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Stories from the past

All articles copyrighted by the Guymon Daily Herald. Used by permission.


The Best and Last of a Pioneer Sage

(Editor's Note: Many years, nearly two decades, readers of the Guymon Weekly Observer avidly looked forward to a column "The Old Timer," under the byline of Mrs. F.M. (Alice) Vivian.)

Mrs. Vivian, on Saturday, October 21, wrote "30" to her colorful, albeit toil-worn and helpful life. Faithfully filing her little vignettes of Panhandle Empire pioneer history to the end, Mrs. Vivian was not a newspaperwoman. She began late in life in her weekly reporting of the little every-day happenings that really went to make up the life and the substance of the pioneer.

But the "Old Timer" possesed a fabulous memory for the so-called little happenings and a flair for writing that few professionals possess.

Each year, the Herald has re-published many of the Observer's 52 columns per year under the "Best of the Old Timer" heading. This year, we break tradition, due to popular demand, and publish not only the best, but all the last writings of Mrs. Vivian, a fabulous person from a fabulous age who gave us the tradition upon which pioneer day is founded.


House-Debts Foreign to Area Early Settlers

We never know what to expect in the Panhandle. About 1913 after fairly mild fall weather, an eight-inch snow fell the middle of October and the weather turned so cold it was several days melting off. Good weather followed until just before Christmas when something like 18 inches of snow fell and late in the winter another such snow fell. In both cases the roads were nearly impassable for a good many days.

The old timers had many things to worry about that we don't have today but we didn't have any house bills to worry about paying before the time expired, or having something disconnected and having to pay for getting it connected again.

A five-gallon can of oil for lamps took care of the lighting problem for some time and we had no telephones or television to keep up.

When we needed a bucket of water all we had to do was go to the well and draw it up at no charge and in time nearly every householder in the country became the owner of a windmill.

A huge stack of chips took care of any fuel bill and cost nothing but to pick them up. When a few people began to burn coal it seemed extravagant to the rest of us to burn up money in a stove like that, but the smoke from the first coal fire's smelled nice.

It took work to have all these things and no bills to pay but we had more time to work than we had money to buy things with anyway.

Nearly every family had some kids the right size to pick up some chips and at our house when we got to making too much noise for our mother, she threatened us with sending us out to pick up chips whether or not we needed them and we took it as punishment almost any time we were sent to pick them up. However, dad went about it in a different way, anytime he came along and told us to stop something we stopped with no argument about it.

He looked up over his paper at us and we knew we were making more noise than he wanted us to. When dad got ready for us to help him do something we did it, not considering it as punishment and none of us asked any questions.

Our parents didn't have any delinquency problems with us, it was just one of the unwritten laws in our family that there wasn't to be any of that.


Old Dripping Roof Revives Memories

The recent rainy weather and a leak on a porch dripping in a bucket brought back memories of the old sod house of our childhood. A two or three day steady rain and the old sod roof became so saturated we couldn't help but have a few leaks even though my parents tried to keep everything in good repair.

We kids disliked rainy weather if our dad was at home. He wanted to read and made us sit down and be quiet. We let ourselves get caught in the barn or chicken house if we could. Just anywhere so we didn't have to be still. We didn't mind the house leaking in the daytime in particular and having to have things around to catch the drip, but the showers that made the house leak seemed to come mostly at night after we got to bed.

Mother had to wake us up so she could move our beds out from under a leak and then we couldn't go back to sleep for hearing the doleful sound of water dripping in a tin pan.

Our parents did much cautioning about getting up in the night and getting a drink out of the water bucket without lighting a lamp lest a centipede had fallen in it.

That happened once. Mother heard something splashing in the water and it was the centipede she had always expected to find in the water bucket. We couldn't throw the bucket away because there was nothing else to put water in nearer than the railroad. She told us and set the bucket away so we wouldn't forget and take a drink and the first thing the next morning when she could get water hot, a good scrubbing and scalding took place and every kid felt the need of a drink before they could get one.

Occasionally some one went to the hand-dug well for water and found a snake had worked under the platform around the well and fallen in. They would try to crawl up the rope and when we got them out we kids had a job of drawing the water all out.

It ran in slower than we drew it out and didn't take us long to get it. No one wanted to use water a snake had been swimming around in and nothing encouraged us about geting the water in for night while it was still daylight like drawing up a snake on the rope once in a while.


No Time Payments for Panhandle Pioneers

The old timers were, for the most part a substantial race of people and made good their obligations. They lived their time out and passed on and many of the buildings they occupied have fallen down and disappeared. A couple would get married and usually manage for new outfits for both parties to be married in and in most cases, they were their best clothes for a number of years. They had been paid for and one must get some benefit from them.

One saved for something and then bought it in those days. It wasn't easy to get things on a payment plan and people seemed to enjoy things more when it wasn't made to easy to get them.

We kids heard our dad talk of what he was buying, and how he expected to get the money to pay for it when it became due, and we grew up with the idea that one had accomplished something worth doing, when they finished paying for anything that had been sold them in good faith without part of the money in sight.

There were no banks near for quite a few years and not much money to put in one. People would have a little money on hand for an emergency and keep it in a trunk at home, and if they wished, they could leave money with merchants in Liberal (which was a trading point for many miles in every direction). When what they had left with the merchant was gone, they could still get what they needed and in the fall when cattle shipping time came, they were expected to pay up. Some times it wasn't long until they had to begin over again, but the merchant had to have his, once in awhile, so he could pay his own debts.

Occasionally, one knew of some man who had to have the money in his hand before he could load up a load of supplies to take home. We kids never knew our dad to have to come home with an empty wagon when he went to town. He came home once very disgusted. A man, whom we knew well, had also been in Liberal for supplies. He got there late in the evening, expecting to load up the next morning, and got in a poker game that night and lost his money, and had to go home empty to get money from his brother, before he could even buy groceries. We never heard any more about it but he must have gotten the money. Anyway the family didn't starve, but his wife was known to be rather strong in her convictions and we wondered if she didn't make things a little uncomfortable for him when he got home.


House-Building Was A Matter of Material

The first people who came to the prairie country had to make houses and outbuildigs out of what was near at hand.

In the first place, few of them had the necessary money to do much with. Some of them settled near enough to hills with good building rocks on to use them. Some of the old rock corrals are still standing.\, but many of them are falling down for the want of some one to keep them repaired.

I ran into considerable time and hard work to bild rock houses and fences. It wan't every man who could lay up rocks and make them stay. It took considerable time to haul them to the build site.

Almost any man could lay up a sod wall or do a fair job of digging a dugout. Some houses were dug down three or four feet in a hillside so one could walk out without climbing steps and build up the rest of the way with sod.

The head of every family had to have mules or horses to get around with and could plow his own sod. If he didn't have a sod plow, one of his neighbors did and would lend it to him, and he cut down the expennse of building his house by plowing and hauling the sod to do it with. My mother could lay up sod as good as any man in the neighborhood. We were camped around the top sideboards of the wagon with bows and wagon sheet on, so there wasn't much housework to do.


Big Snow Falls; Has 59th Anniversary

Fifty eight years ago last Thursday, February 23, what we called the big snnow had started to fall when we got up in the morning, and continued for three days and nights with a gentle breeze from the southeast. When it stopped there was 24 inches of snow on the ground and one could scarcely get anywhere on foot or by any other means.

It was three weeks before we saw the ground again, unless we shoveled down to it and a month before the mail carrier made the round trip from the old Cople Post Office, of the Hackberry, to old Hardesty, and back the same day on horseback. It was 10 miles each way and the first attempt. He came a mile from home to the office and went a mile on the unbroken road before his horse became exhausted and he had to turn back. When he finally reached Hardesty he would spend the night there and come back the next day until he had made several trips.

There were no telephones and our little settlement just about lost contact with the rest of the world. It was a long time before we cared about looking at pictures with snow on the ground.

During my chilldhood, my father had a good friend, J.L. Eubanks, living about 16 milles away, who visited us when he would be in our neighborhood for any reason. He had a son, who was known by the name of Boston, and he was quite friendly with we kids and about the age of the two older ones. He would spend several days at a time with us, which was all right with his father as long as he knew where he was.

Mr. Eubanks was quite high tempered, and early one morning when Boston was about 15, he and his father disagreed about something. Mr. Eubanks made a grab at the boy, who sprang on his dappled horse standing in the yard, and went galloping across the hills toward our place, expecting his father to follow him. We had more chores that morning than usual and breakfast was late. while we were at breakfast, Boston arrived in the yard on the dripping horse and looking back toward his home.

When the boy's father didn't appear that day, he stayed two more days and decided he had as well go on back home and take whatever happened.

We didn't see him for some time and immagined him having gotten into serious trouble when he got home. When we did see him again and asked him about it he said nothing happened at all when he rode in home and the matter wasn't ever mentioned again.

Boston was being well brought up with good manners and fit right in where ever he was and could carry on a good conversation with the older people. Our parents liked his parents and never minded how much he visited at our house. He grew up and married Jenny Freeman who lived on Fulton Creek and was also a friend of ours. The friendship continued until Boston and Jenny and the older ones in our family passed on.


Snow Is No Fun For Youngsters of Pioneers

We see kids get out and play in the snow and think they are having fun. The kids in our family didn't do much of that. It wasn't fun to us, it was work, and it was discouraged for us to get our feet wet needlessly and get earaches and sore throats.

Our dad didn't tell the girls to shovel snow, but we preferred to rather than walk around in it while we did chores, and we had to be quiet if we stayed in the house. Our parents were the old fashioned kind who didn't believe in keeping a bunch of kids around in idleness, therefore we didn't get into very much mischief. If we had and our dad had caught up with us in it, he would have settled with us before the law got around to it.


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