me. But during the night my nose started bleeding again. Aunt Em said she knew a sure cure for nose-bleeds. She set great “store” by the old home remedies and often said she could teach any doctor “a thing or two” about “doctoring.” Remembering her “cure” for sub-burn with sour milk—I had no reason to doubt her. She rolled up a piece of paper into a little wad and told me to place it between my upper lip and gums and press it with my finger—and it worked—in a few minutes my nose did stop bleeding—and bled no more.

(Note to Maura—remember we did this and stopped your nose bleed during the night on your last visit to me? It’s an old family remedy.)

The next morning the owners of the adjoining farms came over to our place, bringing their hired hands, and set to work cleaning away the destruction left by the tornado, and helping to rebuild the barn, reroof the house, etc. They even used their own wagons and teams to haul lumber and shingles from town. Their wives took turns bringing food to them at noon. And not one of them would accept any pay from Dad for all the work they did.

In about a week we came back home, but it wasn’t the same. There was no shade trees for us to play under. Dad had to start all over with the bees. Our garden and the fruit trees were bare, the crops in the path of the tornado gone.

The tornado had disappeared up into the clouds before it reached the farm house North of us, so our house was the only one hit.

It could have been much worse.

The funnel of the tornado descended near our house, and it did not fully develop into a major tornado. It didn’t travel far enough to “wind” itself up. As a tornado travels along, it “winds” itself up tighter, the wind velocity becoming greater. And all the doors and windows of our house were open, so preventing the vacuum that causes buildings to literally explode. Most of the windows were broken—the one in front of which Dutch was asleep—was blown out—the quilt covering her was covered with glass—even this didn’t waken her! The fact that Mother didn’t have her in her arms probably saved her life, as the door slamming shut might have killed her.

Afterward we told Dad about Jack acting strangely just before the tornado. He said animals feel the atmospheric pressure before a storm. And we always took Jack with us to the storm cellar when it was stormy, so he knew that’s where we should have gone. And the next time he acted that way, for us to pay attention to him, that he was doing all he could to protect us, not being able to talk.

That part of North Texas is part of what is know as “Tornado Alley”. Often tornados had come near our house, and many, many time at night wehad to take shelter in the storm cellar, sometimes spending the night there.

We always felt that we were safe there—until the night the lightning came down the stovepipe and exploded the stove! After that we were not so sure!

Tornados can do so much damage in a matter of seconds. No wonder they are the most feared of all storms. And they do some strange and unbelievable things. The very sight of one is fear-inspiring.

-Nona


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Nona’s Stories: Dad’s Hobbies

When we lived in North Texas Dad had two hobbies—raising bees, and fighting game cocks. When he was 16 years old, Grandpa H.T. Saunders gave him a hive of bees for his Birthday. He began raising and shipping the fine-bred Queen bees to foreign countries as well as to many other States. These were sent by mail in little cages made of a frame of wood covered with screen wire, that he made himself. He became quite well known in “bee circles.” The Game chickens were the kind used for “Cock-Fights” – quite the sport in most South American countries and Cuba—he shipped the cocks to most of those countries. It was, and still is, against the law to hold cock-fights in the United States. These game cocks had long  wicked spurs—Dad had many scars on his legs the results of being “spurred” by these fighting cocks. The foreign countries always paid for the Game Cocks and Queen Bees in coins—many of them gold coins.

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Oscar Saunders with swarm of bees.

Dad just kept these and had a larger than gallon tin bucket—it had once held Arbuckle Coffee– full of the coins. When our house buned these were all melted together in one big lump. I think Dutch or Polly has it now.

On Dad’s 17th Birthday Grandpa gave him a matched pair of cream colored fine mules—there were no cars, etc., then to give! One of these mules was slightly larger than the other, they were called “Big-Un” and “Little-Un.” Dad was very proud of them. But they later had a bad accident. This happened when I was about six years old, and I remember it well. The mules got entangled in a barbed wire fence one night, and in thrashing around trying to escape, they only got more entangled, and terribly cut on all their legs, stomachs, shoulders, and hind legs. They had almost bled to death when Dad found them next morning. He sent for the Vent, and got some neighbor men, as well as our hired hands to help him cut the barbed-wire away, and load the mules onto wagons—they were too weakened to stand or walk—and bring them home. By that time the Vet had arrived, and said the mules would have to be destroyed. Dad refused and insisted on the Vet sewing up the wounds, after first washing them with disinfectant. And Dad paid the vet double his fee. The Vet said the mules would have to be kept in a standing position, so Dad had a building built for them, with all the front screened to keep the flies away, and so the mules could see out and be better satisfied. He had the harness-maker to make “slings” that fit under each mule and so it’s feet did not touch the ground suspended from the ceiling of the building, with feed and water troughs for each. He kept the wounds clean, and the Vet visited them every other day.

In time they both recovered, only the bad scars remained. But Dad never used them for work again. When we moved to Uvalde in 1914, these mules were brought along. We still had them when our house burned four years later.

Eventually they died of old age.

Dad gave up raising the Game Cocks after wo moved from North Texas, but continued on with the bees and became one of the leading “bee men” in the Southwest. We had five different apiaries. Right around Uvalde is the only place in the world that the little shrub Guajilla grows and honey made from its flower is the finest honey in the world. This little shrub has leaves like the sensitive plant—they close when touched—and round cream colored flowers about the size of marbles—and claw-like thorns.

Dad had a glass barrel made and filled with the Guajilla honey. It was exhibited at the Texas State Fair at Dallas. The honey was so clear that a newspaper placed behind it could be easily read.

Dad had brought all our bees with us when we moved to Uvalde from North Texas. They were an extra fine strain of bees. They were used to him and wouldn’t sting him. He worked with them without gloves– but they would—and did—sting strangers. They know a stranger by their scent.

I’ll tell you more about bee-keeping and what is involved in a later story. When I start on the stories after we moved to Uvalde, this was an ill-fated move, and the start of a long series of bad luck, and sad happenings.


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Nona’s Stories: The Piglets

One morning in the early Spring we went out to feed the stock and found that Gertrude, the big red brood sow, had given birth to eleven little pigs during the night. All but two had been smothered. Hogs often smother their newborn pigs—not intentionally, but just because they don’t have the gumption to get up and off them—no matter how much they squeal.

Fearing the remaining two would meet the same fate, we brought them to the house and prepared the “Nursery Box” in which to keep them, putting in a layer of clean straw, and covering them with pieces of clean, soft old blankets.

I heated the iron “sad irons”-(the ones I gave you, Kay) – and wrapped them in pieces of the blanket and put them in the box with the piglets to keep them warm.

We didn’t have electricity on the Six Mile Ranch, so we bought these sad irons for me to iron the clothes with.

We were afraid to use hot water bags to keep the little pigs warm for fear they might chew into them and so get burned by the hot water.

Kazan and Scotty were fascinated by these little squealing pigs, of course, they had never seen anything like them, and they were far different from “Little One” and “Lambkins” that had occupied the Nursery Box before.

They stared at them with a comical “I see them but I don’t believe it” expression on their faces, turning their heads from one side to the other to study them.

Scotty climbed into the box to try to comfort them as he had comforted Lambkins, but they were hungry, and nibbled his feet, so he quickly climbed out again. He whimpered in sympathy when they squealed, but Kazan just stared at them in utter amazement and disbelief.

For the first two weeks the little pigs had to be fed every two hours, day and night. I worked out a system. I put their nights milk in a thermos jug to keep it warm for their night feedings. I put one warm iron at a time in their box, keeping the other iron on the iron cookstove, so it was warm for the next two-hour feeding. By adding a stick of stovewood to the fire every two hours, there were enough coals to keep the iron warm, so I alternated the irons at each feeding.

Kazan and Scotty never failed to come to the kitchen to watch the feeding process Kazan would come bounding into the kitchen—he was always wide awake at night, but Scotty would come stumbling in, blinking in the lamp light, half asleep, but not wanting to miss watching the feeding of the strange little creatures.

One little pig was a silvery white and the other one wasa golden red, so I named them “Silver” and “Gold.”

Often when they were playing, Kazan and Scotty would stop suddenly and race to the Nursery Box to look in, apparently to reassure themselves those little animals really were there.

When they were older we took them to the barn and kept them in a walled stall until they were large enough to return to the pen with the other young pigs. Of course, Hanse the Cat wasn’t’ in this part of the barn—he would surely have left home had we put them in “his” area of the barn.

-Nona