While We Were In Kansas

While we were in Kan, Father & Captain McGennet pooled their cattle and had them held on the Verdigris River. May seem rather strange that these two men only four or five years back were trying to kill each other, but now were the best of friends. One wore the gray and the other the blue. There was another family in that neighborhood were extra nice to us - Wesley Cornell, also a Mr. West. They later went out near Newton, Kansas and killed and butchered a wagon load of buffalos and divided meat with us, which was very much appreciated. The meat was cut into large chunks and hung up to joists. It soon dried on the outside and was fresh and juicy within. There was lots of wild game where we were, such as deer, prairie chickens, quail &, of course, predatory animals. The chickens would often light on the comb of the house and deer came out of the timber where could have been an easy mark for the new modern guns. But they were safe and in no danger of losing their lives, as F[ather] never killed any game in his life that I ever knew of.

A rather amusing incident happened to me on our trip to Kan. We met up with a family by name
McDonnell who had been down in Tex prospecting and were on their way back to Missouri.  As our course were near the same direction we traveled together for a few days for company. There was a couple of boys, sons, about my age, and of course, we played & slept together, on a pallet when we had the chance. One nite those boys & myself were bunking in the same bed and were making more noise than suited the older people who were up and around the camp-fire talking. Mr. McDonnell hollered at Henry to quit his noise or he would give him a spanking. Of course, we quieted down for a time, but soon broke out again. The first I knew I was jerked out from under the cover and turned over a knee & tended to proper, and admonished.  "Now Henry if I have to repeat this you will know you had a whipping that you will remember". Of course we quieted down to whispers and the way those boys did laugh, but low, about the mistake.

1872 - Father had disposed of the last of his cattle. He traded some of them for store-bought wagons, Bains & Studebaker - with teams to match the wagons. He had four wagons pulled by good Missouri mares & horses. It [was] no trouble to obtain drivers for the three extra teams, as a couple of young men wanted the opportunity to get into Texas and also an old Irishman by the name of
Dan also had itchy feet. We landed in Limestone County, near Grosebeck where two of the men quit as they wanted to get into the real west. We helped to put in a crop in Limestone Co and after it was layed by, we moved on to where we had originally lived--Lavaca Co, Texas

There is where I made my first money that I could claim as my own.  Father allowed me to have one half I earned picking cotton. The crop that year was above an average and the price was $1.00 per hundred Ibs picking. I picked cotton for
Joe Lockett that fall. My average was from 125 to 150 Ibs per day--was considered extra good for a 10-yr old kid. With my half of the earnings, I purchased four cows & calves but they did not cost very much. That was an open range then and the cattle were of the longhorn breed, all colors. It was a site to see all colors imaginable - Duns, Reds, Speckled Blues, Black.

That winter was very wet, which rotted the grass and many of the range cattle died. Another boy a couple of years older than myself got each a skinning knife and prowled the live oak thickets for dead cattle. We got $3 per hide and some days we would make $3 each. It was the rule then that the person who found and skinned an animal, the hide belonged to the skinner - regardless who owned the animal. It would require all of our strength to roll an old cow on to her back so we could peel the hide off.

The next spring Father rented the same farm that
Mr. Lockett had the year before, and I was introduced to the art of bedding up cotton land which consisted of throwing four furs together - for an eleven year old the work was quite an undertaking. We had one of those old Missouri mares named Jude. Old Jude & I soon learned each other and got along fine. Even I did have to partly reach up to the plow handle to make the necessary connection and grip them tight to hold the plow in its place.

We made a fair crop that year but my work was community service that season. My parents made a Sunday visit to one of our neighbors that summer and left brother Logan and myself to keep house. Two of our neighbor boys came to visit brother & I.  Business got dull for us so we decided we would try our skill bronk busting on the milk calves. The result of my failing to stick onto a black heifer calf landing on my right elbow left me with a fractured arm and the elbow slipped out of place. Away went one of my cows & calves I had purchased the year before for a Doctor bill. My arm was carried in a sling for quite a long time, but I picked the community cotton with one hand most of the balance of the season. Guess it was what I needed, though, for it broke me from sucking eggs. Was afraid might lose another cow & calf.

Recall the year 1872.
Joe Lockett and his brother Wyatt were both violinists and some evenings they would play for hours for entertainment. The following year our family moved to the western part of Lavaca Co near Mulberry School where Logan & myself went to school thru the winter months to a man named Ramsey. This teacher had a rule forbidding pupils playing ran-jackett. He caught another boy one day and myself trying the play out. Each of us had good dogwood switches which we were using for all we could on each other. The teacher caught our eyes. Of course we ceased our forbidden play at once, but he ordered we proceed with the game until we both were about fagged out. Then the teacher took the stubs of switches and finished the switches across our backs.
F[ather] previous to moving to this place bought a tax title to a piece of land. We broke out several acres of sod land summer. The original owner contested the title & won out in the court which left us without a farm besides losing the work we had done on the land.

While we were living at this location, one spring I chopped cotton for a man by the name of
Chandler for 50 cents per day. I could
hardly keep up with my employer in speed but very near, at any rate my fingers would be so stiff of mornings after awakening from sleep that I could only with difficulty open and close them. The soreness was caused from gripping the hoe handle from early morning to night except for an hour for the noon meal. The art of pulling fodder was also taught me by a Mr. Warnner. I was hardly tall enough to quite reach the higher blades of corn leaves without riding the stalk down away. Talk about your hard work - that was it. Every time we had worked a round to near the house, we would sample the cool buttermilk that was kept cool by covering over the jar with a heavy wet cloth. Oh, but it was good.

That fall of 1875 we moved back near my
Grandmother Coffee's place and I picked cotton for W S Baxter thru the fall season. I and another boy by name of Hopkins worked together. He taught me what tobacco was raised for. A comparison of the then economics and now, 1 guess, should not be amiss. The price for cotton picking then was as it is now - which was governed by the price of staple. A grown man's labor per month ran from $12.50 to $15 - per day 50 cents. Of course, board & bed went with the wages. This generation say oh I could not have lived on that small amount. Maybe not but we would have buried you then and for a coffin a pine box costing about $10 and in some country church grave yard.

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