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RAMBLIN' ONTALES OF A FARM BOY GROWING UP
By Dale Walker
Morris PublishingCopyright © 2002 Dale Walker
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAN ARMADILLO TALE
We lived in town until I was six years old. In the spring of 1930, after my brothers, John, Jim and Harold got out of school, we moved to the farm. I was to start school in the fall. Before moving to the farm though, Dad would go out there to work and sometimes we all went. My Granddad and Grandmother lived out there and we would eat the noon meal with them. I was too young to do much work so I got to play a lot. My brothers had an air rifle and sometimes I would get to shoot it. This one time I took it out hunting by myself. There was a field we called "river field" that still had some brush in it, and that was where I was hunting. I came upon an armadillo that was rooting in the dirt, feeding on roots and bugs. I stood still and he worked up real close to me. Then I shot him right between the eyes. Boy, he was jumping, flopping, and throwing blood everywhere. After he quit moving, I took him to Granddad's house to show him off.
Dad had made baskets out of armadillo shells and they were really nice. He shaped them over an object and then, pointing the head up and bringing the tail over to the head, this would form the handle. He lined them with velvet making them very pretty. I suppose bagging that armadillo was just about as exciting to me then as bagging a nice buck now.
CHICKENS WENT BYE-BYE
We hadn't lived at the farm very long - the house was down below the hill. At first the house was just one room - a pretty good-sized room though. It was 14 x 24 and the whole living setup was in there. The kitchen was in the north west corner, the dining room was next to it - north east corner, the bedroom was on the south by two windows with a double bunked bed in the middle of the west wall. The living room was on the east wall or just anywhere you wanted to sit. Outside the house on the east was an arbor with vines growing on it creating shade and a lot of our living was done under it.
Dad was doing some work of some sort there under the arbor and I was playing. I had some pet chickens and they were there too. I had some buckeye seeds in my pocket and I decided to see if the chickens liked them. I mashed them up with a hammer and the chickens ate them. Pretty quick, the chickens started acting funny and soon they were dead. When Dad found out what I had done, he said, "No wonder." Well for sure, I learned a lesson. I never fed buckeyes to anything since then.
RABBITS FOR SUPPER
When I grew big enough to keep up with my older brother, Jim, I'd get to go hunting with him. Sometimes, Dad would let us quit work a little bit early so we could go rabbit hunting. We liked to go up to Del Monte corner which is where highway 1025 comes into 83 and then on west and a little north about another half or three quarters of a mile. Back in the early days there had been a town site laid out there so the brush wasn't too awful thick. This area was good jackrabbit country and we liked to try for them.
Back in 1910 when my mother came to this country there was a hotel and a post office there. There was a flowing water well there and lots of people came there for their drinking water.
We would most always get a couple jacks and maybe a cottontail or two. By now, it was getting dark and we had a mile and a half to get back to the house.
This time period was in the early 30's and the great depression was in full swing and we lived off the land. Mother would make hamburger out of those jackrabbits and make them into meat loaf. The cottontails were fried - number one stuff.
All of this reminds me of the saying; "you make a living by the sweat of the brow." How true that was back in those days.
MY EARLY FARM DAYS
I turned six years old April 5, 1930. We moved to the farm that spring soon after school was out. My three brothers were in school and I started that fall.
My Dad got a job driving the school bus - he had to build his own bus so he bought a Chevrolet truck. It was a cab and chassis and he built the bus body. It was about ten feet long and he built rail seats in it - one on each side and a rail down the middle with a board seat on each side of it. He fixed roll up and down curtains over the windows. It was quite airy in the winter. He drove his bus for three years I think and then the school bought its first busses. There was one other home made bus in operation during that three year period. Bill Bailey was the proud owner of that one. The school purchased four busses - two Fords and two Chevrolets. Dad got one of the Chevrolets. His route was, I believe, everything west of the river and north of town.
The dirt road coming in to our farm was quite new and in wet weather, it was a bad muddy road. It seems that it rained a lot that first year or two because I remember Dad leaving the bus out at the highway and coming to the house in our little '26 Chevrolet. It was a lot easier to get through the mud than was the truck.
During those years of the private owned bus; at the end of the school year, Dad would gather up all the kids and we would go up to the old Batesville river crossing out northeast of La Pryor and have a nice picnic. The parents were invited too and of course most all brought food. We also would have ice cream. That was really fun. I say fun, the water was clear and cool and the sun was hot. Boy, now, you talk about sunburned kids. Along about come home time, everyone began to feel their burning backs and legs. The blisters began to rise - boy, it was a sight. I don't know why there wasn't some supervision used by the adults.
The house we lived in at the farm was a one-room house. A nice size 14 x 24 room but there had to be a kitchen, dining room, living room and a bedroom. The bathroom was a small, very small room at the end of the trail out back. The wall studs and ceiling joists were 4 feet apart and the rafters the same. The walls were of about 10-inch shiplap and the roof was corrugated tin and there were no inner walls or ceiling. The main thing I remember about the house was when we had a thunderstorm with strong winds; the house would weave back and forth. There was one window in the north end, a door and two windows in the south end and a door in the west wall pretty close to the north corner. The arrangement was something like the following: The kitchen was in the northwest corner. The cook stove was a wood burning thing and the cabinets consisted of apple boxes tacked to the wall (then they were wood) with curtains for doors. The dining room right next to the kitchen in the northeast corner. Along the east wall was Mother's piano and living room. On the south by the windows was Mom's and Dad's bed. Our beds were a double bunked structure at about the middle of the west wall. In the dining room there was an oak table that would pull out and I think there were six twelve inch leafs that could be put in it. It would make a fairly long table. There were six chairs. When company came, we kids had to find something else to sit on. Those apple boxes served pretty well.
After a few months, Dad built a kitchen dining room full length on the west side and a sleeping porch full length on the east side. These rooms were 12 feet wide I believe.
In 1932 we had a flood on the river and the water came up under the house and then again in 1933 we had another flood. When one of those floods came, it floated our chicken house enough to turn it over and we lost a lot of chickens. Then, in 1935, we had the big one. It got up in the house about 20 or so inches. It ruined mother's piano. Our beds were up on stilts so mother could store her canned goods under them so the beds didn't get wet. In 1936, the house was moved up on the hill and needless to say why. That move will be described in another story.
BAD TIME GETTING HOME FROM CAMP
Back in 1933 our pastor at the church had a nice group of boys in his Royal Ambassador Chapter. One summer he decided to take the boys to camp. He made arrangements with the Boy Scout camp people, which is on the Nueces River up the other side of Barksdale. Camp Faucet was the name of the camp. Bro. Holloway asked Dad to haul the boys in his bus. Most of them rode in the bus and some rode with the preacher in his Franklin car. I wasn't old enough to be in the chapter but both my Mom and Dad went so I got to go too. Elsie Morris and her sister went to do the cooking and help herd the kids. Alvin Morris will know whom I'm talking about if he ever reads this.
We no sooner got settled into the camp when it started raining. It rained and rained and the river came up. The kids couldn't go swimming or play baseball or anything. We were cut off from town and they couldn't go buy food either. Dad and Bro. Holloway went to some of the ranches to buy some goats or chickens - just anything for food. It seemed they could buy milk but then, who wants to live on milk. Dad did take our big two and a half-gallon ice cream freezer but there was no ice around there. Finally some man told us that he could bring us some ice. Well, he did. I think he had gotten a 50-pound block and put it in a burlap sack and dragged it across the river behind his horse. When he got to us, it was only about 10 pounds. We ended up drinking milk after all.
After three or four days, the water receded enough that Dad and some other men around there thought maybe he could drive the bus across the river. Someone told Dad to get some wax and melt it and coat all the spark plugs and wires - just coat everything while you're at it. He did that and so did Bro. Holloway. The preacher drove in first and right off; his gas tank filled up with water. That put a stop to his car. Luckily there was a guy with a team of mules and he latched on to the Franklin car and pulled it on across. Dad pulled in with the bus and made it all right. Thinking that we would have to pull or push the preacher's car but when we got across the river, the preacher's car was not there. All the kids had gotten out and pushed it up the first hill and then they'd jump in and coast a while and then jump out and push some more and then ride some more. They did that for several miles and had fun doing it. We came to the crossing near Camp Wood and had to do it again. There was a highway department man there and he thought we could make it all right. He had all the kids get to the up side of the bus for weight purposes and we made it across all right. However, in starting across here, Bunch Lunetta was standing on the step where the guide was standing and the guide told him to get out of the way. Instead of getting in the bus, Bunch jumped off into the water. The water was about 18 inches deep going across this slab and there were several tinhorns under the slab. Well, Bunch jumped on the up side and went right into one of these horns. He was gone like a flash but a few seconds later, he came up down below. Luckily, he made it out of there. Everyone who saw this thing happen thought "Oh no," but like I said, he made it out all right and unhurt. There was another crossing and I guess they call it the "nineteen miles." One of these crossings they were pulling us with a team of horses hooked to a wagon and the bus to the wagon. The reach under the wagon broke but Dad was able to make it out under his own power.
By the time we got to the high bridge between Uvalde and La Pryor it had gotten dark. This high bridge was a mile or so up stream from the current bridge on Hwy 83. This bridge was damaged by the high water. The highway department was there too. Part of the floor had been knocked out. It was a narrow gap that was out. The highway people had some big wide planks placed across this gap and we drove across on them.
I mentioned earlier, Elsie Morris and her sister were along helping and doing the cooking. On the way back - doing all these water crossings and things, they had their bathing suits on and riding on the front fenders of the bus and they really got sun burned. The sad part about sunburn is, you don't know you're burned until it is too late.
After getting down in the flat country, the preacher's Franklin had to be pushed the rest of the way home. I guess the high water had just about crested at home when we got there.
MY FIRST BUCK
I was 8 years old going on 9 when I bagged my first buck. My Dad and I went to a friend's place to hunt. We went in the pasture north of his fields and went about a mile north to an area my Dad referred to as the "Sand Hills." This was a very good area to rattle for deer when the rut was on. When we arrived there we climbed up in a big mesquite tree and after getting ourselves positioned Dad began to rattle his deer antlers. Wasn't long at all before he whispered to me, "There's one right under the tree." I turned a little and he said to turn a little more. Well, when I saw the deer and pointed my gun, he broke to run just as I fired. Dad said he'd get down and see if I had hit him or not. Well, when he got down there, he said that I got blood and to come on down. I had gotten the buck all right. I must have shot through some brush before hitting him because I could put my fist in the hole where the bullet went in and nearly took the whole shoulder off the other side. I was using Dad's old hexagon barreled Winchester long gun in .30/.30 caliber. We dressed the deer out and hung him by his antlers in a crotch of the tree.
While we were waiting for the deer to drain out and cool a bit, we walked about 200 yards away and got up in another tree and Dad rattled. We stayed about a half-hour in this tree and then got down to go get our deer and head back to the car. Well, we had walked about half way back to my deer when we heard a noise back behind us. When we looked, a real nice buck turned and ran right from under the tree we had just gotten out of. I don't know what we would have done with two deer. I wasn't big enough to carry a deer by myself. We went and got the one we had hung and Dad carried it and I carried the guns. Those two guns was a pretty good load for me.
When we were kids, we would get a wooden shingle and make arrows out of it. A shingle is thick on one end and thin on the other. We cut about a three inch piece off it and whittle the thick end to a point leaving a notch that would catch on a string loop and make the shaft round leaving a fletching or feather we called it on the thin end. We cut a straight stick about three quarters of an inch in diameter and tied a rubber band about a half inch wide and about fifteen inches long tying a loop of strong string on the other end. Stick/handle on one end of rubber band and the loop on the other end to catch the notch on the arrow's point. This type thing was suitable for hunting rabbits or any sort of small game.
Excerpted from RAMBLIN' ON by Dale Walker Copyright © 2002 by Dale Walker. Excerpted by permission.
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