there are wrong dates and other misinformation from my not-always-accurate memory. Please let me know about any errors you see. I'll try to follow through with a published booklet next summer for everyone in the family who wants a copy.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
By 1900, Joseph was 18 and on his own. As there were a total of 14 children and Joe was one of the oldest, his father sent him off into the world early to take care of himself as there were still younger children to care for at home. Despite being a slender man of short stature, he worked as a blacksmith, moving to Fort Worth for a while to practice his trade in the Stockyards area. Eventually he moved back to the Kempner area, where he met and married Beulah Moore, whose family had moved from East Texas to the farmland outside the nearby town of Copperas Cove. Joe and Beulah had three children, a daughter, Saba Irene, the oldest, a son, Vernon Ray, and the baby, my father, Truman Preston. Two other children died at birth. By this time, the family was spelling their surname as Hail, in spite of the fact that Joe's parents had used the Hale spelling. However, sometime before the birth of Saba, Ray, and Truman, a clerical error changed the spelling to Hail. Another clerical error when my father enlisted in the Army in 1942 changed my father's name back to Hale.
Joe continued to do some blacksmith work, but the family also farmed a little and picked cotton. They also moved around a lot, to Quitman in East Texas where my dad was born, down to the Gulf Coast to the area around Beaumont, where other family members lived, back to Lampasas and Kempner, and even to San Saba for a time when the children were young. None of the children finished school because all of them were put to work to contribute to the well-being of the family. My father only went through the second grade.
When my father was very young, the family decided to go out to Scurry County to visit some relatives. They packed their clothes, food, and other supplies in a covered wagon and set out, pausing each night to make camp. One night there was a terrible thunderstorm, but a church building was nearby and not locked, so they slept on the floor in that church that night.
The Depression was a hard time for everyone, but Joe took a job with a farmer whose farm was about ten miles away from where the family was living at that time. Joe would leave home before sunrise, walk the ten miles to the farm, work all day, and then walk home after dark. Later he was able to get an old car, and he drove it when necessary.
Truman found a job with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and was able to send money home to Joe and Beulah. Saba and Ray were already married at this time. When the country declared war on Germany, Italy, and Japan, both Ray and Truman enlisted, Ray first and Truman shortly thereafter. By then Joe and Beulah were living in a little rock house on a hill along the road that ran from Lampasas to Austin. Truman sent money home and Beulah sent him cookies and candy she had made and packed carefully for shipment to him in England, North Africa, Italy, or France, wherever he was at the time.
When the war ended, Truman came home and found a job working with the Lampasas street department with Saba's husband George Hughes. They patched potholes in the heat of summer. When that job became too much, they found a job working on the railroad. In the late 1940s, Truman began driving a bus. In the meantime, my mother, Dorothy Lancaster, had finished college and returned to Lampasas to teach. One of the students in her class was Ray's son, Ray Jr. At one point that year, Junior, as he was called, told her that he wanted to introduce his favorite teacher to his favorite uncle. They were married Nov. 22, 1949. Truman continued to drive a bus for the school district, and Dorothy taught through the end of the 1949-50 school year. They had bought a tiny one-bedroom house on Howe Street in the western part of the city where they lived when I was born in October, 1950.
My earliest memory is of the entire family near the Lampasas River at Kempner, at night with a fire sending sparks into the night sky. My grandmother Beulah was there and walking around. And I could remember being passed from one person to another. That was late spring or early summer of 1952. I carried the memory for years as a sequence of images, until when I was in my twenties and described what I remembered to my parents. After some consideration, they realized I was describing a family fish fry, and I was passed from one person to another because they were afraid if I walked around on my own I might fall in the river. I remembered only images because I was still not talking much.
We made frequent trips in those years to the little rock house to see Joe and Beulah. At some point between my memory of the fish fry and the birth of my brother, Truman Wayne, in 1953, Beulah had a stroke that left her paralyzed. The little two-room house had a kitchen and a combination living room-bedroom. The bathroom was an outhouse behind the little house. Water came from a well. An electric light bulb dangled from the ceiling in each room. They also had a primitive electric refrigerator that replaced the old ice box that kept food cool thanks to a block of ice purchased from the ice house in Lampasas.
I remember some family gatherings in that little house. On one occasion, my aunt decided to make fried chicken, so she caught a chicken from the yard, wrung its neck, and chopped its head off. I know the rest of the transition from live bird to crunchy fried lunch involved putting the carcass in boiling water and then plucking the feathers out. I remember this because they decided I should have the experience of plucking a chicken. I remember taking only one handful of those wet, soggy feathers and deciding that I didn't like that at all. Another time we were there, and for some reason, probably because of the colors, I got into a bunch of hot peppers growing just outside the kitchen door. The juice from the peppers burned my hands and face, and my mother and aunt had to washed me off and smeared butter on my face and hands.
Truman and Ray decided to enlarge the little house in the mid-1950s, to add two bedrooms, some closet space, and a bathroom, but before they were very far along, Beulah had another stroke and had to be moved to a nursing home. She was put in the nursing home in Gatesville, about forty miles from Lampasas, because Lampasas didn't have a nursing home at that time. She was there until she died when I was in the second grade.
After that, Joe lived on his own for a while or stayed with Ray and his wife Pauline. It was about then that Joe took his only trip out of Texas. He went to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.
After we moved to a large old house in 1960, he lived with us for a while. He also lived in the little one bedroom house on Howe Street for a while and in an apartment by the public library. Truman Wayne spent the n the next morning, but after they put the cereal in their bowls, they discovered that the only milk in the refrigerator was buttermilk, so they ate cornflakes with buttermilk.
Joe's health diminished while I was in college, and he moved in again with Ray and Pauline for a time before going to a nursing home. By then Lampasas had two, and he wound up living for a time in both. I was working at the newspaper in Copperas Cove in early 1975 when my mother came into the office. Joe had been sitting in a chair in the nursing home, when he suddenly straightened and leaned forward as if to stand, then toppled over. By the time the staff reached him, he was gone. He was 92.
Joe was a soft-spoken man who enjoyed playing a fiddle and reading his Bible. He spent hours playing checkers with me and my brother. By 1960 when I was 10, he was approaching 78, but he still was able to walk around the town even though his years of hard work had left him a little stooped over. On hot summer days he could often be found sitting under a shade tree. He was never convinced that the Apollo 11 moon landing happened, even though he watched Neil Armstrong take that "giant leap for mankind" along with the rest of us in July 1969. He was known around the community as a nice old man, a man of his word, who had lived in the county most of his life. His three children had a total of nine children of their own, as well 16 great-grandchildren and one great-grandchild by the time of his death.
When I think of Joe, I remember him as an old man, a pioneer of sorts, who had farmed and chopped cotton and shoed horses, pounding out the red-hot iron on an anvil. He's my connection to the past, to relatives I never met, to a simpler time. His values made my father the man he was, just as my mother's parents' values formed her character. And those same values are being taught today to my three great-nieces, an enduring legacy.
Friday, August 30, 2013
Thursday, July 4, 2013
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Those who know me will tell you that I am not now, nor have I ever been, an athlete, despite my brief involvement in jogging for a few years back when I was in my late 20s and early 30s. I didn’t have any speed then, but I had a lot of endurance, so I ran in several 10K races, all with the specific goal of finishing without getting hurt. And I accomplished that at the blazing speed of 12 to 13 minutes per mile. In other words, only just slightly faster than a walking pace.
I also might mention here that I am not a swimmer, unless you count a weak dog paddle (that looks more like a drowning dog—lots of splashing around and very little forward movement). As a small child on a trip to a local creek to “swim” with my parents, I managed to step into a hole where the water went over my head until Daddy pulled me out. That experience made me fearful of water. Around the time I started first grade, my parents signed me up for swimming lessons, and I did learn to float on my back, as well as face down for as long as I could hold my breath. But when it actually came to swimming, I could never overcome my fear of the water for more than a few strokes. That doesn’t mean that I stayed in the shallow end of the pool during my adolescent years. No, I went all around the pool, everywhere I could go and still be within an arms length of the side of the pool.
As an adult, I had two scary experiences on water, each involving a canoe. I took a relaxing trip down a river with another teacher and some of our students that ended with one short section of rapids. The canoe I was in flipping over, trapping me underneath in water that was over my head until I managed to kick and push upward with my hands to get out from under the canoe and be pulled to safety. Not long after that, I was on a church retreat on Lake Travis. One of the guys from my Sunday School class asked me if I wanted to go for a ride in a canoe, and I foolishly said O.K. I thought we would be just paddling around the little inlet where I had seen canoers earlier. Uh-uh. That would have been too easy. As soon as we got in the canoe, he began rowing toward the middle of the lake. Ski boats and skiers were passing us on both sides—simultaneously. We were bobbing up and down more than a fishing buoy in a hurricane.
Even with my history, I didn’t anticipate any problems with water aerobics because the part of the pool we use isn’t very deep, certainly not over my head. Also, the water aerobics sessions, at least in the mornings, tends to be geared toward the “Silver Sneakers” group (retirees), some of them recovering from or dealing with limitations associated with strokes and arthritis. I knew I was fairly strong and had only a couple of knee and ankle problems to deal with—and the water should help with those. I surely should be able to do what people 10 to 20 years older could do.
How difficult could water aerobics be? Famous last words.
I’ve been going two days a week, Mondays and Wednesdays. Each day has a different instructor, so the routines vary. To warm up, both instructors use techniques like jogging in place or doing jumping jacks in the water, simple enough for me. To build strength, they asked us to use Styrofoam barbells and foam “noodles” under the water—also simple.
Then they embellished the routines, linking several moves together to music. Sounds a lot like dancing, doesn’t it, and I have almost no sense of rhythm. (One of them incorporates the moves of the “Macarena,” popular a decade or so ago, and I couldn't do it then either.) Even the relatively simple rocking horse move (lunging forward on the right foot while the left foot comes off the bottom of the pool, simultaneously pushing water away from your body with both arms, then rocking back on the left foot as the right foot comes off the bottom of the pool and pulling both arms back toward your body) takes some getting used to. Just look at how many words it takes to describe the action. And then the instructor starts counting—up to 8, then backwards again to 1. We’re supposed to change position every time she calls a new number. I finally decided, if I can start with the class at 1 and end up with the class back at 1, the middle part isn’t all that important. I just keep moving, and sometimes I’m with the class (rarely) and sometimes I’m not (usually).
Another drill one of the instructors loves is when we hold our hands clasped above our heads and run across the pool in chest-deep water as fast as we can, until she stops us and tells us to run backwards. (Did I mention that she’s retired military?) Running in water is less dangerous for me than trying to run on land or even in a gym because I’m not as likely to trip myself and fall by dragging my right foot, the one with the nerve that doesn’t work right. The water offers resistance, which is good exercise, but stopping is more difficult. My momentum always takes me forward another two or three steps when she says to stop before I can initiate the reverse movement. That would be O.K. if I were in the pool by myself, but this is a class, remember? I do not want to be known as the one who ran over some senior citizen in the pool. And I’ve come close to doing just that.
The instructor of the Monday class likes to have us use one of the “noodles,” the ends held securely in each hand, for support in the water as we do some sideways underwater kicks. I don’t fully trust the “noodles” so I keep one foot on the bottom of the pool as I lean forward with the “noodle” and kick with the other foot. About two weeks ago, as I kicked out with my right leg, the calf muscle cramped. All I had to do was put the right foot down and stand up. Sure, I know that now, but at that moment my instinct was to grab the cramping leg, which meant turning loose of the “noodle” with my right hand, causing me to toppled over backwards and splash everyone within a five-foot radius while I tried to regain my footing. The only thing that could have been more embarrassing would have been if the lifeguard had jumped in to help me, and he was leaning forward with his buoy when I finally managed to get both feet on the bottom of the pool again.
Both instructors like to have us do a cross-country skiing move in the pool, alternating between right leg and left arm forward, left leg and right arm back and left leg and right arm forward, right leg and left arm back. This one has great potential for disaster. First, I have to keep my arm and leg movements coordinated, an almost impossible task for somewhat who can lose her balance and fall while standing still. To complicate the exercise, one of the instructors likes to insert a “tuck” (pulling the knees up toward the body) while changing the foot and arm positions. Second, this is a move based on skiing, and I may be the world’s worst skier. No kidding. No title has been conferred--yet, but I think it probably is well deserved. I flunked ski school years ago in Breckinridge, Colo., on my one and only attempt at the sport after I took the ski instructor down in the snow several times (unintentionally, of course) and then knocked down my whole ski school class just like dominoes as we lined up to climb the bunny slope sideways. (I was at the bottom of the hill when the instructor told us to lean on the side of our skis to hold our position on the incline. I leaned a little too far, fell on the person next to me, who fell on the next person, and so on all the way to the top of the hill.) For my own safety, and that of everyone skiing on the mountain that day, the instructor advised me to go have some hot chocolate and watch the ice skaters on Maggie Pond.
I’ve wondered if I need to put a disclaimer somewhere on my swimsuit, especially on those days when the pool is really crowded: “Warning—Totally out of control waterphobe with bad balance, prone to sudden, unpredictable movements, frantic splashing, and sheer panic. Approach at your own risk.”
Despite the (unplanned) thrills I’ve experienced in water aerobics, I have enjoyed the classes, and I think they’ve been successful in some respects. My upper arms and shoulders seem more muscular, and I do have a greater range of motion in my legs. I’ve also gotten used to the smell of chlorine which seems to cling to me, no matter how much I shower, wash my hair, and launder my swimsuit and towels. It’s not an unpleasant smell, really—mixed with my pineapple-coconut bath gel and body lotion, it smells like summer.