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Thursday September 21st 2017

Springtime in Old Lawton

March came on with the possibility of frost and snow in the air as some trees and bushes got in a hurry to put forth their new buds. Soon the Gypsies would be camped in Mattie Beal Park or by Lost Bridge. They offered knives and scissors sharpening, fortune telling, and around their campfire at evening they often played music and danced. It was time for me to disassemble my $12.00 Montgomery Ward bicycle, clean and lubricate, and tighten the spokes. It would travel many miles in the coming months.

The cotton seed oil mill and cotton gin will shut down and more than an hundred men will be without a job until next fall. My father continued to work as night watchman at the oil mill. With the greening of the grass, less sacks of feed for the mules and cow would need to be bought from Cannon’s Coal, Feed, And Seed Store. My father often unloaded coal from gondola railroad cars for the Cannon’s by hand. Some chunks of coal exceeded two hundred pounds. Depending on our need at the time, he would be paid with cash or flour, animal feed, or coal. Mrs. Cannon was my Sunday School teacher.

It was also gardening time and my father stayed busy many days plowing other people’s garden spot with his mules. Sometimes he was paid in cash or he might trade for a pig, goat, or calf that we would butcher. The mules were like 1,500 pound pet dogs that were worked by voice command. Many evenings, I would run to meet the wagon and my father would be asleep slouched on the wagon seat. The mules had come home without his direction. They knew where their oats would be when the sun went down.

Spring always meant storms and that is when I learned to despise storm caves. My father had dug a storm cave for us. Five houses on the other side of the street had only one which was usually filled with moonshine and choc beer. Storms came and everyone came running to our cave. I was the half asleep little boy trying to stand up and stay awake until it was over. In the corner of that cave was a hole deep enough for a #3 wash tub. That was our icebox where we kept our milk, butter, cream, and eggs for several years. A chunk of ice in the tub and all covered with news papers, then old quilts. It was very efficient.

Floods would occur soon and getting home from Lincoln School required a different path than usual. The bridge at 6th Street and I Avenue was a little higher than the street by the park and the flood water wasn’t as deep at the bridge. I would go north to the Frisco tracks, then west to 13th Street, then south to my home. Of course, I was soaked but my shoes had to have a new coating of bear grease before anything else.