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My Childhood

Written in 1978 by Glen Meehan

Glenora Poindexter Meehan.

Born 3/30/90 - Died 5/8/84

I am the fifth of ten children of John Lewis Poindexter and his wife Sarah Elizabeth Sproul Poindexter. My given name is Glenora, and I was born March 30, 1890 in a log house on a 20 acre farm belonging to my grandfather William Campbell Sproul, who owned 200 acres in Trotter Township, Carroll County, State of Missouri.

We were very, very poor. Not many country people had any outhouses or rather toilets, or modem accommodations. We had two large log rooms, a built-on kitchen-dining room and a bedroom across the entire south side of the logs ... just wide boards for walls with four inch strips covering the boards on the side, with shingle roof but no ceilings. Flour sacks sewed together and tacked to the wall made our ceiling in the kitchen. A very large fireplace in the living room that had been used by people who had lived there before us for cooking, and a hole in the ceiling of the living room where children of other people had slept in a dark attic.

A neighbor, Uncle Jimmy Minnis, and my grandfather were two only people around us that had outhouses or toilets. We had always to squat down behind the smokehouse.

We had a large yard with 5 big black oak trees, 6 maples, I cottonwood, I box elder and 2 walnut trees. A cistern, about 12 feet deep and 8 feet across, that had a brick wall, with cement to seal, caught rainwater, which was soft. A dug well at the barn that had water out of the ground, very hard. A smokehouse where they smoked all of our pork and a dirt cellar in the yard and an ash hopper in the yard, built of wood and like a hayrack to feed cattle. They put ashes from a certain kind of oak tree in the ash hopper (there are several kinds of oak trees) and at a certain time they would start pouring water over these ashes which would come out of the bottom a very dark, bitter liquid we called lye. This was what we used with meat bones and scraps from hogs we killed to make all our laundry soap.

We always had sage plants, garlic and other herbs growing in the garden. We raised celery, and when branches got large, dug dirt from around it to the roots and wrapped paper around it to bleach it, deep dirt up around it several inches high. In the fall we put enough potatoes and apples in the cellar to last through Christmas, then dug a big hole in the garden for potatoes, one hole for apples, one for turnips and one for cabbage, put straw in the hole beneath and on top of vegetables. We pulled cabbage, late fall kind, up by the roots and put it in the ground on the hole, standing on heads, then put straw over them and piled on dirt. Fixed it to open on the south side so they would not freeze.

In January it usually got below zero. Just before Christmas, neighbors all helped each other to kill a hog or two. Then in January we would have a big day and kill 6 or 8 more. We would save nearly everything but the squeal ... would grind some of it to make sausage, some for mince meat, head cheese and liver cheese.

Everybody had orchards and worlds of timber and brush piles and high wild grass and worlds of rabbits. When the first snow came, boys would go rabbit hunting, sometimes bringing in a hundred or more at a time. Would sell some for more ammunition. Also there were lots of wild hickory nuts, walnuts, hazel nuts. My father had a cane mill. We always had sorghum molasses. Everybody raised sugar cane for we had lots of clay soil that would make a better tasting molasses.

In the winter we would have skating or sledding parties and serve apples, popcorn and molasses candy. Everybody raised popcorn. When we had a party, Mother or older girls would boil up a lot of sorghum until right for candy, cool it a little and everybody had a job to pull and pull it until it would turn a light color.

We had a long sloping roof on the south side of the house and in summer would wash and seed ripe peaches and put them on the roof to dry. Also lots of apples we would peel and core and slice. All other kinds of fruit that would be ripe at that time. Also dried corn, too. There were not many glass jars. We canned tomatoes and peaches in quart tin cans. Put corn, sauerkraut (cabbage) and cucumbers down in big stone jars with salt. Used all fruit peelings and scraps to put in big jars and soft or rain water to make our own vinegar.

By winter we would soak salt out of cucumbers and use vinegar, sugar and spices for cucumber pickles. Mother would also make her own yeast. We kids went out and gathered wild hops in the fall. She would cook them in water, drain the water and juice which was very bitter. Then mix them and cook with corn meal, a little flour, and make into little cakes and dry them out in the sun until dry and hard.

Did I say we lived in hilly country? Our house was on a hill and the hill was covered in wild black mustard. The seeds were black. My father would get a lot, put in a cloth and pulverize with hammer and then cook in water, vinegar, and a little flour, so we had mustard all the time. We raised winter beans and cow pumpkins in the corn. Planted seed for early rains in the fall and the corn was too tall for the vines to hurt. When pumpkins matured we had lots we fed to cows and my father also would take a pumpkin and a sharp big knife and cut it in big rings, making one long strip. Would clean out the seed and what we called the guts, like in cantaloupes, peel and string it on a wooden fence picket behind the stove and dry. Then put it in sacks and hang in the smokehouse to cook in summer, when the fresh pumpkin was all gone.

We had wild grapes, and wild persimmons in the fall. Also wild black haws, red haws on trees, wild crabapples and paw-paws. In the spring and early summer were wild strawberries, dewberries, black berries, goose berries and cherries.

When we dried fruit on the roof it was always on sheets or tablecloths and when we saw a rain coming up how we would scamper up the ladder and get it all down.

We had a loom and wove our own rag rugs for floors of 2 rooms so many of us had lots of rags and sometimes would have an extra 30 yards, one yard wide to sell to someone in town. We would sew strips together for a floor. After wheat thrashing in the summer, we would rip the strip apart and wash it, then put it back together and get a lot of fresh wheat straw and put on the floor under the carpet as we had rough board floors. We would take the straw out of straw ticks, wash the ticks, refill them with fresh straw and put them back under our feather ticks on our bed frames.

Our walls had logs laid on each other with plaster between them and every summer we would put on a new coat of whitewash made of lime and buttermilk, making walls always white.

We were a very poor and uneducated bunch of hillbillies. We had lots of timber. Some places had I to 5 acres of timber on every ten acres. The wealthier would have 10 to 20 acres, all timber in one spot. Most of our families were old time Protestants. When the Germans began to come in they all settled together, and Catholics stayed together. There were never more than I or 2 families of Jews having stores in town. But one old German widower settled among us. A good old man, still had a strong accent. He joined our Baptist Church. One day my uncle came across him in the timber where he was cutting cord wood. A tree he had cut had fallen on him. He said "Lucky you came by. The more me viggles, the tighter me gets." In Sunday School he would get up and say, "Now reading the tirty-tird verse of the tirty-tird chapter of the Psalms."

My grandfather had six small unpainted houses, besides his nice home on his 200 acre farm, filled with poor people who worked so many days a month to pay their rent. His bachelor son lived in one and we in one. One big family in the log cabins in the field east of us had 2 teenage sons who ate at our house one day and one of them said he couldn't eat our cornbread as it tickled his throat.

We never had more than 2 dresses for winter and 2 for summer. Wear one for a week at school, then wash it on Saturday so it would be clean for the next week. Mother made our panties and petticoats of flour sacks and would always make some handmade lace or fancy stitching on them. Mother's two sisters did not marry too young and my two oldest sisters would get all their old clothes or hand-me-downs, as they were called. Then when Cora and Mary outgrew them my sister Craton and I got them. My oldest brother Sam did not talk plain when he was small and neither did Craton.

There were lots of people in our township, and over a hundred children in school at a time. It was the only country school that had 2 teachers and 2 rooms. The boys would go to school until their late teens in the winter time, but when spring came they had to quit and work in the fields.

Once every winter we would have what we called a "Magic Lantern Show" at the school house. A man would come in with a small machine and show picture slides behind a light. He would make a picture on the wall. Also once every winter we would have a box supper. Each girl and woman would prepare a box supper for 2 people,. Sandwiches, pickles, hardboiled eggs and a dessert. Then the husband or boyfriend would bid on the box, buy it and the two would eat that lunch. All the couples ate the lunches.

On the last day of school there was always a basket dinner at noon, and a program of singing and of speeches by all us cute little things to show us off to our doting parents. We had a Baptist Church a quarter mile from school and on Christmas some good old church member would cut and give us a big cedar tree for our Christmas at church. We would buy mosquito netting of different bright colors, cut and sew it into small bags, one for each child who attended the church. Then we would fill it with candy and hang it on the tree. We also made little decorations and candles to hang on the branches, too. There was an orange and apple apiece for the youngsters and a Christmas treat at school. That would be the only times most of us would have an orange. We were too danged poor to buy any.

My father would buy "green coffee" for 15 cents a pound and roast it himself in the oven. Everybody had coffee grinders and ground their own coffee just as they used it. Not many would have white sugar to use. We always made preserves with sorghum or brown sugar. Never did buy and anything canned or preserved. But stores had big buckets, wooden, that held about 2 gallons of shipped-in jelly that we bought early in the spring when our own preserves were about out.

Large families would make apple butter in the fall when we had lots of apples. We would borrow or rent a brass kettle that would hold 50 gallons. We would invite some of the neighbors in to peel and core and slice several bushels of apples. Next morning we would start a fire outside under the kettle and put several gallons of apple cider or juice in it, then add the apples and cook all day. We had big wooden paddles with long handles attached to stir it to keep it from sticking or burning. We would keep cooking some of the apples on the stove and add them to the kettle. We would add so much sugar and spices and cook down thick. It would sure taste good on hot biscuits.

We always had biscuits for breakfast, cornbread for noon and cold bread for supper. Mother did make a lot of yeast bread, too, but my father was a real old southerner and he refused to eat any light bread.

We had our own dried beans for winter. Always we had a lot of fall turnips. My Grandmother Sproul could make the best sour milk and soda biscuits. She stirred them by hand and squeezed them out by hand. And boiled dumplings! She was not very well about the time Craton and I were around twelve and Grandpa wanted one of us to stay there all week after school to help her. He paid us fifty cents a week. Craton was older than I but was an awful baby about Home and half the time she would play sick and I had to stay her week. Grandpa always rode a beautiful bay mare he called Mabel. He would ride up and when asked how they were he would say, "Oh moderate, moderate. No, just partly moderate. Polly (Grandma) is not feeling too good today."

One day Grandma accused Craton of stealing a dime. This made Craton mad and she came high-tailing it home. Pretty soon Grandpa came to see what the matter was and soon begged her to go back. So she rode back home with him, only a half mile.

One night Craton and Grandma brought the laundry in off the lines after dark. They had laid it on the ground, and brought in a big garter snake in their arms.

The evenings there were so lonely. So many of us at home then at Grandma's, a fire in the fireplace, a big chest of drawers in the comer with a big clock setting on it saying "Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock." Grandpa sitting in his chair asleep and Grandma sitting at the only half window reading her Bible. She couldn't read very well and read in a whisper. One time she scolded me, saying, "Shame upon your face, showing the calves of your legs like that! Your Mammy should make your dresses long enough to cover your legs better. You will soon be a big girl."

The older teenage boys in the neighborhood were great for pranks.We had two lady teachers at our school who stayed with one family near our church. One Sunday night the teachers and some of the neighbor girls walked through a dark timber going to church and had to cross a styles, steps over a fence at the cemetery. It was near the graves of my great grandparents, by the name of Mason, with two tall thin slabs at the graves. Some of the boys had a sheet, rolled up in it, and lay between these graves. When the girls came by, one of the boys rolled over and groaned. One of the teachers fainted, and maybe you think those boys all ran and fast!

One family in the neighborhood named Jones had a daughter named Laurie Bell beginning to have boyfriends. One Sunday afternoon she was expecting one from town and wasn't ready when he got there so her poor old ignorant Dad decided he wanted to entertain the boy until Laurie Bell got ready for him. So they were sitting on the porch and the father said, "You know the old Morphine (Maltese) Cat jumped up on the portico and broke Laurie Bell's gerintum (geranium) off."

My sister Cora died when she was only 22, in childbirth. I was 8 years younger than she. She was teaching school when she was 18 and she fairly hated me. I was quite a tomboy and beating my younger brothers at climbing trees, doing tricks on our rope swing and showing off in general. She thought she was awfully smart and tried to use big words. One day I was doing a trick on the swing. She turns to me and says, "You are the most abominable child I ever saw."

When we were quite small my father had only one gun, a long barrel muzzle loader. One afternoon he went to town to get some ammunition for it. One of the kids came in and says, "Where is Dad?" M y sister Craton said, "He has gone to town to get some damnation."