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Jerry's Stories, Page 1



“These are boyhood memories and may not be accurate but they are the way I remember them.”

Childhood Stuff


Date: Tuesday, August 24, 2004 8:17 AM


@1955 or 56

My earliest memories of Daddy were in Jacinto City. That's the place where I got my first bike, it was used but he fixed it up and I thought it was a Cadillac. I remember going to run trotlines with him in the San Jacinto River. He baited them with P&G or Ivory soap and we caught some big catfish. We would go run them while my brother and sisters were in school, so it was usually just me and him. One trotline he had was under a railroad trestle and he would run for it if a train came by because of stuff falling off the tracks, I don't know what might fall and I never saw anything but we moved whenever a train would pass overhead. He started clearing a lot in Channelview while we lived in Jacinto City and me and Patsy had a lot of fun playing there and watched in wonder as he burned huge piles of trees and brush. My first good whipping with a belt happened at that house. Mother was quick with a switch. I broke a window one time and before I could look both ways, like they did on cartoons, she was out the door, had a switch broke off a bush and was wearing out my ankles. Had I been quick enough I could have river danced over some of those switch strokes, but they were blindingly fast, besides I hadn't heard of river dancing yet. Yep, Mother was quick with a switch and added insult to injury if she made me go get one for her. Daddy was equally fast with a belt. When we lived in Channelview a railroad track ran behind the house and me and Randy took to putting things on the track for trains to run over. Started out with pennies and worked our way up to tree limbs and big pieces of sheetrock. That's when the man from the railroad had a talk with Daddy and that's the first belt lickin I recall. I remember Randy and Daddy going duck hunting when we lived there, I guess I was too little for it. Daddy gave me and Randy pocket knives while we lived there. That's where I learned not to have the blade pointed at my eye when cutting string. I drove that blade clean into my eye and got to wear an eye patch for a while. Daddy let Linda pick out the color for her bedroom and I don't know what color it was but it was like a bright reddish pink, there wasn't a crayola like it in my pack of 32 colors. Seems like interstate 10 was under construction around then. I remember going with Daddy to the waste treatment place and getting a load of treated waste in that old pick up he had. It was kinda like chunky dirt and we spread it over the yard, guess Daddy thought it was good fertilizer, and tomato plants came up everywhere. Best of all about that place is that's where we lived when we would go camping on the Sabine River. I was little then but here are a few things I remember about camping on the Sabine River, Linda and Patsy can probably add to these. One time Daddy was carrying a watermelon down to the river in the evening and slipped down the bank, we all thought that was funny. Evenings were nice, that was when we got to swim on the sand bar. Daddy or Randy would always put a pole where the "drop off" was, I wasn't exactly sure what a drop off was but I knew I would disappear if I got near it and me and Patsy stayed plenty far from it, it was scary to a kid. That spring water that flowed from the bank of the river was cool, clean and our only source of drinking water. We buried our blocks of ice wrapped in blankets in the ground, kind of natures own ice chest. Mother got chased by an armadillo or snake, maybe both, I don't recall, but it was funny. I don't see how Mother took care of all us kids with such archaic camping supplies. Cots, mosquito nets, headache rack on the pick up to haul the boat and to act as a shelter when we camped, Coleman stove, Coleman lantern that ran on white gas that Daddy got at the gas station and they usually kept it in a 55 gallon drum over with the kerosene, Coleman fuel either cost too much then or wasn't invented yet. Mother cooked delicious breakfasts, sausage, bacon, eggs, gravy, pancakes and supper was fried chicken or fried channel cat with home made French fries. Camp had its own aromas especially when Mother was cooking. You could smell catfish frying and popping in the grease along with fumes from the stove and the musty odor from the mosquito nets and bedding. Part of that came from that oily mosquito repellent Uncle James supplied us with, it was stuff the guys in the Army used. I think chiggers were kinda attracted to it. Daddy pulled a Muscadine vine down with his truck one time and Mother boiled all the fruit and saved the juice to make jelly. When we got in bed at night and turn off the lantern fireflies were all around and the smells and sounds were part of life. Of course if someone farted that was real funny, Daddy would usually ask, "Who mashed a frog?" I don't know where that term came from, I secretly stepped on enough toad frogs to test that theory but not a one sounded like some farting, generally they don't make a sound. We got a soft shelled turtle one time and Mother cooked that up too. Us kids got to smoke grape vines, that was fun till our tongues got blistered.


Living at the farm was the most wonderful playground a kid could ever dream about.  Magical qualities were everywhere a 5 year old boy looked. That big tree in the front yard  grew helicopter wings. I threw many  a rock through the leaves and branches just to watch those blades come raining down. It was always exciting to take a walk down that long hot dusty road and end up on the “mountain”. I wonder what geologic upheaval created that and what it looked like before erosion and mankind did their work on it. Ask Mother if she knows anything about it. Did it always look the same way when she was a kid? Other wonders, The Big Pond, The Little Pond, Smith’s Pond, every pond had a name and I think we caught frogs on all of them. Usually Uncle James had us in tow. I was fortunate being so young that I was included in so many things like that. I spent many an hour looking for the ever elusive paint rock. The best time was after the road maintainer stirred up the ditches and uncovered new rocks. Remember that cool water from the well. There was a big concrete culvert standing upright that trapped the water when it bubbled up from underground. That was the best place to look for arrowheads too. The hog barn was up on that rise. I remember being extra careful to not go near the pen, us kids had been warned how mean those pigs were and we weren’t about to become victims of a critter that could munch down whole watermelons rind and all, imagine what they could do to a little kid. There was the temptation of sneaking in that barn cause me and Patsy knew full well that there was usually a litter of kittens in there. One time Daddy took us in there and we got a couple of those kittens but they were so wild they bout shredded us up before we could let loose from them. There was fishing, squirrel hunting, frog hunting and just about always a chicken snake or water moccasin that needed killing. Other hazards were wasps, yellow jackets,  grass burrs, thorns and numerous things that  could crawl, bite, sting, stab or just look down right mean. Someone said Panthers lived in the woods but I never saw one and don’t believe anyone else did either, but I kept a sharp eye out when I was in the woods even though I didn’t know what they looked like. I got into a yellow jacket nest one time and got about twenty stings and I truly feared those things after that but I think the worst fear I had living on the farm was getting  caught halfway through a pasture and having a mean and nasty bull get after me. Seems like me and Randy were always crossing some unknown pasture and the first thing I always asked was if there was a bull in there somewhere, and my soul filled with dread when Randy would say “I don’t know”. I think sometimes he did know but wasn’t telling. Most cows in our pasture were “nice” ones but deep down I didn’t trust a one of them. I had seen our nice cows stampede one time when me and Randy were trapped in an old dump truck bed in the middle of a pasture, we finally made a run for it but it proved to me that even nice cows have  bad days and I didn’t plan on getting trampled to death. One time at night someone’s mean bull got out and they were looking for it around the house. Even during the day you couldn’t have made me go outside for nothing and at night it sent shivers down my spine to think that that mean bull now had an opportunity to sneak up behind me in the dark, yes to me they were very sinister and I was pretty worried cause Daddy and Randy were out there helping.


We had the best food in the world. There’s no substitute for fresh ingredients and farm raised vegetables. That fresh milk and butter from Christmas, our cow, tasted funny at first but we got used to it and what I’d give to have some of it now. Us kids had to help shelling peas and shucking corn. I remember everyone sitting around that big screened in porch talking and laughing while shelling peas. Purple Hull were my favorite cause they were the easiest. Didn’t like shucking corn too much, it seemed some silk worm was always falling out. Some kind of worm got cooked in with some lima beans one time and ended up on my plate, I still don’t like to think about it. I recall Mother and Mama doing an awful lot of canning and I remember the pantry where we kept all those jars. That was where you could get into the attic of that house and up there was and old phonograph, the kind you had to wind up. I wonder if Mother knows where that came from and where it ended up. An odd thing about that house was the hallway had a tee at the end. Straight was the bathroom, right was a bedroom and to the left it just opened to the screened in porch. I think Daddy eventually put up a wall there but it was kinda scary knowing any creature could just walk right into the house, especially a mean bull.


Elvis was young so was the Flying Purple People Eater and the Itsy Bitsy Teeney Weeney Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. Daddy didn’t like that dad blamed nigger music. Parents feared polio a lot and we visited someone onetime that had a young girl that had it, I didn’t want it either. After we moved to Pasadena we ate sugar cubes that had the vaccine in them, seems like they were red looking.


We always had watermelon in the summer and homemade ice cream. Us kids would turn that crank till our arms were about to fall off, but what a treat it was. There was sweet dewberries in the spring that were most delicious with sugar and some of Christmas’ creamy milk, course the cobbler was great too. We picked up pecans one fall and sold them, I got a fifty cent piece, the most money I had ever seen. Spent it at a drug store in Beckville I think, but don’t remember what I bought.


Some of the best toys I ever had were the ones Daddy made. Remember when hula hoops were in fashion and Daddy made some for us out of garden hose. He cut a length of hose and whittled a plug that both ends fit tight on. He whittled airplane propellers and fitted them on the end of an old mop handle. We would hold them out the window of the car or school bus and they’d spin a hundred miles an hour. One time he made me a toy like he had when he was a boy. He flattened an old pipe tobacco can and turned the ends up about a half inch at a ninety degree angle. He then fastened it to the end of a stick. The object was to take the small iron inner rings from an old wagon wheel, which were about eight inches in diameter as I recall and push them around the yard with that stick and flattened can. Doesn’t sound like much but it kept me busy for quite a while. He also made stilts for us kids and we had a blast with them. Jump rope was a lot of fun, hop scotch on the porch, if you swept off the red fly bait and thousands of dead flies. Patsy remember getting roller skates for Christmas one time, they were the kind that fit on the bottom of your shoes and you had a square key to tighten the toes up with. They were fun but really didn’t work too well on that asphalt road that was full of holes. I got a wagon for Christmas one year and it was cold cold outside. My plan when I asked Santa for it was to get at the top of the hill and ride it to the bottom. I pestered Mother enough on that cold Christmas day and she finally let me do it. One trip was all it took. It was mighty cold and bumpy and a long way to the top of that hill.


Like I said Daddy was fast with that belt. He could whip that belt off and whack you with it faster than lightening. He could be driving 65 down the highway  and still whip you no matter where you were in the car without varying his speed cause his goal was to always get 20 miles per gallon and of course he didn’t stop unless someone was about to go in their pants. When we got in trouble at the farm a whipping wasn’t all that bad because it was usually followed by a swim in the pond. We’d go down to the old barn to the area where Christmas got milked cause it opened toward the big pond. Daddy would get you by the arm, in this situation he always doubled his belt, cut down on wind resistance best I can tell, and as you ran in a circle he’d whip your butt. It depended on how severe your crime was as to how many rotations you made but on the last one he would turn you loose just at the right moment so you’d be headed out the door toward the pond.


I always imagined my butt steamed when it hit that cool water, just like in cartoons.


More Later,




For Mother


Date: Wednesday, September 15, 2004 12:38 PM


My Dad was a God fearing man. As a child I never ever heard him utter a cuss word one, my Mom didn't allow any colorful language anyway, and he could have been more afraid of her than God, I don't know. At the house in Jacinto City on Jennifer Street I can remember him laying down with me at night to try to get me to go to sleep in my own bed. I slept in my own bed but only after falling asleep laying between him and Mother in their bed. Me and Randy had some Army bunk beds he got from somewhere.


For some reason that I don't remember Daddy cut them in half and made twin beds. The frames were wood and later when we lived at the farm he managed somehow to put them back together into bunk beds. That house at the farm had a large kitchen and dining area, big enough that Randy and I had our bed in there. I think that's why Daddy put the bunk bed back together, to conserve room. Later when Uncle Ray built an addition onto the house for Mama, me and Randy had our own room, and Linda, Patsy and Barbara shared a room. One time me and Randy got sick and had to drink lemonade made with salt instead of sugar. I don't recall what we had but I do know that lemonade was absolutely terrible. Anyway Daddy would dutifully carry me to my bed each night after I would fall asleep between him and Mother. I liked laying there rubbing on his or my Mom's arm with my hand, I could feel the softness of their skin and all the tiny imperfections and for some odd reason it comforted me. It must have been annoying to them because after a while Mother would get tired of me rubbing on her arm and she'd tell me to rub on Daddy's arm for a while. I went to sleep many a night like that, and after all it didn't take long, I was in the safest most loving place a child could be, between the two people that loved me and protected me.  Finally Daddy started laying down with me in my bed and he'd read the funnies to me. Didn't call it the funny paper, just the funnies. He also taught me word for word The Lord's Prayer, I still remember it today just like he taught me. If you listen close there are different versions of it and they mean the same thing but some synonyms are used, like trespassers and transgressors. Daddy used trespassers and when I would hear the other version at church or somewhere else it sounded odd but it didn't make much difference to me, and I'm sure it didn't matter to The Good Lord either. That's how Daddy always referred to God, he called Him The Good Lord. If  I was doing something wrong he'd say I don't think The Good Lord would want you doing that. I knew darn well he didn't want me doingit either but with him and The Good Lord on the same team, I knew I didn't have a chance. Mother had that bible with the reddish looking cover. She bought it from a door to door salesman and had to make payments on it. I'm proud to have that bible now. As a child I always liked the pictures in it and Mother would patiently sit with me and explain what they meant. The one with the devil looking all scaly and with that long pointed tail kinda scared me, but it was also food for thought if mischief was on my mind. Meeting up with that fella would be worse than the meanest bull chasing me across a cow pasture. I also thought it strange that Jesus always spoke in red. I remember going to church when I was little, even before I was old enough for Vacation Bible School. I remember going to a Methodist Church when I was real young but I remember Brooks Chapel the most. It wasn't air conditioned and folks sat on the pews in the heat of the summer. I learned to sit on the downwind side of Mama, Mother, or a stranger it didn't matter. They always had one of those fans from some funeral home that had a picture of Jesus on it and let me tell you they could whip up a good breeze for the length of a sermon even if they did have to change hands occasionally. If you were lucky to enough to get between two fanning grannies it was nirvana and being a little kid sometimes they'd point that breeze right at you. Us kids anticipated Vacation Bible School almost as much as Christmas and oh how I trembled with anticipation at the thought of making a rooster out of pinto beans, corn and macaroni. Randy made a lamp out of thread spools at vacation bible school at Brooks Chapel Baptist Church and I thought that was the ultimate in VBS projects. It predated Legos and a kid could let his imagination run wild with the possible stacking combinations of those spools. Back then women sewed all the time, they made shirts, bonnets, quilts and just about anything you can imagine. At the farm Mama was always getting me to thread her sewing needles for her, she sewed by hand and also had one of those pedal operated Singer sewing machines. Sometimes she let me lay in her bed with her and watch TV. Usually she'd fall asleep, I could tell because she snored a little bit, I thought that was funny. Sometimes when she lived down at Uncle Ray and Aunt Rita's old house she'd invite me down for lunch, just me and her. She was the best cook in the world, besides my Mom, and she had the best sweet tea you could ever imagine. But anyway, back to sewing, I heard it said one time that quilting was invented to give women something to think about while they were talking but I wouldn't repeat that to any of the women in my family, they were all smarter and at that time bigger than me. Women sewed so much that those thread spools were always around to play with and the womenfolk around that area supplied all those boys Randy's age with enough spools for all of them to make a really neat lamp. That lamp was around for years, don't know what ever became of it. I remember those church picnics Regan Gentry talked about in his poems, I think he called them singings but I remember the picnics and it seems to me they always came on the last day of VBS. All the kids got to show their folks around and take home their macaroni roosters, spool lamps and such. What I'd give to fix me a plate or two from all that good country cooking laid out on those tables under those big shade trees by the church. Who knows we might just all meet again one day right in that same spot!


Good Ol 'days when I was a kid 

Date: Sunday, December 05, 2004 3:27 PM


Here's some thoughts about when I was a kid and a little about how life was.


The Good Ol' Days of Christmas, and a Few Others 

December 2004 


Have you ever pondered over a certain time in your life and thought, those were the good ol' days? I don't know about you, but I can recall many times in my life that I would classify as the good ol' days. Some periods were relatively short and some were much longer, most had an unfortunate thing in common, I failed to recognize the good ol' days as

they happened, it was always in the rear view mirror. As I grow older I tend to step back and take a much harder look a what's going on around me and try not to forget that I might be in the very midst of the good ol' days. Older and wiser, the old saying goes, not that I'm wise but I am wiser, and most of that comes from being older, of which, I most certainly am. Time prevails, it's almost like wisdom by default, we get it whether we want it or not, but just try to impart a little of it to your children, you can hardly give it away. Anyway, as I was looking at

the family page and it occurred to me that almost every picture and recipe were a slice of the good ol' days for someone. Here are some thoughts on the good ol' days when I was a kid, some around Christmas, and some at other times, starting with going to visit my grandmothers. I recall how just getting out of Houston was a chore. The north loop then was just that, a two lane circle about a hundred yards wide that spit out cars toward the four points of the compass. You kinda had to weave your way into the traffic and then weave your way out so at

the right moment the correct exit was at hand to spit you out in whatever direction you were heading. For us it was north on highway 59, which was two lanes at least till we got to Cleveland, and it went to four lanes about where that old drive in theater used to be. I think that loop always made Mother nervous if she was driving and a bit more fidgety if someone else was. That was a time when passing slow cars was an art that is mostly lost now. Most drivers now aren't schooled the way we were, watching our Dad zoom around other cars at speeds approaching

sixty miles an hour. Daddy used to like to explain mechanical things about engines and transmissions to me when I was a kid. I understood very little of it but when I became a teenager and had a keen interest in such things we revisited much of what we had talked about earlier. I had a job as a mechanic the year before I went in the Navy. It taught me that when I got out of the service that I didn't want to go back to it. I remember that old flathead six, in an early 50's model Studebaker sedan with manual overdrive, would be wound tight as a clock spring as

it struggled to pass one car while another was bearing down right towards us. That always made Mother edgy but Daddy would neatly tuck it in between the car we passed and the one in front of us about an instant before she would yelp or have something to say about it. More often than not he made it with only an askew glance being cast in his direction but he knew what that meant and tried to take it easy but that only lasted till someone else got in the way. At night it was proper to hit that dimmer switch on the floor and flash your high beams before passing a car and leaving them in a cloud of dust and blue smoke. That flathead engine consumed oil at almost at the same rate it burned gas. I remember how proud my dad was when he got a car that had overdrive, that was bragging rights back then. It could be the ugliest bag of nuts and bolts in the world but if it had overdrive and could get at least twenty miles per gallon he considered it a jewel. Daddy liked working on cars and he also liked big fat Roi-Tan cigars, not so much to smoke, although he did light them occasionally, but he like to chew on them. One time he was working under the car on the driveway while me and Randy were hanging out by the car so we could hand him tools. The first thing you know a hand jutted out from under the care holding a big slimy chewed up Roi-Tan and Daddy asked Randy to light it for him, Randy looked at that thing and paled, I thought he was gonna pass out. I think Daddy was just messing with him but I couldn't say for sure. Cars back then had radios but it was hit and miss to get a station. They were all AM radios that had clunky push buttons for preset stations or a knob you could turn to move the needle across the limited spectrum of stations. If you found a station you liked it could be set by pulling out one of those buttons and pushing it back in. That preset the station, but odds were that the next time you pushed that button the needle wouldn't be exactly on the station and still needed some fine tuning. It was okay in town, we got KILT 610 and KNUZ 1230 that played rock and roll and KIKK 650 that was licensed to play country music but only between daylight and dawn. There was another station, KXYZ, it was near our house and was the only station that came in on a crystal radio Randy built in shop class at school. It was neat to tune the radio signal in that way but it was over headphones and was mostly elevator type music, we didn't listen to it much, we just enjoyed the novelty of that little crystal radio set. Out on the highway radio stations were few and far between. I knew we couldn't afford much and at that time it really didn't matter. We never had air conditioned cars but didn't miss it, our house wasn't air conditioned either, unless you counted an attic fan sucking in humid gulf air. If us kids acted up Mother took care of it but Daddy could reach us anywhere in the car if he had to, so we had to mind our manners

for the most part, but weren't always successful. Often we were packed in the car so tight we might touch each other once in a while and a fracas was gonna happen, it was only a matter of time. I don't remember much of what we talked about on those long trips, however; I remember some innocent observations that Patsy made. One time as we approached Fairplay she asked "How much is a nickel ice cream cone?" Another time she was bringing a kitten home from the farm when she chimed from the back seat, "Oh look he's trying to dig a hole in the floor." Daddy, the man that it took an act of Congress to make stop so one of us could go to the bathroom, made a record breaking stop that day just for a stray kitten to go wee wee and make do do. On another trip she said,  "Oh look, those two cows are riding piggyback." I looked to see what she was talking about and was astonished to see she was right. I was young enough not to know any better either. That story became legendary in our family and not until years later did I realize what was so funny to Mother, Daddy, Linda and Randy. 


Oh how we Jones' kids  anticipated going " up home," as it was referred to around our house. It was a treat anytime but especially at Christmas. Barbara was born around that time but David wasn't thought of yet, not by us kids anyway. How the excitement mounted as we packed the trunk of the car with a suitcase or two and paper grocery bags with other goodies in them. Those wrapped packages really got the Christmas spirit going. It was a long ride but for us  it was usually broken up by a stop at Lufkin where my grandmother on the Jones side of the family lived, Granny. It took about three hours to reach Granny's house but it seemed like twice that long. I could always, at Christmas, count on Granny to give me some swell socks and underwear. I would give her a hug and say thank you, but, like most kids, those items weren't exactly my idea of a great Christmas gift, but there usually was a puzzle or some other toy that took the sting out of Fruit of the Looms being disguised as Christmas gifts. Besides, I knew Mother probably told her to get that stuff and looking back that's most likely all she could afford. Granny was a wonderful person with a tremendous sense of humor and she was a real good cook like the women on the Woods side of the family. She made the best banana pudding in the world and did until the day she died.

That's the last thing I had that she made and it was as good then as it was when I was a punkin head kid. I make it myself now but it never compares to Granny's banana pudding. One thing I didn't like were the guinea eggs she had. For some reason she got rid of her chickens and got guineas. Guineas fried up okay and tasted like tough chicken but the

eggs tasted pretty strong and I didn't much care for them. Summer was fun at Granny's house. She had an old Chinaberry tree Patsy and I liked to climb. It was leaning way over and Patsy and I could scamper up the trunk like a couple of squirrels. Those chinaberries were just right for a sling shot too. It also gave shade to the chicken yard, that's where the chickens were before they were replaced by those dreaded guineas. That tree met its demise when Hurricane Carla hit in September 1961 and

spawned tornados in that area. One hit dreadfully close during the night that Carla hit and tore that tree out of the ground. We had gone to Lufkin to avoid the storm. It was almost like losing an old friend

seeing that big old tree laying on the ground. We usually spent a day or two at Granny's before heading 75 miles north to the farm. No one had to

call us kids twice to get us up and ready to make the final leg of the trip to Mama's house. Those days were the good ol' days.


As I awaken those memories of being at Mama's for the Christmas gathering I have one memory that stands out in my mind, but it wasn't at Christmas time at all. We were pulling in the driveway one time when we went up home, it was spring time and Mama was tending some flowers she had planted by that dirt driveway. Seems like she always had flowers of some sort growing around her place. I can still see her in my mind. She wasn't the Mama I see in a lot of pictures, she wasn't the Mama that had her hair fixed nice and wore nice dresses, hats, and make up and had a certain frailness about her. No, it wasn't the Mama that she was late in her life, it was Mama as a strong, tough, proud  woman that had been through untold hardships and had risen to the task every time. She was stooped over working on her flowers and when we pulled in the driveway

she straightened up, smiled and waved. She looked like many country women did then, a lined face under a homemade bonnet, strong tanned arms and a long dress. Up close, she had that smile that started in her eyes and lit her whole face, innocently sweet, almost like a school girl, yet almost out of place on such a robust looking woman. She looked to me like she could handle just about anything and unbeknownst to me, I guess she had. I don't remember what I did while we were there that trip or

why I took such a shining to Mama that particular time, but I do know that when we left she was standing in the driveway much like she was when we arrived. As we backed out of the drive a big tear slid down my face and dripped off my nose. I wanted to stay. Little did I know that wish would be granted not too long after that. Living at the farm later I got to really know the gentle, loving, kind woman she was. In my mind I can still hear her voice, "I'll be there directly," she would say. She's the only person I can remember that used the word "directly" like that.  If she was in the car we never passed Fairplay without stopping to get a nickel ice cream cone from Mr. French. Mama always had a spare nickel or dime in her coin purse for ice cream and she always let me dig it out. Even when we moved away she would send me a quarter in a birthday card so I could get an ice cream. I still have a card like that from her tucked away, but that quarter disappeared many years ago, well spent I'm sure on some Double Bubble, baseball cards, or a comic book. Going to visit Mama and staying at the farm, anytime, most certainly were good ol' days! 


What a time all us brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, moms, dads, in-laws had at Mama's house. Long before Christmas we drew names among the cousins. We got to see our cousins that we hadn't seen in months. I particularly liked to see James, and Clifford, but I was old enough to get to hang out with Randy and my older cousins on occasion, that is to say if they were in the mood and let me. As a child my family didn't have much money, but we were a close family and had other things that money couldn't buy. We were certainly blessed to have the parents we had. 


The kids played outside if it was warm enough. We had great games back then, chase, hide and seek, hop scotch, marbles, jacks, tree climbing, exploring the "mountain," which was a huge plateau about a

mile walk down the dirt road. Course a kid could always look for arrowheads for they were plentiful around there. I think at one time there was an Indian camp around the spring that supplied water to the

farm for years. It was even fun to stand in the yard and see if you could throw a rock far enough over the road to plunk it in the "Little" pond. The grown ups gathered in the living room where the Christmas tree was and talked for hours on end. That made it difficult for us kids to get near the tree and rummage around the pile of gifts, looking for one that had our name on it so we could give it a quick shake and squeeze. Excitement was rampant among the cousins just being around each other at Christmas time and in the back of our minds we knew this was the tip of the iceberg because when we got back to our own homes it would be almost time for Santa to come. One thing all us children had in common was an almost uncontrollable excitement about getting that envelope from Uncle Lloyd that had two whole dollars in it. A kid could spend hours looking at all kinds of things in the Sears and Roebuck catalogue to spend that money on. By the time you actually got something with it, it had been spent at least a million times. Eventually the cooks in the family migrated to the kitchen to prepare a Christmas feast. Women back then never, ever cooked without wearing an apron. I'm sure a person could look long and hard and never find a store bought apron in that crowd of

country cooks. The kitchen and dining room were adjacent to the living room, joined by glass paned double doors that had glass door knobs, but they stayed open most of the time. I'd like to have a jar of air from Mama's house at Christmas time. I can smell the aromas from the kitchen of turkey, ham, dressing, greens, rolls, biscuits, pecan pie, sweet

potato pie, coconut pie, cakes and other goodies that are too numerous to name. Those scents mingled with  the odors from the pine Christmas

tree, pipe tobacco and fresh country air. We were a large family that was blessed with love for one another and true camaraderie. Looking back, we had riches beyond belief during those good ol' days.


Christmas when I was little was anticipated all year and took about that much planning to decide what to ask Santa to bring. Having an older brother had a definite effect on waiting for Santa. Randy already knew the truth about Santa but my faith was unchallenged. One Christmas eve when we lived at the farm Randy and I were in bed waiting for Santa,

trying our best for sleep that just wouldn't come. As soon as my eyelids would get heavy, Randy would say, "Listen, I hear sleigh bells." I listened as hard as I could until I too could hear sleigh bells, as

fleeting as they were. If you want to hear something bad enough you can.


Harvesting our Christmas tree was also a day we waited for all year. With an axe in hand me and Randy would take off towards Smith's pond. There was a stand of young pines between the Big pond and Smith's pond. We had some prospects we had eyeballed all year just anticipating this day, and now was big decision time. It had to be straight  and true and shaped just right. With our young hearts pounding we cut down a lucky tree and carried it home, not wanting to drag it for fear of a broken limb or some other tragic mishap. Mother would marvel over such a fine specimen until the buttons popped off our shirts our chests stuck out so. Once the tree was put up it was time to decorate. Everyone shared in that joyful task. Already, Patsy and I had meticulously made a rainbow of rings from strips of construction paper and glued them into ornate chains that served as tinsel. We stood back and marveled at the beauty we created and that was reinforced as Mother praised what a fine job we had done and how beautiful it was. Sometimes we spent hours stringing popcorn but I like the colored rings the best. That was before the tiny little lights that are used so much these days were available. I'm partial to those multicolored big lights we had back then. Ah! The good ol' days.


One year when we lived at the farm Patsy and I got roller skates from Santa. They were the metal kind that fastened to the bottom of your shoes. They could be adjusted front to back by loosening a nut and sliding them apart so they fit the bottom of your shoe just right, and had a square key that tightened a clamp around the toes. We didn't have very good places to use them, the front porch was okay but it was a pretty tight oval. The dirt road by that time had been paved so to speak. It had asphalt laid on it and rolled down hard. I know it made it like a freeway when it rained compared to the mud bog it would have been otherwise, but it was kinda soft for those skinny metal wheels. If you hit one of the numerous holes the toe would pull loose from your shoe and headlong you would go skipping on one foot and rolling on the other foot with a skate dangling and slapping your leg. I think that's how the

hop, skip and jump event in the Olympics came to be.


When we moved from the farm to Pasadena, Christmas was a lot different. Me and Randy no longer got to go cut the family Christmas tree but Santa still knew where we lived. We moved to a small house in Pasadena. The thing, oddly enough, that sticks out in my mind about that house was that it had a shower. I thought only rich people had luxuries like that, Randy had to show me how to get it turned on. I was mesmerized by those aluminum Christmas trees that changed colors right before my eyes. I thought that's the kind of tree I'm gonna have when I grow up. We got our Christmas tree at Weingartens, there was nothing like the scent of those trees permeating the air. We started a Christmas tree family tradition around then. We would buy those aerosol cans of fake snow and spray down our tree as if it had just been in a blizzard. We then adorned it with strings of blue lights, those blue, fragile,glass ornaments and strands of icicles. I wasn't patient enough to put

on icicles because you couldn't just toss them on they had to be put on one at a time. Patsy and Linda had that kind of patience, my main interest was getting it decorated so some gifts could be wrapped and placed under the tree for shaking, and for the thrill and wonderment of it all. I guess the gifts I remember as a child are the ones that Iliked the best. I had a Vac-U-Form one year. It had a hot plate with holes in it that a mold went on and over that a small, thin,  sheet of plastic was placed in a frame. The idea was to get the plastic hot enough so it was soft and pull the frame down with a lever over the mold. You did this while pumping on another lever that pulled a vacuum under the plastic and held it fast while it cured over the mold. Results were marginal at best but it was fun for a while. One year I got an electric train that actually smoked out the stack if you put a few drops of some kind of special oil in it. My friends got trains too and we had hours of fun setting up towns and arranging head on collisions, derails, and t-bone crashes. Another time I got a chemistry set I had longed for most of the year. I think Mother might have been a little sorry about getting me that one. It had instructions for making some mighty bad odors. One way was to heat paraffin wax and sulfur in a test tube and it

made a ghastly rotten egg odor. Once and only once I made or liberated ammonia gas some how by heating a mixture of something in a test tube, I

stuck it to my nose to see if it was working and it knocked me over. It felt like someone had shot flames up my nose, it taught me that wasn't a good way to test things I knew nothing about. There was a hobby shop up by the Lewis and Coker grocery store that sold all kinds of chemicals in small bottles. I used to get those and do experiments that came with my chemistry set. I had a burner that ran on wood alcohol, methanol, and Mother kept that put up and only doled it out a little at a time. I made rubber eggs by putting eggs in a jar filled with vinegar. Eventually the vinegar will eat the shell away and cure the whites somehow. I was premature with the curing and tried to bounce one off the floor but it

splatted rather than bounced like I had anticipated. I learned how to make a rocket by reacting vinegar and baking soda in a family sized soda bottle and jamming cork in quickly. It will fly pretty high, I had a lot of fun with that gift from Santa. I can't remember when my childhood days couldn't be considered good ol' days, I was just too young to realize it. It seemed like I would never grow up and now childhood seems like a flash in the dark, and even as my brother and sisters grew up and left home one by one the family Christmas gathering was anticipated all year long and always celebrated around a snowy, blue Christmas tree. One bit of wisdom I would like to pass on is to take time to appreciate the here and now for in a fleeting instant it will be gone forever. Sure, bits and pieces, through pictures and memories can be captured but it's not the same in the past as it is in the present. Yes, those were good ol' days and I didn't even know it, and my how they flew.


Sure was Good to Hear It


Date: Thursday, September 16, 2004 6:30 PM


                     Sure was Good to Hear It


Unspoken words can be a powerful force. My Dad could say things without actually having to say it. When I would go to Livingston to fish with him unspoken words were used a lot. He would back the boat down the ramp and float it off the trailer. The water gently lapped at the pier pilings and the side of the boat as I held the bow rope and waited for him to go park the truck. He would crawl to the back and the silence was suddenly broken when he fired up that old two stroke Johnson he had, it would protest a couple times and then belch to life in a cloud of blue two cycle smoke. Running a trotline was always prefaced with throwing a cast net to get

shad for bait. Shad was the bait of choice up in the jungle on Lake Livingston. The jungle was on the north end of the lake where Daddy lived. He was an expert with that cast net. He would drive to where the road crossed the lake and walk down the shoulder to the lake. He knew the best spots. If  you asked him he’d say be careful when it’s foggy. One time he went to step over the guardrail and nothing was there to put his foot down on, he had accidentally tried to step where the bridge was, the guard rail was the same whether it was the shoulder or a creek crossing, and he ended up with his foot dangling in the wet air. I’m sure some unspoken words went through his mind about then, he got a kick out of telling that story. He could throw that net wherever he wanted. When the weights hit it sounded like when I was a kid and I grabbed a hand full of rocks and threw them as high as I could just to hear the sound they made when they hit the surface of the water. Most of the time he’d drag it in bellied up with nice fat shad. What amazed me was how he could always find his lines. Even though Texas Parks and Wildlife required trotlines to be marked he didn’t

like to because that just showed other less honest folks where his lines were. After having his catfish harvested by poachers a few times he decided that law wasn’t meant for retired old men like him. He knew that jungle like the back of his hand and could slide that aluminum boat right through old treetops and stumps that used to be an East Texas pine forest. He didn’t use a flat bottomed john boat because it was too easy to get it stuck on old stumps that were just under the water. He had a 14 foot vee bottom that did a good job sliding between all that brush. Sometimes it got stuck but not too often.. If it did get stuck we knew what to do without nary a word between us. We could have a whole conversation while running a trotline and never say a word. We’d pull up to where a line was tied, he always tied them under the water so they wouldn’t be visible, and I’d take his paddle, it had a notch cut in the paddle part and this enabled me to snag the line, you kinda had to fish for it. I would take off the catfish and he would just beam as he baited the hooks, I know we both could see and smell those channel cat covered in salt, pepper, and corn meal swimming in a sea of hot Crisco. It would be that way from one line to the next, hardly a word spoken as the boat slowly sliced through the murky water and I took off the fish and he baited the line, perfect

teamwork, perfect harmony in the silence of the morning with only the ripple of the water, an occasional catfish flouncing around on the bottom of the boat, a turtle sliding off a log, plopping into the water, and a water turkey squawking once in a while. Sometimes Daddy would say something like “That’s gonna be some mighty fine eatin ,” or “I sure do enjoy fishing with you boys,” he didn’t have to say it, the feeling was mutual, but it sure was good to hear it. “That’s a nice one, I’ll calm him down when we get back to the house,” he’d say sometimes. Now when he said “I’ll calm down that fish,” he meant it. He had a number three washtub in his shed where he cleaned fish. What he did was take an old electric cord with the plug end still on it. On the other end he put a metal rod like an old welding rod with no flux on one lead and the other lead had a metal

alligator clip. He stuck that metal rod in the mouth of an unfortunate catfish and clamped the clip to the washtub. He would then plug it in and do that two or three times. Those fish got a whopping electric shock but it sure calmed them down. I wouldn’t recommend doing that cause it’s pretty dangerous and I worried about him doing it but he sure got a kick out of it especially when someone was around that had never seen it. Sometimes we talked and sometimes we were just there, enjoying the same

serenity that comes with being on the lake right at daybreak. You could smell that aquatic grass that grew in the lake, it had a smell like dill weed, it kinda mingled with the fishy smell of a five gallon bucket loaded with fresh dead shad, not a bad odor, it was oddly pleasant if you had been around that sort of thing most your life. It was like perfume compared to that awful mess we used one time on the Brazos River. That was a bucket full of cotton and soaked with blood from a slaughter house, it got real gamy in the hot Texas sun. For some reason that’s what catfish like, the worse it smells the better. Uncle James had a concoction, Ithink it was limburger cheese, flour and water. It was pretty foul smelling too. To use that you would take a piece of sponge big enough to fit your hook and soak it in that awful stuff, the fish liked it but I preferred grasshoppers myself. They were fun to catch and didn’t stink.

Uncle James was always coming up with some kind of different bait and it seems like they all worked. It didn’t matter if we were seining those beautiful redhorse minnows or catching grasshoppers, getting bait was all part of the fun.Uncle James always had a great time and infected everyone with his humor. He got the biggest laugh one night on the Brazos when we were seining minnows, Randy was on one end and I don’t recall who was on the other but a snake ended up in the seine and slithered out toward

Randy, Randy let out a yelp and just about walked on water. Uncle James and Daddy thought that was hilarious. Uncle James had no fear of snakes. When we would go frog hunting around those ponds at the farm he always said the snakes never bite the first person, course that was always him, and he walked right through the snakiest places you ever saw. That always impressed Randy cause he was usually second in line. One night we were crossing a pasture to get to a pond and Randy stepped on a curled up piece of barbed wire, it slapped Randy in the leg like the strike of a moccasin and he thought he had been snake bit, Uncle James got a roar out of that too. Uncle James told me one time when he was in Turkey he took his boot off and a flattened dead scorpion fell out. He said he walked on that

thing all day and didn’t know it. It was deadly, but he said when his foot hit that scorpion it was like lightening hittin a sparrow. I liked that story, I thought Uncle James was tough as nails. Daddy always loved to fish with Uncle James as did everyone else I’m sure. I’ll never forget those times with Daddy on Livingston, we did a powerful lot of talking for two men that used few words. He didn’t say much, he didn’t have to, but it was sure good to hear it.


Daddy told me from the time I was a little fella that it was always okay to hug your dad no matter how old you were. I always remembered that and every time I went to visit or he came to visit me, I gave him a big hug. I think towards the end when he was old and frail and Parkinsons had run it’s ugly course that those hugs became more special to him, he held on to me for a lot longer and I was glad to return some of that love he had happily given me through the years. I know he loved that and he told me he did, he didn’t have to, I already knew, but it sure was good to hear it. He never was bashful about telling me he loved me and whether we were parting ways or talking on the phone that was how our conversations always ended. We didn’t have to say that, we both knew, but it sure was good to hear it. Through the years, whether it was marriage or when my children were born Daddy was always there and always very proud, that meant a lot to me, he didn’t have to tell me, I already knew, but it sure was good to hear it!


Daddy’s health got so bad he couldn’t do the things he loved, mainly fishing and hunting. I believe he got to where he could see through the veil. Sure, he knew his family loved him but he had family on the other side that loved him too and I think he was ready to join them and they were right there to welcome him. He wasn’t afraid of death, for him it was rebirth. Death wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the ones left behind, but if it wasn’t for our earthly family life wouldn’t be worth living. I’m glad for him that he’s with David, Granddaddy, Granny, Uncle Tommy, Uncle Jesse and all his kin that he missed so much, but not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and miss him sorely. The last time I saw Daddy alive he was very weak and ready to go. I leaned over and gave him a kiss on his forehead and said” Daddy, I love you,“ he said “Jerry I love you too.“ That was the last thing I ever heard him say, he didn’t have to, because I had known that all my life, but it sure was good to hear it. He saw that light while he was on his death bed, me, Randy, Linda, and Patsy were there. It had to be The Good Lord coming to take him home to his heavenly family, I take great peace in knowing that. When I get there I know he’ll be in the front of the line and I’m gonna give him a big hug and tell him I love him and he’ll do the same for me, he won’t have to, but it sure will be good to hear it!!!!!!!!!


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