I am William Odis Capehart. My grandson, David, asked me to write and tell
him about my whole life and my experiences of near 85 years.
I was born in Kerens, Texas, February 25th, 1912, to John and Mary (Byrd)
Capehart. Because of my size and my physical condition, no one thought I would
live. But, being a stubborn, hardheaded little brat, I proved them wrong. I
think I must have only weighed less than 2 pounds and was about 10 inches long;
I never heard anything about me being premature though. I was told that they
could hold me up, lying flat, in one hand.
Because of my physical condition, I could not nurse normally, so they sweetened
bread in water and fed it to me with an eyedropper - one drop at a time. One of
our neighbors heard of my condition and suggested they make a sugar-tit for me
to suck. They did, and after a few days I began to improve and get stronger.
Thank the Lord for neighbors! The Lord looked down and smiled on me and my
(To make a sugar-tit, just get a clean white cloth about the size of a ladies
handkerchief, put a big spoonful of sugar in the center and pick all the corners up, causing the sugar
to be in a little wad in the center of the cloth. Tie a string around the cloth so that the sugar is in a
small wad at the bottom of the
cloth. Touch the wad of sugar lightly in water to start it to melt. Put the wad
of sugar in your mouth and
suck on it.)
My mother, who was just average size, took her wedding ring and slipped it above
my elbow. As the old saying is - “I had a long ways to go.”
I have a piece of cloth, about the size of a man's handkerchief, that was used
as one of my diapers.
My parents bought me a cradle with rockers to lay in which I still have. Several
months later, my mother had a lady friend visiting. I was lying in my cradle in
the same room where they were. As they were talking, I was laying there looking
at them. Now, I was mighty young and had never said a word. But as I kept
looking at them, one of them said, “You look like you know everything we are
saying.” I smiled and said “I know everything.”
You know, I bet they were speechless for a minute.
Now, since I “knew everything,” a few months later I decided I had been in
that cradle long enough and I was going to get out of it. As I was trying to get
out, I fell to the floor on my right elbow. I guess I shattered my elbow,
because there is still a big knot there and I cannot stretch my right arm out
straight. Well, so much for that great knowledge I thought I had.
* * *
The next exciting thing I remember happened near my grandfather’s two-story
house in Eureka, Texas. My mother and Grandmother were upstairs working. Since I
was now a little older and walking, I had great confidence in my physical
abilities. I thought if my mother could climb those stair-steps, I could
Well, I did climb almost to the top of the steps, but then I lost my balance and
fell down the steps much faster than I had climbed them. On my way down the
steps, I hit my head on the edge of one of them. I still have a big scar in my
right eyebrow because of that fall.
Grandmother doctored the big cut with some kind of home remedy and wrapped my
head with a big cloth bandage. Now, what kept this incident so vividly in my
mind was my father’s expression that evening when he came home from work at
the Eureka Cotton Gin. He entered the doorway, stood there for a few seconds,
then said, “My little man!” Those are the first words that I vividly
remember anyone saying to me in my young life.
I vividly remember my mother and father as loving, caring parents. While me and
my oldest sister were still very young, I remember, as we would be sitting
before our wood burning fireplace at night, my father would place me on his
knees and bounce us up and down while saying, “Getty-up little horsey!”
My mother and father both very hard workers. While my father worked in the field
and raised cotton and corn, as well as hogs and cattle, my mother cared for us
children and also raised chickens and turkeys as well as working in the garden.
Even though there were daily problems, I do not remember my mother and father
ever having a big fuss. My father or my mother never used curse words. My father’s
worst words were: “Dad blame it!” I always thought my parents were a little
bit better than the average parents. (I still do)
* * *
It will not take long to tell about my relationships with my brothers and
sisters. In a nutshell, I can say it was always good. Most of the conflicts
occurred between my sister, Cloie, and me. Since she was just younger than me,
we had more disagreements than with all the rest of the six children. She and I
did more fussing and other things to each other than we did to the others.
Because of those conflicts and other things, it caused mother to whip us with
Papa’s big razor strap several times. As I remember, Papa only whipped me
three times in my life. I guess he didn’t catch me every time I did something
Cloie and I were in our young teens when we had our greatest fuss. I have no
idea what it was all about. We were in Mother’s front room fussing. After so
long a time, Cloie picked up Mother’s big Bible and threw it at me. Now I was
standing in front of our mother’s beautiful dresser. As Cloie threw the Bible
at me I ducked, and guess what – That Bible crashed the mirror or Mother’s
Now Mother did not whip either of us, but when she told Papa when he came in
from work, he
immediately got the big razor strap and gave Cloie the hardest whipping she had
ever gotten. We did not fuss much after that. A few years later, Cloie got
married and we always treated each other as a favorite brother and sister
Several years later, Cloie and her youngest daughter were killed in a car wreck.
They were meeting a man who had a heart attack, and their cars met head-on.
Three of my brothers, Orvil, Jimmie Dee, and Johnnie Elwyn, served in World War
Two. All three were survivor. Jimmie Dee and Marvin both became (Pentecostal) ministers. Jimmie Dee is still
(pasturing) an Assembly of God Church in Kerens,
Marvin (pastured) for several years until he lost one of his legs below his knee.
Marvin has also been in business on the side for many years. He began as a
painter then he ventured into the house building business.
Within 15 years, he built over 40 new houses in and around the town of (Winnsboro),
When his youngest son drowned, he quit the building business and picked up the
concrete business his son had going. His concrete business is so good, he said
if he didn’t get another order for a month he couldn’t catch up. He has a
false leg below his left knee because of his sugar diabetes. He says he can’t
do some of the work himself, but he can still “Point and Holler.” He also is
invited to preach and perform weddings and hold funeral services. He is still a
very busy man.
My brother Orvil became a very big farmer and cattle man. He worked hard and
also taught his
children to work hard also. Therefore, all of his children have had successful
lives. “Orvil also received the Lord as his Savior before he died.”
My brother Johnnie Elwyn also had the position of supervisor in the several
places he worked. He and his wife raised three beautiful children. Johnnie also
accepted the Lord as his Savior a short time before he died.
Then I have two beautiful sisters. They both live in Corsicana. Both of them are
members of the “First Assembly of God Church” in Corsicana. Hazel, the
youngest, serves as “secretary and Treasurer” of the church. Hazel is 65
years old and has never been married. Cleo is 75 years old and moved back to
Corsicana from Houston, when her husband died about four years ago.
Both of them keep in touch with me. They are greatly concerned about my welfare.
Hazel usually fixes lunch for the three of us on Saturday. When I was dismissed
from the hospital about two years ago, with a bad blood clot in my right lung,
Cleo carried me to her house and kept me there for six months while the blood
clot was going away. I knew that I was welcome there, and I really did
* * *
Now, as growing up children, we were taught by our parents to help with the
many chores about the farm. As small children we learned to go down to the barn
and shuck about 100 ears of corn to feed the horses when they were brought in
from working in the field. We shelled corn to feed to the chickens and turkeys.
When it came a big shower, we knew to get a hoe and rake clean the yard. We didn’t
know what a mower was. Another thing we all learned to do was help Mother on
wash days. The first thing to do was draw up enough water from the cistern to
fill the 30 gallon iron wash pot. Then we would gather enough corn-cobs and wood
to make the water boil as Mother put them clothes in the wash pot. Then, after
Mother would rub the clothes on a wash-board to get the dirt out of them, we
would help hang the clothes on the clothesline to dry.
I tell you now, that living on a farm in those days was a cooperative
enterprise. It also included learning to help milk the cows and work in the
One of the games we liked to play was baseball. We used a tree limb for a bat
and a string-ball. I would unravel a bunch of Papa’s old socks and make a big
As a family of boys and girls, I think our family was far above the average.
Each one of us was always ready to help the others if we were needed. It is
still that way. I think Papa and Mother were real proud of their children and
their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren.
* * *
Another incident I remember happened one Sunday afternoon. Our United Methodist
Church at Eureka was having a baptismal service in the Eureka Cotton Gin tank.
My father then owned a team of gray mares which each had a young mule colt.
Now these two gray mares hooked to a wagon was the only transportation we had.
So, we went to the baptism with the mule colts following their mothers. After
the service, we were returning home with the colts following a ways behind our
We met some people traveling in a one-horse buggy. These mule colts had probably
never seen any other animals except their gray-haired mothers. Anyhow, this
other animal got their attention and they turned around and took after this
horse and buggy load of people.
When I noticed what was happening, I told my father. He immediately found a
place to turn around and took after the mule colts. The gray mares immediately
struck a fast speed, for that was their babies chasing that horse and buggy.
We caught up with them about a mile down the road and persuaded them to follow
* * *
Now I want to tell you about an incident that I believe, because of later
incidents, was God sent. I was probably about six years old. One day, as I
looked out my father’s front house door, I saw, standing across the road, a
large brindle bulldog. His expression seemed to say: Is this the place?
My father stepped out on the porch and called him to come on over, which he
gladly did. A few days later, my father found out that he belonged to a Mr.
Bressie, who lived about five miles away.
My father, being an honest man, loaded Bulgier in his buggy and carried him
home. Mr. Bressie told my father he could have this great dog. Now some new
people had bought the farm we were living on. They had put a small herd of
cattle, including a MEAN bull in the pasture.
Sometime later, my father had bought an oat binder and was away one evening
cutting a neighbor’s oats.
My mother was plowing cotton with the other team. Me, my sister and our baby
brother, Orvil, were just outside the cowlot in a covered wagon. I was to look
after my sister and baby brother. My mother had made some sugar-tits for me to
give to my baby brother when he got hungry.
At quitting time, my mother carried her team of horses to the stock tank for
water. Now apparently the small herd of cattle in our pasture had been in a
pawing, bellowing fuss with the herd across the fence in their owner’s
pasture. Anyway, they were all mad at the world.
When the mad bull saw mother watering her horses at the tank, he and the whole
herd started bellowing and running toward mother and her team. Realizing what
was happening, my mother started leading the team to the barn as fast as she
could get them to go.
She almost didn’t make it. As she turned sharply around the big gatepost to
get inside the barn, that old bull rammed his horns into the gatepost.
Now, remember that big brindle bulldog the Lord sent our way. He had been
lying under the covered wagon that we children were in. I am sure he had our
safety in mind. When he saw the situation, he immediately came to the rescue. He
went under the fence into the lot where those mad cattle were all pawing at the
ground and bellowing their anger.
Being a large dog, he began barking at and biting all of those cattle. The more
he barked at and bit those cattle, the madder they seemed to get. He had their
ears bleeding, but they would not leave the lot. I guess they wanted to kill
After more than an hour, they began to slowly go back to the pasture. When
mother finally had a chance, she ran to our wagon and got us kids out and headed
for the house. But she did not stop at the house; she went up to our neighbor’s
who had a telephone. She called the owners of those cattle and demanded they get
those cattle out of our pasture the next day.
They got them out the next day.
* * *
Now I remember another exciting incident that happened on a visit to my
Grandfather’s home. He had sold that dangerous two-story house in Eureka and
bought a single-story home on 11th Avenue (in Corsicana) near the Methodist
Church on 18th Street.
Now, in those days there was an electrical streetcar line that passed within one
block of my
Grandfather’s house, down through Beaton Street and back. Since there were not
many people that owned cars in those days, some of them rode the streetcar when
they wanted to go shopping down center of Beaton Street.
Now, my mother would take me and my younger sister by horse and buggy about 3 or
4 times per year to spend a night with our Grandparents. Grandpa had a fenced in
back yard where he had a milk-cow. They would graze the cow in the street alley
behind their property. So we would put our buggy horse in the yard behind the
On one of those visits, a little after dark, Grandpa said he wanted to take me
and my sister on a streetcar ride. Boy, that sounded exciting! But it became
much more exciting when we got off of the streetcar downtown and went in a
building downtown. We began to see pictures of crazy people doing all kinds of
When we got back to Grandfather’s house, we began to tell mother about all
those exciting things. You see, we still didn’t know we had been to a picture
* * *
Now later, we were living on a farm that bordered on the north side of the road
between Eureka and Navarro. At that time I did not know there was a Navarro,
Texas. The first time I ever saw Navarro was when I carried my grandfather, John
Byrd, after he had finished a brick-laying job nearby, over to Navarro to catch
the train from Navarro to Corsicana. I carried him in a buggy pulled by a horse.
It was a long exciting trip for me. I saw my first little pine tree in a yard
about one mile from Navarro. The little pine tree is now much larger.
The oil field has since made a great difference in our community.
Now, when it became corn-planting time, my mother was busy looking after my
younger brothers and sister. So my father carried me out to the field with him.
After making a couple of rounds so the horses would be adjusted to the field,
Papa put me on the planter to finish planting the corn.
Papa picked up his cutting axe and went to the other side of the field to cut
some bushes that had grown up in the field. Papa had great confidence in my
abilities. Also those horses were well trained. They knew where to walk to plant
the corn seed in the center of the row.
After a while I felt so confident and relaxed I began to shout real loud. I was
probably about 8 years old. I wasn’t saying especially, just shouting.
Papa heard me and rushed over to see what it was all about. Of course it was
just the reaction of the new young “farm hand” that wanted to be heard. It
was “his first farm job!” Papa told me to be quiet, for that kind of a noise
might excite the horses and cause them to runaway and destroy the planter.
I told you all this so you would know the beginning foundation that led to my
future trade of being a farmer for many years.
Now, having an eye for the future, Papa had also bought a horse-powered haypress.
Therefore, my first public job was to follow the horse around and around as he
pushed the hay through the press to come out in square cornered bales. My
responsibility, as I followed the horse around that 20 foot circle, was to tell
him to “Get up” if he got too slow or started to stop.
Do you think I got tired of following that ole horse? Well you are right. But I
was trying to help my father “get ahead” in this ole world.
Now, the next year, Papa rented a larger farm about one mile south of the
Eureka-Navarro road. This farm was known as The Byrd Farm. My great-grandparents
had owned it years before. Their children had grown up there. I remember my
mother taking us children down there to see our Great-Grandmother one time.
Our Great-Grandfather had died a few months before I was born.
Now - the ole “God-sent” brindle bulldog comes back into the picture.
Crab Creek ran down through the farming land. This creek, with all the brush and
tall vegetation, seemed to be a great breeding-place for poisonous Copperhead
snakes. Many of them came up to our barn and house. We found them: in the barn,
in the cowpen, in the chicken-house, in the hen’s nest, in the cellar, and
many other places.
Now, Ole Bulgier would go to the field with my parents when they were plowing
close to the creek. He would usually kill a snake while down there. He also
bayed and killed several around the house area. I believe the Lord sent Ole
Bulgier to our house for our future for our protection. He got bit several times
and his head would swell up real large. But he never did relax his protective
attitude for our family.
There were no inside restrooms in our community. No running water. Just tanks
and wells. I was still a small boy. One night before going to bed, I started to
go outside before going to bed. Ole Bulgier was lying on the porch just outside
the front door. Before I could go down the steps, Ole Bulgier brushed by my
legs, went down the steps, and grabbed a copperhead snake about two feet from
our front steps.
I think he got bit in the process, but he saved me from getting bit. I still
think Ole Bulgier was God-sent to our house for OUR protection! Praise God.