by Dessie Harris
I was born in a pretty home in Johnson County at Cresson, Texas. There were six of us Morris kids. My twin brother, Elbert, and I had good times playing with the Smith kids who lived across the road. My daddy had worked on a ranch four years to make enough to buy that pretty black land farm and to make enough money to get married. Well, when I was five he began to want more grass for his few cows, so he bought an old homestead in Oran in Palo Pinto County. The farm had 150 acres. It had plenty of grass, mesquite trees and grasshoppers, and that is some things we never heard of in Johnson County.
When we were loaded to make the move there were two wagon loads of household goods and one buggy. My father drove one team and my oldest brother, Finney one wagon, and my mother drove our faithful old buggy horse named Old Ben. Oh, how we kids loved that horse. Trip, our dog, rode on the spring seat with Finney. We kids rode in the buggy bed with Elbert. Ruth, my sister, sat with mama and held Jim, and his twin rode in the middle between Mama and Ruth.
We were on the road three days. I remember so well looking up at my Mother and seeing the tears rolling down her cheeks when we reached sand and plenty of rocks in the road. She wanted to stay on the smooth, level black land. Old Ben brought us safely over it all. On the camp out on our way, I got my first taste of store bought bacon and the flavor was so good that we sopped up the drippings with our bread. There was much yelling when we kids had our first experience with grass burrs.
In the back of the buggy my mother had placed her house plants which she was so proud of. Two of the plants were ground ivy and house leak. One day after we got settled in our other home, mama drove into Oran for groceries. She let us kids go along. When we returned, the grasshoppers had eaten all her plants to the ground. She really let loose then. She almost didn't stop crying.
Back then in the early 1900's children were not admitted in the public schools until they were seven years old. When we reached seven, my twin brother and I were sent to school. The school was a one room school house in Oran. We put on our best, which was "made over hand me downs". I wore a little green skirt which came about halfway to my ankles and a brown jacket. I had never seen so many kids in my life. I was so timid I was completely miserable. No one paid any attention to me so I stood by the school house until the bell rang. I didn't know what to do. A nice little boy who knew how to act came and took me by the hand and led me into the schoolhouse and showed me where to sit.
The boys were all sizes and sat on one side and the girls on the other. There were no desks and we had to sit on benches. All the little first grade girls were made to sit on the first bench which was too close to our man teacher to be comfortable. I was so miserable and homesick. Our feet did not near reach the floor so we had to sit there all day and swing our feet.
My first teacher was a man, Mr. Johnson. He taught all the grades. He even taught us our ABC's. I already knew how to read as I had learned it from my oldest brother and sister. We little girls didn't dare whisper or hardly move, except swing our feet. The teacher and big boys would sometimes have fights that would always scare us little ones.
One day the school house caught fire where the pipe went through the ceiling. As we little ones didn't have much to do except look around, we were the first to see the smoke and big blazes shooting down. We turned in the alarm by screaming. Soon a bucket brigade was formed by women who lived near the school. The big boys went on the roof and into the ceiling, kicking out burning shingles. Water was carried from a spring over the hill from the school house. In about three hours the fire was completely extinguished. We were dismissed for the rest of the week while repairs were made.
I am sure that when the mothers got together there was plenty of woman talk. But when the kids were around it was always HUSH HUSH and we were always sent out to play. We knew such little about babies, the how’s and whys. So I had some down right weird ideas about such. One day when I was eight years old my older sister whispered in my ear and told me if I would go with her to the privy she would tell me something. I went and when we got there she closed the door and whispered softly in my ear and said "mama is going to have a baby". My mouth flew open and I asked her how did she know that? She told me that when we got back to the house for me to just look at mamas stomach. There was plenty of eye searching took place when we got back to the house. I felt sympathy for my mother because we had learned things she didn't want us to know or she would have told us. From that time on we learned much by listening and observing. Nothing was ever told to us in the right way. I still didn't know how that little baby got where he did.
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