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The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 17

TEXAS CENTENNIAL EXPOSITION

This centennial exposition disrupted my life.  Let me explain.  This centennial exposition was held in Dallas, Texas from June 6 to November 29, 1936.  Big deal for Texas (see Wikipedia).  Depressing for me.  It was not until later in life that I understood the connection.  In previous blogs I have mentioned that my Dad was county judge of Cochran County starting in 1935.  All of the officials of the county were invited to this exposition.  This thing attracted more than 6 million visitors.  This celebration was the 100th year after Texas received it’s independence from Mexico.

Dad invited Mother to go with him.  I don’t know if she had ever been away from the kids before.  I was about to start to school.  Marguerite was the oldest sibling and she was close to 18 at the time and I guess that Mother thought she would be a good substitute as a mother figure.  WRONG!  Nothing against Marguerite mind you.  She had never mothered me before.  Leola was the closest thing that I had to a mother figure besides my real Mother.  I vaguely remember Beatrice doing it before she died.  Was I surprised the day that Mother and Daddy left when I went into the house looking for mother to bandage a skinned knee.

“Where is Mother”, I asked.  Some one of the older siblings responded that she and Daddy were gone to Dallas.  I wondered where the Dallas family lived.  No, they are in the  city of Dallas and won’t be back until Monday someone explained.  I was stunned.  I don’t think my Mother even told me goodbye.  I was afraid she was gone for good.  I sat down on the couch and started crying.  Marguerite told me to shut up or I might get Janie upset.  Leola came over and sat down beside me and gave me a hug.  Boy, did I have an empty spot in my stomach.

I did not cheer up all day.  Bob wanted me to play but I did not feel like I could.  Janie later started crying and asking for Mother but Marguerite did mother her into a soft sob.  I don’t think I ate anything all day.  I went to bed that night sobbing because I usually got a sweet tuck-in from Mother.  I am getting tears in my eyes now as I type this.

The next day it did get a little better.  I started eating some and Marguerite told me that Mother had promised to bring us some presents from Dallas.  I played a little bit with Bob that day but mopped around mostly.  The next two or three days just drug by.  Janie was cheering up because Marguerite was really good with younger kids and she would hold Janie a lot.

I hated the Texas Centennial Exposition.  Mother did bring some presents.  That helped some but it did not make up for my missing my real Mother.

In later years of course the history of how this state got it’s independence from Mexico has been a favorite part of the story of TEXAS.  THE LONE STAR STATE.  I have long since forgiven the The Texas Centennial Exposition for depriving me of my Mother for a few days.

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The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 16

JANIE GOT HIT WITH A BASEBALL BAT

Bob did not intend to hit Janie.  We were outside in front of the Little White House on a Sunday afternoon playing some scrub baseball.  We did not have enough people in the family in order to do a nine person team so the batter would be one team and the rest of us would play against the batter.

Leola was playing first base.  George was the pitcher.  I was the hind catcher.  Mary was near the second base with Katie toward the third base.  Marguerite and some of her friends were wandering out in the outfield.  That group was mainly talking about boyfriends and stuff but would run after a ball just in case Bob, the batter was able to hit George’s pitch.  Janie and Mother Bess were not on the team but were spectators standing on the front porch.  Dad was in the house listening to his Sunday afternoon news program about what FDR was doing to get us out of the depression.

Dad called Mother into the house to get her to listen to the radio.  Janie started wandering out toward the batter’s box.  George was winding up his arm about that time to send the pitch over home plate.  Zoom went the ball, past Bobby’s bat and past my head.  I did not have a hind, hind catcher so I had to play the part of ball retriever and run and get the ball.

After retrieving the ball, I threw it to George.  He started the wind up again.  I was getting ready to catch the pitch if Bob could not knock the ball into the next county.  Bob was getting ready to hit that ball a mile when Janie wandered in toward the batter’s box.  George threw, Bob swung the bat backward and WHAMOO the bat hit Janie above the right eye.  Janie fell to the ground and did not make a sound at first but I could tell she was hurt because the blood was gushing from a gash above the eyebrow.

Mother heard the sound of the bat hitting Janie’s head and rushed from the house.  The base tenders started running toward home plate to assist Janie.  Bob stood there in dismay.  The outfield looked up from their conversation and saw the commotion.  They wandered in toward home plate.  Mother was using her apron to staunch the blood flow.  Janie was waking up from the concussion and was crying forcefully.

The ball game was over of course.  Janie should have gotten about 10 stitches but money being like it was in 1936 she just got a good washing and a bandage that circled her head and covered that eye as well as the wound.

Me and Bob were getting most of the blame but Mother felt the worst I guess because she had been in charge of Janie and left her duty station.  Janie was just four and did not know better.

That scar stayed with Janie the rest of her life but became less and less of an issue as time went on.  It even became a beauty mark of sorts and perhaps a badge of honor when we would discuss that ball game at family reunions.  It also solidified her status as Mother’s pet.

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The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 15

THE DAY THAT SPOT DIED.

Spot was my favorite pet ever.  When you fill out these forms that ask you to tell your favorite teacher, color, food and stuff like that then Spot will go in the slot for me where it mentions my favorite pet.

Spot was MY dog the year when Bob started to school and I was left home to play with my sister Janie.  Nothing wrong with Janie mind you but Spot would do so many things for me.  He would go fetch.  He would stay by my side if I asked him to.  He would chase a rabbit.  Most of the time he would do that without me asking.

I don’t remember where Spot came from.  He may have just showed up on the place one day and mother started feeding him and there he was.  Most times Dad would haul dogs off somewhere and I would never see them again.  Spot was different.  Dad liked him too.

It must have been a Saturday.  All the kids were home from school and it was a pretty day.  Spot was playing around with everybody.  George was still in the house.  He had some boils on the back of his neck and Mother was cleaning them up.  Spot didn’t know this bit of information I think.  We were about two football fields away from the county road and a couple of boys were walking along the road with their guns.  They were walking out into the country side to hunt.  This was not unusual.

I guess Spot thought that one of those young fellas was George and he did not want George to go hunting without him.  What was in the mind of those boys walking on the road I never learned.  All of a sudden we heard gunshots coming from that road.  Spot yelped.  He started running back toward us.  Another gunshot or two.  We thought we were going to be hit.  About that time George came out of the house to see what was going on.  Spot arrived about that time too and flopped down at my feet.  He was bleeding from the mouth.  His breath was labored.  I started holding his head and tried to get him to keep breathing.  Marguerite noticed what was happening and pulled me off of Spot.

George was angry.  He went into the house and got the keys to the car.  Mother begged him not to go, but go he did.  He thought he recognized those boys and he wanted to have a word with them.  Mother told us all to get into the house.  She did not want us to get killed.

We were watching out the window when he drove up to the boys.  They talked a little bit and then got in the car with George.  Did they kidnap George?  Dad had left early that morning with one of the county commissioners to do some meeting stuff in Lubbock.  Mother was in some of a quandary on what to do.

George showed up about thirty minutes later, intact.  He explained that he did know both of the boys and that he gave them a ride to one of the fellas uncle’s place where they were headed to hunt.  They explained to George that they thought Spot was coming to attack them and they used their guns in self-defense.

A lot of tears were shed that day.  We had a funeral for Spot.  It has been hard for me to get attached to another pet all these years.  Sammy is helping to correct that some.  He is not as close a companion as Spot was.  Sorry about that Sammy.

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The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 14

Bob starts to school.  This was in 1935.  I was left home with Mother Bess and Janie.  Dad was off daily to the County Judge’s Office.  The older siblings were also in the Morton, Texas school system.  I was lonesome for Bob who was 18 months my senior.  Janie was two years younger than me and not much of a playmate.  She stuck around mother too much.

Bob was dressed up in new clothes and a new pair of shoes for this occasion.  I went barefooted most of the time but winter was approaching and mother gave me Bob’s old shoes.  That was ok.  They were broke in well.  Still had some sole in place.  I played kick the can a lot and pretended Bob was there to kick it back but in fact I played his part as well.

I think Bob missed me too but he would talk about his new friends at school and talk about a merry-go-round.  He didn’t like spelling.  He liked recess what ever that was.  He liked getting to hit the baseball and catch a football.  Bob said he was going to be 7 years old in December and he would get off of the 6 so I could move up to 6 in March.  That sounded great!  It was nice that he would do that for me.  Seemed to me that he was learning a lot about numbers and stuff.

The school year of 1935 – 1936 moved slow for me.  Too much solitude.  Just so much playing you can do by yourself.  During the summer of 1936 we did get back into our routine of going down to the little lake that had been created when the road building crew had dug a pit to get the white rock to pile on the county road.  Skipping rocks across the pond was a favorite pastime.  We liked to take the horn toads we found and tie a string around their horns and drag them across the pasture.  We would always release them because mother had told us that they were good little fellows and ate red ants.

I was really anxious to start to school in August.  We started early because when the cotton got ready the teachers would let us out so we could pick cotton for the farmers.  A lot of disappointment came my way when I did not get a new pair of shoes before school started.  They bought Bob a new pair and let me use his old pair that were new when he started to school.  Mother said he needed a new pair and we could not afford two pairs.  Bob has pretty well devastated this pair he started to school in.

They said they gave the new pair to Bob because he was going to be disappointed that he was staying in the first grade.  Nobody told me why he was being kept in the first grade but later on I think I figured it out.  The school board had planned to put a 12th grade in the school program that year by keeping the slow learners in the second grade and promoting the fast learners to the third grade.  This didn’t happen until several years later because those that wanted it were outnumbered by those that didn’t want it.

The first day of school, Bob introduced me to the merry-go-round.  That was a neat thing.  I could stay on that until I got dizzy.  What a feeling!  I also noticed that to slow the thing down I would have to drag my foot.  Bingo!  I could wear my shoe out and maybe mother would get me a new pair of shoes.

The last recess of the day I stayed out a little after everybody else had gone in.  It took me several rounds on the merry-go-round of starting and stopping.  Sure enough I started feeling the heat on the bottom of my foot.  When I looked at the bottom of my shoe I could see my skin.  The sock had been worn through as well.

I proudly skipped and hopped home, due no doubt to keeping the stickers from imbedding the prongs in my foot but also out of joy anticipating a new pair of shoes.  I rushed into the house calling my mother.  She came to look at the evidence I was presenting her and calmly said, “son, I have some cardboard I will cut for you and show you how you can keep wearing these shoes until cotton harvest time when you can afford to buy your own shoes”.

She could see my disappointment but knew our finances better than I did.  This economics lesson was well learned and appreciated through the years.

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The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 13

Mother Bess was missing!

I heard this comment about and hour after the family had finished eating supper. We were eating better now that Andrew was County Judge. Mother had finished cooking the meal and the rattling of the dishes had just about stopped. Washing dishes was relegated to my older sisters. Dad was listening to the radio for news about FDR and what he was doing to get us out of the depression. He ask the girls to go check the outhouse and she if she needed help. Leola came back in the house and said she couldn’t find her.

Andrew ask them to check out front. He lit a lamp for Leola and Mary to take with them. They returned with the same answer. No Mother. Dad started getting worried. He had disappointed Mother because he was supposed to go by Minnie’s Dry goods and pick up some material for her to start sewing dresses for start of school.

He got up from his perch by the radio and started checking the other 2 rooms and the add-on shed that me, Bob and George slept in. I got worried because she usually tucked me in every night. Where was she I wondered. Dad went outside and started calling her. Bess! Bess! Bess! The girls and George went looking as well.

Things started getting frantic around the place. Dad was wondering if he should go get the Sheriff. Leola was encouraging him to do just that. Where else to look? Who saw her last? She had left the dinner table before anyone else. That was not unusual. Had anyone heard the door slam? Why wasn’t she answering her name?

It was getting a little chilly out side so Marguerite went back in to get a sweater. She opened the closet door and there Mother Bess was sitting on top of the dirty clothes box sound asleep. I am not sure if she was asleep or not. Exhausted yes. Upset yes. It had been a year and a half since Beatrice had died. I saw a wet face and knew what really troubled her. Well, not everything that troubled her.

Dad was less than amused. I hugged my Mother Bess and told her how much I loved her. She managed a smile.

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The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 12

How I Made My First Nickel

I was about five and a half years old. My older brother George had a couple of his school mates visiting us at the little White House near Morton, Texas. Mother Bess mixed up some of her delicious ice cream and put it in the hand cranked ice cream maker. Bob and I were usually selected to sit on the freezer to hold it steady while one of the older siblings would crank the arm. Our weight individually would not hold the thing down when the ice cream became too thick to churn. At that point Bob would get on first and then I would climb in his lap. For some reason, this day, I refused to climb aboard. One of George’s friends offered me a nickel to climb aboard. I still refused.

I think Bob got off the freezer and one of the older siblings got aboard. During this transfer it was noted that the freezer needed more ice. This was added along with some salt. One of George’s friends decided to tease me and he offered me a nickel if I would take a piece of ice in my hand and run around the house. I thought to myself that I could do that in a breeze. I agreed. For good measure he wanted to add a little salt to the ice. He said it would make it easier.

Clinching the ice in my fist I took off in a blast. About half way around the house I thought to myself that this hand is hurting. I sped up the pace. When I got back to the crowd and pried my fingers away from the ice and from my palm there for everyone to see was this huge blister. Instant frostbite. I was crying. Mother Bess was irate. The older boys were rolling in the dirt laughing.

I got a lot of tender loving care from my mother. The boys had their laugh. I learned a valuable lesson (and some chemistry principles). And yes, Mother Bess saw to it that I got my nickel!

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The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 11

Andrew was quiet the disciplinarian. In fact if he was living in this century he would be in jail. Leola became the object of most of the punishment. She was stubborn.

We had this rain barrel sitting at the edge of the roof to catch the rain water. Bess used this rain water to wash clothes and cook with. Andrew used it to dunk heads in. Once was enough for me.

Leola was opinionated and she and Andrew would get in an argument. Leola did not know when to quit. Several times these heated conversations would lead to a head dunking. This was not just an in and out dunking but some bubbles coming up dunking. I feared on occasion for Leola’s life.

We kids got to practicing dunking in a water tank at the little white house near Morton. This water tank was the large oval metal type 12 feet in diameter and about three feet deep. All of us could keep our head above water except Janie. Mother Bess would not let Janie go near that tank.

Bob and I teamed up against Katie one hot summer day. We were in this tank cooling off and horsing around. We decided to see if we could hold Katie under until she bubbled like Leola did when Dad punished her. We pushed her under but she came up pretty mad. Bob got his first and he bubbled and bubbled. I was halfway to the house by then. Some of the older siblings pulled Katie off of Bob and patted him on the back until he got a good portion of the tank water out of his lungs. I don’t remember swimming in that tank after that.

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The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 10

My Brother Bob and School

I have just attended my 70th High School Reunion at Morton, Texas. Out of 50 classmates who graduated in 1947, there were only 2 who made it. Bob was one who missed it.

Bob couldn’t make it because he died of prostate cancer on December 5, 2007 just 15 days shy of his 80th birthday. He enjoyed reunion!

He resented being in the same grade with me. I don’t think he failed the first grade. He was too smart for that. I think it was political. Let me explain that.

Morton had a 11 grade system. The State of Texas was trying to standardize the school systems. At what point do you tack an extra year in there? Those in the school don’t want you to suddenly put that 12th grade up there. Put an extra year between elementary and Junior High and again you have rebellion.

My theory was that the school board decided to take the first grade students and promote the upper half of the class to third grade and the lower half to second grade. That wouldn’t hurt too many feelings. Bob’s dad was County Judge at time and Laura Taylor’s dad was the school principal. Those two dads seemed to be in agreement but many others weren’t.

When the plan fell through at least Laura was kept back to be in the same grade with her sister Patsy. Bob was kept back to be in the same grade with me.

I know Bob resented this and I suspect Laura did as well. Eventually that was the system used to go to a 12 year program. The school board promoted the slow learners to the second grade and put the fast learners in the 3rd grade.

Bob was interested in athletics and excelled. He was small and fast. In our senior year he finished the football season. He then joined the Marines after his 18th birthday. He didn’t graduate with our class but later got his GED.

I miss Bob and wonder what would have happened had they promoted him to the second grade. We will never know.

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The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 9

ETHER DREAMS

Ether is not used as an anesthetic agent much anymore. There are a lot better drugs now to keep you asleep while the surgeon operates on you.

When I was in my internship at John Peter Hospital in Fort Worth in 1960 we were required to get some supervision in using this agent. The nurse anesthetist who supervised us were excellent. They made sure that these children getting their tonsils removed got through the procedure with flying colors. My stint in the operating room using this ether mask drip technique convinced me against becoming an anesthesiologist.

The occasion that required me to have ether anesthesia was an accident at home. Bob and I were running circles around the pot bellied stove barefooted when I caught my foot on a larger splinter that embedded itself deeply into my foot. Try as she could, my mother could not extract the demon. She picked at that elusive piece of wood several times and started putting black salve over the wound. Several soaking solutions were use. An abscess developed and red streaks started running up my leg.

Dad, who was County Judge in Cochran County decided he had better try to save my life or ruin his reputation. He took me to a doctor in Lubbock who administered ether and cut the foot open to let the splinter and pus escape.

After the ether started wearing off, I got this weird dream that me and the doctor were snakes. We started fighting and caught each other’s tale. We started spinning around and around. About that time, I woke up in my Dad’s arms going down an elevator while giving those close by a heavy dose of vomit.

Ether dreams tend to become repetitive. I have not had this for several years but did have this nightmare into adulthood.

Blessings on each of you readers and may you never have an ether dream.

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The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 8

SNAKE SKINS AND SNAKE EGGS

This past week I have had on two occasions seen a freshly shed snake skin. The first occasion was at our front gate. The mums in our planter, needed water. In the process of completing this chore, I noticed this skin floating to the surface. I took a stick to pull it out of the water and broke a little of it off. More cautious now I separated this milk weed better and preserved the rest. Just about that time, the rural route mail lady came by. I was blocking our box with my pickup and she handed me the mail. She was curious. I told her about the snake skin and she ask if she could take it to her Girl Scout meeting. I gave it to her, not knowing what to do with it in any case.

The next morning when letting our dogs out to roam the place, I spotted this recently abandoned snake skin just south of the garage. I took a picture of that one.

This got me to thinking about a multiple choice quiz I took in grade school. “Which of the following creatures sheds it’s skin once a year?”. The choices included humans and snakes among three other usual choices. I chose humans! WRONG!!

The snake eggs enter the picture when I was four and my brother Bob was five. Our brother George, who was born nine years before me took us down in the pasture where something laid some eggs in a nest on the ground. They were four speckled eggs and two of more colorful nature. George told us they were snake eggs. Leola was along on the trip and she cautioned us against disturbing them or suffer the consequences from the mother snake.

As I have aged, it has become apparent to me that these were bird eggs. The more colorful eggs were laid there by a lazy bird that didn’t want to do the nesting. Humans can show those lazy characteristics at times!