Patterson Family

My Father and Mother Become Sharecroppers in Lynn County, Texas

Dad was a roving gambler who would work at odd jobs. Most of his life prior to settling down is a complete mystery. His sister, Addye, said he would be gone for years and then one day he would show up at her door. He never told anyone where he had been or what he was doing. George said Dad once told him that he spent time in Mexico before World War I. About the only thing known for sure was that he liked to gamble, drink whiskey, and had a short temper. He was working in Jones County, Texas for James Jackson DeBusk when he started courting his daughter Sarah May DeBusk. My parents were married 23 Feb 1921 in Anson, Jones County, Texas. Initially, he worked for Robert Daniel “Bob” Jones and Martha Jane DeBusk, my mother’s aunt and uncle, in Jones County, Texas. My brother was born near Tuxedo, Jones County, Texas in 1921.

My father moved the family from Jones County to Lynn County in 1924. His second cousin, James “Dad” Vaughn Dyer, had moved to Lynn County in 1904 and was an established farmer. Arrangements were made for Dad to get a farm as a share cropper. During this time Dad was doing fairly well for a sharecropper. He farmed the land using a team of mules prior to the Depression. By the time I made my graceful entrance his age was catching up with him making it difficult to obtain a good farm. The fact that he only had a 3rd grade education and a hot temper didn’t help matters much. His method of choice for solving problems usually involved violence. Beating a person about the head and shoulders with a blunt instrument was his solution for resolving conflicts with his fellow man. He was arrested for his display of temper on a few occasions. George tells me that Dad took a hammer to one of the land owners over a dispute concerning who owed what to whom. Sam Redwine, the Sheriff hauled him off to jail leaving George to go home and get Mothers help bailing him out of the jail. As a consequence of a lot of things, providing for his family was getting to be a huge problem. The John Deere, Farmall, AC, MM, tractors were starting to push the mule farmers off their land. Most people were investing in tractors, but it was likely that he didn’t have the money for this type improvement. My dad never tried using a tractor, as he always said "they were just a flash in the pan and would not catch on". This all combined to force him from sharecropping into doing odd job for other farmers. While dad had short comings, working hard was not one of them.

I will try to explain the Mexican situation in Texas around the time I was born, so that our life can be put into the proper perspective, as my father was now competing for work with the Mexicans. The Mexican problem in Texas was like a sinusoidal curve. In Texas the Mexican has always been considered to be the bottom of the economic and social scale. In early Texas history Mexicans were treated much like the black slaves of the south. They had few rights and the law was not designed to protect them. The Texas Rangers were also known to brutally repress the Mexican-American population in Texas. Historians estimate that hundreds, perhaps even thousands of Mexicans and Mexican Americans were killed by the Texas Rangers. President Eisenhower continued the policy of ridding the States of Mexican when he starter Operation Wetback in the 1954.

As the economy of the United States grew after the turn of the century, it became necessary to find a cheap source of labor. Around this time Mexico was racked with revolution and strife causing the standard of living of the average Mexican to drop below subsistence level. As a result of this huge labor force just across the border willing to work for minimal wage, the Mexican worker was highly encouraged to come to the United States. When the Great Depression hit massive unemployment developed in the United States. This made the Mexican something that was not helping with the problem. An attitude of “blame them for my problems” quickly evolved. The Great Depression of the 1930s actually hit the Mexican immigrants much harder than it did to the American worker. Along with the job crisis and food shortages that affected all U.S. workers, Mexicans and Mexican Americans had to face an additional threat: deportation. As unemployment swept the United States, hostility grew toward immigrant workers, causing the government to initiate a program of repatriation of Mexican immigrants to Mexico. Immigrants were offered free train rides to Mexico, and some went voluntarily, but many were either tricked or coerced into repatriation. Some Mexican Americans, which had been in the States for generations, were deported simply on suspicion of being Mexican. All in all, hundreds of thousands of Mexican immigrants, especially farm workers, were expelled from the country during the 1930s—many of them the same workers who had been eagerly recruited a decade before. This program just about cleared the Mexican out of the farming economy. The remaining Mexicans migrated to larger cities seeking employment in other industries. This moved the problem from the farm to cities where riots in towns like Los Angeles grew to epic proportions. The 1940s saw yet another reversal of U.S. policies—and attitudes—toward Mexican immigration. December 7, 1941 change the direction of the sinusoidal curve.

As wartime industries absorbed U.S. workers, farmers became desperate for low-cost labor and urged the government to take action. In 1942, the U.S. and Mexico jointly created the bracero, or laborer, programs, which encouraged Mexicans to come to the U.S. as contract workers. Braceros were generally paid very low wages, and often worked under conditions that most U.S. citizens were unwilling to accept. Braceros were treated so poorly in Texas, for example, that for a period the Mexican government refused to send any workers to that state. The program was very popular with U.S. farmers, and was extended well past the end of World War II, not ending until 1964. More than 5 million Mexicans came to the U.S. as braceros, and hundreds of thousands stayed.

Ironically, just as one government program was pulling Mexican immigrants into the U.S., another was pushing them out. After the war, the U.S. began a new campaign of deportation, on a much larger scale than during the Depression. The expulsions lasted well into the 1950s, and sent more than 4 million immigrants, as well as many Mexican Americans, to Mexico.

Just because the Mexican was needed didn’t make them acceptable to the “white” community. The inbred hatred during the 1930’s would not go away and the Mexican was considered to be sub-human. At this time my father had to compete with the Mexican for the money paid by the farmers to harvest crops. There is not much doubt that all of this influenced my racial beliefs. This brings me to our housing situation.

Some of the farmers would let us live in “cotton pickers shacks” until the harvest. At that time it was necessary to vacate or share the houses with itinerant labors from Mexico. One vivid memory of these houses was the disinfecting process. Mother would soak the wood with cresol to kill the lice, fleas and bed bug before we moved into a new house. Every time I go past a telephone post and smell the cresol I remember those houses. If this process worked so well on bugs, wonder if hurt people? The floors were then scrubbed with lye soap. In this day and time the inside walls were made of wood as sheetrock was not in wide spread use. Wind would blow through the outside wall and creating a pressure against the wallpaper until with a sharp crack the paper would split creating a constant fluttering sound. In the better homes cheese cloth was nailed to the wood before hanging the wallpaper and the walls were caulked. At night you heard snap, crack, pop, creak, and flutter. With this and the animals it was never quiet in the country.

Frances would take care of me when she arrived home from school. While she was gone, I would be left with the Mexicans or in some cases taken to the field with Mother. The Mexican mamacita in charge of the children would set up a big black pot in the yard and fill it with beans on Monday, adding beans each day until Saturday. All the kid would get in a queue and the mamacita would give us a tortilla, a scoop of beans, and a jalapeno for lunch. Wasn’t a bad meal considering. By Friday the beans had the consistency of what we now know as refried beans and the jalapeņos were well aged. Saturday everyone would go to town and the pot would be cleaned so the process could be started again on Monday. This was another experience that caused me concern when I tried to understand my racial feelings. I really liked most of the mamacitas and enjoyed playing with the Mexican children, but the peer pressure of the white community was also contributing to my racial feelings. Throughout my life I have wrestled with my racial feeling because of these influences. My racial belief toward Mexican and even blacks has been wishy-washey at best. I had a problem my whole life when it came to dealing with people; I could see both sides of the issue. This made it rather difficult to decide which side to adamantly support. Other people seemed to form strong opinion, so I felt that I should also be able to take a strong stand for or against issues, but I always had doubts because they also had good points. I could see that most of the problem with the Mexican was economic and had nothing to do with his belief, creed, background or place of origin. At times I would forget because everyone around me had a different view on this subject.

George tells me that he remembers Dad picking him up from school and driving up to the north part of Lynn County where Grandfather James Jackson DeBusk had a farm. Actually, the farm was in the southern part of Lubbock County. Dad’s T-Model Ford can be seen in the background of the pictures below. At this time all of the married children of my grandfather had moved to Lubbock or Lynn County. This was about the time Dessie Ann DeBusk married Moses Thomas Jones. I am not real sure whether they ever lived in this area. It seems that when James Jackson DeBusk moved his family to the Llano Estacado in the 1920’s the married children chose to follow him. This was a long time before I was born. By the time I was born all of the DeBusks had moved from Lubbock area. Joseph Cleveland Warf and Leeoline DeBusk moved to Corona, Lincoln County, New Mexico, but kept their farm in Draw. Latter Julia Malissie DeBusk and her husband Kenneth Lenora “Preacher” Hill would move to Slaton, Texas. I remember that they lived in an old filling station. We didn’t visit with them because of lack of transportation. I basically grew up without knowing my cousins. We ultimately moved from the southeast to the north part of Lynn County sometime around 1938. Needless to say none of this information is stored in my organic “hard drive”. George wrote a nice synopsis of what he could remember about our life during the early years. My Aunt and Uncle Leeoline and Joe Warf had an 80 acres farm that we lived on around 1938-39. An altercation developed between Joe and Dad over a can of kerosene. Joe told people in Slaton that Dad stole the kerosene and Dad said he paid $1.96 for it. I don’t know which of them were right, but it was a known fact that both of them would “take advantage” of things. On several occasions Dad was known to lie about how many bales of cotton he grew so he would not have to share as much with the farm owner. As George says the worst beating he ever got from dad was when he corrected the number of bales grown in front of the farm owner. Regardless, after the fight Dad and Joe never spoke again. When Joe and Leeoline would visit, dad would go out the back door until Joe left. Joe and Leeoline were the only kin that visited us on a regular basis.

Aunt Leeoline DeBusk and Joseph Cleveland Warf along with my grandfather James Jackson DeBusk and Uncle Charlie Gabriel DeBusk all left West Texas around 1929 to homestead land in Lincoln County, New Mexico. They lived in Corona, New Mexico, where Joe had several sections of land. Joe spent more time drinking than working, but was able to amass quiet a bit of money from two farms in Lynn County, Texas and this ranch. It is said that he screwed Grandpa and Uncle Charlie out of their land. Not sure how true this is, but there was not much doubt that he would “take advantage of a situation”. Because of his farms, Joe and Linnie would visit us a lot. Each year Joe would load his pickup truck with Christmas trees to sell and come for a visit. This is how we got our tree each year. Other wise we would have to decorate a tumble weed. Decorating a tumble weed with crepe paper and strings of corn was a common practice in this area since there were no trees. He would pay me to go door to door selling Christmas trees. As I recall this was not one of my most profitable undertakings. .
Chapter 1 My Way of Thinking
Chapter 2 My Father and Mother Became Sharecroppers
Chapter 3 Conception to Awareness
Chapter 4 Now I Know That I Remember -- I Think
Chapter 5 Things That We Did on The Farm
Chapter 6 Life on Jackson's Place
Chapter 7 My Education Begins
Chapter 8 Life on the Farm

Chapter 9 Move to the Metropolis of Lubbock, Texas
Chapter 10 Marines

Chapter 11 College and New Orleans

Chapter 12 Indonesia

Chapter 13 Bahrain
Chapter 14 Scotland