Saturday, October 4, 2014

Big Will Sitton

My Grandaddy was known as "Big Will Sitton, born in 1888. He was in his teens before he laid eyes on an automobile. When he learned to drive a car as opposed to driving a team of horses, there were no paved roads just muddy ones. So he developed the habit of not wanting to stop his vehicle. If you stopped you were stuck in the mud. He consequently ran lots of stop signs his entire life. The process of Grandaddy's driving is where I learned a lot of "cuss" words. Everyone was always in his way and were often "damn fools" for gittin' in his way...and the SOBs ought to by god be took out and hanged. My earliest preschool memories of him include being placed up on the seat of his wagon as he worked the barbed wire fence line with the team of horses setting posts...building fence. He put me down on the ground and showed me a nettle, warning me of its painful sting. In East Texas they were called "bull nettles". Sure enough I got into one and got stung. I cried and complained. So Grandaddy said,"pee on it!"...which I proceeded to do right away. He said, "feel better now?" I said, "uh huh", shaking my head up and down. Will Sitton was born a few miles from Lindale, Texas in Smith County. For a few years he was a contractor rebuilding oil well pumps in one of the early Texas oil fields near Burkburnett,Texas, Wichita County discovered in 1912. He made enough money to pay cash for 105 acres of land in northern Smith County of the S.M. Grace survey. The price was $800 and in doing so in 1921, he reclaimed some of the original land purchased in the 1800s by Sittons and later lost in a tax sale on the steps of the county courthouse. His pump rebuilding business involved the use of a specially trained team of horses who obeyed his voice commands as the pump was pulled from the depths one sucker rod at a time. Forward and back by voice command as Grandaddy disassembled the rods. Upon finally getting the pump to the surface, he disassembled it and rebuilding it followed by placing it back into the hole in the ground in the same manner. Paying cash for 105 acres of land in 1921 was quite of feat for a man who was a farmer because the Great Depression of the 1930s came early for came in the 1920s for them. They had supplied WWI and Europe with the food to fight the war and recovery but when the war ended, food production for the war and it's aftermath soon stopped causing the price of farm products to fall drastically, setting the stage for the crash of the stock market in 1929. That's when the Lindale State Bank failed in Lindale, Texas and my other Grandfather, Pete Malone lost all the money he had. I was somewhat inspired by country life and farm animals so as a senior in high school in Tyler, Texas I participated in vocational agriculture and was a member of the FFA. I bought two 2yr. old heifers. One was a Guernsey and when she calved the calf died and I had to learn how to milk quickly. Each morning I was up quite early and drove from Tyler to Lindale to milk my cow. Big Will also milked his cow so we waded through the morning dew together to milk. After the job was done, my Grannie Margaret Amy Mason Sitton, strained the fresh milk and had breakfast on the table ready for my Grandad and I to sit down for breakfast. biscuits, cane syrup, black berry jelly, eggs, sausage...every morning, then back to Tyler for school. Looking back those mornings seem like a many teens would have had such a thing of value to later day dream about? Back to an earlier memory, pre-school age, I remember the Sitton hog killing. It usually was a frosty cold October morning. Grandad's Sitton cousins came to help; three or four pairs of extra hands for the hard work. A wood fire was built under a metal barrel of water. The action took place under a massive oak tree close to the hog pen, to which a block and tackle was attached on a very large overhanging limb. The hog were killed and bled out very quickly and hoisted up above the hot water and dipped to clean and soften the skin. This was followed by a lot of scraping and dipping. The hog was then gutted and the head removed. Grandad chopped and sawed the hog in half from rear to front with his ax and hand saw. They raised very fat hogs in those days (1940s) so as to render the fat to make lard for house hold use in the kitchen. This cooperative activity was standard for people who were "self reliant". Favors were always reciprocated. The daughter of one of those cousins, Ruby Sitton Robertson, recently deceased, told me "Will Sitton was always ready to help anyone who asked for a hand to get things done. He often robbed bee hives for people." Another early memory was of a family gathering at the home place. I think it was just after WWII and all the sons and inlaws were home from the war. The atmosphere was festive. It so happen that a lone horse wandered up the long drive way from the dirt road, a horse no one recognized just a stray. One of the men came up with a devilish idea to get the horse to go back home. The idea was put in action and got instant results. An empty gallon can with a few rocks inside was tied to the horses tail and a quick slap came down on the horses rear. The noise of the can with the rocks sent the poor horse into a full run jumping and kicking in an unsuccessful attempt to rid himself of the can. We watched as the horse ran down the long lane, turned right and ran over the RR, up the hill and out of site still at a kicking run. The group of men laughed themselve to loosing their breath. They bent over slapping their thighs and had faces tortured with uncontrolled laughter. It seemed like a group of Indians dancing around. I smile as I play the memory in my head! Only one of those men is alive today. It seems like such a long time ago and my heart feels heavy. A lump comes up in my throat with longing for the innocence of my childhood. It was not a very nice thing to do to a poor lost animal...but I did not know that at the time. Isn't it amazing...all the memories that die with every person who walks through that garden wall? Hog killin. Cow milking. horse can kicking