I was born in 1931. There was four boys—Moe, myself, Luke, and Wiley—and one sister, Virginia, in the family. It was in what I call an old schoolhouse—Laurel Schoolhouse, I believe was the name of it—and it was between Fouke, Genoa, and Garland, Arkansas—I call that “The Triangle.” The first house we was in had one living room, a kitchen, a west porch, and three bedrooms—the boys all slept in one bedroom. It had a fireplace, but it didn’t put out much heat; it all went up the chimney and out in the air. Behind that about a hundred feet would have been the barn, where we kept our food.
We had everything you need to live on a farm. We did most of the farming, me and my oldest brother Moe. We fed the pigs, I milked the cows, Moe would feed the horses. The first place we had, it had a peach orchard, apples, a big ol’ garden—about two-, three-acre garden. We lived off that, raised our own corn and potatoes. We had, it seems like, two horses and two mules we’d plow the garden and the crops with. We had cows—they ran wild; had hogs—they ran wild. Back then it was open range, now it’s closed. Daddy had a smoke house, about ten-by-twelve, and he would smoke the meat—the hogs we had killed and butchered—for bacon. He’d use brown sugar and salt. Don’t know what they use today, but there’s a lot of chemicals involved in it.
We had chickens—chickens everywhere. We always had snakes: we had to watch for ’em. Big old long black chicken snakes would eat our eggs, so Daddy would have some things—they looked like eggs, but it was an old white piece of wood. They swallowed that, and that was the end of them. Eventually they’d die from that wooden egg. That’s the way he got rid of them.
We lost Wiley one day. He wasn’t very old, maybe about four or five. Mom told me to go get him, so I go looking for him. He’s on the north corner of the house, which is set up on brick. There was two rattlesnakes in that corner there, and he was running his little firetruck at ’em. The front end of that truck was wet, little marks where they’d been striking that truck. It’s a wonder they hadn’t got him. Well, how in the world am I gonna get him? So I got a hoe, stuck the hoe back there where they had a hole, and I jerked him out that way.
We made our own lard, made our own soap out of lye and other ingredients. Washed our clothes in a big old black washpot. Then we’d warm that up and use that in the tub and take a bath. And everybody took a bath at the same time. It stayed pretty clean, I guess. You didn’t have running water—we had a well. No electricity. No flashlights. We got up when it was daylight and went in the house at dark. One outhouse with two toilets. That was pretty chilly in the mornings, and you had to watch for mosquitoes. Of course you know what they used for toilet paper—the Sears-Roebuck catalog.
Went through one tornado. It tore down the house next door, and just scattered pots and pans everywhere. So we gathered all the aluminum up, and traded it to a guy that come around every month, and he’d bring sugar, candy, and we’d trade those pots—trade merchandise for merchandise. He’d take the aluminum and sell it, I’m sure. He worked for himself, had his own vehicle. He had everything on there you could think of, a little store on wheels. Of course, people bought it. We usually traded that stuff. And then he knew what other people needed, and he’d get it from Daddy or somebody if they had it, and he’d take it to those people. Just a traveling grocery store is what he was.
We had a feed trough about as wide as that table there. Of course, we were only eleven or twelve. They had a board down on the bottom to brace the legs, and we had to get up on that to even get to the top of it. Well, Moe and I throwed that corn in there and it started flying. “What!” So we go down at the other end of the trough and look in there, and there’s a big ol’ snappin’ turtle Daddy put in that trough, and I tell you I don’t know whether he forgot it or what. That turtle was eating that corn. When it hit him, he’d bite that corn. That’s why it was coming down.
Anyway, we’s going to get even with Daddy, so we killed a big rattlesnake. He’d been dead two or three days. Above the barn there was a ledge. We put that snake up there on the ledge, tied a string to it and brought it down to this door handle. When Daddy opened the door, the snake fell out on top of him. It funny to us, but it wasn’t to him. He didn’t like that.
We had calves, steers, ’bout a year old. We’d rope those and ride those on the forty acres that we had. We had this oak tree, it was big and the limbs come out over road. And right there was sand. And we’d just work and pull and get a big ol’ pile of sand about two- or three-foot high, climb up the tree, and you’d aim just right, and you’d drop into that sand. That was one thing we’d play.
We’d have rotten tomato fights, and egg fights. We’d go swimming, although we wasn’t supposed to go swimming. That was a pretty good swimming hole, a big high bank you could dive off, and that was the one where we wasn’t supposed to go to. But when Daddy come home, somehow or another he’d find out and then we’d get a switchin’ on the back pretty good for being disobedient. We took this goat standing there, so we threw him in. This goat didn’t swim, he just goes to the bottom and starts blowing bubbles, so we jump in, drag him out, pump the water out of him, throw him back in there again. He couldn’t swim, he just goes to the bottom and starts blowing the bubbles out. So we got him out, pumped the water out of him again, and left him alone—it didn’t look like he’s going to learn to swim.
Daddy worked for the WPA building roads. In fact, they built the roads in Miller County, and they built the old river bridge over the Sulphur River, back in the ’40’s. Daddy was gone a whole lot working on those roads. Mom, she would raise kids till she got to where she wanted to be a nurse. So she studied to be a nurse over at the Chicago Nursing school. Today you do it online; she did it by mail. She took the course and made an “A” on it, and finally graduated out of that and went to work at St. Michael’s Hospital. She said, “I’m moving to town.” So she moves and finds a house out on Highway 71, buys it, we move and leave all the house and everything. Daddy, he retired after that.
When I was in high school I worked for Frank Singali’s body shop in the afternoons. Miss Patsy lived up the street; she’d come down the street by the body shop to go to the grocery store, Higginbottom’s grocery store. I’d always whistle to her and cut up with her, and that’s how I met her. One thing led to another, and I married her. As soon as I got married, I got drafted into the army and I went to Korea. Fourteen days to get over there and I’s seasick every day. Man, I don’t want to do that again.
Cold, dusty, and rainy. That’s what I remember most—it was cold. When it got cold, it got cold; when it’d rain it’d rain, rain. In Korea there weren’t that many trees—rice paddy, rice paddy, two or three big ol’ rivers, and rice paddies, where I was. Now if you got up in the mountains some, you’d run into trees, but there wasn’t none where I was at, mostly rice paddies and dirt roads, and we built the dirt roads.
I was in artillery—I never engaged hand to hand. We shot a lot of artillery shells. We would support our infantry guys with the 37th Field Artillery. I was a radio operator—actually what you would call a “forward observer,” where we’re out in the bunker. It had railroad tracks, sandbags, sandbags, and sandbags. What we’d do was look and call back to artillery and we’d tell ’em where to shoot. The fire direction center, which was another big bunker, had a huge map of Korea and it had all of the targets—the hills were numbered, and some were named. So when we called for fire or the guys up there would call us for fire, we would look in our telescope or whatever they called that big ol’ thing, it had yardage on it that way and up and down, and when they fired a shot, you would see where it hit, and you’d tell him where to elevate, up or down or left or right, and by doing that they’d hit the target. So that’s what I did till I got my orders to come back home—which I was glad to get.
When I got back from Korea, I worked at Sears, I worked at Pike Brothers, I worked for Yellow Cab Company, and then I got a job running Cargyle Motor Company’s body shop. I always wanted to run a big body shop, so that’s where I got the body shop. Then Orr Company acquired the Cargyle Motor Company. They stayed there for a while, I worked for them, then they went to State Line, put in a new body shop, and I worked out there until ’72. And then: “Well, I’ll just go into business for myself, after I’ve done all that.” That’s how I went into business.
I was in that for thirty years. And then I retired out of that, and I’ve been retired for twelve years now. Still married to the same woman. Our children still all have the same mother and dad, which I think is an accomplishment.
That’s basically about it.
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