Dallas E. Boggs, PhD

CHILDHOOD

Three months after I was born, a flood caused our concrete basement floor to crack, and it also washed out the backyard. (Flash floods were common in those days because people farmed the hillsides, causing quick runoff). Dad built a six-foot rock wall that is about one hundred yards long—all the way from the corncrib and the upper end of our main garden to the lower corner of our yard. Uncle Pat McCune (Mother's brother) and some of our other relatives used levers and pulleys to pull huge rocks from the creek bed. They finished filling in the yarn and leveled it off with horse drawn scrapers and rollers. We experienced flash-floods almost annually---didn't have dams on the river (Elk)---and people cleared the hill-sides for their one-horse farming---and, when there was a "cloud-burst," the waters rushed off those hillsides like water off a horse's back.

When I was about eighteen months old (My father had a car, a coupe with a rumble seat at that time. I think it was a “Star Roadster”), we made a trip to Falls Church Virginia to visit Uncle Ray and Aunt Meriba. I think that I remember being delayed by flagmen at the rock quarry just above Uncle Guy’s house, where a steam shovel was being used to move huge stones that were being hewed into building blocks for walls holding up bridges, etc.

When I was two years old, Mother gave birth to identical twin girls—Dorothy May and Dorcas Fay. When Mother was expecting the twins (and she was very large!), Norris once provoked the need for Mother to give him a spanking, but he ran from her. When she started chasing him, he looked back over his shoulder and challenged her with, “Mummy, didn’t that docky tell you not to yun?”

The twins were born on September 6, 1934, and Wilda was born on June 23, 1936. Mother had a hired girl to help her most of the time when we were little. At one time, one of the Hall girls helped her, and Pauline Smith (our first cousin) stayed with us for a little while. Maude Burton lived with us for a few years.

When Norris grew out of his clothes, I got to wear them. One time I threw a temper tantrum because Norris got some new pants and I didn’t get any. I would have to accept his hand-me-downs. His old denims had a small tare in them, and I ripped them the rest of the way up the leg. I got a spanking, and I was so upset that I decided to leave home. I got as far as the corncrib above the bend in the road. I wanted to go to Grandma McCune’s house (our second home), but I didn’t know the way (and it would have been a twenty-two mile walk). I stayed in the corncrib (the pouting shed) for an hour or so, calmed down and went back to the house. Nobody missed me. I guess that Mother was just too busy to notice my absence—Dorothy and Dorcas (the twins) and Wilda were all wearing diapers.

One time Mother had told us to save some of the fried chicken for Daddy’s pail, but Norris and I ate all of it. So we decided to get more for Daddy. We went to the barn and got a big fat hen. Norris wielded an axe, and I put the chicken’s head on a block of wood. Just as the ax fell, the chicken moved its head. The ax missed and cut off the chicken’s beak, left it hanging. The chicken flopped and got away from me. It went into the bushes, but our dog Smitty flushed it out, and held it until we could get hold of it again to finish the job. (Oh! What a pity. Somebody poisoned my dog Smitty). Mother said that was her best layin’ hen. But it didn’t go to waste, and we didn’t have to get Aunt Julie to fix his pail. Besides, those biscuits that Aunt Julie fixed were just big enough for one bite.

The first snowfall was an exciting event. From our cozy bunker, we watched the snowflakes tumble to the ground, spinning like feathers, as we sang: “The old gray mare, she’s losing her feathers. The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be—many long years ago. The old gray mare, she broke down the singletree—many long years ago.” We usually went barefooted, when the weather permitted; and when Uncle Pat brought his city-slicker sweetheart to meet us, we stood behind the couch or a chair to hide our dirty feet. (Our feet grew so much during the summer that we had to get new shoes for start of school in the fall.)

Decorating the Christmas tree, cut from the top of a small hemlock tree in the adjoining woods, was one of our most pleasurable seasonal activities. We made chains with colored paper that was cut into strip about ¼” wide and 3” long. We glued the ends together with a simple flower in water suspension, and we used a flour paste to imitate snow on the tree. Dad bought a few decorative glass bulbs for the tree and a small box of tensile. We also hung strings of popcorn on the tree. This was a family event, and every-one of us made a contribution to the project. I knew weeks in advance what my siblings and I would get for Christmas. Dad hid them in the closet, and my prying eyes didn’t miss them. The cowboy gloves and the cap busters I received one Christmas is one of my outstanding memories. Of course, I didn’t tell anybody that I had snooped, so my sisters were surprised when they got their dolls on Christmas day. One year we got a red wagon large enough to tow each other around. Unfortunately, Dad decided that it was strong enough to hold a large bolder when he lined the Peck-spring. It broke down the wagon and it was never repaired. The stocking that we laid out for each of us was filled with a banana or orange and some English walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts (filberts) and hard candy.

One winter, we were playing out in the snow; and Dorothy got so cold that, when she went into the house to warm up, she got too close to the gas space heater in our living room. She caught her dress on fire. She was jumping up and down and screaming when Mother caught her and put the fire out. She received some pretty bad burns on her back. Dr. Harper treated the burns with Ungintine ointment.

I don’t recall when we no longer had a car, but I do remember the Red Diamond T Truck that Dad used in the timber a few years before World War II. I remember the deep ruts in the roads where they were hauling logs out of the woods—and the slabs and boards they used to fill in some of the gulches in the log roads to keep the truck from getting stuck. We ordered most of the food, which was delivered once per month on a pickup truck. The monthly order consisted mostly of a sack each of pinto beans, sugar and flour, a gallon of Crisco, some salt and pepper, shredded coconut, a sack of chicken feed, meshed grains for the pigs, etc.

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