The Caperton family and their "rock and roll" chairs at Bald Knob in 1922. From left are Ruby, Micca, Adolph, George Jr., Dorothy, George Sr. and Elva. The massive matching chairs still exist – the one at right rocked and the one at left rolled. The rocker is still in Arkansas but the roller is in California.< p class="center">Going Bananas in Bald Knob < p class="center">By MARCIA CAPERTON BEHNKE This is a report of my grandfather, George Franklin Caperton, and his family who lived in Bald Knob, Arkansas, when raising his family. His parents were Ryan Perkins Caperton and Imogene Crosser. It is said that he was born in Texas on February 18, 1882. He married Micca Tennessee Billings in 1899 in Grubbs, Arkansas. She was the daughter of York Crabtree Billings and Melinda Elliott.
The family is found on the 1920 census for
Bald Knob Township:
74-78 Caperton, George F, Farmer, m, w, 36, Tx
Mickie T., wife, f, w, 37, Ar
Elva L., daughter, f, w, 13, Ar
Ruby P., daughter, f, w, 11, Ar
Dorothy M., daughter, f, w, 9, Ar
Adolph J., son, m, w, 7, Ar
George F., son, m, w, 5, Ar
My dad George says that his dad George was a great man. He could do anything that he needed to do. He was the town veterinarian in Bald Knob and Russell. He delivered many calves with his arms tucked way down into the momma to pull them out. He restored many rundown farms to productivity as he rented and worked them. Many times he was broken in spirit because the promise of owning the farms if he worked them well didn't come to fruition. But he would just move on and start over. He grew strawberries, potatoes, cotton, wheat throughout his farming career. He made swamps into productive land. He cleared treed and overgrown land. In later years he followed the wheat harvest from state to state and was able to send his children through school that way. He loved to race horses and was quite a horse trader.
My dad recalls that the train always brought fresh fruit through town and they always bought a big huge bunch of bananas that they hung up above the table. A fresh banana was an arm’s reach away. To this day my dad always has a banana for breakfast. Dad said that the slow trains coming through town would pick up anything that was waiting along side the tracks to be delivered to another town. Chickens, goats, produce - people would just leave it there unattended until the train came by and picked it up. No one would bother it or take it. They could also catch a ride to wherever they needed to go as long as they were undetected by the men that guarded the train for hoboes. They often did that when there was out-of- town job opportunities. There were occasions where he and his brother would need overnight lodging and the sheriff in the town would sometimes let them stay in the jail if there were no other occupants.
Dad tells a story of his parents living on Indian land in Oklahoma before he was born. They were thinking about staying and maybe getting a share of the land. Micca, who was called "Mickie," would be home with baby Elva while George was out working and suddenly feel someone was watching her. Standing in the door would be an Indian or two. She was a little afraid. She watched and they would look around and see things they liked. They would walk over and pick it up and set it in front of her as if to say, "Can I have it?" Mickie would just pick that item up and put it back where it came from. Then they would try it again and again. Finally, they would leave. Mickie wanted OUT. No Indian land for her. I never got to know my grandmother. I wish I could have. We lived too far apart and travel was not an option because of the expense and you needed a good car, etc. I don't know why we didn't write. So sad sometimes.
Elva, the oldest daughter, married Lloyd Gordon and died as a young mother in childbirth. She had six children. Adell Bassinger, Mabel Dean Staggs, Bonnie Wilson and Maxine Widener are her children still living in the Bald Knob area. I had the great joy of meeting my cousin Adell when I visited Bald Knob this summer [year 2000]. We visited the Prince Cemetery where the family is buried and shared some family history and ate lunch at the Market Cafe and slurped a cherry limeade at the Sonic.
Dorothy, another daughter, was a school teacher in rural schools as a young girl. I think she was born to teach others. In everything she does she finds a lesson to teach to those around her. She married Robert Wilcox from the neighboring farm. She graduated from college at age 50. She continued her teaching career in North Little Rock until she retired. They had one son, Bob Wilcox, who lives in Greers Ferry.
Ruby, another daughter, married Grant Felton and moved to Florida. Uncle Buddy, Adolph, grew up in Bald Knob. He married Hazel Weber who was a Russell girl, well known for her basketball playing ability. He moved to California in 1936. He has three children, James, Gerald and Janette. He has lived in many states throughout his life. Some used to tell him it was the Indian in him that made him move about . He disagrees with that. He just had opportunities that he couldn't ignore. His family loved it. He has lived in Texas, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas and small towns. He was a painting contractor in Clear Lake, California, about 20 years. He worked at Herlong, a military base in California for a few years also. After he retired, he lived near Parker, Arizona, until 1999. He was an Elder in the Morman church there.
George grew up in Bald Knob. As a young man, my dad and Uncle Buddy sang on the radio and for any occasion that they were invited and were billed as the Caperton Twins. People couldn't tell them apart. As a young man, dad sang at school events, church and community events, sometimes at a moment’s notice. He had a wonderful voice and I always thought he sounded just like Bing Crosby. He played the guitar, mandolin, fiddle and piano beautifully and by ear. He said he learned to read and play music by shaped notes. On a music sheet, the notes had shapes that corresponded with the line and space it was on. I think it was a difficult way to learn, but it was good for him.
Dorothy, my dad's sister, was teaching school in the country about 15 miles from home. She stayed with a family and had to be driven there. Dad took her on Monday and picked her up on Friday. One Friday, she gave a program for all parents . He had gone early to pick her up so he was there. When it was over, she made a surprise announcement-- "My brother is here and he will sing you a song." He was surprised because it had not been discussed beforehand. However, he rose to the occasion and sang the song.
He recalls working as a young boy on the land his dad was farming. My favorite story is the one about plowing a field with a black man who worked for his dad. They were walking along with the plow horse, furrowing up the ground. My dad looked at his companion's feet and noticed the soles were flapping and there were holes in the leather. He asked, "Why do you have holes in your shoes?" His friend answered that he liked them that way because the dirt could just fall out.
Dad and Uncle Buddy used to make money by pulling their wagon through the fields and picking up fieldstone, big flat rocks that covered the ground in Arkansas. They would get a load and drive into town and sell the rocks to people to build buildings. Many buildings still exist today near Bald Knob that are constructed of that beautiful fieldstone.
As a young man, George Jr. was Sunday School superintendent and led the singing at the Bald Knob Methodist Church. One Sunday he invited a Methodist minister to be guest speaker. The guest speaker brought the Bald Knob School superintendent and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Johnson, along as guests. The singing was led as usual by George. At school the following day, for the usual morning assembly, the superintendent got up and said that he had found someone to lead the singing -- George Caperton. He told the surprised young man that it was a job that he just hated and now he had the perfect replacement. So George did it happily. For the first song, George noticed no one singing but him. When he finished, he said, "So now you have heard me sing, let me hear you." After he met and married the love of his life, Nadine Souders, a Missouri girl, they went to California on their honeymoon and never returned to live in Arkansas. They loved California and the opportunities there. George was a nurseryman, a Safeway employee and then a carpenter. From there he became a contractor and built many homes and churches in Santa Clara County. Eventually he became a building inspector and retired at about the age of 65.
When I recently visited the Bald Knob area I had a wonderful time meeting my family and visiting the cemetery. Just before I left, Lois and Ray Etheridge of Bald Knob had just placed photographs of Prince Cemetery on the Internet. I was so excited to be able to finally see this place I had only heard about as a cow pasture. The pictures were so good, if I hadn't been going on this trip, I wouldn't have felt like I needed to go because the pictures told the story so well. I am so grateful to whoever keeps this place clean and mowed. It was truly a wonderful experience seeing the resting place of my grandmother, Micca Tennessee Caperton and her father, York Billings, and to see that family members still remember them and visit them.
George Franklin Caperton is buried in California, where he died of leukemia after a short illness about 60 years ago. Both of his sons lived there at the time of his death. They were poor then and he was buried in the back of the cemetery where it was not maintained. Now it is a beautiful place, green lawn everywhere and mowed. The family saved for a nice marker that is now in place. I am able to visit his grave occasionally and am so happy that I know where the rest of the family is now.
I left my heart in Bald Knob, I loved the
people and the way of life there. I met people with such sweet spirits. The
scenery is breathtakingly green and the food was wonderful. I loved the "sweet
tea" in the restaurant. We are not offered "sweet tea" in California
restaurants, we must sweeten it ourselves. I loved the southern accents, they
were all different and so wonderful to listen to. My husband said I came home
with a different way of talking but it didn't last long ‘til it went back to
normal. I loved driving down the old road and picturing in my mind the family
traveling to town to do their shopping in their first car. I imagined them
ready to go out and pick strawberries with the old berry baskets and also being with their friends and stealing watermelons or whatever mischief they could get into. With so many of the old places still remaining, it was easy to do. I finally got to see what a sweet gum tree looked like. There must have been a million of them. My dad always talks about them. He said they use to chew the sap, the only gum they ever had. I discovered that I have one in my backyard only we call it a liquid amber. I have never seen any sap on it, but I will start looking for it. Don't think I will chew it though. It seems most of the family lost all of their teeth. I want to keep mine as long as I can. We call it our family tree because its roots run out into the leech lines of the septic tank and also because its branches hold four
swings and a hammock and it is played under by many grandchildren.
I stayed at my aunt’s house and slept in my grandmother’s room, admired the old sewing machine they sold eggs to pay for and looked at myself in the mirror on her dresser and thought how lucky I was to get this close to her spirit. I also sat in the oak rocking chair that was in so many old family pictures with the children at various ages that I had so often admired. It was amazing to me in this use-and- throw-away age we live in that it still existed. I also loved visiting the school that was attended by the family and trying to picture it as it was. It has grown some! I was impressed by the churches there and saw the Methodist Church that my family attended. I heard stories of their Christian faith and felt awed at the power of God to reach down through the generations and touch the hearts of families. I saw great strength of character in my family and I love them!