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Childhood Memories of a Texas Life

Chapter Three

The Ear Trumpet

by Hariett Dublin
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1909 Carson County Courthouse Panhandle, Texas
Carson County Courthouse

Photo Courtesy TxDoT, 1939
"We had to walk around the courthouse block, and I was in awe of the magnificent building. It was the most elegant thing I had ever seen. I imagined all sort of presidents, kings and dignitaries working in this place."
Several summers of my childhood, our family went to a ranch in Chase County Kansas, one that my great grandfather homesteaded. The ranch was known as Bloody Creek, so named because of all the Indian battles that took place between the Kaws and other Indian tribes in the early 1800’s and because of the pioneers that were massacred there. (The Kansa Tribe, “people of the southwind,” were commonly known as the Kaws.) Cottonwood Falls was the nearest town and was the county seat in the heart of the Kansas Flint Hills, an area well known for its abundance of strong grass and water. Fady took cattle there every summer to fatten for the Kansas City Market, so he was always busy tending the daily needs, like sick cattle, broken fences, keeping a steady water supply, just to mention a few things. Naturally he was not going to leave us out of all this fun by making us stay home in Texas.

For my three sisters, brother and me, it was like being at a summer camp. We played in the creeks, meadows, swam in the ponds, ran up and down the cornrows, and had a ball. Occasionally Fady needed our help to move some cattle for one reason or another. We had some ole plug horses that we could saddle. One or the other of us would help drive the herd through a gate and onto a new watering hole, or we’d put animals in some work pens if they needed to be doctored.

Fady usually left at daylight on Ole Paint to check the cattle before it got too hot. By one o’clock or so, we could hear him coming before we could see him because he would be singing songs that he had known since he was a boy.
Good Morning, Mr. Fisherman, I meet you mighty well.
How many sea crabs here for to sell?
Come a-whack, come a-whey, come a raddle doodle dey!

I caught me a minnow and made me a wish,
Put him in a dishpan and called him a fish.
Come a-whack, come a-whey, come a raddle doodle dey!
This old Welch folk song has dozens of verses, and Fady knew them all. He and Uncle Tom would even make up a few new ones on rare occasions. He would be trotting through the trees, along the babbling creek singing this tune or “Get Along Little Doggie,” “Home on the Range,” and others with a yodel thrown in now and then. I remember Fady singing these songs and sometimes dancing a few jig steps to add to the fun of it whether in the kitchen or at a real barn dance.

The first years I remember “up there” in Cottonwood Falls we stayed in different rent houses in town. The homes were two-story, well-kept, modest, frame houses. I don’t know where the people that rented to us went – probably cool Colorado! We played in the flowerbeds using kitchen spoons to dig up big, fat, juicy earthworms, not like the skinny ones at home in Texas. These worms would come in handy when Fady took us fishing. We also made lavish dollhouses out of shoeboxes. We could walk to town from the house with a few pennies for candy.

The summer that Buddy was just crawling, we stayed in a house with beautiful windows. The windows in the upstairs rooms went from the floor to near the ceiling with a window seat here and there. One morning Martha and I were playing paper dolls in one of the upstairs bedrooms. We were so busy that we didn’t even know Buddy was any where around. He wasn’t bothering us so we weren’t paying any attention to him. Mother was folding clothes just below the room where we were playing. Somehow Buddy crawled over to an upstairs window, got on the window seat and pushed the screen open. He had on a white diaper. Suddenly mother saw a white flash go flying by her window. She rushed out the door to find Buddy nestled in the soft mulch. He landed right on his bottom in the flowerbed, two stories down, between two large staked dahlias. She got there before he even had time to catch his breath. She picked him up cuddled, kissed and hugged him. We joined her in the porch swing and were happy that our baby brother was O.K. About that time the iceman came by to put the 50 lbs of ice in our icebox and gave us all the ice shavings he had in his wagon. Eating and playing with these ice shavings felt good to Buddy and sidetracked him for the moment. As far as I can remember, he didn’t cry, wasn’t hurt and didn’t even go to the doctor.

One summer an old maid aunt of Mother’s came to see us. All we knew was her name was Aunt Lizzie, she was from England, and we could hardly understand a word she said. She loved it “Out West.” Aunt Lizzie lived in a dreary part of England so she was enthralled by the beauty of the large cornfields, the green grass with cattle grazing, and the cobalt blue skies. She never got over the beauty of the sunsets; the vivid colors were something she had never seen.

Aunt Lizzie was a very proper lady who wore dark, heavy, long dresses with a high collar. Usually touched off with a “wee bit of lace.” Aunt Lizzie was stone deaf and used an ear trumpet. It was an odd-looking, rather weird instrument. It was black and shiny, and I could imagine all sorts of uses for the contraption. What you did was put the small end into the ear, and the tulip shaped end was for us to scream into as loud as we could. After this great experience, it made just plain old talking seem rather dull. So that gave me a whole new dimension to the world of wonder. From then on, for a year, I didn’t have a single doll that could hear it thunder.

Aunt Lizzie would write cards and letters to all of her English friends and relatives exclaiming her fascination with the Wild West, sunsets, how funny we talked, and what a remarkable mother we had... more: courthouse block, main street drug store... next page >
Published with permission.
January 17, 2006

See The Cottonseed Kid - Book Review
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