Moving Day


In 1913 the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution brought us income tax; zippers became popular; a loaf of bread cost ten cents, and gas sold for twenty cents per gallon.

Oil had been discovered in Oklahoma and Kansas several years earlier, and Grandpa Erwin and his sons found that they could make big money working in the oil fields. They owned the horses and wagons necessary to haul the heavy equipment, and they had the expertise for handling the teams of big draft animals. Grandpa Mike had worked with horses all of his life, and he taught his sons well.

In the early days Dad farmed at times, but he owned his own team and wagon and hired out much like a private truck owner might do today. Often, however, Grandpa Mike and his sons would do contract work as a group. The word would go out, usually from Grandpa via telegram, when a new job was starting up, and his adult sons would pack up their families and heed the call. Under normal conditions a team of horses, pulling a freight wagon, could travel only about thirty miles in a day, so even a short trip by today’s standards might take a week or more. They carried all of their possessions in the wagon. They used it as a home when they traveled, and  Dad utilized the same wagon for his work when they arrived at their destination.

Goldie recalled one such trip they made by covered wagon, probably going from Kansas to Oklahoma to join up with Grandpa and some of Dad’s brothers. It seems that Clifford, around two years old, had been crying for milk, but they didn't have any. Dad spotted some milk cows in a pasture alongside the road. He grabbed a pail from the wagon, climbed through the barbed wire fence, and milked one of the cows. When he came back he had enough milk for all of his children.

The story of another incident has been told and re-told many times over the years. The family had been on the road several days and provisions were getting low. Mom complained to Dad,

"Odes, we ain’t got much food left. I don't know what I'll fix for supper."

Dad didn't answer her. He evidently didn't know either, but he wasn’t one to let his family go hungry. As they approached a farmhouse alongside the road, he noticed that the farmer's chickens had scattered out into the roadway, scratching and pecking for possible tidbits. He slowed the wagon.

"Here, Hazel. Take the reins, and let them poke a along." He added, "How'd you like a nice fat hen for supper?"

While Mom handled the team, he put a kernel of corn on a fishhook and dangled it on a line out the back. When a hen grabbed the bait, Dad yanked her up into the wagon, with a quick hand over her beak to silence any possible squawks of alarm. He quickly wrung her neck and handed her over to Mom. They had their supper.

On another trip by covered wagon, probably from Drumright, Oklahoma back to Longton, Kansas, Dad and Mom, with their three young children, had to travel through Indian territory. By that time the Native Americans no longer fought the white man, but Dad and Mom, nevertheless, preferred being far away from them when night came. On this occasion, however, they had no choice. It was late afternoon and darkness threatened.

"Hazel, we're gonna’ have to camp. This looks like a good spot in this bunch of trees. We'll be sort of hidden here."

About a half mile farther Dad saw a bend in the road. They could not see far, but they could not be seen either. Dad claimed his team could smell Indians, and the horses acted especially restless all night. Dad did not fear physical danger to himself and his family, but he knew that young Indian braves liked to sneak into a camp and steal horses. Without the team he and his wife and children would be stranded. While his family slept in the wagon, Dad spent the entire night underneath it on the ground with his rifle cradled in his arms. Nothing happened, except that he had little or no sleep. At daybreak he roused Mom.

"Come on, Hazel. Let's get going."

Mom fixed a quick breakfast and they broke camp, wasting no time in getting underway.

As they drove around the bend in the road they gasped as a startling picture appeared. There, perhaps less than a mile from where they had spent a restless night, was an encampment of Indians. Dad flicked the reins, causing the horses to quicken their pace. He drove straight past the group, never slackening, while Mom and the children watched the passing scene with wide eyes. The Indians watched the progress of the horses and wagon but made no move in their direction. Goldie, Flossie and Clifford, usually active and noisy, made not a sound. Mom, especially, must have been much relieved when they had driven well past the camp.

By 1923 there were six of us children, and Dad and most of his family were still moving from job-to-job. It was that year that we moved from Augusta to Madison, Kansas following yet another oil boom. I was only three, and my memory of the trip vague, but Flossie  recalled the move in detail.

Grandpa and Uncle Dale helped Dad load our oilfield shack on his wagon, including all of our possessions. It required four horses—our Bess and Queen, plus Dale’s team—to pull the huge oilfield wagon. It took almost four days to travel the seventy miles to Madison, camping out along the way.

Flossie remembered the trip as a pleasant experience. The days were warm and hazy and the pace slow, allowing us to run and play along the way. She said that she could still smell the bacon frying over the campfire in the early morning, and hear the squeak and rattle of the heavy wagon as the big iron-clad wheels rolled down the gravel road.                                                           »»»