Mason County News
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009 • Posted November 4, 2009

Early Times Away From Home

In 1928 papa got me a summer job in Eldorado, Texas, skeeting soda in the Hoover Drug Store owned by an old friend. This was quite an experience for me. My second time away from home and making $75 a month!! (Remember? My first trip away from home was in l920, and I made a dime for walking behind a mule on a hay baling rig—and now only 8 years later I am up to $75 a month! man alive will wonders never cease).

I didn’t save any money but I did buy new clothes and had a whale of a good time. Learned to know everybody in the whole county and knew what flavor milk shake they wanted as soon as they walked into the store.

I learned to smoke and every morning on my way to work I would start smoking a cigarette just as soon as I was out of sight of Aunt Martha’s house. I had to walk up a narrow trail though two vacant lots to reach town and for about a month, while I was learning to inhale, I staggered up that trail like a drunk man. And like all foolish kids I continued smoking cigarettes until I got hooked on nicotine. I learned to chew tobacco (I had to learn to chew in order to be one of the fellows). I got to where I liked chewing tobacco but when the summer was over I decided to give up the chewing and stick to smoking.

I also learned to drink beer (home brew).

NOTE: about the beer—I was in a good many kitchens during my three months in Eldorado and I noticed that nearly all of them had water marks on the ceilings. One night I asked one of the boys why they didn’t get their roof repaired to keep the water out of their kitchen. “Heck those are not water marks”, he said as he opened a bottle of beer and it threw foam all over the ceiling, “That’s this home brew we’re drinking.”

It was also during that summer that I learned there was quite a bit of truth in the old saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder for someone else, so they say,” for I found in the words of Duke Ellington that another’s “kiss could cloud my memory”; that “other arms could hold a thrill”; and that my fickle heart, which had vowed undying love for the girl back home, could not resist the excitement of a new romance while momentarily forgetting it’s longing for another.

In addition to falling in love a couple of times I did make some wonderful friends in Eldorado. Many of their names are burned into my memory and many have been forgotten. Most of them have gone on to the big pasture, leaving me with those burned in memories which will be treasures forever.


Sister went off to school in Abilene—she met her future husband there and after her first year in college they got married (May 3, l928) and moved to his ranch some ten or fifteen miles out of Christoval, Texas. I spent several wonderful summers on that ranch— I really liked it out there—did a lot of cowboying and sheep herding. In working with the sheep I decided that the sheep was surely the dumbest creature that God ever created—but in the years that followed I learned that there was another creature much dumber than a sheep and that was man. Another thing I learned as J.G. my younger brother and I worked on wormy sheep was that I did not want to be a doctor—however J. G. seemed to like that line of work so he chose to study medicine. (He became a darn good doctor, served Mason for the rest of his days and left behind him four wonderful kids, three girls and a boy).

The first few years that Sis and Sam were married they lived high on the hog—then came the hard years—when $11 ewes sold for $3 and a goat sold for six-bits. (a fellow once told me that it was in those days that his dad traded 100 turkeys for 100 goats and thought it was a fair trade).

That summer we lived on vegetables from the garden and ate mostly goat meat. Sam’s dad handled all of the money and he gave them $10 a month to buy staples (sugar, flour, and coffee) we quit smoking ready rolls and learned to roll our own, and when we went dove hunting we never fired a shot until we could get eight to ten birds with one shot.

I had started smoking cigarettes the summer I was seventeen and was away from home for the second time in my life. After returning home from my summer adventure I continued to smoke, but always on the sly.

My dad would have whaled the tar out of me if he had caught me. The only opportunity I had to smoke out in the open was when I visited my sister on the ranch near Christoval. I spent most of my summers with her because I not only enjoyed the ranch life but also the freedom from parental rule. So consequently during those summer months I smoked, and smoked, and smoked.

One summer, after the great depression had started and my brother-in-law and I had been reduced to rolling our own instead of smoking ready rolls, I was left in charge of the ranch for an entire week. In preparing me for this week alone I was coached, and re-coached on all of the things I must and must not do. Enough provision were left to keep me eating for a week, but, they forgot one thing. They forgot to leave me enough tobacco (the roll your own type).

I did not discover this terrible dilemma until they had been gone for three days and I had four more smokeless days ahead of me. I had only been smoking for two years and should have easily made it through those four days without a smoke, but no, when a smoker is without tobacco and has no way of obtaining more, it then becomes an unsurmountable obsession. The more he thinks about it the more his system demands tobacco.

In an effort to satisfy this demand I searched everywhere for a tobacco substitute. While I was out of tobacco I had plenty of cigarette paper, because two packages of paper came with each sack of tobacco and we rarely used more than one package of paper to a sack of tobacco. So, in my search for something to put in that cigarette paper in lieu of tobacco I used coffee, and even cedar bark off of fence posts. Oh, it worked, I was smoking but I was not getting much satisfaction from my tobacco substitutes even though I told myself that it was all in the mind.

On my third day without tobacco and being about ready to give up on coffee and cedar bark, I was out in the yard looking for something else to smoke when I came upon the fireplace. There was a trap door on the back of the fireplace which allowed one to remove the ashes without having to carry them outside. I lifted the trap door and GOLDMINE did you say?

I had hit the Glory Hole. There laying in all of those ashes were all of the ready rolled cigarette butts that had been flicked into that fireplace since before we had quit smoking ready rolls.

Hallelujah, I had tobacco and I had cigarette paper. I picked all those butts from the ashes, took the in the house, broke them open and emptied all that tobacco into a pile. Then I started rolling cigarettes with real tobacco in them.

Huh, you think I didn’t know a gold mine when I had hit one?

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