These are some of the stories my grandmother, Margaret Donley, told me and her other grandchildren. Most of the stories are about her childhood in rural Texas -- mostly Montague County and Wellington -- before and during the Great Depression. Among the people she references often are her parents, her grandparents, and her siblings, Mary Jo, Muriel, Kathleen, Ben, and Snooks. These stories were collected by my mother prior to my grandmother's 95th birthday; they are told in a close approximation of my grandmother's storytelling style.
Read Part 1 and Part 3.
When Papa was a young man, he and Dee Sledge, a friend of his, went possum hunting one night.
The only light they had was a kerosene lantern. They found a possum up in a tree. When they shined the lantern on it, it ran on the other side of the tree. Papa told Dee to go around to the other side of the tree and scare it back so he could shoot it. Dee started to run around the tree and fell off a cliff. It was not a very high cliff -- really, only a couple of feet down, but it startled him bad. He had a deep, loud voice, and he began to holler, "I'm killed, I'm killed!"
Papa said anyone would know he wasn't killed by the sound of his voice.
Bonnie and Clyde
We had a cousin, Howard Boston. He came from Whitesboro to Wellington to work in the fall cotton harvest. He got a job in Miami and came to Wellington to visit for the weekend. Kathleen, Snooks, and I took him back to Miami.
A neighbor girl had henna-ed my hair, and it was bright red. This was at the time of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
We stopped in a drugstore in Miami and ordered drinks. We were sitting there with our drinks, and Snooks said, "Want a cigar, Bonnie?"
Bonnie was known to have red hair and had been photographed with a cigar in her mouth.
People began to pull down the shades and lock the doors. It scared me to death. I was afraid someone might kill us. Snooks and Kathleen didn't act like they had any sense.
We got up and left. No one followed us. I raved about it all the way home, but they thought it was hilarious.
My cousin Mabyn Jackson and I were very close. She was ten days older than I. We were into lots of crazy things together. When we were eight or nine years old, we were at Grandpa's. Aunt Jodie, Mama, and maybe Aunt Meade were preparing for Sunday dinner for a lot of company. Aunt Jodie had made a cake and had made the icing. She wanted to put crushed peanuts on top of the cake.
She wrapped the peanuts in a cloth tied with a string and told Mabyn and me to crush them. She said to go out, lay it on a rock, and hit it with another rock to crush the peanuts. We had trouble. Every time we hit it, the rag would burst open. Finally, we decided we'd just chew them up. We left them in the rag to chew them. We took them to Aunt Jodie, and she used them on the cake.
Martin came to visit in Whitesboro when I was just a kid. He said, "What was the battle cry at San Jacinto?"
I'd been studying Texas history. I answered, "Remember the almanac." He laughed until he cried. I'd been studying how to spell almanac, too. I was so embarrassed.
Harrison came to Wellington to see Mary Jo and Martin. Dick was going with Kathleen. Martin told him, "Mary Jo has another sister."
Martin told him I was about 14. Harrison asked if he wanted to rob the cradle. I was flattered when Harrison talked to me. He thought I was just a kid, I'm sure.
Our house burned when I was thirteen years old. Muriel, Mary Jo, Kathleen, Snooks, and I went to a movie, something we seldom did. Mama was out at Grandpa's for the weekend. Etta Sledge, Dee Sledge's daughter, came in the movie and told us our house was on fire. We rushed home and watched it burn to the ground. All we had left were the clothes we were wearing. We had a set of 1847 Rogers silver plate and what didn't melt was stolen by pilferers.
We moved into a house near the Sledges, but I don't remember how we had furniture and other goods. My school class chipped in money and bought me some yellow linen-like fabric for a dress. I looked horrible in yellow, but Mama made me a dress out of it. We had $2,000 in insurance, and that went a long way then.
I had a quarter that a woman had given me for picking grapes. I kept it in a chest. I really grieved over that quarter, but I think I found it in the ruins. We didn't live in the new house long until we moved to Wellington.