By Doratha M. Davis Smith
I, so many times, have thought about writing down some of my childhood memories for my children and grandchildren to read. However, I have never felt I could find the correct words to describe just how thankful I am for those years.
I was born the third child and first daughter of Emmett Davis and Dessa Mae Robinson Davis. Needless to say, I know I was spoiled, but I thought my older brothers really were ugly to me. They put little birds on the clothes line and shot them with a sling shot, just to hear me scream and yell, 'Mama, make the boys stop!". They shaved the white stripes off my Tabby cat and branded him on the left hip with a branding iron they made out of bailing wire. They said he had to be branded with a “D” so every one would know he belong to me. I just yelled, 'Mama make the boys stop!" I really don't know how I put up with them or them with me. It was a little better after little brother came along. He was the one who got all the attention, and I pulled him a million miles in a red wagon.
We grew up in Johnston Country, Oklahoma. Our family lived in the country and Daddy farmed and raised cattle. In season, he and the boys hunted, and we all picked up pecans.
There were rules at our house, Dad made them and Mom enforced. If she needed help he took care of that too. We never sassed our Mother. We were taught; always to be respectful to older people; be good to little children, be responsible for your own actions, do your chores without complaining, and if someone needs help, it never hurts to lend a hand.
My mother taught me to make bread when I was five years old. I was to help her in the kitchen and felt really big doing it. We had to carry all our water from the spring.
About twice a week my brothers would hook the team of horses to a sled made on skids with barrels to haul water. This used to drink, wash dishes and do laundry. In the summertime, we would load our laundry in the wagon and haul it down to the spring, build a fire under a big black wash pot, heat the wash water and do laundry on a rub board in a big wash tub. This took all day long and it was really a chore. It was a very happy day when we got a gasoline powered Maytag washing machine.
My first year of school was at Mannsville. I had a wonderful teacher. Her name was Mrs. Geneva Covey. This was during the time Pearl Harbor was bombed and our country was in World War U. Every American was proud of our country. Each morning, all students lined up in front of our school to salute the flag, sing 'God Bless America', and pray for our boys (being shipped overseas daily) fighting the war. One day a week we were allowed to buy war stamps. We had stamp books and when we got a book fall of stamps we traded it for a war bond.
I attended school at Mannsville for two years and then in the third grade, we moved to Mill Creek, Oklahoma where I attended until fifth grade. I really didn't mind changing schools; I just missed my friends, but I had a new baby sister I enjoyed.
During this time my oldest brother and my Dad drove dump trucks to make a living for the family. My second oldest brother and Mother did the farming with a team of horses. Even though I was small, I helped plant corn and cotton. I think those were the hardest years we spent, maybe because of the war. Sugar was rationed, so was coffee, tea, and gasoline. You could not buy those items if you did not have ration stamps. They were issued to each member of the family every so often. I remember that nylon hose were really hard to get. I remember the day the war was over. I was gathering eggs in the hen house when my mother heard the news and yelled out to us. We were all so happy. (I collected an egg that day with "VJ" embellished on it. I can remember telling everyone about that 'Victory Day' egg.)
Between fourth and fifth grade we moved back to the Mannsville area, but this time we moved to a community near the Washita River called Norton Bend. It was a good size neighborhood, maybe fifteen families or so. We were in the Russett School District and had to ride the bus about nine miles. I think life got so much better (as far as modem conveniences). We went from a flat iron for ironing to a gasoline powered one! We also went from a wood stove to an oil stove. It was a GREAT day when we got butane in our house! It was wonderful! We even get a butane refrigerator, a butane cook stove, and butane heaters. (NO MORE WOOD TO GATHER IN AT NIGHT ‑ what labor saving devices!)
The next good thing was a gasoline‑powered pump on the stock pond. We were able to use it to pump water to a wash basin on our back screened‑in porch. We had an overhead storage tank for the water and my older brothers built a room under it and connected a water faucet that would spray, so in summer we could take a shower. Sometime it was a little cold, but so much better than a number three wash tub! How wonderful to come in from the hot hay fields and be able to take a long cold shower!)
Dad even built kitchen cabinets and a sink; though we had no plumbing we used a bucket under the sink to catch the draining water.
By the time I was in the seventh grade, I was not only helping plant cotton and corn; I had the job of 'monkeying wires' for the hay baling crew. This is where I fed wires through a wooden block into the baler to make bales of hay. My dad had a crew who baled hay all summer long and I was one of the hands. Then, it took about eight people to make a hay crew and bale. I have seen one man on a modem baler of today bale more hay in one day than our crew could bale in five days. Dad paid me the same 'salary' that he paid the hay crew! I was rich, but I had no time. We would bale for weeks at a time, all summer long. My hard‑earned 'salary' went for new school clothes in the fall (usually boots and Levi's.
During those hay days my dad bought a Delco system that made electricity. I was in the eighth grade before we had electric lights. Up until then, our radio ran by battery and was the only entertainment we had.
On Sundays, if we were not working, we would have a rodeo at our house. People would come from different places to compete, and I always enjoyed it. As a family we belonged to the Roundup Club and met once a month. Everyone would bring food or we would have a fish fry. There was always live music and dancing. The young enjoyed it as much as the old. By this time my older brothers had gotten married and I had another little sister and brother.
It was during this eighth grade year, a new student started to our school. I thought he was very cute but he was not my type. He seemed to think he knew everything! But, when we returned to school my freshman year, he not only looked cute, but I started to think he knew everything too! We started noticing each other more and before I knew it he was the most important thing in my life (however, basketball came in a pretty close second!) We dated until I started school at Ravia the last semester of my junior year. At that time, my family moved into the 'city' of Ravia. For the first time in my life we had a telephone, real electric lights, and an electric iron. Life really changed for me. No more cows to milk or hay to bale. No corn or cotton to hoe. All I had to do was to help my mother and I enjoyed it. By the last half of my senior year that cute boy from Russett had joined the Air Force, and I just knew he would be the best pilot ever. You see I thought to be an airman in the Air Force, you had to fly a plane! But he didn't. He typed in an office.
On the seventh day of a ten‑day leave, he asked Dad for permission to many me. My Dad said 'I won't like it. You'll never make it. But if you think you just have to get married, go ahead.' On the ninth day of his leave, we did just that, we got married.
I thought I would have a good life off the farm. He promised I would never have to work and he would make me a living. Well, I thought that the Air Force was a good profession and no more farm work and no more living in the country. No milking cows, and loading hay, and all of that hard stuff. What a life! Besides all that, I had decided I loved that cute guy. We married six weeks before I was to graduate from high school.
I didn't know until the day after we married that he had borrowed twenty‑five dollars from his dad to get married on. After we married (and he paid for the marriage license), he took half of what was left of that twenty‑five, and gave me the other half to finish school on. He then went back to camp in San Antonio. I was a new bride with only enough money to buy a coke and potato chips for lunch each day at school. Two days before graduation I got an allotment check and bought myself a dress to graduate in.
After graduation I went on the senior trip with my classmates. They dropped me off at the bus station in San Antonio, and I went to my brothers' house in George West, Texas. The first night there my new husband came in and told me he had a ten‑day pass and would be going overseas. I felt like the world would end. He shipped out and I found a job.
I went to work with the Texas Telephone Company for twenty‑five cents an hour. It was a one‑operator switchboard located in a former bedroom in the managers' house (Margaret Beeson). This was really an interesting job. Everyone in town would call in and ask if they had had any calls while they were away from home. Some cattlemen would call and say 'I'm going to be over at the cattle auction. If anyone calls, just ring over there.' That first job off the farm really did mean something on down the line. Texas Telephone sold to General Telephone, and after my husband came home from overseas I worked for that company in four different towns. I have been a local operator, long distance operator, information operator, teller, and service representative. I enjoyed each and every position.
After my husbands' second enlistment in the air Force, we discovered he had a severe eye condition, which would cause him to loose his sight over the years. We have always known God would take care of us, because he gave us the same desires in life.
By this time, we had two small children and we knew we didn't want to raise them in a large city. We discussed our options and realized we needed to buy a farm in the country some where near where we were from. My mother and father‑in‑law were renting at the time, and told us if we would buy a place they would live on it until we wanted to move. This idea just blew my dreams of getting out of country life all to pieces! I had come to realize I would never be happy living anywhere without cattle and horses.
He worked several jobs (Heinz Foods and others) before finally finding the right job, one as an office manager for Texas State Optical. He stayed with that company almost eighteen years and retired only after his vision had become so bad it was impossible to continue
At his retirement, we had 240 acres in Atoka County, Oklahoma. We would buy cattle, a few or only one at a time, when we had the cash to do so. When we moved onto the Atoka place, we realized we had enough cattle that if we sold them all, our place would be paid for. So that is what we did. We paid for the place and began, once again, buying one cow at a time when we had enough to pay cash.
We sold our house in Texas, and moved to the farm. I went to work in a bank and Claude started building fence and doing what had to be done on the place. By this time, our girls were ten, twelve and fourteen, They loved living in the country and going to a small school. They learned to do anything that had to be done on the place. (Of course they didn't have to milk cows, but they could do just about anything else!) They rode horses, played baseball, and picked up chunks Lots and Lots and Lots ‑(re: this is an editors note ... )
There was never anything to be done on our place that Claude and the girls couldn't do. We gathered our own cattle, would load them, and take them to the sale. We mended our own fences, mowed our own grass, and would sometimes bale our own hay, but there were so many bales to put in the barn we sometimes had to have help. This really would bring back my memories of growing up; when I thought life was so bad.
One night we had a family meeting after dinner and a "motion was made” that we should have another baby. The motion was seconded and it passed, four to one. (Guess who was the 'nay' vote.) Since we were supposed to be a democratic family I lost. Pamela did make a motion that we get a little boy ‑ and naturally, that carried four to one also. Again, I was the dissenting vote, but I told them I would agree IF the baby would be another girl. And that is just what we had! Another girl.
Cristy Dee was one year old when we sold the Atoka place and moved to Johnston County, Oklahoma. Our oldest, Cindy began college at Murray State in Tishomingo that same year. She later graduated with a BS in Science from East Central Oklahoma State in Ada, Oklahoma. Our second daughter, Pamela attended East Central, and later both went to graduate school at O.S.U. Penny, our third, went to Grayson County Junior College in Denison, Texas, on a basketball scholarship. In her junior year she transferred to O.S.U. So all three were there at the same time. Our youngest daughter, Cristy, says she feels she was raised an only child, because when she was growing up the older girls were away at school.
Each has a good education and they are making use of them. We have a college Professor, a K‑12 grade School Superintendent, a design engineer and a counselor. They all have a Masters degree or better.
God has been so good to our family, and has provided in so many ways. Claude and I were put in the same place at the same time, and I was 'smart enough' (or lucky enough) to do what the Lord wanted me to do, marry that 'boy'! Claude has no vision at all any more, but the Lord keeps providing for our needs and giving us so much more than we deserve. Three of our four children live very near and at their request the ranch will probably never be sold. Claude’s grandfather owned this place and moved in 1918 and we later bought the place and moved here in 1972.
We have a grandson, Dakota, who lives on the ranch with his family and a grandson named Smith, who lives in Tennessee and comes west every chance he gets and claims to be a cowboy. He is eight. It is delightful to have them both most all summer long each year. They both appreciate the country life and being able to hike and bike, make all the noise they like to make in the country. Claude and I are very thankful for the life we have had and all the changes we have been able to see. We do not think all those changes were good for our generation but we know God has blessed our marriage, our home, and our family and for that we praise him.
Dorathy died July 24, 2004. Brothers include: Emmett, Jr., G.W. (Dub) and Leslie (Punk). Sisters include: Sue and Linda