You guys are in for a treat this week as my dad Hal will be sharing some of his childhood stories that I just love. His words:
I was the ninth of twelve children. In 1936 when I was three years old, my parents had moved near Thomas, Oklahoma, trying to reestablish themselves financially after losing their ranch during the Depression. I thought we were rich. My dad was one of the few ranchers in that area who had a tractor. Most people were still doing all their farming with horses. Dad had a new Chevrolet truck with a 16-foot bed. I remember watching him and my older brothers, who were teenagers, build the stock racks to go on the back of the truck.
I went with them to the Kellerman’s place, a half mile north of our house, to build the stock racks. I think we went there because they had electricity, and I remember that hundreds of little bolts had to be used. Their house was much fancier than ours, and it really impressed me. I think it was Victorian style, beautifully painted and with a wrap-around porch. There were big lovely shade trees all around the house.
When I was three years old, my younger brother was only two, but he was bigger than I was. I always wondered why they told me I was the oldest, and I had responsibilities and chores he didn’t have. (In fact, when we grew up I was 5’8” and he was 6’1’.) I don’t remember him at all as a baby, but always as my competitor. We were always trying to outdo each other in some way.
We got our drinking water from a cistern, which had an old-fashioned cistern pump and a hood on top. The pump was a long chain of cups that would bring the water up as you turned the crank. One time for some reason, the top was taken off the cistern and left on the ground for a few days. It was dome-shaped with two holes about six inches from the top that the crank handle went through. Then at the bottom, was a slot about two inches high and six inches long which fit down over the pump housing. My brother and I didn’t have toys, but we were very inventive. We made a game of putting our four little kittens in the top hole and watching them crawl out the bottom slot on the ground. We thought of it as a perfect kitten house—the mother cat couldn’t even get in.
But then one day we went out to play our game, and the top had been put back on the cistern. For some reason the crank hadn’t been put back in, so the holes were still there. We put the kittens through the holes as usual, but this time they did not come out—of course, they fell into the cistern. We didn’t know what happened to them.
They were not discovered for several days. The water had to be drawn out of the cistern with buckets so it could be cleaned. As I remember, we had to haul water from somewhere for the rest of the summer. My parents rationed the water for drinking, cooking, and washing hands—none for baths. It was a hot, dry, windy Oklahoma summer, and we had to take baths at the windmill, which was some distance from the house. The water was hard, or what we called gyp water. Someone threw some on my brother, and he ran to my parents crying, “They threw hard water on me, and it hurts!”