My Story (text only)

My Story (text only)
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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 parents.

(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 too. 

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 wrong.

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 beautiful dresser.

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 should.

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, Texas.
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), Texas.

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 appreciate it.

* * *


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 garden. 

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 string-ball.

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 wagon.

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 their mothers.


* * *

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 someone.

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 house also.

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 crazy things.

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 show.

* * *

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.


* * *


I have many pleasant memories of our time of living in my great-grandparents former house. One of my pleasant memories was that of my Great-Grandmother Wooten, Roxie Byrd, living with us for a while. (She had no home of her own.) She loved to go down to the stock tank to fish. She actually baited the hook for me to catch my first fish.

There were no rod and reels in those days. We would dig for worms to use as bait down at the barn or behind our outhouses. We used a long cane pole with a long line with a hook on the end of it.

One of my saddest moments while living in my great-grandparents former home was the death of my baby brother, John Olen (about 3 years old). He had a very bad rupture from the time of birth. I don’t know for sure if the rupture was the cause of his death. He was sick for several days.

Our neighbors, Tommy and Aubrey Cox, who lived on the adjoining farm, would stay with my parents late every night. My little brother was kept in “my” rocking cradle. After he died, I remember sitting on the rail of the cradle, with a broken heart, looking down at my baby brother. Mrs. Cox came and kindly led me away, "For he was dead.

* * *

Now, in 1921, my oldest sister, Cloie, started to school. The school was the north room of the present Masonic Hall in Eureka, Texas. I did not start to school until Cloie was old enough to go with me. We walked about 2 miles to and from school each day.

During my first day in school, my teacher wanted to teach us how to write our figures. She wrote the figures one through ten on the blackboard and told us to copy them on the blackboard.

A few minutes later she noticed I had written them up to 100. She did not know that Granny Wooten had taught me how to write my ABC’s in the front yard with a big nail. Of course I got a promotion my first day of school. Whoppie!

Then in January of 1922, we rented and moved to a farm about 5 miles southeast of Navarro, Texas. We still think of it as the “Capehart Farm.” My father farmed until he had to retire. Then my brother Orvil farmed it for many years. It was there that I got my first experience of plowing with a riding cultivator drawn by two horses. I had quit my yelling “Oh Me.”

We started attending the Hopewell School, which was about two miles southeast of the Hopewell Cemetery, or about five miles from Navarro, Texas.

We had several years of Great Fellowship among many pupils. Our main games were “Darebase” or “Wolf-Over the River.”

After a few years, our lady teacher bought a basketball for us. One of the men in our community made a basketball hoop and nailed it to the side of the schoolhouse. We had great fun competing with the other pupils to see who could get the ball and make the most points. I could usually get the ball more times than anyone else.

Then I noticed that two of the girls about my age were pretty, but could not get the ball often. Then I began to struggle to get the ball more often and pass it to first one and then the other so they would have a chance to make a goal. But guess what - One day after recess, our teacher made the announcement that she did not want any boyfriend-girlfriend attitudes in the ball games. I have often wondered who she was talking to.

We made many lifetime friends while attending the Hopewell School. It was closed a few years later and we were transferred to the Navarro High School.

Now let me give you a copy of a letter written to Ann Landers in our local newspaper February 5, 1994.

Subject: Reader takes a look back to year 1930.

Dear Ann Landers:
I thought your readers might be interested in something different. Here is what life was like in 1930.
Five gallons of gasoline 85 cents
One gallon of kerosene 18 cents
One quart of oil 15 cents
One haircut 25 cents
One roll of toilet paper 25 cents
My telephone 5.25 a month
Three pounds of rice 18 cents
A gallon of milk 12 cents
One dozen eggs 22 cents
A bakery-type apple pie 10 cents
Two loaves of bread 10 cents
Two pounds of butter 25 cents
Three pounds of brown sugar 21 cents
I used kerosene lamps, and the stove was kerosene-run as well. We had no electricity.
My average income from 1930 through 1933 was $3.00 a week. Our first child was born at home. We called the doctor at 7 p.m. and he stayed until the birth, which was 9 a.m. the next morning. His bill was $10.00
It’s hard to believe how much things have changed.
Z. W. Smoker, Munice, Ind.

Now let me give you a copy of an article I wrote about -


The Great Depression of the 1930's


I vividly remember the years of the Great Depression. I was about seventeen years old when it began. The economic conditions were much different than now. Instead of going to the supermarket, we went to the smokehouse for cured meat, to the cow-pen for milk, to the hen-nest for eggs, to the garden for fresh vegetables.

We had one payday each year, after we picked and sold the cotton crop. There were no factories near.

For fun we contested each other to see

• who could pick the most cotton in a day
• who could get to the tank first to take a bath
• who could jump the farthest or the highest
• who could win in a corn-cob fight
• who could pin the other’s shoulders to the ground

We went to the picture show Saturday afternoon, to parties Saturday night, and played baseball Sunday afternoon.

School was a place of great fellowship as we studied together, played together, and worked together. It was also a place we could go to keep from working on the farm all day.

The Great Depression of the 1930's had a great impact on my life. It taught me to be willing to work for the good things of life. It taught me to be content in whatsoever state I am.

Odis Capehart
January 31, 1988.

Speaking of Sunday afternoon baseball games, I always wanted to hit a homerun like Babe Ruth. After church one Sunday, our family went home with my mother’s sister and her family for lunch and visit Sunday afternoon.

There was going to be a baseball game a short way down the road. My cousin Jessie Yates and I went down to watch it. Since they were short on players, Jessie and I were playing. One inning while my team was at bat, the first three batters got on base. Then I came to bat. I swung at the first pitch, and almost missed it. I hit it with the end of my bat and bunted it to right field. It was too far for the first baseman to catch and too close for the right fielder to catch. The right fielder got the ball and tried to throw the runner out at home plate. The throw was too late, so the catcher threw the ball to try to put out another base runner, but his throw was too late or offside. Every time one of them threw the ball we base runners would move up a base. As I was running for home plate, the catcher got the ball. So I headed back for 3rd base, but the catcher made a bad throw to 3rd base so I ran home.

I had finally gotten my “Babe Ruth” homerun with three runners on base. Whoppie!

Now, as a teenager, I had some great ideas. Not only did I want to be a great ball player like Babe Ruth, I also wanted to be a cowboy like Roy Rogers.

One evening, down at the cowpen, after I had milked a cow, I jumped on her calf as I was untying it to go to its mother. Instead of going straight to its mother, it started running straight toward the wire fence at the other end of the pen. Just before hitting the fence, it made a sharp left turn. I continued straight toward that fence - head first. My right arm went through that wire fence. I still have a scar about five inches long on my right arm because of me trying to be a cowboy like Roy Rogers.

Speaking of taking a bath in the tank, there was one occasion that became real serious. My brother Orvil, my cousin Jessie Yates and I were taking a bath in out tank.

I had not learned to swim very good. While we were sitting on the tank dam, I decided to swim across the real deep water to a certain place where the horses drank.
Before I got there, I got real tired and decided to walk the rest of the way out. But the water was still too deep for me to touch ground. I would go down and touch bottom and come back up enough to get my breath. I couldn’t walk out or swim out to the bank. I called for help and Orvil and Jesse ran around and came to my rescue. I didn’t try that anymore.

Now, concerning the few parties I attended, they are hardly worth mentioning. When I was attending Navarro High School, I attended two or three parties at Navarro. One game we played was for the girls to get together in a room and give each one a number. Then the boys would knock on the door so many times to get one of the girls to take a short walk with him. 

Now I am sure that was exciting if you were not a timid country
boy. Later I attended some country parties that one of the games was to choose a partner and then hold hands with another couple as we would go through a certain routine together. I also later attended some of the country dances in our community.

I remember walking about a mile to a dance down at our neighbor’s, Mr. Dalton Farmer. I had been standing around down there about two hours when I glanced up and saw my father standing there looking at me. He had become concerned about my safety down there among that group. So he and I walked back home real soon.

I also attended some play parties at my Aunt Lovie’s house and also some of her neighbors’ houses.

After the parties were over, I walked one of the neighbor girls home a few times. My cousin, Jerome Yates, also walked her sister home.

One Wednesday night, as I was going home from church, I stopped at one of our neighbor’s home where they were having a 42 party. Now, as they were playing, Geat Minitra’s pocketbook dropped out of his pocket to the floor. One of the neighbor boys saw it and picket it up without telling him. Later, Geat discovered his pocketbook was gone and asked if anyone had found it. No one told him what had happened.

Geat kept quiet for a while, then he jumped out of his chair and demanded someone give him his pocketbook. He was ready to fight. So the boy who had found the pocketbook gave it to him real soon. That was probably my most exciting party.

Winnie and I never attended any parties. For a long time, I just carried her home after church while my brothers and sisters waited at the church until I got back. We went to Corsicana to a revival several times. The last year or so before we married, I would go up to her home on Saturday nights for a while. One night I stayed a little late and Mr. Scruggs called Winnie and told her it was bed time. I didn’t dare ask him where my bed was. (Ha-Ha)

* * *

Another item that was much different while I was growing up was our lighting system. For many years, our lighting system was two or three kerosene lamps for our whole house. If we needed to go into another room that was dark, we just picked up the lamp and carried it into the other room for light.

About the year 1924, the man who sold the “Watkin’s products” had a special product for sale one month when he came by. It was an Aladdin Lamp. Mother bought one. For the next several years we had one room that was much brighter than the others. It was much easier to study my school lessons at night or to read my western magazines.

The next lighting advancement came a few years later when our landlord, who had installed a “one house” electrical system, moved back to town (Corsicana), and we moved into his house. We were then the only family in the community with an electrical lighting system for several years. Of course, all country homes now are lighted by Texas Power and Light Co.

Another inconvenience during my early years was the lack of a communication system in our
community. Most families did not have a telephone in their homes for several years. I think I was about twelve years old when my parents got a phone in their home.

It was much different than now. We did not have a private line. There was usually about five or six families on the same line. Our line ran about five or six miles over to Eureka Texas. Several homes were attached. There could be two or three people quietly listening to our conversation. Usually there were no community secrets.

* * *

 Text Story Part 2





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