Saturday, September 05, 2009

Dad's 40-acre Farm..OOPS! Ranch

Texans are often gregarious persons with somewhat grandiose visions as seen through their optics. Born and raised in Texas, Dad was a realist raised on a peanut farm near Stephenville TX. He had dreams of owning a 40-acre farm, which in Texas is a ranch.

The definition of farm and ranch are somewhat blurred. Being a Texan, I can say this. Grandiose vision becomes exaggerated description, so in Texas (and other western states) "ranch" fits the description better and implies large size like sections of land, not acres. Then there is ranchette- an uniquely American word, implying a ranch of few acres.

Dad probably had a ranchette, certainly at first. How he came to own his first approximately 10 acres, I am not sure as I was in elementary school. I know Daddy was very frugal and scrupulously saved from the time he left home, attended a business college and married.

His and Mother's stories of surviving early years of marriage and the Great Depression are interesting, yet he was able to adopt two children in 1936 and 1940, plus had child in 1938 is remarkable.

Before children, they lived in Abilene TX and Coleman TX, until he landed a bookkeeping job in Brownwood TX with a small lumber, hardware and furniture chain. He was promoted to manager and worked for the same chain nearly 40 years, as I remember.

Mother tells of oatmeal three times a day until pay day, plus not having a full set of tableware during early years of marriage. Instead they bought nickel silver from a nickel and dime store, probably Woolworth's. My memories of meals were plenty of various dried beans and cornbread, no meat, a favorite meal of mine to this day.

At the time of my birth they rented a small place in Brownwood, but at some point still in the Depression era bought a white brick home which always was Mother's favorite home.

As I neared entry into the Brownwood Public Education system, my parents purchased a house within two blocks of South Ward school. This house was built in a nice subdivision on a street named Elizabeth Drive, and nick-named "silk stocking row," a street of very nice homes.

This house was about to be, or may have been, a casualty of the depression. It had elegant chandeliers and sconces in numerous rooms, including bedrooms, "music" room, dining and living rooms. It is the only property of any kind, my parents financed, as Dad did not believe in borrowing, debt or credit cards. At least that was told to me by my Mother.

So how he acquired 40 acres in at least three purchases leads me to believe he may have done some horse-trading, debt by paying off a bank loan of someone about to lose land in exchange for the land. Since he saved with religious zeal, he probably had funds to acquire land.

One purchase I think was simply a neighbor to neighbor purchase when the neighbor became aware he could no longer take care of his land which was adjacent to the RANCH. That purchase enhanced the farm because it had a "water tank" already on it. A "tank" is a pond or pool for water storage, occurring naturally, or water retained by an embankment of natural materials.

Besides acquiring the land, he built a small one room house, septic tank and water supply from a neighbor's well. Later, two rooms were added and city water was available. My sister lives in this house today, having bought the farm many years ago from my parents.

One of his acquisitions brought irrigation water to the land, a valuable asset in Texas. He raised some cattle and chickens, planted and harvested grains and grasses for feed, fodder and hay, had two horses and a hand-cranked John Deere tractor. Even today I can visualize him in the process of the back-breaking labor, hand-cranking the John Deere.

I think he put land in the Land Bank, too, as was the custom of similar landowners in his day.

We went to the farm almost every evening to feed the animals. It was just five miles from our home in town.

Memories of THE RANCH:
1. We had one rooster with the hens. One evening the rooster flogged Mother, apparently unprovoked. She fell on the gravel driveway, and could not get up without assistance. One of us kids had to find Dad to help her. The rooster later ended on the table. Sorry, I could not eat it. I am a town girl; chicken from the grocery store is more impersonal. {Strange! fish doesn't affect me that way.]

2. In a mishap involving my brother on a bike with sister riding on the back, made contact with a hoe where I was planting a make-believe garden. The bike and riders went down, breaking my sister's arm. I got blamed for breaking her arm by intentionally sticking the hoe in the bike's wheels; I did not get a bicycle for Christmas as punishment and was constantly reminded of the reason.

The bike was driven into my make-believe garden approaching me from behind. I had no idea it was coming, but parents never believed me. A broken arm in those days landed the patient in bed--how quaint that sounds now.

3. Dad harvested the grains, fodder or hay. Sometimes someone cut, raked and baled the crop for him. In early years, it was raked in piles or rows. He borrowed a flat bed lumber truck and manually used a pitchfork to load and haul it to the central location of a haystack. The haystack was covered with a tarp. Many evenings and some weekends were involved in hauling. My brother often helped when he was old enough.

4. One year someone burned the haystack down. The arsonists were never caught. Dad had been involved in a bitter church split and there were some suspicions but never proved. My parents came to believe it was simply a random prank of persons roaming and trespassing the countryside.

5. Strangely enough at the same time as the fire, a stray, old Scottish terrier appeared and hung around, until we placed it in the fenced yard with two other dogs. It had a huge tumor underneath one leg. I loved the old dog, which once was black, but very much salt and pepper when it appeared.

Just as strangely the old dog disappeared. Mother said it somehow escaped and died. I never bought that story. Daddy was never a pet person; he, being a peanut farmer's son, believed every animal served a purpose be it food, milk, eggs, etc., something with significant upkeep. It did not take much for him to haul animals to the vet for euthanizing. the other dogs did not disappear immediately. However, their fate was eventually the same.

6. I first was aware of allergies, asthma and breathing difficulties when I was allowed to ride the lumber truck as Dad and brother loaded a maize like product called hegari. There was dust and mold in the grain head of the product. I started wheezing so badly Dad took me back to the house to stay with Mother. Of course, I was not diagnosed until many years later, but I remember how scary it was not to easily breathe.

7. Lots of cats resided at the farm--some strays; some were Mother's acquisitions over Dad's dead body. She was a cat lover. However, our busy corner in town was very busy and cats did not live long running loose. Eventually, to prolong their lives, and use their talents as mousers, they ended up loose on the Farm.

When we arrived in the evenings the cats knew the sound of our car arriving. They ran en masse to meet us. Many met their fate underneath the car. This was not intentional but certainly left impression on me and my siblings.

8. Dad built what he called a "poor man's" swimming pool at the ranch. He tried to teach me to swim. He had no trouble with my siblings, but I had an unnatural fear of water which lasted to this very day. He had no patience with my fear and never attempted to teach me to swim. I was the older child who probably developed a fear from Mother who warned me not to go near the fish pond, etc., as I might drown if I fell in.

9. My first pony lived on this farm, a Shetland. It was a mean sucker, pitching me into a cactus. OUCH!

A beautiful collie ran loose and killed chickens. I remember one day we arrived to the scene of quite a number of chicken carcasses dotting the landscape. Daddy shot and killed the dog, but not until he found and warned the owner more than once of its demise if the chicken slaying continued. The dog did not eat the chickens, just seemed to kill for fun.

Truthfully, I don't have fond memories of the farm as too many unpleasant things happened there. Most of the time I was bored. I played alone and didn't have many favorite toys. Later Dad added TV but our viewing was carefully monitored.

However, I realized this was Dad's escape from the everyday trials of "making a living," which Mother shared with him.

When I became old enough to stay at home alone, my parents didn't insist I accompany them every time they "went to the farm."

NOTE: Soon I will try adding the FOLLOWERS gadget back in. Some readers have asked what happened to it. I am going to put it way down on the sidebar.

Ifyou get the "OPERATION ABORTED" please let me know at


boots said...

what a story, and I dont blame you for not having fond memories of life there...too many deaths, and accidents and hard choices~ but that too is what made that generation bold, courageous and giving...we could all learn alot from them.

richies said...

I went to high school with a girl who was from Stephenville, Texas. All I remember about her is that she was very pretty and that she was always talking about her hometown in Texas

An Arkies Musings

Arkansas Patti said...

The farm may not have been all fun but what delightful memories you have.
You absolutely sure you didn't shove the rake into the spokes?? Kidding.
I would have loved it all except the eating of creatures I had once looked in the eye.
My favorite friends were farm friends and I always envied them.
Your Dad was quite a guy.

Screwed Up Texan said...

I used to live in San Saba, a town not too far from Brownwood. I only lived there for two and a half years, but I am proud to this day of having lived in Pecan Capitol of the World. Love the Hill Country.

Liz said...

it sounds a grim place, but farmers are renowned for their cold-heartedness or as they would say common sense approach to life and living. How very sad that you didn't get your bike for Christmas! That does seem an excessive punishment especially as you were innocent.