Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"MANESS FAMILY LIFE ON THE RED RIVER"

Orginal Story published in the Ryan Leader in Oklahoma. Unsure of date
Written by: Monroe J. Maness
Dad and Mom, James H. and Beartha Maness, were married at the courthouse in Waurika, OK on Septemember 15, 1931. The lived in the house with Grandma and Grandpa Maness (John and Lucy Maness) for about 6 months. At that time Grandpa and the family lived fifteen miles east of Ryan, OK. After six months Dad and Mom moved into a tent in the yard. Mom wanted to give birth to Francis in the tent but the grandparents would not allow this; Francis was born in the house. The tent blew away in a storm shortly after.
They built a one room shack in the yard when Francis Maness was just short of two years old. I (Monroe) was born in the new shack about a month after it was built. M. C. Maness was born in the same shack two years later. Dad and Mom were renting property from "Uncle" Joe Bounds and engaged in farming. When M.C. was three months old (Jan of 1937) Dad and Mom moved into "Grandpa" Jim Gardner's place down on Mudcreek. Grandpa and Grandma maness leased a farm nearby from Jim Fardner's brother Joe. We lived about one mile from our grandparents and Uncle Steve Maness lived in a little shack between us and our grandparents. This house is where my memory starts.
I remember the log house in which we lived. It was nice and had a wide hallway that ran through the middle from one end to the other. There was a big dog that wouldn't let people in the yard until Dad or Mom said it was okay. Tjhere was a dug well that had to be drawn dry because a snake or bird or something fell in it and drowned. I remember Dad plowing with a team of horses in the field next to the house. Juniour Maness (my cousin) was bit on the foot by a snake. We lived in a log house one year (according to Mom), then we moved into a small house NE of Ryan and Dad and Mom worked for a Mr. Houser. I dont' remember much about this place. Mom said it was a one room shck, and we lived there one year. I do not remember going to Waurika (nine miles) by horse and wagon; on all day trip.
The next place we lived, and where my sister Susie Fern was born in 1939, was always referred to as "the Corner". It was on the corner of a major dirt road and a side road about four miles east of Ryan and one-half mile east of the "Brown Chapel Store". Dad farmed and worked for the county road department and anything else he could get. We were right in the middle of the depression (a word I never heard until later in life). Times were hard but I never had a moment of insecurity; I thought that Dad and Mom had everything undercontrol. My Uncle Lonnie (Mom's Brother) came and helped with the farming while Dad was away working. When we harvested our first bail of cotton (then, I was too little to work) Dad let us boys ride to town to the cotton gin and bought us an ice cream cone. I think it was my first, anyway I surely did think it was neat that you could eat the ice cream and the container.
Reality set in when the bank foreclosed on the farm. Trucks came and hauled away all the horses and cows except three that had been given to my mom for milk by my grandpa Capehart. Mom was upset and crying but Dad did his best to comfort her and I figured that all would work out alright. Dad borrowed my Unle Steve Maness' team and wagon and moved the family one mile southwest onto Tobe Fullers Place. We lived on the Fuller place for tow years and according to Mom it was tough times. Frankly I did not know. I thought it was great. I went to the pond and caught crayfish with my big brother, went swimming in ponds,l and had a good time.
In 1941, Dad took a job on a cattle ranch owned by a doctyor Wade for six months. We lived in a nice house. I think Mom worried about Dad wrestling livestock and apparently the pay was not too good. The rance was out on the prairie and therefore there was no wood. I remember picking up "cow chips" (dried manure) to fuel the stove. We walked about a quarter mile from the road to catch the school bus. We walked along a fence line so that we could dash under the fence if any of the bulls were too close. I dont' know what the plan was if there were bulls on both sides of the fence. IT was my first year in school and WW II was under way. I was almost seven when I started school because you had to be six by the fifteenth of Septemember in order to begin first grade.
The next two years back at the Tobe Fuller Place were very eventful. I thought the world was wonderful; I had a big brother, two little brothers, dozens of cousins and a beautiful little sister. What more could one want? I thought the family was just perfect. Then my little sister died of pneumonia. What a tragedy! I can still see her laid out in a little coffin in the hallway. To this day I try to avoid funeral. One thing I am sure of is that my dad was partial to his daughter, but it seemed quite alright to me because I wa partical to my little sister as well.
Then my youngerst brother Bill DOn caught pneumonia and had an abscessed lung to complicate things. It was my first introduction to fear. The poor little guy came home from the hospital wiht a drainage tube in his side (they cut away a rib to make room for the tube). Someone said: "Well at least he won't ever have to go into the army," but I could not thing of anything positive about the situation. He did later serve in the army and raised a wondrful family and grew old and gray like the rest of us.
My brother M. C. had ear trouble. I don't know what it was but he was frequantly in sever pain. He took a hard working thing in stride and did verly little complaining. I always admired him, he was like Dad. He was a hard-working and kind-hearted fellow. He was killed on the job in an auto accident in Californina in 1961. I have always felt guilty that I didn't spend more time with him since we lived only eight miles apart.
There was, however, an up-side to these two years. In the early summer of 1943 (I know it was 1943 because that is the year my Uncle Jewel Caphart got married). Uncle Bert showed up at our house and wanted me to spend the summer helping him bail hay. I was eight years old and ready to take on a realy job, besided I had spent time with the Capehard before and I was anxious to have my teenage uncles continue with my education. We rode back to Grandpa Capehart's by horseback (about eleven miles) arriving late that night. We got up early the next morning and started work. My job in the beginning was to keep the horses powering the old team bailer by moving around in a constant steady circle. Later I learned how to run the buck rake and do other things as well. I had a wonderful time and was paid something as well ( I don't recall how much pay). Uncle Jewel got married that summer to the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. She also became on of my most favorite people. When I returned home that fall I was older, bigger, wiser, and in command of a great vocabulary (which motivated Mom to take immediate punitive measures).
In the fall of 1943 we moved to MudCreek (Claypool) about two miles from Grandpa and Grandma Maness onto the Burneet Ranch. Dad share cropped for Blackie Burnett, and worked away some, and sold firewood and fence post which he cut off of the rance giving Blackie half. Dad had bought a 1929 Dodge Truck from one of my uncles. He delivered wood to the Mudcreek store owned by Mr. Flether who dressed and looked like and old cowboy. I mentioned that to Dad and he said: "Well that's what he was till he got old." I waited for more of the story but that 's all Dad had to say. Later, I don't know why, Mr. Flethcer told me Dad was a "good hand" (cowboy), that he had rode with Dad, and that they drove cattle up the Chisolm Trail. I made mental not to ask Dad about this but I never did. I loved living at Claypool. We had relatives all around the country within walking distance. My grandpa and Grandma Capehart lived only three miles away. Then there were the Daltons a couple miles away(Uncle Charlie Dalton). Uncle Charlie and Aunt Tennie (Dad's Sister) had girls and Goldie became like my little sister. We were very close for many years. Although she now lives far away, we still are close. A lot of things happened at Claypool. My brother Weldon was born there. My Uncle Lonnie Capehart was killed in action on Novemeber 22, 1946 (two days after my 12th birthday) . I know that he had originally landed in France, but he was killed in Germany and that' about all I know.
Grandpa Maness (John Nie Pinkney Maness) died June 13, 1946 from a heart attach. At first I was guilt ridden because some of my cousins and I had been wrestling with him that afternoon. I thought it might have been our fault. I quickly decided that it was alright even if it was our fault, because he loved to wrestle with us so much. We would catch him in the corn bin or cotton seed bin in the barn and "attack" him; he would even throw us about like rag dolls. The seeds made an excellent cushion for wrestling and no one was ever hurt-except for grandpa.
My dad came down with pneumonia and I was saddened and scared beyond belief. I could not imagine life without dad and his mortality had never occurred to me before. After hearing hushed discussions of how serious his illness was, I went quietly to my room, laid on the bed and cried uncontrollably for a long time. Then I prayed as never before nor perhaps since. Dad lived and I was convinced that there was a God in heaven.
There was lighter times at Claypool also. I fired Dad's long-barreled shotgun there for the first time. Mom and Dad were in the field and I was at home. A chicken hawk landed on a post at the corral and I figured he was eyeballing the chickens. I grabbed the shotgun and fired at him. I haven't the foggiest idea as to whether I came close. All I know is that after I got up with what I thought might be a broken shoulder, he was gone. It occured to me then that this may not have been a good idea, and that Dad could probably tell that the gun had been fired. My solution was to clean the gun. I took the gun apart-every nut, screw, bolt and pin; cleaned and oiled it and got it all back together. I did not have the strength to depress the spring enought to get the hammer back in. I sweated bullets until dad came in then I made my confession. He put the hamer in and said, "You might need some advice before you use that shotgun again." I did receive "advice" on using the gun and hunted ducks and geese with some success. I spent many hours laying in waiting for that chicken hawk as well, but I never got him.
While duck hunting, I ran across a drilling crew setting up a wildcat rig (oil rig). These guys throught it pretty funny to see a kid hunting with a shotgun longer than he was tall. During the ribbing they were giving me, one of the crew wanted to throw his hard hat in the air for me to shoot. It was during the war and shells were hard to come by and in my mind too expensive to horse around with. He offered me a dollar bill though, which offset my argument. That hat went into the air and I shot a hole in it, at the same time severed that band. He got pretty upset then and I became a little frightened, but the boss made him calm down and also made him pay me a dollar.
There was another death while we lived in Claypool which rather starteled me. " Irishman Jack" was a Civil War veteran (no one knew which side and no one cared). No one knew his full name or where he came from. He was old as the hills and healthy as a horse-it never occurred to me that his heart might give out one day. He lived on the rance in a rather nice little house about two miles south of us. You could hear him calling his hounds ever morning-he had lungs like a bull elephant. He rode to town with Grandpa Maness ever few weeks to replenish his supply of wine I think. He would show up in any field and chop weeks for a while then wanter off. I used to see him on my hunting and trapping excursions and he would give me a tip now and then. Mostly he never said much. He came to our house one time-when dad was sick and mom said: "Well come on in Jack". "No", Jack replied. " I never came to bother-heard the bredwinner was sick-brought you this." He handed my Mom a twenty dollar bill and walked away before Mom could recover enough to say thank you. Twenty dollar back then was more than a week's wages. Ten hours a day got you three dollars. This act makes me view my "generous" donations in a different light today.
Because we had a truck we were much more mobile and it allowed us to visit family more often. I enjoyed the familes very much. While dad was sick Uncle O. K. Maness and Uncle Jewel Capehart alternated nights staying up all night with Dad and taking care of the family needs.
1945 was a good year.The war was over and cotton was high priced (about thirty-six cents a pound I think) and we had a very good cotton crop. There was only twenty acres of cotton though, so that fall we moved three miles south of Grady onto "Grandpa" Reeds place. I think there were roughly fifty acres of farmland, good bottom land by the river in the forks of two creeks.
Grady had a store, a blacksmith shop that also sold gasoline, a post office, and a school up to the eight grade. Mr. and Mrs. Frazier ran the school. She taught grades one through four and he taught grades five through eight. They both also ran a ranch and I worked for them frequently. Theyhad a major influence on my life in several ways. I had not done well in school to this point; in fact, I really thought I was a little dumb. I had to do the first grade twice and kind of lost interest after that. Under the tutoring and care of the Fraziers I learned very quickly to read, after which I developed a real interes in school and learning. The Fraziers also ran a very active sports program which included basketball, softball, and track. We were able to participate in 4-H Club activites such as the county fair. I completed eights grade with one girl and three other boys. The girl, Barbara Werthington, was great at sports and played on our ball teams. We went to Comanchee for the regional basketball tournament, and they all agreed to permit a girl to play on our team until it looked like we might win; they then decided that we had to remove her from the team and substitute a seventh grade boy. I thought that was unfair.
My world really expanded at Grady. So many things happened there that I can never cover half of them. My brother David was born at Grady. Francis and I bought a car-a 1939 Oldsmobile straight 8-and added girls to our life. We bought three saddle horses which we used more than the car. IT was about twenty miles either up or down the Red River to the bridge, so we frequently rode horses across the river to the skating rink and other "girl chasing places" at Spanish Fort.
Dad finally bought a battery powered radio and the family became connected to the world. There was news every day, the Grand Old Opry on Saturday nights as well as The Long Ranger, Amos and Andy, The Green Hornet and a host of other programs to hold our interest. Then, Uncle Jewel Capehart showed up one day and announced that Mr. Frazier had bought a "TV". "What's a TV?" I asked. "It's like a radio, only you can see the people talking," he answered. I let it drop there because this is the same uncle that introduced me to "snipe hunting." I was totally amazed later to find out that it was really true.
REA (Rual Electric Association) started wiring the county for electricity although they did not connect our house. Grandpa Capehart had purched a tractor for farming and being a progressive fellow he wanted electricity. However, Grandma did not. She said: "Not in my house! Somebody is going to get killed with that stuff." In the end, Grandpa prevailed and the electricity went in. My grandma, bless her sould, stepped gingerly around the extension cords for a long time as if they were rattle snakes. Now with computers and fascimile machines, I am beginning to understand Grandma's feelings.
In 1949, we moved North of Grady onto Olba Goldsmith's place where my baby brother Clyde (Shorty) was born. I think Mom and Dad had a child each time they moved. Maybe they should have considered moving less frequently. We lived there about one year and I still attended school at Grady. While plowing one Saturday for Olba, I came across a young prairie dog right out in the middle of the field. I managed to catch him and put him in the glove compartment of the car. Francis took the car to town at noon while I kept on plowing and giggling at the thought ofhis reaction when he opned the glove compartment. LAter I learned that a girl, who was sitting in the car with him in Ryan, opened it and Francis, girl, and prairie dog went in every direction up and down the streets in Ryan. I would sure love to have a video of that operation.
Incidentally, the car was nice to have at times, but most of our travel and much of our work was done on horseback. All the time we lived around Grady we traveled west about twenty miled to Uncle Steve's, north ten miles to Grandpa and Grandma Maness, east eight miles to Grandpa and Grandma Capehart's and file or six miles across the Red River to Spanish Fort. Mom worried about the river crossings because of quicksand and high water. We didn't worry about anything.
In 1950 Mom and Dad bought ninety acres of land three miles east of Orr in Love County (about twenty miles east of Grady). The property didn't have a house so they moved into a small house about one mile away on property owned by Uncle Bert Capehart. He lived in Wichita Falls, TX at the time. I did not make the move though. Mr. Frazier convinced Mom and Dad that I should stay at Grady until I finished school. So I moved into my own little house next to theirs on school property (both houses had been built for teachers). I slept and bathed in my house and ate meals with the Fraziers. I worked on weekends and in the evenings sometimes for Mr. Frazier. He paid me fifty cents per hour-a man's wage. It was a very plesant stay, mostly school and work. I graduated in the Spring of '51 from the eight grade and moved to Orr with my family.
My first year at Ringling-there was no high school at Orr-was spent mostly on sports and social activities, so I ended up with terrible grades. I graduated from junior hight, definitely without honors. I entered my sophomore year with a different outlook on school. At the end of the semester, I had excellent grades. There had been no sports and very few social activites. We were having a difficult time financially. Dad was working in Fort Worth, TX during the winter to try to keep the farming operation afloat. He was staying with our minister who was attending Bible College in Fort Worth.
Starting in the Spring pf 1953 I went to Fort Worth and stayed wiht Dad and the minister whild attending school at Paschal High School. "Brother Raymond" (the minster) took me to school to enroll, one options was "PE" or "ROTC." I knew I did not care for PE so I took ROTC. After we left the office I asked Brother Raymond: "What is ROTC?" I attended school from 7:30 am until 3:00PM. I then jogged eleven blocks to work at an ice cream plant from 3:00 to 11:30. I took the city buss to school; it cost only five cents and was cheaper than driving and easier than fighting for a parking space. Because of the bus schedules, however, I had to get up at 6:00 am. I wanted the summer break to come so badly that it almost bacame an obsession. I dreamed of being able to sleep late in the morning. Spring did finally arrive. Dad went back home to farm and Brother Raymond graduated from Bible College. It was assumed that I would go back with dad, but I was making seventy-five cents an hour and had other ideas. After a long discussion, Dad and Brother Raymond moved me into the world's smalles house in a nice neighborhood across from the seminary. The rent was cheaper there than were we had been living. The little house had a bedroom in back, kitchenette in the middle and a living room in front. It was probably ten by twenty feet. There was a very small shower and a stool in the bedroom but no hot water, and so I quickly showered after work before catching the midnight bus home. The house had been built on the very back of the lot by my landlady and her late husband. They lived there while they were building their home on the front of the lot. The little house served my needs quite well.
One day, during my first week at work after school had let out, I stopped in front of the Coca Cola Bottling Company to watch through the big plate glass window. I was fascinated by the bottles going down the line, being filled and capped. Two gentlemen were standing at the front door nearby. One of them motioned for me to come in. "Do you want a job kid?" he asked. "No, I work at the Foremost Icecream Plant," I replied. Then I had a brilliant idea. I asked about the hours; they were 7:00 until 2:00 depending on how fast you could go. So I took the job as helper on a delivery route(back to getting up very early). After a few weeks on the job, the driver tyold me that he would not be in the following Monday. So, Monday I took the truck and made the route. On Wednesday, the boss caught up with me before I left the plant and wanted to know about the driver. I really thought it quiet natural that if the driver didn't show up for work, I should go ahead and get the job done. In short, the driver never showed up again and I delivered Coca Cola by myslef until school started, and enjoyed it. It never occurred to me until years later that there probably should have been a raise there.
By the time school started in the Fall of 1953, my world was becoming less plesant. I felt isolated. I had no recreation time at all to speak of, my grades were not at all satisfactory, and I had no friends or relatives. The cease-fire had been declared in Korea. The final straw was when the plant had cut back in labor. The boss was very nice when he laid me off but htere was much going through my head. I missed most of what he had said.
He handed me a handwritten note to a friend of his who managed a Cotton Factory thinking that I should hurry before the office workers had left for the day. I did not hurry. Instead, I walked along pondering my situation wondering what would happen if I did not get the job. It was too far from school to walk and I'd have to drive. It was not in the best part of town; what if they didn't pay enought? What if...? I found myself standing in front of the Marine Corps recruiting office looking at a sign that said something about finishing school as you serve in the corps. I raised my right hand on November 18, 1953 and took an oath to defend the Consitution against all enemies. I went to boot camp and then to Korea. For a country boy who had never been out of the Red River region, being on the other side of the world in Korea was big change and it widened my perspective a great deal.

2 comments:

  1. Wonderful story!Thanks for sharing this.This man had some childhood compared to today's kids,but I don't think he missed a thing!

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  2. Great Story! This is my father Monroe Maness!
    He was the greatest Man ever! His son, Derek

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