Patterson Family
Life on the Farm
Our economic position in Lynn County, Texas was at the bottom of the food chain or very near it. My brother said that everyone told him others had it worse, but he never met them. One thing that probably helped people in those days was the fact that no one really had it made. One thing that was a plus for my family was that we never went hungry. Mother always had a garden, chickens, a cow and some pigs. Additionally mother would can crops for the neighbors for a quarter of the cans for her labor. I can never remember a time when we didn’t have a cellar full of canned goods. During the winter this was a primary source of our meals. We usually had a corn crib which had dried corn for the chickens and pigs which mother would also to make hominy by soaking them in lye water until the hulls came off the corn. She would them boil it or make it into a grit for cereal or tamales.

My brother came home on leave in early 1943 prior to going overseas. It was a gala affair with everyone listening to his experiences in the US Navy. He had just washed out of flight school because he could not satisfactorily take Morse Code, a problem that I also was to later experience. He was now a Third Class Aviation Mechanic. The high light of his leave was when he went to Lubbock and purchased the family a battery operated Philco Radio. This was the first time that we ever had a radio. The draw back was the dry cell battery that powered it. As time went on the battery would lose its charge and need to be replaced. I don’t know the price of a new battery, but I do know that when it died so did the radio programs. I think Leoline gave us a new battery and we were back in business for a time. Because of the limited life of the battery, the number of programs were rationed. I can only remember that we would listen to the Grand Ole Opery from Nashville, Tennessee every Saturday night. Dad always listened to the news.

My parents always made it possible for Santa Clause to find me. I really dont know where they got the money, but every Christmas there were toys under the tree. I mentioned earlier the little red bus that I got in 1939. In 1942 I got a train that ran off batteries and a Scout Flyer Wagon under the tree. I really thought the world of that wagon. Granted it also got used by mother to haul things around the farm, but usually it was mine. Mother's sister Vera King brought her family for a visit while we lived on the Jackson Place. Someone got the idea that ice cream would be good. Dont know where we got the ice cream maker, but I do know where we got the ice. All of us kids took my Scout Flyer and started walking to Wayside to get ice and some soda pop. Wayside was a cotton gin, grocery store and a couple of houses at the intersection of the Wilson and New Home roads about 3 miles south of our house. The group of pioneers included Johnnie Faye, Sonny, Edna Ann, Junior, and me. There were several arguments about how hot it was and why we shouldnt just sit down and drink the soda pop. Good judgement and the fear of God kept us from committing this unforgivable sin.

Cotton was king on the South Plains of Texas starting after the turn of the century and is still a major cash crop in the area. Since this area get about 23 inches of rain a year and has severe winters and one hell of lot of wind, the cotton crop is not as lucrative as in other more humid areas. The short staple cotton grown in this area is not used by industrial nations that use modern machinery to make thread. Most is shipped to developing nations that still weave by hand. The result is a lower price for cotton grown in this area. Nevertherless all parts of the local economy depended on cotton revenue. Everyone benifitted starting with farm equipment, laborers, merchants, gins, compresses, transportation, and all other support services.

When cotton picking time came, everyone would get their knee pads, bonnets, hats, long sleeve shirts and cotton sack and head for the field. I was fairly fortunate because I was too small to pull a large sack. At time they took me to the fields and I would pull boles and place them in the row for mother to collect when she got there. Granted it was not much help. Usually, after school Frances would take care of me at the house so we both beat going to the field. After spending a hot dusty day in the field I recall how happy I was to walk back to the house when Frances returned from school. I am sure seeing me was probably the highlight of my sisters day. In those days kids were given time off from school so they could help with the cotton picking. During this time I could stay at home with Frances. One thing that I am happy about is that I did not have to grow up in the country. Roy Clark has a song that says “my mother pick cotton, my father pick cotton, my brother pick cotton, my sister pick cotton, but I never pick cotton”. I must admit that I did pick a little cotton, but it was not a career. Years after moving to town several of us brainy individuals thought we could make some easy money by pulling cotton. We got some cotton sacks and piled into my 1940 Chevrolet and headed for the cotton fields of Lynn County. It didn’t take us long to realize this idea did not rank up near the top of the brilliant ideas we had conjured up to make money. There were definitely easier ways to make money in town. When I lived in the country I had no concept of living in a town. I had not been to town enough to even know what it would be like.

Cotton is influenced by many things including planting dates, rainfall and availability of irrigation, insects, weeds, hail and wind damage, first freeze date, and market prices. The climate is just barely suitable for cotton. The growing season is from 185 to 225 days long, which is considered comparatively short as growing seasons in some cotton areas around the world extend to nine months. Rainfall averages about 23 inches per year, also comparatively low (cotton is a monsoon crop in India), but, fortunately, approximately 75 per cent falls during the growing season from early May to mid-October. Nevertheless, rainfall is highly erratic temporally and spatially (the latter referring to the intensely local nature of storms). Irrigation relieves some of the risk of rainfall deficit, but it is expensive and the groundwater resource is non-renewable and depleting. In general, in years when precipitation is ample and timely, most producers do fairly well. When several years of bad weather occur, growers go under and lose their farms. My father fell in the latter group. Granted he never owned a farm. He was just a victim of timing. As a side note my father decided to move on to the Llano Estacado in 1924 and the bottom started to fall out of the cotton market in 1927 and did not fully recover until 1941. This and the other things that I mentioned earlier seemed did not help him in his last career move.

Unknown to me, storm clouds were forming that would change my life. Heated discussions between my parents were going on as to whether we should continue digging in the dirt or move to Lubbock. No concensus could be reached between my parents. So at the beginning of the third grade, mother decided that living on a farm was crap and told Dad to lump it. A woman that she knew by the name of Martin offered mother an apartment in a tenement house called the White Cottage in Lubbock if she would manage it for her. This lady owned several place in Lubbock; most were whore houses as I later discovered. Dad didn’t think highly of the move so she packed up and left him on the farm. Lubbock was a town of about 40000 people. The city limits was behind the Joy Motel on 34th Street.

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