Tales from Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was: Don Crofton, Part I

Flour Bluff, Front Page, History, Local history, Personal History

To preserve the rich history of Flour Bluff, The Texas Shoreline News, will run historical pieces and personal accounts about the life and times of the people who have inhabited the Encinal Peninsula. Each edition will feature the stories gleaned from interviews held with people who remember what it was like to live and work in Flour Bluff in the old days.  You won’t want to miss any of these amazing stories.

Don Crofton (Photo courtesy of Donald Crofton)

     Born in 1939, Don Crofton moved to Flour Bluff from Corpus Christi in 1946 because his dad, James Albinus Crofton, wanted to live in the country.  Don’s father was a former B-26 bomber crew chief in the army air corps who had taken a job at Dow Chemical, which is what brought him to Texas from Shreveport, Louisiana.  However, it was his job as a draftsman at NAS Corpus Christi that brought led him to Flour Bluff and introduced him to J.B. Duncan, a man whose family had helped settle the Encinal Peninsula. Duncan sold James Crofton an acre of land with a house on it on a sandy road called Flour Bluff Drive.  There, he moved his wife Louise and four of his ten children. The lot where the Crofton house stood is where the small gas plant near Murphy’s gas station is located today, just at the edge of what was then the Burton Dunn Ranch.

     In those days, people didn’t waste materials.  When the base dumped its left-over wood of all kinds – many times at Graham’s dump on Flour Bluff Drive – the civilian workers and the locals salvaged the materials and built their homes.  Such was the case with the Crofton home, which was built by Duncan using quarter-inch plywood from shipping crates off the base.  This attitude of making something out of nothing still exists in the Flour Bluff culture.  People on the Encinal Peninsula understood the concept of reduce, reuse, and recycle long before it became a popular thing to say and do.  They did it out of necessity.

     “We didn’t realize we were poor,” said Crofton, the seventh of the ten kids.  “Our family took care of us and loved us.  What else could we want?”

     The house had no running water, so a shallow well was dug by hand.  “We hit water at 16 feet.  It was a reddish-brown color, and it tasted really bad,” recalls Crofton.  “My mom would ask people if they wanted some tea. To this day, I don’t drink water except out of fountains.”

Johnny Crofton stands looking at the Crofton house with the Tex-Mex railroad tracks and Flour Bluff Drive behind him.  (Photo courtesy of Don Crofton)

     Crofton recalls much about the property where he grew up.  “Our property was lower than the railroad tracks, so it flooded a lot.  We got a lot of rain back then,” said Crofton.  “We had trouble with rattlesnakes, too.  In one day we killed 26 of them, and one of them was in a mixing bowl in my mother’s kitchen!”

     When asked how he and his siblings and friends spent their days at home, Crofton said, “We played football, hunted a lot, chased javelina.  When we moved there, everything was brush except where our house, the chicken coop, and the well sat. Daddy had me, Tootsie, and George clearing the property.  It was so slow cutting that brush.”

One Thanksgiving, just after dinner when Don’s father lay down for his nap, the kids had the idea to burn the brush.  This was at a time when there was no fire department of any kind in Flour Bluff.  “We got it out and saved the cat, but George lost his shoes,” said Crofton, “Boy, was our dad mad!”

     After that, Crofton’s parents hired two old bachelors who drove the area in a Model T boom truck.  “They had two mules that they used to plow and harrow it.  We made a big pile of the roots and burned them,” said Crofton.  “These guys worked all over Flour Bluff clearing brush land.”

     “I heard tell of a place called Welcome Inn, a restaurant on the west side of Flour Bluff Drive at Graham Road, but I never saw it.  J.B. Duncan lived down by the Oso on Graham Road,” said Crofton.  “South of Graham was Tom Graham’s place.  He had a dump and a slaughter house on his property.  Far back on that property was the Hatley house where Charles Hatley grew up.”

     Bobby Kimbrell, long-time Flour Bluff resident, also recalls the Welcome Inn.  “It was owned by a fellow named De Gashe.  He was kin to the Buhiders,” said Kimbrell.  “Don is right about its location.  It sat on Graham Road and Flour Bluff Drive.”

     

The Crofton house located at 1406 Flour Bluff Drive well after Louise Crofton sold it: “Our daddy would have had a fit if he had seen our house looking like this,” said Crofton.  (Photo courtesy of Don Crofton)

 

     Crofton also remembers a house fire that took a house near his when he was about ten years old.  It was the home of Laura Dunn Burton, aunt of Greg Smith, current District 4 Councilman for Corpus Christi.  “They evidently had silver platters and pitchers and such on shelves above the windows.  The fire was so hot that it melted them.  I will never forget the melted silver running down the windows.”

     Smith said the house sat on the Burton Dunn Ranch, 52 acres near Don Crofton’s home.  “It was bought by Burton Dunn in 1919 to hold the cattle that came off of Padre Island,” said Smith.  He couldn’t recall how the house caught fire but said the long concrete porch was the only thing that remained after the fire.  “The cowboys who lived on the ranch tried to put it out but couldn’t.”

     Crofton, like so many Flour Bluff residents who lived on the peninsula in 1961, remembers what would become known as the most controversial election in Flour Bluff history.  It was the day that Flour Bluff residents voted to incorporate on the same day that the City of Corpus Christi voted to annex the area.

     “My father used to ask why we didn’t just incorporate the area from our house to Mud Bridge where there weren’t any streets, only houses. He said we didn’t really need to go into the city for anything anyway.  ‘We could call it Plum Nelly – plum outta Corpus and Nelly in Flour Bluff,’ Crofton recalled his father saying.  According to Don, the Flour Bluff sign was much farther inside the peninsula then.

     Don started school at North Beach Elementary and then went to David Hirsch Elementary before enrolling in Flour Bluff when he was in third grade.  On the first day of school in Flour Bluff, George, Johnny, Tootsie, and Don went to school on the bus.  “We used to walk to school and back every day, which was about two miles.  But, on our first day at Flour Bluff, we caught the bus.  Flour Bluff had two bus drivers then, Mr. Meeks and Don Barr,” said Crofton.  When the bus arrived at the school, George asked Don if it was the right place.  Don didn’t know so he asked the bus driver where they were.  When the bus driver told them it was grammar school, a term the boys had never heard, Don looked at George and said, “Oh, no, George, we’re in the wrong place.  Let’s go!”  That was just the start of Don’s days at Flour Bluff School where he excelled.

Charles B. Meeks (left) and Don G. Barr (right) were the “Hive Keepers” of Flour Bluff School, according to the 1947 Hornet yearbook.  (Photo from 1947 Hornet Yearbook)

     Ms. Carter was his teacher. “If you acted up, she’d grab your desk and shake it,” said Don.  “Of course, she used a ruler on our hands, too.  We never wrote in print either; everything had to be in cursive.  I remember that she had a picture of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod above the chalk board.”

Don is in the front row, third from the right.  The teacher pictured is Dorothy Arnold, though Miss Carter was his teacher in third grade.  (Photo courtesy of Don Crofton)

Second Grade page from 1946-47 Junior Hornet Yearbook, proof that the students were writing cursive well in second grade at Flour Bluff School.

     Flour Bluff School was not very big when started there, but it was a place he liked.  “We had Sticker Burr Stadium and Doty’s Beans,” Crofton said.  “We ate in a little wooden building next to the school.  Miss Doty cooked a pot of beans every day for the kids who didn’t have lunch or money for lunch.  We called them Doty’s Beans.  We also got a big spoon of peanut butter and a big spoon of black molasses with every meal.”

     Don would remain in Flour Bluff School until 1957 when he graduated second in his class behind Nora Jean Wright, the valedictorian.  Crofton received the title of salutatorian, which earned him a scholarship from the school. Jim Duncan, who came in at a very close third, received a duplicate scholarship.  Don would find himself back at the school many years later, this time on the other side of the teacher’s desk.

 

Clipping from Corpus Christi Caller Times

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Be sure to pick up the next edition of The Texas Shoreline News to read more about the days gone by in Flour Bluff.  To share these stories about Flour Bluff history with others online, visit https://texasshorelinenews.com/.

The editor welcomes all corrections or additions to the stories to assist in creating a clearer picture of the past.  Please contact the editor at Shirley@texasshorelinenews.com to submit a story about the early days of Flour Bluff.

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Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

Tales from the Little Town That Almost Was: The Life and Times of Ralph and Rachel Krause (Part 2)

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Local history, Personal History

 

     To preserve the rich history of Flour Bluff, The Texas Shoreline News, will run historical pieces and personal accounts about the life and times of the people who have inhabited the Encinal Peninsula. Each edition will feature the stories gleaned from interviews held with people who remember what it was like to live and work in Flour Bluff in the old days.  You won’t want to miss any of these amazing stories.

Ralph and Rachel Krause

     Though Ralph Krause passed away on February 23, 2011, leaving behind his wife Rachel, five grown children (Carol, Ralph, Charles, David, and Deborah), and numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren, talking to his wife Rachel is like talking to Ralph.  She knows Ralph’s story perhaps even better than he did.  Working alongside her husband for nearly 30 years, the two of them built a place that most people of old Flour Bluff still remember fondly.  Pick-a-Rib and its owners were an integral part of Flour Bluff serving coffee, pastries, and barbecue sandwiches unique to the restaurant.  But, it didn’t start that way.

     When Ralph Krause opened Pick-a-Rib in Flour Bluff in 1949, the little community, not yet part of Corpus Christi and not incorporated, was growing quickly.  It was no longer the tiny rural community of the 1890s with a few families that farmed, raised dairy cattle, and fished.  The discovery of natural gas on the Incinal Peninsula in the thirties brought many oilfield workers and their families to the Humble Camp that sat where Marina Village Mobile Home Park is today.  Then, in 1940, Naval Air Station Corpus Christi was built bringing the largest population boom the sleepy little village would experience.  That’s when Ralph showed up.  Shortly after, the new causeway opened to Padre Island, and it changed everything in Flour Bluff.

     “Before the causeway opened in 1950,” Ralph told a Flour Bluff Sun reporter, “there was just a dirt road, just sand, from the corner where Lexington Boulevard went to the Navy base.  It led to nowhere.  Nicholson’s Grocery was down there for years, and that was about as far as it went.  And then they opened up the causeway and put a toll gate there.”

     “Davis Drive was a sand road until the causeway was built in 1950,” said John Nicholson, grandson of the original owner of Nicholson’s Grocery. “Our address at the store was 338 Davis Drive and was changed to Island Drive in 1964, then to SPID in 1967 or so.”  The road to the island would change Flour Bluff drastically, and businesses had to be ready for the flood of traffic that would soon pack the two-lane road.

(Corpus Christi Caller-Times photo, ca. 1940s)

       According to Rachel, the day of the opening of the causeway (July 4, 1950), Ralph made dozens of sandwiches and stood along the road out front of his restaurant, which sat on the north side of what is now South Padre Island Drive and tried to sell them.  “He didn’t sell a single one that he could remember,” she said laughing. “No one wanted to get out of that line of traffic to get a sandwich.”  Still that didn’t stop Ralph.  He kept building and developing over the next 30 years, creating a gathering place for the tired, the hungry, the lonely, and the gregarious.  Pick-a-Rib was the café where people of all walks of life came together to talk about the news of the day, catch up on the local sports and politics, and just spend time together.

     “When we started out, we didn’t have any money, so we got a small loan and went to a marble machine operator.  He handled marble machines – that’s what they called pinball machines back then – and juke boxes and through him, we were able to get our start,” Ralph was quoted as saying.  “Marble machines paid off then.  We got a percentage of the take, and this is what helped us get our business going.  If it hadn’t been for marble machines and the jukeboxes, the cigarette machines, and the draft beer, I don’t know if we would have made it or not.”

Pick-a-Rib, ca. 1970s (Photo courtesy of Rachel Krause)

     Pick-a-Rib was the place that Congressman John Young frequented, as well as other state and local officials.   Luther Jones, before he became mayor of Corpus Christi regularly stopped in for a bite, as did Judge Bob Barnes, Justice of the Peace Johnny Roberts and Flour Bluff’s first constable, Jewell Ross.  And, it is said that Luther Jones ate there before he became the mayor of Corpus Christi.

     “His wife liked to eat lunch there, too,” recalled Rachel.  “There was even an article in Texas Monthly once that said, ‘If you want a good meal, go to Pick-a-Rib’.”

     Of course, the food was a major draw, too.  Krause started with a simple barbecue sandwich with onion, pickles, and jalapenos.  Then, they added to the menu and offered a full Mexican dinner on Wednesdays and a fish dinner on Fridays, each for the very reasonable price of $1.99 a plate.  “Those guys off the base would fill the place up for those specials,” said Rachel.

     

Ralph Krause, the beekeeper  (Photo courtesy of Rachel Krause)

      Though Ralph was quite the busy entrepreneur, he made time for his family, his community, and even his hobbies.  Perhaps longtime friend John R. Meadows said it best in a letter he wrote to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times after Ralph passed away.

     “Recently an icon of Flour Bluff and Corpus Christi passed away.  It was my privilege to have known him and to have had a close friendship with Ralph Krause.  Ralph and his wife Rachel were the longtime owners and operators of the Pick-a-Rib restaurant in Flour Bluff.

     “Ralph spent many years offering his help to the community in many ways.  He had served on several boards and committees downtown, in Flour Bluff, as well as several years on the Flour Bluff ISD board.  He was a World War II disabled Army veteran.  He raised cattle in the San Patricio area, enjoyed painting and creating things with his hands, such as driftwood figures.  He also spent many years as a beekeeper, taught by Mr. Reid, another Flour Bluff icon.

     “Although having strong beliefs in many areas, his was always the voice of reason.  I believe that this was his greatest asset to the community.  When he and I had long discussions, he could always bring us back to the point of the discussion with sage advice and a vast amount of historical facts in the area under discussion.  Ralph was a humble, gracious gentleman.”

Painting by Ralph Krause  (Photo by Shirley Thornton)

     Ralph Krause, a man of many interests and talents was seen as a candle of hope by many in his community, by his friends and family, and especially by his wife Rachel, his loving and loyal partner in work and life.  He taught his employees to be the best they could be by holding them accountable.  He set the example for others in the community about meeting the needs of the people.  Yes, Ralph Krause was a man who indeed could serve up a great meal or mouth-watering cinnamon roll, with some good advice on the side, but he will always be remembered as the man who owned Pick-a-Rib, the place where people came together to start their days and solve the problems of the day.

Ralph Krause, 2004  (Photo courtesy of Rachel Krause)

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Be sure to pick up the next edition of The Texas Shoreline News to read more about the days gone by in Flour Bluff.  To share these stories about Flour Bluff history with others online, visit https://texasshorelinenews.com/.

The editor welcomes all corrections or additions to the stories to assist in creating a clearer picture of the past.  Please contact the editor at Shirley@texasshorelinenews.com to submit a story about the early days of Flour Bluff.

Please follow and like us:

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

The Railroad Track and the Drunk

Front Page, Personal History

     It was summer.  My sister Margie, our cousin Rosie, and I were at my granny’s house in Healdton, Oklahoma.  I had promised my mother that I would be good and not give Granny any trouble.  I just hated making that promise because it was really hard to keep.  What if something good came up?  What if it was something I knew I would have to do no matter what or who I had promised?  This could be a very hard promise to keep.

     Granny had promised us that we could go to a late night preview at the theater uptown.  I was amazed that she said we could go because it didn’t start until 10:00 p.m.  We had to get all of our chores done before we could go though.  We were all excited about it, and I just knew that she was going to change her mind.  Margie and Rosie had been saying all day that I was too little, and I should not get to go.  Margie was twelve, and Rosie was eleven.  Big deal!

     I knew they each had a boyfriend.  That was really why they didn’t want me to go because they weren’t allowed to have boyfriends at their ages.  I knew who they were, too, the Gray brothers, Richard and Robert.  Yuck!  They were both tall and very skinny, and they had pimples all over their faces.  It made me sick to look at them.  They knew I would tell Granny if they kissed their boyfriends.  Yep, I sure would do whatever it took to get them in trouble.

     We had finished all our work, and Granny fixed cornbread and buttermilk for supper.  It was really good.  We had this a lot in the summer. Granny said it was too hot to cook anything else, and the buttermilk was good and cold.  I wished we could have had it at home more often. We lived in Oklahoma City, and I never saw anyone eat cornbread and buttermilk except my daddy and me.  Margie and Rosie didn’t like it too much, but then hey didn’t like much of anything.

     After supper, Granny said we had to wash up before we could go anywhere.  We had to heat water on the kitchen stove for baths.  Granny poured boiling water in a big, round tub; then she put cold water in to cool it off a little.  We all bathed in the same water.  It was too much work to boil more water and waste more gas for each person.  And guess what?  We went by age, so prissy pants Margie got to be first.  Rosie went next, and you can guess who had to go last.  That would be me.  Granny used Ivory Soap, and it smelled good.  I wish I was older and got to be first sometime.

     We were finally ready to go.  Granny was going to walk us to town, but we said she didn’t have to.  She walked us to town anyway, all the way up the tracks and right to the front of the theater.  It didn’t matter to me, but Margie and Rosie were pretty upset because their boyfriends saw us.  It was great for me!  A couple of dozen kids were there and waiting in line.  Granny left, and we got in line.

     It was quite a while before we finally got into the theater.  We made it though, and we stopped at the concession stand to get cokes and popcorn.  In those days, there were short cokes and tall cokes.  Short was a nickel and tall was a dime.  Candy bars were a nickel.  Popcorn was a dime.  You could go to the movies with a dollar, pay a dime to get in, and you still had ninety cents to eat and get sick on.

     We found a seat and waited for the movie to start.  Every kid in town was there, probably a hundred kids.  It got loud with all the talking, screaming, and fighting.  It was great!  The movie finally began.  It was a western, and Gene Autry was there, not the real Gene Autry, but a kid who thought he was Gene Autry.  I guess he was what we call mentally challenged these days.  He was really a nice kid unless someone called him by his real name instead of Gene Autry.  Then he would get real mad, and his face would get bright red.  When that happened, it was time to make your exit!

     We are just sitting there watching the movie when I heard this familiar voice.  It was Granny. She was coming down the aisle calling out our names, and the next thing I knew she was at the end of our row of seats.  She was saying it was time to go.  Of course, all the other kids were laughing.  What else could we do?  We got up and followed her out of the theater.

     When we got outside, I asked, “Why do we have to go?  The movie’s not over.”

     She said, “It’s time for you to go.”

     I asked, “But what did we do?”

     She said, “Who ever heard of a movie lasting this long?”

    I said, “But, Granny, they are an hour and a half long, and it was not over.  We missed the end.”         Margie and Rosie were not saying anything.  I guess they didn’t want to get smacked.  I guess I did because she smacked me good on my arm.

     I decided to shut up; she wouldn’t change her mind, and it was too late by then.  Boy, was I mad!  I was so mad I was about to blow up!  Why did she do that?  What was wrong with her?  I promised myself I would never go back to her house in the summer.  But, I did.

     Soon we were on the tracks walking home.  Granny had the flashlight on so we could see.  I saw something on the track ahead of us, but I couldn’t make out what it was.  We got closer, and I could see it was a man.  He was asleep on the tracks.

     I said to Granny, “We better wake him up, or he might get run over by a train.”

     Granny said, “He is drunk.  If he gets run over, he will deserve it.”

     I was stunned to hear her say that.  My own daddy was a drinker, and this could happen to him.  I tried to tell her that we should help him, but she wouldn’t listen.  We just kept walking as she pulled me along by the hand.

     I begged, “Please, Granny, let’s go back and help him.”

     She said nothing.  She just kept walking.  Margie and Rosie didn’t say anything either.  They knew it would do no good.  Granny could be so mean sometimes.

     When we got home, we washed our faces and hands because we weren’t allowed in Granny’s bed with dirty faces and hands.  We had to wash our feet, too, in a little bucket in the kitchen.  We all crawled into Granny’s bed and began whispering about the man on the tracks.

     Granny said, “Be quiet and go to sleep.”

     I waited for a long time until I thought Granny was asleep.  Then, I woke up Margie and Rosie.       “I am going to sneak out the back door and go pull the man off the tracks,” I whispered.

     They said, “No, you will get in real trouble with Granny if you do.”

     I begged them to go with me, and I knew I could not move him alone.  Besides, I was a little bit scared he would wake up.

     They finally agreed, and we got out of bed one at a time, trying to be real quiet so Granny would not hear us.  Once we were out of the front gate, we took off running as fast as we could.  We ran as fast as we could to the end of the road and up the hill to the tracks.  We slowed down as we got close to the man because I think we got scared he would wake up.  He was still asleep and snoring.  We all three got behind him and gave him a big push.  He was not very heavy, so it was easy to push him off the tracks and down the hill to the ditch.  He sort of  rolled down the hill without our help.

     We just stood there looking down at him when Margie said, “We better get home before Granny knows we are gone.”

     We started running back down the tracks and down the hill when we came to the front gate.  Then, we tiptoed around the house and to the back porch, went in the back screen door, and got into bed.  We were so tired we didn’t even talk about it.  We just fell asleep.

     We talked about it the next day, and we ran up there to find the man gone.  I felt good about what we did, and I think Margie and Rosie did, too.  I asked Granny if she thought the man got run over by the train.

     “No, and I wouldn’t worry about him anyway.  He’s just an old drunk.”

     I thought that was a mean thing to say.  We never talked about it again.  So there you have it.  Another day in the life of little Ruthie.

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Janice Sautter is a great great grandmother who spends her time writing, painting, drawing, and playing video games. She lives with her husband Jim and their two dogs, Daisy and Lilly. She writes under the name of J. R. Carter.

Tales from Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was: Life and Times of Butch Roper, Part I

Flour Bluff, Front Page, History, Local history, Personal History

The Life and Times of James “Butch” Roper:  Part I

To preserve the rich history of Flour Bluff, The Paper Trail News, will run historical pieces and personal accounts about the life and times of the people who have inhabited the Encinal Peninsula. Each edition will feature the stories gleaned from interviews held with people who remember what it was like to live and work in Flour Bluff in the old days.  You won’t want to miss any of these amazing stories.  These stories can be found in print in The Texas Shoreline News.

 

     James “Butch” Roper, born October 16, 1940, is a direct descendent of George Hugo Ritter, a German immigrant who settled Flour Bluff at the start of the Ropes Boom in 1890.  Ritter’s son, Erich George, born in 1893, married Myrtle Mae Watson, whose family was one of the first families in Flour Bluff, as well.  They had three children, one of whom was Alice Ritter, Butch’s mother. Alice married James “Mickey” Roper and had three children:  Deanna, Butch, and Cheryl.  Butch spent his boyhood days helping his grandfather, Erich George, with the chickens, the crops, and the cattle while his father worked for Humble Oil at the refinery on Graham Road.  Butch Roper thoroughly enjoys entertaining people with his memories of what it was like growing up in Flour Bluff.

The Roper children, ca. 1940s (Photo from Butch Roper collection)

     Butch’s earliest memory is of a ghost in his grandparents’ house that sat on Red Lake just south of Graham Road and west of Laguna Shores Road.

     “I was coming out of the field with my grandfather.  I fell out of the truck and broke my collarbone,” recalls Roper.  “Back then, they strapped you in a harness for a broken collarbone.  They put me in the upstairs room of that old two-story house.  I was scared to death!  The story was that there was a ghost in that house and that she walked the stairs at night.  There I was, a little kid strapped in that harness in a big old spooky house,” said Roper.

     “To make it even scarier, it was when they used to make everybody in Flour Bluff turn all their lights out at night so the German submarines wouldn’t see where we were,” he said.  “Every time those old stairs would creak, I’d think that ghost was coming to get me!” Roper laughed.

Flour Bluff Sun photo (1980s edition)

     “By the time I came along, the house was old and run down.  Originally, it was a really nice house, painted and everything.  It was built by a lady named Mrs. Shade, and she sold it to my grandfather.  Before that, they lived out where the Navy base is.  It was called the Grass Place,” said Roper.  “It had giant sand dunes and lots of grass.  When the Navy came in, they ran all those people out of there.  They said they were squatters and that they didn’t own the land they had been working all those years.”

     According to an October 22, 1941, Caller-Times article, Roper’s memory is correct.  The whole eviction process was a complicated matter, that sent the whole case to Judge James Allred’s court multiple times to decide who actually owned property and who didn’t.  The article states, “The sum of $229,402 remains on deposit in the registry of Federal Court here awaiting payment to land owners at Flour Bluff who were evicted when the government took over 2,050 acres in July 1940, for construction of the Naval Air Station.”

     Roper told of how most people in Flour Bluff at that time either lived at the Grass Place or far down Laguna Shores where the Vannoy family lived.  “Everything else was mostly brush except where people had cleared to build their houses,” said Roper.  “The Ritters owned everything from Laguna Shores to Waldron Road and from Graham to Don Patricio, which included Red Lake.  That lake was so salty that ducks never came to it.”  This includes the property where the “little refinery” sits on Graham Road.

      “They had a long-term lease with Humble Oil.  Since then, the lease has changed hands two or three times,” said Roper.

     “My dad worked at that refinery for 32 years.  First, we lived in the two-story Ritter home; then we moved over to the house that sat next to this one,” said Roper pointing over his shoulder.  “The pilings and the well are still there.  The house came from Sandia, where we had a dairy farm.  They moved it all the way out here and put it on Waldron Road.  At that time, Waldron was just a dirt trail until the Navy came in and improved the road and named it Waldron.”

     “My great grandfather had the contract to build roads in Flour Bluff.  They built them out of clay and oyster shell,” Butch recalls.  “Flour Bluff Drive was not a main road.  It was the road where we’d take our girlfriends to go parking because nobody else drove it.  The Roschers lived off that road back where the windmill still stands on Roscher Road and Caribbean.  They owned all that property.  I used to go with my grandfather to get-togethers at the Roscher place.  They were German, and he was German, so they visited all the time, but I don’t remember them speaking German to each other.”

     “My grandfather was pretty smart man,” said Roper as he explained how his grandfather was able to grow lots of vegetables in the poor Flour Bluff soil.  “He raised chickens to sell.  When he built the chicken pens, he made the floors out of wire.  When the chickens did their business, it would fall through the wire.  Then, we’d shovel up the droppings, put it in a little wagon, and take it out to the field to fertilize the crops.  It must have worked because he was a successful truck farmer.”

     Roper’s grandfather also ran cattle on the Encinal Peninsula.  “He leased land from people all over Flour Bluff for his cattle, the way Calvin Self does today,” Roper said.  “We’d take them to auction in Robstown to sell them.”

     Roper recalled how much he enjoyed being part of the Humble Camp when his dad worked at the refinery.  “My family spent a lot of time with the Humble Camp people.  It was kind of like a big family.  They had barbecues and square dances on the weekends.  The adults played Canasta or domino games like 42 and 84.  That was a grown-up thing.  The kids just played and got into a little mischief when the parents weren’t watching,” Roper said with a smile.

 

Humble Camp men (Photo courtesy of Butch Roper)

     “When we lived at Humble Camp down by the South Gate of NAS, we’d go to Hawley’s Drug Store.  It sat right outside the gate,” said Roper.  “When I was older, in the 1960s, a plane crashed right next to his place.  I was working part time for Moore Service on the base then fueling planes, and I had just filled that plane up.  It went up and straight back down, killing everybody in the plane when it burned up.”

Caller-Times photo, South Gate (ca. 1950s)

      Butch started school at Flour Bluff when he was seven.  “I went to school at the old school on Waldron and Purdue.  It was just a long hall with a gym,” recalls Butch.  “We started sports in that old gym.  Back then it was just reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Mr. Wranosky was the superintendent.  He was a task master.  He had the look about him that you didn’t want to mess with him,” he remembers.

Flour Bluff Superintendent Ernest J. Wranosky (FBHS Yearbook Photo)

     “Every year he went hunting in Colorado, and that’s when we started going to Ouray for our senior trip.  That was a big deal for a little flat-lander kid,” said Butch with a grin.  “I was friends with his son, Bud.  We played baseball together on the first baseball team Flour Bluff ever had. My best friend, Eddie Farrias, whose dad Lee worked the causeway toll booth, was our coach.   Jim Coffman and his mom Bernie Arnold, who owned A & H Sporting Goods sponsored our team.  I remember rolling into the little surrounding towns in their company truck.  On the side it said, ‘Another load of fresh bait.’  That got us a few laughs,” Butch said.  “If we played in Flour Bluff, we played on the field that was on Waldron where Whataburger sits now.”

Photo of first baseball team (Bernie Arnold collection)

     Butch remembers a great deal about school, especially sports.  He played all the sports, but really enjoyed basketball.  “We played basketball all the time.  Sometimes we played in the Humble Camp.  Sometimes we’d sneak into the gym at school.  Mr. Wranosky finally gave us a key because he said he was tired of us breaking into the gym,” Butch said.  “That’s how we got so good.  We were short, so we had to be good shooters.”

     According to a Caller-Times article when Butch was in high school, he averaged 15 to 16 points a game.  Coach Bud Gray was three inches taller than his tallest player.  Butch and his best friend Eddie were regular starters.  Reporter Jim McKone, author of the article, “Flour Bluff ‘Shorties’ Beat 14 of 19 Taller Foes,” wrote: “Short but fast, the Flour Bluff Hornets have several dangerous scorers.  They average three or four inches below six feet.  But 5-10 Butch Roper and 5-4 Eddie Farrias are accomplished shooters.”  All those times sneaking into the Flour Bluff gym evidently paid off.

     “There wasn’t much to do in Flour Bluff for a kid other than play sports.  We had a wreck hall in the Humble Camp where we had gatherings with our families.  Sometimes we went to the show on the base.  It was a dime to get in.  We hunted and fished, too,” Butch said.

     “We duck hunted all the time.  Granny would fix duck.  I didn’t like duck, but she had a way of cooking it to make it taste better,” said Butch.  “When we went duck hunting, we’d take our row boat and put in at the Humble docks.  Then, we’d row out into the water and build a blind out of Sweet Bay bush trees right on the boat, and we’d hunt out of the boat.  It worked great!”

     “I fished all the time with a fishing pole and usually fished with my grandfather.  We spent lots of time together – and caught lots of fish,” Butch said proudly.

Butch’s catch  (Photo from Butch Roper collection)

Be sure to pick up the next edition of The Texas Shoreline News to read Part II of Butch Roper’s story.  To share his story with others online, visit https://texasshorelinenews.com/.

The editor welcomes all corrections or additions to the stories to assist in creating a clearer picture of the past.  Please contact the editor at Shirley@texasshorelinenews.com to submit a story about the early days of Flour Bluff.

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Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

Cutting Jeanie Lou’s Hair

Human Interest, Personal History

     Jeanie Lou lived down the street from us. She and my older sister Margie were about the same age.  We played together when her mother would let her.  I don’t know where her daddy was.  I never did see him at her house, and I never did ask her.  I was afraid to ask because I thought he might be dead, and I didn’t want to make her feel bad if he was dead.

     I asked my mother a couple of times if she knew where he was, but she just told me to mind my own business.  I tried to mind my own business, but that was a hard thing to do. There were lots things going on in the neighborhood, and I wanted to keep up with the latest news.

     “Ruthie, you are a very nosy little girl,” Mother said.

     “No, I’m not nosy.  I just want to know.”

     “That’s the same thing, Ruthie.”

     “Well, sometimes you listen when I am telling stories about the neighborhood.”

     “I do not. Only if it’s about someone I know.”

     “Well, you know everyone on the block, Mother.”

     “Don’t get smart with me, young lady.”

     “Yes, ma’am.  I will try to be nice. But who will tell you if anything good happens?”

     “Oh, my gosh, Ruthie!  You are just impossible sometimes.”

     I could see she was getting put out with me, so I thought maybe I better let it go at that.  I knew she would listen if I found out something good. Daddy would not listen though.

     “Ruthie, if you don’t have something good to say about people, then don’t say anything,” he said to me when I was spreading a little gossip.  Then, he would get up and go outside.  He just wouldn’t listen if it was gossip. I don’t think I ever heard my daddy say bad things about anyone.  He just wouldn’t do it. That was a rule he lived by. He was an honorable man. His word was his bond.

     I decided that morning when I got up that after school I would try to go down to Jeanie Lou’s house to play.  When we were eating our oatmeal, I mentioned it to Mother.

     “Can I go play with Jeanie Lou after school?”

     “Why do you want to go down there?” Mother asked.

     “Just to play,” I said.

     “I guess you can for a little while. And you better be good.”

     “Why do you always tell me that? I’ll be good.”

     “I know you, Ruthie.  That’s why I always tell you that.”

     “Okay, I guess I have to always promise to be good.”

     “Just don’t do anything to get you a spanking.”

     I got ready to go to school and started walking.  Margie was with me. It was a little bit chilly, but not really cold. We saw Jeanie Lou on the way to school, and I told her that I could play after school.

     “Will it be all right with your mother if I come over to play?’

     “Yeah. I already asked her, and she said it was all right.  She said don’t mess the house up though.”

     “We won’t mess the house up.”

     “Can I go, too?”  Margie asked.

     “No, you can’t.  Mother said just me.”

     It was a long day in school, as usual.  I wondered if I would ever like school. I really didn’t think I would. If I hadn’t been locked up there on that day, I could have found a lot better things to do.  I knew that for sure.  They said I had to go to school, and I had to do what they said.  But, someday I would be old enough to tell myself what to do.  That sure did seem like a long way off.

     The day was finally over. The last bell rang, and I tried to see how fast I could get out of that place.  I didn’t run though because I could get in trouble for running in school.  You are not allowed to do anything fun in school. You can only do boring things in school.

     I ran straight home and changed clothes. I was not allowed to play in my school clothes.  As soon as I was dressed, I left to go to Jeanie Lou’s house.  When I got there, I knocked on the door and Jeanie Lou let me in.

     “What do you want to do?” I asked her.

     “Let’s color for a while.”

     “That’s fine. I like to color. What books do you have?”

     “I’ll get them out of my room.”

     She went to her room and got the color books.  I couldn’t believe she had her own room. Boy, that would be nice!  I shared a room with Margie and Junior.  She came back with the books, and we sat down on the floor to color.  We did that for about twenty minutes until we got bored.

     “What do you want to do now?” she asked.

     “I don’t know. We could just talk I guess.”

     “That’s a good idea. What do you want to talk about?”

     “Do you like school?” I asked.

     “It’s all right, I guess.  I’m not crazy about it,” she said.

     “I hate school.  There is nothing fun to do there.”

     “I know. I want to be a beauty operator when I am old enough,” Jeanie Lou said.

     “What exactly do they do?”  I asked.

     “You know; they cut ladies’ hair, and they give permanents.”

     Jeanie Lou had real pretty hair.  It was real long and wavy. It looked like shiny silk. I had wished a lot of times that my hair looked like hers.  She told me one time that she brushed it one hundred times every night. That seemed like a lot of wasted time to me.

     “You want to play beauty shop?” she asked.

     “Sure. That sounds like fun,” I said.

     “Let’s go into my room.”

     “Okay.  Let’s go!”  I really wanted to see her room.

     We went into her room, and it was real pretty.  She had a dresser all her own with a mirror on it.  I have to say I was a little bit jealous. I wished I had a room like hers.

     “I will be first.  You can do my hair, and then I will do yours,” she said.

     “That sounds good to me. How do you want your hair done, ma’am?”  I asked.

     “I’m not sure yet.  I think I would like a haircut and a permanent,” she said.

     “You really want a haircut?”  I asked.

     “I really do.  I would like to try short hair.  You cut mine, and then I will cut yours,” she said matter-of-factly.

     “You really mean it?  You want me to cut your hair?”  I asked again, not believing she meant it.

     She opened the dresser drawer and pulled out a pair of scissors.  I was thinking I could get in real trouble for cutting her hair and for letting her cut mine.  This could lead to a spanking. Then I thought, “Oh, well, if she really wants it cut, then let’s get started!”

     “How do you want it cut?”  I asked.

     She took one long braid in her hand, held her fingers like scissors, and showed me where to cut it.  She wanted it cut about to her shoulders.  So, I just did what she told me to do.  I snipped it right off. She looked at it and began to cry.

     “I don’t like it like this!” she said.

     “I don’t think we can put it back on,” I told her.

     Then all of a sudden, I heard someone say, “What are you doing?”

     It was her mother.  She looked at me like she was really mad at me.

     “I just did what Jeanie Lou told me to do. She wanted her hair cut.”

     “No, I didn’t, Mother.  She just cut it,” Jeanie Lou lied.

     “She told me to.  She showed me how to cut it,” I said.

     “You get out of this house right now.  I will be coming to see your mother.”

     I was scared by then, so I ran out the door and went home.  I knew I was going to be in trouble over that little incident.  I just knew it. Why did Jeanie Lou lie to her mother?  She knew she told me to cut her hair. She didn’t want to get in trouble; that’s why.

     I ran in the front door.  I found Mother and Daddy in the kitchen cooking supper. There was nothing else to do, so I just blurted the whole story out.  I watched my mother’s mouth fall open.  My daddy just smiled like it was not a big deal.

     “Ruthie, I told you to be nice and not get in trouble,” Mother said.

     “She asked me to cut it, Mother.  I promise she did.”

     “Why would she do that?”

     “Because we were playing beauty shop.”

     “What did she say to you?”

     “She showed me on her braid where to cut her hair;  then she gave me the scissors. And I cut it.”

     Daddy just broke out laughing.  Mother shot him a look that he better shut up. So he did, but he put his head down and was smiling.

     “Her mother is coming to our house to talk to you.”

     “That is just what I needed tonight, Ruthie.”

     Just then, someone knocked on the front door.  I knew who it was. Mother went to the door and opened it. Jeanie Lou was with her.

     “I want you to look at what your child did to my daughter’s hair!”

     “Ruthie said she told her to cut her hair.”

     “She is a little liar. She just took the scissors and cut it.”

     “Don’t you dare call my child a liar. When Ruthie does something wrong, she tells the truth. She said Jeanie Lou told her to cut her hair.”

     “I told the truth, Mother. I would have taken the spanking if I did something wrong. But she told me to,” I said.

     “I know you told the truth,” Mother said to me.  Then turning to Jeanie Lou’s mother, she said,  “I think you need to take your daughter home and try to fix her hair.”

     Mother slammed the door in her face and went back to the kitchen.  Daddy was still almost laughing, but he knew better.  I followed her back to the kitchen.  I thought that the time had come for me to get it.  I sat down at the table and waited for Mother to say something.  I just wanted to know if I was going to get a spanking or not.  If I was, then I wanted to get it over with.

    “Am I gonna get a spanking, Mother?”

    “Ruthie, I know you knew better than to cut her hair.”

     “I wasn’t really gonna cut it, but she told me to. I asked her twice before I cut the braid off.  We were just playing, Mother.  I’m not lying.”

     “I know you are not lying. I can tell when you lie. Plus, you came home and told us before she got here. You have always been good about admitting it if you did something bad.”

     “I’ll take the spanking, Mother, but I just did what she told me to do.”

     “You’re not going to get a spanking, but no movie for you this Saturday.’

     “I would rather take the spanking. I’ll miss this week’s episode of the Lone Ranger.”

     “I know all that, and that is why you don’t get to go to the movie this Saturday.”

     Daddy looked at me as if he wanted to help me, but I guess he knew she was right.  I missed the movie on Saturday, but Margie told me what happened.  I don’t think I ever played with Jeanie Lou again. I saw her at school, and her hair was cut short – both sides.  I think they moved not long after that happened. Daddy said I ran them out of town. Then he laughed. I was sorry that I cut her hair, but if you don’t really want me to do something, then you better tell me.  She told me to cut, so I cut.  And that was another fine mess in the life of little Ruthie.

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Janice Sautter is a great great grandmother who spends her time writing, painting, drawing, and playing video games. She lives with her husband Jim and their two dogs, Daisy and Lilly. She writes under the name of J. R. Carter.

Tales from Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was: Lacy Smith, Part I

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Human Interest, Personal History

 

 

Lacy Smith, 2017

In a little shack at the end of a cotton field outside of Weslaco, Texas, on March 19, 1932, Lacy Smith was born to Rady Elizabeth and Ruppert Allen Smith with the help of a midwife.  Soon after, Lacy’s family moved to Loyola Beach near Riviera, Texas.  There he started his career as a commercial fisherman.  Evenwhen the Texas State Legislature banned commercial fishermen from catching redfish in 1981, he found a way to continue in the business until 2009 when he suffered a stroke.

Lacy was never afraid of the water because he was raised on it.  “I used to carry the bait bucket while my mother and father seined for bait.  I’d go out in the boat with my mother.  She’d row out into the bay, and I’d go with her and catch fish to sell.  I was two years old then,” he recalls.

“Nothing about it scared me.  I grew up on the water,” he said, saying that he “learned to swim in Baffin Bay when the water was so salty you couldn’t stay under.”  Lacy remembered what should have been a scary moment in his life but wasn’t.  “One time I fell off my shrimp boat in the Gulf.  I was by myself, and I got back on board.  Most of the time I worked by myself.  You couldn’t get anybody to help you.  I had a policy; if I couldn’t do it myself, I didn’t even start it,” said Lacy, a philosophy that guided him through life and made a successful commercial fisherman out of him.

In a 1988 interview conducted by Nathan Wilkey, Lacy described himself as a “gypsy, moving up and down the Texas coast to follow his livelihood, commercial fishing, as a child and as a father of four.”  As a child Lacy attempted school in three places:  Port Isabel, Loyola Beach, and Flour Bluff.  When he arrived in Flour Bluff ready to start the fourth grade, his teacher saw that he was far ahead of the other students and moved him to fifth grade.  Lacy remained in Flour Bluff Schools until the first day of his sophomore year when Coach Meixner asked him if he really wanted to be there.  When Lacy said, “Not really,” the coach suggested he go on home and focus on his fishing, which he did.

“I sustained my family as a commercial fisherman,” said Lacy.

According to his wife, Lilia, he made a “very good living” as a commercial fisherman.

 

 

 

Lacy Smith and Ricky Allen caught this shark at the mouth of the Bernard River near Freeport, Texas, in the early 1980s.  The fins were sold to Japanese markets in California and the body was sold to other markets.  The fishermen were trying to overcome the ban on redfish by creating new markets for their catch, according to Smith.

 

 

 

Lacy, like many people in those days, worked hard to survive.  In the Wilkey interview, he tells of how his family acquired the necessities of life.  “Lacy spoke of his early childhood days when the family would go to town by wagon.  They would tie up the horses on the outskirts of town, a meeting place for the families who lived outside of town, and walk into town to buy supplies.”

When Lacy moved to Flour Bluff with his mother and stepfather, Lester “Wild Bill” Wyman, he lived along Laguna Shores in a one-room house that sat between Knickerbocker and what was then Davis Drive (South Padre Island Drive).  “They built a bunkhouse for the boys to sleep out back.  Later they built lean-tos until it was four or five rooms.  They built them one at a time.  It would start as a porch; then, we’d turn it into a room,” said Lacy.

“People in Flour Bluff collected rain water in cisterns, usually off their roofs when it would rain.  It rained a lot back then.  Some people got their water from wells they dug by hand.  My mother never had running water while she was alive.  She sometimes hauled water in barrels from the school house,” Lacy said.

Lacy’s mother continued to fish and shrimp, but Lacy does not remember eating much of her catch.  “She used to shrimp for Red Dot Bait Stand and sell shrimp for a penny a piece.  She’d go over there at night and dip up shrimp with a dip net and sell them to Ace Kimbrell.  We didn’t eat a lot of fish and shrimp.  Our diet was mostly potatoes and beans.  We didn’t have meat unless we killed something.  We had no means of refrigeration.  We killed ducks, geese, rabbits, whatever we could find,” he said.

When asked if they hunted deer, Lacy said, “I don’t remember any deer in Flour Bluff when I was a kid.  The pioneer families who lived here had hunted them out.”

Lacy spoke with great respect about his parents.  “Mom never forsook us or left us or abandoned us.  She always took care of us and was the best at taking care of money.  Everybody back in that day did.  My daddy kept a ledger.  He knew how much he made each day and how much he spent.  He could go back thirty years and tell you what he’d done that day.”

Lacy’s stepfather, Wild Bill Wyman, was a machinist from Detroit.  “People called him Wild Bill because he showed up in a boat that had that name painted on it.  All of us kids used the name Wyman when we attended Flour Bluff Schools.”

“I left home at 14 years old.  Sidney Herndon down at the L-Heads put out big boats on percentages.  I got a 40-foot boat by myself.  It was named The Lee.  Trout was 25 cents a pound.  I had 285 pounds the first time I went out.  I caught them on rods and reels in the Bird Island area,” said Lacy.  ““I had a 14-foot skiff with a 7 ½ hp outboard motor and a rod and reel at the start.  Later, I ran lines, used gill nets, line seines, dynamite.  I fished every way there was to fish.”

NOTE:  This article was first published in The Texas Shoreline News, a local print paper that serves the Flour Bluff, Padre Island, and South Side areas of Corpus Christi.

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Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

Christmas with No Gifts

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Personal History

We hope you enjoy this Christmas story about a family who discovers the spirit of giving even though they are too poor to buy gifts for each other.  This is another true story from the life of Janice Sautter (J. R. Carter) who grew up in Oklahoma and has lived in Flour Bluff since 1968.

Christmas card, ca. 1940

     We never did have a really big Christmas like some people do, but what we had was enough. My daddy worked in construction, and when the weather was bad, the money was just not there.  And in Oklahoma the weather could get real nasty in the winter. My mother worked, too, but her paycheck would only go so far.  Women did not earn very much in those days.

     All of us kids knew that when the weather was bad, we just didn’t have money for extra things.  We were used to it, so we were never upset about it.  That was just the way life was.  I know our folks felt bad about it, but we kids were fine with it.  We just tried to improvise.

     Daddy had bought a small tree at the feed store a few days before and had it in a bucket of water to keep it fresh.  We started looking for things to make our own gifts, and we certainly came up with some pretty good ideas at times.  Mother had already told us that there would be no gifts this year, so we were already getting prepared to get creative.  The most important was a gift for our parents.  That is what we always started with.

     “What are we going to come up with this year, Margie?”

     “I don’t know. I thought you would have some ideas.’

     “Well, we don’t have much to work with.”

     “Let’s look around the house and see what we can find first,” Margie said.

     Margie was very creative.  She could usually come up with something. She suggested that we look outside for plants that die in the winter.  We could still find some that looked pretty and put them in a vase for the table.

     “That would be called a fall arrangement,” Margie told me.

     Of course I had to be the one to go outside to look. Margie got earaches, so she had to stay in when the weather was bad.  I put on my coat and all the other stuff I had to wear out in the snow so I wouldn’t freeze, and out I went.  Daddy was home, and he warned me not to stay out too long.  It was really cold, and the wind was blowing really hard.  I went across the road to a vacant lot and started looking for something that would look good in a vase. I had a paper bag and some scissors that Margie told me to take.  The snow was very light, so I could see things pretty well.  I found quite a few weeds that looked somewhat pretty, and I stuck them in the bag.  Believe it or not, some weeds are pretty even though they are dead and dried up.  I found what I thought would be enough and ran back to the house. I was really getting cold. I went in the house, and I told Margie I had a bag full.

     “Let me look at what you got,” she said.

    “Well, it better be good enough because I’m too cold to go back out,” I told her.

    “You’re not going back out, Ruthie.  It’s too cold,” Daddy said.

     “Good, ‘cause I don’t want to.”

     Margie was looking at all the stuff I brought back.  Some she put in one pile; some she threw in the trash.

     “What’s wrong with that stuff?”  I asked.

     “It’s just not right, Ruthie.”  Margie kept picking over my finds.

     “I got real cold looking for that,” I reminded her.

     “It just won’t work,” she said.

     “Just won’t work?”  I thought.  “Why not?  It all looks like weeds.”

     She took what she was going to keep and laid them on the kitchen table.  I noticed she had found some pretty ribbon that was Mother’s. She also had some of that paper ribbon that she could make curls out of with scissors.  She had used some of that silk fabric left over from our capes to decorate the vase. Mother had a bag with leftover sewing things that came in very handy.  She had even found some of the gold braid that Mother used on the capes.

     I don’t have any idea how Margie did it, but in an hour or so, I went back into the kitchen and found she had made the most beautiful thing I ever saw for Mother.

     “How did you do that, Margie?”

     “I don’t know. I just started working on it, and this is what I ended up with,” she said, putting the final touches on the ribbon.

     “Mother will love it.  We have to find a place to hide it,” I said.

     “I have a place in the closet to hide it,” Margie replied.

     “I wish I could make things like you do,” I said.

     “You can, Ruthie.  Just picture it in your mind and put it together.”

     “I’ll never be able to do what you can do. You are like Mother. You can make anything, and it always looks so pretty.”

     “Now what about Daddy?”  I whispered, so he couldn’t hear me.

     “I found this box that we can decorate.  We will make him a tobacco box,” Margie said.

     “What is that?”  I asked.

     “Well, sometimes he rolls his own cigarettes; he could use a box to keep the tobacco in so it will stay fresh.”

     “Where do you get all these ideas, Margie?”

     “They are just in my head, Ruthie.  And when I need them, they just come out.”

     “I can’t do that. The ideas I get in my head always seem to get me a spanking.”

     “Yes, you can.  I will show you how.  First, stop thinking about the things that get you in trouble.”

     She got all the things that she had found in the house and put them on the table.  She had a cigar box, a button, and a piece of ribbon.  The best item was the red, plaid fabric; it looked like Christmas!

     “I can’t do this, Margie.  You do it, and I’ll just watch.”

     “Are you sure?”

     “Yeah, I am sure.  I will mix up the flour and water for the paste.”

     I watched her and was amazed at what she could do.  She covered the box with the fabric first. Then she trimmed it around the edges with the gold braid. She punched a hole in the front of the box and pushed the shaft of a gold button through and tied it on the inside with string. Then she glued a little loop to the top of the box; that was to slip over the button to keep the box shut.  I just sat there and watched her work her magic. She never changed.  All of her life she made beautiful things.  She was so talented.

     “I think it is done,” she said.

     “It is so pretty. Daddy will love it!”  I squealed.

     “I hope so,” she said, turning the box to see it from all sides.

     We took it to the closet and hid it with Mother’s gift.  Margie and I had made Christmas cards for Mother and Daddy and Junior, too.  Thanks to Margie, it was all finished in one day and just a couple of days before Christmas.

     It was Christmas Eve, and Mother had promised we could put up the tree after supper. We knew we would have fun stringing popcorn and making paper chains out of newspaper for the tree. Then, on Christmas day, we would have a good dinner.

     She came home from work in a taxi that day because it was so cold.  Daddy had already started supper. It smelled good in the house. My daddy was a good cook, too, just like Mother.  He made the best fried potatoes with onions. Margie and I had set the table, so we were about ready to eat.  Mother had to change clothes of course.  She never wore her good clothes around the house, and we were not allowed to do that either.  We had to change clothes as soon as we got home from school.  I had a couple of spankings for breaking that rule.

     We finished our supper and washed the dishes.  Then, we were ready to trim the tree. We had been waiting all day for that moment.  Mother popped the popcorn and got the needles and thread for all of us to string it for the tree. We also had to cut the strips of paper to make the chains. Junior was doing that. We had one string of bulbs for the tree and an angel that Mother had made a long time ago. She got out a white sheet for the tree skirt.

1940s Christmas card

     I poked my finger with that needle a bunch of times. I even bled a couple of times. I think we all did that a few times. Mother made paste out of flour and water to make the chains. It was fun making the chains, mainly because there was no needle to poke my finger.  When we had finished making all the popcorn strings and the paper chains, we strung them around the tree.  We had the one string of lights and some icicles left from the year before.  When we had it all finished, it looked so pretty.

     “We did a good job on that tree,” Mother said.

     “I think it is really pretty,” I said.

     “It is beautiful,” Margie agreed.

     It was getting late, and we were all tired.  Mother said it was time for bed for all of us. So, we got into our pajamas and went to bed.  As soon as we were in bed, I started to wonder how we would get our parents’ gifts under the tree.

     “Margie, how do we get the gifts under the tree?”

     “We have to wait until we think they are asleep,” she said.

     “But what if we go to sleep before they do?”

     “I won’t. Don’t worry about it,” she promised.

     “I’ll try to stay awake.”

     I tried hard to stay awake, but I got so sleepy.  When I woke up, it was morning.  Margie was still asleep. I woke her up to ask her if she put their gifts under the tree.

     “Did you stay awake? Did you get them under the tree?”

     “Yes, I did, Ruthie.  Go back to sleep.”

     “No.  I am getting up. I want to see what they think about their gifts.”

     “Okay.  Let’s get up.”

     Junior was still asleep, but he wouldn’t get up.  Margie and I got up and went into the living room.  Mother and Daddy were in the kitchen drinking coffee and talking.  We went into the kitchen, and Mother had her gift sitting in the middle of the table.  It looked real pretty.

     “It looks like Santa came to see me and your Daddy last night.”

     “He did come to see you both,” Margie said.

     “But Margie helped him make your gifts,” I said.

     “Do you like your tobacco box, Daddy?”  I asked.

     “I do like it. It is real nice.”

     “We are sorry that you didn’t get a gift this year. There was just no money for Christmas.”

     “That’s all right.  We don’t mind,” Margie said.

     “It’s okay, Mother.  We have a tree, and we will have a big dinner today.”

     We really didn’t mind because we knew there was not enough money.  That was the only year that we got no gifts for Christmas.  We still had a good Christmas though.  Ola, Jim, and the three boys came for dinner.  Ola brought us paper dolls for Christmas. That was good. We liked paper dolls. They didn’t have much for Christmas that year either. Well, we all survived it, and we had a good dinner that Mother cooked.  What could be better than that?  That was a happy Christmas in the life of little Ruthie.

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Janice Sautter is a great great grandmother who spends her time writing, painting, drawing, and playing video games. She lives with her husband Jim and their two dogs, Daisy and Lilly. She writes under the name of J. R. Carter.

The Snow Woman and the Sled

Front Page, Personal History

The recent snows in Corpus Christi found children and adults alike busy building snow people all over the city.  This story by Janice Sautter tells of a very unusual snow woman built in 1940s Oklahoma.  It is sure to make you smile.

Picture by Shirley Thornton, December 8, 2017

     It was wintertime in Oklahoma.  I didn’t really like winter.  If it snowed, it was not quite as bad.  At least I could play in the snow.  But, Oklahoma has a lot of sleet.  It gets so cold in the winter.  The wind blows real hard, and I just freeze to death.

     Our house was old, and the wind blew in around the windows.  Mother hung blankets on the north windows to keep some of the wind out. We had butane gas and just a small gas-burning stove in the living room.  Mother kept the oven on and opened the door to keep it a little bit warmer.  But, when we went to bed, all the heat was turned off.  She said it was too dangerous to leave it on.  Then it got bitterly cold!

     We had big quilts on the beds to keep us warm.  Granny and my mother made them.  Some of them were very warm because they were stuffed with feathers.  I was thankful we had the quilts, or I would have frozen to death for sure.  We had just four rooms in our house: the living room, the bedroom, which had one full-size bed for Margie and me, and a twin bed for my brother, a bedroom for my parents, and the kitchen.  We had a big screened-in back porch, too.

     I remember when I was little, I would wake up at night and be scared.  I could see all kinds of things in the dark that scared me.  In the winter when the wind was blowing real hard, I heard noises no one could believe.  I would call out to my mother and ask her if I could sleep with her and Daddy.

     “Mothe,r can I come sleep with you?”

     “No, Ruthie.  Go back to sleep.”

     “But I can’t. I’m scared.”

     “Nothing to be scared of.”

     “Yes, there is, too,” I would say.

     Daddy said, “Come on, Ruthie.”

      I knew Daddy would give in if he thought I was scared.  Mother would get mad at him for giving in to me.  I would jump out of bed real fast and run to their bed.  It was cold, and I was scared that something would grab me in the dark.  Daddy would pick me up and put me in between him and Mother.  It felt so good to be in their bed.  I was warm and safe.

     “You be still now,” my Mother said.

     “I will.”

     “And don’t be kicking me either.”

     “I won’t.  I promise.”

     “If you do, I will make you go back to your bed.”

     “I will be real still.”

     “My baby Ruthie,” Daddy would say.

     I loved when he called me his baby Ruthie.  I wouldn’t let anyone else call me baby.  But it was all right for Daddy to call me that.  He was always on my side no matter what I did. He saved me quite a few times when Mother was going to spank me.  He would stand right up to her and tell her “No, you are not going to spank her.”

     “What she did is not bad enough to get a spanking,” Daddy said.

     “That’s what you always say,” Mother replied.

     “Well, I guess it must be true then.”

     “No, it’s not true.  You just protect her all the time.”

     “That’s right.  That’s my job to protect her.”

     It was the same words every time . I knew them by heart.  If she had really wanted to spank me though, she would have done it, no matter what Daddy said.  My mother was the boss in our house, especially when it was about us kids.  She thought she always knew best about us.

     It was a long way to walk to school in the winter.  Margie and I always wore leggings under our coats to keep our legs warm.  They had suspenders to keep them up.  We had wool caps to keep our heads warm.  We had galoshes to wear over our shoes to keep them dry.  When we had all that stuff on, it was hard to walk.  And, if we fell down, it was hard to get up.

     One day when we got home from school, my sister Ola’s husband, Jim, was there.  He had built a big sled that a whole lot of people could sit on.  He was going to hook it up to the car and pull us on it.  I thought it was great.  We lived on dirt roads, and there was hardly any traffic. He thought it was safe.  Daddy was there, and he thought it was all right, too.

     Jim and Daddy tied these big ropes to the sled and then to the bumper of the car.  He had boards on the front of the sled to keep it from going under the car when he stopped.  The snow was real deep.  It had been snowing for a couple of days. About five or six of us kids piled on it.  Daddy got on to make sure everything was all right.  Jim started the car, and we started moving.

We went all the way around the block and were almost back to the house.  It was so much fun!  We all wanted to go again, but that was not going to happen.  Mother pulled up in a taxicab.  She was just getting home from work.  She paid the driver and got out.  She motioned with her hand for Jim to come to where she was.

     He drove to the driveway, and she looked at him real mean and said, “What do you think you are doing?”

     “Giving the kids a ride on the sled,” said Jim.

     “Are you crazy?” she asked.

     “I don’t think so, Ellen.”

     “Well, I do think so.”

     “What if this thing slides under the car?  What if that rope breaks?  Get off that thing right now!” she told us.

     “And you, too, Elmer.”

     We all started getting off slowly, hoping she would change her mind.  She was pretty mad though, so I didn’t really see that happening.

     Jim said, “I’m sorry, Ellen.  I just thought it would be fun for them.”

     “Getting killed or hurt is not fun.  I can’t believe that you helped with this, Elmer,” she said.

     Needless to say, the sled ride was over for good. Jim and Daddy got in trouble, and we missed out on a lot of fun all because Mother thought we would be hurt or killed.  Jim and Daddy would not let us get hurt or killed, at least not on purpose.

     A couple of days later, we had another big snowfall.  We had school that day, so we had just got home and were trying to get warm.  Daddy was home, too.  He worked in construction, and when the weather was bad, he couldn’t work.  He helped Mother out around the house when he was not working.  He cleaned and started supper so she wouldn’t have so much to do when she got home from work.

Jim was not working that day either because he worked outside, too.  I looked out the window, and I could see him in the front yard.  It looked like he was building a snowman.

     “Daddy, what is Jim doing in the front yard?”

     “I don’t know, Ruthie,” he said.

     “It looks like he is building a snowman,” I said.

     “Well, maybe he is.  I hope it’s not something to make your mother mad again.”

     “Daddy, can I go outside and watch him?”

     “I guess so, but put your coat and leggings on.”

     I got my coat and leggings on as fast as I could.  I put on my sock hat and went out the door.

     “What are you doing, Jim?”  I asked.

     “Building a snow woman, Ruthie.”

     “I never heard of a snow woman.”

     “Well, take a look at her.”

     I walked off the porch to look, and boy, was I surprised!  The snow woman looked just like a lady.  She had long straw for hair and eyes that looked real.  She had red lips and rouge on her cheeks. She had a red scarf tied around her neck, but that was all she had on.  She was a snow woman with no clothes on!  I mean she looked like a grown-up woman!

     “Jim, I think Mother is gonna be mad.”

     “Mad about what, Ruthie?”

     “Your snow woman.”

     “Well, she looks pretty good to me.”

     “But, all the neighbors can see her.”

     “That’s why I built her. To look at.”

     I had a real bad feeling about this.  I went back in the house, and I told Daddy what Jim was building in the front yard.  He looked like I had hit him with a ball bat.  He grabbed his coat and hat and out he went. He got out there just as Mother was getting out of the taxicab from work.  I didn’t go outside.  I just watched out the window.

     She walked over to the snow woman with this real mad look on her face.  She said something to Jim and then to Daddy.  Then she raised her foot up and kicked the snow woman down.  She said something else to Jim, and he started laughing.  Daddy was not laughing.

     So that took care of the snow woman.  Mother came in the house, and she was talking to herself she was so mad.  She just took her coat off and went to the kitchen to start supper.

     “You kids stay in this house.  Do not go outside.”

     “Yes, ma’am,” we all said.

     She never knew that I had been outside and got to see the snow woman, or she would have had a fit.  Daddy never told her either.  Jim got in his car and left.  He was just laughing.  He really liked to tease my mother.  He knew what she would do when she saw his snow woman.  I liked Jim. I thought he was funny, and he sure knew how to get a rise out of my mother.

     Now this was not a typical day in the life of little Ruthie.

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Janice Sautter is a great great grandmother who spends her time writing, painting, drawing, and playing video games. She lives with her husband Jim and their two dogs, Daisy and Lilly. She writes under the name of J. R. Carter.

Tom’s Grocery Store

Front Page, Personal History

            I was about nine years old that summer.  My brother still thought he was the boss of Margie and me.  He always took care of us in the summer while Mother worked.  That was the summer he got us into another fine mess with one if his hair-brained ideas.  Why did I let him talk me into those things?

            Mother had a charge account at this little neighborhood grocery store.  She would make us a list if we needed something for lunch before she went to work.  We were not allowed to add anything to the list.  Most of the time, the list consisted of things like bread, lunchmeat, mayonnaise, and things like that.  Sometimes she would let us get a candy bar for each of us.

            Tom’s Grocery was the name on the front of the store.  Tom was an old man with gray hair.  He was a nice man, and I liked him.  He would always talk to me when I went in the store.

            “Are you having a good summer?” he would ask.

            “I guess so,” I would say.

            “What have you been doing?”

            “Not too much,” I would reply.

            “How are your folks doing?” he always asked.

            “They are fine, I guess.”

            We just talked about nothing really.  We were just being polite.  My daddy said that being polite to your elders is very important, so I tried to be polite.  I loved my daddy more than anyone, so I tried to do what he told me.  I didn’t do this so much with other people, like my brother.  Why would I want to be polite to him?  He was never polite to me, so I figured you get what you give.  So, I tried to give him just what I thought he had coming, which was as much trouble as I could think up.  I wanted him to do his job as the person in charge.  I would not refer to him as a babysitter because I was not a baby. He would tell us sometimes that he was our babysitter just to get me mad.  Margie didn’t care.  She liked being a baby because that was her way of getting what she wanted from Mother.

            One day Margie and I were getting ready to go to Tom’s store to buy what Mother said we could have for that day.  Junior never went; he was too lazy to walk that far.  He said it was too hot.  I guess he thought Margie and I didn’t get hot.  I liked being outside, even when it was hot, so I didn’t care, and I got away from Junior for a while.

            We were all three sitting at the kitchen table and looking at the list.  Then Junior said, “We are going to get some other stuff today.”

            I asked, “What other stuff?”

            “We’re going to get some candy and cokes,” he said.

            “But that is not on the list,” I said.

            “She will never know about it.”

            “Yes, she will, and we will be in big trouble,” I said.

            “No, I can write just like Mother.  I will just add a few things to her list.  She will never know, and old Tom will not figure it out either. I have been practicing to write like her,” he said.

            “Junior, if she finds out, she will beat us half to death.”

            Margie said, “I don’t want to get a spanking.  Let’s not do it, Ruthie.”

            “Were gonna do it,” Junior said.  “I’m in charge, so you two have to do what I say.”

            Margie and I finally gave in, but we were both against it.  It seemed wrong to me to spend money that my parents might not have.  The extra things he added looked just like my mother’s writing.  I couldn’t believe it!  He added three cokes, three candy bars, and three ice cream bars.  That really sounded good, but I still didn’t feel right about it; neither did Margie.  We went along with it because the big boss said so.  I just hoped and prayed we wouldn’t get caught.

            We finally agreed on what we were going to do, and Margie and I left to walk to the store.  Both of us were scared all the way to the store.  Everything inside me was saying not to do this.  It was wrong.  I felt like a thief, like I was stealing from my own family.  I think Margie did, too.  We didn’t talk much all the way to the store.

            Finally, we are in front of Tom’s store.  We looked at each other, opened the door, and went in.  We started looking around the store and getting the things Mother had put on the list.  What we were allowed to get was bread, bologna, and a quart of milk.  We had to get Tom to cut the bologna on the meat slicer.  We were to get one half pound.  He gave us the bologna, and we went to get the three cokes, three candy bars, and three ice cream bars.

            We put everything on the counter so he could ring it up.  To my surprise, he pulled out this little tablet, put a carbon paper between two pages, and he wrote down everything we got in that little tablet.  Then, he added it all up and pushed the book over for us to sign it.

            Mr. Tom said, “Who wants to sign today?”

            We looked at each other not knowing what to say.  Finally, I said, “I guess I can sign today.”

            “Good,” he said.

            I picked up the pencil and wrote Ruthie on the paper.

            Mr. Tom put all the groceries in a paper bag and handed it to us.

            He said, “Thank you, girls.  Have a nice day and be good.”

             I said, “Yes, sir, we will.”

            We had done the my brother’s dirty deed, and I was not feeling good at all.  I looked at the copy he gave us of the items we bought.

            I said, “Margie, look at this.”

            “What’s wrong with it?” she asked.

            I said, “We have to give this to Mother, and she will see what is on it.  That is what’s wrong with it.  We are gonna get caught.  We can thank Junior for this.  Our goose is cooked!  We better get ready for a spanking because we are gonna get it.”

            I hated my dumb brother.  He was so stupid!  Why did I listen to him?  I am stupid to for doing what he said.  I know who is in the big trouble.  It is me because Junior is her little boy, and Margie is always faking an earache.  That leaves me.  Not to mention I signed the grocery ticket.  I am so mad at myself.

            We got home, and the big dummy was waiting for us.

            He asked, “How did it go?”

            I just threw the grocery ticket at him.  “This is how it went.  We have to show this to Mother, and she will know what we did, mister smarty-pants.  This is all your fault.  I knew I shouldn’t have listened to you.  I always get in trouble when I listen to you.”

            He said, “This is no problem; we just tell her we lost it.”

            I said, “You really are stupid.  Mr. Tom has a copy of this ticket, you big dope. When she pays the bill on Friday, she will see it.”

            “Don’t worry,” he said.  “I have everything under control.”

            I said, “You are a big fat liar!  You have nothing under control.  I’m just gonna get ready for the spanking and admit to what we did.”

            It was just Wednesday, so we had until  Friday evening to worry about it. I was trying to get my mind off of it, but I felt so guilty I couldn’t forget about it.  I do believe I was having nightmares about it.  I ate the ice cream and candy that day, and I drank the coke.  I was already in danger of going to hell for liking to dance, and now I was a thief.  What was worse, I stole from my own family.  We spent money that Mother probably didn’t have, and I felt really bad about that. I was feeling bad about eating the candy and ice cream and drinking the coke.

            On Thursday, I told Junior and Margie that I was going to tell Mother what we did.

            “You better not!”  he yelled at me.

            I said, “Yes, I am.  What we did was wrong.”

            Margie started to cry and said, “I don’t want a spanking.”

            “We will get it anyhow on Friday; we might as well get it today when she gets home.”

            Junior said, “You better not tell, or you will be sorry tomorrow when she goes to work.”

           I didn’t say another word.  I knew they would never agree to help me tell her.  I decided to wait until Daddy got home, too.  Maybe he would help me out a little.  I worried all day Thursday.  I practiced what I would say.  I didn’t want Margie to get a hard spanking.  She was frail like Mother said.  I was stronger than she was, and I could take it.  I knew at that moment that I really did love my sister very much.

            When Mother got home Thursday night, I was so scared. Junior left and went to his friend’s house. His name was Kenny Jones.  Margie and I were there by ourselves.  Daddy came in soon after, and I told Margie it was time to tell them.

            Mother was cooking dinner, and Daddy was sitting at the table drinking a beer. They were just talking.

            I said, “Mother, we have something to tell you.”

            She turned and looked at us.  I sat down at the table by Daddy, and Margie sat down in the same chair with me.

            I said, “Mother, we did something this week that was wrong, and we need to tell you and Daddy about it.”

            She said, “Well, let’s hear it.  Surely it is not that bad.”

            I said, “Yes, it is that bad.  Junior was in on it, too, but he left because we were gonna tell what we did.”

            I explained to her that Junior could write like her and explained what he added to the grocery list.  I was starting to cry, and so was Margie, but I went on with the story.  I told her I knew we would get caught because Mr. Tom had it all written down in his little book.  I told her that Junior threw her copy away and said we lost it.  I told them that we were sorry that we stole from them and that we spent money we didn’t have.

            When I finished, I said, “We are ready for the spankings, but Margie doesn’t feel good, so I will take hers.”

            They just sat there and looked at us.  Then they looked at each other.  They both began to laugh.  I thought they had gone crazy!

           Mother looked at us and said, “If you had not told us the truth tonight, you would be getting a spanking tomorrow when I found out what you did.  Mr. Tom called me the day you did this.  I have known about it all this time, but you came to us and told us the truth, so no spankings for you tonight. Ruthie, you were even going to take your sister’s  spanking.  What you did was wrong, but your brother talked you into this.  He is in a lot of trouble when he gets home.”

            I was so happy that we told the truth.  Maybe God would forgive me for stealing, too, and I wouldn’t burn in hell for it.  I still had the problem of liking to dance though.  I learned a lesson that night.  I don’t know if they ever punished Junior or not.  He didn’t come home that night, so they were probably so glad to see him when he did come home that they just forgot about it. This had been a very interesting week in the life of little Ruthie.

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Janice Sautter is a great great grandmother who spends her time writing, painting, drawing, and playing video games. She lives with her husband Jim and their two dogs, Daisy and Lilly. She writes under the name of J. R. Carter.

Tales of Little Ruthie: The Silverware Fights

Front Page, Personal History

            Summers were difficult in our house.  Mother and Daddy worked every day.  Ola and Jeanie were married with their own kids, so that left the three of us at home.

            By the three of us, I mean Junior my brother who I thought was an idiot but later figured out that this wasn’t always true.  Sometimes he was smarter than me, if anybody can believe that.  I know I found it hard to believe when he would put one over on me.  The second of the three was Margie, my big sister.  She hardly ever got involved in the battles that went on between Junior and me.  All she was interested in was clothes and shoes.  She loved ribbons and bows, too.  She was a real girly, girl, if you know what I mean.  I, on the other hand, was kind of a tomboy type of girl.  I liked the outdoors and the creek, and I liked adventure.  I wanted to try new things.  The problem with that was I usually always wound up in trouble.

            My brother, the idiot, was always in charge, of course.  He was sixteen that summer.  Margie was twelve, and I was ten.  I was beginning to think that I would never get to be in charge of anything. Being the youngest in the family is hard.  I had to literally fight for my life at times.  They were all older and bigger than me, so I always get picked on.

            Margie always sided with Junior because she was afraid he would beat her up or tell Mother if she did something she shouldn’t have done.  This didn’t happen too often because she actually tried to be good.  She and I had fights now and then.  I beat her up, and then she left me alone for a while.  Sometimes she got the better of me though if Junior helped her.

            In the summer months, Mother would call us on her lunch hour to see how we were doing.  Of course, we told her we were fine.  My sister Ola would come by occasionally to check on us.  Sometimes she would take Margie and me with her to her house.  Once we got there, we knew why.  She wanted us to help her clean her house.  She was a terrible housekeeper.  At least that’s what my mother said.

            “If you girls help me clean my house, I will pay you,” she said.

            “How much will you pay us?”  I asked.

            “Well, how about a quarter?”

            I asked, “How about fifty cents each?”

            “Yeah, you’re house is really dirty, Ola,” Margie said.

            “All right, then. Fifty cents each.”

            “But you have to pay us now, before we start,” I said.

            “Why is that?”  asked Ola.

            “’Cause every time we clean your house, you never pay us.”

            “That’s not true.”

            “Yes, it is, and you know it’s true.”

            “Okay, then I will pay you right now.  You don’t even trust your own sister.”

            She went into the kitchen and handed us each fifty cents, and we put it in our pockets.  We worked nearly all day on her house.  What a mess!  Of course, we watched her kids while we were there, too.  She had three kids by then:  Larry, Bobby, and Randy.  There was only one year’s difference in Bobby and Randy. They were all cute little boys, and I rather liked taking care of them.  They were fun to play with.

            When we were all finished, she took us back home, but she didn’t stay long.  She said she needed a nap, and so did the kids.  I don’t know why she needed a nap because she sure didn’t do anything that I knew of.  The kids needed a nap though.  They all three looked sleepy.  Margie and I gave them all hugs and kisses, and off they went.  I couldn’t believe Ola actually paid us.

            When we got home, Junior was lying down on the couch sleeping.  The door slammed when we went in, and it woke him up.  That made him mad, and he began to yell at us.

            “What are you two doing now?” he screamed.

            “We just got home from Ola’s,” I said.

            “Well, be quiet,” he said.

            “We are being quiet, Junior.  Are you crazy?”  I said.  “Get up.  You are so lazy.  You never do any work.”

            “What I do is none of your business, brat.”

            That did it! He called me a bad name.  I jumped on top of him and started hitting him and, pulling his hair.  He was trying to get my hands loose from his hair, but he couldn’t.  I had a good grip on him.  He put his hand in my face and was trying to make me let go.  I got his finger in my mouth and bit down as hard as I could.  Boy, did he let out a yell then.  He finally was able to get me loose and threw me on the floor.  We were both mad, and what we did when we got this mad you won’t believe.

            “This is war,” I said.

            “Fine, let’s get the weapons!” he shouted.

            The weapons were the silverware.  We could use everything except the sharp knives. We went into the kitchen and dumped the silverware on the table.  We drew straws to see who picked first. Junior won the draw, so he got first pick.  We could not use the meat forks either.  Junior picked a fork for his first pick.  I picked a fork next, and Margie picked a fork.  When everything was off the table, we went back into the living room.

            There were two big platform rockers in the living room that we turned over for a fort.  One of us would get behind the couch.

            “Everyone needs to take cover.  The war is about to start!” said Junior.

            “No cheating.  You can only throw what you have now.  No going back to the kitchen,” I said.

            “We know the rules, brat.”

            I hated it when he called me that!

            Margie was behind the couch, and Junior and I were behind the rockers.  I know this was a crazy thing to do, but we were kids that were not supervised very well in the summer.  We would do just about anything.  I don’t think we really knew how bad we could have been hurt.  It was something to do, so we made a game of it.  We were all under cover, so it was time to begin.

            Junior threw first at me, of course, and after that, it was just all of us throwing whatever we could at whomever we could.  No one ever got hurt.  I can’t imagine why.  After we ran out of ammo, the game was over.  We would pick up all the silverware and put it back in the drawers.  Then we would clean up the living room and set the rockers back up.

            For some reason we were all in a better mood after we had a war.  I don’t know why.  We could actually be nice to each other.  Even Junior was better.  Sometimes he would ask us if we wanted to play catch in the front yard.  It was fun when he was nice to us.  I liked him when he was like that.  He would laugh and tease us.  We could even wrestle in the grass and not be mad.

            It had turned out to be a good afternoon in the life of little Ruthie.

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Janice Sautter is a great great grandmother who spends her time writing, painting, drawing, and playing video games. She lives with her husband Jim and their two dogs, Daisy and Lilly. She writes under the name of J. R. Carter.