Friday, April 15, 2016

Junction, TX by Clif McDonald

Junction, Texas
Emma Evans and Clifford McDonald
I was born in 1927 at San Angelo, Texas. My father was Clifford McDonald and my mother was Emma Evans McDonald. Milton McDonald, my older brother was known as Mack. My father was born at Roswell, New Mexico and my mother was born at Junction, Texas. My father died before I was a year old so I have no memory of him. Mother then married Alvy Smith; he had a son called Sonny who was much older than me and I very much admired my new big brother.
        In Junction I also had my Grandma McDonald and my Grandpa and Grandma Evans, my mother, Emma; Uncle Delmer, Aunt Margarete and Lola Mae. Aunt Lola was a great favorite of mine, she was only five years older than me and she had a very sweet personality that everyone loved. Everyone especially treasured Mother and Aunt Lola.
        On the McDonald side, I had Aunt Allie and Uncle Aubrey Sanders who had lots of kids. These cousins were Herbert Lee, Emma Dell, Odell, Henry, and Barbara Ann. My stepdad’s mother was Grandma Lettie Smith.
        I can remember Grandma McDonald telling me about living west of Roswell, New Mexico when there were trouble with the Apaches  and Grandpa moved the family back to Texas and he went back to New Mexico to get the cows and was never heard of again. I can remember living west of Junction near the North Llano River. There was a South Llano River also and these two rivers came together at Junction.
Evans' home near  Junction
        Pecan trees grew all along these river bottoms and along the small streams on our place but there was not much demand for pecans locally and most people let their hogs harvest them.
        During the early 1930’s during the Great Depression there was no money to be had so Daddy and Uncle Delmer, Mama’s brother,  got this idea to spend the winter gathering pecans and hauling them all the way to New Mexico and sell them house to house. He was intrigued with Grandma McDonald’s stories about New Mexico and wanted to visit the Sacramento Mountains in those parts. At my very young age of four, New Mexico sounded like a different world. It was about 400 miles away and everyone called it Mexico. Grandma Mack was the only person I knew that had ever been that far away.
Bodarc Store near North Llano River
Finally Daddy and Delmar  loaded up the pecans and made the rounds telling everyone goodbye. They expected to be gone for a couple of months and to me they were gone forever before they came back. I worried that they had gotten lost and would never find their way home again.
I was so excited when they returned. I said, “Daddy did you find those mountains?” He said, “Yes I did and you won’t believe how big they are and how tall the trees are. They have a train that comes into the mountains and gets logs and saws them up into lumber. We are going to move to New Mexico. I rented a place where we can graze some livestock and farm some land and has a house on it.” Mother wanted to know all about the house. We had a new brother prior to Dad leaving. His name was Alvie Junior, later known as Curley.
Our place is near Avis School and it is between Weed and Piñon. There is a store and post office at both Weed and Piñon. To the northwest is a small town called Cloudcroft and our nearest real town is about 50 miles away; it is Alamogordo and is the county seat of Otero. There were a few paved roads around Alamo but no paved roads that went all the way through Otero County. And all the roads in the mountains are unpaved. Well, we were used to that. Nearly all road in Junction, Texas weren’t paved either!
I had mixed emotions about moving. I didn’t want to leave my grandparents and cousins and especially Aunt Lola. I knew it was so far away it would be a long time before we could come back for a visit. And sure enough it was seven years before we returned to visit.
Well, we got rid of all our belongings on the North Llano River, loaded our truck and went into Junction and made the rounds to tell all of our friends and relatives goodbye. Everyone shook hands, hugged, and cried. Then we headed west.
Just before sundown we pulled off the road, built a fire, unloaded the chuck box, and cooked supper. Then we rolled our bedrolls and spent the night. In the morning we cooked breakfast and headed out again. Our truck broke down several times and Dad and Sonny had to work on it a lot and sometimes had to catch a ride to the next town to buy parts. We slept in our bedrolls every night and cooked every meal on a campfire, which was the normal way to travel in the early 1930’s. It took us nine days to make the 400 miles because the truck broke down so much. Finally Dad pulled up in front of our house at Avis and said, “Well, this is it. What do you think?” We all jumped out, looked around, ran through the house and cried and hugged each other. We were finally at our new home in the Sacramento Mountains.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Most Memoriable Otero County Christmas - 1932

A Memorable Otero County Christmas - 1932 
(Told to me by my father, Clif McDonald, Nov. 2018)

My family moved to the Sacramento Mountains in Southern New Mexico during the Great Depression. We left our grandparents, aunts, uncles and numerous cousins in Junction, Texas - a town where the North Llano and the South Llano rivers join up to become the just plain old Llano River.  Daddy rented a farm in Avis, New Mexico, which was far away from our  home on the river's south fork. We loaded up our truck and we four boys, Mama and Daddy lined up to say our goodbyes. It was like a funeral when we left; everybody was crying and hugging and telling us to be safe in "Mexico." We set out on the Texas Pecos Trail, a couple of ruts set in dust, that would shake and rattle our teeth for the next 450 miles of our westward journey.

We stopped each night before dark to set up camp; unrolled our bedrolls, found kindling, made a fire, and cooked out in the west Texas desert. We'd have our supper and the next morning we'd eat the cold leftovers. Mama and Daddy would drink some cowboy coffee boiled in the coffee pot and we'd set off down the rutty road until our car broke down or until dusk, then start all over again the next day.  We made the trip in a little over three weeks but it felt like a year of waiting and stopping and fixing. When we finally got to our place at Avis, it was beautiful!  We had a house and a school nearby and we could farm and raise animals.  It was pretty close to Heaven. 

In 1932, there was a persistent drought in the Sacramento mountains; our potatos only grew to the size of shooter marbles which Mama would boil, then clap into patties and fry up into "bread" because we couldn't afford flour for real hot cakes or rolls. Beans and corn were also our staples, and chickens provided eggs and sometimes a Sunday dinner. Our farm was best at raising children; the number of kids in our family eventually doubled, despite losing two sweet boys who left to become angels in Heaven.  

In 1932 there wasn't any money for Christmas.  Daddy decided to cut a  wagon load of nice wood specially sized for cook stoves. His plan was to peddle the handy, time saving fuel to housewives  in the treeless, flatland towns nearby. My dad worked for  days sawing, chopping and splitting hardwood down to the perfect size to fit in the firebox of 500 pound cast iron, heat producing, water boiling, bacon frying, chicken and biscuit cooking contraptions. We helped load the wagon with the perfectly sized kindling and split logs. Daddy told us all goodbye then hauled his freight down the trail through the settlements of Pinon, Duncan, Hope, and on to the barren plains of Artesia - stopping at every house to try to sell his cookstove wood. 
 
After several days we began to expect him to return and we would look down the road to try to see his horses and wagon coming.  At night we would sit outside to listen for him.  We were about to give up one evening when we heard the rumble of wagon wheels and the clinking of trace chains.  We all ran down the road to meet him.  He stopped and we all climbed on the wagon asking, "Did you sell the wood, Daddy?"

"Nobody has any money," he said.  "But
I traded the wood for a load of apples."  We looked under the tarp and saw the most beautiful red apples we could imagine and we all got one and started eating.  They were sweet and crispy and juicy and we were so excited and so proud of our dad for making such a good trade.

    On Christmas Eve we hung our stockings by the fireplace and finally went to sleep.  We woke in the morning to the sound of a crackling fire in the fireplace.  We excitedly ran in and found some candy and peanuts in our stockings.  I also got a pair of shiny new shoes.  I put them on, laced them up and waited for daylight to see how fast I could run in those new shoes.  I thought to myself, "It just doesn't get any better than this!"


Every Christmas now I think of how hard Daddy worked to make a Christmas for us, how good a new pair of shoes feels and how much faster they can make a young boy run.  And, when I eat an apple during the holidays, I recall how the perfume of a thousand cold, sweet apples smells when a tarp is lifted from where once a load of chopped wood lay.  

Clif McDonald

Junction, Texas
I was born in 1927 at San Angelo, Texas. My father was Clifford McDonald and my mother was Emma Evans McDonald. My older brother was Milton McDonald, known as Mack. My father was born at Roswell, New Mexico and my mother was born at Junction, Texas. My father died before I was a year old so I have no memory of him. My mother married Alvie Smith, who had a son named Sonny who was much older than me and I very much admired my older brother.
        In Junction I also had my Grandma McDonald and my Grandpa and Grandma Evans, my mother, Emma; Uncle Delmer, Aunt Margarete and Lola Mae. Aunt Lola was a great favorite of mine, she was only five years older than me and she had a very sweet personality that everyone loved. Everyone loved my mother and Aunt Lola.
        On the McDonald side, I had Aunt Allie and Uncle Aubrey Sanders who had lots of kids. These cousins were Herbert Lee, Emma Dell, Odell, Henry, and Barbara Ann. My stepdad’s mother was Grandma Lettie Smith.
        I can remember Grandma McDonald telling me about living west of Roswell, New Mexico when there were trouble with the Apaches  and Grandpa moved the family back to Texas and he went back to New Mexico to get the cows and was never heard of again. I can remember living west of Junction near the North Llano River. There was a South Llano River also and these two rivers came together at Junction.
        Pecan trees grew all along these river bottoms and along the small streams on our place but there was not much demand for pecans locally and most people let their hogs harvest them.
        During the early 1930’s during the Great Depression there was no money to be had so Daddy and Uncle Delmer, Mama’s brother,  got this idea to spend the winter gathering pecans and hauling them all the way to New Mexico and sell them house to house. He was intrigued with Grandma McDonald’s stories about New Mexico and wanted to move to the Sacramento Mountains there.
At my very young age of four, New Mexico sounded like a different world. It was about 400 miles away and everyone called it Mexico. Grandma Mack was the only person I knew that had been that far.
Finally Daddy and Delmar  loaded up the pecans and made the rounds telling everyone goodbye. They expected to be gone for a couple of months and to me they were gone forever before they came back. I was afraid they had got lost and would never find their way home again.
I was so excited when they returned. I said, “Daddy did you find those mountains?” He said, “Yes I did and you won’t believe how big they are and how tall the trees are. They have a train that comes into the mountains and gets logs and saws them up into lumber. We are going to move to New Mexico. I rented a place where we can graze some livestock and farm some land and has a house on it.” Mother wanted to know all about the house. We had a new brother prior to Dad leaving. His name was Alvie Junior, later known as Curley. Our place is near Avis School and it is between Weed and Piñon. There is a store and post office at both Weed and Piñon. To the northwest is a small town called Cloudcroft and our nearest real town is about 50 miles away, it is Alamogordo and is the county seat of Otero. There is a few paved roads around Alamo but no paved roads all the way through Otero County. And all the roads in the mountains are unpaved. Well we were used to that. Nearly all road weren’t paved.
I had mixed emotions about moving. I didn’t want to leave my grandparents and cousins and especially Aunt Lola. I knew it was so far away it would be a long time before we could come back for a visit. And sure enough it was seven years before we returned to visit.
Well, we got rid of all our belongings on the North Llano River, loaded our truck and went into Junction and made the rounds to tell all of our friends and relatives goodbye. Everyone shook hands, hugged, and cried. Then we headed west.
Just before sundown we pulled off the road, built a fire, unloaded the chuck box, and cooked supper. Then we rolled our bedrolls and spent the night. Then cooked breakfast and headed out again. Our truck broke down several times and Dad and Sonny had to work on it a lot and sometimes had to catch a ride to the next town to buy parts. We slept in our bedrolls every night and cooked every meal on a campfire, which was the normal way to travel in the early 1930’s. It took us nine days to make the 400 miles because the truck broke down so much. Finally Dad pulled up in front of our house at Avis and said, “Well, this is it. What do you think?” We all jumped out, looked around, ran through the house and cried and hugged each other. We were finally at our new home in the Sacramento Mountains.
Sacramento Mountains  - 1932
Avis
Avis was a good place to live. Our house didn’t have electricity, telephone, or indoor plumbing, but we never had those utilities before. We had a good fireplace and a wood cook stove. We hauled our water from a dirt tank about a mile away.
We were about a quarter mile off the Weed-Piñon road and the mailman delivered three times a week, keeping us in touch with the outside world. We had no radio or newspaper. Our closest neighbors were Whit and Edith Atkins, they had two grown children, Charley and Pearl. Charley broke horses and sold them. Edith was a midwife and she delivered my only sister. We named her Angelous Edith but we all just called her Sis.
Game was plentiful, we had lots of deer, turkey, and quail and the game warden was very liberal with the residents. We were so happy when we got a letter from our relatives or friends back in Texas. One day we got a letter from Grandma Evans that said they were going to come and see us. And we just counted days until they came. I could hardly wait to see Margarete and play with Lola.
Charley had taught me how to make a figure-four live trap and I liked to trap small animals. There was a prairie dog town near our house and I liked to catch young dogs and gentle them down and make pets out of them. I knew Lola would want a pet prairie dog so I had one all ready for her. Grandma missed her church so she had church services in our front yard on Sundays while she was here. All the neighbors came and we had a big old time singing and visiting. We had a wonderful visit while they were here. They decided this would be a place they would like to live also, so they started making plans to move to New Mexico.
We had planted crops but a bad drought hit and the only things to survive were pinto beans and potatoes and with the dry weather the potatoes were about the size of a golf ball. We were out of money and couldn’t even buy flour to make bread. So mother made potato patties as a bread substitute. So we survived the winter eating venison, beans, and potato patties. Dad couldn’t get a job because no one had money to pay a hired man.
Mack and I started to school in the Avis School House. There were no school buses but we lived less than a mile from school so we had no trouble walking to and from school. The kids that lived a long way away rode horses to school. We had a total of eleven kids and one teacher to teach from first to eighth grades. So we first graders mostly got taught by the older girls.
The older girls taught me to recognize each letter.  Then they wrote down the entire alphabet across the page and told me to memorize them. When I finally learned the say my letters I told the teacher and she called everyone’s attention and told them, “Clif has learned all his letters and is going to recite them.” So I proudly got up in front of the room and said them backwards. Everyone looked puzzled and the teacher said, “What?” and I started saying them backwards again. She stopped me and said you learned them backwards. The girls had forgot to tell me the read them from left to right.


Our teacher was pretty and single and very often a young cowboy would ride up to the porch, lean over and knock on the door. She would go to the door and talk to him but leave the door open so we could see and he would stay on his horse.
We only had three or four books and no money to buy more, but the government started buying books for all the kids. We also had lots of sick kids so they started a vaccination program and sent a nurse around the county to immune the children to childhood diseases. I was one of the kids that didn’t have shoes and it was starting to get cold. My good friend Grubbs Munson had just got a new pair and I ask him what he did with the old pair. He still had them so I traded him a pet prairie dog for his old pair.


The first year Mack and I started school at Avis, the government hadn’t started buying book yet. And we needed 10 cents to buy a speller book that we could share. But we couldn’t get the money to buy it with, so we would borrow a book from someone and copy the words for the next day so we could study them at home. And it was embarrassing to have to borrow a book everyday. Our problem was solved when our cousin came to visit from Carlsbad. He had a job in the mines there. He was in the house one day and took the change out of his pocket, dropped a 50 cent piece on the floor and it rolled out the door where we were. Mack grabbed it and we ran with it. He came out and looked for it for a long time but of course never found it. We went to school and bought a book of our own. But then we had a problem. We had 40 cents change and didn’t know what to do with it. We finally buried it. Only time in my life that I had more money than I knew what to do with.
        Mack died a few years ago. He was in his late 70s and he wanted to be buried in the little Avis cemetery just west of our house near the prairie dog town where we had so many happy hours so many years ago.
Because of the depression, the government was trying to put some money into circulation so they started the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC’s). They brought dozers, trucks, all kinds of road equipment, lived in camps and built roads and fences all over the county. They paid them $25 per month. They gave the worker $5 and sent his family $20. They also started the WPA to build public buildings. They appropriated $13,000 to build the gymnasium at Weed. We didn’t know what a gym was and when Dad found out what it was he said, “What a waste of money. When the weather is too bad to play ball outside, you ought to go in the schoolhouse and study.”Then they started building rural electric lines and he said, “Next they will be playing ball at night.”
They did finally do something Dad liked though. With the big drought and the Great Depression no one could sell their livestock so to cure the overstocking the government came around buying and killing livestock. They gave $12 for cows, $8 for yearlings, and $1 for goats or sheep. They would buy them and shoot them and you could butcher them if you wanted the meat. We got ready for the big kill. Mother cooked and canned meat. We cut meat in strips and hung it on the fence to dry for jerky. I made it just fine through most of it but I knew our pet milk cow was getting old and Dad had probably sold her. And sure enough when it came her turn she stood still and looked at her executioner as if to say, “I understand.” I got a lump in my throat that I couldn’t swallow so I put my head down and went back to cutting strips for jerky. With the money we got we paid some debts and bought a few badly needed clothes.
Once when I was a little boy at Avis. We were digging a tank to catch floodwater. We started digging up big gigantic bones and teeth that would barely fit in a gallon bucket. They said they were dinosaur bones, but all dinosaurs were dead now. But I thought they might be mistaken and out there in the woods there might be some live ones that could eat you in one bite.
It’s been over 80 years since I started to school at Avis but I still have some friends around that I made there such as Roberta Miller and Mildred Bell.
We didn't have any money for Christmas during the Depression and Daddy didn't know where to get any so he cut a  wagon load of nice cook wood and hauled it to Artesia trying to sell it.  He worked several days on it, got it loaded, told us all goobye and left.
 After several day we began to expect him to return and we would look down to road to expect to see him coming.  At night we would sit outside to listen for the wagon.  We were about to give up when we heard the rumble of wagon wheels and the clinking of trace chains.  We all ran down the road to meet him.  He stopped and we all climbed on the wagon asking, "Did you sell the wood?"

"Nobody has any money," he said.  "But
I traded it for a load of apples."  We looked under the tarp and saw the most beautiful red apples we could imagine and we all got one and started eating.  They were sweet and juicy and we were so excited and so proud of Dad for making such a good trade.

    On Christmas Eve we all hung our stockings by the fireplace and finally went to sleep.  We woke to the sound of a crackling fire in the fireplace.  We excitedly ran in and found some candy and peanuts in our stockings.  I also got a pair of shiny new shoes.  I put them on, laced them up and waited for daylight to see how fast I could run in those new shoes.  I thought to myself, "It just doesn't get any better than this!"
Weed, New Mexico
The drought got so bad by then, we moved up to Weed so we could irrigate out of the Agua Chiquita Creek the next year and we went to school at Weed. This was a much bigger school. That year my brother W.L. was born but he died at birth. The government started an agricultural loan program and we borrowed $350 and mortgaged our equipment for collateral. Dad bought a little gasoline engine to power his shearing machine and we sheared sheep and goats for other ranchers. He got five cents a head for sheep and three cents for goats. I went with him and my job was to sack the wool and gather firewood. We slept in our bedrolls and cooked all our meals on the campfire. We sheared for ranches in the Sacramento and San Andreas Mountains.
One of my favorite places to shear was in the Jarilla Mountains near Oro Grande. We would camp at the Oro Grande lake about a mile northwest of town near the Little Joe mine. My friend Felix Work, lived nearby and we played together in some of the mines. We also swam together in the lake after 5:00. The lake was built for the Southwest Smelter Company and it was the Oro Grande water supply so you couldn’t swim in it until the guard left at 5 o’clock. A lot of people were mining in that area, trying to eek out a living during the Depression. One Sunday I walked down to Tom Bell’s store and bar and bought a nickel ice cream cone and started back to camp slowly licking my cone to make it last as long as I could. When I got to the bottom of the cone there was a note that said this note is good for an ice cream cone. I couldn’t believe it but I had to find out so I turned around and walked back to the store and asked Tom, “Can I get another one with this note?” He said, “You sure can” and made me another cone. I said, “Well, this is the luckiest day of my life.”
Tom Bell was a likeable comical person and was running for Sheriff against Boog Prather. Dick Raley, another character, was campaigning for Boog, came into Tom’s place for a beer one evening and Tom said, “Dick, how come you’re telling people I’m a sorry S.O.B?” and Dick said, “Tom, I didn’t tell ‘em. I don’t know how they found out about it.” On the way from Oro Grande to Alamogordo we came upon some road that had been paved and I was amazed how smooth a road could be. When we got to Alamogordo it was getting dark out and very hot. Dad said, “It would be nice to stay in a tourist court with an electric fan.” So he went in to check on a room. He came back mad and I asked, “Did you get us a room?” He said, “Yeah, cost a dollar. Highway robbery!” Next morning we ate breakfast at the new Plaza Café. It cost almost another dollar and Dad said, “We better get the hell out of here or we will spend all the money we made on this trip.” It took us most of the day to get back home. We had moved ten miles east of Weed because our irrigation water had dried up and some of our shearing customers couldn’t pay us money, so they paid us with goats and we had more room to run goats on McDonald flats where we now lived. It sure was nice to get back home and sleep in a bed inside a house and eat Mother’s cooking and not have to gather firewood at daylight. My brothers and Sis were excited to see me and we talked for hours.
While we lived there, my twin brothers, Donald and Don were born. In those days we had no way of knowing we would get two instead of one so we were pleasantly surprised. About two weeks Don had trouble breathing and his lips would turn blue. The CCC camp over at Mayhill had a doctor so we took him over there. The doctor said he was probably born with a bad heart valve and might not live. Sure enough, he only lasted a few more days. We took him up to the Weed graveyard and buried him next to his little brother W.L. Within a few days Donald started having the same symptoms. Carlsbad had a hospital at that time so Mom and Dad took him to it. The doctor said he had pneumonia. They put him on oxygen and he was well in just a few days and they brought him home. Now he and his beautiful wife, Ronnie, live in Roswell, enjoying their grandchildren and great grandchildren.
We rode the school bus to Weed school which was about ten miles but we had to walk about one and a half miles and catch the bus so if we were late and missed the bus we would walk that ten miles on to school because if we went back home we had to work so we had rather walk than work. One time Dad got all us boys together and we went out and dismantled the quail trap and said, “The game warden wants to come down here and hunt quail so you boys keep your mouth shut while he’s here and you won’t get us in trouble.” So a few days later he came and killed his limit of quail and us boys and Dad was watching him clean the quail and his said, “I should give you boys some of these birds. There’s more here than I can eat.” And Curley said, “No we don’t like them that’s been shot.” The warden laughed and laughed and Dad just hung his head down, shook his head from side to side and said, “Damn, damn, damn.” Us older boys knew Curley was in a lot of trouble.
Grandma and Grandpa Evans to Weed  along with my aunts, Marguerite and Lola Mae had grown into beautiful young ladies by then and they married some local mountain boys, the Roach twins, Valon and Vaughn. They had a brother who was married to a woman named Edith. The thing that really impressed me was they had an almost new 1931 Model A Ford coupe with a rumble seat. Two couples rode in front and one couple rode in the rumble seat. They had irrigated farms on Rio Peňasco and they came to see us a lot. With that beautiful car I thought they must be very rich. One time when they came, Vance and Edith brought with them a new baby girl. Her name was Barbara Ann. I looked her over and she was a quiet little towhead although I was disappointed that she wasn’t a boy cause I liked lots of boys to play with. Later on I was glad she was a girl because she has been my beautiful, charming wife for more than 60 years.
After we moved east of Weed, I remember, late one evening I was walking home and a cold wind was blowing. I heard a car coming and I thought, maybe he will give me a ride. Sure enough, he drove up and it was Orville Gernagin and he said, “Get in.” He had bought a new 1938 Chevy, the first car I had ever been in that had a heater. And I said, “What will they think of next year. This is pure luxury.” I could hardly wait to tell my brothers about my new experience.
        Our close neighbors, the Fishers, lived about one and half miles away and they had a radio and we wanted Dad to get one but he said, no use us getting one, the Fishers said we could come up and listen to theirs any time we wanted to. Late one evening, Mack and I were coming back from the Fishers’ and just before we got to the house a skunk ran across the trail. A skunk had been catching mother’s chickens and we was determined to kill him. We used rocks and sticks and finally got the job done, but not before he had got us sprayed real good. When we got home Preacher Colburn and his wife were there to visit but as I remember, they didn’t stay very long.
        One day at Weed school, when I was in the 5th grade, we were playing baseball at the noon break. I hit a double and when I got to second base, I fell and broke both bones in my arm above my wrist. Just then the bell rang and we all went in. I was in terrible pain and the teacher said, “What’s wrong with you?” And I said, “I bent my arm.” He looked at it and said, “You sure did, it’s broke but I’ll set it for you. Hold on I’ll be right back.” He lived near the school. He soon came back with an old sheet and some wooden shingles. He tore up the sheet, wrapped the shingles, then got hold of my hand and elbow and straightened my arm out. The pain was terrible and I could hear the bones grinding together. He placed the wrapped shingles around my arm and wrapped my arm with more sheet. Then he made a sling to put around my neck and put my arm in it so I didn’t have to go to a doctor. After I was grown, I broke other bones that the doctor set but my arm is the only one that grew back straight.
        I had a friend at school that raised pet rabbits and I made a deal with him to buy a bred female so I could get a start of rabbits of my own. The next day, he brought the rabbit to school and I gave him the 50 cents I had brought to pay for the rabbit. As we were going home on our bus that evening, she started having babies and had twelve of them. So I got thirteen rabbits for 50 cents, so I thought I had got a good deal, but the seller felt like he had got cheated.
       
The Depression hung on in spite of all the government programs to put money back into circulation. However it was getting a little better all the time. At least now we had food, clothing, and each kid in school and had their own books. We were eeking out a living shearing sheep and goats all over the country.  We were also building up our own herd of goats and Dad told us that Sam Gililand had talked to him about buying some goats from us and would be coming to have a look the next morning.
y Clif McDonald


Sam Gilliland knocked on our door just at daylight.  My brothers and I had been waiting in euphoric anticipation for this moment for several days.  I was twelve years old and didn't know Sam, but I had seen him roping at rodeos.  He was six-foot plus, red-headed, strong, and tall and straight in the saddle.


One reason the Gillilands were heroes to me and my brothers was the gun battle at Wildy Well.  Sam's brother, Jim Gilliland and Oliver Lee had been attacked by Pat Garrett and his posse while they were asleep.  We believed the sheriff had taken an unfair advantage.  Of course this happened before we were born, but we had heard the story, and our loyalties lay with Gilliland and Lee, who fought back and defeated Garrett and his posse, killing one of Pat's men.


Dad had told us a few days before that Sam was coming to possibly buy a herd of goats from us.  Not only were we happy about meeting Sam, but we were also hoping to get some money from the sale of the goats to buy some new school clothes.


There was a fire in the kitchen stove and the coffee pot was percolating.  Dad got up, opened the door and said, "Come on in, Sam."  Sam said, "I brought my wife." and Dad said, "Bring her in.  Breakfast is about ready."  They came in, introductions were made all around, and everyone sat down at the big kitchen table, waiting for Mother to finish cooking breakfast.  Sam and his wife had been married just over two weeks - and she was a beautiful lady!


Soon, breakfast was over and we went out to the corral.  Sam walked around through the herd, looking the goats over.  He would occasionally catch one and check its teeth for age.  Dad wanted two dollars per head and Sam wanted them for a dollar seventy-five.  Finally, Sam said, "We are going to have to drive them cross country on foot 'cause so much of this country is fenced up now."


We knew what he meant.  the goats could go through fences but saddle horses could not.  Sam took off his hat, scratched his head and said, "Tell you what I'll do.  I'll give you two dollars a head for all the goats we get to my ranch.  If we lose any of them along the way, I can't pay you for them."  Dad said, "Fair enough.  I'll send this boy here with you.  He's a good herder; he'll get 'em all there.  His name is Clif."  I was elated to be the one chosen out of eight boys!


We filled our canteens, got our slickers and a pocket full of jerky and headed out to Sam's ranch which was south of Carrizozo.  Sam's wife met us in the truck with food and bedrolls where we made camp that night.  Next morning we had finished breakfast when it started coming daylight.  Sam and me and his dog had all become good friends by then.  His dog was a well trained, good herder.  When we got the herd strung out and grazing, we would sit down to rest and drink out of our canteens.  Then Sam would pour some water in his hat and hold it for his dog to drink out of.


We left Tulie Creek the next morning, headed north through the saddle just west of Cat Mountain.  We were to meet Sam's wife that night in Coyote Canyon near the Indian reservation.  About noon it started raining and we put on our slickers.  It was almost dark when we reached our next campsite.  We found a good tank of water but the corral had deteriorated to the point that it wouldn't hold our goats, so we had to take turns watching them so they wouldn't run off and get lost.


Sam's wife didn't show up with our food and bedrolls so we figured the  roads had been washed out because a lot of the road was in the arroyo bed.  You don't know how hungry a twelve-year-old boy can get.  I had run out of jerky about noon the day before.  Sam asked me if I thought I could eat some goat meat if we butchered one, and I said, "If we could find some dry wood to cook it with, I can."
About that time the moon started coming up and got very bright.  Sam said, "You know with this cool night air and moonlight, we can maybe see good enough to move this herd.  We sure could make lots of miles before it get hot tomorrow and it's only about twenty-five miles to Three Rivers.  We can get something to eat there."  So we moved them out.  We could see well enough on the ridges, but when we had to cross a canyon, some of the goats would stop under the trees and I couldn't see them.  So, I would take the dog and bark them out in the open.  This worked well, but I also woke several rattle snakes which was kinda scary in the dark; and, I was afraid maybe I wasn't getting all the goats out of the brush.


Next morning when it came good daylight, I looked over the herd but I couldn't tell if I had lost any goats.  We were on the lower slopes of Sierra Blanca Mountain.  Looking to the west across the Tularosa Basin, we could not see Three Rivers, a ranch house, nor any sign of life.  We were so hungry and tired, and the goats were so tired that they couldn't make much mileage.  I suggested we rest, but Sam said, "If we stop, we're going to stiffen up and it will be worse. Besides, our canteens are dry."


About that time we spotted a windmill and we could see the blades turning in the morning sun.  We figured there might be a ranch house there, too, and we could get food and water.  However, it appeared to be several miles away.  This kind of gave us a second wind, and Sam asked, "Can you make it, Kid?"  I said sure!  If these goats don't sull on us, and, if it don't get too hot, we can be there in about four or five hours."
About an hour later I could see a long dust plume going north down in the basin beyond the windmill and we knew it was a car on Highway 54 between Tularosa and Three Rivers; Highway 54 was not paved then.  Soon after that, we saw a train.  This gave me assurance we could eventually come back into civilization.  I had never been in this part of the country, but I knew there were people and food down there somewhere.


As the day got hotter, the herd got tireder and slower; I didn't have any trouble with any of them trying to break out of the herd.  I was so tired, I couldn't have done anything about it.  Sam and I were both punching up the drags this time.  After an hour of silence, Sam finally said, "The windmill is just over this next mountain.  Can you make it, Kid?"  I said, "Sure I can!"  But in my own mind, I was not at all sure I could climb that next mountain.  When we did finally make it to the top there was good news - there was a big trough of water, but no ranch house.  When we got to the water, the goats were climbing on top of each other trying to get a drink and we joined in the competition.


As soon as all the goats got water, they bedded down to rest.  It was about three in the afternoon, and I tried to figure out how many meals I had missed in a row, but the days and nights ran together.  I lay down in the shade of a mesquite bush and I immediately went to sleep.  I sprang to my feet an hour later, aware of my responsibility to keep the herd together, but they were all still bedded down.  Sam said, "They ain't going nowhere."  We had become good friends by then, and I felt proud to be pardnering with a man like Sam.


Sam said, "Well, we got several options.  We can cook a goat and spend the night here, or one of us can walk on into Three Rivers and bring food back, or we can just wait awhile.  My wife may find us before long if she ain't stuck somewhere.  What do you think we should do?"  My hunger was overcome by the joy that Sam was including me in the decision making.  I felt like I had gained his confidence.


We didn't have to make the decision because we heard a truck engine coming up the arroyo bed.  He cupped his hands behind his ears intently for a moment and said, "Yeah, that's my truck."  We were waving our hats as Sam's wife came up over the rise.  She pulled up and said, "The roads were washed out yesterday.  I been lookin' for you all day."  After we had eaten everything on the truck, Sam said, "Let's spend the night here.  Let's get the herd up and graze 'em awhile, so they won't be restless tonight."


The next night we spent near Three Rivers.  We herded the goats back into a box arroyo and I unrolled my bed in the mouth of the divide so I would wake up if they started to leave.  Sure enough, I woke with them walking out over me.  I looked to the east and it was beginning to be light, so I knew I could have enough light to gather them in about thirty minutes.  The following night we bedded them down in a big, dry dirt tank and took turns watching.  We could skylight them as they went over the tank dump.  The next evening we reached our destination at Sam's ranch, which was south of Carrizozo, right next to the lava flow.  I sure slept good knowing the goats were all corralled.


When we counted them out in the morning, and we had only lost five head, I was very relieved because I knew it could have been much worse.  After the count, Sam said, "Would you do me a big favor?"  I said, "Sure, anything!"  And he said, "I've got to go to Roswell and hire another herder to help this one I've got.  I'd like you to help my herder till I get back and I'll get you home in a couple of weeks before school starts."   So I said, "OK. I'll write and tell my folks if you'll mail the letter tomorrow in Carrizozo."  (There were no phones or electricity in the ranch country at that time).  So I wrote:
          Dear Mom and Dad,
          We finished the drive.  Be home in two weeks.  I'm working for Sam awhile.  We
          only lost five head.
          Clif


I got a whole new experience herding on the lava rocks.  There was lots of good brush for browsing.  But again, we couldn't ride horseback because it was too rocky.  So when I finally got home, I had completely worn out my shoes.
Sam came back and brought me a new pocket knife for a present.  It was a Barlow with good metal, the first expensive knife I had ever owned.


When we got home and Sam paid my dad for the goats, he shook my hand and said, "Enjoyed working with you, Kid, and I'll see you again."  He still called me Kid when I was fifty years old.  He would come to my barber shop and say, "Hi, Kid, how about let's cook a goat?"  Sam is long since gone, but I think about him often and I miss him.  I'm eighty-five years old now, and I'll probably be seeing him again before too long.  He will probably ride over from the side of the arena and say, "Hi, Kid, how about let's cook a goat."




When Dad would get a shearing job, he would have some help for a few days, and then he would lay them off. One day he laid off O.H. Lane and he saddled his horse and rode off to Weed and stayed there for a few days. He made the mistake of getting very friendly with the postmistress, who also happened to be the deputy sheriff’s wife. One day he and some more men were loafing in the store when one of the men said, “O.H., here comes the sheriff and he’s got his gun in his hand. You better get out the back door.” O.H. said, “He won’t shoot me in the back, so when the sheriff came in O.H. turned his back and raised his hands up over his head and the sheriff shot him in the back.
The bullet barely missed his backbone and went into his lung. They took him to Alamogordo and got the bullet taken out. O.H. didn’t have money to pay his hospital bill and had nowhere else to go so they brought him back to our house to heal up. When he rode away the second time he didn’t stop in Weed. No charges were filed against the sheriff. Everyone said it was justified.
I remember another shooting happened when a job opening at the sawmill occurred. Two well-qualified men were competing for the job and the one that was chosen was shot the night before he was to start working. The other one filled the vacancy that same day. No one was ever arrested for the shooting. People would do just about anything for a job.
In spite of how hard we worked, we never could get together the $350 to pay back the government agriculture loan. So we got a foreclosure notice. We had to get together all our equipment and livestock on a certain day for the foreclosure sale. We had seen this same thing happen to a lot of our friends and neighbors. It was a sad time for us. When the sale was over it still didn’t bring in enough money to pay off the debt. The worst part for me was when they led my horse, Old Chub, away. It was like the end of the road for us. We had fought the good fight but we had failed. Where to go, what to do?
About that time the Roach brothers showed up (my uncles by marriage) along with Vance, their brother, and all the wives. It was a happy gathering. After they found out that Dad had no plans they said, “Alvy, we have got a lot of fence to build and lots of farm work come spring. Why don’t you come and go to work for us ‘til you get back on your feet. We’ve got that big old chicken house we can clean up for you all to live in. We ill pay you 20 cents and hour and we will pay Clif and Mack 10 cents an hour.” I was twelve years old and I could do more work than Dad but it was the custom to pay a man more than a boy.
Dad jumped at the offer and we moved to the Penasco. I was so happy to live near Lola and Margarete and work with those Roach boys, who were my idols. Everyone was aware that the job offer was more to help us out while we were down on our luck.
I hated to leave Weed school but there was a little school nearby that we went to. It was about 15 kids and one teacher in a little church house. I learned a lot about irrigated farming, how to set cabbage plants, make seed beds, pack lettuce, and irrigate. When I worked for Vance and Edith I had a two-fold responsibility; one was to irrigate and the other was to babysit Barbara, who was a very active and mischievous little girl and a good friend of my little sister. But at that time I had no idea that Barbara would be someday become my wonderful wife and lifetime soulmate.
We worked there about a year and saved quite a bit of money. Of course, during that time, Dad got all of the wages that Mack and I made. Working boys had to give all their wages to their Dad. However, the Roach boys paid me five cents for each gopher I could catch. So I got up at daylight and run my traplines before work time for my spending money. Dad bought a used 1936 Pontiac car for $200. It was a very good car and we kept it all through World War II.
West Texas had an unusually good cotton crop that year and was offering 75 cents per hundred pounds to have it picked, boles and all. You didn’t have to pick it out of the bole, just pulled the bole. Dad told the Roach boys, “I hate to leave, but with all the kids working, this is an opportunity to really make some money. We could pick cotton ‘til about Christmas, then come back and put the kids in school.” We never got to go to school anyway if there was a lot of work to do.
So we headed to Texas. We never had pulled boles but were confident we could do good. We had no trouble getting work. I was the top producer; if we got a long day, I could do 800 pounds. We had to wait ‘til the dew dried in the morning before we could start but if there was a breeze blowing you could get a long day and make a lot of money. We never was out of work all fall and made lots of money.
When work was over, we went on down to Junction and saw all our relatives we had left so many years ago. A lot of them suggested we move back to Texas, but we had become loyal New Mexican by then. World War II started while we were picking cotton. We had been expecting it for a while. We had a radio now and we kept up with the war news every night. I didn’t know where Pearl Harbor was, but I wondered if the war would last long enough for me to become 17 so I could go. I wanted to be in the Navy.
Carlton, my youngest brother, was born while we were in Texas. Grandma McDonald came and helped for a while and gave him his name. We came back to New Mexico just before Christmas and Dad rented an irrigated farm on the Penasco and we started to school at Cloudcroft right after Christmas. We never got to go to school as long as there was work. School had second priority. We rode Clevey Dockrey’s bus. I loved the mountains, especially the log trains. The school didn’t have a lunchroom then, so you had to carry a lunch or eat at Flossie’s café for 25 cents but she (also) had slot machines, so sometimes I ate good and sometimes I went hungry. But it was a good way to learn about gambling.
At that time we bought most of our groceries at Mayhill, Bear Canyon store, and Marcia, which was a logging town where the train came down Peňasco and across to Wills Canyon and Agua Chiquita. Nothing is left now of Marcia except the graveyard.
I especially liked going to Mayhill because Billie Brantley’s father ran the store and she had a bicycle that she sometimes would let me ride. She was the only kid I knew that could afford a bike.
We hardly ever got candy so when Mom and Dad left for a few hours we would build a fire in the cook stove and melt some sugar and let it cool and harden. Then we’d wash the dishes and clean the kitchen so they wouldn’t know what we had been doing. The melted sugar was good but it was so hard we could hardly eat it. So we decided next time we would read the cookbook to try to make better candy. We understood the recipe until it called for a cup of nutmeat. We didn’t know what nutmeat was, so we assumed they had made a mistake in the spelling and had meant to say nutmeg. Well the candy wasn’t as hard but candy with nutmeg in it is not very good, so we went back to melted sugar.
        Dad always made a keg of cider with apples that he traded for yearly. He would keep the cider til it turned to vinegar and Mom would make pickles with it. One year, he put the stopper in the cider keg and rolled it under the bed where Mack and I slept. Every night we would quietly get under the bed, take the stopper out of the keg and get us a swig of cider, then replace the stopper and go back to bed. After a few months we had drank it all and dreaded what was going to happen when he found it out. One night we heard him tell Mom, “I’m going to check our cider to see if its turned to vinegar yet.” We laid very still and quiet. He came in, reached under the bed, took the keg out and shook it, then put it back under the bed and left. We heard him tell Mom, “That stopper was loose in the keg and all the cider ran out of it and dripped through the floor. We felt like we had just dodged a bullet.


Living on the Penasco was good. We made enough money now to live comfortably and have good clothes and shoes. I trapped in the wintertime when the fur was thick, so I had plenty of spending money.
When Mack and I were little boys, we lived right near the road to Weed. And every Saturday night after the bar closed we could hear cars going by on their way home. There was a bridge over a small arroyo nearby with a broken board, so the bridge had a hole in it. We decided it would be fun to scare those drivers leaving the bar. So we made masks for our faces, so we wouldn’t be recognized, and about 2:00 in the morning, we would get under the bridge and when we heard a car coming we would stick our heads through the hole. Then just before the car got there we would pull our heads down and run of the arroyo. The drivers reacted differently. Some of them swerved and applied their brakes, got out and looked and cussed. Some of them would speed up. One of them came back a few days later and looked all around and looked under the bridge.
Every summer the Fort Bliss soldiers would come from El Paso up through the mountains by our place. Most of them rode horseback, they had covered wagons and some horse teams pulled cannons. They would camp out at night. I had heard about a war in China, so I assumed China was on the other side of Sierra Blanca. But I learned later they had an army camp in Cloudcroft and spent part of the summer in the cool mountains.
One summer we drouthed/droughed (spelling?) out and Dad rented some pasture over at Bent and we moved our goats to the Hiles Ranch and lived next to the Indian reservation. In the summer the Indians danced almost every night around the fire near Mescalero. We would walk up to the ceremonial grounds and watch. After they got to know us, they invited us to join in. I had lots of fun that summer, learning to do the Indian dances.
When I ran for County Commissioner in the late 1960s, I still had some friends on the reservation that helped me get elected.
        In the summertime, we would walk six miles over the mountain to Weed on Saturday afternoon to go to the dance in the Blue Moon Bar. We were young teenagers but they would let us in and sell us drinks and let us dance. They ignored the law because there was no law enforcement that far away from Alamogordo. The men had lots of fistfights, but they never used knives or guns. There was a sign on the door that read: Dance and Fight Saturday Night. They always went outside to fight.
        After the bar closed we went to Pete and Eunice McCarty’s house and stayed the rest of the night and walked back home the next day. Pete was one of our friends that had worked for Dad years ago. I remember Dad telling him one night, “Pete, I’ve ran out of money and I can’t pay you anymore. So I have to let you go.” But next morning Pete didn’t leave, he just got up and went to work. After about a week Dad told him again that he had better leave and get him another job. Pete said, “Alvie, I been thinking about that and if I go I probably can’t find another job. So if you will let me stay, I’ll work for $15 per month instead of the $30 you been paying me. And if you don’t ever get the money, you don’t ever have to pay me anything.” So Pete stayed.
He had a girlfriend at Weed School, Eunice Acers, and every morning he would give me a note to give to her and she would give me one to give to him. One day he asked Dad for a favor. So dad drove him to Weed and he knocked on the schoolhouse door. The teacher came to the door and Pete said, “May I see Eunice?” When she came to the door they left together and Dad took them to Alamogordo to get married. They lived in a little shed near our house. Pete finally got a good job and they raised a fine family. Pete died many years later.
 
We lived on this irrigated farm we had rented from Matt and Mattie Mills. They had no kids so everyone called them Uncle Matt and Aunt Mattie. She was picking apples one day and when she stepped off the ladder, she broke her ankle. Dad took them to Alamogordo, to the hospital, but she died three days later. Uncle Matt moved to La Luz so we moved into their house. This was the first time I had lived in a house with electricity and indoor plumbing.
One day, one of the neighbors came to our house and said, “Alvie, I’m behind in my work. If you will let Clif and Mack work for me a few weeks, I’ll pay em good.” So after we got him caught up he paid us $20 each. When we gave the money to Dad he said, “You boys are getting big enough to have a say in how your money is spent. What would you like to buy with your money?” We said we would like to buy an electric refrigerator so we could have ice tea and ice cream in the summer time. And he said, “Well, I don’t know. Them things might burn too much electricity, but go ahead and get it. But if it cost too much to run it we will have to unplug it.”
Another thing I enjoyed about being a teenage boy was fighting forest fires. We had a forest ranger that lived below Mayhill, named Mr. Hutchington, who we just called Hutch, and when a fire started he would start gathering up boys to go build fire trails ahead of the fire. Sometimes we would be on a fire for several days and nights but we always had a good fire camp and lots of good food. After the fire was over he would mail us a check. He would also tell us, “If you boys see a lightning fire, go put a trail around it and stay with it ‘til it burns out. Then write me a letter and I’ll come and look at it.” We loved staying all night watching the fire and backfiring it. Then he would check our work and send us a check.
Dad bought a 1939-model ton and a half truck from army surplus for a little over $400 and we started hauling the vegetables we raised to El Paso. We would work all day harvesting a load and all night driving to El Paso. He always took me along to help him drive. I was a very young teen but I could drive as good as he could. Neither of us had a driver’s license and they never did check them anyway. When I got to be 15 years old, he never went with me anymore. He said, “you can sell these vegetables as good as I can.”
Dad was a successful sharecropper because he was a hard worker and had a big family of kids that worked in the field. After my older brother Mack and I had finished the 8th grade, Dad said, “Well boys, it’s time for you to quit going to school. You have got all the education you will ever need and I need you to work full time.” We were disappointed, but we expected it. None of the other boys of that area got to stay in school after 8th grade and our older brother Sonny had left home to work in the oil field down at Seminole, Texas. Dad was saving money by then to fulfill his lifelong dream of owning his own place.
After the driver’s license law was passed, very few people bothered to them because no one ever asked for identification and the police never ask to see them. So my dad never got one for years. But finally it became a necessity to have them.
So he went down to Alamogordo to get it and the policeman ask him he could drive and he said he could. So the policeman got in the truck with him and told him to go up Tenth Street to Cuba Avenue and then turn around. On the way back he told him to turn right. So he turned and jumped the truck across the irrigation ditch, on across the vacant block, and jumped the other ditch and back on the next street. The policeman was mad at being bounced around and he said, “I meant turn right at the next street.” Dad was mad too by then, and Dad said, “Well why don’t you say what you mean? Up in the mountains we drive across the pasture all the time.” Then Dad said, “Well are you going to give me my license or not?” And the policeman said, “Hell yes! I don’t want to have to ride with you again.”
We went down to the Safeway store to buy some groceries and Dad parked parallel on the parking lot so he could back out when we got ready to leave. So when we got back to the truck, a car had parked right in front of the truck, very close to the front bumper, and there were two men in the car doing book work. This made Dad nervous because they were so close. But we got the groceries loaded and all the kids in the back with Dad and Mom and the baby in the front. He started the truck, looked in the rearview mirror and sure enough, he got it in first gear instead of reverse and hit the car in front of him. He got out and the two men got out of the car. He apologized profusely. He gave them his name and address and told them to get it fixed and he would pay for it.
Everyone got back in their vehicles and Mom was giving him hell and he was getting more nervous and he did the same thing again. He got out and was shaking his head side-to-side and apologizing again. Everyone got back in their vehicles for the third tie and he was not only nervous, by this time he was mad. He started his truck, put it in gear, raced his motor, looked back, got off the clutch and went forward again and hit the car for the third time. Only this time he hit it so hard he turned it way over on its side, so far that the two men couldn’t get out. By now the car was hung up under the bumper of the truck and couldn’t go on over to come down. He was fighting his gearshift and trying to get it in reverse. He finally found reverse, came off the clutch with is motor racing and slammed the car against the ground, jumped out and in a loud voice told the men, “Get that damn car out of here or next time I’ll run clear over it.” They left immediately and we never did get a bill to fix their car.
Old men that learned to drive a wagon before they learned to drive a car was never at ease driving a vehicle.
One time, Dad needed to hire some goat shearers, so we went to Roswell to see a friend who thought he could get some shearers that wanted a job. Our friend and his wife worked in town and they told us to go to their house and they would be there as soon as they got off work. We went to their house and had lots of fun exploring. We had never been in a house with plumbing and electricity. Dad got the idea it would be nice to have supper ready for them when they got home. So he got his chuck box off the truck and brought it in. Next he looked over the gas stove and said, “I never used this kind of stove but it don’t look too complicated so I’ll just turn on the oven and let it warm up, then light it.” That was before pilot lights, so after the gas was on for a while he squatted down in front of the oven and lit a match. Of course, the stove blew up and I remember him rolling across the floor like a ball. When he gained composure he could see flames so he ran to the bed and grabbed the covers to smother out the flames. So our friends came home to a blown up stove and a burned bed and no supper. I remember Dad saying, “ Them damn gas stoves are dangerous. I wouldn’t have one of them in my house.”


It was during WWII and everyone was very patriotic and as soon as a boy turned 17, he would join the Navy. Mack and John Lee Goss, T.W. Peek and George Scott were making plans to join up and George told me he wanted to join the Marines. I said, “George, they are shooting Marines over there like flies. You better join the Navy.” And he said, “I always wanted to be a Marine and I’ll be ok.”
Dad had given Mack and me the yield off a two-acre piece of land and we had saved enough money to buy a 1931 model Ford car, which was our pride and joy. We had also learned the cut hair by practicing on each other and the younger boys in our family. Then all the neighbors started coming to us for haircuts and now, 75 years later, I still own a barbershop.
Finally I became 17 years old and I hated to leave but I wanted so badly to get in the Navy. I thought I could get over there and help Mack get the war over with and we could both come back home. I joined the Navy and was in bootcamp in San Diego where I got a letter from Mother that George Scott had got shot and was in the Marine hospital at San Diego. So as soon as I could get leave, I went to see him. I walked up to his bunk and he couldn’t believe his eyes when he looked up at me. So I said, “George, I told you, you would get shot if you joined the Marines.” And he said, “That’s OK. I’m on my way home and you’re on your way over there.”
George was right. When I finished boot camp, I went to sea on the Battleship U.S.S. New Jersey. I was so proud. Every sailor wanted to be on a battleship. We wore life jackets 24 hours a day because of submarines and kamikaze planes. We were building up forces to do a land invasion of the island of Japan, so we wound up at Guam. While we were there we got the terrible news that the U.S.S. Indianapolis, that had just left Guam, had been sunk by a Japanese sub. It sank at night and most of the crew was lost. What we didn’t know was it had delivered the atomic bombs that would be flown to Japan. Now I wonder what history would be like if they had sank it before it made its delivery. Because we sure was dreading the invasion of the island of Japan.
Soon the war was over and I was stationed on Eniwetok, a small coral island in the South Pacific. When we arrived there, the captain that met us asked, “Is there any barbers in this bunch?” Hearing no response, I said, “I’ve sheared a lot of sheep.” And he said, “You’ll do just fine.” So I worked in the barbershop full time.
I enjoyed the island, with the reef on one side and the harbor on the other. The island was very small, not over 40 acres all together. I got to go out to the ships that pulled into the harbor and cut hair. I got to serve on the Sikoiwa a while. It was a Japanese battleship that we had captured. It survived the first atomic bomb test that we had in the Pacific. We were all dreading that test because we didn’t know what to expect, but I was lucky, I left the day before the explosion and was back to Hawaii on my way back to the states and my discharge. My folks met me in Alamogordo and we went back to the Penasco.
I had loved the Navy. It was a wonderful experience because I had never been anywhere before and now I had been from the log train to the troop train to the ship across the ocean and back again. I went back to the farm and helped Dad until the crops were hauled off that fall and was not bored by the tranquility of being back home.
After the War
Dad had saved enough money by then to buy his own place. He decided to leave the mountains because he was to the age that cold weather bothered him. So he went down east of Hobbs and bought a place near Seminole. It was the only piece of land he had ever owned. We built them a new house on it and mother was very happy with her new house.
I went to work in the oil fields with Sonney. We were drilling oil wells and I worked as a rough neck. It was hard work but very interesting. I got paid $1.20 per hour and we worked eight hours a day, seven days a week. We drilled 24 hours a day so when one of the shifts came short handed, I got to work an extra shift. So some weeks I got eight or ten shifts so I made lots of money and saved lots of it.
My brother, Mack, wanted to go back to barbering and for us to have a barbershop together. You didn’t have to go to barber school then and get a license, but you had to pass a written and a practical test. So we sent off and got a book to study and went to Santa Fe and took the test and got our license. We both went to work in shops in Las Cruces. We had worked there for about six months when we got the bad news from Mother. Dad had taken a piece of equipment into a blacksmith shop and, while he was there, there was a terrific explosion that killed the blacksmith and broke both of Dad’s legs. So we quit our jobs and went home to take over the work on his farm. Mack went to work in a barbershop in nearby Hobbs. He and Sonny had families by then and they had to have incomes. So that left me to run the farm. Dad knew his injuries were so severe that he would never be able to farm again. So he sold his farm. He wanted to move back to the mountains, so I rented a farm on the Penasco and went back to sharecropping and they lived with me. I would work the farm in the summer and haul the cabbage to El Paso, San Angelo, and Dallas in the fall, then go to Hobbs in the winter and rough neck on a drilling rig and work in a barbershop and make enough to keep the family going. After a couple of years, Dad had healed enough to do light work and he got a job running a summer camp over west of Sacramento at the mouth of Hay Canyon.
I was still single and had dated several girls but had never got serious about any of them. Then Barbara, the little girl I used to take care of when I was irrigating for Vance and Edith for 10 cents per hour, had grown up to be the most beautiful thing I had ever saw. She was so charming and very intelligent. After we started dating I fell hopelessly in love with her. She had lots of suitors, so I had lots of competition. I had good offer to go to Arebia and work on a drilling rig and make big money but I wanted her even more than I wanted the big job that I could have.
So I took her to the White Sands one beautiful moonlit night and as we strolled across the dunes, hand-in-hand, I told her how much I loved her and asked her to marry me and she accepted my proposal. I was so I happy I walked on clouds and she still makes me happy after 62 years of marriage.
When I got her back home that evening, she went into her parents’ bedroom, sat down on the bed where they were sleeping, woke them up and made small talk while I was getting my courage. Finally I said, “Barbara and I want to get married!”
They were so startled, they sat up in bed so quickly all the slats fell out, the bed fell in and fell in on top of them. After digging his way out of the covers, Vance started protesting the idea, that was not the plan he had for his little girl. But he finally gave in and we were the first couple to get married in the new Baptist church in Cloudcroft.
The first year we ran Grandpa Roy and Dora’s farm while they traveled. I decided to go back to barbering. I got a job across 10th Street from the Plaza Café in Alamogordo and Barbara started back to school. She wanted to be a teacher and I wanted a barbershop with Mack. Mack and I rented a little horse shed on 10th Street a few blocks from downtown and remodeled it into a barbershop. It was just in front of where Bank 34 is now. We built a good business and opened another shop on the corner of Indian Wells and Cuba Avenue, before Cuba Avenue was paved and we had a thriving business there, also.
Our daughter, Candice, was born in October of 1954 and we enjoyed her immensely. We had a house built on 2404 Stanford St. The total cost was $10,500. The payments were $69 per month, which included insurance and taxes. Our son, Wayne, was born while we lived there..
Barbara and I  were both raised in the country and couldn’t get used to living in town, so in 1960 we bought an old homestead west of Alamo where we still live and raise cows and goats. Our youngest daughter, Cyd, was born that same year and now lives in Upper New York State with her husband Bob and her Marine son, Sam.
When Cyd was born she had many health problems and needed several operations. But our insurance would not cover her because they were preexisting conditions. We had to spend all the money we had saved and all we could borrow and for years we were paying three hospitals and nine doctors a monthly payment. We were totally broke financially but finally paid our way out.
Barbara started teaching at the school for the blind, then went into administration and retired when she was assistant superintendant. I decided to run for county commissioner and served two terms as commissioner and four terms as county assessor. While I was working in the courthouse, I became interested in real estate appraisal and studied at several colleges and universities and appraised for VA. FHA banks and savings and loans. I then became interested in banking so me and some of my friends chartered Western Bank in Alamogordo. Since 1977 I have been a member of the board of directors of the bank. I sold my barbershop after 60 years of business.
We first formed a transportation committee in the Chamber of Commerce in the early 1970’s and attended all the highway commission meetings around the state for years. We were able to get Highways 54 and 70 widened to four lanes, the relief route built and an overpass at the Holloman Gate. I was Chamber President in 1976 when we built the Space History Museum and I’m still on the foundation board after 37 years.
I have now been a member of he Alamogordo Noon Lion’s Club for 55 years and have enjoyed it and all the friends I have made.
I was chosen as Citizen of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce. I was very proud of that honor and, a few years later, Barbara received the same honor.
Barbara was State Centennial Chairman for the city and did a fantastic job. She put on 72 events in 52 weeks – busy lady – and was chosen best centennial in New Mexico by the New Mexico Tourism Committee.
We had our barbershop for  60 years. The people that own it now do a little better with $14 haircuts that I did with 75 cent haircuts and 50 cent shaves.