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Quemado Story
Remembering Grandma & Dado
(Elmer F. & Clara B. Sanders)
in Quemado, Texas

Mid 1940s to mid 1950s

by O. Polly (Ford) Wright
Some of my fondest childhood memories were when we visited Grandma and Dado at Quemado, Texas. I believe that Aunt Nita mentioned that they actually lived in Normandy and got their mail in Quemado.

The trips down were greatly anticipated, with my brother Jimmy and me fighting in the backseat all of the way down. I can remember us drawing an imaginary line down the middle of the backseat, which neither of us was to cross…and it didn’t matter than one of us was asleep and tilted across the line, the whining and fighting continued. I can remember at one time shrieking, “Mother, he b-r-e-a-t-h-e-d on me!) I think this was the point that our dad, Owen Ford, became very adept at being able to smack both of us with one hand while continuing to drive on down the road.

My brother, Jimmy, once painted all of Dado’s chickens with red stripes; as Uncle Archie pointed out, it sure did make it easier to tell which chickens belonged to Dado. I enjoyed making mud pies in the dirt by the barn and always added a little corn on the top to make them look like decorations. I was greatly dismayed to see the chickens pecking the pretty decorations off of the pies.

Another chicken experience, which scared the dickens out of me, was seeing Grandma Sanders wring a chicken’s neck and it running madly around the yard minus a head.

One of my fondest memories was the smell of Grandma’s famous yeast rolls baking every morning; of course Dado said he made the bread (he put it in the oven…so that make him the cook.) Family holiday had Grandma baking pies well ahead of the event. When we sat down at the table, there were pies of every description…coconut cream, chocolate cream…and the list went on and on.

My very best memories were when the Ward kidos visited at the same time (Rita, Mary, Charlotte, TK and Kenny); this was a whooping great time! As soon as we all got there, Dado would load us in the back of his pickup truck (complete with the great rounded fenders) and drive us into Quemado to the grocery store. At some time, good friends of my folks (Mark and Lucille Perryman) owned the grocery store there. Dado always took a wood case with empty bottles for us to pick tasty refreshments. Some of the favorites were grape Nehi sodas, but my favorite was cream soda; I can taste it now just thinking about it! I always begged Dado to buy me jellyrolls (they don’t even come close to making them the same way now); somehow, he always managed to buy a package without me seeing him make the purchase. I was always pretty confident that he would buy them, but when we got back to the farm and I did a quick search they were no where to be found. Evidently he’d talk about how good a slice of jellyroll would go about now and they’d show up on top of one of the cabinets.

There’s nothing that Grandma Sanders (or the grandkids) enjoyed more than sitting at her feet while she told scary stories about the family’s experiences in the “olden days.” Some of my favorites where:

The mad dog biting someone and having to be locked up, while begging other family members to “just let me bite one little finger.”

The Indians finding the kids outside of their house and them begging to be let back in while the Indians got a big chuckle out of it and riding off.

The time a house was being constructed without a roof and the men were away from home…they built a bonfire on the floor of the home trying to keep a panther at bay.

An uncle that had a floppy sole on his boot while he was plowing the field….a rattlesnake got caught between his foot and the sole and when he started running, every time he hit the ground, the snake would hiss, which caused him to run faster and the snake to hiss more.

There were so many of these wonderful stories and I wished we had them in book form! She had many panther stories and in my nightmares I managed to combine a panther with rabies, standing on it’s hind legs at the edge of the field; I started to run, but I felt like I had molasses in my bones and ran in slow motion while it slowly gained. I had many sleepless nights listening for strange sounds after these stories, and I’m sure my brother and cousins did to, if they’ll admit it!

The Ward and Ford kids liked to sit at Dado’s feet while he sat on the big white wood lawn bench in his front yard. We were fascinated by his chewing tobacco…he always made it look like the best treat in the world as he’d pull out his pocket knife and slice off a chew. He used to take a slice and hold it out to us kids and ask if we’d “like a chaw,” which of course we were dying to try. However, none of us was willing to take the whooping which might follow of we were caught by Uncle Tough (Ken) of my Dad (Uncle Jiggs).

Texas summers were so hot! How hot was it? It was so hot, that us kids slept out on a screened-in porch and Grandma would soak sheets to put on top of us. Needless to say, the sheets were well dried out long before morning. When we woke, it would already be stifling. As I recall, it doesn’t cool down much at night in Texas like it does in California.

The evenings in the front yard were wonderful (way too hot to stay in the house during the Texas summers). The beautiful Texas stars would come out, and with them would come the fireflies. All of us kids loved catching the fireflies and putting them in mason jars with breathing holes put into the metal lids. Then came the mosquitoes…they loved the tender, light flesh of all of my cousins (the redheads were the prime cuts!) However, with my olive skin, I was only picked when they didn’t have enough room to light on everyone else. I never figured out if it was because of my skin (very tough) or it was because I have RH-negative blood…to this day, I’m the last choice mosquito “happy meal” at social gatherings.

One of the other surprises visited by the Ford family on our Grandparents was the time Jimmy decided to climb up into the attic without anyone knowing he was up there. Boy, did we find out he was up there! He came crashing down through the ceiling with a boy-sized portion of the ceiling coming with him. Luckily, he wasn’t injured, nor were any of us who witnessed his surprise arrival.

Grandma Sanders took us fishing one time (can’t remember who all was there), she was sitting on a log and somehow managed to scrape her shin; while trying to deal with that, she fell backwards of the log, got up and proceeded to put a “mud pack” on the scrape. She assured us that this would keep it from getting infected. One of our favorite fishing trails traveled along the creek and the cattails growing along side it; a skunk had decided to “let loose” along the trail and it seemed like the odor stayed there forever. I can still remember the old cane poles; the coffee tins of worms, the sounds, the feel of the warm sun on us and the smells…especially the skunk spot by the cattails. It would be so wonderful if their grandkids could take our grandkids back to that time and that place to savor these things.

I loved slipping down into Grandma and Dado’s storm cellar. They had some preserved goods put aside along with lanterns and other assorted items. To my delight, I found several boxes full of old issues of Readers’ Digests - they were my favorites! I would bring them in the house and sit in Grandma’s green rocker for hours reading the short stories and the jokes. I was careful to leave the door open, after Grandma told the story about being trapped in the cellar after a big storm (tornado?) when Uncle Leon, after checking on them, having to chop up the tree to get them out. When venturing down there, I’d be keeping my eyes out for spiders and other assorted crawling creatures.

I can remember visiting when Grandma was still doing the laundry in a tub with a scrub board and lye soap (which I believe she made herself). The water was outside in a pump that you had to prime to get it going; a rite of passage was being able to get the pump primed and sweet water flowing out. Then there was the outhouse…very scary to small children, at the best of times. However, Grandma had to share a story about sitting in the outhouse taking care of business and being bit on the inside of the thigh by a tarantula. And she’d show us the big sinkhole on her thigh. Scary turned to terror…we’d all hold as much as we could, as long as we could and then make the plunge into the outhouse. Have you ever tried to see the underside of the wood toilet to check for spiders, while trying not to make contact with the seat (in case you missed one), while trying to hold your nose at the same time and keeping your ear out for rabid panthers that might be sneaking up and couldn‘t be viewed through the cracks, just waiting for you to come out? Then, at night, you had to use the chamber pot because for sure, none of us were going out in the dark. It sure was a relief when inside plumbing arrived at the Sanders home!

One time, Dado took Jimmy and I fishing down by the power plant. We were fascinated by it and the tons of water rushing through it. To keep us out of harm’s way (I don’t think the story was true), he said that a little Mexican boy had fallen in and that the power plant chewed him up. Needless to say, that kept us away from the boiling waters.

Dado used to shave with a straight razor every morning, which drew quite a crowd of grandkids. He’d stick his tongue in each cheek and draw the razor over the cheek making a nice scratching noise. His throat was always the last part shaved; we’d hold our breaths hoping he wouldn’t cut himself.

Dado worked hard on his farm and we all liked to tag along. He’d give each of us a burlap bag so we could pick cotton. We’d finish up with hardly anything in the bag, but he’d give each of us a nickel for our work.

My favorite crops were the tomatoes. They were huge, as I remember, and the Texas sun would heat them up nicely; we’d all pick a tomato and suck out the warm juice. I’ve never been able to find a tomato since that time that even came close. Dado also grew some corn, but I didn’t like the bugs that often surprised us when we opened them up. Plus, one had to keep a sharp eye out for the rabid panthers that might be lurking nearby.

Grandma Sanders used to make homemade ice cream using a powder mixture and then freezing them in the ice cream trays. The real treat though was when someone brought a hand cranked ice cream freezer that you added ice and salt to - there’s nothing in the world that tastes as good as that on a hot summer day.

I look back at the picture of Grandma and Dado taken in 1955; it’s so hard to believe that she was only one year older than I am now at 61. You can read the lines of hard work in her face. We have no idea now, how hard the life on farming and keeping a house was back in those years, and with none of the appliances we now have. Imagine how tired they must have been after farming, cooking, taking water into the house to do dishes and no air conditioning. Most of their fruits and vegetables were home grown and canned… in a steaming hot kitchen. Yet, they always had what appeared to be all the time in the world when we came for visits. As a grandchild, I can’t remember a harsh word from either of them; I wish God have given me their patience and gift for listening to the little ones. I’ll always remember Grandma humming and singing as she worked. When you look back to her generation, she was one of the very few women who had a college education. I often wonder how much easier her life would have been had she gone on with a teaching career instead of the hard work of raising a family and being a farmer’s wife.

I can remember the great spreads Grandma had for every meal and Dado saying, “Clara, could you get me some more iced tea” and putting one of those little artificial sweeteners in it. Before long, he’d grab his belly and moan “oh, my stomach, my stomach.” Being a small child at the time, I wondered why, if it bothered his stomach so, that he just didn’t stop drinking it. Now I understand as some of my favorite things give me indigestion. I’ve often since wondered if this was the start of his cancer and think about how there was no knowledge or relief for him at that time.

Grandma and Dado’s home was a treasure trove for all of the grandkids. They kept old postcards, confederate money, tails off of rattlesnakes, etc. And each item brought out for an explanation always elicited a story to go with it. Such wonderful memories!

Our Grandparents lived close to Uncle Archie and Aunt Josie. I believe their daughter’s name was Joyce, and we used to visit back and forth. Joyce had done a painting of Jesus holding a lamb that I dearly loved (I don’t know if it was paint-by-number or not). Joyce offered to paint one for me. When it was done, I went to pick it up and she cautioned me that it was still not dry and to hold it away from my body. On the way back to Grandma and Dado’s house, I was holding the picture out in front of me (as ordered) and admiring it. Finally, when I glanced down to see where my feet were going, there was a rattlesnake in my path. I let out a scream and promptly smashed the picture to my chest as I took off running. Maybe that was when Jesus claimed me as his own since his image was painted on my chest by the time I reached my destination.

Speaking of that, I remember being baptized in the river (creek?) at Quemado. The Lord had laid a heavy longing in my heart to accept Jesus for Lord and Savior that had kept me awake at nights before I walked down the isle with tears streaming down my face at that small Baptist church in Quemado to turn my life over to him. When I went to be baptized, what a wonderful experience standing there with Grandma beside me while we sang, “Shall we gather at the river” and “In the sweet bye and bye, we shall meet at that beautiful shore.”? I know that one of those two was Grandma’s favorite hymns, but I cannot now recall which one it was. The words to “Shall we gather at the river” can be found at: http://www.stephen-foster-songs.de/Amsong08.htm. The words to “In the sweet bye and bye” can be found at: http://www.smsu.edu/folksong/MaxHunter/1555/index.html. This is my most precious memory of Grandma Sanders. I’m sure other members of the family were there, but my memory eyes recall her, the dress I was wearing and the baptism itself. I believe I was around 8 or 9 years old. For those who live after me, I’d like to have these two songs played at my funeral with a sense of joy and celebration knowing that I’ll be with my precious Lord and loved ones who have gone on before me.

On a lighter note, it makes me want to sing “Precious memories” but I have a voice that is only appreciated by my dogs. You must realize that their hearing is much keener than humans, so obviously my singing was good to them (in a heavenly dog-hearing range) since they would dance on their little legs and wag their tails to my laryngitic crow-like voice. I have been asked to just hum the words by my husband while in church. Little does he know that one of my little doxies now in heaven is wagging its tail and dancing to my warbling.

See Quemado, Texas

© O. Polly (Ford) Wright
September 25, 2004
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