Honing the Nugget
Elton L. English
764 Smith Road
Searcy AR 72143
Honing the Nugget
Elton English and Prince
Elton L. English
764 Smith Road
Searcy AR 72143
Placed on this website
White County Historical Society
P.O. Box 537
Searcy, AR 72145
with special thanks to the author
Copyright June, 2000
By Elton L. English
All Rights Reserved
This book is dedicated to the men and women that have been a part of my life. Thank you for your inspiration, dedication, and hard work.
Elton L. English
Table of Contents
Introduction .................................................................. iii
Chapter 1: Two Cultures Emerge
The English Family Ancestry....................................... 1
English Family ÖÖ..................................................... 4
Andrew Jacksonís Early Years ÖÖ.............................. 5
The Slack Family Ancestry.......................................... 6
The Neal School ÖÖ...........................................Ö. 8
Emerging Cultures Combine Philosophies.................... 9
Chapter 2: Special Issues
Arrived on Time. .......................................................11
Honoring Mother-Poem.............................................. 14
Chapter 3: A Small Shoot
Bending the Twig...................................................... 15
Chapter 4: Expanding the Mind
Son Honors Father-Poem............................................30
Chapter 5: Enriching Life
Freedom to Grow.........................................................31
Chapter 6: Molding Values
Ascend the Mountain-Poem. ......................................41
Chapter 7: Increasing in Wisdom
Walking the Right Path...............................................43
Sheís My Delight-Poem................................................45
Burning the Mortgage-Poem........................................46
Chapter 8: Assuming Responsibility
Hands on Training......................................................50
Elton and Mary Alice Head English ÖÖÖ..................60
She Is Everlasting-Poem...............................................61
The Last Flight-Poem................................................64
My Life Chronology.....................................................65
Map of Georgia Ridge..................................................68
Map of George Manonís Trap Line ..............................69
Sweet Springs-Poem ....................................................72
The Old Spring House-Poem........................................73
I wanted to write this story of my life, Honing the Nugget, to examine where I came from and where I have been. Writing has allowed me to look at the origin of my grandparents and the culture from which they came. It has permitted me to view my parents and the two cultures that came together that I might be. Writing my memoirs has given me the opportunity to look back over my life and see how it has been lived.
Life--for me, in my time--has been full and complete. I have lived a well-balanced life, both physically and spiritually. The path that I have chosen has had many obstacles, but, with faith, dedication, and hard work, they were conquered. I have seen more changes, however, than any other generation in history.
I wanted to relive my life from the beginning because there has never, in the history of the world, been another like it. My history has been through many changes, from the cedar pencil to the ink pen; from the typewriter to the computer. I remember the washboard, the battling block, the palm leaf fan, the oil lamp, the ringer and the automatic washer. To come from the horse and buggy, to flights into outer space, has been one of the greater accomplishments of my life. I have come through the Great Depression, wars, recessions, Atomic Age, into space travel. It has been a great journey that has given me many memories.
The story of my life has been written from memory, according to the facts given me by my parents and grandparents. I have used only enough fiction to tie the facts together in an interesting manner. Fiction wasnít needed concerning my own life, however, because the facts are as I have lived them.
I am writing about my life to build a bridge between my great grandparents and my descendants. Besides, I have occupied a place in history that should always be remembered. Furthermore, Iím writing for my posterity so they will know what my life was like.
I need to write the story of my life now because, after three score and fifteen, Iím getting near the end. There are only a few years to get it down; therefore, I am eager to finish and pass it to my descendants. I hope it will give them the courage to write their memoirs.
Credit is due everyone that has given me information so I can compile the story of my life. I am grateful to my grandparents, George and Julie English and Robert and Alzina Slack. Thanks to my parents, Andrew Jackson and Mary Elizabeth English, for their love and care through the years. Credit is also due my daughter, Lawana; my son, Lareece; and Jackie, my daughter-in-law. I am appreciative to my wife, Mary Alice, for her patience through fifty-five years.
The events of this volume are not necessarily in chronological order. I have used my imagination to tie facts together where my memory failed me.
Elton L. English
September 18, 1999
George and Julie English (seated) with (left to right) Ila, Alice, Cora and Dora; (back row) Oltie, Tollie and Andrew. Their families were waiting off camera to join them . There were long tables well filled.
Robert and Alzina Slack in their later years.
Two Cultures Emerge
Cultures revealing and healing from winds that blow,
Woven into a fabric of sunshine and less snow.
The English Family Ancestry
George Manon English, my grandfather, was delivered--under his lucky star--during the second term of Ulysses S. Grant, the eighteenth President. He was born to Hiram Jefferson and Laura Ann Swafford English on March 15, 1876, in Maysville, Georgia. Maysville was near Gainesville, and George had relatives in both Banks and Hall counties. That same year Colorado joined the Union and Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.
Young George, the fourth of twenty children, grew up with an inquiring mind. He wanted to explore nature and learn more about the natural things of the wilderness. George Manon talked to his father about moving west of the Mississippi River into Arkansas. Hiram discussed the idea with Doug Price, his brother-in-law, and learned that his sisters Margaret, Mattie, Sally, Jane, and their families were interested.
Hiram and Doug thought 1889 was a banner year because four states had joined the Union: North and South Dakota, Montana, and Washington. They decided, "This is the year to go on an expedition to examine the advantages of the West." Their journey led them into the delta of Arkansas, but it didnít appeal to them. They continued their pursuit west of Little Red River into Searcy Valley. Hiram liked this region because it was between the delta of Arkansas and the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. They returned to Maysville and gave George and the relatives a compete report of their trip.
George Manon and his father Hiram continued to express the excitement of moving into north-central Arkansas. They soon learned they had stimulated the thinking of many relatives. Family after family began to embrace the idea until they had sixteen families. Hiram, my great grandfather, couldnít persuade his brother John, after whom he had named his oldest son, to join the group. John felt a responsibility to his parents (my great-great-grandparents Wesley and Elizabeth English). He couldnít find it in his heart to leave Maysville. John, nevertheless, gave Hiram his blessings for a successful journey to the West.
George, at fourteen, could hardly wait to get on the road. Hiram explained to him that it would take several months to prepare for the journey. He said, "The mules will need to be in perfect condition. Their harness must be mended and oiled. Then the wagon wheels need to be tightened to be solid. We will need bows and tarps for all the wagons. One wagon must be made into a kitchen with supplies. All of our possessions that we canít move must be sold." George realized the preparation must be repeated by each family.
Finally, the planners brought their work to fruition. The scheme, with the route mapped out, had been well thought through. Their goal seemed realistic, to average about 30 miles for each ten-hour day. Each driver had his wagon well-equipped for camp at night. They wanted it to be convenient for everyone to cook, eat, and sleep. Hiram urged each man to take ample supplies for both family and mules. All sixteen families, close relatives, were ready to become part of the wagon train.
The year of 1891 was well established, with Benjamin Harrison serving as the twenty-third President. Furthermore, the forming of the Populist Party was receiving attention in the West. Hiram thought the wagon train would add to history by leaving Gainesville, Georgia, for the western journey. Each family was enthusiastic and dedicated to making the trip pleasant. Some of the families, because of size, were traveling in different wagons. This was not a problem for Hiram because his oldest son John was twenty-two and could manage the team as well as he. The family members who were separated looked forward to the encampments when they could be together.
The environment of the nightly campsite was lively because there were excellent storytellers around the fire. They told traditional family stories that had come through generations. These narrators were people of different vocations: farmers, jewelers, optometrists, and businessmen. Some of these men and their descendants would later become some of the most prominent names in Searcy.
George enjoyed camping but was inspired each day by the view of new territory. He noticed how the big, black, brown-nosed mules seemed to take pride in pursuit of the road with their ears alternating back and forth, keeping time with their step. The click of their feet on the hard surface of the ground was in rhythm with the clucking of the wagon. George knew there is a rhythm in life if one will keep in step with opportunities and be responsible.
His responsibility--as placed upon him by his father--was to care for two prize hunting hounds they were bringing with them. He took his task seriously because he was an avid hunter. The responsibility of the lead driver was to follow a direct route, as close as possible, as they traveled west. He guided the wagons past Rome, Georgia, and proceeded through north Alabama south of the Tennessee River. The wagon train went across the northeast corner of Mississippi into southwest Tennessee to the river. George Manon knew he was looking at the biggest river in North America, flowing from Minnesota into the Gulf of Mexico.
When the wagons rolled over the river into Arkansas, the excitement began to build. They felt they were on the last leg of their journey. The teams plodded through the delta into the fresh air of Crowleys Ridge, where the crushing of gravel and the creaking of harness was music to their ears as they continued toward White River bottom. When they crossed the river, the view of the cypress bottom was refreshing. They were looking for the rolling hills that would lead them to Little Red River. After they crossed the Red, everyone took a deep breath because they realized they were near Searcy. The wagon train rolled through town, traveling west, into Searcy Valley.
The people were happy to have reached their destination. They had traveled in excess of 500 miles in approximately eighteen days. Now they must separate and establish their names in the new land. There were Englishes, Masseys, Garrisons, Gays, Prices, Rices, and Varners.
Hiram English moved his family into a house on the highway east of Crosby Road, now known as the Wyatt farm, in the Dobbinsí Community. The others moved farther west and settled east of Joy, on the mountain northwest of Center Hill, and named it Georgia Ridge.
One of the Georgia hunting dogs disappeared before Hiramís family could get comfortable in its new location. George was heartsick as he searched the farm and the surrounding area, but the hound was no place to be found. He was anxious as he corresponded with his relatives. George Manon received word, after about three months, that the dog had returned to Maysville.
Hiram was happy with the farm he had chosen because the terrain reminded him of north Georgia and the land was excellent for cotton. He would employ all the family with the plowing, planting, hoeing, and picking. The labor of the work force resulted in several good cotton crops. When the force began to thin because of children leaving home, Hiram decided to move farther west.
Hiram Jefferson moved his family into a house near the Presbyterian Cemetery west of the intersection of the highway and Floyd Road in Center Hill. George Manon was living there when he met his wife-to-be and my grandmother Julie Laura Brinds. She was born October 28, 1877, to Albert and Elimira Watkins Brinds, the same year federal troops left the South.
George and Julie were married within a few months and moved north of the low gap of Tater Hill, into a house at the foot of the mountain on the Collins farm.
George and Julie decided to begin their family. Their first child, a son Oscar Oltie, was born September 27, 1898, the year the United States went to war with Spain. Their second child, a daughter Alice Mae, was born January 29, 1900, the year of the Boxer Rebellion in China when William McKinley was serving as twenty-fifth President. The third child, my father Andrew Jackson, was born June 6, 1903. This was the year the United States took control of the Panama Canal, and Theodore Roosevelt was the twenty-sixth President.
Their fourth child, a daughter Cora Bell, was born August 15, 1906. In that year the San Francisco School Board required Japanese to attend a separate school. The fifth child, another daughter Dora Bell, was born May 20, 1908. This was the year President Roosevelt held a three-day meeting with business experts. A sixth child, a son Tollie Howard, was born October 2, 1910. In that year, Roosevelt returned from a European vacation, and William H. Taft was serving as the twenty-seventh President. A seventh child, a daughter Ila Rene, was born July 15, 1916. That year two major bills were passed by Congress: the Farm Loan and the Highway Act. George and Julie lost their youngest child Lena at the age of two.
George and his father Hiram bought a farm on Georgia Ridge that had two houses. Most of the people from Georgia that had settled there had moved toward Rose Bud or Searcy. George moved into the older house and his father into the newer one. Here it was that Hiram was bitten by his rabid dog that later contributed to his death. George, after the death of his parents, moved into the newer home.
My father, Andrew Jackson, therefore, attended Pleasant Ridge School. It was built in 1900 and located south of the Pleasant Ridge Cemetery, which was about one half mile west of his house. The school and cemetery were on the west end of Georgia Ridge. All the children in the surrounding area came there until World War One interfered. The teacher was drafted into the army in 1917, and the students had to finish the term at Joy. Andrew walked the round trip of five miles each day to finish school.
Andrew continued his education under the guidance of his father, concerning the natural things of the land. He learned how to plow a straight row. George taught him to take a maul and froe and split shingles from the block of wood. He could take a broadaxe and hue a perfect seven-by-nine railroad tie. His ability to set a trap for a mink or coon was unequaled. Andrew could follow a bee course to the hive in the tree. He was taught to climb a ladder and saw off a limb, with a swarm of bees, and carry it down and shake them into the hive. His father taught him how to live off the land.
The Slack Family Ancestry
Robert Denver Slack, my grandfather, was born in Deep River, Iowa, March 3, 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified. He was the son of Ira and Elizabeth Hill Slack. Robert was educated in Deep River and grew up as an apprentice in the blacksmith trade, which he later would pursue.
As a young adult, he went to Topeka, Kansas, where he met my grandmother, Alzina Matilda Sater. She was born February 10, 1880, during the term of Rutherford B. Hayes, the nineteenth President, to George Washington and Alzina Matilda Simpson Sater. Alzina had relatives in Kansas and Indiana, whom she would later visit.
Robert Denver left Topeka when he was called to serve in the army during the Spanish-American War. When he went through the Philippines Islands, he bought a 15-jewel Elgin watch, which we still have in the family, and sent it to Alzina. Robert came back to Topeka when the war ended and went to work for the railroad as brakeman. He and Alzina were soon married.
Robert and Alzina, because of his employment, moved to Coffeyville, Kansas. Their first child, Ray Whitman, was born 8 October, 1900, when Elihu Root was Secretary of War. Audron Earl and Adrian Mae, twins, were born June 28, 1903, when the Anti-Saloon League was strong. The youngest child, my mother Mary Elizabeth, was born June 1, 1907, the year in which the Inland Waterways Commission was appointed. In 1909 Robert and Alzina moved the family to Ewing, Nebraska.
Ewing was quite a change for the children, especially for Ray who was uprooted from his school friends. The adjustment for the younger children was easier. Robert knew they were in the center of the nation. Whatís more, they were on the western edge of the prairie and the eastern slope of the Rockies. Robert and Alzina decided the move to Nebraska may not have been wise. The winter blizzards were harsh and the snow drifts were deep. They learned about burning cow chips for fuel and taking sleigh rides over fences. After five years in Ewing, they decided to seek a warmer climate. Robert learned about a farm for sale in White County near Searcy, Arkansas.
Robert Denver (his friends in Ewing called him Bob) decided to go to Searcy to check the area. He looked at different farms in White County. The Thompson farm, four miles north of Center Hill, caught his eye. Its rolling hills, with a creek on the east side and another on the west, would provide land suitable for grazing and farming. The main house was within a half mile of Neal School. Robert bought the farm, including livestock, equipment, and household, and returned to Ewing, Nebraska, to move his family to Searcy, Arkansas.
When Robert arrived in Ewing, Alzina and the children wanted to know about his visit to Searcy. He began to explain, "You travel the Joy-Rose Bud highway nine miles to Center Hill. On the north of the road is a doctorís office, a cotton gin, a repair shop, a general store, and the Presbyterian Cemetery. Across on the south is a grocery store, a blacksmith shop, and a grist mill. The road that turns north beside the cemetery goes to the corner of the Thompson farm.
"The road enters the farm from the county road at the southwest corner and runs northwest across the creek by the big house. It then continues across the second creek, by the rent house, and into the county road at the northwest corner toward Georgia Ridge."
Robert was careful to point out to Alzina and the children that the purchase included livestock, equipment, and household. He said, "Everything is waiting for us to move in." Robert and Alzina packed what they wanted to move and shipped it by rail to Kensett, Arkansas. They sold the rest. The family also traveled by train to Kensett. Robert went to the farm to get the team and wagon and drove to Kensett to transport his family to its new home. They arrived at the Thompson farm in March 1914, the year that the Panama Canal opened.
The Slacks found the foothills of the Ozarks more restricting than the prairie of Nebraska. They couldnít see the landscape of the countryside. Mary Elizabeth said, "I canít see anything but trees, trees, trees." The children thought they had moved to the end of the road. They soon adjusted, however, by making friends with the Collinsí and Morgansí children. Furthermore, they were kept busy with daily farmchores.
The spring and summer was a busy time for the Slack family. Robert was hurrying to get his crop planted and his blacksmith shop in operation. Alzina was busy with the garden and keeping everything mended. The children were looking forward to school starting at Neal. They heard that the Collins, Morgans, Gillams, Sullivans, Heads, Butlers, and Morrisons would attend. Robert and Alzina also learned that getting to worship was time consuming. The Slacks had to drive the team and wagon six miles to Friendship, two miles southwest of Center Hill, to worship. There were times in winter when they put heated, wrapped rocks in the wagon bed and covered up with quilts to keep warm. By the time they arrived, often the horsesí breath had frozen and frosted their nostrils. The Slacks, however, considered worship to be a command and a maturing experience for the children, along with the school. Mary Elizabeth graduated from Neal and received a teacherís permit.
Emerging Cultures Combine Philosophies
My father, Andrew Jackson, grew up being influenced by a southeast culture that was simple in concept and practical in practice. He listened to his fatherís and grandfatherís stories about the rolling hills of north Georgia, with its fields of corn, cotton, peanuts, tobacco, and orchards. The house he grew up in was built in the 1800s Georgian style. Andrew enjoyed country ways and country things.
Andrewís work in the garden and orchard was rewarding. He loved working in the open air. His work, along with his fatherís, with the honey bees was a delight. Andrewís pleasure increased when roaming the countryside looking for turkey nests. When the hen turkey began to set, she was moved to the turkey house and placed in a prepared nest. There were, on occasions, several hens setting at once. When they hatched, they were moved to the range and placed in a slat coop so the little ones could pass in and out. The process of caring for them in this manner defeated the predators. Andrewís work on the farm contributed to his philosophy of having the inner strength to take advantage of what the land yields for your survival. He also considered very carefully the culture in which Mary Elizabeth grew up.
My mother, Mary Elizabeth, grew up being influenced by a midwest culture. She was born in Kansas and lived in Nebraska. The corn and wheat fields, with the irrigated prairie land, were keen in her memory. She was fascinated by the windmills of the midwest. Her strength seemed to be a combination between the Kansas Dutch and the Iowa Irish. She was courageous when dealing with adversity and wanted all her children to know their true worth. Her philosophy was to control the external things and to seek opportunity to assure survival. She was mindful of Andrewís culture and philosophy as he was of hers.
Andrew Jackson was strong in mind and spirit. He lived two miles northwest of the Thompson farm on Georgia Ridge. Mary Elizabeth was courageous and lived on the Thompson farm in the valley near the mountain. Their two cultures were blended, when they were married, into a quality faith, strength, hope, and endurance. Their philosophies were woven into a fabric that would serve them well in good economic times and even better in hard times. The rent house on the Thompson farm had burned a few months before. A two-room house was built on the same plot for them to move into. I will write about my birth in Chapter Two, "Special Issue."
Mary Elizabeth Slack English and Andrew Jackson English, my parents.
I was born by Divine Design
My birth was very fine.
Arrived on Time
On a bright, sunny May 10, 1925, the doctor of Center Hill was summoned to the two-room house on the Thompson farm. Soon after he arrived, he presented to my parents, Andrew Jackson and Mary Elizabeth, a healthy ten-pound boy. I had peacefully made my entrance into the world. My grandparents came to see the new grandson. Besides, my birth was special to my maternal grandmother, who lived across the creek, because I was her first grandson born in Arkansas. She wanted to name me Elton Westal, but my mother wouldnít have any part of the middle name. They came to a compromise after a discussion ensued. The name was given to the doctor as Elton LeRoy English, and it has served me well.
The attending physician, Doctor L. N. Worden, filled out my birth certificate and gave the town, the post office from where we received our mail, as Armstrong Springs. He listed the township as Des Arc in the county of White. Justice of the Peace J. H. Morgan signed the certificate as Registrar. Mr. Morgan lived on the farm that joined the Thompson farm on the south and was the Slacksí nearest neighbor.
My father was farming across the fence from Mr. Morgan when I was born. He had a cousin Dexter living in Georgia that wanted to come to Arkansas but didnít have the fare for the journey. Dexter (his family called him Deck) wrote Andrew, and he sent him the money to come. When he arrived, he lived with Andrew Jackson and Mary Elizabeth and worked on the farm to repay the loan. He told me, after I became an adult, how he had cared for me when I was a baby while my mother prepared meals.
I made my debut on lifeís stage during the second term of Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth President of the United States. The people thought the name Coolidge was a personification of prosperity.
When I was about six weeks old, Aunt Cora gave birth to twins that were tiny. The smallest died at birth, and the mother didnít have enough milk for the surviving baby. The doctor told the family that the baby must have motherís milk to survive. George and Julie, my grandparents, brought their daughter and grandson to their house and sent for my mother. My mother, their daughter-in-law, stayed there and nursed the both of us until Clinton, my first cousin, was strong enough to digest cowís milk.
My father knew the situation called for tremendous sacrifice by the family. He and Dexter, with the aid of my grandmother Slack, were trying to hold things together and work the crop. Dad made the two-mile journey about every two days to see his family, by walking the path up the mountain, by the waterfall, and across the fields to his parentsí house. He was happy, knowing his nephew was out of danger, to get his wife and baby settled at home again. Now, everyone could get back into his normal work habit.
When I was born, my Uncle Ray, motherís brother, was working for the M.N.A. railroad. He rode a bicycle seven miles daily to join the section crew at Crosby. Besides, he worked with his brother Audron at the farm on Saturday. Uncle Ray was transferred to the Missouri and Pacific Line when the Missouri and North Arkansas discontinued service.
My mother was concerned, along with my father, about where I would attend school. Neal School had consolidated with Center Hill, and the children around the Thompson farm had to walk four miles. Pleasant Ridge had consolidated with Joy, and the children had to walk three and a half miles. Ben Sullivan, our neighbor, thought something had to be done. He said, "These babies, when they reach school age, should not walk that far." Besides, he owned a farm at the end of the county road, against the mountain, north of the Thompson farm. He thought there should be a school on Georgia Ridge for the children there and also for those in the north end of the valley. Ben (his friends called him Uncle Ben) began working toward getting a district for this section, but he met opposition from county officials.
Uncle Ben enlisted the support of his neighbors and the people on Georgia Ridge. He developed the motto "Sullivan can do" to engender support. By mounting a pertinacious effort, he finally got the district approval. The county officials assigned to Georgia Ridge the designation of District 94, and the people, with the help of the board, named it Sweet Springs. Consequently, the Sweet Springs School building was built on the east end of Georgia Ridge in 1927. The building served a triple purpose; it housed the school, and it served for community gatherings and church services. It became the center of community life for the people of Georgia Ridge. They had programs of interest on Saturday night, and the church met for services on Sunday. The mothers were happy for the children.
I will write about my preschool years in Chapter Three.
I wrote this poem to celebrate motherhood and to honor my mother.
A day, her day, is set aside;
It honors mother in every stride.
In heavenís mission she ever abides.
Her family is cherished through eventides.
Mother is anxious when one is ill;
She never allows him to miss a pill.
When the fever is persisting still,
She seeks comfort from the Fatherís will.
Motherís road is winding and bare,
And the gray is frosting her hair.
Then the facial wrinkles are ever a dare,
But household chores are always there.
Mother now is getting old;
She is a gem set in gold.
Her lifeís fruit is a hundred fold,
So she is facing eternity humbly bold.
Motherís wisdom has come with age;
Her strength was shaped by the swage.
She has certainly hammered out her wage,
So motherhood is celebrated on lifeís stage.
A Small Shoot
My childhood imagination did astound
The childhood memories do abound.
Bending the Twig
My parents believed in the old adage, "As a twig is bent so shall it grow." I was blessed to have parents and grandparents that were members of the Lordís church. They were concerned that the twig, Elton LeRoy English, be bent in the right direction. I was taught by my mother and grandmothers. This applied both to my paternal and maternal grandmothers, so I, from a child, have known the Holy Scriptures.
They were also concerned about my physical health. I had the mumps when I was a toddler, and my grandmother Slack, who had never had them, prepared potato soup or anything she thought I would eat. She brought it and passed it through the window to my mother. Then she came to the window near my bed and talked to me through the glass.
Also, from my bed, I could see Mr. Wiggs as he drove by the house. Mr. Wiggs had moved onto the Sullivan farm and drove a roadster automobile, which was rare in those days. He traveled the road across the Thompson farm as a short cut, instead of going around the county road. The road from the northwest came by on the north side of our yard, turned right in front of the house down a cedar lane, crossed Redus Creek by my Grandmother Slackís house, and continued southeast across Morgan Creek to the county road.
One cool October afternoon, when mother was not well, Mr. and Mrs. Wiggs drove in from the northwest and stopped in front of the house. Mrs. Wiggs got out and came in and Mr. Wiggs drove on. Grandmother Slack came to the house, and within the hour Mr. Wiggs returned with Doctor Hardy who had replaced Doctor L. N. Worden at Center Hill. He got out his black bag and came in. Then he opened his bag to give my mother some medication. I ran to the bed and put my hands over her mouth. Doctor Hardy chuckled as he explained that he must give my mother some medicine so she would feel better. My brother was born, and the doctor recorded his birth as October 16, 1928. Mother named him Weldon George Denver after both his grandfathers.
With a new baby for Mother to care for, Grandmother thought I should go home with her. We were walking the road back and came to the creek where an old goose was leading her baby goslings into the water. I was afraid and covered my eyes because I thought they would drown, but Grandmother said, "Look, they are floating around on top of the water."
When we arrived, I remember seeing the big, black mules in the lot. Later, I slipped out of the house and through the gate and had one of the mules by the tail, following it around. My grandmother came out, looking for me, and screamed, "Come here! That mule could kick your head off." I came running, with a sheepish look, and she grabbed me and said, "See that rain barrel under the drip of the house? Iím going to souse you down in there!" I can still see the reflection of my face in the water. She knew I wanted to come to her house when she baked bread and made cottage cheese for her baby turkeys, so I gave her my pledge of good behavior.
One day a week, Grandmother Slack baked loaf bread, which was rare for rural people in those days. She baked enough to last the family until the next baking day. I would go to her house on baking day and see those big pans of dough running over the side, waiting for the last kneading, to be made into loaves. She would knead, make the dough into loaves, and place it in the bread pans to rise and bake. I watched for her to take the bread from the oven and set it on top of the stove to cool. Then she took a bread knife, sliced a loaf, and applied butter. Next, she poured a glass of sweet clabber from which she made cottage cheese and put sugar in it and stirred. Then, she sat me down to warm bread and sweet clabber, which I can still taste as I write.
Grandmother kept watch when I was in the yard. She had a turkey gobbler that would attack me when he could catch me out. There was also a beehive in the corner of the front yard, and she didnít want me near it. One cool day when I was there, I didnít see any bees, and that worried me no end, so I took a rock and tapped the hive and received several stings. Grandmother took a knife, scraped off the stingers, and applied vinegar and baking soda to each sting. She scolded me and gave an explanation to my father.
I enjoyed going with my father and mother to Georgia Ridge to visit my grandparents. My father put me on his shoulders with my legs around his neck and would hold my feet while I was holding his head. Mother carried my baby brother Weldon, and we walked the path up the mountain by the waterfall. The water rolling from the top looked refreshing. Then we crossed the fields to my grandparentsí house. I have many memories of nights spent with my grandparents. Going home the next morning was an experience, too, because from the top of the mountain, you could see the whole valley with every road and house. And, you could even see the neighbors with their teams, plowing in the fields. My father would say, "That is what I have to do when we get home."
Dad let me ride in the wagon and hold the lines on the way to the field. He stopped the wagon in the shade so I could play while he plowed. When he stopped to let the team rest, we would sit in the shade with the water keg. One day we had been sitting on the ground, and when we got up, there was a black snake behind us. My father teased me about sitting on the snake.
However, my father and mother were faced with a decision that would affect my brother and me. The crash of 1929, followed by the severe drouth of 1930, had affected everyone in the valley. There were many families living in deep poverty. My parentsí philosophy was being tested by the economic failure. They had, however, an excellent harvest in 1931. Dad had more than enough corn to feed the farm animals. He sold 20 bushels at fifty cents a bushel to his brother-in-law Vernon Lawrence. My parents also made a good cotton crop and sold it for five cents a pound. So, they discussed making an investment during the slow economic times.
My father knew the price of fur was excellent, as compared to other things. He decided to take the ten dollars from the corn sale and buy, from Robert Simpson, a year old July hound that was beginning to tree. The dog was so efficient in the woods that Dad named him Eagle. He proved to be the best ten dollar gold that my father could have obtained. Dad hunted (the dog was young and strong and would hunt every night) like a man working at a regular job. He knew how to care for the fur and received bonuses for prime pelts. There was a gray fox hide for which he received a five dollar bonus. My father averaged about two hundred dollars during the hunting season, which was a lot of money during the Depression. He and Eagle fed the family for the duration, and the dog kept him off of public work programs. Dad lived from the land though farming and hunting and never received welfare during those economic hard times.
Yet, my parents had another decision to make, about starting me to school. I was six in 1931, and my grandparents thought I was too young to walk the two miles to Sweet Springs in the winter. They persuaded my parents to wait until I was seven to start me. My mother knew she was well equipped to teach me the first year. In addition, my grandmother Slack had a slate from her school days by which I was fascinated. She used it to teach me letters, numbers, and words. My mother and father did let me visit school occasionally on Fridays, to go home with Aunt Ila to visit my grandparents. Mr. Hodge was the teacher. He lived south of my grandfather English on the Hill farm, and he walked with the students living west of the school. Whatís more, my grandfather Slack gave my mother an automobile!
Grandfather Slack gave Mother a touring car which later would give me a lot of pleasure. It had four doors, with a black top, and a windshield made in two sections so half would roll out. We kept it in a shed up from the house and east of the barn. I spent many hours playing in the car as I grew.
Then Grandfather Slack left the farm and moved to Collinsville, Oklahoma. Grandmother Slack, along with my uncles Ray and Audren, moved to Searcy. Consequently, my father moved his family into the big house and planned to expand his farm operation because he now had control of all the land. Soon after the transition on March 9, 1932, my sister Theola Sharlene was born. My brother and I were happy to have our own room. We were delighted to have the run of the big house. Besides, I could hardly wait for school to begin at Sweet Springs.
I will write about my elementary education in Chapter Four.
Expanding the Mind
I went to school to search by feel
To seek for knowledge to guide my zeal.
I took my rough paper tablet, cedar pencil, half gallon syrup bucket, and went out the door, with my motherís blessings, for my first day of school. My lunch pail was clipping the top of the weeds as I walked the road toward the mountain. I knew the Sullivan house at the end of the first mile was half way. When I reached to end of the county road, I took the path up the mountain to where it went around a big rock on which Edrel and Nellie Wiggs were sitting. They had seen me coming up the county road and had sat down while waiting for me to catch up. Edrel escorted me to school and became a good guardian because he was older.
The teacher asked my name for his attendance roll and my birth date to verify my age. He assigned me the front desk on the east side of the room. I noticed, with keen interest, the row of desks on stage in front of the blackboard. The teacher, Mr. Bennett, had his chair over to the right side facing the student body. When he called a grade for recitation, he seated them facing the board. He could teach the assignment and watch the student body with avid enthusiasm.
When the teacher was ready for morning recess, he asked the students to stand and walk quietly out the front door. He rang a five minute bell to let the students know it was time to line up in front of the building and stood in the front door. The boys were instructed to line up on the left and the girls on the right. They were told to march in quietly and be seated.
The water cooler with two tin cups was on a shelf in the southwest corner of the room. The teacher assigned two older boys to take the cooler to the spring, which was about 200 yards west of the building, and fill it full with water and place it back on the shelf. He alternated this chore among the boys who were in the upper grades. Each pair of boys looked forward to their turn of going to the spring.
The students were delighted when the teacher asked them to stand, take their lunches, and to go out to eat under the big oak tree which was in the southwest corner of the front yard. I sat on a tree root and opened my syrup bucket to find a big sausage that Mother had cooked and canned in the late summer. It was in a big teacup biscuit. There was also a big piece of molasses cake. I ate my lunch with great anticipation of the play period that was to follow.
The teacher came out and announced the game of stealing sticks. He appointed a captain for each team, and they began the process of alternation in choosing their players. Mr. Bennett tried to get an equal number of older students on each team because he wanted them to be competitive. A pile of sticks was placed at each end of the court, with a center line between, and the players had to stay within its bounds. Each captain was allowed to choose which pile of sticks his team would defend. Then each team was placed on its side of the center line. Any player that could get through to the opposing stick pile, without getting caught, was free to take a stick back to his pile. The player, if he was caught, had to stay on the stick pile until a teammate could get through to rescue him and take him back to his team. The team that claimed all the sticks won the game.
Then, Mr. Bennett rang the five minute bell, as he did at the morning recess, as a signal for the students to get in line in front of the building. They quietly marched in to their assigned seats. The teacher stopped classes about ten minutes before school was out so the older boys could carry in wood while the rest of the students cleaned the building.
The teacher, having all eight grades in a one-room school, didnít get much accomplished the first day except to make assignments and pass out homework to be turned in the next day. He exhorted the students to get their homework and said, "I will see all of you in the morning at eight-thirty."
The second day was better organized because the students knew what to expect. The teacher stood before the assembly with his Bible in hand, beckoned to attract attention, and read the Scripture. Then he closed the Book and led the student body in prayer. Afterwards, he sang "Arkansas" and led the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. He began classes with first grade, and I learned about "Baby Ray," "Little Boy Blue," and the "Cunning Kitty Cats." The teacher went through the first class for each grade and progressed to the second, third, fourth, and fifth until he had them in by the end of the school day.
Walking back and forth to school was also a real lesson in nature study. It was a thrill to stand on the side of the mountain and see a fox loping through the sagebrush. It was invigorating to listen to the southwest breeze rushing through the pine trees and refreshing to see a buck drinking from the water hole in the creek. Walking across Cedar Ridge with red birds flying from limb to limb and squirrels scampering down the road and jumping from tree to tree was truly exciting. I remember the rush I received from the rising of a covey of quail. It is stimulating to me still.
In the winter, also, it was peaceful, with the snow drifting down, to hear the old steam engine on the M.N.A. line chugging to make the long grade north of Crosby. I could hear the rapid chugging when it would spin out on the rails and then the slow chug when the wheels would gain traction. It would finally make it over, which was an excellent lesson in persistence.
My father let me stay home for butchering day because I was doing so well with my studies. Uncle Vernon Lawrence came to help Dad butcher hogs. They sharpened the butcher knives to a razorís edge and filled the pots with water. Then they built fires around them, and, while they were waiting for the water to get hot, my brother backed up to the fire, and it caught his trousers. Uncle Vernon threw him on the ground and smothered the flames with his bare hands. Mother applied cold water and baking soda to the burn. After the excitement, Dad checked the position of the scalding barrel to the scraping platform. Then they went to the pen and killed the hog. First they turned it on its back and slit its throat. Then they ran the knife through the slit to the heart so it would bleed. Next, they harnessed the mule to pull the hog to the scraping platform where the scalding barrel had been positioned. Finally, the boiling water was poured into the barrel, and the hog was shoved into it head first. It then was turned and pulled out. The hog was turned around and the rear end shoved in. Then it was pulled out onto the platform and scraped on one side. It was then turned over and scraped on the other side.
When the hog was scraped clean, Dad stepped on each side of it, turning it on its back, while holding it with his feet and legs. Next, he took his knife and cut on one side of the hamstring, just above the hock joint, so he could pull it out to get the end of the grambrel stick under it (a grambrel stick was sharpened on each end). He did both back legs so the grambrel stick would spread them apart and support the weight of the hog. Then he fastened a chain to the center and swung the hog to a big tree limb over the platform. With the hog hanging clear of the scraping platform, he took a butcher knife and cut around the back to the bone just behind the ears. Then, he took hold of the ears and twisted the head to disjoint the neck bone and laid the head on the table.
This done, my father cut off the ears and turned the head on its side. He took an axe and disjointed the jaw bone on both sides so he could cut the head in half. Then he took out the tongue, cut off the lower mouth, and cut the lower head in half. He then cut off the snout and cut the upper head in half. Next, he took out the brains and put them into a dish to be cooked with eggs. The four quarters of the head were used in making souse meat. Then, Dad disjointed the feet at the knee joint. The feet, ears, tongue, lower mouth, and snout were used to make lye soap.
Finally, Dad took his knife and cut between the back legs with care so as not to cut through the inner lining. He cut around the rectum, pulled the large intestine through the incision, and tied the end with a string. Then he put two fingers of the left hand into the incision on either side of the knife blade. With a tub positioned between the front legs, he cut, keeping the intestines pushed back with the two fingers, straight down the belly to the breast bone, and let the intestines roll into the tub. Next, he took out the kidneys, liver, and heart. Then Dad took a sharp axe and cut through the breast bone to open the carcass all the way down. He washed the carcass down with cold water, cut the ribs loose from the backbone, and removed it.
After cutting the carcass in half, Dad and Uncle Vernon carried the two halves to the pantry and laid them on the table. Then they cut out the ribs and ripped out the tenderloin. Next, they cut off the hams and trimmed the fat to round them. Finally, my father cut the shoulders from the midlings and trimmed them square. The fat that was trimmed from the carcass was put with that which came from the intestines and rendered into lard. As a preservative, Dad put a layer of salt in the bottom of the meat box, laid in the shoulders, and covered them over. Then he put the hams in and covered them with salt. The midlings were laid on the hams and also covered. The meat was left until the salt had penetrated it. Then it was taken up, washed, smoked, and hung. My father let me stay home because he thought it would be a learning experience. I was into it every step of the way. The next day, however, Dad had me back in school.
In my second year at Sweet Springs, Mr. Clifton "Spud" Welch was the teacher. He lived southeast of the school building across Little Indian Creek. In the winter, when the creek was up and out of its banks, he rode a mule to school. Mr. Welch spent more time than Mr. Bennett with the basketball team. He scheduled games for Friday afternoons and, occasionally, took the team to Morris School at Armstrong Springs, to play on the indoor court. On Friday afternoon, when he didnít have a game, he conducted cipher matches and spelling bees. This cultivated interest and created a competitive spirit among the students. I missed these when I was ill and had to drop out for a few weeks.
I developed pneumonia in the winter of 1933 and was seriously ill. Doctor Hardy had been coming to see me, but, finally, he was about ready to give me up. My grandparents, aunts, and uncles came to see me. They came in and crowded around my bed, and Aunt Cora brought me a red Bantam rooster. I can still see her walking up to my bed and holding it out to me. When I finally improved to where my parents thought I needed to get up and try to walk a few steps, I was so weak I couldnít get out of bed nor could I stand. My father and mother had to get on either side of me and hold me up to support my weight. I had been as near death as I have ever been. Even though I scraped the bars of death, I have always thought that I was spared for a purpose. Mr. Welch and the student body gave me a hearty welcome when I was strong enough to go back to school. They thought that I had been well blessed because so many were dying with pneumonia.
And speaking of close calls, when I walked by the Sullivan house on my way to school, I saw Uncle France and Aunt Ida, the parents of Mr. Wiggs, sitting on the front porch. (Uncle France had a long beard and walked with a cane, and Aunt Ida wore wire-rimmed spectacles.) During his daily walk, Uncle France had come upon an aggressive snake that had fastened to his trouser leg, and he had killed it with his cane. This story was of keen interest to me, so when I passed by on my way to school, it was always in my memory.
Occasionally, though, I was lucky enough to get a ride to school. Mr. Welch bought an automobile with a rumble seat and running boards. Heíd pick up students along the road and would arrive at school with it filled with children. It was a treat for most to be able to ride in a car.
During my third term, my father bought a farm on the east end of Georgia Ridge just a mile from the school. Dad bought the Holden farm that joined the Head farm on the west. The Head children had gone to school at Neal with my mother. It was covered in pine timber, and Dad moved in a sawmill to cut the timber on the halves. Dad took his half and built a house and barn. He put his house at the same place, near the old dug well, where the old house, in which his Uncle John had lived, once stood. The barn was built down the hill south of the house. My father built the new house on the same style of the old with a porch across the front.
Before we moved, we went to Searcy to visit my grandmother Slack and stayed for two or three days. She lived near the railroad where my Uncle Ray worked which was on Highway 67 south. There was a lot of truck traffic even through the night. It was much more noisy than out on the farm. Later, as Uncle Audron was taking us back to the farm, he ran a board through the radiator. This was because north of the Presbyterian Cemetery, someone had removed a plank from the bridge and put it into the opening endways. It could have been a deadly prank, but we were blessed not to be injured.
We also were planning to visit Grandfather Slack in Oklahoma. Uncle Ray, Aunt Adrian, Mother, and the children went to visit him in Collinsville. He spent his spare time fishing, and he took me while we were there. I caught a fish without the hook being in it because the line was half hitched around its body through the fins. It pulled the line tight, so I landed it and Grandpa helped me loosen the line. He teased me about catching fish even if they didnít bite. He also took us to the river to gather papaws. That was a new experience for me because we didnít have them on the Thompson farm. Grandpa made our visit pleasant and brought us up to date on Uncle Frank, his brother, who lived back in Deep River, Iowa, and who also ran a blacksmith shop. Grandfather sent us back to Arkansas with his blessings, and we enjoyed our return trip. Dad, who had stayed behind to care for the farm, was glad when we got home. We had many things to tell him about our visit with Grandpa in Collinsville. He got a laugh out of my fish story and had several questions about our trip. I told him about the yellow fruit of the papaw, but he was familiar with it because he had fished and hunted along the streams of north central Arkansas.
In fact, my father was knowledgeable about many things. For instance, he built a new wagon bed or box with which to move his grain. Dad built the bottom of the bed tight so the grain wouldnít sift through. When it started raining and freezing, the bed held water and froze ice four inches thick. So he chopped ice out of the bed, and we made ice cream. Then we moved to Georgia Ridge in the winter of 1934, into the house that Dad had built on the site of the old house.
We carried water from the spring that was down the hill in front of the house. Dad, however, wanted to get the dug well cleaned out. He got his uncle Millard Maddock to come and do the work. Daddy and his brother, with a long rope, let Uncle Millard down into the well. Then they let down a five-gallon bucket for him to fill with mud. Next, they pulled him up to get him out of danger. They then pulled up the five gallons of dirt. The water was clear and cold when they got it cleaned out. We used the well for refrigeration in the summer. Mother used three gallon cream cans to let things down into the well that she wanted to keep cool because they had a bail and lid.
Next, Dad wanted to get the old fields cleaned up so he could begin his crop. He hired his brother Oltie to help with the cleaning. They dug, cut, and piled brush all over the field. Then they turned back, when it was wet, and burned the piles. Dad would go back after supper and tend brush piles to get all the brush burned. Then he went to the blacksmith shop in Center Hill and had the blacksmith to make a plow that was strong enough to break any root that the mules could pull in two. The mules were big and strong, and they soon learned to set their heels against those roots. Dad was ready when planting time came.
Because of planting, school was out about the middle of March. We had only a five-month term, and I could run the planter for my father. I drove the big black mule that was well-trained to pull the planter. Dad used the big red mule to pull the fertilizer distributor to lay off the rows. He set the backband back on the back mule to shorten the traces so they would support some of the weight of the front of the planter. I put my mule in the furrow behind Dad. He wanted me to stay close so he could keep check on everything. The black mule knew to turn at the end and hit the fresh furrow, so all I needed to do was to get the back end of the planter around so the front wheel would hit the furrow with the mule. I let my mule slow down behind Dad because the distributor was more difficult for the red mule to pull. We had the corn planted by the end of March. Then Daddy began to get his cotton ground ready to plant.
My father took a lister and bedded his cotton ground. Then he would turn back and re-bed it. In addition, he took a float drag and floated the beds off smooth. Next, he took a fertilizer distributor and made the row in the center of the bed in which to run the planter. He wanted his cotton planted by the middle of May so he would have speckled bolls by the Fourth of July. Dad was happy to get his cotton ground prepared because the lister was more difficult for the team than the one-wing turning plow with which he prepared his corn ground. When the cotton had shanked up with two leaves, he put a set of twisters on the cultivator and barred it off to be hoed.
Dad taught me how to use a cotton hoe and the exact angle to hold it so it wouldnít dig into the ground. He put me on a row behind him, and he expected me to be there when he got to the end. We would hoe a field and then he would turn back and plow it. He wanted the crop finished by the middle of July so we would have some slack time before harvest.
We started picking cotton about the first of September. It took us about three or four days to pick a bale of cotton and load the wagon. Then we drove the team across the Redus farm that joined the Thompson farm on the northeast and by Neal School on to Center Hill to the gin. It ran day and night through the busy season. I enjoyed going with Dad because it was a pleasure to see the cotton roll through the stands into the press, to be tied out and rolled onto the dock as a 500 pound bale. There were occasions when weíd get caught in a long line, and weíd be hours getting up to the gin. Then we would go to the grocery store and buy our lunch before returning home. When we had picked our cotton over the first time, weíd gathered the corn before starting the second picking.
By this time I was ready to start my fourth year in school with a new teacher. The Sweet Springs School Board hired Mrs. Erma Welch, the wife of Clifton "Spud" Welch, for the school year. Mrs. Welch was the former Miss Erma Morgan who had gone to school at Neal with my mother. She took a special interest in me and wanted me to do well, so I responded to her counsel. Drama was her interest and she gave me leading roles in the school plays. We had our productions with two wall lamps on either side of the room. They were oil reflector lamps that sat on shelves about six feet high. The poor lighting, however, didnít dampen our spirits to excel. I will write about my middle school years in Chapter Five.
I wrote the following poem to honor my father.
Son Honors Father
Use realistic words, I say,
In honoring Dad on Fatherís Day;
Who had the strength to say nay
To evil things along the way.
You had the faith to live right
And the patience to rock me at night.
Iím glad you kept me in your sight
As you brought me into the light.
When I said, "To me it is Greek,"
You were a master at critique.
After I was baptized in the same creek,
The brethren thought it was unique.
Everyday I feel the goad
For my life is of the same mode.
So Iím bearing an equal load
Because Iím walking the same road.
You are honored each day
By the words I say.
Now you have given me the power to say nay
To the sinful things along the way.
Search for facts to calculate
Seek for substance to meditate
Freedom to Grow
The County Supervisor told the Sweet School Board that they needed to have more than a five-month term. Consequently, they decided to retain the five-month winter term and add two months in the summer. The board, as a governing body, thought this was in the best interest of the farming community. They did, however, want to raise the academic standard of the school so they hired Jane Osborn, a native of Evening Shade, Arkansas.
The decision to hire Mrs. Osborn had the blessing of the church because her husband, Ado, was a gospel preacher. Mr. and Mrs. Osborn were not only interested in the academic advancement of the school, but also in the spiritual enrichment of the people of the community. Mrs. Osborn tried to get the school to be the best that it could be while Mr. Osborn was an inspirational teacher of the Scriptures. They had the school and the church working in the community as a team. Mr. Osborn inspired the church to build a brush arbor next door to the school building because it would be a cooler place in which to hold a gospel meeting. (There were eighteen baptized during one series of services.) Both the school and church made the greatest progress under their leadership because she was a dedicated teacher and he was an eloquent speaker.
I was entering fifth grade when the Ado Osborn family, with their son Paul, moved into the John Hopper house on the McKinney farm which joined the play ground of the school. The wood had been cut and stacked between the trees under the building, and school was ready to begin.
I came to school with greater enthusiasm and renewed devotion toward the coming school year. The teacher could see that I wanted to learn, and she intended to advance me as I proved my ability. She soon saw in me a nugget that needed to be shaped, smoothed, honed, and polished. Mrs. Jane took her task very seriously as she made assignments from day to day. I burned a lot of kerosene and went to sleep quite often with a book in my hand. Mother tried to keep the lamp chimney clean so it would give its best light while I was doing my homework. Mrs. Osborn knew I was listening to the recitations of the older students, and she rewarded me with favorable comments. The one-room school did have some advantages for those students who were seeking opportunities. You could get involved in whatever was of interest. The discussions were enlightening and the board work was self-explanatory. Besides, the teacher explained things over and over until you couldnít miss the point. I was having less trouble with fifth grade because of what I learned about it when I was taking fourth grade. The one room gave opportunity to establish a good background for promotions. Mrs. Osborn taught me things that would be with me for the rest of my life.
Mr. and Mrs. Osborn were of the same sentiment as my grandmother Slack. She would say, "I want you to grow up to become a gospel preacher." They, along with her, could see something in me that caused them to think that I could develop my talents into something worthwhile. I learned more from their lives than from the course of study I pursued. Furthermore, they were looking forward to seeing me as the finished product that had been shaped, smoothed, honed, and polished. The Osborns, along with my parents and grandparents, were pooling their efforts toward that end. I am a debtor to many people, especially to my teachers.
Mrs. Osborn knew there were two fields that were vital to my growth and development. She was involved in the area of education and knew what kind I needed. First, she wanted me to be knowledgeable, with the ability to express myself clearly. Next, she thought I needed to be persuasive, to win people to my point of view. Then she was depending on her husband Ado to teach me the Scriptures because she knew that religion was vital to my eternal welfare. She wanted me to know the truth, with the ability to divide aright any topic taught in the Bible. She instilled in me the principles of truth, honesty, and uprightness. Mrs. Jane tried to lay a foundation that was both academic and spiritual so the student could live a well-balanced life after school. She promoted me to the sixth grade at the end of the term, with the admonition to prepare for summer school.
Before the summer session, Mr. and Mrs. Osborn moved into the big house on the McKinney farm that was near the school building. The people, some with teams and wagon, came to help with the cleaning and moving. It was a manifestation of the great community spirit that surrounded Sweet Springs on Georgia Ridge. Furthermore, the men came and cut and hauled wood to heat the house during the winter. The people were also there during an illness, and, when one died, they dressed the body for burial. The lead carpenter would build the coffin while the neighbors dug the grave. Then the community would come, with team and wagon, to haul the coffin with the body to the cemetery where a graveside service was held. Whatís more, during an illness, neighbors would go in and workout the crops, even while the men were trying to get their own crops in shape before the children started summer school.
The children were happy to get back to school even though the weather was hot. Indeed, the temperature in the building would climb high during the day. The only way to cool it was to raise all the windows and hope for a breeze to blow through. As a matter of fact, the breeze on Georgia Ridge was more prevalent than in the valley. Never the less, the teacher challenged us to greater achievements because of the short summer session. She tried to cultivate zeal and create interest in the lesson despite the heat. Mrs. Osborn and the students were glad to see the cooler weather of August as they were looking for the fall break to end the session. She promoted me to the seventh grade, thereby passing me two grades in one year. I made up for my late start in school. My parents were pleased that I was promoted from the fifth at the close of the winter session and passed from the sixth at the end of the summer session. Mrs. Osborn practiced accelerated education before it became popular and was a teacher fifty years ahead of her time. She wished the students a happy break with the admonition that she would see them at the middle of October.
I was determined to enjoy the break from school because I wanted to spend time at the swimming hole and eat watermelon. In the spring of 1937, when we planted cotton, Dad mixed watermelon seed in one hopper of cotton seed and planted eighteen rows. We hauled watermelon and put them under the big mulberry tree, and relatives and neighbors came and ate watermelon. These melons were as good as any we had ever raised.
That fall I was busy with farm chores and going to the creek and eating watermelon. One afternoon I took the mules to the creek to water them. Then I decided that I would ride the young mule back to the barn. When I got to the house, he started running and bucking down the hill to the curve. I went off in front of him, as he went around the curve, and he tripped over my right leg. He skinned his head and side on the gravel, but he got up and turned around and looked at me. I hopped over and took hold of the bridle reins and led him to the barn. Within the hour my leg was swollen and turning blue, and I was in bed for three or four days. I had to recover so I could help Dad with the harvest.
We had a field of peanuts to plow up and stack. Dad took a singlestock and plowed them out. Then we put four rows on one turning peanuts up. Next, we drove posts in the turn rows and stacked them around. turning the peanuts toward the post. Finally, when they cured, we hauled them and put them in the barn loft. On rainy days we picked them off the vines.
We also had a patch of ribbon cane to make into syrup. Dad took a four-inch board that was a half-inch thick and thirty inches long and carved a handle on one end. Then he sharpened the underneath edge in the form of a blade, and we used it to strip the cane. When we got the patch stripped, he took a handle one inch in diameter and three feet long and split one end and inserted a long blade knife. He secured it with a nail and wire, and we used it to cut the cane and laid it in piles. Finally, we cut the heads off and hauled the cane with team and wagon to the sorghum mill that was a half mile north across the creek.
Arriving at the mill, we stacked the cane on the north, outside the circle where the mule walked to pull the mill. The mules, Julie and Pete, were well trained, so Mr. Beals alternated them a half day each. The tongue was bolted to the top of the mill and curved down to the middle joint of the back legs where the singletree was fastened. Then the lead pole was fastened to the tongue near the mill and came down in front of the mule. Next, the mule was hooked to the singletree and his bridle rein was tied to the lead pole so, as he pulled, the pole would lead him in a circle. I carried the cane and kept a small pile just to the right of the person feeding the mill. The juice ran out of the mill into a barrel and was carried in a big bucket to the evaporator pan where it was cooked into syrup.
The evaporator pan was sitting on top of a furnace that was as long as the pan so you could have the hottest part of the fire either in front or back, wherever it was needed. Wood was the fuel used to fire the furnace, and a hot-type tool with a long steel handle was used to push or pull the fire. The pan had cross sections with openings in the partition to allow the juice to flow through, or they could be closed. The sorghum juice was poured into the front of the pan; and, as it was moved along, the skimmings would rise and be skimmed off. Finally, it would reach the last section, near the smoke stack, and be cooked until it haired. Then the syrup was drawn, before it overcooked, through a faucet into syrup buckets.
People at the mill were talking about the mattress making at the school house. Due to economic hard times brought on by the Great Depression, there was a program by which people could make their own mattresses. One could get the ticking, cotton, needle, thread, and tufting disk. A work day was held at the Sweet Springs School House. The women came and stuffed ticks with cotton. Then, using the special needles and heavy thread, they sewed in the cotton rolls. Next, they sewed in the tufting disk, and, when they were finished, they had tufted cotton mattresses.
I was happy to get back to school for my second year at the feet of Mrs. Jane Osborn. Mrs. Osborn welcomed everyone back for the school year, and she was anticipating a great year. She wanted the students to think it was going to be an excellent one. She had the ability to inspire her students mentally and emotionally to work up to their capabilities. She thought I was capable of developing my talents as a leader. She wanted me to apply myself to my studies and be dedicated to that task. Mrs. Osborn was hoping that I would do well in the seventh grade, but I was in for a new experience.
Uncle Millard Maddock lived on the farm across from the school building. He had a patch of cane across the road from the spring where the school got its water. He had his crop up and worked out when he lost his horse. He needed a team to cultivate his crop so Mr. Dickson, who was the brother-in-law of Mr. Wiggs and lived northeast toward Mr. Beals, let him have a yoke of oxen. To see him work those oxen was a new experience for me because I had never seen oxen working in the field. Uncle Millard could handle them, however, because he was a cowboy from the West. He had even gone to Pangburn, Arkansas, and had ridden a bucking horse that was owned by Doctor Jackson.
Besides the loss of Uncle Millardís horse, there were also other tragedies in the community. Mr. Beals, who lived northeast of the school building, had some cattle to get out of the pasture and come up the creek to the cane field. There were seven cows dead in the cane when they found them. That was quite a loss during those economic hard times.
Another tragedy happened down the hill from where we lived, toward Armstrong Springs. Mr. Yarbrough was breaking ground with a turning plow that had a steel plowshare blade. The team ran away and the plow was digging in and out of the soil, and the point blade hit the red mule and cut off his back foot so he had to be destroyed.
There was also a serious illness in our family. Grandpa George took the measles--from what source he didnít know--and was seriously ill. Doctor Spain of Letona had been coming to see him, and he thought that he was gradually growing worse. Then he developed pneumonia and the family was called in. Grandpaís brother, Uncle Arthur, rode his mule to tell us to come at once. In the meanwhile, Doctor Spain received the first sulfur drug, and he came to try it on Grandpa. When Grandpa began to improve with time, Doctor Spain thought that he had found a miracle drug. The family was elated for the new medicine and the recovery of Grandpa George. Now, again, I was able to fully concentrate on my study of the seventh grade.
My brother and I were both doing well under the teaching of Mrs. Osborn. She promoted me to the eighth grade at the end of the school year.
I will write about my upper school years in Chapter Six.
Climb the mountain, even though steep,
Continue the struggle to reach the peak.
The Sweet Springs School Board hired Mr. David Wideman of Pangburn, Arkansas, because Mr. and Mrs. Osborn had moved from Georgia Ridge. Mr. Wideman was boarding with Mr. and Mrs. Welch, both former teachers at Sweet Springs. He rode the train on Sunday afternoon down to the Wilcox crossing east of the Welch home and walked west by Mr. Wilcoxís to the Welch house. Then late Friday or early Saturday morning, he caught the train back to Pangburn. At the times when Little Indian Creek was over the bottom, then he rode Mr. Welchís mule to school.
Mr. Wideman was a Christian, so I knew I was well blessed to have had, in my middle and upper grades, two teachers that were members of the Church of Christ. The Sweet Springs School Board hired Christian teachers when they had opportunity because they knew the value of character in the community. Mr. Wideman was interested in molding family values in his students, so he was an excellent teacher to follow Mrs. Osborn. He used music to instill wholesome ideas in the minds of his pupils. He attended weekend monthly singings that were held over White County, and he enjoyed singing with his students.
As an eighth grader, I was also interested in hunting. I was brought up in the hunting profession, (during the Great Depression we considered it to be a profession) but it was recreational to me. Mr. Yearby that lived west of Armstrong Springs had a pair of Old Line Walker Hounds for sale that I wanted to buy, but I didnít have the money nor did Dad have it to spare. He gave me permission to take my problem to Grandpa George for solution. I explained to him what I wanted, and he gave me the fifteen dollars to buy the hounds. Consequently, I went straight to Mr. Yearbyís house and bought Billy and Anniebelle and led them home. Whatís more, I took them hunting every Friday night because I didnít go to school on Saturday. They had excellent musical voices and blended the high tenor chop with the rolling horn mouth all night. It was a joy to be on a mountain top, sitting on a log, with the southwest breeze blowing in my face, listening to those hounds run a fox.
I was also happy in the eighth grade with the teaching of Mr. Wideman, but I had an after-school chore to perform. In the winter our cattle ranged southwest toward the Thompson farm and on the Redus place, which was a big area. Dad put a bell on the old cow so they would be easy to locate. It was my responsibility to drive them in each afternoon after school. Dadís dogs, Eagle and two July hounds that he had raised, wanted to go with me every day, so I took the axe instead of the gun. We hunted through the woods as we listened for the bell--the dogs knew that we were to travel in the direction of the bell--and they would catch or tree every rabbit they jumped. I would chop the rabbit out if he was in a log, but I would twist him out if he went into a hollow tree. There were always two or three rabbits to dress when I arrived home with the cattle. One afternoon I was going after the cattle, and a coach whip snake--it had a tail that looked platted like a whip--ran up a tree and down a limb toward me, hanging off about two feet. I threw a rock that hit his head and knocked him through the air about 30 feet. I had stories to tell Mr. Wideman at school.
About every two weeks, when I finished my homework, we shelled a turn of corn to take to the gristmill to be ground into meal. One night after we had finished, Mother went to bed. When she stretched out her legs, she touched a snake. She came out of the bed on one side and the snake went out on the other. Dad rushed in and killed it and made sure Mother was not injured. The next day, Dad took the corn in the wagon to have it ground. Occasionally, however, I laid the sack on the mule and rode him to the mill. The owner, with his measure, took his toll and ground the balance for his customer. It took about three hours to make the round trip to Center Hill.
I also helped Dad in the timber. Dad and I were cutting timber on the Redus place, and we were in a hurry because it was getting late. Using the old Simon Crosscut saw, we cut a big pine tree. When we were cutting the first log, it dropped down, and the saw caught my knee on the left side of the knee cap. Dad took me home, and my knee got so sore I couldnít walk. Whatís more, he was going hunting Friday night, and I was laid up with a bad leg. I had to find a way to go, so I persuaded Dad to let me ride the horse. Therefore, I sat in the saddle during the hunt, which was most of the night.
My knee had improved enough for me to hobble back to school the next week. The teacher wanted to take the students on a picnic before the end of school, so they had to decide where they wanted to go for the outing. After the matter was discussed at some length, they decided to go to Devilís Run, which was about one mile southwest of the building. The following Friday was the day for everybody to bring his lunch and go over and spread it on the Devilís Tea Table. When the day arrived, the students were filled with exuberance and could hardly wait for classes to be dismissed for the day. The teacher led the students, with our well-filled lunch pails and baskets, up Devilís Run to the Devilís Tea Table where we spread our lunch. After we had eaten and relaxed on the hillside for a while, we went back to the building and played games until time to go home.
The teacher was also planning a trip to Little Rock for the students. The teacher arranged for a bus to transport the student body to the capital city. There were two points of interest on the agenda as explained to the pupils. They were the State Capitol and the Municipal Airport, in that order, because the teacher was trying to emphasis the course in government. We were afforded a guided tour through the Capitol with an explanation of the operation of state government. The tour was interesting and educational for the students of Sweet Springs, but we were looking forward to the action at the airport. We enjoyed seeing the planes take to the air with the roar of the engines and the tipping of wings. We marveled at planes that came in with too much speed and bounced on the runway. Most students were glad to get off the bus back at Sweet Springs because, for them, it had been a long day. The teacher was happy to leave the responsibility behind and had given notice to the school board that he was leaving at the end of the term.
I was anticipating graduating from the eighth grade at Sweet Springs with interest and appreciation because I thought I had studied under some of the best teachers that had taught there. They had given me a philosophy, beliefs, and views that would be with me through life. I was leaving behind a brother Weldon and a sister Theola that still had to finish.
My philosophy is illustrated in the following poem.
Ascend the Mountain
Problems in the valley canít be ignored.
Disease and sickness are ever sore.
There is poverty and suffering galore.
Correct the things that are deplored.
Climb the mountain even though steep.
Continue the struggle to reach the peak.
A thirst for knowledge always keep.
Learn and mature to be meek.
Search for facts to calculate.
Seek for substance to meditate.
Ask for wisdom to improve your state.
Develop a message to advocate.
Enrich your mind and be strong.
Return to the valley to help the throng.
Find the strength to work alone.
Teach everyone right from wrong.
Succor those in illness and pain.
Always encourage and never complain.
Sell self-improvement for personal gain.
Engage in hard work to obtain.
The Sweet Springs School Board hired Jack Long, who was also from Pangburn. He moved down to begin the summer session that would start in about three weeks.
I was getting ready to help Dad with the crop that was already underway. He sent me to the old Kurch place, that was a half mile north of the Sweet Spring schoolhouse, to bed cotton ground. A cloud, however, came up with strong winds and rain, so I had the team in a long trot back home. As I was going back through the woods, I heard a big crash, looked back, and a dead tree had fallen across the road behind the wagon. I thought to myself, "How blessed I am to have been a few feet beyond the crash site."
Dad and I were hurrying to have the crop in excellent condition by the time summer school began because we thought I should go and take the eighth grade in review. Grandmother Slack wanted me to attend Harding Academy in the fall, so I wanted to have a good background for the ninth grade.
Now, before closing this chapter of my history, I want to acknowledge the families of the children I went to school with at Sweet Springs. There were the Beals, Bells, Cobbs, Crains, Danks, and the Davises. Also, there were the Dragoulds, the Englishs, the Freemans, the Grays, the Prices, the Shannons, the Slatens, and the Watkins. And there were the Wiggs family, the West family, the Wood family, and the Yarbroughs.
I also want to acknowledge the teachers that I knew that taught at Sweet Springs: Mr. Bennett, Miss Campbell, Miss Cunningham, Miss Davis, Miss Duncan, Miss Head, Miss Hill, Mr. Hodge, Mr. Long, Mrs. Osborn, Miss Turnage, Mr. Wideman, Mr. Welch, and Mrs. Welch. I will continue with much more of my upper school years in Chapter Seven.
Increasing in Wisdom
She guides me with a firm hand
And teaches me with great demands.
Walking the Right Path
The voice of wisdom enabled me to use my accumulative knowledge in a worthy manner. It brought counsel, understanding, and strength to the path of life. I was delighted in the foundation that was sure and firm on which to build my future. Opportunities of the morning were before me, and learning was in my mind toward the increasing days and the coming years.
Grandmother Slack wanted me to come and stay with her and attend Harding Academy. Mother took me to the school and arranged for me to enter. I rode a bicycle on Monday, thirteen miles, to my grandmotherís and attended classes the rest of the week. Then I rode it back home, late Saturday, after school. There was more mud than traffic, in those days, on Highway 36. I was always glad to get my bicycle back to Grandmotherís after a week-end visit at home. She had a bulldog Troy, whom I had to make friends with, that she kept tied at the back door. He wouldnít let anyone in unless she told him that it was all right. I soon, however, made friends with Troy so I could get in the back door.
Going to the Academy, however, was more of a challenge than befriending Troy. It was much different from the one room at Sweet Springs. This was my first experience with individual classrooms, and I had to rush from one to the other. There were four different rooms in addition to the chapel service, and there was a room for each class, except one in which I had two. Mrs. Benson taught algebra, which was my first class. Then I went to Miss Rhodes for English and from there to chapel. I went to Mr. Hughesí room for Bible. Then, after lunch, I came back to Mr. Hughes for civics. My last class was general science with Mr. Adams. There were times when I had to go to the library to get my homework assignments. That is where I learned to use the card catalog.
I also worked on campus to help pay my tuition. There were several college students with whom I worked. We set the shrubbery that was removed when Benson Auditorium was built. We also set a row of hedge along Blakeney--breaking only for the walk that went from the college to the farm--from East Center Avenue to East Park Avenue. I used a shovel to help dig the trench and then shoveled dirt around the hedge to set it. At that time, we couldnít foresee the construction that would later tear it all out.
In 1939 the atmosphere surrounding Harding had a pervading influence, and we enjoyed a family environment. I was a frequent guest in the menís dormitory and felt welcome. Some of the mature students were helpful to me. Brother Parks preached for the church at Sweet Springs while he was at Harding. Brother Boshell, a photographer, preached for the church while he was a student. He took a picture of the Sweet Springs congregation in front of the building. Brother Thornton also preached for the church and baptized me. All these men were a part of my early life and had an influence on me.
Uncle Ray, who also was an influence in my early life, wanted me to go with his son on two preaching appointments. The appointments were at Heber Springs and Wilburn, Arkansas, and he wanted me to go with him and Grandmother Slack. We left early Sunday morning for the service in Heber, and he preached there. Then we drove to Wilburn for an afternoon service where he preached. The congregation was newly established and needed help in conducting the services. We drove back to Searcy late Sunday afternoon, and I went to class Tuesday morning. As a mater of convenience, the college didnít have classes on Monday because the preacher students were returning from their appointments.
The young preacher that preached for Sweet Springs rode Mayís bus to Center Hill on Saturday afternoon. There, he was picked up by wagon and carried to Georgia Ridge where he preached during the weekend. Then, early Monday morning, he was transported back to Center Hill to catch Mayís bus back to Searcy. Harding supplied preachers for rural churches in the early years.
I didnít get far from the farm, even though I was attending the Academy, because I was a rural person. Uncle Ray and Grandmother Slack had moved on the south side of East Park Avenue at the end of South Cross. The house and barn on the College Farm was north about two blocks. I could look across the street and see the dairy cows grazing in the pasture. Brother Pryorís pasture came up to Grandmotherís yard on the west. He had a horse and cattle running in his pasture. The horse that is pictured in this book with my brother came from Mr. Pryorís farm. So the Academy didnít remove me very far from the farm.
I enjoyed attending the Academy for various other reasons, too. The Bible classes, as taught by Brother Hughes, were interesting and needful. Furthermore, Brothers Armstrong and Benson made the chapel services inspirational. I was happy to get to know Brother Armstrong because he could sympathize with a young boy growing up in difficult times. Whatís more, he understood problems and could find solutions. I thought he was the wisest man that I had ever talked with because he knew exactly what to say.
The following poem shows my quest for wisdom.
Sheís My Delight
She is my love both day and night;
I walk with her in the realm of light;
And in her presence, I find delight,
As she keeps me in the path of right.
She guides me with a firm hand
And teaches me with great demands.
Within her gates, I adore the land,
And, by her door, I take my stand.
At her table I enjoy delicious bread;
By her maids, I am amply fed.
She leads me by a golden thread
And advises me so Iím not mislead.
She fills my coffers with new and old,
Things that are better than silver and gold
The blessings, through life, are manifold;
Her eternal name is Wisdom; Iím told.
In November, 1939, Harding College was planning a big Thanksgiving Day celebration because it had paid its indebtedness. The president and staff were happy that the property was in the clear. Friends of the college were invited to share a Thanksgiving noon meal. Brethren came to enjoy the fellowship and to rejoice that Harding was free. The citizens of the city came for the ceremonies and the burning of the mortgage. I was in the crowd when Brother Armstrong stepped forward and laid it on the fire. Then I wrote the following poem as a memorial.
Burning the Mortgage
Thanksgiving was a special time in thirty-nine,
For loyal friends of Harding (an ally of mine),
Who came in the pilgrimís spirit with Cathcart
Praying in their minds and singing in their hearts.
They assembled in the dining hall,
One by one filed around the wall,
Eager to be in the serving line,
The guests were ready to dine.
When the visitors had eaten well,
They desired to visit a spell.
An announcement came clear and loud,
"The bonfire is awaiting the crowd."
People gathered for the countdown;
It was a great event for the town.
Brother Armstrong stepped forward with one stroke,
Then the mortgage began to smoke.
The people were filled with glee!
Harding is free! Harding is free!
It took a lot of hard work and cooperation to pay off the mortgage, and only those involved could fully appreciate their accomplishment. It was, nevertheless, the answer to many prayers by brethren throughout the area. In addition, many sacrifices were dedicated to the effort.
Uncle Audron lived on a farm east of Grandmother Slack, across Gin Creek on the Kensett road. He had a horse-drawn mowing machine, stationary hay baler, and a bullrake to bring the hay to the baler. I went down in the spring, when he was working in the hay, to see the equipment work. The team had to rush, when they came to the rank hay, to keep the sickle from choking. When the hay cured, it was brought to bullrake where the baler had been stationed and fed into it by hand with a pitchfork. Uncle Audron let me tie out a few bales because he knew I was fascinated with the way the baler worked. I ran the two wires through the block in the press, then back through the block at the other end of the bale, and pulled the wires tight and tied them. When the bale was pushed out of the press, I picked it up and carried it to the stack. Uncle Ray also had a milch cow on the farm and I occasionally went with him to milk. Once in a while, he would be late, and we carried a kerosene lantern.
As much as I loved working with Uncle Ray, I was ready for school to be out because I had decided that I wouldnít come back in the fall. I knew that Grandmother Slack was making a huge sacrifice that was too great for her to bear. She didnít need an extra person to care for because she was having some health problems. Furthermore, the expense of keeping me in the Academy was more than I could ask my parents to pay. I had, therefore, decided that I needed to find another way some time in the future. So, I went home to help Dad with the crop when school was out.
Dad had the crop planted, the cotton was coming up, and he had plowed the corn once. We hoed and plowed the cotton, and thought we had everything under control, but one of the mules got into a fence and was injured. Daddy had Mr. Slayton, the veterinarian that lived southeast of Armstrong Springs, to come and doctor it. He came in the house when he had finished with the mule. Now it happened, that at the time, Mother had a severe headache. So he got a bottle of medicine (he made his own) out of his bag and told Mother to rub her temples and the back of her neck with it. Mother got better, but the mule later died. Dad, therefore, had to adjust the cultivator so one mule could pull it. He took the singletree off of the left side and tied the scissor arm to the tongue. Then he removed the neck yoke from the tongue, so it could be held up with the breastchain. Next, he hooked the big mule that I drove to the planter, on the right side, and he could pull two plows without any problem. Uncle Tollie had a pair of young mules that were full of fire, and he sent word to Dad to come and get them to plow his crop. Daddy sent me to get the team and cultivator, and I plowed them while he plowed the odd mule. I soon learned that you had to get the plows out of the ground at the end, or the mules would turn over the cultivator. They would lay their ears back and turn on a dime when they got to the end of the row. We plowed over, and I took the mules home with the knowledge that we were going to cut time during the summer.
Dad bought 39 acres--one acre of the forty had been given to the school--and it was covered with pine timber. He moved in a sawmill with the understanding that we would cut the timber. We cut all summer except three or four days that we cut corn tops and pulled fodder. We needed to haul the tops and fodder and put them in the barn before we started to pick cotton. So we finished the timber and hauled the fodder at the end of August.
We started picking cotton about the first of September. When Dad took the first bale to the gin, Mother wanted him to bring her a sack of ginned cotton so she could pad a quilt. She hung the quilting frames from the ceiling with four small ropes so she could take them up or let them down to working height. First, the lining was sewed in the frames. Then Mother took the carding instruments and carded the cotton and laid it in place on the lining. Next, she sewed the top in and she was ready to start quilting. It took several days to get the quilt done because quilting is tedious work. When neighbor women came in and quilted, it was finished sooner.
Dad also did volunteer work on the county road , and he bought another work animal to make a team of big mules. He also had a horse-drawn dirt scoop, or dirt slip, as they were called. Dad took his team and dirt scoop, along with the neighbors and their teams, and worked the county road. The men of Georgia Ridge wanted White County to grade the road; however, it couldnít. But the county judge agreed to let Dad's uncle Lonnie, who had worked for the county, and his brother-in-law Vernon Lawrence have the caterpillar and grader to work the road. First, they pulled the road ditches. They also changed the road in two places. They went straight up the hill instead of going around by the John Hopper house and spring, and then back to the big house on the McKinney farm. Then they moved the road again at the Jones farm because they wanted to go around the edge of the field to avoid going through the woods. Next, they smoothed the road, and the people of the community followed the grader, picking up stumps, roots, and rocks. It, indeed, was a prodigious effort and took several days to compete. I got my share of work during the project.
I will write about my post-Academy days in Chapter Eight.
Wisdom gives instruction to mankind
And extends wise counsel to the mind.
Dad was skilled in several areas, and he thought I should be cast in the same mold. He was excellent at timbering because he could use a chopping axe either left or right-handed. Furthermore, he was a good farmer and a fine carpenter because he built for himself four houses during his life. Whatís more, he worked for a lumber company because he knew lumber forward and backward. Consequently, he taught me to be skilled in different vocations, for he believed that, if you will prepare yourself, opportunity will come. Just a year out of the Academy, I was sixteen and ready to go to work.
Daddy and I had the crop in good shape and Mr. Beals, who lived north across the creek, came over and asked Dad if I could hoe cotton for him. Dad gave his permission. Early the next morning, I took my hoe and file and went to Mr. Bealsí house. He told me to go to the south field which was a new ground. First, I took my hoe, turned it upside down on the ground with the left corner on a rock, and sharpened it. Mr. Beals had used manure with the fertilizer and there were weeds. I was moving on across the field, thinning cotton and clipping the weeds off at the top of the ground. Mr. Beals was plowing corn northeast up on the hill, and I would glance at him because it was getting near lunch. He told me to come to the house when he unhooked the team for dinner. I saw him going toward the barn, so I hoed out to the end, then went to lunch.
Mr. Beals brought a bucket of fresh water from the spring, which was walled with rock and about four feet deep, running over the top, and we washed with a bar of lye soap that Mrs. Beals had made. She had new potatoes and peas out of the garden, along with ham (Mr. Beals butchered a big bone Duroc Jersey) and gravy seasoned with black pepper. I ate and excused myself, but Mrs. Beals wanted to show me her flowers. She had a flower room on the south side of the house that was full of flowers, and she enjoyed pointing out the different varieties. I thanked her for the good dinner and for showing me her flowers, and I went back to the field. When I had filed my hoe, I hoed until sundown. Then I walked the path across the hollow, home.
When I finished at Mr. Bealsí, I had a job waiting at Mr. Kurckís farm. He was a blind man and wanted me to help hoe his cotton. I went over early, and he told me to go to the east field that joined Mr. Bealsí on the west. As I was hoeing, one of his boys brought him to the field. He got down on the row to feel the cotton to see if I was leaving any grass or thinning it properly. Mr. Kurck was preparing a chicken trough when I went to the house for lunch. I stopped to watch him drive a nail because I had never seen a blind man drive a nail. When he lifted the hammer with his right hand, the thumb of his left hand went on the head of the nail. Then he moved his thumb and hit the nail, so the process continued until the nail was driven. I walked away, amazed at his accomplishment, because I saw that a man can do whatever he sets his mind to. After I had eaten, I went back to the field and hoed until sundown. Then I walked the path across the hollow to the house. I told Dad how Mr. Kurck could use a saw and drive a nail as he repaired the chicken trough. Dad was not surprised, for he knew some of the things that Mr. Kurch could do. When I had finished my obligations to Mr. Kurch, I was back home.
Mr. Hart of Center Hill came to our house looking for cotton choppers. He was the field foreman for Mr. Bloodworth who farmed the Redus place, and under him was a patch boss that led the field. Mr. Hart wanted me to come and hoe, so I ask him how much he paid. He told me, "Five cents an hour." Then I ask him how much he paid the older workers, and he said, "Ten cents an hour." I told him that I wouldnít hoe unless he paid me ten cents an hour. He finally agreed to hire me if I could hoe as much as his patch boss. When I got to the field the next morning, I saw Mr. Hart with a hoe and file, and I knew he filed hoes. So, when we started hoeing, I hoed just like I had my daddy in front of me. I hoed through and turned right back across the field to the other end. Mr. Hart would let the workers use his hoe while he filed theirs as he made his way across the field. He got over to me about ten oíclock and said, "You need to slow down so you can make it through the day." I knew that he was not concerned about me making it through the day because I had hoed many days from sun to sun. He had received complaints from the field, and I knew it, for they didnít want a barefooted kid off Georgia Ridge showing them up. I just wanted to let Mr. Hart know that I was earning my ten cents an hour, so I slowed down because I didnít want any of his cotton choppers to quit. But I didnít hear any more about how much cotton I could hoe.
I was looking forward to Friday night, so I could go hunting with my father. Mr. Nations of Mt. Pisgah came Friday evening for supper, to go hunting with my dad Friday night. He brought six hounds, with three to each chain, and led them across country about four miles. Mr. Nations felt close to us because he didnít have any known relatives. But he knew that he was always welcome at our house, and he came often. Dad and I would go with him, and he knew he could count on us for a hunt, anytime.
Dad was gifted at finding honeybees in the woods because he could follow a bee course from a water hole to the hive in the tree. There are bee trees that he found that are still standing in the woods. One of these, however, he wanted me to help him out. We got our tools together: a crosscut saw, a chopping axe, a nail keg, a two-foot quilt roll for smoke, two twelve-quart pails, two cloths to cover pails, and a butcher knife. Dad and I carried all this three-quarters of a mile, around the mountain to the tree. We decided to throw the tree with the entrance to the ground, so it would hold together. He and I started sawing, and the tree fell just like we had planned. Then we went to the entrance and sawed half way through the tree. Next, we decided the length of the brood chamber and sawed half way through. Finally, we sawed in above the honey stow and took the axe and split out the blocks so the brood and honey would be in plain view. First, we cut out the honey and put it into the pails and covered them with the cloths. Then, we located the queen and her attendants, cut off that piece of comb, and fastened it to the bottom of the keg and turned it upside down with the open end over the brood comb. In addition, we smoked the worker bees to get them started into the keg, and we carried the honey and our tools to the house and waited for sundown. Then Dad took a tow sack (Grandmother Slack called it a gunny sack) and pulled it up over the open end of the keg and tied it around the keg with a string. He carried it to the house, removed the sack, and bumped the bees into the hive.
Another of the rich bounties of farm life came from the milk or milch cow, as it was then called. The old bell cow was the oldest in the herd and gave a lot of good rich milk. So the butter that was churned from it was a deep yellow. She was the foundation stock of the younger cows that we were milking. We hated to see Dad get rid of the old milch cow, but a man came and told Dad that he wanted her and would pay 14 dollars, so Daddy sold her.
Within a few days a man from Augusta, Arkansas, came and told Dad that he had heard about Eagle, our tree hound, and wanted to buy him. Daddy priced him at 15 dollars and the man bought him. Mr. Davis knew, to be sure, that he was getting the best tree dog that could be found. He wouldnít have come for Eagle had he known of one better. So Dad had to go back to using some young hounds that he had raised.
The best all-purpose hound that I ever saw was Whitey, a shaggy July. Dad had raised him and trained him with Eagle. If you took your horn at night, he would only run fox and could lead any pack by 50 yards. If you took your axe and gun, he would never bother a fox but would tree furbearing game. In the daytime he would tree more squirrels than you wanted to skin. He was, indeed, the only all-purpose hound that we ever owned. Although I was out of school, there was much to learn of a practical nature, working on the farm.
I also learned from the teachers that boarded with us and taught at Sweet Springs. Miss Cunningham was an older teacher with many years of teaching experience. She viewed knowledge as the enrichment of life that broadens the insight into the range of opportunities. Furthermore, she believed that one must know the field wherein his goal lies to pursue it to accomplishment. She thought the essence of faith was essential to stability and strength of character. As a member of the body of Christ, she believed that one must possess wisdom from above in order to choose the right destination for eternity. I learned and profited much by this association during the year she was with us.
Miss Campbell was another teacher that lived with us during the school year. She was a graduate of Harding College and had a keen mind with great understanding. Two of her attributes were politeness and kindness, and she was considerate of the welfare of everyone. So she exemplified maturity in making daily decisions that affected the lives of others. She was respected as a teacher and honored for her character and the principles that she espoused. Many of these principles have been with me throughout my life, and I am indebted to her for the good leaven that permeated my life. She was also a member of the church and was a great asset to Sweet Springs. I learned so much from these experiences and continue to learn because 85 per cent of learning comes through associations.
Dad and I had the crop planted, and I had had my seventeenth birthday, so he thought that I was mature enough to finish the crop while he worked away from home. So, he turned the responsibility over to me and went to day labor. I had the crop under control and the corn laid by when Brady Rice, who married our cousin, came and wanted to swap work with me. He had moved onto the Sullivan farm and was farming there, so I agreed to help him, then he would help me. On Monday morning I walked around the mountain to his place; we started cutting his corn tops. Then, when they had cured, we turned back and shocked them. The next week, he came and helped me cut ours. We cut two rows each and threw the tops in the center middle in piles, so we had a down row to every four rows. When we tied them, we each took a down row and carried the tops to the middle that was halfway between us and shocked them. I plowed the cotton one more time to lay it by before harvest.
We had a patch of sweet potatoes to plow up because we wanted to get them in before we began picking cotton. I hooked the team to the lister, or bedder, and plowed up every other row. Then we picked them up and put them into burlap bags to be hauled to the house. We poured them out in a shed to cure. Afterward, we went back to the field and started the process over again until we had finished.
Dad had also rented the Head farm that joined our farm on the east. We moved our cows to the Head pasture and brought them into the barn lot, so they would be there to milk the next morning. So every evening, when we put the cows in the barn to milk, we turned them back into the lot. Dad had a big cow with her first calf, and he wanted me to break her to milk. I knew to keep my head in her flank and stay close so she couldnít kick me, but she moved me away and kicked me out the stable door. After I got my breath, I went back and made sure that she didnít manhandle me anymore. The incident, however, allowed the calf to get more milk that his share. We came up short on milk to separate for cream; therefore, it took longer to fill the five gallon can. When the can was full, I secured the lid and tagged the can with the address of the creamery. Next, I loaded the can of cream into the wagon and drove the team to Crosby to the depot and shipped it by train. Then, I picked up the empty can from the previous shipment and brought it home.
Then, I decided that I wanted to go down and see the lumber kiln. Mr. Gray had moved in a sawmill on the creek northeast of our house and set up a lumber kiln. Uncle Oltie was firing it, and I wanted him to show me the operation. They had strip-stacked lumber and dug a four-foot wide shallow pit between stacks in which to build the fire. There were several wide stacks with the top overlaid with boards, and boards stood up along the sides and ends to enclose the heat. Smoke was coming through the top and all around between the boards. He fired while I was there, and I watched while he moved about three boards, threw long slabs on the fire, replaced them, and moved to the next fire. The mill was sawing more lumber for the next kiln.
In another adventure, I helped rescue a Walker hound from a bluff. Mr. McKnight and his hunting partners, Mr. Hensley and Mr. Taylor from Augusta, came to Georgia Ridge for hunting because we had some good running fox. They sent their hounds north of Sweet Springs, and they ran on the north side of the mountain and down on Little Creek. The fox led the hounds all night and went into a hole in a bluff in Jordanís field. One of their dogs went in after the fox and hung in the hole and couldnít get out. They could hear a muffled bark, but they couldnít get the dog out of the bluff, so they left it to die. When they came back to their trucks, they told my cousin Bufford and me what happened and where.
Of course, we knew that country well because we had hunted all through there. We decided that we couldnít let the dog die in the bluff, so we went down there. We found the hole because we could hear the dog bark. I told my cousin that the dog had scratched a hole full of dirt behind it. I had had the same thing happen to one of my dogs, and he couldnít back out. First, we cut a pole long enough to reach the dog, so we could push and pull the dirt. We had to work easy so we wouldnít injure the hound with the pole. Then we tried to work each side of the hole with the end of the pole, past the dog, hoping to enlarge the opening. Finally, we worked the pole along the bottom of the hole to try to push the dirt back into the hole from which it had been scratched. I told my cousin that we might as well go because we had done all we could do, but, as we were walking away in dejection, the dog came out. That was the happiest dog that I have ever seen. It acted like it knew we did something to get it out of the bluff. We took it home and wrote Mr. McKnight a card to come and get the hound. He couldnít believe what he was reading because he didnít think he would ever see the dog again. Mr. McKnight came and got the hound and was grateful to us for getting it out of the bluff.
Now we were about through with the harvest, hunting season was near, and I needed a young tree dog. I went to see Mr. Smith of Mt. Pisgah because Iíd heard that he had a young hound for sale that was beginning to tree. He told me that he had a hound named Sheriff that was ready for his first season, and he was treeing with the older dogs. Sheriff had powerful jaws with a deep chest and a long body. He measured 25 inches at the shoulders. He looked like a dog that was equipped to make an excellent coon hound. I questioned Mr. Smith about the dogís desire, and he assured me that he was eager to go hunting. Mr. Smith and I agreed on the price of 25 dollars, and I paid him with money I had saved for that purpose. I took Sheriff home and started grooming him for the up-coming season. About that time Mr. Crozier sent me word that he wanted me to drive his horse in the log woods. Mr. Crozier had moved in a sawmill on the Powell farm that was east of the Bealsí farm, and he wanted me to skid logs to the mill. He owned a red horse that weighed about 1,800 pounds that he wanted me to drive. When I went to work, he told me to hook the horse to a slide that was about 40 inches wide and 8 feet long, with bunks on each side that he had made. I soon learned that he could pull as many logs as you could pile on. We would come to the mill with from six to ten logs, unless I got into some big timber. Old Bay was the stoutest horse that I ever worked because he could start a load and pull it. If I let him swing wide to start, he could move forward with the load. We kept the mill running and Mr. Crozier happy.
Now spring was near, and I was about ready to begin farming. Dad and I were busy getting the crop planted. I wanted to experiment with dry weather farming because I had heard Uncle Millard talk about how they did it in Texas. In dry weather farming, the seed was planted much deeper in the ground than in the shallow furrows that Dad used. We had a long field on the Head farm that Daddy said I could use for my project. I hooked the team to the bedder and bedded the field. Then I turned back and rebedded the patch. Next, I took the fertilizer distributor with a long eight-inch shovel plow and put the fertilizer in the lister furrow. Finally, I planted the cotton down in the fertilizer furrow. When the cotton had shanked up, I put the back feet on the cultivator with long shovel plows and ripped out two beds at once. Then I took a float drag, rode it, and floated off the beds to sift the dirt in around the cotton. Next, I hoed it to thin the cotton to a stand of one or two stalks to the hill. After that, I put the side harrows on the cultivator and raised the fenders to throw more dirt to the cotton and level the ground. I went back and plowed it with 14-inch sweeps, and it made good cotton at picking time.
That same spring, Dad told me to go to Letona and get Doctor Spain for mother. So he came and delivered my baby sister on May 16, 1943. The task of naming the baby was settled by the family, and we named her Retha Dell. She contracted whooping cough when she was five weeks old, and we took her to Hawkinsí Clinic in Searcy. Doctor Hawkins told us she had whooping cough, which we already knew, but we wanted treatment. The doctor said, "Take her to Doctor Spain in Letona because he is the best baby doctor I know." We went straight to Doctor Spain and he said, "The only thing that can be done is to keep her from choking to death. You get a long chicken feather, leaving the big mop on the end, but strip the rest of the quill and sterilize it. When she starts coughing, get her into the open air and pull the phlegm out of her throat with the chicken feather." I never saw a baby cough so hard and turn black in the face before the air passage could be opened. There isnít any way to know how many times I grabbed her up and rushed to the front porch to pull the phlegm out of her throat because I sat by her every night for four weeks. Mother sat every day, while I slept, because Dad had the whooping cough, too. It really hurt him that he was unable to help. After Retha Dell recovered, I said, "She will never know how much she owes her life to a chicken feather, nor how much care she required."
Then Mr. Coursey sent me word that he wanted me to work out his strawberries as soon as I could get it done. Mr. Coursey lived southeast of Mt. Pisgah on Lick Branch in a big house with a hallway leading off the front porch. I lived
about four miles due west, and it took me about an hour and fifteen minutes to walk through the back way to his place. When I arrived, he told me to harness the mare which weighed about 1,100 pounds, hook her to the singlestock, and plow out the middles of the berries. Next, I hooked her to a seven-inch, one-horse turning plow. He explained to me how to bar off each side of the row and leave a six-inch wide bed of plants. Then I hoed the grass and weeds out of the row and turned back and dirted it with a ten-inch shovel plow on the singlestock. Finally, I plowed out the middles so the runners would set plants on each side of the row. It took me about three days to work the berries, and Mr. Coursey fed me well at lunch and told of many events that took place back in Kentucky before he moved to Arkansas.
In the meantime, the Sweet Springs School Board had hired a young teacher, Mary Alice Head, of Floral, Arkansas, my future wife. Miss Head had gone to Harding College on the advice of her high school principal Mr. Henderson. She was hired by the school board to teach the 1943-44 school year, and she came to Sweet Springs in the fall to begin school. Later, when we began to think about marriage, I thought that I should go to visit her family before we made a final decision.
I could only get a bus out of Searcy to Pleasant Plains at eight oíclock at night, so I decided that I would hitchhike the eight miles to Floral. I took my suitcase and walked to the edge of town, but no one came along, so I began to weigh other alternatives. Then I decided to knock on the door of the nearest house and ask if I could spend the night. Mr. Wilf answered the door. I introduced myself, told him who I was going to see, and asked if I might spend the night. He invited me into a room that was made when the hallway was enclosed, in which there was a daybed. "This is where you will sleep," he said. I thanked him and told him how much I appreciated his generosity. He and his wife gave me breakfast the next morning and also wished me well on my journey. I arrived at the Head farm which was four miles south of Floral about three oíclock in the afternoon. I introduced myself as the fiance of Mary Alice. They were interested in her welfare and asked many questions about the school and community of Georgia Ridge. I learned that her father was a small farmer like mine, and they both liked to hunt. Mary Alice had one brother and one sister. I also had one brother and two sisters. We both had grown up in a rural environment and came from similar backgrounds. Mr. Head took me hunting every day that I was there, and Mrs. Head fed me well.
Mr. Head had a pair of Walker Hounds and carried a twenty-gauge shotgun; however, he gave me a double-barrel, ten-gauge gun to hunt with. The first time I fired it was an experience because I have never been kicked as hard with a shotgun. We had some good races because the mornings were cool, and the hounds could run hard. Luther, Mary Aliceís brother, stayed home from work one day and went hunting with us. There was a day or two that some of the neighbors even joined the hunting party. I was also trying to meet as many relatives as I could within the time I had to spare.
Finally, I began to think about a way to get back home. One of the cousins, Bill Algood, stopped by Mr. Headís house to visit. He told me that he was going to Searcy on Saturday and that I could ride with him. I let him know how grateful I was for the invitation. I felt my mission had been accomplished because I had learned about the Head family and
got the history of Floral. So my enjoyable week was coming to a close, for I was leaving the next day. Mr. Algood came by for me early Saturday morning, and we had a great drive going to Searcy because he knew that I was interested in learning about all of the relatives.
Mary Alice and I were married February 12, 1944, in Searcy, Arkansas. With pooled ideals and combined skills, we were determined to succeed. We had come through the Great Depression and knew what it took to survive. She had to assume responsibility early as cook and housekeeper, for, because of her fatherís poor health, her mother worked in the fields. I, also, assumed a manís role early because Dad had me to finish two crops while he worked away from home. We were planning a lasting relationship, as the following poem will illustrate.
She Is Everlasting
From the foundation, she had stated her claim.
Before the mountains, she was of everlasting fame.
With the fountains, she came with great acclaim
To give understanding and happiness is her aim.
She builds her city in the heart of embrace.
Her house is constructed for seekers of her place.
Among the wise, she is always dressed in lace.
She crowns their heads with ornaments or grace.
Her fruit is to be desired more than gold.
For those she loves, the revenue is untold.
Her righteous paths of judgment are very bold.
She was by the Lord in His works of old.
She gives knowledge and instruction to mankind,
And she extends wise counsel to the mind.
She ever speaks discreetly, as you will find.
Her name is Wisdom; she is never unkind.
I was a product of nature and feel a kinship to natural things because I have lived as close to them as anyone. Nature, or rather this kinship with nature, has insulated me from the hustle and bustle of life through the simplicity of background and environment. I have, therefore, found happiness and security in the simple things that it offers, as the following poem will indicate.
Nature has been divinely arranged.
It is Godís creative domain.
By His Word it was ordained,
And by his power it is maintained.
Natureís environment will educate.
Its great wonders will captivate.
There are many things to articulate.
Knowledge will help to communicate.
Nature is a breath of fresh air.
Its beauty is beyond compare.
The mind is invigorated there,
And the spirit is stimulated to prayer.
Let nature be your enterprise.
Arise, enjoy it, and be wise.
Adorn life and take the prize.
Your experience will be a surprise.
I have seen the phenomenon of nature both by day and night because I have been an outdoor person. The heavens have shown to me their wonders and their glories with grandeur and radiant beauty, as shown by the following poem. I have learned why men of old extolled the glorious scenes of the universe.
The evening was whispering quiet;
Stars were twinkling bright.
The heavens were arrayed to excite.
I was musing to my delight.
In the north was a breathless sight.
The emblazoned sky glowing in the night.
There were red streamers of radiant light.
Columns of flaming brilliance were a fright.
This picture was by the Creator.
The red blaze reflection was His theater.
I was grateful for a mediator.
The experience became a motivator.
I have also seen some frightening things occur in the course of natural events. One spring, I saw hail fall as big, jagged pieces of ice and destroy the early crop. On a dark night, I saw a meteor expand in the sky and light the earth as much as a full moon. I was hunting in the night, and seven helicopters came over me just above the tree tops, and the earth seemed to shake under my feet. There have been phenomenal occurrences caused by tornadoes and lighting strikes with which I have been amazed. Whatís more, I saw cargo planes come over me in formation, and one of them exploded in midair. Fireballs rolled into the darkness of the night. I wrote the following poem as a memorial.
The Last Flight
There was a thunderous rumbling in the west;
Roaring jet engines engaged in conquest
Like pins in line across the alley;
Planes, in formation, flew over the valley.
My eyes were focused in a steady gaze
As a plane exploded through the haze.
A blinding flash lit up the sky
Heavenly fireballs bid goodbye.
The debris came down in a rush;
Mangled bodies returned to dust.
Spirits were heralded to their reward.
The crew is in the care of the Lord.
My life through my early and teen years has been a wonderful journey with great memories. I have been able to recall many events, but I havenít been able to put them all in chronological order. So I know that I have left many gaps, but I will try to fill in several of these in the appendix.
My Life Chronology
Elton L. English
YearMonth Important Life Events Through 1944
1925 April 15 American painter John Singer Sargent died of a stroke, age 69.
May 10 I was born on May 10, 1925, to Mary Elizabeth and Andrew Jackson English in Armstrong Springs, Arkansas.
June 6 Walter Chrysler formed Chrysler Motor Company.
1926 Aug. 6 Gertrude Ederle was the first woman to swim the English Channel with the record of 14 hours, 31 minutes.
1927 May 21 The Sweet Springs School building was built.
Charles Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris, France.
Dec. 1 Fordís Model A car went on display.
1928 Jan. 11 Thomas Hardy died at his home.
June 18 Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly over the Atlantic Ocean.
Oct. 16 My brother Weldon George Denver was born.
1929 May 6 Harry F. Sinclair was jailed for contempt of the Senate.
Oct. 24 Stock Market crash created Black Thursday.
1930 ? The great drought hit Arkansas.
Mar. 8 William Howard Taft died at his home.
Dec. 12 Sinclair Lewis received the Nobel Prize.
1931 ? Andrew Jackson English, my father, bought Eagle.
Mar. 31 Knute Rockne was killed in plane crash.
May 19 Will Rogers refused a doctorate.
Oct. 18 Thomas Edison died at age 84.
1932 Mar. 2 The Lindbergh baby was kidnapped.
Mar. 9 My sister Theola Sharlene was born.
Aug. 22 There were 11,000,000 people out of work.
Oct. 15 I started to school at Sweet Springs.
1933 Apr. 19 The dollar was taken off the gold standard.
Apr. 28 The Farm Relief Bill passed the Senate.
June 16 Roosevelt signed the National Industrial Recovery Act.
1934 May 29 The United States gave up it rights in Cuba.
June 13 Max Baer won the world title in boxing.
July 22 John Dillinger was shot in Chicago.
1935 Apr. 11 The United States was hit by a severe dust storm.
Aug. 14 The Social Security Act was signed into law.
Dec. 23 Lindbergh moved to England.
1936 Jan. 18 Rudyard Kipling was killed in London.
Feb. 22 Walter Johnson threw a silver dollar across the Rappahannock River.
Nov. 3 Roosevelt was elected to second term.
1937 Jan. 2 Andrew W. Mellon gave his art collection to the United States.
Mar. 18 New London, Texas, school explosion killed 500.
July 18 Amelia Earhart was lost at sea; the search was called off.
1938 Jan. 1 Eight million Americans were out of work.
Apr. 15 Dizzy Dean was traded to the Chicago Cubs.
June 22 Joe Lewis defeated Max Schmeling.
June 25 Minimum wage was established at 40 cents an hour.
Sept. 15 Thomas Wolfe died of pneumonia.
1939 Jan. 28 W. B. Yeats died at age 74.
Mar. 15 I graduated from Sweet Springs.
Mar. 20 I planted corn wearing a heavy coat.
Aug. 14 Franklin D. Roosevelt changed Thanksgiving.
Sept. I entered Harding Academy in Searcy.
Nov. 30 Russia attacked Finland.
1940 March Population of U.S. was at 131 million.
Mar. 10 Churchill gave his first speech at Prime Minister of England.
June 28 Wendell Willkie was nominated by the
1941 May 23 Joe Lewis defeated Buddy Baer.
Dec. 6 Britain declared war on Finland, Rumania, and Hungary.
Dec. 7 Japanese hit Pearl Harbor.
1942 Mar. 12 The Philippines fell to the Japanese.
June 25 Eisenhower took command of U.S. forces in Europe.
1943 Jan. 5 George Washington Carver died in Tuskegee, Alabama.
Mar. 1 Rationing began in United States.
May 16 My sister Retha Dell was born.
Oct. Mary Alice Head began teaching at Sweet Springs.
1944 Feb. 12 I married Mary Alice Head.
Mar. 4 American planes bombed Berlin.
Map of Georgia Ridge
Map of George Manon Englishís Trap Line
George Manon English walked southwest to Red Bluff, carrying a sack of traps. Then he trapd Des Arc to Mossy Point. Next, he walked back to Hog Thief and trapped the creek home. He left home at 4 a.m., walked his trap line, and returned at 5 p.m., after having walked about 20 miles. The next morning he walked north of Sidon to Big Creek and trapped it to near Letona. Then he walked to Little Creek and trapped it home. He alternated the two lines and walked about 20 miles every day. He trapped this area for about 40 years, beginning about 1898.
When fall came, I was appalled,
It was welcome, as a comfort in a ballet hall.
Everyone enjoyed the first rain of the fall.
They were planning their gardens to install.
Prayers of thanksgiving were the flair.
The people were happy with the cooler air.
They drew back from despair.
In conversation, they did compare.
Potatoes and turnips were to be grown.
Winter pastures were to be sown.
Fertilizer was to be strown.
Prize calves were to be shown.
Cotton was a bank of white.
Corn was pretty and bright.
Tomatoes were stricken with blight.
Honey bees were in flight.
Wood was cut for the household.
Hogs were butchered when itís cold.
Crops were harvested to be sold.
Farmers were looking for the gold.
Summer has electrified.
The ground is very dry.
Heat will almost fry.
Grass is going to dry.
The clover is burning.
Leaves are turning.
The farmer is yearning
And his wife is churning.
Hot winds are blowing;
The dust is flowing.
Hay seeds moving
And the pasture not growing.
The cotton shows drought
And the peas wonít sprout.
The grain is in doubt
And the water is out.
Sweet Springs was a colorful peak.
It was the head of Panther Creek.
The stream was rare and unique,
For me, it was antique.
Its blessings were manifold.
The value of its water was untold.
Depth of the spring made it cold.
It was a community watering hole.
With maturing years, I loved your land,
Viewing your rock wall was truly grand.
I know it will always stand,
It was laid by a masonís hand.
Your name was given to the school
When teachers taught the Golden Rule.
The students drank from the pool;
They waded the stream that was cool.
As the water rippled with a silvery spray,
The teacher read the Bible; then he prayed.
He taught morals every day
While he watched the students at play.
With gratitude, I stand in thought,
I have memories of actions fought
And lessons that have been taught,
Mindful of ideas that I have brought.
The Old Spring House
Many generations have come along,
But the old spring house is standing strong.
It has withstood the storms of time
With rustic features that are in rhyme.
Its stone foundation has faded with years
From the dust of the road that is near.
The rocks were arranged by design;
They were laid by a line.
The floor was planned with a routine.
It was decorated with a flagstone scene.
The milk trough was build below,
So around the cans the water did flow.
The latticework was made for show;
Diamonds were lined in a row.
You could see through like a screen.
The slats were painted an aqua green.
The cypress roof shaded the rain;
It was fitted to protect the terrain.
The boards were fading in the grain.
They needed another coat of stain.
The traveler stopped by to rest.
He was refreshed like a guest.
Many generations have come along,
But the old spring house is standing strong.
This volume has given you an insight into the first nineteen years of my life. It has been closed with pictures and poems that show the simplicity. Consequently, you can rise from humble beginnings to excel if you have the faith, character, determination, dedication, and persistence. I have, therefore, found happiness, contentment, and security in simple things. It has been the support of the common people and simple things that has given me a happy life. This volume records only the first lap, the first score, of the upward climb, as you learned from my poem.
I leave you a rich heritage as I continue this journey into the unknown, but I want you to appreciate the effort of our forefathers to give to us a better life. They gave of themselves, made many sacrifices, to make our lives more pleasant. I want to leave my posterity a better world in which to live their lives. No doubt, I will make many mistakes along the way, but I am determined to pursue the mission until it is finished. In addition, when I have run the last lap, finished the last score, you will know that I tried.
I am writing a second volume, Honing My Skills, that will cover the rest of my life so you will know the balance and the richness it contained. It is my hope, in writing the story of my life, that it will give you a greater appreciation of your heritage.