Memories – by Orpha Briggs


A few things that come to my memory in our little family of 13 children living, 3 dead (James Paul, Joseph Marion, and Leo Crittenton).

First, James Paul died at nine months with ?summer complaint???. Marion died at age seven of blood poisoning. He went out to the wood pile to pick up some chips to build a fire in an old pot belly stove, and turned a log over to get some chips from under the log. It hit on his foot and skinned it up pretty good, and blood poisoning set in. Mother did all she knew to do but nothing helped. Leo died with pneumonia at less than a year old. After my dad had fathered 6 kids, he thought he was going to be drafted into the army. He and mother had a family picture made. I was the baby, and I think Mom was expecting Johnny. Well, the war ended and Dad didn?t have to go. A few years later, Loyd was bitten by a copperhead snake. Mother had him soak his foot in what was called ?coppers???. It was blue until it was mixed with water and it would turn copper-colored. Seems like it was a couple of days. Well, needless to say, he got well, and lived to be almost 87.

When I was 4 years old, my mother went to turn the cows into the pasture across the road from the barn lot. When she left she told me to watch the other kids while she was gone, and ?Don?t bother the fire???. I really thought she said to fix the fire, so I proceeded to open the stove door and lifted a coal bucket about half full of coal up to put some coal in. Well, I used my dress to handle the door. When the coal caught fire it blew flames out the door and caught my dress afire. I didn?t know it was afire till I went and sat down on the bed where Johnny, Wess, and Madeline were all asleep. Then I noticed my dress was blazing. It scared me so bad I started running as fast as I could to where Mother was. She came to meet me when she heard me screaming, and saw the flames, and threw me down on the ground to put the fire out. She burned her hands putting it out. I had on my sister Ruth?s new school dress. It was burned to a crisp. When she found out about it she cried, because I had burned her new dress. It was her first year in school, and she was about 5? years old. Well, my mother carried me over her shoulder to the house and ripped off what was left of my clothes. My hair was in braids and they were gone. Mom had to cut what was left. That was the last of the ordeal I remember for some time. I guess the Lord let me pass out to ease the pain. Old Doc Howard came to the house every day to change the bandage. He would set me on a chair without a back on it and wind the bandage around and around till there was a pretty good thickness on me. After about 3 weeks he called my mother in and said, ?Mrs. Jones, it looks like she is going to make it. I can see new flesh and fresh blood???. My mother looked and she could see my insides. It was a long time healing. My mother would sit me in front of the old wood cook stove in cold weather to keep me from getting infection, in a big old heavy rocker with quilts wrapped around me. I still have large scars all over my back, arm and a ?web??? under my arm. That has been a handicap all my life. I am so scared of fire until this day. I?m so glad the other kids were alright when my mother got back to check on them. They were still asleep. So, I guess it was a good thing I got out of the house as quick as I did.

My brother Johnny took pneumonia while we still lived in that same house. We called it the Southerlain place. My uncle Bill Huckaby called the county sheriff because my folks were trying to trust the Lord for his healing. This was after they received the Holy Ghost. So the sheriff and a county nurse came and wouldn?t let my mother in his room till he got better.

I remember when I first started to school. Loyd, Emitt, Ruth and I rode in a buggy to what was called Bug Scuffle School. I remember standing up and holding to the back of the seat, since it just had one seat.
From that place we moved to the Dawes place and lived there 7 years. A lot of things happened there. All the kids went to the field after we turned 5. My dad would fix us a short-handle hoe and we were taught how to hoe cotton and corn. My dad helped us up even with the rest when we would get behind. When we would get thirsty we would go down to the creek and lay down on our belly to drink. We would take an hour for lunch. We would eat and rest awhile then go back. The days seemed awful long. If we ever broke a hoe handle, my dad would cut a sprout and have a handle in it in a little while. He kept our hoes so sharp, many times I cut my bare toes with it. We always went barefoot. We didn?t have shoes until it got pretty cold, then my dad would sell cotton and buy us some, or my mother would sell her turkeys and buy them. I remember I had gotten a new pair and wore them for the first time to school. They started hurting my feet, so I took them off and hid them in a bunch of grass, and planned on getting them when I went home. Well, I couldn?t find them, so the best I remember I took the punishment we got often, and had to get a new pair of shoes.

One day Ruth, Johnny, Wess and myself were picking cotton down close to a little creek. Well, when we got to the end of the row we spied a nice persimmon tree loaded with real nice orange ones. So, we all threw down our sacks and proceeded to inspect them. Well, the others chose me to climb up and get them, since they thought I was such a good climber. They boosted me up the tree, and I began to shake the tree, and down came the persimmons, and me with them. The limb broke, and I landed on my back. That was the hardest ground I had ever hit on. I was knocked out. I came to in the middle of the creek. I was hurting so bad I went to the house. My mother put me to bed and asked me a lot of questions. Well, the others received their punishment for playing when we were supposed to be working, and I got to lie around a day or two. I felt like I had knocked everything loose inside me.

We had to miss a lot of school to pick cotton in the fall of the year, and in the spring we would have to chop cotton and corn. I always made passing grades except I had to take the 8th grade 2 years, finally making it. When it came time for our final exams we had to take a test in Oklahoma History. We had to go into town about 5 miles. So, I rode a horse and went by to pick up a girl friend because she didn?t have a way to go. She took a sack lunch, and it started raining. Well, the sack got wet and she lost her lunch. My dad gave me 50 cents to buy my lunch, and instructed me to not spend but 25 cents of it and be sure and bring back 25 cents of it. Well, I couldn?t sit and eat and not buy something for my friend, so we bought cheese and crackers and found us a private place to eat. Well, we enjoyed our lunch very much because I hadn?t had cheese and crackers very often. But when I got home I had to face my dad, he said, ?Where is my quarter you had left???? So, I had to tell him what I had done. He said I was going to get a whipping, because he told me to bring it back. So, I took a whipping and it wasn?t a light one. I went down in an old cellar and hid. He looked and looked for me and finally found me. He thought I had run away from home. Well, I understand now that quarters were pretty scarce at our house. It would probably buy a sack of flour or sugar.

One day my mother had to go somewhere and left us kids in the care of Aunt Bertha, Uncle Albert?s wife. She had 2 boys about the age of Johnny and Wess and they all got into a big fight. So Aunt Bertha told Ruth to whip Wess and for me to whip Johnny. I proceeded to get me a cotton stalk and started toward him. He picked up a big rock and dared me to come any closer. I felt pretty big so I took the dare. Anyway, the rock landed on top of my head. I don?t remember how Ruth came out with Wess, and I don?t think Aunt Bertha?s boys got much of a whipping. Anyway, that?s the last time I tried to give Johnny a whipping.

When Wess turned 5 he had to start to school. It was 3 miles to school. He cried and Mother had to spank him. Well, he did go to school but that?s not the end of the story. He went back home. Imagine a little kid just 5 years old walking 3 miles then 3 more. When he got home Mother sent him back to school. That went on for at least 2 or 3 days until she made a believer out of him. When Wess was 3 or 4 years old he followed my dad to the wheat field. Dad didn?t know he was following him. In a little while Wess got tired and lay down in the wheat, which was pretty tall, and went to sleep. Well, Loyd was driving a team of mules hitched to a binder and about the time the binder?s cycle came over, Wess raised up and his arm was just right for it to catch in the binder. Loyd hollered ?Whoa??? and any other time the wild mules wouldn?t have stopped, but would have started running. But they stopped dead still. Loyd called Dad and he came running to them. He pulled Wes out from the binder, and the blood was flowing freely. The muscle of his arm was cut loose. Dad carried him to the house. Mother grabbed a sheet and anything else she could find to catch the blood. Well, they took him and got it fixed as best could be done. Until today he has a crippled hand, and doesn?t have much use of it now.

I remember when Ruth and I would help Loyd and Emitt strip cane, getting it ready for sorghum molasses mill. We would strip the leaves off and the heads, then cut and load up a wagon with sideboards till it was full. Then my dad would take it to the mill for sorghum. We would have several big lard buckets full. Was it ever tasty! With those big fluffy biscuits Mother made and plenty of homemade butter, yum, yum. Sometimes we all would take our lunch in a bucket to school. It would consist of sorghum molasses, biscuits, and home cured ham. We were kind of bashful about what we had. But right now it seems pretty good. Wouldn?t mind to have some. Ruth and I couldn?t have been over 10 and 12 years old.

Long about that time, Johnny and Wess were caught riding the calves, and Johnny fell off one and hurt his knee pretty bad. He crippled around for quite a while. On rainy days when we didn?t have to go to school we kids would go out and play in the corn crib or oats, and play follow the leader. We would climb up on the rafters and turn summersets in the grain. I know my mother would be glad to get us out of the house for a while.

Sometimes Ruth and I would go visit our neighbor girl Geraldine Dawes. She taught us how to do the Charleston. My mother would have given us a good whipping if she had known. One time at a school gathering, Ruth and I and 2 other girls put on a Negro minstrel show. We dressed up in some big old clothes stuffed with whatever we could find, and blackened our faces. Then we did the Charleston. With Loyd and Emitt playing the fiddle and guitar along with 2 other boys helping, we really thought we had fun. Mother didn?t find it out till several years later. If she had, it would have been too bad.

We all rode horses from the time we could get on one. We weren?t big enough to put a saddle on, and if there wasn?t someone around to put one on we would ride bareback. I remember one time Mother told me to get the cows, and I couldn?t put the saddle on so I led old Shorty up to a gate post and climbed up on him. Well, the cows were in a big thicket of trees. I had to lay down on him and hold on to his mane. I was almost dragged off. Then the cows went out in a big pond to cool off and I couldn?t get them to budge. So I had to go out after them and the water was so deep I had to hold my feet straight out. I thought sure I would float away. I finally got the cows headed home. I couldn?t have been over 7 years old.

While we lived on the same place, Loyd, Emitt and Johnny took Typhoid Fever. The doctor put them on a buttermilk diet. We had to churn every morning to have fresh buttermilk. One day when Johnny was getting better, he couldn?t walk without holding onto something. So he made his way into the kitchen and found a bowl of fried potatoes in an old pie safe. He pigged out on them. Well, it didn?t hurt him, so from then on he got to eat real food. He was so weak he had to learn to walk again.

One summer we heard a car drive in our yard. We looked out and Lo and Behold, it was Uncle Albert, his wife, and 4 big old boys. Two of them were well into their teens and grown in size. The other 2 were 11 and 12, and as mean as boys could be. Well, Mother had to have some awful big cooking pots, and had fried chicken about every day. Since my mother raised fryers, she would use the roosters to eat, and save the pullets for laying. She used the egg money for groceries. Well, the ?rest of the story???. When dinner was on the table Mother would seat all the men folk down first, since it was a custom in those days. Us girls would have to wait till the boys ate all they could hold. I can remember standing and watching them pig out on that fried chicken and just rare and snort, ?Just look at them. They act like a bunch of hogs???. If there was much left it was a miracle. Since there was Dad, Loyd, Emitt, Uncle Albert and his four boys, Clarence, Herman, Roy and Ike. Us girls and Mother, Aunt Bertha and all the little ones ate what was left. Aunt Bertha was expecting her 5th son and Mother was expecting Earl. about her tenth or eleventh. I don?t know how Mother could do so much work.

Every spring we had our goose picking time. As usual Ruth and I would be chosen for the job. We would put an old sock over their head and tie their feet together. But they would manage to bite a hunk out anyway. We plucked the small feathers out to make feather beds and pillows. After the grain was threshed we filled the straw ticks with the new straw. Mother would make them out of heavy material so the straw wouldn?t work through. It made a nice bed with a fluffy feather bed on top of it. We were not allowed to lie around on the beds. White sheets were used for a spread, and white pillow cases on the pillows. So it was a no-no to mash down the beds. We always had plenty of homemade quilts for the covers. Our houses were so cold Mother would stack the quilts so thick on the beds we could hardly turn over. Anyway, since there were several kids in one bed, we couldn?t turn over anyway. At least we kept warm until we had to use the bathroom that was outside. Sometimes it was pretty hard to hold off till morning, and then we still had to go outside!

Everyone in the family wore long underwear. We had long legs and long arms, and heavy long socks with the underwear tucked in our long stockings. When a warm day would come we girls would roll up our underwear and roll down our stockings. I remember one winter we had a lot of snow. It was drifted over the top of the fences and frozen solid so that we could walk across them. That year the rabbits were plentiful and the boys would just pick them up out of the snow, and bring them home by the gunny sacks full.

All us kids had chores to do every morning and night. There was milking to do, hogs to feed, hay to be put out for all the stock, chickens to feed and eggs to gather. Well, each one had his own chores to do. Ruth and I would help with breakfast, then clean the whole the house, make the beds, and sweep the floors. We didn?t dare leave one bed unmade. Then we would go out and milk our share of the cows. There were usually around 12 or 14 head to milk, divided among Loyd, Emitt, Ruth and me. We always got out of bed at 4 o?clock. I don?t ever remember being tardy for school. When Ruth and I were about 12 and 13 we had to miss school one day each week to do laundry. Many times we would have to drag up our wood to build a fire under the old black kettle to heat wash water. Mother made homemade lye soap to use to do washing, and it was used for dishes, washing hair, taking baths and scrubbing floors, along with more lye to help when needed.

One day my dad built a brand new outside toilet. I was waiting anxiously to use it when he nailed the last nail in it and got the door hung. He sawed two nice holes in the seat. One was made small for the little ones and the other for the bigger ones to use. I made a mad dash for it and sat a while admiring it. B ut when I came out my brother Johnny was waiting behind it, mad as a hornet because I beat him to it. He had picked up a disc in the oats and wheat, and when I came out he threw it at me. It hit my heel and cut the leader in two. I had nothing to hold it up, so I had to tie it up with a bandage until it could grow back. It was very painful. I had to hop on one foot to school. It was only a quarter mile to school from this place. Johnny got his due whipping, but that didn?t help me any.

I remember Mother had ordered an incubator. She would save her fertile eggs to hatch little chickens. She would mark an ?x? on one side of the eggs and an ?o? on the other side and each morning she would turn them over. It was kept a certain temperature, and in 21 days you would hear the little chicks picking their way out of the shells. She had what was called a brooder that she put them under that was heated with kerosene. It had a large canopy so the chicks could hover under it and keep warm. Well, one day she looked out and there was smoke coming out of the old metal building that was normally used for grain. She was using it to house her baby chicks. When she got to them, most of the 300 chicks were dead.

My dad raised a lot of peanuts for feed. Of course, we pulled the peanuts off to eat and fed the vines to the stock. He kept the peanuts in the barn loft to dry and when us kids would get a chance we would head there. It was very good eating. We raised most of our food, including Irish potatoes, turnips, sweet potatoes, and just about everything you grow in a garden. We usually had plenty to eat. My dad would butcher several hogs every year. He would get a neighbor to help, and would share the meat with him. We would clean the fat off the guts and render it out for lard. We would also trim the fat off the hams shoulders and sides, then trim quite a bit of lean meat off to make the sausage. Mother could make the best sausage in the world. All us kids had to take turns on the old meat grinder, and then she would fry it and pack it in half gallon jars for the winter. We had plenty of company in the winter to help sample some of it. My dad home cured the hams with hickory wood and salt, and I don?t know what else. I just know it was very tasty.

Mother made a lot of kraut out of the biggest heads of cabbage I have ever seen. She had what was called a kraut cutter. Everyone had their turn on it. We tamped the kraut in an old wooden barrel. It tasted pretty good fried, along with some of that meat. One day my sister Madeline was playing near where we were making it, and just keeled over. She had passed out, which she did pretty often. She would cry and hold her breath till she would pass out.

I remember Mother telling me about a little girl coming to visit her. I think her name was Fritz. Ruth and the little girl were standing looking out a window that was propped up with a stick. The little girl pulled the stick out and the window fell down and broke. A big piece of glass fell across Ruth?s nose and cut it off. It was just lying down on her upper lip. Mother grabbed it and stuck it back on. She still carries a scar from it to this day.

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