Monday, March 21, 2011

Chapter 13 Superior Firepower

I guess I was responsible for temporary tension between my Mom and her sister-in-law, Vida. One day her son, my cousin Townsend, and I were playing at our house. We were having a rubber gun fight. We used to make our own rubber guns. We cut them out of a 1”x 4” piece of wood and we shaped them like a gun. We then cut notches along the top edge. clip_image002We cut our big rubber bands out of an old inner tube-all tires back then had inner tubes, there were no tubeless tires then. We would stretch these bands from the front of the gun back to hook them in one of the notches.

Some of our guns would be single shot that stretched the band from the front of the gun to a clothespin nailed or bound to the handle. I had made myself a machine gun that had four or five notches with a heavy cord that ran under the bands along the notches. If you wanted to shoot, you pulled on the cord a little and the first band would shoot, and the rest were ready for the next shot, and so on.

Townsend and I were playing, and it was my turn to hunt him. I was slipping along the side of the house and when I got to the corner Townsend jumped out and shot me right in the face. Boy, it really hurt and after I recovered, it was Townsend’s time to hunt me.

I ran around the back of the house, and climbed up on the wall that went around the house. I ran along the top of the wall until I got to Dr. Dunn’s big trees that hung over our wall. I climbed up the tree, and sat on a big limb that stretched over our wall by several feet and was about six feet above the wall. In a few minutes Townsend shows up creeping along the top of the same wall looking all around at the ground trying to find me. He got almost to me when he looked up and saw me. At that moment I had my machine gun pointed at him, and I pulled hard on the cord and all six rubber bands flew off and hit Townsend full in the face.

With that, darn if he didn’t fall off the wall into our yard below. Well, he was screaming like I had shot his head off and his mother, Vida, comes running around the house. She always spoiled Townsend something terrible and was hollering, “My baby, My BABY”. Mom is right behind her and I am trying to decide whether to stay up in the tree or break and run.

Townsend keeps telling her,” George did it, he made me fall off the wall.” Vida starts yelling at Mom, what is she going to do about me. Mom takes offense at that and it escalates from there. Townsend recovers enough to point me out up in the tree and I complain that Townsend shot me first. I was sent to my room, but this did not help the argument between Vida and my mother. It took several months for Vida and Mom to start speaking again.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Chapter 12 The horse formerly known as Prince

About this time-I was at least 8 or 9-my Dad bought me a horse. He was a black and white paint, and his name was Prince. He had a nasty disposition and hurt me several times. I would not tell my folks, as I was clip_image002afraid they would take him away from me. I rode him to Dupre  Elementary School in Lubbock and would stake him in a big field behind the school. All kinds of horses were there and I remember there was a real poor family, whose four kids rode to school on an old longhorn steer. I can still see that old Longhorn plodding down the dusty, soft dirt street with those four on his back like stair steps. Several of my friends rode their horses to school, and after school we would ride all over town together until it was time to go home for supper.

I did also get into trouble during this time. We were down near the Lubbock Hotel and decided to race on our horses out to College Ave (now University). We took off galloping out Broadway, clip_image001and when I got home, someone had called my Mom and told her I was running my horse on the pavement out Broadway. When my Dad got home that Friday night she told him, and he was furious. He told me to go into the bathroom and wait; I knew he was going to give me a “whuppin”. He used a straight razor and had a razor strap that hung beside the basin. He finally came in and said, “Don’t you ever run a horse on the pavement. That horse could slip and fall and he could even break a leg.” Then I got my “whuppin”. That was all my Dad said about the incident.

I said Prince had a nasty disposition, and I will give you a few examples. Of course, from about May until October, all of us kids would be barefoot. We even went to school barefoot until the weather was too cold. One day I was “fixin” to get on Prince, and I was going to kind of shinny up his left front leg. Well, just as I was doing this, he stepped on my bare foot. I could not get him off. I remember, I was crying and beating on him as hard as I could. He finally took his foot off mine, and I was hopping around on one foot holding the other. Needless to say, after that I watched his feet whenever I was standing near him. We never wore a shirt either, except when we went to school. So another time I had my back to his head when I was “fixin” to get on, and he reached back and bit me on my bare back. When my Mom asked me about that cut with all the blue around it, I told her I had fallen off the wall around the house.

When I used a saddle, which I did about half the time, Prince had a habit of taking a big breath and holding it while I was saddling him. When I would start to get on he would let his breath out, and of course the saddle was loose. As soon as I stepped in the stirrup, off would come the saddle and I would end up on my back in the dirt. I swear, Prince looked around and grinned at me. I learned real quickly to wait till he had to take a breath, and when he did; I would jerk the latigo real tight.

My Dad’s sister, Aunt Ada in Houston, was a real horsewoman. She rode Tennessee clip_image001[8]Walkers in the Houston Stock show each year. I confided in her about Princes’ disposition and she said I had to show him who was boss. She sent me a quirt to get his attention, and the next time he acted up, I laid that quirt on him pretty good. Believe me, we had quite a rodeo. After four or five jumps and pitches, he sent me right over his head. I got right back on but after that, every time I had to get his attention with that quirt, I was sure I was sitting pretty good and solid before I laid it on him.

Prince was really a rough riding horse. Sometimes we would be riding along and all of a sudden he would jump sideways and go to crow hopping. You talk about something that would jar your innards, and that was sitting on a horse that was stiff legged, crow hopping. One time,’ bout six or seven of us “young-uns” were riding across a big open field with Bennett Browns’ older brother TI, who was a teenager. Well, Prince was doing his thing, kicking and giving me a rough ride. When we got to the other side of the pasture and stopped for a minute, TI said to me,” Man, George, that was some real riding you just did.” Of course, I didn’t think it was anything unusual, but I played like I really had a hard time staying with him.

Photo of Dupre Elementary found here.

Photo of the Hotel Lubbock found here.

Photo of the Tennessee Walker found here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Chapter 11 A Doctor in the House?

Dad had bought me a used bike in about 1931 that had been used pretty hard. Someone had painted it with a brush an ugly blue color, but I was happy to get a bike, since I had been asking for one for some time. It didn’t have any fenders and when I had to go through muddy water, it would leave a line up my back. Mom would fuss about this. I sure did want a new bike but I’m sure I didn’t look for muddy waters to ride through to get her to pressure my Dad into buying me one. Once in a while we got a new Sears Roebuck catalog. I spent hours dreaming over the clip_image002pictures of beautiful new bikes. They were red and white, had horns, lights, white wall tires and fenders. Finally, Christmas 1933 I got my brand new bike. I was so proud of it; I treated it like a guy would treat a brand new Corvette today.

Well, one night shortly after I got it, after we were all in bed I began to worry about my bike sitting on the back porch. I got up and slipped out the back door and brought my bike into my bedroom. I set it up in my room where I could keep my eye on it. Sometime during the night I must have had a nightmare and called out loudly. (Probably dreaming someone was stealing my bike.) Mom hit the floor at a dead run and ran through the dark into my room and straight into my bike. She and the bike were tangled up on my bedroom floor. My Dad came running down the hall, turned on the light; fortunately Mom only received scratches and bruises. Neither of them were happy, and I was in trouble again.

There was just so much trouble to get into. They were building a house next door and we boys spent time down there poking around. One day during the summer, I was walking through the new house that was in the framing stage and I climbed up on the stairs they were building. For some reason, as boys will do, I jumped down instead of walking down the stairs. A lot of loose boards were scattered around on the floor and I landed on a short board about six inches long that had a big nail sticking up. Again I was barefoot and that nail stuck right up through the top of my foot. I hopped home next door, crying, and my mother almost fainted. I got blood all over everything. She took me to Dr. Dunn next door and he pulled it out and gave me my first tetanus shot.

It was really handy to have Dr. Dunn living next door. Another time, we were throwing broken bottles against a water meter in the alley. One of those bottles got caught on my index finger and almost cut a big hunk out of it. Mom took me to Dr. Dunn, and he stitched my finger back together.

One of our favorite games was what we called “Rooster Fighting.” You had four guys; the two bigger guys would carry the smaller ones on their shoulders. The idea was each team would try to pull the other to the ground. We were doing this one day down at TI and Bennett Brown’s house. I was up on TIs’ shoulders and we were trying to pull the other guys to the ground.

They got behind us and pulled TI down, and as we went down I hit my head on the corner of their brick house and sort of slid down the brick. Here we go again; I was bleeding like a stuck hog and ran home. Back to Dr. Dunn of course and he stitched me up. I remember him telling my Mother, “We are going to have to put zippers on this kid.”

My poor Mother, it is a wonder she survived my adolescence.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chapter 10 Summers in Calvert

My folks also let me spend a week or so in Calvert each summer. I had so many kinfolks in Calvert that I knew someone on almost every street. I loved to go down there as I was treated like some sort of celebrity. I guess partly because I was a little kid from out of town but mostly because of my Dad. Everyone loved Dad. He was very gregarious, outgoing and fun loving. He always had a big smile. They all loved “George Sr.” Everyone referred to me as “Little George.”

Calvert was a throwback to an earlier time. It was filled with friendly, good people, both white and black. The population was split about 50-50 white and black. The total population was always less than 2000 people. clip_image002The main highway between Houston and Dallas passed down Main Street and was the only paved street in town. All of the white folks’ stores were on the North side of Main Street and the black folks’ stores were on the South side of the street. The blacks were not allowed to cross over to the North side of the street. Now, it seems unbelievable but the thirties were a different time. Everyone, white and black accepted it as if it was just the way it was. Uncle Jack was a pharmacist and his drug store was on the South side of the street. He was a big, gangly man, 6’ 6’’ with long arms and legs. He looked a lot like Abraham Lincoln. He had a soft heart and he took good care of the medical needs of his customers, who were all black. For many, he was the only “doctor” they had.

I remember one night real late the old magneto telephone in the hall began to ring. (It hung on the wall and had a big crank on one side of it that you had to crank to call the operator.) Uncle Jack answered in his pajamas with Aunt Blossom standing next to him as well as everyone else in the house including me. In those days when the telephone rang late at night it could only be one thing, bad news. Jack listened for a minute and then said, “I will meet you at the store in ten minutes.” As he hung up and turned to go get dressed, Bloss was asking him over and over to tell her who was on the phone. When he finally was dressed and leaving she was still demanding to know who had called him so late at night. And he finally told her. She exploded, stating, “That (so and so) has not paid you for the last three medicines he got from you and you are going down and open the store in the middle of the night to give him more!” Uncle Jack said, ”Aw, Bloss, you just hush.” With that he got in his old Chevrolet that sat out front under a tree, and he was on his way to the store. I think that gives you insight into that man.

Bloss and Jack had a black man who was their cook; his name was Montgomery. He would get to their house way before daylight each morning to cook breakfast. Every morning he made scratch biscuits that were out of this world. He also cooked steak every morning along with bacon, eggs sausage and several kinds of jellies and syrup. Some mornings when I woke up early enough I would go down to the kitchen and visit with Montgomery. He would pick me up and sit me on a high stool next to where he was working and we would have a great visit. One morning Montgomery turned to me and said, “Little George, what are you frowning about?” I stuck my scrawny little arm out next to his huge black arm and asked, “Montgomery, why isn’t my arm the same color as yours?” He broke out in laughter and told me,” Little George, that is just the way God made us.” That seemed reasonable to me so we went on to talk about other subjects.

Uncle Jack would take me to the drugstore with him. He had an old fashioned soda fountain that had all the different flavors in tanks with clip_image002[13]pumps on them behind the counter. Uncle Jack would give one of those big silver malted milk containers (like today’s blenders) and he would tell me to go behind the counter and make myself whatever I wanted. For an eight or nine year old this was about as close to paradise as you could get. I would put chocolate and vanilla ice cream in and then a squirt of many different flavors, I would then put it on the mixer and enjoy. It is a wonder I did not get deathly sick. If Bloss knew what he had let me do, she would have had a fit.

Photo of downtown Calvert found here.

Photo of 1928 drugstore soda fountain found here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chapter 9 Gin and Muggie

I loved my grandparents. I called him Gin and her Muggie. (Gin was pronounced as in “I’m agin it” not as in the distilled spirits.) I used to go see them in the summer for a week or so. Mom would take me down to the Lubbock railroad station about 10 o’clock at night. The Pullman beds would already be made. She would tuck me in and then she would give the porter some money to look after me. Thclip_image002[4]ey would put a tag on me with my name and where I was supposed to get off. The Pullman car would be sitting on a siding until about three o’clock in the morning, when the train from California would come thru Lubbock, pick up this Pullman sleeper car and take it to Ft Worth. At Ft Worth another train would pick the car up and take it to Austin. As we rolled down the line through the night I remember the clickity-clack, clickity-clack of the wheels on the rails. I also remember peeking out the window in the dark middle of the night as we passed through little towns with the crossing signals dinging away and the flashing red lights at the road crossings. This experience was pretty exciting for a seven or eight year old traveling on his own.

Gin had a really hair trigger temper. One time when I was there for Christmas he, Muggie and I went down to the Triple X root beer stand in Austin for a hamburger. It was a drive-in place where the waitress would bring your food to the car. I guess Sonic is about the only hamburger place that does that now. Anyway, Gin makes a big point with her to not put any mustard on his cheeseburger. When she brings our burgers, Gin looks at his and the kitchen must have thought the order meant lots of mustard, because his burger was loaded with mustard. He is furious and utters his favorite oath (“Oh, the devil and old Tom Walker”) and with that takes the mustard soaked half of his burger and threw it out his window. Problem was, the window was rolled up. Mustard splatters all over him and the car. Muggie breaks out in hilarious laughter, which did not help his temper tantrum. I remember, I did not know what to do, I had never seen my grandfather so mad, but with Muggie laughing, I began to laugh too.

My grandfather had a lot of interesting sayings:

  • When he did not feel well:” I’m as weak as branch water”(Branch being a small stream as opposed to a river)
  • Describing an unattractive girl: “She was a jug-butted, dish-face gal”
  • When frustrated and terminating a conversation: ”Oh, the devil and old Tom Walker” (Then walk away)
  • Describing a dense or dull person: ”Oh, he was just pulled a little green.”
  • About someone he was aggravated with:” He is eaten up with ignorance.” or maybe, “He don’t know the difference between come ‘ere and sic ‘em.”
  • He didn’t think much of PhD’s who were full of themselves; he would declare, “ He is just an educated fool.”

I sorta hate to tell the next story about Gin but it is a classic. Gin was a man of few words. When he was elderly, he lived in the country with my Aunt Cot at Leon Springs just north of San Antonio. He handled a lot of the chores for her such as milking the cow, feeding the chickens, etc. He stayed in his room most of the time when he wasn't doing his chores. He also raised beautiful fighting roosters. They were brilliant reds and blacks and people from all over would buy his roosters. He would frequently clip_image002ship them all over the country. When he had something to do he would come through the kitchen, get his hat off the top of the refrigerator and leave out the door not saying a word to anyone. Sometimes he would be gone an hour and sometimes he would leave and be gone for several days never telling Cot where he was going or how long he would be gone. Then one day, here he would come in the kitchen door, put his hat on the refrigerator and on to his room, saying not a word to anyone.

One time when I was having coffee with Cot (she always had the coffee on) I asked her about Gin. She said she once asked him where he had been and all he said was,”Oh, the devil and old Tom Walker”! So she never asked him again. Gin passed away in May of 1956 and of course I went to San Antonio for his funeral at Porter Lorning Funeral Home. I was standing next to Cot and a deputy sheriff from Kendall county was standing on the other side of her.(Kendall County was two counties north of Cot's farm) The deputy turns to Cot and says.” We are really going to miss Forrest.” She responded that we all would miss him; he was such a character. He responds, “He was absolutely the best referee we ever had.” She asks, “Referee?” He says,” Yes, he knew more about the finer points of cock fighting than anyone in the world.” Cot and I looked at one another-thinking, so that's where he went when he disappeared for several days!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Chapter 8 Chickens Little

1933 was a big year for me. This was the year that I got my first job! I was eight and I got a job selling the  Saturday Evening Post and Ladies Home Journal, which were popular magazines at that time. They gave me a big canvas bag with a strap that went over one shoulder. Each week they would leave a stack of Saturday Evening Posts about half as high as I was tall and, once a month I would also get a stack of Ladies Home Journals. I would go door to door asking people to buy my magazines. The good news was that I was able to sell out most weeks; the bad news was that whenever I did that they would leave more magazines. I did this for about a year until I turned my “route” over to one of my friends.

During that time, Dad would have to go to Austin to bid on highway jobs. We would leave Lubbock before early dawn and we would pull off the road (there were no fences) and we would stop at the Caprock escarpment at about sunup where Mom would spread a blanket. We would have breakfast and watch the sunrise. We would then load back up, descend the Caprock and head for Austin. Back in those days, none of clip_image002the highways in west Texas were paved and they would all follow the section lines. (A section was 640 acres) We would travel several miles due east, and then make a 90-degree turn to the south. We would then travel several miles south and turn east again and so on all day long. I remember one time, we came to a big puddle covering the road and there was a man there with a team of mules. He pulled us through the mud to the other side. Once we were back on the road, my mother asked Dad, “What do you think he does when the puddle dries up?” Dad told her,” That’s when he hauls all the water.”

On another trip, we came to the Colorado River. It was on a rise and we could not get across because in those days there were few big bridges over the major rivers. We just had what they called low water crossings, where usually the water just reached up to the running boards of the cars. The railroads had built high bridges over the rivers but not the highways. We were traveling in two cars, Mom’s 1933 Chrysler and Dad’s 1933 Ford coupe. Dad had some new tires called balloon tires that looked sort of like today’s dune buggy tires. We pulled into a big pecan tree grove by the river, and the water was really booming along. There were a lot of people parked there waiting for the river to go down. Dad was distressed because he had counted on this big job being let in Austin, and the deadline to get his bid in was the following day. 

All of a sudden, there was a lot of gasps. We looked up and on the railroad trestle was Dad’s little Ford coupe. He had let some of the air out of his balloon tires and driven onto the railroad tracks. He was crossing the river way up on the railroad bridge to get to Austin in time to put his bid in on that highway job. I remember my mother was frantic and wringing her hands. All the ladies who were waiting in the pecan grove came over to comfort her even though we had never seen them before that day. When I compare that reaction of strangers with the crowd standing around watching a girl being attacked in New York I almost cry thinking of the direction our national morals have taken. We just don't care about strangers much anymore.clip_image002[6]

1934-1935 Mom and Dad built a really beautiful home at 2307 18th street. At the time, 18th was a dirt street and for the time, our house was considered a really big house. It had three bedrooms and three baths and was of Spanish architecture with an adobe wall around both sides and across the back that was about seven feet high. The back yard was big with servants’ quarters that also had a bath and small kitchen. Behind the servants’ quarters were my chicken coop and the horse barn.

My grandfather grew fighting chickens, and he had sent me a bantam rooster and three hens. Before long, I had a bunch of bantam chickens back there. Almost every day after school, I would rush back there and sit in the chicken coop to visit with my bantams. They would hop up on my leg as I was sitting there enjoying them. I also had some homing pigeons and I built a home over the chicken coop for them. My flock of chickens grew rapidly and one evening we had chicken for supper. I noticed that the chickens were much smaller than usual and I suddenly suspected the horrible truth. After supper I checked and sure enough about half of my bantams were gone. I was sick and cried a lot. I’m sure my mom felt terrible after I realized the truth. For the rest of my life my rule #1 was” I will not eat my friends.”

Photo of bantam found here.