Zelma Wood Lawyer – Missionary – Author

My mother, Bessie Beatrice (Wood) Graham was my aunt Zelma’s older sister.  My mother used Aunt Zelma’s name frequently when trying to encourage me to continue on the straight and narrow.  This was not a rare event.  I will mention a few of the occasions when this occurred.

After graduating Morton High School, it was my intent to become a preacher.  This pleased my mother (and aunt Zelma).  There was some difficulty in staying in college because of finances and at age 17, I left college and went to Ruidoso, New Mexico to get my parents to sign so I could enlist in the army.  Mother was opposed to this and used aunt Zelma’s name in trying to discourage me from joining the military.  I just needed one signature, therefore my Dad obliged me.  Off to Fort Ord, California I went.

Four years later when I was discharged from the service and getting ready to enroll in college in the pre-med field, Mother invoked aunt Zelma’s name again.  She even asked me to read aunt Zelma’s book “I Married a Missionary” and loaned me her copy of the book.  She said aunt Zelma would be displeased if I did not continue in the previous field of preaching the Word of God.

I did read aunt Zelma’s book and must admit that I was a little disappointed.  She had a very good story to tell and yet she fictionalized portions of the book.  She changed names and did not have the name of Ray or Zelma Lawyer in the book. She use the name “Roberts” for the family name.  She did not talk about her oldest child, Jeanne who was about 3 years old when they left the states for Africa.  She did mention her second child, George, and indicated he was born shortly after they reached Cape Town.  Jeanne (Lawyer) Stinson, in her book, “I Dream of Jeanne” does set the record straight so to speak in the sense that George at age two did have a bad case of dysentery and died.  Zelma, on the other hand keeps him alive in her book after a frightening illness.

Aunt Zelma did have a severe depressive episode after returning home after her husband, Ray Lawyer died.  Perhaps she could not tell the true story because it was too painful to bare.  This was intimated when she was describing the incident that lead to Ray Lawyer’s (Mr. Roberts) death.  She deserves a lot of credit for what she accomplished in Africa and is worthy to have an endowed scholarship established in her name.  This scholarship has been initiated at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas and will be called The Ray and Zelma Lawyer Endowed Scholarship for missionary students.

Check out her book at Digital Commons @ ACU and look up “I Married a Missionary” by Zelma Wood Lawyer.  It is free.  It has a soul saving message.

The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 18

It was hard growing up in the depression.  This pictures Charles and Bob in the little red wagon on the Kennebrew Place.  Dad was farming and barely eking out a living.  We were growing enough food to get by.  Andrew wanted something better for his family.  He kept moving closer to Morton.  It was not long after this picture was taken that the family moved to the “Morton Farm”.  Janie was born on the Morton Farm and unfortunately we lost our sister, Beatrice while living on the Morton Farm.

Andrew was also thinking about running for political office.  He thought he could do a better job getting us out of the depression that the current officials in office.  You may see a faint image of our dad near the cotton trailer in the background.


Sweet Johnnie and Harding University – Part 2

Yesterday’s blog erroneously indicated that Johnnie worked in the cafeteria at Cathcart.  I knew better but for some reason I did not put the real name in the blog, which should have been Pattie Cobb Cafeteria.  In fact she stayed her semester in Pattie Cobb Dorm.  If you want to check out more about Pattie Cobb you might go to Liz Harrell’s blog of March 26, 2015 that describes some spooky things about Pattie Cobb.  Perhaps that is why I did not get the name right in the first place (https://elizabeth-harrell.com).

My daughter, Dorcas (also a graduate of Harding), pointed out to me that I should have told one of her mother’s favorite stories about mixing the eggs for breakfast.  Johnnie would tell the story of having a rather large pot that she was to fill with fresh eggs just cracked and dropped in the pot.  How to fish out one of those eggs that did not look so good among the other 50 eggs or so?  You didn’t.  Just go ahead and process the bunch.  The heat would kill the bacteria hopefully.  Does anybody know how to solve that problem?

Johnnie was a very disappointed young lady when she had to return to West Texas State College to finish her college education.  She just loved her roommate who was from Japan.  She had fallen deeply in love with Harding.  So much so that she insisted our children go to Harding or pay their own way somewhere else.  This strong advise has also applied to our grandchildren and it looks like our great grandchildren might get this same strong advise.

The Lord apparently directed that all of this happen because I had been praying since I was 16 that God send me the perfect mate.  I was home from the Korean War and not yet discharged when Steve Eckstein took me to Harding to look the place over.  That was in the summer of 1951.  Everything seemed ok but too restrictive for me.  Also the GI bill for the Korean War Veterans had not been passed yet because the war was still going on when I was rotated out.  I had to work my way through Junior College in Odessa where I could work as a Theater Projectionist and go to school at the same time.

My professor at Odessa College, Leonard Pack, suggested that I get my BS degree at West Texas State because Professor Whaley was the best in getting his students into medical school.  Go somewhere else and the professors might not be interested enough in his/her students to give them that extra push to get the medical school entrance exam score high enough to get admitted.

Fast forward to September 1953 when I arrived in Canyon, Texas and could not find a job as a theater projectionist due to the union situation.  I had to take up a job driving a taxi in Amarillo at night in  order to enroll.  Still no GI Bill.

I met Johnnie briefly in the Bible Chair during an introductory session where the Bible Professor had us all sitting in a circle.  I had just taken a memory course at Texas Tech and this helped a lot because the game was for the first in the circle to say their name.  The second one was to say the first person’s name and then their name.  You get the picture.  I was pretty close to the end of the line because I did not know what was going on.  By the time it got to me I was able to say the name of the 20 or so in front of me and my name as well.  I was surprised at that time that I remembered my name.  Johnnie told me years later that under her breath she asked someone “who is that old smarty”?

Unfortunately I could not make enough money driving the taxi and could not study well enough to keep my grades up so I left school and went back to Odessa and drove a truck for the Western Company.  They sent us out on jobs that took 36 hours to perform pumping acid down into the oil and gas wells (fracking).  During that time the government did get the GI Bill approved for the Korean War Veterans and I was able to return to West Texas State.

Stay tuned for the third installment.




I did not know Johnnie when she went to Harding. She had graduated Shamrock High school in 1951. She decided on West Texas State College in Canyon, Texas. That was close and affordable. She had to work in the cafeteria to help pay her way.

There was a Church of Christ Bible Chair just off campus at WT. Students could study the Bible and get College credit. Johnnie had not attended church much while growing up because her dad’s family were Catholic and discouraged attendance at any other religious church. Her mother belonged to the Church of Christ and went there infrequently because of her husband and sister-in-laws resistance. Johnnie’s aunts snuck her into the Catholic Church and had her sprinkled as an infant. Johnnie was finding some newfound freedom at WT.

At the Bible Chair they would invite speakers from other churches and Christian Colleges. A speaker from Harding got a little aggressive in inviting the students to come to Harding. In addition one of the male students started courting Johnnie and she accepted baptism.

About 7 or 8 of the students decided to apply at Harding for the Spring Semester 1952. Johnnie was one of these students. Johnnie borrowed $250.00 from two aunts in Chicago. When the semester was over off she went to Harding. To help pay the tuition she got a job on Cathcart Cafeteria on campus. She had a blast. Her grade average plummeted.

Alas the money tree vanished when her Chicago aunts considered further investment unwise. Back to WT. Some of the students remained at Harding but about half returned to WT.

That is enough for today. Stay tuned.

The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 17


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.

The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 16


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.

The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 15


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.

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.