I love my mother for giving my a love of all books and stories. She didn’t just read to me, but had me read back to her even before I could read.
The other day she let me borrow this old novel, “Old Timers of Sabine County, Texas,” written by a distant cousin, Virgie Speights. It is a series of vignettes of pioneer families written during the 1960’s, interviewing folks pushing 90. Just stop and think about that a second.
Now listen to this:
“Mrs. Low, born in 1882, is ‘something special’ as her neighbor, Mr. R.D. Cox said as she purchased a candle arrangement for her birthday… Mrs. Low knows all about early pioneer life. She saw the men-folk of her time cut cord wood for the boats and haul it on ox-drawn wagons; they cut the tall virgin pine and floated rafts of it down the Sabine river to orange to be sold to large sawmills; and she knows all about making syrup and sugar from cane, which they raised. She said she liked that better than any of the farm tasks. She learned the light syrup boil, the heavy syrup boil and the sugar boil. Plenty of time and experimenting went into getting the temperature just right. Then the sugar was put into cloth sacks and let drip until it was a nice light brown color, which could be used for almost all sweet cooking.”
–“Mrs. Mary Howard Low, June 27, 1963,” pg 7
If that doesn’t pull you back into those “Little House” days, listen to Mr. Hyden’s story:
“Until this past spring, he had never been in a hospital in his whole 90 years… In his young days, he hauled freight with oxen from Robeline, Louisiana for the merchants of Hemphill, Hamp Pratt, Taylor Morris and Jim Toole. Good money could be made as this was a grueling task, with haulers camping out. Outside of this $3.75 a day was as much as he ever earned a day in all his life.
Farming was his main occupation, but he did quite a lot of saw milling and has a picture of a wagon loaded with logs to which are hitched 8 head of oxen, yoked together in pairs…
Married at the age of 17 to Dollie Travis, who was 14, he was known as a good husband, quiet and good natured. She died in 1960….
He enjoys talking with old friends about the times of their memories, but he is forward-looking, too. Once he remarked that he hoped to live to be 119 years old. Mrs. Crowell asked him why and he said, “I just want to know how much times will change by then.”
–“John Wilson Hyden, July 11, 1963” pg. 10
There is something about hearing stories from our grandparents. I was raised on stories not only of grandparents but great and great-great grandparents. My family is very big on keeping the stories alive and I hope to do so one day for the next generation.
And somehow, while reading these stories, our history, I was reminded to be hardy like that pioneering generation. I hope it encourages you to branch out and look into your own history, your past. Because that is what we all are, products of the past creating a new future. And one day, someone might ask you or I questions about the world we live in today. I hope that next gen will not just hear but listen and be encouraged to make a better future.