Heritage, 2009, Volume 3 Page: 19
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Near the community of Pidcoke, Robert Porter, his daughters, and dog rest on a pile of seed cotton while they
wait for the wagon to return from the gin in the 1930s. A tripod with scale to weigh pick sacks is behind them.
Photograph courtesy of Grace Irene Bratton.
es and walked to small, wood-frame buildings where several
grades shared one or two rooms. "You'd go to school, and they
might have fifteen, twenty horses tied up to posts and fences
around the school, and some even came in a wagon, and that
is very slow transportation," according to Norman Hall. After
her family lost their farm and moved to Manning Mountain,
Gladys Keener Chastain lived with her grandparents during
the school week. "We were living up on this mountain. All it
had was rocks and goats and was really poor land. I had to go
down to my grandparents and stay because there wasn't any
way to get to school from up there."
Churches and tabernacles were venues for worship and so-
cializing, and Sunday was, except at harvest time, a day of rest.
Melba Goodwin Bennett's siblings had shoes and socks but
were forbidden to wear them at home. "We even walked to
church barefooted till we got to Cowhouse Creek. When we
got there, we would wash our feet, sit down, put our shoes on,
and walk up to the church." According to Jerome Blackwell,
"Going to church on Sunday morning was an ordeal for my
mother, as she had eleven kids to clean and see dressed fit for
church, but to me it was the high point of the week, especially
the annual camp meeting each summer under the proverbial
brush arbor." Kerosene flares on the arbor illuminated night
services. On Sunday morning, the women would fill the table
with fried chicken, peach cobbler, berry pie, potato salad, and
chocolate cake. Living on a farmstead without telephones and
radios could be isolating, but schools and churches afforded
community connections. Neighbors practiced a spirit of coop-
eration, offering help at hard times. They harvested another's
crops if illness befell a family or loaned a milk cow to a desti-
tute family. Their generosities made rural life tolerable in the
midst of severe economic circumstances.
The kindness of these hardscrabble farm families endures
in those who shared their reminiscences. Their oral histories
are a group portrait of memories that enhances the history of
rural life in Central Texas, its traditions and institutions, and,
most importantly, the reactions and perspectives of those who
lived on the land. No other source could describe how families
struggled on the farms they loved. James Calhoun had seen
his Daddy exhausted from following his plow and mule team.
"He'd come in, his feet almost scalded from walking in the hot
dirt. It was a hard, hard life. I sit up there now in a John Deere
tractor with cold air blowing on me. Sometimes I have to turn
the air conditioner off, it gets so cold. I get to thinking about
Amy Dase, ofAustin, is a historian with Prewitt &rAssociates, Inc.
In addition to several technical reports and the transcripts
produced for Fort Hood, a publication, Imprint on the Land,
Life Before Camp Hood, 1820-1942 by Williams S. Pugsley,
and a University of Texas Press book, Harder than Hardscrab-
ble: Oral Recollections of the Farming Life from the Edge of
the Texas Hill County by Thad Sitton, are available from Fort
Hood (http://www.dpw.hood.army. mil/Environmental/Cult%20
Res%20Reports.aspx). Also, a travelingphotographic essay exhibit,
Lost Worlds: Historic Images from Fort Hood Lands, was de-
veloped. The audiotapes and historic photographs are permanently
housed at the Texas Collection of Baylor University and accessible
to the public.
HERITAGE E Volume 3 2009
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2009, Volume 3, periodical, 2009; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254214/m1/19/: accessed October 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.