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Friday, February 6, 2009

Chapter 7 Headed West

Haywoods' brother Jim wrote them a letter-from Oklahoma. He told them about a work program that he was in. Jim was working on a job in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, helping to build and repair railroad bridges. Sand Springs was a small town just outside of Tulsa, and was a large railroad hub. Trains from all corners of the United States came through Sand Springs, and was an important stop for most of them.

The WPA-the Works Progress Administration, known by the letters WPA, was one of the many programs started by the federal government under President Franklin D. Roosevelt to combat the devestating effects of the Great Depression. During its 8-year history, the WPA built 651,087 miles of highways, roads, and streets; and constructed, repaired, or improved 124,031 bridges, 125,110 public buildings, 8,192 parks, and 853 airport landing fields. Nearly every city or town in the U.S. today has something that was built by the WPA.

Haywood and Everline loaded up all their belongings, the two children, and headed for Oklahoma. After traveling about seven miles out of Mobile -the crankshaft broke on the old Model A . The road was not paved-and had large pot holes and rutts all along the way. There was a farm house that Haywood could see that sat back off the old country road. He walked up to it, an old farmer met him out in his yard. Haywood asked him if he could take him back to Mobile, and try to find another crankshaft. As luck would have it- the farmer told Haywood that there were two or three broken down Model A's sitting around back of his barn, and Haywood was welcome to any parts that he could use off of them. When asked how he came to have all these cars- the farmer said that people would just walk off and leave them after breaking down on the road. They told the farmer he could have the car if he would pull it out ot the road. Haywood found a crankshaft that would fit perfect- he set about changing the two out. There were plenty of large shade trees along side of the road, Everline spread out a blanket and let the kids play while she scouted for wild poke along the creek nearby. She gathered up wood and started a fire, got the poke and some bacon grease in a pot and started to cook them all something to eat. She stirred up a batch of cornbread and put some cracklin's in it. Before she did anything else tho, she started a pot of coffee. Haywood drank coffee all day long. That night was just the first of many they would be sleeping alongside the road . The children thought it was a great adventure! It took two days to get the Model A up and running again. Haywood put two dollars in the farmers mailbox before leaving. Back on the road they headed west- stopping alongside of the road, near creeks, to cook their meals and to bathe and sleep. They would spread out a pallet on the ground, with spoons and plate to eat their beans and cornbread. They met many other families doing the same thing along the way.

Everline had been sick with an endless cough, so they were hoping that the move to a cleaner climate would help her get rid of it. She liked her pepsi cola, and her tobacco, and preferred to smoke her tobacco-in a corn cob pipe. She could often be found sitting on the front porch in a rocking chair, with her pipe,her bottle of pepsi cola, and her little dog "Sara" in her lap.

They arrived in Sand Springs, found a little shack that had been abandoned, down by the Arkansas river, and moved into it. They never asked who owned it, and nobody ever came around and asked them to pay rent. They were "squatters". Times were hard-it was the time of the Great Depression, and thousands of people had moved out to California after the war to get away from the dust bowl. As the bottom dropped out of farm prices, sharecroppers and tenant farmers by the thousands abandoned their farms and took to the road, looking for economic opportunity.

In the 1920s several things happened to show the darker side of Oklahoma. African Americans sent to fight overseas returned unwilling to accept discrimination and lynch law. In 1921 in Tulsa a race riot, fueled by newspaper editorials, destroyed the city's black Greenwood District and ended with many deaths. The exact number will never be known, the episode left a scar that remained raw . The superpatriotism of World War I rejuvenated the Ku Klux Klan. No longer aimed at just keeping African Americans in their place,the organization took on the job of enforcing morality. With middle-class support the Klan ignored the law and civil rights and instituted a reign of terror against those who failed to meet its definition of "100 percent Americanism."

Haywood took to carrying a gun-he didn't have any gripe with the "darkies", he just didn't want to be caught in the middle of anything. The Klan had come around his place asking questions of the kids and Everline. They asked things like- did Haywood beat them, was he a heavy drinker, did he gamble their money away. They told Haywood that he ought to be horse-whipped for taking up with an indian woman. That was as bad as marrying a "darkie".

Haywood got a job at the railroad station-helping to switch cars in the switching yard. He worked from sun up to sun down, and had several close calls while working. He almost got his arm caught between the couplers, when his sleeve got stuck on a pin that stuck out and wouldn't come off immediately. Just before the railroad car lurched back to hook onto the other car-he managed to jerk his sleeve free-if not he surely would have lost that arm from being crushed in the hook mechanism.

It was hard to go to work everyday because Everline had been unable to get out of bed anymore. She was very thin and coughed constantly, the doctor had speculated that she might have tuburculosis. There was no medicine available to heal her. Flossie being only ten years old was now cooking and cleaning and taking care of her little brother Artie.

Every morning Flossie would get up when Poppie did, while he milked their cow- she would start breakfast for everyone. Then she would help Artie get ready for school and then help Mommie with whatever she could. Lately Artie had not been wanting to go to school, him and one of the boys down the road would head to the bridge instead. They would stay there all day, swinging on grape vines and bailing off into the Arkansas River. They would sneak some of Mommie and Poppie's snuff and chewing tobacco. When they used that all up, they would start smoking some of the grape vines. They would play so hard and long that when they got home they were starved. Flossie tried walking Artie to the school house, but as soon as she was headed down the road back home, him and his friend would take a short cut to the river. Finally Poppie and Flossie quit trying to make Artie go to school-but he had to chop wood, feed the chickens, and slop the hog before he could go play.

When everyone else was settled into their routine for the day, Flossie would help her Mommie to get up and sit in a chair while Flossie straightened up her room and bed. Then Flossie would get some warm water and bathe her mother and help her into a clean gown. She thought her Mommie had the most beautiful long, thick, shiney black hair, and would brush and brush it for her every day. Mommie loved it and always told Flossie how much she liked it. This was usually the time that they had to talk. On this day Everline told Flossie that she wanted her to always watch over Artie, oh- she knew that Poppie would, too-but he would always have to be the one to work. Flossie assured her Mommie that she would always take care of her little brother.

Everline wanted Flossie to get her pipe for her, and to help her to go out on the porch to the rocking chair. When she got settled, with a quilt over her lap, and her dog up on top of her lap, she told Flossie to go ahead with her chores. Before long Everline wanted to go back and lay down on the bed. The next time that Flossie checked on her Mommie-she could not wake her up. After checking on her several more times,getting no response,and seeing the gray pallor that had spread to her whole body-Flossie knew that her Mommie was not ever going to wake up again.

1 comment:

♥georgie♥ said...

Good stuff Mom-it's time for a new post tho' especially with the SSS starting lol...