THE HISTORY OF
DOROTHA ANN (HARRELSON)
AS COMPILED BY
WILLIE Lee (BILLIE TRACY) MORTON
OCTOBER 8, 2000
I’m writing this because I have so little knowledge of my ancestors. Therefore, I want to leave as much as I can remember for future generations. I’ll record it by state, county, and towns, as some of the towns don’t exist today.
Sanford P. Tracy was born in
Mamma, Dorotha Ann Harrelson was born May 5, 1889 in
They were married June
26, 1906 in Sod,
Chloe Margarete was born October 13, 1911 in
Willie Lee was born
September 12, 1914 in Cordell,
The family moved from
We moved to Lily,
We moved to Ramsdell,
Well, back to Gasoline,
I will begin this article by the houses I remember living in. Some of this has been recorded before. As it covers a period of time from 1887 to 2000, there are bound to be some difference of opinions, but I’m recording it as I remember it. Some was told to me.
The first house I
remember was in
We never lived in one place more than a year or two until I was thirteen years old.
From Lilly we moved to
In 1919 or 1920 Pappa bought a Model T Touring car and drove a taxi in
One day Pappa brought a colored boy home and said he was going to use our playhouse to live in. We weren’t happy about that. We had never been around colored people and were afraid of him at first, but he soon won us over. When we broke something we would take it to James and he would fix it, if it could be fixed. He was good at a lot of things and we became very fond of him. His clothes were a mess when he came to us. Mama washed, ironed, and mended them. He was so grateful; he would do anything for Mama. He worked at the wagon yard and didn’t get home until after we had eaten our supper. Mama kept his supper hot and he ate in the kitchen. He was about sixteen and when he got another job, we kids cried when he left.
I started kindergarten
while we lived in
While we lived in
We attended the
We kids looked forward to the ice man like my kids looked forward to the ice cream man. (There were no electric refrigerators. We had wooden ice boxes, with a place for a block of ice in the top.) The ice man would break off a piece of ice to fit the ice box, and then give each of us a chunk of ice.
There was inside plumbing in only a few houses. Ours wasn’t one of them. Our privy sat next to the alley. The scavenger man came once a week; he cleaned it and sprinkled lime in it. When we would see (or smell) him coming, we’d make a dash for the house and stay there until the smell cleared away. Mama would have given us a licking if she’d known what we called the scavenger wagon.
brother, Uncle Jim Turner, lived on a farm outside
Uncle Jim and Aunt Mary
(James Woodson Turner and Mary Jane Carroll) had six children of their own at
home. Still they were willing to keep the four of us all summer. Susan and
Blanch were grown girls, Bee and
We kids, from Bee and
When Uncle Jim Tracy
(James Lee Tracy 1888-1968) came home from World War One, he brought Lora,
Chloe and me a little pearl faced purse, with flowers and the word ‘GERMANY’ on
the pearl front. Pappa scraped almost all the flowers
off to get rid of the word ‘
In 1921, we moved to
their meal. Lora, Chloe, and I would take pails and pick up chunks of coal along the railroad tracks that had fell off the freight cars. There was no water on our place. We had to carry it from the community windmill on the hill, by the school. Thank goodness, it was down hill with the pails full of water. Pappa used a barrel, sled, and horse to haul water for bathing, and washing clothes. We had a cow and had to go to the community pasture and separate her from the other cows in the evenings and drive her home to milk and drive her back in the mornings.
Mama’s brother, Uncle
Sam and Aunt Jewel (Samuel Walton Harrelson 1892- and Jewell Abt. 1903- ) lived
near us. It was fun to go to Grandma and Grandpa Harrelson’s hotel and explore
the upstairs rooms, when they were empty, and go out on the upstairs porch.
Mama had an old three gallon crock churn and wooden dasher and a little wooden
box, with a flower carved in the bottom that made a flower on top of the pound
of butter. Ramsdell wasn’t really a town, just the
one room school and the hotel. Pappa bought our
supplies from Shamrock or
I started first grade when we lived in Ramsdell. I had a little round, gray and white speckled granite lunch pail, with a tin lid. Mama would put a cup of fruit in and caution me to carry it carefully. I tried, but by lunch time, my ham or bacon biscuit would be soaked with fruit juice. Chloe, Edith and I were back there in 1978. All that was left of Ramsdell was Uncle Sam’s house and a newer hippie house.
Next, we moved to Uncle
Perry Turner’s (Perry Turner Abt. 1860- ) ranch, in
could cross the streams with the loaded wagons.
There were no
facilities for feeding prisoners in
considered dangerous. One night, when Pappa was away, we heard a knocking under Mama’s bedroom. It finally quieted down and we went to bed. The next night it was there again. Remembering the escaped prisoner, Mama sent Lora and Chloe for the sheriff. He and two deputies came and listened. They felt sure they had found their prisoner. They looked under the house, but couldn’t see under Mama’s bedroom. They decided the only way to get him, was to take up the floor. It had been over a week since his escape and they thought he was probably hungry and was trying to get out, but had gotten stuck. They put us kids in the other room and locked the door, but Mama insisted on staying with them. The sheriff and one deputy stood with drawn guns while the other deputy loosened the floor boards. When he pulled the boards up, they were face to face with a skunk. Mama said he looked as surprised as they were. Thank goodness, he didn’t let go his stink.
The next spring, Pappa rented a farm near
When the weather was nice, Lora, Chloe and I rode a horse to school. If the weather was bad, Pappa took us in the wagon. Sometimes, the snow was so deep and hard, Pappa would take the wagon bed off the wheels, put runners on it and take us to school in a sled. We could go right over the fences, keeping an eye on windmills to guide us. Mama would make what she called tea cakes. They were like sugar cookies, except she made them about three quarters of an inch thick. She’d bake them until they were dry so they wouldn’t spoil. Though I doubt they would have lasted that long with six kids in the house. She’d make that old three gallon crock churn full and put a cloth over the top to keep the bugs out. There was a cement tank, level with the ground, by the windmill. We wanted to put water in it to play in, but Pappa said it would attract every snake for miles around. One time, when there was rainwater in it, we found a rattlesnake in it and it couldn’t get out.
One day, we went fishing in a big lake. We wanted to go wading but Pappa nixed that. He said there might be snakes in it, and he was right. There was a water moccasin in it. Its mouth was wide open and a glob of white foam was bulging from his mouth. It was the ugliest thing I ever saw, and they are very poisonous. Pappa didn’t have to worry after we saw that awful snake.
Our farm was forty
We used an oil stove to cook on and a wood stove, for heat, in the other room. There was no heat in the upstairs room. Trees are few and far between on the plains. When we ran out of wood to heat with, we went to the pasture and picked up dried cow chips. They don’t smell, they burn hot and leave little ashes. This was in 1924. Pappa made a good broomcorn crop and could have stayed on, but with the broomcorn money, burning a hole in his pocket, he was ready to move on.
He and a friend, Bill
Morris, decided to “make like pioneers”. Mind you, this was seventy-five years
after the California Gold Rush. They each covered two wagons, trailed them
together, with four head of horses, we headed for
People, in cars,
carried letters back and forth between the Morris’ and us. When Pappa was planning the trip, he didn’t count on having to
buy water. In parts of
People, in cars, would stop and take pictures of us and our covered wagons. I thought it was great fun then, but now I’m embarrassed when I think someone might be showing the pictures to their Grandkids and telling them about the crazy people in the covered wagons.
One evening we camped
by a big barn, near Currcoro New
When we came to a lake,
or even a mud hole, Mama would have us fill the wash tubs with water. She’d put
alum in it to settle the mud, the next morning, she’d dip off the clear water
and wash our clothes. Sometimes, we’d find a barbwire fence to hang our clothes
on, and other times we would spread them on bushes to dry. Poor Mama, she
didn’t have an easy life. Lora kept a daily log of every day of that trip, from
the time we left Garlington
We reached Gasoline in time for the start of school and Pappa went to work in the cotton gin. They furnished us a two room house, with attached garage, on the edge of the gin yard. One room was the kitchen and dining room. The other room was the living room and Pappa and Mama’s bedroom. Our bedroom was in the garage. There was no floor, but the clay was so hard we could sweep it clean. Instead of rugs, we put flattened out cardboard boxes beside the beds. One night there was a heavy rain up on the Caprock. (the Caprock was flat land much higher than Gasoline.) The water came down like a river and flooded the garage. When we awoke, the water was up to the springs of our beds. We kept our clothes and other possessions in cardboard boxes under our beds. The boxes had fell apart and our possessions were floating around in muddy water. We washed our clothes, but many other things were lost. My doll, about 18 inches tall, had a sawdust stuffed body. She was so heavy; it took both hands to lift her. Her head, hands, and feet peeled off in big scabs and smelled terrible. The most important thing we lost was Lora’s diary of that trip. None of the rest of us had read it. How I wish I could read it today. It would be especially interesting after all these years.
Our yard, like the
garage floor, was clay. It didn’t look as if anyone had ever planted flowers on
it. We always planted flowers where ever we lived. We found an old dead tree,
about fifteen feet tall. We drug it home and anchored it in the front yard. We
planted morning glories around it and they grew all the way to the top. It was
beautiful in the mornings when the blue flowers were open. We spaded flower
beds, and fertilized them with cow manure (if you want good fertilizer, try
that). By mid-summer, our yard was a mass of zinnias and daisies. We planted
balsam apples to cover the chicken wire fence around the front yard (balsam
apples aren’t good to eat, but they grow on a beautiful green vine and the
apples get warty and turn a bright red-orange in the fall. When school was out,
we chopped cotton for Mr. Wise, the gin owner. We didn’t actually chop the
cotton, we chopped the weeds. We’d pick up little lizards, put them in our
pockets, took them home and put them in the flower beds to eat the ants and
aphids. We loved pork-n-beans. We’d take a small can of beans, a can opener and
spoon, that was our lunch. We had been there two years
when Pappa got his arm caught in the machinery and
broke it. While he was off work, we went to visit Grandpa Harrelson in Dill
Mama’s sister, Aunt
Lena, and Uncle Frank Feland lived on a farm near
Cordell. There was a big cave on their place. With so much room to roam and
explore, it looked like paradise next to our place on the dusty gin yard. We
told Pappa that if he would rent a farm, we’d help
him farm it. We went back to Gasoline, packed our belongings, and moved to
Lora had married Guye Willis while we were living in Gasoline. They had
taken his insurance (for his broken arm) in one down payment, and the rest in
weekly payments of $7.96. He could have taken it all at once and made a down
payment on a farm, but he never wanted to be tied down to one place. He was
always looking to hit it rich, just over the next hill. His weekly payments
hadn’t started, and our cotton picking money was going fast, buying groceries
for eight people. One day, he was nosing around in a willow thicket, on the
next farm, and found a whiskey still. He toted a thirty gallon keg of whiskey
home, took it to
That winter, Pappa’s brother, Uncle Wes (Charles Weston Tracy 1898-1973), his wife Aunt Zella and their four kids came and stayed with us. Feeding fourteen people, our groceries were almost gone, and the blackeyed peas were going fast. There was no work in the winter, so there was no income. It didn’t seem to bother Pappa, but I know Mama was worried what she would feed us when the black-eyed peas were gone. Luckily, Pappa’s insurance started before the last of the groceries were gone. $7.96 was a lot of money in those days, but it was still hard to stretch it to feed fourteen people. It was so cold all fourteen of us had to stay either in the kitchen or the front room. The rooms were small and it was wall to wall people. Wes and Zella didn’t bring any beds, so some of the kids had to sleep on the floor. Pappa and Wes built a floor and sidewalls and put a tent over it. We had a little oil heater. They managed to get a bed, and Wes, Zella, and the two little boys slept in the tent. The two older girls, Ollie and Leona slept in the bed with us. Some at the head of the bed and some at the foot. (If you want to know what uncomfortable is, you should try that sometime.) Wes’ family still ate their meals with us. We kids didn’t mind the crowded conditions, but I know it was hard on Mama. She was a Saint to put up with all she had to put up with. I hope God has a special place for her in Heaven.
The next spring Pappa rented the place he’d stolen the whiskey from. Some of it was sandy and some, down by the willow thicket, was swampy. Even during the drought, we made a fair crop on the swamp land. We were share croppers. Mr. Stamm, the owner, got one fourth of the money from the cotton and one fourth of the grain. We had a four room, cement block, house with an attic, that’s what the upstairs was. An unsealed attic with a floor and a window in each end. It was the first time we had a house with two floors above ground and we kids liked to sleep up there. There was no banister around the stairwell, but there was a brick chimney on one side, at the head of the stairs. When I had to get up in the dark I would feel for that chimney. One night, we had company, I had to let them have my bed, I slept in the other end of the attic. I got up and was feeling for the chimney, but I was turned around and walked off into the stairwell, landing three or four steps from the bottom. I was bruised and shook up, but not badly hurt. A couple of months later, I took sick at school. Pappa and Mama thought it was from the fall, but when they took me to the doctor, he said it was my appendix, and I’d have to have it removed. I thought sure I was going to die. I didn’t believe they could cut me open without killing me. Of course, I came through it fine, but the doctor said I couldn’t ride the school bus for two weeks. Pappa boarded me with a family that lived across the road from the school so I wouldn’t have to miss any more school. When I got back home, Pappa had put chicken wire on both sides of the stairwell.
When our crops were
laid by, we chopped cotton for the neighbors. In 1929 the depression hit and
the banks closed. We didn’t have money in the bank, but it hurt us because no
one had money to hire us. I can never remember when we didn’t have enough to
keep us from going hungry. It seemed something always came up when we were
running low on food. I guess that crazy trip to
them from starving). They paid the farmers a little for the cows and buried all the ones the people couldn’t use. You could keep all the meat you wanted. Pappa took a nice yearling and butchered it. Mama hada pressure cooker. I don’t know how many jars of beef she canned, but it was a lot. She rolled the round steaks, put them in half gallon jars and pressured them. When she opened them, she’d roll them in flour and brown them. They were so good.
When I went home, after doing housework, Mama was canning fruit and little yellow bell tomatoes for preserves, without sugar. She had sold some eggs. She and I put in a dollar and a half each and bought a hundred pounds of sugar. Although shoes were cheap, one dollar to one dollar and 98 cents would buy a pair of leather shoes, it took a lot to buy shoes for eight people. With the depression, Pappa had no money to hire help and he couldn’t farm our place alone, with just the horses.
No one in our area had a tractor at that time. There was no place to borrow money on future crops. Pappa said Laura and I would have to take turns staying out of school to work on the farm. I knew neither of us could make the grade like that, so I quit school and went to work on the farm. I didn’t blame Pappa. He didn’t cause the depression and I wasn’t being a martyr. Many kids had to quit school and go to work during the depression. Besides, I liked farming. I loved the smell of
fresh earth when I turned the ground in the spring. We walked behind an A plow until the cotton and grain were tall enough to use the riding (horse drawn) cultivator. I didn’t like riding the stalk cutter in the winter. The tall cotton stalks had to be run over with a disc to break them into small pieces so we could plow them under in the spring. I’d wrap my tennis shoes in strips of burlap to try to keep my feet warm, I suppose it helped, but my feet were still cold. When I wasn’t working in the field, I pieced and made quilts. I still have some of the quilts I made before 1933. They’re well worn, but they mean a lot to me. When school was out, in the summer, we all chopped cotton, but like us, none of the neighbors had money to hire help, so we chopped our own cotton.
In the fall, when we picked cotton, Pappa paid us half of the going wages. We used it to buy our clothes and our school books. Usually for half price. If we took good care of them, we’d get most of our money back the next year by selling them to the next class. Our coats and best dresses were more expensive and Pappa would pay for them. Pappa had an old mare, that was so mean, he wouldn’t let me work with her. She was just plain mean. One day she had her foal in the edge of the
lake in the willow thicket. Pappa tried to get the colt, but that old mare chased him all over the thicket. He did manage to get it out of the water, before she chased him from the thicket. He came home so exhausted he could hardly walk. He swore he was going to shoot her, but he knew better than to do that. He needed her to pull the plows. Thatold mare stayed in the thicket for several days before she brought the colt to the barn.
When our crops were laid by, I went to work keeping house for other people. The first place I got a dollar a week and room and board. One hot summer day, she took her two children and me and went shopping for a dress. She left the children and me in the car for two hours while she shopped. She still didn’t buy a dress. When she came back to the car the children were crying and we were all soaked with sweat. I was so angry I quit that night. I was only there one week, so I only got
one dollar. I was worth more than that at home, helping Mama. The next place, I worked, was for an old couple. I got two dollars and fifty cents a week. They had a big, two story house and raised baby chicks to sell. Besides helping with the cooking and housekeeping, I had to help with the baby chicks. They had 2 two-hundred and fifty egg incubators. He would yell up the stairs, in the middle of the night, for me to come down and help him with the chicks. This went on for several nights, until all the eggs had hatched, or all that were going to hatch. We’d take the chicks that had hatched from the incubator and put them in the brooder. That old woman accused every girl, who had worked for them, of stealing from them. I knew some of those girls and I don’t believe they were thieves. She kept little bits of money stashed in different places all over the house. Some in the kitchen, some in the living room and some in a pitcher on the sideboard in the dining room. When the old man went to town, she’d have me take a little from first one place and then another. She always told me just how much to take from each place. I know she knew how much was in each place and checked to see if I’d more
than she said to take. I knew that eventually, she would accuse me of stealing, so I quit. I knew all the neighbors and didn’t want them to think I was a thief. That old man went to Pappa and tried to get him to make me go back to work for them. I had told Pappa and Mama why I quit and I heard Pappa tell him off in not very nice language. Next, I went to work for a Doctor Tracy. He made much about us having the same last name. They had a beautiful home and I got three dollars and fifty cents a week. I thought this was going to be a cinch. Mrs. Tracy was an invalid and a nurse took care of her. The only thing he told me to do was make oatmeal and toast for his breakfast. I’d never used an electric vacuum cleaner and was having fun vacuuming the living room carpet, when he came home. He took the vacuum away and said that wasn’t my job, the colored girl would do it on Saturday. We didn’t have running water, but they did, so I decided to wash off the sidewalk. Well! He caught me and said that wasn’t my job either. It seemed all I was suppose to do was cook his breakfast, and dust, if I could find any dust to dust. He was an old goat and I was afraid of him. I stayed three weeks and when Cal (Calvin Morton) came to take me to a movie, on Saturday evening, I had my clothes packed and left without telling him I wasn’t coming back.
Mama wasn’t well and the garden was knee high in weeds. I told Pappa I quit because Mama needed me. I hoed the garden and helped Mama can beans, tomatoes, beets, and watermelon preserves. When we went back to Sentinel, I watched for that old goat and if I saw him, I quickly crossed the street to keep from encountering him. I didn’t do housekeeping after that. I’d had my fill of other people and their housekeeping.
I worked on the farm for three years, until Cal and I were married and I had my own house (such as it was) to keep. I know it will be hard for young people today to believe what I’ve recorded here, but I’ll swear it’s all the truth, as many other people of my generation will agree. This was just the way it was in our time, and don’t feel sorry for me. I still like farming.
Compiled by: Willie (Billie Tracy) Morton
October 8, 2000