One time at the Ostwalt Farm, my brother Albert wanted me to go to Mack Moose's store, pictured here still standing. I told him that I had no money and he said just come on, so I went with him. On the way, we had to pass through a women's farm. Albert had a pocket full of shelled corn and when we passed through the barnyard he started dropping grains of corn on the ground. One of the chickens took the bait and started following us into the woods. When we were there, Albert took out a fish hook and put a grain of corn on it. When the chicken grabbed it, he pulled that chicken into the woods and we took it to the store and traded it for some candy for me but I don't know what else he got. He told me that if I ever told Mom about it he would beat me up. This blog entry is the first time that I ever told anyone!
Mark and I were left on the little farm to do most of the work. We planted about five acres in cotton and about the same in corn. We had two mules, their names were Pete and Bill and they knew their names. Pete was bigger and was strong enough to pull a house down but he just laid back and let Bill do his part. One day when I was down in a field plowing some of the crop with old Pete, the white mule, a thunderstorm came up quickly. I unhitched him from the plow, threw the trace chains over Pete's back, and jumped up on to ride home. Pete trotted at a faster pace than he normally did. Just about that time a great big bolt of lighting hit about where we were and it was accompanied by a huge clap of thunder. Immediately that old mule started to run for his life! He kept running until he got to the barn and went straight into his stable. The door was just big enough for the mule so I was slammed up against the outer face of the door. For the first few seconds after the impact, I actually thought that I had been killed. This event taught me to never ride a mule in a thunderstorm. At the age of thirteen, on a farm there are many lessons you just have to learn the hard way. I imagine that is the reason I have tried to tell my own children what to do; I just did not want to have to learn the way I did. If you learn the hard way it will stick with you the rest of your life. Listen as I tell this story.
We sold Pete which took us down to a one horse farm. Back then the way you sized a farm was by how many horses it took to farm it. Mom still did the garden, all of the house work, and the canning of fruits and vegetables. We would pick wild strawberries, blackberries, and dewberries so Mom could make some of the jellies and jams; they sure went good with the good homemade biscuits that she made every morning.
When we downsized we thought that we would have to move off this farm but Mrs. J.W. Propst liked us as a tenant so she let us stay. We gave her one third of the cotton that we harvested. We would make about three bales and we would give her the proceeds from the first one when we sold it. We were able to keep the money from the other two. After selling them, we would get to go to town and buy our winter clothes. We would get to go to town a couple times a year, usually once in the spring and once in the fall. We would get a new pair of Wolverene work shoes (they were also our Sunday shoes), four pairs of socks, two shirts, two pair of overalls, two pairs of long john underwear and if we had any money left we would get an aviators cap and a pair of gloves. These items had to last us until the next fall so we took good care of those things. We would get our shoes at least two sizes too big so they would last till the next fall. We would always wear the new ones to school. When we would get off the school bus to walk home which was about a mile and one half we would take them off and walk bare footed to save the shoes. When we got home we would put on our old ones. They usually had holes in the bottom, if we could find cardboard we would put that in our shoes and it would last a few days. Good cardboard was hard to get in those days. We would go most of the summer without shoes and our feet got so tuff that not much of anything would hurt them. All of the roads were dirt except US-64 which was paved.
We would save our shoe boxes to put under the Christmas tree for Santa. When Christmas would come around we would get an orange, banana, apple, tangerine, some nuts, and a few pieces of stick candy. We would also receive a small gift of some sort, a toy, and some pencils and paper for school. Mom would buy a huge three pound stick of peppermint.
When I was in the fifth grade, a lunchroom was added to our school. Up until this time we had to bring our lunches in a paper bag which we called a poke. Lunches in school were five cents but I didn’t even have that. I would go before class to the lunch room and they would let me chop the wood for the stove and I would get a meal ticket. I did this for at least a year before I was able to come up with a nickel every day. I had to walk about one and a half miles to catch the school bus and then I rode it for about ten miles. Walking in the cold and riding a bus with no heater, when I finally arrived at school I was ready to do some work to warm up. In the winter it was cold and in the summer it was too hot. Every morning before we started our lessons our teacher Mrs. Evans read a chapter from the Bible; we had prayer, and said the pledge of allegiance to the flag.