Now, being a kid back in the 40’s, and I guess before, took a lot of creativity. Nobody had money for store bought toys back then or at least not very many so we had to make our own, or if we were lucky enough to have a grandpa or some other old man that liked to whittle, perhaps we could talk them into making us something we could play with. Of course the good part about not spending a lot of time in town, no TV, and only a weekly newspaper that didn’t advertise much, was you weren’t exposed to a lot of things, so most of us grew up thinking that homemade toys were the best. And I guess they probably were.
Maybe "store bought" toys may have been common in other parts of the world back then, but certainly not around Colony. If Charlie Taylor or Irvin Keeney’s filling station or maybe Linn Wards San Saba Hardware didn’t have it, then usually we didn’t either.
Those were about the only places us kids ever shopped and if there had been some toys at either of the filling stations, the best place for us to find them would have been in the old ice filled red coke box. That’s about the only place, or at least the first place, us kids ever looked. Standing there, lid up looking at all the bottle caps sticking through that ice was pretty near enough shopping for most of us kids, and in the hot summer, dang refreshing digging around in that cold water for the bottle that had turned over and was really cold down deep in the bottom!
Now, on the occasions, when we got to go to town with mom and dad, I remember the old funny books we used to get at Sam Lairds Corner Drug store. Us kids would spend the whole afternoon there, bunched up by the front door and window of the store, reading funny books. Sometimes we’d even be drinking a malt, if we had the two bits it took to buy one.
I remember one time in some of those old funny books there was an advertisement for, "A shore ‘nuff small spy camera that you could hold in your hand and imagine the pictures you could get without anyone knowing," as the ad went. There would be all sorts of pictures of cloak and dagger spies taking pictures of people and perhaps secret documents in some foreign country which only spurred on my interest, in getting one. I could only imagine how much important information and stuff I could gather if I only had such a camera. Why shoot, no telling what all I could uncover. Oh, there were many other bargains, but none of equal value to this country boy.
As someone once said, "There’s a sucker born every minute" and I guess my minute came along pretty soon after I saw this ad. I couldn’t wait to order one. Why it still amazes me that I got that far into childhood without one.
When mine came it had one or two rolls of film to fit and soon I had one was loaded inside. I was then on the lookout for something clandestine to take a picture of.
Now for those of you who aren’t familiar with the Colony community, it didn’t take me long to find out that it wasn’t very high on the list for espionage activities, so I guess I wasted the first roll of films on such things as perhaps my horse, brother and sister and no telling what else. The reason for the "no telling what else" was that soon after filling the first roll up, I lost it. Little dickens was hard to keep up with. I put in the second one and soon had it pretty much used up too, practicing for the time I’d be called upon to spy on some bad guy that would move into our community.
Finding myself running low on film I did the only logical thing I knew how to do when someone was faced with such a dilemma. I went to either Sleet or Sam and asked about how much more film would cost.
I can still remember old Sam, looking over the top of his glasses, grinning, and telling me that probably there wasn’t any film anywhere for such a camera. None he’d seen at least! Of course, I went to the front of the store and showed him a picture of the "spy camera" and, I imagine, to humor me, he told me he’d look into seeing if he could get me some. I guess he soon forgot all about my needs because I never got any more film and don’t remember ever getting a picture off either roll. Guess the spies around our community all got away. Probably just rode off into the sunset as they did in the picture shows back then.
I imagine that small camera would be worth quite a bit today however the film would still be elusive I’ll bet. Also as said, I remember my first and probably only roll never got developed so my new life as a spy was short lived. Of course around Colony there wasn’t much demand for spies although I’m sure lots went on, that people living there would have just as soon been kept quiet. It was like that in most places so I’m sure Colony was about up to par with the rest of the world.
After being deprived of more film, me and Dewayne went back to doing what we did best. We spent a lot of time spying on animals and even killed a few if we could hit them. One of our favorite pastimes was shooting our .22 caliber rifles. It didn’t make us any difference what we were shooting at, just as long as we had bullets, our guns, and something to shoot in the general direction thereof.
We did kill an occasional turtle, squirrel, deer or whatever but there were far more went away unscathed. We both had .22 rifles and, if daddy bought enough bullets we usually had some. We carried those two old guns and several boxes of shells almost everywhere we went.
I guess God had us in mind when he gave us two hands, one to carry a rifle and the other to carry a fishing pole as we tromped around through the pastures and up and down the creek.
Dewayne’s parents were not near as generous as dad was with shells. Of course there were a lot more rifles and kids to shoot them at his house. But, you know looking back, there seemed to always be a few bullets of some sorts scattered in one of the windows, or on the mantle or perhaps in some old drawer that somebody had emptied out of a pocket sometimes and forgotten about. I guess Mrs. Brister was a little more tolerable than Mom was about shells being left all around.
Dewayne would usually come up with a bunch of loose shells, not all the same kind, or maybe from even the same decade. It took a little sorting to get a handful of the same kind that fit the gun you were using, but a lot, or some of them I guess, shot most of the time unless they had gotten wet in the wash pot before getting removed from the pocket of some pair of britches.
The variety came from having a bunch of older brothers who grew up before he came along who hunted too. I imagine there are perhaps still a few bullets someplace down at that old house, left by us, or some of his brothers many, many years ago.
No telling how many we could have found out where Mrs. Brister washed. I’m sure she threw several in the wash fire after finding them in the pockets of Dewayne’s britches after we’d been off someplace hunting. Those old shells would just pop and scatter a few hot coals around but didn’t hurt nothing I ever saw, but did pop pretty loud and make you jump. We’d all thrown shells in the fire, back then, when we’d be sitting around coon hunting just to see everyone jump when suddenly there was a fresh shower of hot sparks and coals as the thing exploded.
Me and Dewayne gave that wash fire a wide berth, as the old saying went, because we were afraid if we’d have shown up out there, we’d got put to work and that was something me and him tried to stay away from if we could. Looking back I suppose until we were 8-9 years old that was about the only thing we were really good at, but for some reason along then, our parents figured, that if our feet fit under their table, our butts would fit whatever they were doing that day. Although we never hurt ourselves, we did get exposed to lots of different ways to have quality time with our dad’s.
As you know, my dad ranched, and it was a common notion back then among ranchers, that anyone living on, or around a ranch should be able to ride a horse, make a hand when horseback, or dismounted and on the ground, and outdo everyone else. This notion became especially important if this person happened to be his oldest son. Of course, not wanting to be selfish, I always figured it was my part to help whoever we had working for us to work as hard as they could too.
And then remember, I also had a younger brother, and I always knew how important it would be for him to have some "hands on" experience, and so under the watchful eye, of me, his older and much wiser brother, I took it upon myself to let him do as much as I could talk him into doing, thus expanding his leadership ability. Mom and Daddy had always told me "to show your brother how to do this or that" when we’d be going someplace to play so it just seemed natural to me.
This provided us both some important training. Him, in how to do stuff and it taught me how to be a good salesman. Selling Bob on some of the stuff we had to do back then was pretty much an uphill chore in itself but together, we got it done. Like I said, Mom and Dad had always told me to "look out and help Little Bob" so I was just trying to do my part as told.
Me, on the other hand was content to be a follower instead of a leader, because the leaders often were the first kicked, thrown off, or run over when working cattle, none of which appealed to me. Didn’t seem to bother Dad much though because he’d grab me and push me down a chute behind some old mad, scoured, kicking cow and tell me to "Push her up!" Yep, been there done that and have the scars to prove it and looking back it still wasn’t much fun, I don’t care what folks say. Danged old silly cow or horse could hurt you in several ways and I got experience in most of them as daddy showed me how real "cowboys" did stuff.
We had one old sorrel mare called Bess that we’d raised and dad rode everywhere he went on horseback. He especially liked this horse because she was as sure footed as a donkey and tough as a mule and covered the ground fairly easily.
I don’t think Dad understood that a horse could walk. He thought they were either standing still or trotting and he liked the latter best. Cover lots of country that way he’d say.
Me and Bob would be going someplace and be walking our horses, half asleep and talking, and daddy would come up behind us, rake a quirt or rope across the rump of your old horse and all of a sudden you’d be sitting behind the saddle, on a horse that suddenly received a shot of motivation, across his butt holding on with everything you had. Why heck, usually only took a few hundred yards of yelling and hollering and pulling on the reins before you could get enough of his attention to get him to stop. Once you got back in the part of the saddle made for your butt to fit in, your hind-sight told you to get a move on and trot the horse. Even for slow learners it only took me a few times to learn that lesson.
Now, back to Bess. As I said, she was a good horse and fairly easy to catch, sometimes would even stand still while you swung the heavy saddle and pad on. She would often stand pretty still while you adjusted everything and got your rope, worm medicine and everything loaded arranged and turned the right way for you to mount.
Once you were pretty satisfied with the way things looked on top she didn’t even seem to mind when you reached under to cinch up the girt. She would stand there almost asleep, ears twitching back and forth a little, until you started pulling on the cinch strap. From the deep sleep she seemed to be in, this smart animal would quickly step toward you with her front feet as soon as you were somewhat off balance pulling on the cinch strap. Of course unless you knew her and were ready she would plant her foot directly on top of yours and simply stand there, grinding that steel shoe that was nailed to her hoof into your foot, while you cussed and tried to push her off. I know she was almost laughing watching me hopping around holding my foot or standing there on it, learning a lot more about English than she probably ever understood. Can’t tell me that old mare wasn’t smart!
The other bad trait she had, and one Dad always told everyone every time you saddled her, was to walk or "untrack" the horse as soon as you cinched it up. You didn’t forget this advice but one time, because some of the old horses we had, would put on a pretty good rendition of a bucking horse if you cinched them up and got on. Didn’t make that mistake but once either. Amazing how some gentle horses will become regular rodeo stock when this step is left out of the "getting ready" part of an early morning trip to the pasture.
Old Bess was unique. She would simply have a "come-apart" and fall all over herself, kick and paw the air, eyes rolled back like a pole axed mule, and after a while of wallering around on your saddle she would get up shaking and then, and only then, could you finish your job. After watching and dodging those feet you were pretty careful to lead her a short distance before trying to get on.
This is only one of the many animals we had to ride every day. All of them had traits, both good and bad, that were unique to them but usually we learned where the "button" was and unless there was someone new around we’d get them saddled without getting ourselves or anyone else hurt. Sometimes if somebody was visiting us, that was trying to tell us what a cowboy he was, or us being perhaps sort of bored (some would call us mean) we’d let them learn about these traits all by themselves. Made for a good morning discussion as we rode along listening to them tell about this or that horse.
Living back then were truly the "good old days" of my life and usually we had a lot fun at all we did but dang I’m glad those saddle horses and wormy cattle are far in my past.