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Bo's Stories, Page 9

THE FAMILY OF BESSIE EDNA BROWN & THOMAS MONNIE WOODS

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“Frog Hunting”

            My earliest frog hunt was with my brother James.  I was probably about four years old at the time, but I remember it clearly.  James was on his way to a party some place with some other young people.  They were going down the road toward Beckville when James spied a large bullfrog by the side of the road just below Dobbins mailbox.

            James made a quick decision to forego the party and go frog hunting.  All of you that knew James know that was an easy decision for him.  He came back to the house, got his flashlight and the .22 rifle, and with me on his back, went down the road and found the frog still there.  We got that frog and then went out to Smiths pond and got some more. 

            From there we hunted on down the creek, all the way through the woods to the Williams brothers ponds.  When we were going slow, James put me down and let me walk alongside him.  When he was traveling he carried me on his back.    

            While we were going around Mr. Johnny Williams pond, I ran over a nesting goose in some weeds and got flounced pretty bad, although not hurt.  That made me scared of not only geese but roosters too for a time.

            I don’t know how many frogs James got that night, but he had a stringer full of them.  After the hunt was over, he had to carry the stringer of frogs, and me, all the way home from Mr. Johnny Williams’ place.  I think I slept all the way home, riding on his back.  Aren’t big brothers wonderful?

            We hunted frogs a lot.  When I brought Mary home with me from California, I was anxious to go frog hunting which I did.  A lot.  Mary was in her eighth month with Clifford at the time, but I took her with me.  I made the rounds to all the area ponds and killed a lot of frogs.  Mary loves frog legs.  Her brothers and brothers-in-law killed them in California when she was growing up.

            One thing Mary did not like was all of the snakes, of which, we had a great abundance.  I remember on one occasion a large snake swimming in the pond came toward our light.  I guess he thought it represented something good to eat, for he swam straight to us, then came out on the bank and I shot him when he was almost to us.  Mary will never forget that incident.  I retired her from frog hunting when she slipped and fell.  Luckily she was not hurt.  Her feet slipped from under her and she sat down and slid down a slope on her backside.

            When I was in college at Stephen F. Austin University at Nacogdoches, my sister Monnie Bess and brother-in-law Mournice Jones were living at the farm.  Mournice and I were always good friends and fishing buddies, and whenever I had a chance I would go fishing with him.  I think this was in 1957 during the spring break.  We went home and Mournice and I went to the Sabine river where highway 59 crossed it.  Our plan was to put out a couple of trotlines and then hand-fish and run the lines for a while and then pick up and go home.

            That is what we were doing, until after dark when we saw that there were lots of bullfrogs along the riverbank.  We didn’t have a gig or gun or anything to get the frogs with.  I told Mournice if he could run the boat in to the bank close to a frog that I thought I could catch him.  So we tried it and no problem.  The frogs were facing the water.  That was their escape route, and with the light in their eyes, they would just sit there until I grabbed them.  The river was up from spring rains and a little swift, which made navigating a little difficult for Mournice in places.

            Mournice had a small aluminum boat and a small outboard.  I guess a 2 or 3 HP outboard.  Mournice ran the boat and put me in to the bank, just to the side of the frog so the boat wouldn’t hit him.  I was leaning out from the bow and would slap my hand down on the frog.  We seldom missed.  We hunted until we had a bunch of frogs and decided we better clean them and head for home.

            We tied up to a snag out in the river so the mosquitoes wouldn’t bother us and began cleaning frogs.  We hadn’t cleaned many before Mournice accidentally dropped his knife in the river.  Mournice if you ever read this, just remember I haven’t forgotten that you threw your knife in the river so I would have to clean all the frogs.  No seriously, it was not that big a deal.  We just had to revert to teamwork, which we did.  I cut the legs off and Mournice skinned them so we got through pretty quickly.  A count showed that we had caught 71 bullfrogs.

            We had not planned to go two days in a row, but that was too good to pass up, so we went again the next day.  It wasn’t as good—we got only 70 on this night.  That sure was great fun, but it was a few years before I did it again.  We had learned a new way to take bullfrogs that I used successfully many times over the years.

            In 1964 when my boys were nearly 5, 6, and 10, I took them to the same place Mournice and I caught all of the frogs.  The frogs were there again and I introduced Phillip and Kevin to the art of catching frogs.  Brother James was there with his boat and he took Cliff and I believe James Martin Byerly with him and I had the two little boys.

            I ran the boat and held the light on the frogs and the boys caught them.  Their hands were so small that they had to use both hands to hold one of the big frogs.  After each catch, I had them swap places.  One of the boys got on the bow seat and the other on the middle seat with the fish basket that we put the frogs into.  They loved it.  The frogs were just out-manned and didn’t have a chance.  I don’t know how many we caught that week, but it was a good number.

            Later on, after the boys were a little older they began hunting frogs all over Deer Park and Pasadena.  They mainly used another method of taking the frogs.  The way they did it was to use a small bow and arrow.  Cliff would usually man the bow and he was a pretty good shot with it.  They could usually get pretty close, and he would sight down the arrow and shoot the frogs.  Of course Phillip and Kevin were all set to pounce, the moment the arrow was fired.  They caught a lot of frogs that way and we always enjoyed the frog legs

            Once when we were living in an apartment at 112 Mitchell Street in Nacogdoches, Mary’s Uncle Arvel and Aunt Cordelia came from Oklahoma to see us.  Our cupboard shelves were usually pretty bare in those days, and the only thing Mary had at hand to fix for their supper was a big platter of frog legs.  She fixed those and probably gravy and biscuits to go with them. 

            Aunt Cordie laughed about that the rest of her life.  I guess she had probably had frog legs before when she was a girl, but maybe not.  (That might have been some of the frogs Mournice and I got from the Sabine).

 

“Rationing”

            During World War II, many things were rationed.  Namely sugar, coffee, meat, gasoline and shoes.  There were probably other things, but I don’t remember.  Mainly it was the rationing of sugar and shoes that impacted us.

Each individual was issued ration books.  The stamps contained in the books were numbered and lettered which allowed a complex system for assigning what and when certain commodities could be bought.  I didn’t understand it then and I don’t remember it now.  Miss Alma Finklea signed the front of the depicted book as the “Issuing Officer”.  She also happened to be my teacher at Brooks School.

            We got almost all of our clothes and shoes from Sears, Roebuck and Company or Montgomery Ward.  On one occasion Mama ordered me a pair of shoes which I needed to wear to school.  Of course she had to send the coupon from my book along with the purchase price.

            The shoes looked real nice, and I liked them.  All was well until the first time I wore them when it was raining.  When the soles got wet, the soles began to peel off in layers.  It appeared the soles were made from some kind of pressed-cardboard.  Mama promptly boxed them up and sent them back.  She wrote a letter explaining what had happened.  Mama was a master at expressing herself in a letter.  Shortly, we got a package in which was a much more expensive pair of shoes than the ones we had bought, so we came out pretty well in that deal.

            Mama had the perfect solution to sharing the rationed sugar.  Each time she got our ration of sugar, she filled jars that we kept on the dining table.  There was a jar for each of us with our name written on a piece of tape.  You could eat all of your sugar ration the first day or you could ration yourself to make it last until next time.  Of course none of us would ever have considered taking sugar from any jar except our own, and I’m serious about this, not with my Mama as the arbiter.  This worked very well. 

            The big problem was that we didn’t have enough sugar for canning that we needed.  Mama began using Karo syrup, which was not rationed, for some of her canning.  It was O.K., but not nearly as good as with sugar.

            Only later after my brother-in-law Milton Roberts went into the service and Cathryn came home with a car (a 1934 Plymouth sedan with “Free Wheeling”), did the gasoline rationing become a factor.  Not much of one though, because there were plenty of farmers around who had a much larger ration than they normally used and would share their coupons with their friends.  Was this legal?  I don’t know, - probably not - but it was widely done.  I still have two of my rationing coupon books from those days.

            We never used any of the meat coupons because we never bought any meat.  We did buy coffee when we could, but were real saving with it.      

            People didn’t complain about the rationing because it was part of the war effort and the community was deeply impacted by the war.  Rationing was a small price for us to pay.  From that small community we had numerous members in the Armed Forces.  Below I will list the ones I can, but am sure I will miss some. 

They were:

      Aubrey Belew         Prisoner of War

      John Brooks

      Douglas Dunn        Died in service

      Donald Dunn         Injured in battle (later died from his injuries)

      Farris (Bill) Gentry

      Buddy Gentry        Prisoner of War (later died at an early age)

      Charles Gentry

      Dorvin Gentry

      Doyal Gentry

      Glenn Gentry

      Hays Gentry

      Hurley Holland

      Clyde Jimmerson          

      Preston Jones        Killed in action

      Andrew Jones

      Travis Jones

      Hubert Jones         Injured in service

      Elmer Jones

      Ray Jones

      Webster Kelly       Killed in action

      W.C. McMillan      Lost a leg and was a Prisoner of War

       Leonard Nelson

       B.F. Twomey

       Felton Waldrop

       Ray Waldrop, Jr.     Twice injured in service, once in battle.

       Floyd Waldrop

       J.K. Williams

      Vestle Williams

       Odell Williams

       Ray Woods

       James Woods

       Drew Woods

            Almost every family had at least one loved one away in the war.  We knew all of these men.  They were our neighbors, friends and loved ones.  Their coming home safely was our primary concern.  

        My brother Ray about 1948

                                               

“An Essay on Cars and Other Things”

            I was introduced to the art of driving a car at a very early age.  I believe that my brother-in-law Milton Cleo Roberts was the first person to let me take the wheel, while going down the highway.  That probably was in 1940 when I was 10 years old.  A person would be mad to let a 10 year-old behind the wheel now, but in those days, things were much different.  I would say the typical speed on the highway was about 40 to 45 mph.  The more daring drivers might go 50 mph, but many went 25 or 30.

            The time I am referring to, Cleo had to go to Mineola about a job with the railroad that he got, and he worked as a brakeman for a time.  Anyway, Cleo was really good to me and took me places with him.  He and Cathryn had been married only a short time.  On the way to Mineola, he let me take the wheel and coached me on how to drive the car.  I had practiced changing gears on Grandpa Brown’s car with Brownie, so I knew the basics.  Cleo taught me how to actually drive.

            His car was a 1934 Plymouth sedan.  I always loved that car and I drove it a lot while Sis was home with us when Cleo was in the Navy.  The Plymouth had “Free Wheeling”.   To activate this feature, there was a knob on the dash which had to be pulled out about 3 or 4 inches. 

            With this knob out, when you started downhill and the drive shaft speed exceeded the engine rpms, the transmission was disengaged.  This feature took the car out of gear and on a long hill you could really pick up speed.  Then when you started up the next hill and pressed the gas pedal, the engine rpms would exceed those of the drive shaft and the transmission would automatically re-engage.

            This was really a gas saving feature and was excellent for East Texas.  Free-wheeling was not so good in mountainous areas where there could be a downhill slope miles long and steep too.  Without the transmission to retard the rpms, a car could continue to accelerate to uncontrollable speeds.  That happened too, on occasion, and the feature was outlawed.

            I got a lot of time behind the wheel with Cleo and then soon after with Lloyd.  I like to think I became a very good driver, but many people (with Mary at the front of the line) would beg to differ.

            When Lloyd was Superintendent of Schools at Hemphill, I went and stayed with him and Mildred for a week or two.  I went down there on the bus from Henderson where we lived at that time.  That would have been in the spring of 1944 just after I had finished the ninth grade.  I had either just turned 14 or was about to.  While there, Lloyd let me drive his car the few blocks from their house to town by myself.  I was thrilled to say the least.

            It wasn’t long after that though, that I became a regular driver.  Sis and her boys lived with us in Henderson and she was generous enough (perhaps unwise enough) to let me drive the car a lot and frequently by myself.

            At that same time, we had a neighbor from Brooks Community.  She was Buna Twomey who was married to Red Sledge and expecting their baby.  Red was off in the Army and Buna’s doctor told her that she was not to drive a car.  She asked me if I could drive her to town (about three miles) when she needed to go.  Could I ever!  And I did, quite often, until she had her baby.     

            By the way, I talked with Buna at the Brooks School Reunion in 1996 about those times and she remembered.  I also got to meet her son.  He was the baby that she was carrying in 1944 when I was her driver.

            The 1934 Plymouth had a long engine compartment and then the front bumper extended out, probably 16” beyond that.  I wasn’t used to that (I wasn’t used to any car for that matter) and the first time I drove into a station to get gas, I got a little too close to the pump and just creased the metal cover with the front bumper when I went by it.  No damage done really and the owner came out and took a look and said don’t worry about it.  I didn’t, but I was a little more careful after that.

            All of the gas pumps back then were of the type with a ten-gallon glass tank at the top of it.  The actual pump was below that and had a handle 2 or 3 feet long.  To pump gas you grabbed the handle and pushed it first to one side and then the other.  It pumped gasoline from the underground tank into the glass tank on each stroke.  There was an overflow pipe in the glass tank that overflowed back to the underground tank so that you always filled the tank to the zero mark.  

            The flow of gasoline through the hose to your car from the glass tank was by gravity and you could see the level dropping.  How accurate was this you ask?  If I were guessing, I would say at least equal to the meters of today.  The glass tank had marks down the side, I think in half-gallon increments, though people almost always got whole gallons, usually five or ten at a time.

            Back then few people had either a driver’s license or insurance on their cars.  I remember once the police in Henderson were set up stopping all the cars and checking for driver’s licenses.  Somehow I learned of it and detoured around them.  I got my first driver’s license in Honolulu, Hawaii when I was twenty and in the Navy.

            After the war when Ray came home and began farming, I drove a lot.  He bought a 1938 GMC -ton pickup truck.  The engine from a 1941 Pontiac automobile had replaced the original engine.  We worked this old truck hard and long, and except for a few times it responded well.

            In 1947 and 1948, Ray and I put in a lot of cotton.  In addition to our place we farmed the Kelly place and some of Uncle Jim Woods’ place.  Of course to harvest the cotton we had to have “Cotton Pickers”.   Ray was having some problems and went into the Veteran’s Hospital in Alexandria, Louisiana for a while and left gathering the crop to Rita, and me.  Rita was a tremendous help to me.  I was only 17, was about 5’10” or 5’ 11” and probably weighed about 125.  When I joined the Navy more than a year later, in November of 1948, I was 18, was 6’1” tall and weighed 137.

            Mr. Dennis Jones had a Negro man living on his place that we called “Slick”.  I never did know any other name.           This was a fine looking man.  As Negroes go, I guess you would say that he was handsome, and he was smart.  Mr. Dennis liked him and he lived there and worked for Mr. Dennis for many years.  Anyway Slick knew where there were people that we could get to pick the cotton.

            I got Slick to go with me.  He took me over to New Caledonia that is south across, what is now, Lake Cherokee from Longview and helped me round up cotton pickers.  I had a regular route through that neighborhood, and would get all of the people I could haul on the pickup.  These were really nice people.  Most owned their own homes and on more than one occasion I went in and had coffee with one elderly couple that always picked cotton for us.

            Mama would wake me at 4 AM on days I went after the pickers.  She did this without benefit of an alarm clock, and she had my breakfast on the table as soon as I was ready.  I would quickly eat and leave out.  By the time I got back with the pickers, the sun would be up and the dew dried off the cotton.  And they would begin work.

            Between home and New Caledonia, there were two stores.  They were Mr.Grant’s and Mr. Claytie Jones’.  I stopped at both of these stores the first day or two that I hauled the pickers and each of these owners got me to the side and told me that he wanted me to stop exclusively at his store.  They both could use the business, so I compromised.  I stopped at one coming in the morning and the other going back in the afternoon and each day I alternated.  I stopped at Mr. Grants in the morning, one day and then the afternoon the next.  They didn’t complain.

            The pickers insisted on stopping at the store each morning and each afternoon.  In the morning many of them, mostly the younger ones, bought their lunch.  I’ve seen many of them have a lunch of a lb box of crackers (yes they had them then), a can of sardines and a RC Cola that had been laying out under a shade tree all morning.

            We had a pair of cotton scales either hanging off the back of the pickup bed cotton frames or from the limb of a handy tree.  Rita was there much of the time to help with the weighing and the bookkeeping.  We kept a book with the name of each picker by which we recorded the weight of their cotton each time they came in to weigh. 

            We had a tare (empty) weight for each cotton sack (they were all different) that we subtracted from the gross weight.  After weighing, the sacks would be emptied into the back of the pickup.  Most of the pickers were honest, but we had to be vigilant or some would put dirt in their sack, or a rock, or if allowed to empty the sack themselves, they might leave a few pounds in it to be weighed again next time.  We knew all the tricks.

            The cotton sacks were made from heavy cotton ducking.  It must have been 30” wide.  A piece of this ducking of the desired length was folded and sewed down each side, hemmed around the open end and a strap was made and attached to the open end of it..  The strap was long enough to reach across one shoulder and allow the bag to hang open at a convenient reach for you to thrust cotton into it with your hand.  The sacks were usually sized to the abilities of the picker.  Kids had smaller ones than adults.

            After the sack was sewed it was turned inside out and a small rock, hickory nut, or green boll of cotton was placed down inside in one of the bottom corners.  A piece of wire would be tightly tied around this corner (the rock inside would keep it from slipping off) and would have a ring attached or a loop tied in it for hanging on a hook on the bottom of the scales.

            I had a picker, one year, who came only a few days, that picked three rows of cotton at a time as he went across the field.  He was the only one I ever saw who did that.  Most of the better pickers picked two at a time, one on either side of the middle (the space between the rows) they were dragging their sack down.  Most of the kids and some adults picked a single row as they went.

            In late afternoon we would call the pickers in, weigh the cotton and then tally up for the day and pay all of them, in cash.  Rita was a big help here.  She kept a cash box (usually a cigar box) with a lot of one-dollar bills and assorted change.  The going rate then was 50 cents per hundred pounds of cotton picked.  Few of them ever picked more than two hundred-pounds so would have less than a dollar coming for the day.

            What they did have, most of them wanted to spend and many did when we stopped at the store on the way home.  It would be late by the time I got back home and had my supper that Mama saved for me.  All I wanted was to get in the bed for a short few hours and then do it again.

            When we had enough cotton on the pickup to produce a five-hundred-pound bale of cotton, I would have to go to the gin.  I always liked gins. It was a sight to see with all of the machinery going and the cotton going through it.  A steam turbine drove the equipment and steam jets created a vacuum that kept the cotton moving through the system.  Each gin had a pond to provide boiler water and a wood or coal fired boiler to produce the steam.

            When you got to the gin with a load of cotton, your truck or wagon or whatever was weighed full, then you pulled up under a pipe about 8” or 10” in diameter.  This pipe could be raised up or down and around over a pretty good area.  It was rigid with a handle on each side near the open end.  Up above it had a counter-weight and a flexible joint to allow this movement.  You simply got up on your load of cotton and moved this pipe around while the vacuum sucked the cotton into the gin.

            Once when I was about four, Benny Boy Waits and his wife lived in the little house just up the road from us.  Benny and Jaunita didn’t yet have any kids of their own and Benny Boy took me with him some times.  One day he took me to the gin with him on a wagonload of cotton.  This was my first trip to the gin.  I had a new little straw hat that I was wearing and while I was up in the load of cotton with Benny Boy, my hat fell off and up the pipe it went in an instant.  After we left the gin, Benny Boy took me over to Mr. Harris’ store and bought me a new hat and I’m sure a treat or two.

            After unloading the cotton, you weighed empty and in about thirty minutes they would load your bale of cotton on your truck or wagon, give you a weigh slip and give you the seed that had been removed from the cotton.  Typically, we would load from 1250 to 1350 pounds of cotton into the truck in the field to yield at least a 500-pound bale.  The buyers would dock you for smaller bales, but you didn’t want them to be much over 500 pounds either.

            I remember once when I was going to take some cotton to sell and we had several bales in Mama’s front yard.  I loaded three bales in the pickup by myself by tumbling them end-over-end and hauling them standing on end.  Needless to say the pickup was a little over-loaded.

“Accidents, Injuries and Mishaps”

            I won’t say that I was accident prone, but I sure had enough accidents around me over the years to satisfy me.

            Once I was fishing way down the branch (that’s what we called a small creek) across Smith’s pasture by myself.  I was fishing in a small hole in the creek when I had a bite.  If you have ever fished with me you know I am not timid about jerking when a fish bites.  This time I didn’t hook the fish and the hook came flying out of the water right at me.  Before I could move the hook had hooked through the loose skin just below my right eyebrow and above my eyeball.  The point and barb went in and then back out and I was perfectly hooked.  I couldn’t get it out, couldn’t even see it, so I carefully carried my pole and line and walked home.  My sister Monnie Bess finally got the hook out of me somehow, but I remember my eye, swelled shut.  It was all right though in a few days.

            Jimmy John Dunn was a good friend and we spent quite a lot of good times together.  Jimmy got a bicycle before I did and we left our house once with me riding on the back of his bicycle, sitting on the carriage straddling the back wheel.

            It had been raining and the old Williams hill was wet and slick on the West side when we started down.  We were coasting and picking up too much speed for comfort when Jimmy started braking.  When he did we began to fishtail and he lost control and we went off into one of the deep gullies that served as ditches. 

            I wasn’t hurt except for a few scrapes and bruises, but Jimmy got a hard lick on his forehead and it knocked him out cold.  I rolled him over on his back out of the water in the ditch and bathed his face off with my handkerchief.  I was really worried but in a few minutes he came to.  We cleaned ourselves off the best we could and waited until our clothes dried before we went on to his house.

            Another time, when we were a little older, Jimmy and I were on horseback on the way from my house to his.  We were down near the road fork and had just headed toward Mr. Ben Weir’s when we stopped to shoot at a redheaded woodpecker with our slingshots.  Jim’s horse was turned a little wrong, so in order to get a good shot, he turned sideways in the saddle and put his right leg around the saddle horn.  He drew back and let fly and when his slingshot twanged, his horse lunged forward. 

            Jim was off balance and lost the saddle on the first jump and on the next one he lost the horse and hit the ground.  He wasn’t hurt, but jumped up and yelled for me to catch his horse that was headed for home in a dead run.  I knew what his concern was.  His Mama, Miss Paralee always worried about him and probably would have had a heart attack had his horse come galloping into the yard without him on it.

            I was on our horse John and immediately took off after Jim’s horse.  There was one thing about old John.  He loved a challenge.  He might not have had the legs of a racehorse, but he had the heart and temperament.  We slowly gained on Jim’s horse until we finally caught him about a mile down the road and brought him back.      

            One of the most painful injuries that I’ve had was my nephew Kenneth Roberts’ fault (I’m kidding).  You see he was a toddler and wouldn’t stay in the house unless we had the doors latched.  This happened in the summer and we had put a hook on the front screen door to keep him in.

            When the mail carrier came I started out to meet him.  I put my middle two fingers on my right hand under the latch to unhook it.  There happened to be a splinter on the molding and I caught it under the nail on my ring finger.  The splinter went all the way under my nail and you could see the end of it under the skin on my finger above the nail.  We tried to pull it out with no luck. 

            Someone went with me up to Miss Blanche’s and she tried to get it out.  She took a razor blade and cut about half of my nail off, but didn’t get the splinter.  It finally came out some time later after I had been in the pond swimming all afternoon.

            Mama had a hard life.  She managed to keep us going somehow.  She got up early every morning and fixed breakfast for us.  When she was in a rush, she would sometimes use kerosene to start a fire in the wood-burning cook stove.  One morning when she did this, the can was almost empty when she poured a small splash of kerosene into the firebox.  She had done this many times with no problem. 

            But, on this morning conditions were right for a disaster. There were some live coals of fire left in the stove from the day before and the kerosene flashed when she poured it in there.  When it flashed, it ignited the vapors coming from the can and the can exploded, spraying burning liquid kerosene over her entire right arm.  This was extremely painful to her and the injured arm really handicapped her for a long slow healing time.  She managed without any medical treatment, and finally healed up.

            I always had a lot of problems with my ears.  Cold damp weather meant earaches for me.  I suffered many of them.  When I was about 12, a doctor in Carthage told Mama that my tonsils should come out.  He thought that would end a lot of my problems.  He gave me some medicine to take for a few days before I was scheduled for surgery. 

            I went swimming in Smith’s pond a couple of days before surgery and cut my right foot open on a piece of a broken bottle.  It was pretty bad and when we got ready to go for my surgery I couldn’t get my shoe on over the bandage, so we just left it at home.  We got to the clinic, they put me to bed, put me to sleep with ether and cut my tonsils out.  They kept me overnight and the next morning when we were getting ready to go home, Mama noticed the staff running around tearing the place apart.  She asked them what in the world they were looking for, and they told her they had lost one of my shoes.

            Of course we all had a good laugh over that when we told them I didn’t have but one shoe.

            Monnie Bess had her appendix and tonsils out about the same time that I did.  She had her surgery done in Shreveport.  We were both recuperating at home and the weather was hot and dry.  There was a sawmill down the road toward Beckville someplace.  One of their trucks had been out to a store and was on its way back to the mill. 

            A young Negro was driving the truck and was by himself.  He had a five- gallon can of fuel in the right floor of the cab.  Usually the small cap on the pour spout would get lost and the usual practice was to stick a potato on the spout to close it.  I think that was the case here.  When the young man struck a match to light a cigarette, some fuel had leaked out of the can and it caught fire.

            In trying to fight the fire, the driver ran off the road into the embankment that was our field on the east side of the house.  We didn’t know anything about this until we heard an explosion, which I suppose was the five-gallon can.  The grass in the field was waist deep and immediately caught fire from the roaring truck fire.  There was a good breeze out of the southwest that pushed the fire towards our tract of timber and the Dobbins road.

            I ran out in violation of the doctor’s instructions (several days had passed since my surgery) and helped fight the fire.  Neighbors came and people from the mill came and a little later a crew came from the U.S. Forest Service at Beckville, and with everybody working we were able to stop the fire at the wagon road along the edge of our woods and at the Dobbins road.

            The truck burned completely with more explosions as the gas tank and then the tires caught fire.  The driver had left his shoes setting in the middle of the road near the truck and run all the way to the mill.  He was not hurt.

            Mr. Grady Dunn, Jimmy John’s dad, had an A-Model Ford sedan.  He had showed Jimmy John how to start it or Jim had observed how to do it one.  I was visiting at their house one day when Jim and I got into the car.  You know I don’t see kids doing that these days.  Back then it was a popular pastime of boys to play at driving cars, but then we didn’t have TV’s and Nitendo and stuff like that.  We couldn’t go to the movies or the mall either, so we had to find something else to do.

            Jim told me that he knew how to start the car and proceeded to demonstrate his knowledge.  Sure enough he knew how.  When he pushed the starter pedal the car started up and jumped forward.  Jim didn’t know that it was in gear or how to stop it.  Mr. Grady had a large wooden gate between his yard where the car was parked and his barnyard.  We were headed right at it, and went right through it.  Somehow Jim got the car stopped before we hit the barn, but I don’t know how.  I expect Mr. Grady gave him a whipping for that incident, but I never did know.

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