Volume 8, Number 10, Winter 1985
I have felt that I should write about some of the changes that have transpired in my lifetime.
I was born July 8, 1900. My father was Martin Fisher Davis and my mothers maiden name was Laura Welch. I was the sixth of twelve children. A girl, just older than I, died with the measles before I was born. The rest lived to adulthood. We lived several different places until I was about 7 or 8 years old. Then my folks bought 40 acres one-half mile south of Windy City and spent the rest of their lives there.
We children walked to attend the Flat Rock School. The School got water from Wilhites spring about one-fourth mile away. We all liked to go after water during study time; never went during recess. We had a large granite bucket and we all drank from the same dipper. Nobody got through grade school that couldnt read and write. We didnt have basketball or football, but had lots of good, clean games of our own making and really enjoyed life.
We raised about everything we ate. Most of the land around us was outside range. All stock ran outside and most of the fences were split rails. We boys cleared 6 acres one winter and made rails to make fences. We always rented some crop land away from home. We had dry years sometimes and didnt have feed for our workhorses and depended on grass. We turned the horses loose to graze an hour or two at noon and put bells on them to graze outside at night. Many times I got up about daybreak and gone barefoot to hunt horses. Some would get wise and get in a thick patch of brush and be real still so not to ring their bell.
We always had some hogs for meat. When corn was in roasting ear size we would cut it and feed it, stalk and all, till it got hard. By cold weather we had some big fat hogs. My mother took the fat off the entrails and stripped them out and made soap.
We always had a sorghum mill and we raised cane to make molasses. We had to keep at least a 50 gallon barrel for our own use. We planted lots of 'punkins' in the cornfield. My mother made lots of pumpkin butter cooked down with molasses. We would take a 2 bushel sack of corn to the mill to have ground into meal. They dipped out a small amount to pay for grinding it.
We didnt have weather men like Fred Miller* and Tom Dye* in those days. Some times, on a pretty warm day, an old sow would start carrying sticks, grass and leaves and work a day or two on a bed. We knew to start getting our wood supply for a bad cold spell. We had a two room house with an upstairs. When we were all at home there were.13 of us. I know all about sleeping at the foot of the bed.
What is now Highway 160 was known as the old Wilderness Road with lots of crooks and curves. Now that highway is straightened out. I remember the first car that came. We had a cut-through where there was a big curve. I cut across and hurried to see it again. When cars first began to be used they would nearly scare the horses to death. When we had to be on the road with a team we dreaded to meet a car.
We boys always looked forward to the Annual 4th of July picnic. If I could have as much as a quarter for a picnic I was real happy. There just wasnt much money to be had. Nobody had a job. Only a day, now and then, at 50 cents a day.
The railroad went through Reeds Spring in the early 1900s. Then there was a market for railroad ties. Reeds Spring, at one time, was the biggest tie market in the world. We made and hauled ties to market as low as 35 or 40 cents. That was about the only way to earn money. In the teens people began to grow tomatoes and separate milk and sell cream. One
time Frank Mease had 6 canning factories in Stone and Christian Counties.
It was about three miles to church at Spokane, Ponce de Leon or Coon Ridge. We boys walked wherever we went. We would walk five miles down on Bear Creek to a swimming hole on Sunday, play in the water all day, then walk back home.
When I was about 13 years old my aunt had a yearling mule that broke a leg so close to the body they couldnt splint it. They talked about killing him, but she gave him to me. I walked and drove him home about 3 miles. In 3 weeks he was putting that foot to the ground. In 3 months I had him broke to ride. I was prouder of that mule than boys are now of a $6,000.00 car. I rode him many miles.
In January, 1920 I met Neva Richardson, who became my wife 7 months later. When we were going together we rode one horse till I bought a second-hand buggy. About the only place we had to go was church, or sometimes to a dance or play party in a private home.
On August 14, 1920 we were married in the Court House at Galena, MO. Dewey Short was a young minister at that time and he married us. I barely had enough money on which to get married. I had 4 acres of tomatoes that year and I borrowed $50.00 from Frank Mease on my tomato crop. We drove a team hitched to a lumber wagon to Springfield to buy us a housekeeping outfit. We bought mostly second-hand furniture. We were happy with it and had some of the $50.00 left. Later, we bought a hand capper and we canned tomatoes, corn, green beans, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes in tin cans.
In 1923 they made a change in some mail routes. The route from Chestnut Ridge to Spokane and back, a 12 mile round trip, was up for bids. I had the lowest bid at $528.00 per year which was $44.00 per month. The mail route was a real good job at that time. We carried the mail on horseback or a buggy the first 3 years. In 1926 we bought a Model T Ford Pickup for $426.00 and carried the mail in it the last year. My wife carried the mail a lot of the time. I had bought a 40 acre farm with a one-room log house with a sideroom for a kitchen. We had a few cows to milk that run on outside range. We milked and separated the milk. We had a good living. We had two boys by that time and our oldest daughter was born in 1925. We hired a girl to stay with the children and do housework for $2.00 per week. I farmed and raised most of the feed for our stock and I made and hauled ties to Reeds Spring. Hauled my last load in 1925.
I read a piece recently about a lady who had come from California and bought a home on Chestnut Ridge.
She was amazed with the good neighbors she had there. She never exaggerated a bit, but I have always had good neighbors every place we ever lived. I always thought to have good neighbors you had to be one. I heard of a man moving to a new neighborhood asking somebody what kind of neighbors lived there. The second man asked what kind of neighbors he had where he formerly lived. He said, "The worst that could be." The second man answered, "You will have the same kind to where you are moving."
In the fall of 1927 we moved from Chestnut Ridge to 1 mile east of Reeds Spring Junction. We bought winter clothing, a new box heating stove and was pretty well fixed for winter. We had only been there a short time when our house burned and we lost everything. The depression was on and money was scarce. There was an old smoke house there. I built a lean-to on each side of it and we lived there 2 years. We always had plenty to eat as we had canned several hundred cans of food in tin cans. Some years when there was a good crop of huckleberries Neva would pick and can 100 quarts. She was a good cook and a specialist on Huckleberry Cobbler.
In the fall of 1929 we moved 2 miles north of Reeds Spring Junction. We couldnt afford to keep the pickup running, so I sold it for $50.00. A lot of people got an old car chassis, put a tongue to it and made a wagon bed for it. I did, too. We had rubber tired vehicles and we called them "Hoover" wagons. In the early thirties times were hard. One year I gave away some pigs that weighed 60 pounds. No sale for them. I sold two good young cows for $16.00 each. Corn sold for 25 cents a bushel in 1932.
The spring of 1934 it turned real dry before we were done setting tomatoes. We had scarcely any rain all summer. It would blow up a big black cloud from the west and look like a sure chance for rain. It covered the sun and it would be nothing by dust. It settled on everything in the house. We never raised tomatoes. The factories never began to run. It started raining in August and our tomatoes began to grow and set on. When the first killing frost came the tomatoes were laying in piles. Only one now and then started to turn pink, so I picked a lot of tomato vines and put them up for hay. Corn grew about waist high and not an ear on it. We cut it for feed but it was worthless. People sowed lots of turnips, rye and wheat and had some winter pasture. I never saw as many turnips as there were that year. People cut them up and fed them to cattle and horses. Some folks nearly wintered on turnips. One of our neighbors said that his blood tested 95% turnip juice. Some cooked turnips, mixed a little shorts with them and tried to fatten hogs for meat. There was no feed for cattle, so the government bought
them up and canned the meat. Frank Meases factory and McCormicks factory in Reeds Spring both run that winter canning meat. I got to work out my fertilizer bill. They gave the people from $10.00 to $24.00 for their cows, calves and yearlings accordingly. They paid 20 cents an hour for labor and 25 cents per 100 pounds for boning meat.
In the spring of 1935 we had lots of rain. It quit about the first of June and had very little until fall. Grasshoppers moved in and ate everything. They ate all but the seed of the peaches and left them hanging on the trees. They ate all of the corn but the stalk. We raised a few tomatoes and the factories canned some that fall.
In 1936 we had another dry year nearly as bad as 1934. I had a chance to ride within 150 miles of where my brother lived in New Mexico. I went thinking that I might find some work. It was an irrigated valley and they had wonderful crops. It sure looked good, so I rented an 80 acre farm and we moved out there in September.
We picked very few tomatoes that year. We sold our 25 acre place with fair improvements for that time for $500.00. We got a truck to move our household goods and our fruit jars for $50.00. We got all the fruit we could use and can. We had some work picking apples and shucking corn. We farmed there 3 years raising corn and alfalfa. We had wonderful crops but we had to pay one-half for rent. Corn sold from $1.10 to $1.35 per bushel shelled.
* Springfield TV weathermen.
Editors Note: a story about Clydes wife, Neva Richardson Davis, appeared in Volume 7 - Number 3. Clyde now resides in the Senior Citizens Village, Crane, MO.
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