Chasing the Tales of the Weldon Family of Palo Pinto County
The following column was shared with me by Robin Weldon Hildebrand <email@example.com>, daughter of E. H. "Pete" Weldon, following the column on Fortune Bend:
The following is an extraction of recollections written by Rubye Hannah Weldon in September of 1970. The items in parenthesis are added by her great niece, Robin Weldon Hildebrand. This is primarily the story of Lettie and Thomas Weldon who lived in Palo Pinto County before moving to Young County after their youngest daughter, Rubye, was born.
"Lettie Morrow Weldon was born in Wise County, Texas, September 4, 1869 (died January 12, 1944 in South Bend, TX, buried in McAdams Cemetery, Pickwick, TX). Whether place of birth, native intelligence, or genes were responsible, she was, indeed, wise. She had little formal education, but births, deaths, droughts, beasts, fowls, plants, rocky farms, and grandmother imparted to her a knowledge her descendants can't match. My mother, had more sage expressions than Ben Franklin; used parables than the Good Book; had pithy, graphic, homey remarks and illustrations to give emphasis to most any thought, opinion, or belief she had.
"'You can always find something good to say about a person,' she would say, and then quote the following story: 'Once there was an old man who always spoke well of everyone, never saying anything unkind about a living soul. There was a very worthless, no-good, low-down bum in the community and someone said to the wise old man, "Bet you can't think of anything good to say about that bum!" The old man stroked his beard and thought for a short time, then said, "Well, he's a very good whistler."' Mother called the tail of the chicken the anecdote, because it was a short tail. With many short tales, she taught us patterns of behavior, humility, kindness, compassion, and much, much more - at least she tried.
"Facts are facts, and the fact is my family was POOR. In these affluent times, with much ado about poverty, I'm amused, for if we'd had $2,500.00 per year we would have been THE establishment in Bunger. I have few recollections of our life in Palo Pinto County, Texas, where I was born. But I well remember mother's bitterness at moving to Young County, Gooseneck, Bunger - the place I call home.
In retrospect I understand my dad, Thomas Fields Weldon (born June 24, 1854 in Cedar County, Mo., died November 04, 1932 in Pickwick, TX, , buried in McAdams Cemetery, Pickwick, TX) much better than I did during his lifetime. It seems to me now that dad was inclined toward creativity and inventiveness, perhaps dreaming and yearning to travel. He liked to tinker and build things. I remember his scrounging and collecting pieces and parts and building from scratch a binder. Mother considered all this a waste of time. In another environment, or if he had been a man of means, he might have been an inventor, artist, or a real genuine ne'er-do-well. He liked to wander. The family moved back and forth between Texas and Oklahoma several times. That was an arduous task in wagons. Mother recalled using cow chips for wood and how they always had to leave something behind.
"Dad made the run at the opening of the Cherokee Strip in Oklahoma, September 16, 1893. He rode a mule. He succeeded in staking a claim, but sold it. I am confident he merely went for the heck of it, never intending to homestead. (He had certificate number 13537 at the opening of the Cherokee Strip of Oklahoma Territory, dated General Land Office, Sept 16, 1893.) I imagine it was exciting-they all lined up (except for those who sneaked in) on a 180 mile long strip along the Kansas-Oklahoma line, and at the appointed hour when the guns sounded, rushed in, hell bent for leather, - on horseback, afoot, in buggies, hacks, wagons, on mules, cows, horses, and some were fortunate enough to stake a claim. It is estimated 100,000 persons tried for only 40,000 homesteads. The strip was about 50 miles wide, and we now drive across it on a turnpike at 80 miles per hour.
"Dad was a horse trader. He always said if you can make a dollar profit, sell. This didn't go over too well when it was a horse or calf promised to an offspring, or the Palo Pinto County home. Tom Weldon burped lustily, and, I understand, sometimes made even more socially unacceptable noises. Mother said he had a patent answer when she rebuked him - 'There's more room in the outside world than there is in my little stomach.' Yes, he was independent, an individualist, and wanted no handouts. Brother Ben says dad always said he wanted to sit on his own bottom and wanted no alms.
"Mother had to work harder than anyone today can imagine, in order to feed and clothe the family. She was of necessity, and by nature, a practical, frugal person. These diversities of personalities and interests didn't create a happy married life for Dad and Mother. I shall always wonder how they got together. He was 15 years her senior and not financially secure when they married September 13, 1888. I imagine their often living with dad's family didn't make for peaceful times. But, mother learned much from Grandmother Weldon (nee Martha Ellen Allison Smith, born August 30, 1842, Washington Co., Arkansas, died Sep 12, 1931, Ponca City, OK). For the latter, of necessity, was resourceful, too. The most primitive arts, skills, and methods were practiced by both grandmas and mother. I learned a few myself. Weeds were food and nothing was wasted, not even chicken feet and pigs' innards. Mother made dyes from bark of trees and from bushes. I remember a beautiful purple she used for quilt linings. (Sis remembers one thing she used was leaves and flowers of sumac.)
"The old adage 'use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without,' was a way of life with us. Some of the older children said life was much easier for us younger ones. Brother George said, 'Yes, we had it made - we had a donkey and a sled with a water barrel on it and got to haul water!'
"There was and is no pretense about any of us. Hypocrisy was not, and is not, in our makeup and is something I (and I imagine the rest) cannot abide. A man was as good as his word in dad's day, and he lived by that. I believe my brothers have, too.
"Mother and dad were very strict, straight-laced. Everything but breathing was a sin. They were members of the Primitive (Hard-shell) Baptist Church, but I don't think that accounted for their strictness in 'raising' us. They just did what they thought was right. In my opinion, they were too strict. I know I broke many of their rules, and I suspect the other children did, too. (I use the word "children" because "kid" was never used by our family - a "kid" was a goat. Period.) Uncle Ellison (Pete) Weldon once brought me a set of dominoes, and dad hit the ceiling, but the dominoes stayed - the first ones to remain in our house, openly that is! We never played the game there, however. Cards, checkers, dancing, no, no. Our divertissement was work. (Ellison Richard "Pete" Weldon, born April 8, 1876, died January 11, 1973, Chickasha, OK.)
"One and all stepped outside to smoke because smoke made mother sick. Early in their married life dad gave up smoking for chewing! At the time of his death at age 78 he had all except one or two teeth --worn down, but sound. He never used a toothbrush or "tooth toughener" but always rinsed his mouth after meals.
"Visitors were few, and we welcomed them with open arms: the Raleigh man and Watkins man, peddlers. When they opened those huge cases and displayed their fascinating wares, it was as exciting as the second moon shot! One medicine we always had and used inside and out was Watkins lineament (red and hot as hades). Wonder what it would do to a jet age ulcer? We even doctored the chickens with it. Speaking of chickens, one expression mother used - and I've never found anyone who knows the origin of it - was 'dauncy' for a droopy, scantily feathered, sad, wings down, sick chicken - a very vivid description! Many times I have felt 'dauncy'.
"Mother always cautioned about making flat, positive statements; said one shouldn't be so absolutely sure he was right; that she learned better when brother Jim, the eldest of ten, was young and inquired if a hen ever laid two eggs. She answered no and the very next day one laid a double yolk egg!
"Mother always yearned to fly. She was all for trying new things. I remember the first car I ever saw. Mother, dad, and I were at Church at Lucile (one thing I remember from that era) and mother had the nerve to ride home in that thing. Dad and I sat indignantly straight on the wagon seat all the way home. Once years later I arrived home and the radio was blaring something akin to the present day hysteria, and when asked what she was listening to, mother calmly replied, 'A horse race at Hialeah Park, Florida'.
"Both mother and dad like to ride with brother-in-law Lee McClaren. (He was a good driver.) They didn't object to speed. I rather imagine they would have taken today's expressway speeds calmly. When dad passed away, it was very bad times - depression. We hired no hearse, but rather asked Lee to drive Uncle Ben Morrow's truck (William Benjamin Morrow, born Nov 18, 1875, died March 15, 1959). It seemed the natural thing to do. Dad was 'laid out' at home, too. I don't remember any service except at the McAdams Cemetery (near Pickwick), which is enough.
"Mother and I used to travel to Vineyard from Graham to see Grandma Morrow (nee Sarah Boothe, born Sep 6, 1847, Oktibbeha, MS, died March 17, 1926, Jack Co., TX) . It was a 40-50 mile train ride. It was a slow train and departed early in the morning. Mother always packed a lunch and she said that as soon as the train pulled out I started eating and ate all the way. One morning dad delivered us by wagon to the Graham depot for our annual visit. We waited and waited and no train. Finally dad inquired and was told we were at the freight depot; that the new passenger station was a block or so down the tracks. We didn't get to town very often!
"Mother never went grocery shopping, seldom went to town. When dad started to town he asked and was told what we 'had to have'. Never what we needed. Staples were all we 'had to have'. He bought 100 pound sacks of flour and took corn to be ground into meal. He bought coffee and lard (when ours ran out), and sugar reluctantly. At mealtime food was placed on the table before dad and when he'd helped himself, it was passed to us - mother waiting until last!
"The only intentional deception I ever knew mother to indulge in was coloring the butter. When the "oil field people" came with the boom to our area, dad peddled butter, eggs and other items among them and got a good price. The ladies asked for the beautiful yellow, delicious butter. Long after when mother admitted with a twinkle she'd added color, dad was horrified at having deceived customers.
"We stood on the front porch and saw oil flow over the derrick of a well on the "mountain" west of our property. Indeed there was oil, oil wells all around us, but alas, our well was plugged as dry. Things might have been quite different had we 'struck oil,' but I doubt the change would have been rapid. There were gas lines under our land and we could have had all we wanted free, but dad would never permit it. Too dangerous.
"The oil boom did help the boys get employment - 12 hours a day, seven days a week! 'Towers' they were called, but I don't know why. Also, Bunger school grew from two rooms to four; and Tom bought us the icebox; and I rode to work with him on the 'hoopie' (stripped down car), and he had a Model T which he used on Sunday or when he went to see his girl. For miles around the Bunger area there were houses, shacks, and oil wells. I wish it were possible for me to see those exciting times and places now, as they were then! Sam Goldwater's general store, 'the largest south of the Brazos' as he advertised was a busy place, as was Bunger Slim's (Jim's) hamburger stand. One Sunday we were in the Baptist Church and a nearby well 'blew in' and we all went out to look. Mr. Goldwater ran gleefully into the spraying oil and got covered with it. I wonder if the preacher stayed behind?
"Whatever meeting was going on, we attended, if possible. Mother and dad never objected to our attending any church meeting, and that is the way it should be. We went to Primitive Baptist Associations, Missionary Baptist, and Church of Christ revivals, and singing schools. Mother always said she was proud her children were born well and of sound mind and body. I guess we always knew she expected us to do well and 'turned out' pretty well.
"In my lifetime some spectacular things have happened. Never was there such an era, and I am saddened by what is happening and seems to be going to happen in our good old USA. I remember the first car, telephone, radio, airplane, and television set I saw. Planes were so rare that when we heard one, we all ran out to look at it. Once when we were gazing skyward neighbor Mary Kate James said, 'It's probably a scissortail.' It was hard to believe! The radio was a squeaking ear phone deal at Uncle Ruf Booth's (Rufus Boothe, born December 4, 1879, Oktibbeha, MS, died May 1931). Just to hear a racket was exciting - no voice, no music, just racket. Not too different from the present! The first tv I saw was in Ft. Worth in 1949. Mother said cousin James came and told us World War I was over, November 11, 1918. They had a phone; we didn't then.
"No doubt there are many more expressions and idioms I should have included in this, but maybe I will write a sequel some day, or better perhaps someone else will! I do recall 'A whistling girl and a crowing hen always come to a bad end.' 'A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.' How times have changed, manners and morals, especially. 'Don't make friends too fast! Don't eat 'em up and you won't have to puke them up. When someone is too eager to be your friend, look out! This I've always remembered. Never spread gossip Grandma Morrow said, for 'the more you stir an old pile, the more it stinks!' Some of their expressions were earthy and crude, but one has to admit they were to the point and taught in a way never to be forgotten. I am proud of my ancestors.
"One story oft told concerned the neighbor lady who gave a fine dinner and invited only a select few, excluding mother. A short time later she had a quilting party - a working party - and invited one and all, including mother. 'If I can't be the tablecloth I won't be the dishrag,' said mother Lettie, and stayed home! To me, no expression or action is more typical of my mother. And I am very closely akin to Lettie Weldon!"
I want to thank the Weldon family for sharing their Aunt Rubye's remembrances. We have more, and we will share those with you at a later date.
You all come back now, you hear, and if you have a question, or a contribution, let me know: Sue Seibert, P. O. Box 61, Mineral Wells TX 76068-0061; firstname.lastname@example.org .
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