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FOR PART TWO CLICK LINK AT RIGHT SIDE ---------------------->

4/18/18  additonal material added

By Tom Gabhart


PART ONE - CHAPTER 1 EARLY CHILDHOOD

 

I was born on a cold winter night in the back bedroom of our old family farmhouse on January 6, 1945, to Howard & Enid Gabhart. I was the 9th child out of 13 children, 9 girls, and 4 boys. Dr. Eifert, a local doctor delivered me. Mom said the delivery went well. My parents filled out my birth certificate as Richard Stanley Gabhart, but the next day my mom wanted my name changed to Thomas Stanley Gabhart. She sent my dad to Dr. Eifert and requested he change the certificate which had not yet been recorded. So I ended up "Tom" instead of "Dick". I guess the only other choice would have been "Harry".

 

No electricity in our place until the late 40's, I barely remember those days, but I do remember the two coal-oil lamps that were mounted on the wall behind our overly worn stuffed couch. Dad would light the lamps in the evening and read or tell a story to us kids, then he would read the bible for a while. When 8 pm (central time) came he stoked the coal stove with ashes, turned out the wicks and we all trundled off to bed. I slept my first years in what we called “the big bedroom”, I was told later by my older siblings that I pronounced it “da gig geg room”. Dad and Mom's bed was in the NE corner and us 3 boys slept in the SE corner of the room. Bathing was in a number two washtub in the middle of our concrete Kitchen floor. Dad went first then all of us kids bathed in the same water. Water was scarce and a big job to heat so that was better than nothing. Hot water from the kettle on the wood stove was constantly added. Water splashed out of the tub over the kitchen floor and would run out under the back porch door. We normally had a bath on Saturday evening. In the summer we spend a lot of time in the pond so I guess that sorta counts for a bath. As I said us boys slept three to a bed in the opposite corner of our parent's bed.  On cold nights we would all turn over to allow the ones on the outside of the bed to warm their other side.  Later we moved into what we called the "Junk" room.  It was a long narrow room with two Army surplus bunk beds along one wall. One night my brother Charles was kicking the wall and bouncing the bed in all directions.  It woke me up in time to hear him say "let's stop fighting and set down and talk about women". He never lived that down.  When we first moved to the Junk room it had only vertical boards on the outside. In the winter us boys would roll up newspapers and press them into the cracks to keep the wind out,  but when it rained the water soaked newspaper would fall out, then a cold front would come through and by morning we had streaks of snow across our bed.  Later, dad put siding on the outside and eventually we boarded up the inside. 

 

The setting for my first "night dream" was in our big bedroom.... this dream took place before I could talk or walk but yet I can still remember it in vivid detail. It went like this: I was sitting on the linoleum floor in the center of the bedroom, my whole family was standing in a big circle around me, and they all were looking down at me. Behind them, I could see rats coming closer and closer to me but I was unable to speak or get up and I remember all I could do is cry louder and louder when the rats were between my family members legs the dream ended.

 

 [It seems to me that dreams probe our dark recesses where reasonable thinking fears to tread, later in this dialog I will write about another amazing dream I had recently].

 

One day while crawling around on the living room floor a commotion was heard outside and everybody ran to look out the window, I remember grunting and pointing to the window. My older sister Amy picked me up and let me see out the window. I remember seeing my dad, older brother Wyndham and some cousins carrying in several large fish caught from the river.

 

When my mom was asked (by people who should have known better) why I was not yet talking at age three and a half, she told a nosy neighbor that I would talk when I wanted to and furthermore nothing was wrong with me. She told me later it made her mad for people to suggest things like that. She rarely got angry about anything. I did finally begin to talk about age four, but with nine sisters all I had to do was point and grunt to get what I wanted. 

 

[Something I have always wondered about people who were quick to point out physical and for that matter, emotional flaws in others were folks who subliminally felt inferior to the same, that is not true in all cases but in my experience, it is true in most cases. If any consolation to myself, Einstein didn't talk until he was four].

 

I vividly recall the electrician who wired our house in 1949 standing beside the door from the living room to the kitchen installing a light switch. He reached down and patted me on the head and let out a pleasing sort of laugh. I got to my feet and commenced walking to the Kitchen and stumbled over a cat and fell on a drinking glass left on the floor. It cut a large gash on the upper portion of my nose at eye level. Dr. Eifert sewed in a few stitches and bandaged me up, the scar remains to this day.

 

My mom told me onetime when I was a baby I had a bad cold and was choking up flem. She said I stopped breathing and begin to turn blueish apparently choking on flem. She said she took me by the feet and flung me in a very hard vertical circular motion until I commenced breathing again.  She took her finger and cleaned a wade of flem out of my mouth. Guess what, it worked, I'm still here. In desperate situations you do desperate things. Mom was a natural at solving desperate situations.

 

I was like most other children who grew up in a large family. We played together but mostly played with siblings closer to our age group. That normally consisted of 3 or 4 of us plus children from other large families in our neighborhood. It was a gang when we got together to play Cowboys and Indians. As our family grew older our sibling rivalry grew more intense. I have always tried to avoid touchy issues especially concerning a death in the family but when I'm hit head on I have the desire to fight back. It has taken decades little at a time for me to overcome the urge to fight back. I think the below excerpt sums it up very well.

 

[Sibling envy in adulthood is a stagnant, secretive emotion that finds its insidious expression in anger. ‘There’s always going to be a little bit of jealousy between siblings, which is a normal part of human nature, but when that turns into envy it brings out the absolute worst in people,’ says Karen Doherty, a mother of four and co-author of the new book Sibling Rivalry: Seven Simple Solutions. ‘Sibling envy is like a festering wound and it sours our relationships to the point where we can’t bear the idea of our siblings being successful, or even happy, and instead take pleasure in their failures 'this condition borderlines on clinical psychiatric dysfunction' ].

 

One time our mom's sister visit along with her daughter Susan and son Mike.  Mike brought a pogo-stick that was lots of fun.  I got rather good at bouncing that thing for a long distance.  On one occasion I went forty miles an hour through the house bouncing long strides from Kitchen, through the living room into our new family room.  When I went into the family room which dad had just laid down a new tongue and groove pine floor, my pogo-stick went right through the floor.  That ended my career as the pogo king.  Dad was Ok with it, he even smiled at me while expressing his idea of how to repair it. A pogo-stick never entered our house again.

 

 [Sometimes when a parent smiles and presents a solution to our bad behavior it has a positive manifestation decades later, even after our parents are long gone I think there is a fine line between approaching a child as a competent human being as opposed to applying corporal punishment for every little mistake that is made. An unintentional mistake from an underdeveloped conscience is quite different from a willful act of rebellion].

 

I was the official egg gatherer when I was small. The hens resided in a small room on the Northeast corner of our barn. It has an outside door on the North side. I would slide my hand under the old hens to get an egg or two under them. I remember them looking down at my hand with a bewildering stare. Some of the nest boxes were a little higher than I could reach comfortably so I stepped up on a board a couple of feet below the nest put there for hens to fly up to the nest. The ground was too low for them to reach the nest. I went down the narrow board gathering eggs in a pan mom had sent with me. When I got to the end I jumped off onto another old board that had fallen off the inside wall. I didn't notice it had an old nasty nail sticking up. The nail went right through the middle of my foot and out the top. I could not pull the nail out so I set down and kicked the board off my foot. From there I laid down the pan of eggs and crippled back to the house. Mom saw me coming and ran out asking what was wrong. I took off my shoe and told her I ran a nail through my foot. She said, “Oh my goodness, we got to get you a tetanus shot”. I knew it was not good as blood was dripping off the bottom of my foot. Dad was not home at the time so she soaked it in warm Epsom Salts water until dad got home. I was taken to the Washington Hospital for a shot. It was terribly painful but I didn't let on too much to my parents just how painful it was. I remember holding back from crying, not sure why but we learned to shrug off pain and move on.

 

[I am in a quandary yet today about why I did not want to display physical pain or too much outward emotion, After having 60 plus years to think about it, I have concluded it was the feeling of guilt for my mother. One time I came upon her silently weeping behind the smokehouse, I wanted to comfort her but thought it might make matters worse if she knew I witnessed her emotion so I slipped out of sight.  I had no idea why she was weeping, maybe it was what someone said or done to her. I still could not get it out of my head that I might have been part of the problem. I knew dealing with a house full of kids had its stress and I knew I was one of those kids.  I remember one time my rebellious older brother ripped the lower two inches off a dress mom had just made for my younger sister who was a couple years old. He took the ripped piece and shined his shoes then went out the door. I saw mom begin sliding down the door facing until she was sitting on the wide threshold between the living room and kitchen sobbing her eyes out.  I did everything possible to make her happy from that day on.  In retrospect, I have no regrets of doing her any wrong, and I take great pride in doing everything good for her ].


 

 

[Concerning the pain thing, to this day I am not affected much by pain as I have my teeth drilled without a numbing shot. I always considered pain having a limit and when the limit was reached it can't get any worse. Later in life, I had an accident that sliced my index finger around and around several times to the bone in a wood shaper machine. I knew if I waited too long the swelling would make the stitching terribly difficult. The slices were about a quarter inch apart spiraling down the side of my finger. I came home and had Tonyia thread up a needle with white thread. After dipping my finger in alcohol I pushed the needle through the skin pulling the gap together. There were 50 some stitches down the length of my finger. I had her tie the knots. She was twitching and flinching. I told her it was me being stitched not her. She said I know that but it hurts to even watch it. It healed and to this day you can hardly see where it was sliced. Later I had the lower part of my sternum removed with local anesthetic, it was first for that hospital as the Physician had to get permission to perform without general anesthesia. It was no macho thing on my part it just came as a result of my childhood experiences]. 

 

Back to the same hen house, again gathering eggs we had a large truck tire in the middle of the floor for the baby chicks to get into in case they were in danger. A cut-away in one side allowed the mother hen to hide with her chicks when sensing danger from a hawk or skunk.  I saw what I thought was a piece of black pipe.  My dad was a plumber and we played with some of his leftover black plastic roll pipes. We made hula-hoops out of it and various other toys.  I reached in to investigate and just when I got a good grip it started moving, my reflexes let it go instantly.  I got a garden hoe and drug out a three-foot black snake that was swallowing our chicken eggs whole.  [Reminds me when we lived in Arkansas years later we had a mountaineer neighbor who was the best guy you could ever have as a neighbor.  He took care of our farm when we left for extended periods of time, More about all that later in this dialog.  Anyway, a snake was getting his eggs so he left a white porcelain doorknob in the nest.  The next day he found the thief wrapped around a fence post nearby unable to break that porcelain egg to digest it.  Our neighbor, Looney Campbell, chopped him to pieces with a machete].  

 

One incident happened when I was preschool age. My uncle Raoul ( we called him uncle Huff) had dropped an almost full pack of Camel cigarettes on our winding eighth-mile long driveway. It was a dirt road that dropped over the hill in front of our house then crossed a low water bridge and continued following a curvy creek. Dad scattered some rock in the ruts during the muddy season. I found a pack of Uncle's Camel cigarettes in the middle of our drive. Having never smoked I wanted desperately to try them out. After sneaking some matches from the cupboard drawer next to our wood cook stove, I high-tailed to the woods with cigarettes tucked deep in my pocket. After putting three cigarettes in between my lips, I lit one at a time and puffed on all three at once. The next thing I remembered the sky was turning in circles, then I feel down in a May-Apple patch and started dry heaving like crazy. Several attempts to get upright met with failure. My stomach wanted to regurgitate but nothing would come out. My only hope was an attempt to crawl back home. When I reached the nearby creek I washed my face and took a drink of water but my stomach was still churning. After several minutes passed I attempted getting upright it was no easy task. I finally made it upright and went home, immediately slipped into my bedroom, jumped on the bed and slept it off. Never again in my life have I smoked a cigarette or even had the slightest temptation.  I still feel the same nauseous feeling even when I smell cigarette smoke.

 

My uncle Huff (Raoul Baker) was in WWII and fought Rommel's Army (the desert rat) in North Africa under General Patton. He was emotionally "shell-shocked" after invading a concentration camp later on. He told mom he saw gold fillings piled three ft high. When he came home his father had passed away and my parents had bought the family farm that Uncle Huff left behind as a young man to go to war. It was not easy for him to accept much less adapt to new circumstances on returning home. He began to binge on hard liquor, he stayed with us for a spell but being almost constantly drunk was in my parents' opinion not good for us kids. He had a big heart for kids and would take care of me if mom needed to work. One day mom said that when he was feeding me peas at the kitchen table, he would put my mouth up to the edge of the plate and roll peas in my mouth one at a time. When I would pull one in with a suck he would laugh out loud. Mom once said even though he had a heart of gold the war still messed him up. After returning home he never was interested in women and lived his life a bachelor. He did some carpenter work and then moved to Elkhart IN to help a friend build houses. He died of liver failure at age 56. I went to visit him in the hospital just before he died with my brother Charles. I was standing next to his bed and he reached over and pulled me close and then after a curse word said: "I can't believe it's you". That was in 1966 the same year I married Tonyia. Tonyia along with her siblings (the Kline Trio), sang at his funeral. He was 6'7" in his youth. When someone asks about his height he always told them he was either 7'6 or 6'7 he didn't know which. His condition was what was called “shell shock” back then, now it's posttraumatic stress disorder. 

 

[if someone would come across a person like this man they may react in an intolerant manner. We might display a negative attitude and then be quick to judge. What if we had gone through the same experiences maybe we might size that person up from a different viewpoint or perhaps we might appreciate being sized up ourselves from a different viewpoint].

 

On one occasion when I was around 5 years old, mom's distant cousin, Graham Baker, who resided in Alfordsville was walking me home from his place. He held my hand the who time. Graham was a real gentleman of a guy, always had a good word about others. When we were in my lane in front of our house he stopped, I was wondering why he stopped.  I looked up at him and he was staring intently down at me with a very serious look in his eyes.  He said, "Son, someday you could be President of the United States".  He kept his eye on me for some time like he was waiting for a response. I hardly knew what the President of the United States was at that age. That event stuck vividly in mind to this day. I can describe every detail of the encounter.  Later on, I speak of finding some machine gun ammunition. It was found in his barn behind his house brought home from WW2. His house was facing the last city street west side of Alfordsville. Behind his house, he had some farm animals and a large barn.  

 

My dad was a country plumber doing anything mechanically a paying customer would pay him to do (some not so paying). His expertise was water pump installations, but he installed new bathrooms, septic tanks, electrical boxes, you name it he did it. He was also the local politician leaning to the conservative side of politics. He was the trustee of our township for a few years. He distributed Government Food to the poor. Sometimes I helped with that. We thought we were poor but we were rich compared to some poor souls in our community. One family came for food and the kids had large boils over their necks and shoulders. Mom bandaged a slab of bacon over them which was supposed to draw out the infection. I could reveal many hellish stories but will limit myself to one account of a family living about 4-5 miles north of us. She had a house full of kids and a drunkard husband who would spend all their income on booze. He would come home late at night and beat his wife severely. One night he came home and one of the older boy's (about my age) met him at the door and said you are not beating my mother again. His father cursed him and proceeded toward the boy's mother. the boy pulled up a shotgun and blew a large hole right through his chest. The father fell out the door backward down the wood steps. The sheriff came, made arrangement to remove the body and nothing was ever said or done about it. That was the way life worked in the 50's, the sheriff based each situation on its own merits and acted accordingly. He called my dad many times to discuss situations in our community. A few of those situations might have included me.  I remember going to Washington with my dad to visit Sheriff McCollough, I was little and insignificant but Jim wanted me to see his jail. I remember just about 4 cells on each side of a wide hall. To enter the hall there was a locked steel bar door that had a revolving little door to pass food trays through. I could see what looked like 4 or 5 prisoners who looked to be mostly drunks. That old jail was torn down and now a modern jail covers a full city block. My dad knew most every problem that existed in our township. Many times he would go get a load of coal from the local mine and deliver it to a poor family in need of heat to endure a bitterly cold winter.

 

My folks owned 101-acre farm, the one-acre resulted from a creek on our property that crossed over on the neighbor's property and engulfed one acre, so he and my dad agreed on a small amount of money and the neighbor quick-claimed a deed to us for the one acre. Our 101-acre farm property was a part of two sections of ground my great-great-grandfather Nick Baker purchased from the Government when he homesteaded Indiana.

 

My dad's sister Emma and her husband Cecil lived on the West side of Alfordsville.  They had three children, Jack, Paul, and Patricia.  They were all older than me.  Emma was the head nurse at Washington Hospital for decades. One time she told my dad that us kids needed some immune shots.  I didn't like the sound of that.  Every three weeks she would drop by and line up my siblings for a shot in the buttocks.  I was pretty bashful and hated the sound of that buttock stuff.  The first two times the shots poked against my skin then they seemed to pop through.  It was not a fun experience getting shot with what felt like resharpened needles but exposing my butt to my aunt was much more painful.  On the third and final trip, I hid behind a tree in the woods and watched what was happening from that vantage point.  I saw all the kids line up while dad was hollering his lungs out for me.  I pretended not to hear him.  A few weeks later she caught me off guard and put what felt like a square needle right in my bottom end.  I forgave her over time but for a long time, I didn't want to even see or hear her name.  She pretty much made all the decisions concerning the care of my grandparents North of Alfordsville. 

 

Dad had a store building in Alfordsville that he kept his used appliances in for repair. Behind the store building, he let an old man park a small trailer to live in.  He was Tang Burris, dad would stop by every so often and see how Tang was getting along.  When it came a time that Tang could no longer live by himself dad took him to Bynum Nursing Home in West End Washington. It was a horrible place.  When we went in that place it smelled like a cesspool with people laying around all over the place moaning and groaning. Dad didn't like the way they were treating Tang.  An employee told dad the Bynam boys would whip an old person that pee'ed in the bed. Tang could not hold his water so dad began to look for another place. Before another place was found Tang passed away.  I think dad blamed himself for that but it would have been impossible to have taken Tang in with such a load mom already was carrying.   I still have a large picture of his mother that was hanging on the wall behind Tang's couch in his trailer.  Too many generations have passed for anyone to know who it is after I leave it behind.  Most likely the next generations will view it on a Cracker Barrel wall somewhere.  As a result of that experience, dad suggested that we embark on building a modern nursing home facility.  We ended up building two large facilities that were very modern and comfortable for the patients.  I took a nursing home administrators licensing course but never did anything with it.  I wasn't the type to set behind a desk all day no matter how great the potential income was. 

 

My grandma and grandpa had a small farm. Grandma raised chickens.  They had a tobacco base and raised a patch every year.  That was frowned on in our part of the country but they were from Kentucky where it's no sin.  Grandpa would tell all our church friends that he contracted with a Pharmaceutical company to use his tobacco for medicinal purposes.  I don't think he convinced anybody with that big yarn.  He didn't drive in his older years probably because he didn't have a vehicle.  He came to town on his horse Nancy.  I was quite small but remember him coming down the street on Nancy wearing an old wore out hat.  He was a big man on a big horse.  He would gallop by us while looking straight ahead.  Dad would not look up or even make a comment, which I thought was unusual. Grandpa was a man who had a dark side. He put up a big front to prevent anyone from taking notice, only his victims knew what he was but most of them were too ashamed to speak openly about it. Grandpa wanted to be thought of as a learned man and could elaborate on great subjects 

 

[I suspect he was hiding behind a pretension of being somebody that he was not or not being somebody that he was. Be that as it may, it was still a mask and a strange one at that, like anyone who wears a social mask it doesn't deceive anybody but themselves].

 

After Grandpa died in 1965 Mom and Dad took grandma in.  She took some special care but was always agreeable to any issues that arose.  She enjoyed talking to the grand-kids that came to visit.  We took a picture of our oldest daughter Ellen sitting beside her on her hospital bed in the corner of our living room.  She loved to tell about the old days of her youth.  She told about her two aunts (sisters) who married the two sons of Eli Lilly.  the Lilly's had a racehorse farm near them.  The marriages didn't last as the two brothers had a wondering eye for beautiful women.  Women who most likely were seeking the good life with the Lilly fortunes.   Grandma had a cousin, Charles "Colonel" Goodnight,  whose family left Kentucky moving to Illinois where the Colonel was born.   His family moved to Indiana, then to Illinois (one uncle remained in Indiana).  Colonel Goodnight's father died in Illinois and his mother married a Baptist preacher.  The preacher was not good to Colonel Goodnight.  The preacher wanted to move to West Texas territory and make a new start. Colonel rode along behind the wagon on a pony the whole trip. Later Colonel Goodnight opened the West Texas territory up and today is considered the Founder of Texas although that might be embellished.  Lots of books are written about him and his million acres along with hundreds of thousands of beef's as he called his cattle.  His wife died when he was 92, a year later he married a 19-year-old girl from Michigan who also had the last name of Goodnight. They never had children but she did have one miscarriage. His library is in Canyon Texas.  We visited there in the 80's and as a relative, we were allowed access on the top floor where all his private papers were stored.  It was very interesting and I consider myself privileged to be a distant relative of the Colonel Goodnight. 

 

CHAPTER 2 NEIGHBORHOOD KIDS

 

One neighbor boy to the north liked to play "horse" as he called it. He would slap the side of his leg to get the horse going, and then would run and jump over things and make horse sounds. Quite a sight to behold. One summer day he and I were running north of his house on a dirt road. We ran up to a wood-beamed bridge that had a large spike bent over in a U shape. We were barefooted as we went barefooted all summer. My toe went under the spike nail and pulled it up in a vertical position. The pain was excruciating. He got his red wagon and pulled me back to his house and commenced to pump cold water from the cistern over my foot. All around my toe begin to turn greenish. I thought we better go to my house about a quarter mile south. At early dusk, we arrived at my house after being pulled by him in his red wagon. My mom looked at my toe and said: “we better get a doctor for this”. My dad came home a little later and took me to Washington. The doctor said my toe was broken and out of place. He pulled it back into the socket and I thought it was the end of the world with such pain. He put it in a splint and in a week or so I was back on my feet.

 

My uncle Huff had dug a cave in the bluff behind our house in his teen years. The entrance was under a large Beech tree. I climbed back some 30 feet to the end where there was a small room. It was dirt all the way around and was very dangerous. Mom told me never to do that again.

 

I enjoyed having odd pets. One was a muskrat that became a very dear pet. My sister Sarah brought it out to show a visitor and when she laid it down the dog killed it. I was hopping mad when I got home. Another pet was a mouse from our corn crib. I raised it from a baby, it stayed in my shirt pocket most of the time. If I put it on the ground it would run up my pants and shirt and get back in my shirt pocket. I ordered a baby alligator from the Sears & Roebuck catalog for three dollars. It came from Florida and was in our mailbox in a little box with holes in it. Poor thing was nearly dead but revived in water and some good food. That winter I kept it in the drawer under the refrigerator as that was the only place in our house that stayed above freezing on cold nights. One night it slapped its tail against the metal drawer a few times and my dad was not happy. A week later my alligator disappeared. My dad would not talk about it and mom played dumb. Stories got out all over our community of people reporting sightings of my alligator. These stories went on for several years and got bigger and bigger. Some even claiming it ate their cow. Another pet was a Raccoon but when it got big it wanted to come in the house and eat off the table, mom said no way, so dad took it to Loogootee and gave it to an old man that sold Coon hides.

 

We did lots of summer swimming with the neighbor kids. Many times we stayed most of the day in our pond. One time we had a bet on who could stay under the water the longest. Each had their turn and a minute or so was about the limit. I went under and swam underwater to the edge where some weeds were hanging from the bank into the water. I raised my head up under the weeds just below the onlookers. After about two minutes I could hear them beginning to panic. After about three minutes they decided to jump in and find me. I decided it had gone too far so I slipped back under the water and went to the place I had started and come out splashing and gulping for air. All those sorrowful faces had turned happy to see me alive. I never told them the truth as they might have held me under water for punishment longer than three minutes or at least until bubbles came up.We sometimes committed the unpardonable.   

 

My parents were poor and never had much means of transportation. Early on dad had a log truck with an open bed. The kids would hang on to the upright poles on our way to Alfordsville, a small town 2.5 miles away. Later he got a Ford pickup and it was uptown riding in the back of the truck to Church. In the winter dad made a steel frame and covered it with a tarp. It was like being in “hog's heaven” riding in that gypsy wagon.

 

My dad was a little stiff around us kids but mom made up for it with her concern and love for us. She always wanted us to be at least fed and clothed properly. We had some lean times and some better times but much was learned going through hard times. Farm life in that day and age was not so easy but we did not realize what comforts the future would bring and bore our lifestyle as if it would never change. A normal day consisted of early rising to begin chores. Chores were milking two or three cows depending on which ones were fresh (giving milk) at the time, getting breakfast for such a large number of hungry mouths, the girls helped in the kitchen. The older ones who were working away would eat at the first table, then those going to school at the second, and the third was for those who stayed behind at home. There were different chores for each season of the year. A large garden was the focal point of activity during that season. Canning commenced when the first fruits of our harvest appeared. A cast iron kettle was placed in our backyard between the house and garden. Some pre-processing took place in the garden, corn was husked and bad places cut out. Peaches were brought in to a tub of lye water to loosen the peels. Mom was very cautious as this operation could wreak havoc on a small child getting splashed with lye water. The peaches were transferred to a tub of rinse water and from there the final peeling began. Most peels were gone, the remainder one could rub off but a few required a paring knife. From there we sliced them into halves or quarter sections throwing the seed to the side. One gallon and one-half gallon jars were scalded prior to filling them with the fruit. For some reason, mom would throw a seed or two in a jar occasionally. Water or apple cider was added and lids screwed shut. From there the jars were stacked in a large pressure cooker or hot water porcelain container. After being sufficiently heated we gingerly placed them on the back porch concrete floor spacing them about one jar width apart. When we heard a pop of the lid that meant lid had sealed. If we were unsure if the lid had sealed a thump of the lid with our finger would bring a ting sound if sealed and thud if not. Occasionally we had some not seal. It would either would be unloaded into another jar and reheated or it went to the kitchen to be converted into peach cobbler for the evening meal. Each harvest fruit or vegetable had its own canning process and we learned every detail early in life.  Several methods were employed to keep foodstuffs over the winter months, we put turnips in a metal barrel buried about a foot in the garden after lining it with straw, we stuffed a partial bale of straw into the open end, when we wanted a few turnips we made a hole just large enough for our hand to fit into and pulled them out one at a time. Mom would store meatballs in a large metal lard-can then pour melted lard over them. One winter we had removed the meatballs almost down to the bottom and on the bottom was a well-preserved half-grown cat (one of the perils of farm life), we just ignored such mishaps and moved on. My grandpa Baker would store cabbage heads by digging a trench-like opening in the garden lined with straw, lower the cabbage heads upside down and cover them with straw then dirt leaving the root exposed above the ground. He would pull them up in the winter by shaking the root up and down until it was loose enough to pull up out of the ground. We were christened into the survival group very early in life. Every hand that could contribute to the survival of the whole was expected to put their heart and soul into it without murmuring and that's what we did or at least while mom was watching us. Other year-round chores included gathering eggs and feeding the animals. Winter was a terrible time to milk as we had no good place to stall the cows and the cows would hide in the underbrush on a cold snowy morning. It would be below zero on many a morning, one morning my legs were so cold I stuffed feed bags down my pant legs to stay warm. The cow's teats would get chapped and bleed on occasion, I would rub them with tallow fat. Mastitis was always an issue, I would milk them out into a cat pan until no more lumps were present, cats loved it. Just for fun, I would turn a teat toward the cat and squirt milk right into it's face, they would just stand there with mouth wide open.

One night it got twenty below zero when our 5 sows begin to have their pigs. Dad, Charley and I stayed up most of the night to save the baby pigs from freezing. We grabbed them just as they came out, wiped them dry, wrapped them in an old blanket and put the blanket in between some bales of straw. We did lose a few but all of them would have been frozen without our assistance.  One time we had a cow ready to deliver,  The calf had it hind hoofs exposed. I was around 14 at the time, my dad who normally handled such issues was gone.  I could see the cow was in a miserable state.  I commenced to tie a rope around the calf's hind legs, then tieing the other end to a tree. I put a rope around the cow's neck and pulled her forward until the rope was tight.  The cow seemed to be content with my doing this.  After a few hard tugs, the calf came splashing out (stillborn, of course). I lead the poor old cow down to a shed and give her some feed and water. She laid down and rested for several hours. She seemed to be my best buddy after that, she would just stand perfectly still and let me put my arms around her neck and hug her.

 

[Today young people have no clue of our hardships, not even my children nor my grandchildren. We were self-ruled, it could be thought of as survival rules. That rulebook was unwritten but everyone in the survival group knew what the rules were and knew them by heart. A lot of days from morning till night were filled with a task that could not be left undone. Most millennials today are hopelessly searching for direction moving forward in life with no guidelines, no responsibilities, and no rules, they look to the government instead of looking inward to the inner needs of the soul, they look outward like some great empire, some “Power Ball”, some inheritance is going to bring them through all their tumultuous feelings of uncertainty. This is obviously much greater today than it was in our time. Today's guidelines include two diabolically opposed contradictory ideas about morality, taught simultaneously, one being taught in the schools, universities, and among their peer groups, the other is teaching Godly morality through decent parents, relatives and in a “Christian” God-fearing environment. The contradictions have left today's youth with uncertainty, disorientation, disillusionment with false and failing guidelines No clear avenue to the source of “help”. They have been completely robbed of the great riches of life they most likely don't even know existed. Their parents most likely lost their moral compass as the world moved into a world that worships “things”. Both parents leaving home early to work bringing in big bucks to build the bigger houses, to purchase the most expensive cars, whatever it takes to be praised by their peers and the world is the ambition of the day. Their children spend hours upon hours alone gawking at the evilest device ever perpetrated on mankind. It is so evil that not even God's own earthly servants can resist it. The single press of one button can bring on an onslaught of filth to feed the animal nature, “The Golden Calf”, taking it to any depth desired and exploiting every human weakness known to Satan himself ].

 

The summers were best for us kids as we could scout out the countryside, hunt, fish, swim, pick blackberries and lots of other stuff. I went to Knobhill (a large hill ½ mile NW of our farm) to pick blackberries by myself at around age 12. My mom rubbed DDT on my legs and ankles to keep the chiggers off. My legs were yellow with DDT. I picked two buckets full and that was nearly 5 gallons. When I brought them to my mom she went Whoopee!. I loved to see her happy and to make her happy. She had a rough life. Knobhill was leveled some years later by an open pit coal mine operation. Mom's mother Amy died at age 49 with goiter complications, she was born illegitimate fathered by an African-American traveling preacher. The story that has been passed down has it that the preacher was a dynamic speaker. After Church services Amy's grandparents had him come to the farm for dinner. Later that evening the old folks had chores to do and left him and their 29-year-old single daughter Mariah Jane alone. Mariah Jane was a somewhat homely overweight girl that was most likely easy prey so obviously, it takes two to tango so that is what happened. The preacher was not in the mood for matrimony so he went his way. A forty-year-old bachelor, James Scales, offered to marry her and take away her shame. It ended up a very happy marriage.

 

Mom was also thirteen when her mother Amy died. She took over being the mother of the house as she was the only responsible sibling. She worked like a dog to keep her siblings fed and clothed, she washed clothes, made bread, cooked meals and canned the garden in summer. Her father never remarried and remained despondent and distant, staying in the fields most of the day. Mom got pregnant out of wedlock at age 15 and was married with a child at age 16. Life began earlier and the struggle never lets up until her later years. I had her in my arms as she died at age 93, a long time to struggle. She never complained or said a bad word about anybody that I can remember. She told me later in life that she had raised 30 children at least one year. I can probably name most of them. When relatives hit on hard times their children were brought to our house. My parents also took in a few welfare children. We enjoyed the extra playmates but we had no idea at that time of the extra burden on our parents. 

 

When I was around twelve years old, my brother Wyndham was bringing our tractor home from the field.  My younger sister Lorna and I were walking along the road some 1000 feet in front of our house. Wyndham stopped and said for us to hop on. The tractor has a narrow bench seat for the driver,  we set on the wheel fenders on both sides.  Wyndham was actually driving it too fast when he tried to make a turn on loose gravel, the front tricycle wheels would not turn so before he could get it stopped the tractor toppled down a steep creek embankment landing completely upside down on a sand dune.  Lorna was flung off from when the tractor flipped, I was pinned in an eight inch space between the large back tire and the fender well and since we landed on a sand dune I was able to wiggle out, Wyndham was pinned under the steering wheel and was unable to move.  He was hollering for help.  Gasoline was leaking from the upside down gas tank on top of him. My sister Amy heard him hollering for help and the whole family were alerted to the tragedy.  They all came running down the hill toward us including my mother who had been sick.   Amy always championed herself being able to do anything a man could do.  She worked in my dad's gas station when she was younger and could throw hundred pound bags of feed over her shoulder and carry it to a customers truck.  She squatted down low and got her hands under the large tire that was some four feet in diameter and lifted the tractor up while the others pulled Wyndham out from under the tractor.  The weight she lifted was later determined to be near a 1000 lbs.  Adrenaline can make people do amazing things.

 

I learned to drive a tractor at age six, it was difficult for me to reach the brake and clutch at the same time. In order to do so, I slide forward off the front of the seat while still hanging onto the steering wheel.  The tractor engine was started with a hand crank that fitted in on the front of the motor.  If you didn't grip the crank handle so it would slide out of your hand in case it kicked backward it could break an arm or worse.  We learned early some pitfalls in equipment operations.  Even then we had close calls.

 

My brother Charlie was driving the tractor on a county road at a faster rate then he should have.  He lost control and the tractor flipped over in the middle of the road.  The right fender caught him just above the right ear and made a clean slice of his scalp some 90 stitches long.  The neighbors came to his rescue.  They bandaged him up with strips of a white sheet while one of their kids came and reported his condition to my dad.  Dad took him immediately to the hospital where he was sewn up.

 

We had a dog named "Tricks" who was around when I was born. He was absolutely a big part of our family.  People reported him banging on their back door begging for some left-overs.  Elsie Harris said he knocked on her door occasionally in Alfordsville and looked so beggingly that she would always give him a  left-over biscuit or two.  He died on a very cold night on our back porch laying on some old clothes we had stored.  I dug a hole in the corner of our garden and gave him a decent dog burial.  I laid down some of those old stored garments and then covered him with the same.  He was 19 1/2 when he died.  We all went around for a week or so in a somber mood.  Everybody in the whole community knew Tricks. 

 

We had a meat curing house between our house and the garden. Our garden was about an acre large.  Between our house and the meat house over to the side was the smokehouse.  We used the smokehouse mainly for storage and smoked meat in the meat curing house.  A metal-clad trunk was mounted on two poles high in the rafter of our smokehouse.  Mom said it was her brother Raoul's left there before he went to WW2.  Uncle Raoul "Huff" was living away at the time and seemed to not care about the trunk. I got a ladder and investigated what was in it.  I found the original sheepskin deed to the farm along with letters and other military uniforms and stuff. 

 

Speaking of the military, a couple of us boys walked over to Corning, small Irish community near us.  There were a couple of old housed that had been abandoned but were still dry inside due to having a good raised seam metal roof.  In the house were some old chairs, a cupboard, and some dishes on the floor.  In a back room, we found a couple of civil war era rifles leaned up in the corner.  We didn't think much about it at the time and just left them there.    Another time some of us kids were playing in an abandoned barn SW of Alfordsville that was or had been owned by Graham Baker.  In the hayloft, we found a roll of 50 caliber machine gun bullets hanging over a beam. They were from WW2  conflict.  There were about a 100 or so on the linked roll.  We got it down and cleaned the accumulation of time off them.  After taking them home we took a few bullets out of the linkage that held them together.  Taking a pair of pliers from dad's toolbox we pulled the steel-clad bullet out of the large casing. Inside were pencil lead size little stalks of explosive powder.  We knew what black powder was but this was something we had never seen before.  We laid them in a line like a row of dominoes and would lite one end with a match.   The explosion would go "Whoosh" from one end to the other.  We went through all the bullets doing this. It was a lot of fun to lay a long line and see the "Whoosh" of fire and smoke bellow up. 

 

We had a barn that the interior was originally a log barn with square logs. Every spring it was a big job to clean out the manure and take it to the garden.  My dad decided to tear down the barn as it was drawing flys being too close to the house.  I knew at the time it was a mistake as it left me without any shelter to milk the cows and tend the chickens.  Later I put some poles in the ground and build a makeshift shelter that was better than nothing to milk under in the winter and during a rainstorm.  I had a favorite Jersey cow that was very gentle to milk. She would move around if her teats were chapped but would never step in the bucket of milk like some of the other cows did.  One morning I went down to the barn to milk and she had slid her head between two logs that were separated about a foot apart.  Her horns would not allow her to pull her head out and there she hung herself. That was a big loss to me as she was as good a cow as one could get. I got a little closer to the animals than I should have. Each had a distinctive personality, I never made them fearful of me. 

 

[I believe that our personality is made up of little building blocks of our childhood. Sometimes later in life when we touch those building blocks they can be painful, cheerful or just a stack of good memories, but one thing we know for sure is they can't be removed or altered. It's a permanent part of our makeup for better or for worse. I can honestly say that my childhood relationship with my parents holds no regrets. They provided for us and had our interest at heart, even though it sometimes didn't meet up to my expectations it was all they could do under the circumstances. I witnessed other children in our community who were much less fortunate and it wasn't of their own doing, it was time, chance and circumstances. I think many a productive person rose above an undesirable poor childhood and looked back with pleasing memories that "all's well that ends well". In a lot of cases, "poor is rich & rich is poor" and that was my particular childhood experience].

 

CHAPTER 3 THE FARM COMMUNITY

 

Farm life had its ups and downs, from tragedy and boredom to memorable pleasant experiences. Sundays were set aside as a day of rest. We weren't allowed to read a newspaper on that special set aside day. We enjoyed visiting with friends which consisted predominately of church friends. Sunday dinners after church were a common occurrence. We were always excited to go to Orland and Eleanor Arvin's for Sunday dinner. They lived a few miles North of our Church in Alfordsville, Indiana. Eleanor and her older girls could put on a meal and a half. Eleanor watched us kids plates and as soon as we had eaten all of an item she would pass the bowl to us again for another round. They were generous from the heart. While sitting around the table, Eleanor would discuss something the preacher had said at church services that morning and always listened intently to Dad's opinion. Orland never entered into Bible talk but would interject occasionally a quote from some great philosopher, then ask Dad about his thoughts on the quote. Dad would deflect the subject and try to stay in the safe zone, especially as an invited guest in their home. We liked Orland, he was always cordial and upbeat with us kids and he wanted us to have a good time when we visited them. I was impressed with how nice their house looked with all that river bed stonework. It would remind one of some quaint little cottage in Ireland. What I liked most of all was playing in the creek bed East of their house. The creek bed was solid stone and in places was smooth as a table top. We caught crawdads, minnows, frogs and the like or just enjoyed waded in some pure clear clean water rippling over the edges of the flat rocks. All of us kids were about the same age group so we played together without any issues. To this very day, I think about those visits quite often...... great memories.

 

We would on occasion go down to Henry and Edith Ione Raney's on Sunday afternoons. Dad liked to visit with Henry and his wife Edith Ione. Edith's mother Zade lived with them. I was very young then but I do remember Zade speaking her peace on any subject in a rather gruff voice. Dad and Henry would grin at each other if she got off on a tangent. She would shake her head back and forth as one would who was disgusted with some event, local or political. Edith was soft-spoken and always carried herself in a dignified manner. She seemed to never take the lead in a conversation. I remember Henry setting back in an overly stuffed chair wearing a pair of overalls. Edith and Zade were good cooks and with both of them in the kitchen they could bring out a delicious spread. I remember they had a couple of oil well pumps alongside the road going up and down very slowly. I always wondered if they ever made them any money. Henry was a good farmer along with Edith Ione and Zade helping. We played with their son Roy who was a year younger than me. They had another younger son Gary and a daughter Linda, about Lorna's age.

 

My mother's aunt Pearl (Baker) Lemon would have us over a few times each year along with her husband Jess, and their live-in daughter Lillian and husband Charlie Swickard. Aunt Pearl was a sister to mom's dad Frank Baker, my great aunt. Both she and Lillian were good cooks and we knew we were in for a feast on that Sunday. Jess was a rough type character who along with his son-in-law Charlie raised registered Angus breeding cattle. They did quite well at fairs and cattle shows selling their registered breeding stock. I remember dad telling the story about Uncle Jess getting a letter from the IRS, the agent suggested they meet at the Loogootee at the forks of Hwys 50 & 231 to discuss an income tax issue whereby the IRS thought Jess had shortchanged them. Jess arrived and the IRS agent was already there waiting. The agent asks Uncle if he brought his paperwork to settle pending issues, Jess responded that the only thing he brought was his two fists to settle this issue. The agent left and they never heard from him again. In our day and time one would go to the slammer in a heartbeat for such a response but in those days a lot of things were settled with such interaction. Dad said Jess had a pair of handcuffs that were used for lynching a convict. The story goes that Jess's father was sheriff of Pike County when a man was convicted of first-degree murder. The Sheriff was in charge of the hanging. Hangings were a public event that was attended by hundreds. Some even packed picnic baskets. He was hung on the courthouse square. Then after the body was taken down, uncle Jess's father, the Sheriff, took the handcuffs off so the body so could be delivered to the family. When he went home that evening he handed the cuffs to his son Jess. Lillian was the last one living and she was asked about the handcuffs in her late nineties. She just shrugged it off as being an offensive subject. After dinner, Lillian always brought out a box of toys, especially for us kids. Mom always held a certain amount of resentment toward Uncle Jess and Aunt Pearl. It was over my mom's mother Amy who had Goiter to the point of not getting her breath. She was taken up to the big city for evaluation. The Dr. said he could most likely perform a successful operation but it would be costly. Amy and her husband Frank had a small farm and a house full of children, Amy didn't' want Frank to sacrifice the farm as it was the only source of income for her children's survival, so Jess & Pearl were solicited to help fund her operation. Uncle Jess was a miser and he refused so my Grandmother Amy passed away at age 49 from suffocation, leaving mom to fend for the family at 13 years of age. She did all any mother was expected to do at a very young age (Two other interesting 3's, she had 13 children and died at age 93).

 

We had Sunday dinner with my mom's sister-in-law, whom we always referred to as Aunt Ethyl. She was widowed after only a few months of being married to my mom's brother Hartwell Baker. He was the only husband she ever had and he had never been married. She once said living with Hartwell for a few months was worth more than living with another man for a lifetime. Her father and she lived together South of Alfordsville in a small three room house with brown siding, a washing machine on the porch and an outhouse where they had a dipper in a sack of lime. That was the best way to flush in an outhouse, keep down the stench and varmints. After a good German meal Ethyl would bring out a 3-D viewer of places all over the world. It made for a fascinating world tour that we knew was definitely out of our reach. Her father whom we called Uncle Walter (Breidenbach), was a tall raw-boned man slightly bent over who walked with a cane. He had the most humble demeanor of any human being I ever knew. He was extremely kind to us kids, and he had a gently speaking voice that overflowed with kindness. Nothing we did could have possibly upset him. He would enter into our conversation and chuckle along with little silly things we said.

 

Years later when I was around 17, I had a very nice girlfriend that moved into the same house, who at a young age had lost her mother and consequently lived with her father. About every Sunday morning my uncle Charlie Swickard who lived just over the hill from this house would ask me before Church started if I was going down to pick up Aunt Ethyl (referring to my girlfriend). I thought it was funny that he took such an interest.

 

Aunt Ethyl didn't attend our church (Christian Church) in Alfordsville but attended the Assembly of God Church on Portersville Rd. After Tonyia and I got married Aunt Ethyl later let us live in her Washington house until we could find a place of our own. She was an out-of-town caretaker and only came home on weekends. It worked out well as we were always visiting family on weekends and that let her have private time.

 

My mom couldn't or didn't drive so one time she decided to try her hand at driving the old Blue Goose up to the Hughes. Tom and Letha lived about one mile North of us on the same secondary gravel road. They had several fine children that we loved to play with especially in our early years. Their oldest son “Deb” was in the military when I was little. Ralph then Jack were next oldest, then Mary, Sharon, Bobby Leo, Monica, one more girl in here that I can't remember her name, then the last was Henry. Sharon was a couple years ahead of me and Bobby was a year below me in school. Mom got up there OK and had a visit with Letha. When she got ready to back out and leave Tom stood beside her window and motioned what to do. He motioned to move forward and she had it in reverse. When she gunned it the Blue Goose hit their gate post, mom said she didn't know what to do next. She rolled down the window and Tom said put it in first gear and go ahead home, I'll fix the post, don't worry about it. Bobby and I were good friends for a long time then got separated later and I haven't seen him for decades now.

 

[I had a visit with Sharon not too long ago. She is the oldest sibling still alive. Her and Ivan attend our family reunion most every year at Jeremiah Park South of Alfordsville].

 

Dad bought an old slope back car.  It served our purpose especially getting to Church on time. My brother Phil was learning how to drive so he practiced on the gravel road between the Hughes and our house.  One time he gave it the gun and lost control in loose gravel, it turned over pushing the top down enough to bump our heads on the headliner. The two-part windshield cracked in several places but was still there.  Bill Jett saw the accident and pulling the car upright with his steel lugged tractor. When my Grandfather died in Kentucky, Mom, Charlie and I had to drive it in order to attend the funeral.  Dad was already there. We had to lay back with our heads down to see out the cracked windshield. We went down Broadway Street, downtown Louisville, a sight to behold.  It's funny to think about that now but it wasn't very funny at the time.

 

My mom loved flowers and we had flowers in the front yard, back yard and in various other spots of the garden. During flower blooming season she would make up a couple of bouquets for the church. The later it got the more dad would say we got to go. Mom would blurt out that she was just about finished arranging the bouquets. The most embarrassing part was sometimes it fellas my duty to take them and place them on a flower podium in front of the church, sometimes even after the first song was within a verse of ending. I guess that was part of religious training in humility.

 

Later in my teens, we had a preacher who was most likely in the wrong profession. He had a daughter whom I was very fond of but she had a disappointing reputation. She thoroughly disillusioned me with her activities so our relationship never blossomed beyond the budding stage. Once we had a Halloween party in the church basement. We played a game that whoever won would get a kiss from her. She had positioned herself in a dimly lit classroom across the hall. One guy won and went into her room and came back unwrapping a candy kiss and laughing. Well, I won the second round and after seeing the candy kiss knew it was going to be a disappointment. She set me down in front of her and lavished on me some horrific heart-pounding romantic kisses. Anyway, it was an earth-shaking church party experience for a 15-year-old country bumpkin farm boy. This daughter came back to visit a lady who lived North of Alfordsville. I happened to come across her at the gas station in town and ask how her parents were doing. She said her dad quit preaching and was employed as a stand-up comedian in a nightclub. Her younger brother was killed fighting in Vietnam war. He was a nice kid. I never heard what happened to another brother who was close to my age. I found him on an internet search and emailed but never got a return message.

 

[To me it seems that folks who want to be disconnected from childhood experiences want to also be disconnected from those who bring back dreadful childhood memories. These memories could come from being school bullied, sex abuse, or even witnessing terrible situations. For that matter it could be them that created such horrific chaos and just having to face the scene could throw them into severe depression. I think you will find these emotional distraught folks are those who fail to show up at class reunions, don't answer emails or return phone calls from childhood friends or classmates. Paranoia may forbid them to answer a knock on the door, or they may go to the window and see who is knocking first. They take every precaution not to relive their childhood or be reminded of their emotional trauma. They form a circle around the traumatic location and should they have to enter that circle they do so clandestinely. My observations only].

 

At church, we teenagers always set on the rear 4 or 5 pews on the Northeast corner of the church. Before they build the new church building the pews were old uncomfortable style. Some of the older boys would unmercifully pick on us younger kids. The two most vicious I remember would reach around and grab me on the inside of my upper leg and pinch till I would nearly scream. I had to bear it as no one dared to disrupt church service. Our community suffered its share of tragic events. On such event was when my brother Charlie's classmate, Randall Hoffman, drowned in the backwaters of the White River while swimming, some thought he was gigging for fish. The Civil Defense began searching for his body. Several local men set out in flat-bottomed boats. My dad improvised a heavy cane pole with three equally spaced large treble hooks fastened to the end. He was in a boat with two other men. Dad thought the boy would most likely be in shallow flood waters so he stuck his makeshift pole underbrush and debris floating in the shallow water. A large log was floating but stuck against some small trees. Dad pushed his cane pole under the log and snagged something. Randall was pulled to the surface. He was hooked by his bottom lip. Our small High School suffered from such events since there were so few of us.

 

Another situation involved my brother Wyndham's best friend, Roy Swickard. Roy was older than Wyndham and had a good job. Roy wanted Wyndham around as they both liked to ham it up a bit. Roy had a Harley 64 motorcycle. They rode double for some time then Roy bought another Harley 64 for Wyndham. They went to the upper strip mine to swim (abandoned strip mines would fill with clean very deep blue water). According to Wyndham Roy was swimming about a stone's throw from the bank while Wyndham was getting his bathing suit on. Roy begins thrashing while hollering “help”. Wyndham swam to help pull him but was unable to get a hold of his arm as Roy was larger and was pulling Wyndham under the water. Roy subsequently went under and disappeared. Wyndham was devastated for months after that happened. From my childhood observation, this was the beginning of my brothers downward slide into rebellion. A few years after that I was about 15 and decided to sell greeting cards door to door. I went to Roy's folks' house a mile West of us and knocked on their door. His mother Connie answered the door. I told her who I was and would she be interested in looking at some greeting cards I was selling. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “I don't like your brother and I don't like you either” then shut the door in my face. It would be tragic for a mother to lose an only son so I didn't take it personally, just tried to sympathize with the poor lady. When I was 18 and was involved with Civil Defense, we got a call from Connie that her husband Frank was very sick and to bring an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived Frank was unconscious and without a heartbeat. Several tried CPR but he was gone suffering a massive heart attack. Connie was not negative anymore. Her ugly spirit had now dissipated, bigger issues were present, Time and troubles can, if allowed, melt a bitter heart.

 

[ It seems to me that bitterness towards someone or someone's bitterness towards us is not necessarily a permanent thing. I have seen bitter enemies come together to console each other during times of a common lose. It's hard for old enemies to say the words “I'm sorry” or “I know now I was wrong, forgive me”. It almost always is done through a gesture of goodwill toward the other. I think an emotionally stable person should accept any good gesture from an old enemy as genuine and sincere, then let the chips fall where they may. One might think that the one offering goodness has false motives but that is not true in most cases. If you have been mistreated just thank God for your not the one doing the mistreating, thank God for the opportunity to forgive another even when the offenses are still painful to reflect on. It could bring the greatest blessing of all. Maybe God's plan was to help us all along].

 

Back to my greeting card enterprise, I went across Connie's yard to her neighbors' old clapboard house. I forget this lady's name but she was probably up in her eighties at the time. I introduced myself and she invited me in, “so your Howard and Enid's boy, you have some fine folks there” as she shut the screen door behind me. A screen with thread crisscrossing rusted out holes She commenced setting me down to a Chrome Table with four plastic covered chrome chairs. A burn ring was on the end next to the wood cook stove. Something was simmering in cast iron pot on the back side of the stove. Next to the water reservoir on the end was a skillet of dried cornbread, looked to be broken off piece by piece. She sits down on the sink side of the table with a sigh of relief as her plump little body fell into the chair like an Oak felled by the ax-man. I was seated on the end at her right side. My chair had a ragged tear in the plastic seat that was uncomfortably scratching at my bottom. I gracefully laid out the greeting cards on the table, her eyes glanced back and forth from me to the cards. The house had mild stenches of a person who had long become unaware. Opening each card drew a mumbling of semi-audible words. Each card was raised head high allowing the window light to enhance her vision. A cool breeze whispered across a pile of dirty dishes perched on a drain board under the window. She chuckled as she read funny lines all the while pushing back a wad of gray hair blowing across her eyes. I glanced out at her sun porch, viewing a variety of plants in various states of survival surrounding the perimeter. A chuckle brought my attention back to the table. I noticed her pudgy belly shaking like jello with the onset of each new chuckle. She gave every indication that the card purchase was a "done deal". After all, twenty cards including envelopes for one dollar was a bargain. After about twenty minutes she neatly placed the cards back in the box and said she would not be able to purchase but did appreciate visiting with me. By the way, she muttered, “Tell your folks hello”. I politely acknowledged her request, but my heart sank. I took the box of cards while meandering toward the front door all the time trying to get the lid fastened on the box. As I crossed the porch a wind whipped up, blowing the lid off with every card and envelope in full flight across the yard. I went scrambling after them as the cards went this way and that way. She said, “Honey did you find them all”. I nodded my head yes, climbed on my bicycle and headed for home. That ended my greeting card sales career. I heard you should never give up, but it became quite evident this was no future money maker.

 

Another young teenage memory was at the funeral service for Harold Hedrick's son, Dow, who died from a shotgun wound to the head while, as the story goes, crossing a fence after propping his gun on the other side.   It was traumatic for a young boy my age and I wanted him to wake up so bad. A day before his funeral I wrote a note and tucked it in my shirt pocket. As I walked by his casket at Old Union Church I had in mind to drop the note in the casket but lost my nerve. It read “I miss you. I hope you are happy in heaven”. I could barely see over the caskets edge. He was a quiet boy, unassuming, mannerly and always kind to me.  I considered him an older teenage role model, somebody that I wanted to be like.

 

Chapter 4 HARD TIMES

 

I can't think of a single Sunday we missed going to church. Dad had a Ford pickup and sometimes on Sunday morning when the weather was bad we could stuff 8 or 9 in the cab, but normally we rode in the back. My youngest brother, Phillip, who was a little fellow stood to the left of the steering wheel. We nicknamed him “Opie”, so that location became known as the “Opie hole”. Dad eventually got a metal frame over the bed that he covered with a tarp, it was a wonderful addition to our travel comfort. Later on, he bought an arched top funny looking van with semi-hard bench seats at a Ferdinand Catholic Convent auction. It was powder blue with a white top, we called it the “blue goose”. We took our first ever vacation in it to Cumberland Falls Kentucky. Along the way, we picked up dad's brother Joe and wife Pauline. We stopped along the road and ate at picnic tables along the highway placed there by the State Hwy Dept. Mom always made sure she brought along plenty of food for any trip we took. When arriving at the Cumberland Falls entrance it was a time of celebration. We all posed around the Cumberland Falls welcome sign for a photograph. I still have that photograph. We didn't have the Blue Goose very long until brother Wyndham took it Indian Springs a few miles North of Shoals to visit his girlfriend Shirley Taylor. He was brought home with blood over his body and we were told it was the end of our beloved Blue Goose as he lost control and it rolled over several times down a steep embankment and it was damaged so badly there wasn't any reason to drag it out of the steep ravine. He told me in later years the actual story was he was running moonshine for his girlfriend's dad. One night about this same time period we woke up to some serious commotion at about two in the morning. I got up and peered through the door crack into mom and dad's bedroom only to see Wyndham lying across the bed with a white blazer that was totally soaked in blood. He was coherent on and off and I could see raw flesh poking out all over the hair in his scalp. My parents bandaged his head with tear strips of sheet, and then dad walked him to the pickup truck and took him to Washington hospital. Dad brought him home the next morning with 90 stitches in his scalp. He said his girlfriend's brothers, “Con” & “Keg Head” Taylor, had used a stove grate on his head. No reasons were given but believe me they were a rough crowd. The story goes their father was a bootlegger and spent time in prison. Another witness on the scene said those boys dad, Vertus was in charge of counting votes on a county election, the witness said Vertus took the ballots home first, if they were voted Republican, he would wad them up and into a pot belly stove they went. Another witness told me those brothers would come to a Shoals Indiana tavern and try to pick a fight and when no one would take them up their offer they would fight each other. Wyndham was very rebellious at that age and was about more than mom and dad could deal with. I know this is putting our dirty laundry on the line but most every family, if they were honest, have similar rebellious children or other bad situations in their own family.

 

Farm work became an ordinary and routine for me. I got up early to milk several cows and broke the winter ice for livestock to drink. I threw hay down in the manger from the hayloft for the cows on those harsh winter days. Summer would sometimes get hectic especially when Charlie and I had to build new fences or clear brush from old grown up fence rows. We used a double-bladed ax since it had two sharp edges and was somewhat lighter than a single bladed ax which had a thick backside. I was a young teenager but could raise a double-bladed ax up for a full swing without gripping the handle closer to the ax head. This was a feat President Lincoln was noted for as a lad on the farm in southern Indiana. One job I was assigned was more than hectic, dad bought some breeder swine stock but shortly after getting them home we discovered they were infected with a soil disease known as pig encephalitis. The encephalitis bacteria infected any new pigs that were introduced whether from outside the farm or born to existing sows. I was told than hogs got infected through their saliva while eating together in a trough and most commonly through saliva secreted while rotting under the soil together as a group. I was given the job to vaccinate all the pigs, sows and boars. We rigged up a stanchion along the side of a holding pen that held about 15-20 swine. The "hundred pounders" and under were not much an issue, but the sows and boars were several hundreds of pounds and it was sheer hell getting them turned upside down. I had to administer the vaccination shot in the front leg pits up between the body muscle and leg muscle. The needles ranged from one inch to three inches long depending on the hog's size. The sows would try to bit me and if they ever got their teeth in me I knew I was a goner. I would reach under the lowest board on the stanchion and with a rope tie their back legs together, it took several tries with them kicking the rope off. Once I had their legs tied together I took what we called a hog nose clamp with a rope attached, shoved it into both hog nostrils and tightened them together, I could then lock it in position. This allowed me more control over the movement of the hog's head. I would tie the hog's head in a forward position and tie the rope to a steel bar door on the release end of the stanchion. It was then fairly safe then to reach into the stanchion and grab its front feet, then with some strenuous pulling turn the hog upside down. I would then tie each front leg separately to each side of the stanchion. This position pretty much assured me the hog was incapacitated unless on occasion the nose clamp slipped loose then all hands were removed from the stanchion. With the hog upside down, their leg pits were open enough to inject the serum. I forget the CC's required but it was a huge hypodermic syringe with a large diameter needle. The hog would squeal loudly while the serum was injected. When finished I would untie their legs first then release the holding pin on the nose clamps and open the steel bar gate. They flipped over in a heartbeat and made a bee-line out without looking back.

 

I remember when dad thought our woods need some underbrush cleared along the county road. He hired Clyde Arvin to clear it with Harold Williams Allis-Chalmers bulldozer. I was standing over by a beech tree watching Clyde. I must have been around 10-12 years old at that time. It was a nice warm summer day when Clyde stopped the dozer and invited me to ride along. It was exciting and to watch him control that big monster with all those levers. Dad wanted him to level a steep bank that went from our woods down to the county road. Clyde would push over a blade full of clay little at a time. After several dozen cuts, he decided to shove a large load over and take the dozer down the bank. I was nervous as the dozer seemed to be going vertically down the slope. When the blade came in contact with the county road Clyde pulled the lever to stop the blade from raising but I did not stop raising instead the rear end of the dozer begins to raise up to an almost vertical position. He yanked hard on a control but the dozer was on the verge of tumbling over head first. He instantly reached down and turned off the key. The engine ground to a halt while the dozer teeter-tottering in mid-air. He abruptly grabbed me by the waist and threw me into a pile of soft dirt alongside the dozer. He got off right behind me. Clyde always had a large smile on his face but this time he had a very troubling look. He raised the side doors on the engine, reached inside and fiddled with something for a while. He looked around at me and said the Kotter-key had come out of the rod that controls the blade movements. God only knows what would have happened if he hadn't thought to turn the engine off. After inserting a small bolt in the rod pin he gently got on the left side track, reached in and pushed the lever to lower the blade, the dozer begin to sink back into a safer position. He then cranked the engine, went backward a few feet then lifted the blade to it's highest position and drove the dozer out of a dangerous configuration. Clyde was such an honest and considerate man that he didn't ask me to keep this almost tragic event quiet. But I knew if the story got out it would be Clyde who would suffer the consequences so I never revealed it until this very moment. Later when I was 16 or so, Clyde would come over to pick my brother or me up to cut his boys hair. Charlie was a better barber than myself so if Charlie wasn't home he would settle for me. Sometimes he wanted both of us to come. I knew Charlie was a better barber but he would brag about my barbering abilities just the same. He was such a nice man. Later on my dad, Charlie and myself were over at the sawmill on our property gathering some wood slabs to start a fire and burn some tree limbs. We saw Clyde driving the Semi-truck West on Pennyville road, he was pulling the dozer on a low-boy trailer. As he topped the hill right in front of us he hit his air horns three or four times. We looked and he was waving rigorously at us. A few minutes later and he would be dead, about two or three miles down the road, the story goes that he hit a deep pothole in the road. The trailer's neck broke and the front step of the step-deck trailer went down, the air brake lines broke locking the wheels, that forced an abrupt stop. I heard that he was taking it only for a short distance and didn't chain the dozer down very securely. The dozer went forward over the trailer neck and the blade crushed through the truck's cab from behind. Clyde died instantly and his mangled body was pinned against the steering wheel. A man stopped at the sawmill and told dad just shortly after it happened. Dad went there immediately but left us behind, he said it was something us boys should not see. It was one of the saddest days in my life. I knew I had lost a good hard working gentle kind-hearted friend. Clyde was a good family man and the best of fathers. We grieved for weeks on end.

 

 

Chapter 5 SCHOOL DAYS

 

I attended Alfordsville School my whole school life, I made decent grades without taking any books home.  But I must say I didn't do so well in the "conduct" department but school was so boring it was hard to take it seriously even though I should have. My partner in crime was Jim Hedrick with whom together we mustered up interesting things to do during study hall. One time we ask a junior named Mike, who lived a few blocks from school if we could go to his house during study hall and play poker. He agreed and the four of us boys went into the library reading room just off the study hall and dropped out the story and a half window sneaking around the north side of the school building and into the neighbor's bushes hurriedly heading for Mike's house. We gambled with pennies & nickels until Mike & his friend run out of money, he found a few more pennies on his parents' bedroom dresser. Jim and I working together cleaned those boys out. Mike wanted to continue on IOU bases. I happen to see his dad's cufflinks on the dresser and said we would take them as collateral, he agreed, but soon he lost them and was never able to get them out of hock. So I ended up with some nice cufflinks. Recently I found out from DNA testing that Jim was my 2nd cousin.  DNA can unlock some long forgotten deep secrets. Try this one on for size, my mother had a half sister who lived in Alfordsville (end of story).  

 

I remember one time we were planning an ariel drop from the same school window with no idea anybody would be near our landing spot. I was clinging to the brick window sill working up nerve planning the perfect shove off as not to hit protruding bricks on the way down. After a few seconds went past I made my shove off and when I landed I was face to face with Mr. Sheeley, our newly hired principal. He probably thought since he was new and for some odd reason wanted to make peace and instantly forgave me if I promised never to do it again as it might harm some innocent person standing below. I feverishly apologized confessing my inconsiderate ill-conceived mistake. He was always my friend and allowed Jim and I a lot of freedom to roam around and especially visit the coke machines as we were the custodians of those machines. It was like hiring the wolf to guard the meat house. There was a lower compartment in the coke machines that stored extra bottles of pop, we put our favorite soft drinks, mine was Upper10 and Jim's was Dr. Pepper in this compartment and turned the temperature down a few degrees until ice would form in our drinks. We would lean back in a couple of school chairs and enjoy life alone while our peers were wearily studying their life away. Jim and I in order to avoid a study hall period signed up for a Home Economics class with Mrs. Harris as our teacher, Jim took cooking and I took sewing, to this day Jim is a fabulous cook and I enjoy sewing mostly for my wife when time allows.

 

My very first girlfriend was my brother-in-law's niece who lived North of Alfordsville.   I fell madly in “puppy” love with her, I thought life could not go on without her. On Saturdays, I walked up to her house about 5 miles away and we just set and talked. Sometimes we would walk down to the strip mine just a few hundred feet from the house. Her mother was Puerto Rican the best I remember. I was around 15 at the time. The relationship didn't last long, a classmate of mine who for some reason I never understood done everything she could to disrupt our relationship. She told my girlfriend that I was out with another girl the night before which was an outright lie. The next day she gave me back my class ring and that was the end of that.

 

We had some odd characters hired in at Alfordsville School. One a Mr. Aaron Mason was kicked out of Petersburg High for misconduct with minor girl students. Petersburg High is where my wife Tonyia graduated and she can tell you the horrible experience those girls went through. He had his own pain inducing paraphernalia. Back then they just moved people like him on to the next victims, no arrest, no consequences. A side note: one of the molested girls from Petersburg School committed suicide later. Well, he was moved on to our school and the misconduct moved on with him. We found out some crap going on with one of the schoolgirls in the sick room. Some of us investigated further and found out the accusations to be true. A group of us got together across the street that next morning as we normally congregated there every morning before school commenced. This time we plotted how to get rid of this scoundrel, one brave girl suggested we organize a student walkout. So the plan for formulated and that girl, Beth, suggested that I set in the seat closest to the exit door and when I stand up the whole assembly were to stand up and follow me. I was the guinea pig, so the next morning it was all set and every student was informed. We always came together first thing each morning as a high school group in study hall for any announcements etc. My nerve was beginning to fail me but I thought the whole school will look on me as a coward if I didn't perform my duty. So I raised up and I didn't look back but heard all the seats folding up and banging against the desk behind them. I begin the forward march in heroic style, just like a soldier marching into battle and not knowing what the consequences or outcome would be. We had a teacher who was a retired military commander, Mr. Wilson, who taught history and social studies, he was very staunch with a poker straight backbone. I was already past the front door going outside when he came out of a classroom roaring “INSUBORDINATION! INSUBORDINATION! INSUBORDINATION!”. The whole school body marched across the street and stood on Lena Brown's Storefront porch. Some rowdy fellows, one being my friends Jim's brother Bill commenced to throw a few cherry bombs (over-sized firecrackers) in the office window from outside. The bang was tremendous with smoke billowing out the window. After about 30 minutes of students yelling across the street, we saw several state police cars coming toward town with sirens blaring and red lights flashing. They came sliding into the school parking lot on loose gravel almost sliding into the brick school wall. They ran inside and after a couple of minutes came out with several troopers surrounding principal Mason with their hands placed on top of his balding head. Mr. Mason was duck walking in a crouched position toward the police cars. That's the last we ever saw of Mr. Mason. Ironically some parents came and supported us but later took all the credit for running him out of town. Our township trustee arrived enraged and commenced to engage in a furious fit. Enraged that he was taken from his place of employment to oversee such a foolish student rebellion. Little did he know how seriously child molestation affects the victims. We most likely saved countless other victims from his sordid, torturous sexual techniques perpetrated on innocent young girls. This same pervert had all the High School students to remain in the study hall one morning accompanied by the teaching staff. Mr. Mason had a tank of liquid oxygen that he let out the liquid into an open top vessel. The vessel set on a desk covered with newspapers to protect the desktop. This was all done in front and on the East side of the study hall. The only exit was also in front and on the West side of the room. There were 50-60 students both seated and others were standing in the isles for lack of seats. One teacher, Mrs. Harris, was standing in the aisle near the front center. She was a middle-aged short and very overweight woman. He positioned two high school seniors with fire extinguishers on either side of the desk, I think one of them was Art Synder. Lifting off the liquid oxygen surface was evaporation that resembled steam off boiling water. He did several experiments including taking a live mouse by the tail and dipping its head into the liquid, then lifting it up and snapped it head off with his fingers. Then came the grand finale, he proceeded to demonstrate how liquid oxygen would allow steel to burn. He dipped an elongated bar of steel in the liquid oxygen raising it off the desk a couple of feet high. He proceeded to light a match and set the steel on fire. The flame went up and flames began to drip on the newspapers, the fire in a split second became a large flame. Panic struck the body of students and teachers as well, the only exit was near the disaster so in a panic the students naturally all rushed toward the rear of the room. Students began to pile up on top of each other. I remember seeing two hundred pounds plus Mrs. Harris actually walking on top of students in her desperation to get away. I don't think she would have done that except along with most all in the room were in a panic mode. I am sure it was Art Snyder or his brother Larry that headlongs into the fire and threw the oxygen tank out a nearby open window then both boys bravely proceeded to extinguish the fire. What would have happened if they had ran away in panic also. Those guys would be called heroes today and for good reason. This could have wiped out every student in high school, just because of the actions of a perverted old fool that was hired to be a principal of our school.

 

An interesting story about above-mentioned school principal Mr. Sheeley, he was a believer in Darwinism which was so out of step the Alfordsville mentality that his views made folks want to kick him in the rear. A funny part of this is that he believed man evolved from a fish and his college-educated wife believed man evolved from a frog. I wish you could see those folks, he had a pinched up round mouth like a sucker fish and large elongated jaws that if you looked behind his ears you would think for sure one might see some red gills swooshing in and out. His wife had these eyes spaced far apart, somewhat spaced on front and slightly on the side of her head. Like she could see 360 degrees if necessary. Her extra wide mouth protruded out almost to the point of her nose. It was unbelievable and one could almost be convinced that Darwinism had some merit.

 

We had another poor lady, Miss Garrison, that probably couldn't get a teaching position anywhere else. She had to drive a long distance to our school if I remember correctly she was from Rockport, a good hours drive and probably more. Poor thing would wear the same clothes to school for days on end. To make sure of that my class gave me the job of attaching her blouse and skirt together with a large safety pin. I was to do this when I went to the chalkboard located directly behind her seat. I backed out at the last minute since we all pretty much comprehended she didn't change clothes.  She was a good old soul and treated us students good, the only thing that was bad was her body odor. We have several stories about her but she proved to be a warrior to help us, students. So at this point, I would prefer to praise her rather than rehash her misfortunes.

 

One night my neighbor Ronald Hensley and I went to an out of town basketball game. We got back fairly late on a cold windy winter night. Ronnie's brother Gerald was with him, we had no ride home and decided to walk even though the temperature was near zero. Gerald was a weakly type fellow with not one ounce of fat under his skin. We stuffed towels from the locker room down our pant legs and inside our coat sleeves. We didn't have good winter coats that would break the north wind. We should have to ask someone to take us home but everybody jumped off the bus and took off. I suggested we sleep in the locker room but Ronnie wanted to get home. They lived about two miles and I lived two and a half miles. When we got within about a half mile of Hensley's house Gerald begin to cry and said he didn't have any feeling in his legs. His legs began to buckle. Ronnie and I got on each side and tried to carry him but ended up dragging his legs. We went as hard and fast as we could, Gerald continued to cry loudly. We finally made it, they had a large family with no father. Mrs. Hensley fired up the coal stove and got Gerald thawed out. It was a God-send as I got warm enough to continue the last leg of my walk without difficulty.

 

TO CONTINUE

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Quotes worth Quoting

"Anyone can rescue his human life who seizes every opportunity of being a man by means of personal action, however unpretending, for the good of fellow men who need the help of a fellow man." Albert Schweitzer 

Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.

Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon

Torah of Economics : There is no such thing as a free lunch, and all the rest is merely explanation

Basic fallacy : it is possible to do good with others people's money

Thank God for Government's unlimited ability to waste

The major monetary metal in history is silver, not gold.” & especially not fiat paper.

Columbus did not seek a new route to the Indies in response to a majority directive.

Governments never LEARN. Only people LEARN.

Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.
I am in favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible.
 
Inflation is taxation without legislation. 

 

Paper money always returns to its intrinsic value – zero.

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong

In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities

The history of the great events of this world are scarcely more than the history of crime

To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize

When words lose their meaning, people lose their liberty.........Confucius

 

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it - Mark Twain 

 

God designed and Amateurs built the Ark,  

Engineers designed and professionals built the Titanic,  

 

The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of evil people but because ordinary people do nothing about it - Albert Einstein 

 

When I die, I'll be leaving behind the same amount of money as Bill Gates. All of it - Theodore Mantle  

 

*When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.  - Thomas Jefferson

 

There are a thousand hackling at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root -  Henry D. Thoreau  

 

When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent. Isaac Asimov 

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Ann H. Gabhart, Fiction Writer

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* The reality is, if we tell the truth, we only have to tell the truth once. If you lie, you have to keep lying forever - Wayne Dosick  

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