Yes, Mom I do Remember
Yes, Mom, I do remember
Yes, Mom, I do Remember...
My mother was seven when she arrived at Weedpatch, which was immortalized by John Steinbeck in his 1939 novel "Grapes of Wrath." Like many other Dust Bowlers, who have revived the once-derogatory word "Okie" as a term of endearment and source of pride, she can vividly summon the chapters of her own life: Of no food, no money and disparate for shelter of hot summer nights cooled only by bed sheets soaked with a hose and then draped over the tent.
I am writing this as is my mother is the author. This is my mother's voice. It is a rough draft and in her own words. Her mother is my grandmother. The words are my mothers. My name is Dallas. My mother's name is Glenda. She is 83 years young.
We are living in tents in Midland Texas in 1928 where I was born December 21, 1928. Esther is six years old and can't go to school in Texas or Arkansas until she is seven and is not very happy about it.
We leave Texas in an old truck with our belongings packed in tubs. The road is gravel all the way to Mulberry Arkansas. We are going there to live with Grandpa Rucks and Aunt Jane. Mom and Pop have been going back and forth from Grandpas to Texas almost all of their married life. It takes us three days to get there. I am told that 25 miles per hour was top speed.
Esther and Edward go to school at Pleasant Hill in Mulberry, Arkansas.
Mom decides it is time to move out of Grandpas house and we move to BOWLEGS, Arkansas and this is where I leave my sister’s Esther Mae Rucks Rose's story and begin my journey from BOWLEGS, ARKANSAS to ARROYO GRANDE, CALIFORNIA.
"YES, MOM I DO REMEMBER."
My Mom says I can't remember carrying shingles up a hill behind my sisters, Esther and Evalee, thinking , I'm as big as everybody else, I'm going to help my Dad and all these other people build this house. I felt very important and grown up.
The house was to have a real wooden floor with split wooden logs for walls, and I am helping carry shingles so that we will have a roof over us to keep the weather out.
The neighbors have come out of the hills from everywhere to help raise the wall and have dinner on the ground. And me? I'm thinking, “wow,” what a feast, manna from heaven. The men have sawed some tree stumps to be used as chairs. Most of the people back in the hills made their tables, benches, and chairs. My Dad and Mom had even made Edward a wagon, wheels and all.
When you have been living, (surviving) on what we called watered down gravy, and whipperwill peas and having a pig sty for a shelter, it makes an impression on a three year old.
I think back and I thank God it is now just a memory. Yes, Mom I do remember.
After living in Bowlegs for a while, Mom and Pop have decided to move up to Three Rocks in the Ozarks where there is better farm land. We put all our possessions in a wagon and started out over this really rocky road to Three Rock. I was told it was twenty-three miles, but it took all of a long day.
Pop, Ed and Esther had the chore of planting corn, strawberries and peanuts. My Dad would get a bucket lid and punch holes in it to grate the corn so that we could have cornmeal for cornbread. Esther would set the table and give my Dad the only plate we had and the rest of us would use bucket lids or pie pans. She and Ed would have to take turns shooing the flies out before we could eat and they seem to have several disagreements whose turn it was. I don't think I knew there was such a thing as a screen door.
Esther remembers this house very well. We were all asleep one night and she wakes us all up and says, "Something is on my bed." My Dad thinks she is just imagining things and tries to make her go back to bed, but she convinces him something was on her bed, so he gets up to investigate and sees a snake going out thru the door. It had fallen from the attic on to her bed. I think, well at least it is not like the rat we found in the molasses and when the rats built a nest in your guitar, Mom...
Mom and Esther would walk a six mile round trip to church when we lived in the Ozarks, to a schoolhouse where a Baptist minister was preaching. Mom would wait until everyone had their turn testifying and then you would get up and testify. You eventually converted all of the people to Pentecost so the Baptist Minister left.
Uncle John Rucks, my Dads brother comes and preaches hell-fire and brimstone and baptizes everyone.
So many of the people that lived back in the Ozarks had never been out of the hills and didn't know anything about electricity, indoor baths or how things were in the city. One of our cousins, Burns came by in a car. He had just driven in from Los Angeles, California, where he worked as a comedian on the Radio with Bob Burns. All the kids would throw rocks at his car and call him a smart eleck.
We move to Pope Arkansas in 1932. Everyone has to catch the chickens and tie their legs with strings and put them in the wagon with some corn and peanuts. We had to keep the chickens away from the corn and peanuts so that we would have seed to plant when we got to Pope.
The creek is up so we have to float the wagon across the creek. I guess it didn't bother me much because I don't remember anything getting wet. I remember Mom saying, Homer how are we going to pay the rent and he says, "Guess we will just have to rent it on credit and pay them when the crops come in.
The house we move into doesn’t have a ceiling so Esther isn't worried about snakes. The old while leghorn chickens are turned loose and are running around everywhere, coming in the house, jumping on the beds and even on the tables. Mom kept a pot of hot boiling water going so she could poor it over the floor to clean up the chicken mess and to kill all the bed bugs that came creeping thru the cracks in the floor.
Esther is fussing about washing the clothes, saying, "I don't know why we have to keep washing clothes, they will just get dirty again." And then she would say, "I wish they would put wells on hills so that you wouldn't have to carry water up hill. I'm thinking she sure is fussing a lot (I'm not having to do any of the work yet) and I think everything is great, trees all around and a creek close by that Mom puts things in to keep cool and puts milk down the well to keep cool. We are having whipperwill peas, poke salad greens and wild grapes and when the crops come in we will have corn, peanuts and strawberries.
The twins, Phillip and Phyllis were born in Mulberry Arkansas June 23, 1933. I, Glenda Fae Rucks was born December 21, 1928 in Midland, Texas. Just a year before the crash, that started the "Great Depression" of 1929 thru the thirties. Evalee Rucks Beasley was born February 18 1927 in Kings--mill Texas in another God forsaken tent town in Texas. I was told those were the better days when my dad worked in the oil fields riveting the big oil tanks together. Esther Mae Rucks Rose was born March 25, 1922 in Mulberry, Arkansas and Edward Rucks was born in Mulberry, Arkansas May 27, 1920.
When my dad wasn't working, we would stay with my Grandpa Rucks and Aunt Jane. Aunt Jane had these wonderful feather beds that we slept on. I thought they were absolute heavenly. I have very few memories of my Grandpa because he passed away February 25, 1932 with cancer on the back of his neck.
I remember Grandpa raking up leaves in his big front yard and I would go jump in the middle of the pile. He would just laugh and rake them up again,- and of him eating bread and milk....his handshakes and the spoon hits the side of the glass and when he got through with his milk he would drink coffee from this big mug sitting in a saucer. Then he would pour his coffee in the saucer and drink from the saucer. The last time I saw him, he was in bed with cancer. I wanted to see him and Mom wouldn't let me, and I remember hearing Grandpa saying, "let that baby come in here." I tried to tip toe as quietly as I could. He patted me on the head and called me his little redhead and that is the last time I remember seeing him. I guess that name stuck because I went thru grammar school and high -school with most of my friends calling me "Red" which I hated. Somehow, it made me feel like a brat.
When we lived Pope, Arkansas, everyone was in school but me, and Phillip and Phyllis were still babies, I couldn't decide if I was happy about these new babies or not, I just knew they were too small for me to touch. I went out to find my Dad and discovered a bunch of little chickens (seems like everything is having babies around here). I am sitting on the ground in the middle of the bunch and here comes my Dad. Normally my Dad is a quiet man, "but with a sense of humor." He is trying to talk me away from the chickens and finally succeeds. Here I am, trying to be this nice little girl, stepping in his footprints as I follow him around. I am stretching my legs as far as they will go. I'm thinking to myself, "wow, I'm big," and then woe is me. Seems like by the time I put my foot in my Dads footprint there is a baby chick in it. By the time I stepped on the second or third little chicken, my father with the usually good nature had "lost it." When he gets through with me, I feel like I am going to be responsible if we starve to death.
Somehow, my world didn't come to an end. I get over all the hurts and decide I like the twins after all and think we might as well keep them. I choose Phyllis for mine and Evalee chooses Phillip for hers.
As the days pass and everyone is either in the fields working or in school I have more responsibility for the twins. When Mom has to go to the well to draw water or outside to do any other chores; I have to watch the twins.
I'm really feeling like a big girl but this doesn't last long. I soon get tired having to stay on the bed with them entertained so they won't miss Mom and I have to stay on the bed with them until she returns. (Seems like forever). Out of desperation, I make up this little ditty, "Hoyty Toy Sonny Boy and Hurlity Turl Sister Girl." (They were called Sonny Boy and Sister Girl by the people that knew them when they were small and until they were well into their forties). They soon learn to crawl and I can't keep them on the bed any more. They never seem to go the same direction. They remained that way throughout their lives.
When they started walking and Mom would go to the well, I would run to the door and start waving my arms so they couldn't see her. This did just the opposite and just attracted their attention to her. Somehow they soon learned she would be back and stopped their crying and fussing about it. They were both beautiful with big blue eyes and blonde curly hair
We are deep into the GREAT DEPRESSON. Things weren't going well . I had the feeling that nobody is happy anywhere. I don't remember anyone smiling or laughing, no hugs or any sign signs of affection. The only affection I rem ember is a hug from my grandfather Rucks when he would pat me on the head. The first time I saw my mother smile I was eleven years old. I kept telling her to do it again. Esther was the only one that could make her laugh.