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Homesteader Stories

Sue Carroll Waggoner

I was born Sue Carroll Waggoner on January 22, 1932—the 17th child of John Luther, Sr. and Reina Mae—at Dinmiitt, Texas.; I am the last child of John and Reina Mae Waggoner.; I, being proud and remembering such an interesting life, approached my husband with the idea of writing this book of "Memories".; He said "Memories" would be a good name for the book.; With grateful acknowledgement to him, I took pen in hand and we began to gather the information.

The earliest I can remember is at Pipe Springs, New Mexico.; Mother had never lived so far from people or in the mountains where so many different wild animals lived.; She was afraid to let me outside alone.; I was small for my age and very curious.; The late evening and the early night was the time of day I enjoyed getting out in the open the most.; Times got hard as the drought came and everyone was having to find other places to live so they could feed their families.; We moved back to Vernon.; Dad went to work for Long Bell Lumber Company.; At one time, we lived across the street from Parker School where one of my brothers and two of my sisters attended school.; Once I had a bout with a boil on my bottom.; Mother was going to open it and she told me to watch out the window for the kids to come home.; She had the boil drained before I noticed it was going to hurt.

We lived on Texas Street when I was four years old.; Mother made me some cookies for my birthday.; She died the following February, 1937.

In New Mexico, I remember stories being told, songs being sung and musical instruments played.; The neighbors would join in when they visited. We popped corn, parched peanuts and pinion nuts or had candy.; The elders would discuss their daily happenings such as building a barn, a corral or a pig pen.; They also talked about building brush fences for themselves or a neighbor.; People out in this area were very friendly.; They seldom saw each other and were happy to get together.; The Southalls were the first neighbors to the southeast of us.; They lived two and a half miles away.; Their children attended the same school and Sunday School as we did.

I remember getting a great deal of attention from my brothers and sisters after Mother died.; Of course, I missed my mother, but this attention made it easier.; We had some wild pigs.; Jr. and Cleatus had teased them and made them mean.; The pigs would chase the boys and they would swing away from them on a large grapevine or rope.; One day I wandered into the pig pen and these pigs were coming after me.; The boys had to swing across the pen and pick me up just before the pig got me.

We walked to school in a deep gulley that had been made by the rushing water down out of the mountains.;; A doctor and a nurse would come to school once a year to give typhoid and other shots.; This was a one-room school house.; All grades were taught in one room and Mrs. Ridgeway was our teacher.

Some of the family went to Quamada, New Mexico once a month to buy groceries and clothes.; Bad bought me some pretty coral colored socks. They were too small.; I tried to wear them anyway because I knew it would be a month before they went to the store again.; I finally pulled the tops off of the socks from trying to get them on my feet.

Preparing and serving meals for the family was a super event as there were many to fix for.; There was always plenty of work for the women to do, such as boiling clothes outside in an old iron kettle, hanging them on a fence to dry, cooking, cleaning house and helping with their families various needs.

The men worked in the saw mill and sold logs.; We played in the saw dust from the saw mill which was emptied in the deep gullies.; This saw dust generated heat and sometimes would catch fire.; It was alot of fun to make caves or deep holes in the saw dust.; It's a wonder that it didn't cave in on us.

Riding in the wagon when we went to the garden or to get water was one of the fun things that I loved.; Our family had large cattle trucks that were used to haul cattle to a sale and to haul logs.

We had a large cellar where we kept all our fresh vegetables and the wild meat.

Our days mainly consisted of either going to church, school, doing our chores and have a brush party.; I loved the life and surroundings of the big log house, the church and the lady preacher named Mrs. Hutzen.; She was very devout in her calling to preach God's word.; She came frequently to this small church called the "Blue Ridge" church and everyone looked forward to her coming.; When she wasn't there the mountain people would take turns preaching.

The evenings were filled with storytelling around the fireplace. They frequently told scary stories and then send us to bed—-which were upstairs.; I was barely able to breathe from being covered up to my head. Nannie Lee dressed up in an overcoat and a big black hat.; She did this after I had gone to bed.; She slipped up to the foot of the bed and started pulling the covers.; I hung on for dear life as I followed the covers all the way to the foot where I saw this dreadful "thing".; I jumped out of bed and ran down the stairs—touching only every third or fourth step. They caught me at the foot of the stairs and were laughing.; Then I knew someone had played a trick on me.

One winter Jr. came in from trapping and he had caught the biggest cougar and killed it.; Jr. hid it under his overcoat and brought it in the kitchen where Gladys and Lee were fixing lunch.; He just dropped it at their feet.; They really were scared.

Cleatus and Jr. slept in a bunkhouse.; In the winter sometimes the snow would pile up high around the door.; Their beds were shuck mattresses and homemade quilts.; To help them get warm they used hot bricks in the bed.;

Being the youngest and smallest, I was lucky enough to get to sleep in the middle of two sisters.; I never had to worry about being cold.

One time when I was out in the back yard walking on the fence—which fenced off the yard above the gulley—my foot slipped and caught in between the boards.; There I was, hanging upside down.; I would yell awhile and then rest awhile and then try to unhook myself.; After a good bit, I got undone.; I never mentioned this to anyone and I don't know if anyone knew about it or not.

The log house that the family had built was very strong and tight against the weather.; It had a huge, well built, fireplace.; As with any fireplace,it had a flue and a damper.; Because of the flue, it made it possible to use very large logs and the smoke would be drawn out of the house.; The;; andirons and rods that swung in and out;;were used to hang kettles and pots for cooking.; It was enjoyable to bank the fire at night and to have a warm room to dress in on cold mornings.; Dad always liked his rocking chair close to the fire and hold me or one of the other smaller children and tell stories or tease us until bedtime.

Since our water had to be hauled seven and a half miles, we were always careful not to waste any of it.; On wash day, extra water had to be hauled.; We used a big truck or a wagon with two teams of horses—which were kept ready all the time.; Eight to ten large barrels were used.;

Dad really had a time with us kids chewing rosin from the trees, as the rosin made our mouths sore—our gums and lips would swell.; Of course, to get out of trouble, we lied.; Somehow, Dad could tell we had been chewing and then came the spankings.; Chewing rosin was one thing Dad could never stop us from doing.; It wasn't until we grew up alittle that we understood why he didn't want us to chew the rosin.

While playing on the kitchen floor one day, I found some dried beans. No one noticed and I put the bean in my ear.; This seemed to be a major problem as everyone was asked for a remedy to get the bean out.; Because it was hurting and I was scared, I would scream and fight them as they tried to help me.; A cure was finally found.; They warmed castor oil and poured it into my ear and it came out.; Mother and Dad and everyone else were all relieved when all the noise died down.

As I said before, I was a curious child.; That is why, I guess, that the next day that I got my toe caught in the trap set for squirrels.; I was so full of life—in and out of everything—that Dad said, "It's a good thing that I was the caboose".; My nickname was "Bootsie" and then "Tootsie.”

On Memorial Day, or Declaration Day as we called it, alot of people gathered at Adam's Diggins for a day of cleaning and caring for the cemetary.; People came from miles around on horseback and wagons and; we would all have a picnic.

Storms in the high mountains were usually filled with very bright lightening, but with very little wind.; The lightening would strike, splitting large tall trees in half or felling them to the ground.; Sometimes, it would even start fires.; To Texans, these storms were very exciting. Instead of rain falling from a storm like this, there would be a heavy snow.; We would have heavy snow, even in July.; Even in the shadow of the trees, it would be cold. When the sun was out though, it was very nice. At the edge of the mesa, about two or three miles northeast of our place, a person could look out over a vast area of the valley.

In the spring, when the grass, trees and wild flowers were in leaf and bloom, it was such a sight of beauty that even a poet would enjoy. There would be many colorful birds nesting and singing so beautifully. Mr. Brag was the main property owner of Pie Town in 1932.; Pie Town consisted of a general store that was very large and well supplied.; Our mail came from Tres Lagunas.; At Quamado most of the cowboys gathered to discuss branding.; Their trail included going on east to Datal and then to Horse Springs for roundups.

Once or twice a year a trip was made to Clovis, New Mexico for supplies in large quantities.; No less than one hundred pounds of needed commodities such as flour, sugar, coffee, potatoes and above all was the pinto beans.; Clothes, thread, school supplies, most needed medical and first aid supplies are among the items bought on these trips.; Also, we had to keep plenty of shells and gun oil for keeping a fresh supply of venison.

Most of the men who were physically able and needed work were hired by the government.; These men would build homes and would sometimes be gone for seven or more days at a time.; Another job they might do would be to poison prairie dogs and shoot porcupines.; The government furnished the men with shells and guns.; Since there was the danger of any number of wild animals, such as bears, cougars, mountain lions and lobo wolves, the men would work in groups.; Also, it was necessary in case there was an accident or at times Indians who had left their habitats would cause trouble.;; They would steal their horses and supplies.; Therefore, a man had to be on guard duty all night long to protect the camp.

People would come to Grants, New Mexico to the ice caves and would cut large chunks of ice to take home.; It would be packed in saw dust from the mills.; This ice was used for preserving food and making cold drinks.

There was an Indian named Antholine Armeijhoe at Old Horse Springs who owned many sections of land.; In fact, he owned so much land that you couldn't count the cows he had.; Cliff traded his Gibson Guitar to him for a horse called Steel Dust.; This was a mustang that had never been ridden.; There was a cedar tree nearby and Anthonline rode off a distance and ran the horse toward the tree and then around the tree.; When he was asked what he did this for, he said he wanted to see if the horse had any sense.; Our house had only string latches on the doors, so when Antholine came by he would simply walk into the house.; He also expected to get to eat with us.; He lived in Squire, New Mexico with his wife—who was of a family of 12.; It seems her dad had advertised for a husband for her. Antholine saw the ad and answered it.; There was some kind of deal made with her father and he married her.; They had four boys .and three girls.

Dad became very sick while living in Pie Town and Cliff took him to Magdelene, New Mexico to a doctor.; A surgeon had to travel 67 miles to operate on Dad.; Cliff called Pat and Jack.; They and their families all came to see about Dad.; After Dad got well, all the men went wild horse hunting.

While living at Horse Springs, I remember being scared of the sound of rushing water that came from high up in the mountains.; Gladys would tell me,that God had promised that we would never be destroyed by a flood again, so we would look for a rainbow.

My brothers and sisters and I all went to school together and carried our lunch in gallon buckets.; Several cousins ate with us and shared their lunch.; We packed red beans, fried pies, bisquits, venison, rabbit and squirrel.; We could really enjoy the beautiful country eating our lunch.

Dad's health became worse and he was trying to get us somewhere that we could survive.; So, we started to Tahoka, Texas in a 1939 Chevrolet. The car was packed so high inside that we had to ride lying down.; When we arrived at the farm that Dad had traded for, the people living there were having lunch.; I was so hungry that I just started helping myself.

We received a bill from Underwood's Funeral Home in Vernon for Mothers funeral in the amount of $500.; We really had to get busy pulling cotton to pay this bill.

The land Dad traded for had to cleared of mesquite trees and rocks. When we got all this done, Dad put it into cultivation.; He planted sweet potatoes near the ditch on one side of the road and Irish potatoes on the other side.; Peanuts, corn, beans, peas and cotton were planted for the money crop.

Dad married Eunice Lee Craig Gurley.; Eunice was a very nice lady who took over the household duties.; She was a neat housekeeper.; Dad and the rest of the family built a cellar for protection from the storms. The cellar was also used to store the canned goods and alittle home brew. There was an outside privey which was fine except in the winter.; When it was cold, the kids wouldn't make it all the way to the privey.

We also had a wind charger which made enough electricity for the house.; There was a barn for the livestock in the winter.; We also had chickens, pigs, horses and cows.; Dad would get everyone up at 5:00 A.M. for a big breakfast.; Right after we had moved to Tahoka, a church brought us some clothing.; There were some high buttoned shoes with which you had to use a shoe horn to button up.; I could only wear them after bending my...
[end of New Mexico-relevant section]
From Left:
The Waggoner Homestead site today (circa 2008):