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Mostly Memories
Shagnasty's Visions From the 1920s
Wednesday, July 16, 2008 • Posted July 16, 2008

Last week my column was about my walk to the Wagon Yard and my memories of other events of the 1920’s. Today I am running Shagnasty’s letter in which his recall of the olden days are, at times, more vivid than my own. I hope that you will enjoy his letter as he gives us more visions from the 1920’s:

Dear Bode;

That Nostalgic Walk of yours to the Wagon yard brought back olden memories and tears clouded my eyes as I read and re-read your 1917 and 1923 visions. In my mind I see those scenes you so clearly portrayed from our past and I walked with you down that old familiar route to your dad’s wagon yard.

Once again my stick went “rat-a-tat-tat” against that iron picket fence at the Rollie White house as I rambled with you down that rocky hill you now call Oak Street and I recalled many of the names of people living along that route.

I stood on the back porch of that well-remembered grocery store and gazed with you at the Willbanks Blacksmith Shop. I recalled how often we had agreed that the only thing missing from that setting was “the spreading Chestnut tree” immortalized by Longfellow in his poem The Village Blacksmith.

How often did we, in our youth, follow the script of that famous poem: “And children coming home from school

Look in at the open door;

They love to see the flaming forge,

And hear the bellows roar.”

Do you remember, still, the smell coming from that old forge? It permeated not only the entire blacksmith shop but cast it’s preserving influence upon my recollection and has been retained there throughout the years.

How often did we stand and watch “The smith, a mighty man is he,” with “the muscles of his brawny arms as strong as iron bands” hammering on a red hot horse shoe and bending it to fit the hoof of the horse standing nearby? Can you still hear the hiss from the steam as that old blacksmith dunked the red hot horseshoe into a tub of water? Then we watched with amazement as he hammered that still hot shoe onto the hoof of a horse that apparently felt no discomfort.

Standing in the doorway of that old blacksmith shop I look east to the old Dutton cotton yard which was just across the street and north of your dad’s wagon yard, and I invite you to join me on a short pilgrimage as I reminisce into the past just as you did in your story.

I no longer see the bales of cotton on which we played in those early years. The scene has changed just as it so often does in dreams and fantasies. The bales of cotton have disappeared and a high wooden fence circling that entire cotton yard has come into view. A grandstand emerges at the north end of the enclosure from which baseball and football games, track-meets and rodeo’s can be viewed.

Into this picture now come those same boys you saw running and jumping on the bales of cotton — now we are the “knothole gang.” With eyes glued to the knotholes in that high board fence we gained a long distance but free view of the activities taking place within that enclosed area.

Then peeping through a knothole we see a track meet from the past with Bill Vaughn and Webb Craddock running the 220 yard dash. They are running on a straight-away track that begins in the southwest corner of that enclosed area and ends in front of the grandstand. There is George Dutton in the running broad jump; your younger brother in the junior 50 yard dash; and your sister, Jewell, attired in the long black bloomers of yesteryear’s female athletes, running in the girl’s 100 yard dash.

Then through the little peephole in that fence there comes the view of an old rodeo of the past. There is the calf roping; the steer bulldogging; and Jerry Wright, the fellow who claimed he could ride anything you could put a saddle on — even if you put the saddle on backwards — winning the bronc riding contest.

Again the scene changes and we see a baseball diamond full of ball players with you and me behind the grandstand waiting for a ball to be foul tipped over the grandstand that will give us free passage into the game. I still remember the crack of the bone in Buck Bailey’s leg as he slides into home plate. I believe it was Luke Vogel (a very good pitcher) who replaced Buck as catcher, and there too are “Big” Fuller and “Little” Fuller from Mason playing in the infield.

Then, as daydreams often do, my illusions change from baseball to football and in this fantasy we see players from those early years while we were in grade school. There was Brown Strickland (a cousin to “Hoss Fly” Strickland I presume) who could punt a football a country mile; there too were Alexander and Bradshaw from the Calf Creek community.

Alexander was a flashy halfback, and Bradshaw a bruising fullback who could knock an opponent down with a stiff arm. We see those older boys playing during heavy rain storms and on a dirt field so wet that their uniforms were caked with mud. It was during those games that Willard Awalt told how he, Doc Anderson and Randall Clark would throw mud into the faces of their opposing linemen just as the ball was snapped.

Into this picture and from out of nowhere comes the year your older brother Elton (Jim) quarterbacked the team coached by Posey Collins. But more vivid still were the teams quarterbacked by Perley Samuelson and coached by E. J. Powell. Who will ever forget the year that Waco beat Brady 105 to nothing. Brady’s primary consolation for that game was the $1000.00 they received for playing in Waco — and brother, in those days that was BIG money.

Well Bode that’s enough traveling for today — perhaps I’ll pick you up again at a later date for another trip into the past we enjoyed together.

Until then I will say thanks again for your visions from yesteryear, and I remain

Your very old friend,

Bolivar Shagnasty

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