Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Memories about James Horace Hodges: The Flora Farm

(Image from Google)

Okay, regular non-family readers, today's post is obviously yet-another blog entry oriented toward the Hodges clan, but for folks interested in old Ozark days, gather around whether kin or kith.

Cousin Bill sent a detailed family history around to several family members, asking for corrections, and of interest for me was the following passage based on information supplied in 2008 by Uncle Bill (Cousin Bill's father, William E. Hodges) concerning life on two tracts of land farmed by my namesake Grandpa Horace Hodges near the tiny Ozark Mountian communities of Mitchell, Arkansas and Flora, Arkansas, south and southwest, respectively, of the slightly larger town depicted on the map above, Viola, Arkansas (site of Grandpa Archie's near knife-fight):
Shortly after daughter Margarett's death, Horace, Nora and son William returned to Fulton County, living first in Elizabeth, then Mitchell, and from there to the Flora farm.
I'll interrupt only to note that I've seen "Margarett" spelled "Marguerite" -- by Aunt Kathryn and Uncle Cran, for example -- but I don't know which is correct. [Update: Cousin Sheila tells me that on the authority of Grandma Nora's family Bible, the correct spelling is "Marguerite."] Anyway, back to the history:
Horace worked both as a farmer and teacher. They bought forty acres near Mitchell, (south of Viola on Hwy 223), and built a small home. This house was built by Horace and brother-in-law Raymond Sanders. Several of Horace and Nora’s children were born at this Mitchell farm.

In the early 30's the farm (six miles S. W. of Viola near Flora) was purchased. It had a small log house (rented out at the time), so Horace and eldest son William (sometimes accompanied by second eldest son Paul) set up housekeeping in the barn loft, using the daylight hours to clear timber, brush and fence the farm. Nora and the other children moved to the farm's log house about two years after the purchase. This house had a combined kitchen, dining and living area and two bedrooms.

He farmed and taught the first and second grade at Cedar Park School, located close to the Wm. B. Hodges' house near Elizabeth. Horace also worked for the WPA, helping to construct the road between Viola and Mitchell (now Hwy 223). Sons William and Paul attended at least one term at Cedar Park when Horace was the teacher.
I'll interrupt, again, just to note that the WPA -- which officially stood for Works Progress Administration but unofficially for 'We Piddle Along' because workers had little incentive to work quickly -- was a New Deal employment project intended for some of the millions of men who lost their jobs during the Great Depression that started with the stock market crash of 1929, an event that might be on many minds these days. As a teenager, I worked on the WPA's equivalent for young people from poor families, a governmental program known as the Youth Corps. But readers will be more interested in the family history, so let's return:
Horace, Nora and children attended the Flora Baptist Church on Sunday morning and Sunday night, with Horace teaching Sunday school. Dad describes his father as being strict (required toeing the line) but having a good sense of humor. Dad said his father read the Bible a lot and enjoyed the Salem newspaper.

He was an avid hunter, especially in pursuit of fox. He and father-in-law Wm. Cranford Stephens, John Barber, and Cap Robbins loved to spend the night camped on an Ozark hill, drinking coffee brewed over a log fire, swapping stories and listening to the dogs run the foxes. Note, William (Dad) recalls his Grandpa Stephens never washed the coffee pot, believing a cleaning would ruin the coffee flavor.

Horace also loved to trap and fish. The hunting, trapping and fishing put food on the family table. Some trips were several days in length, especially if the destination was the White River. The family would take the wagon, stocked with food, and camp in and under it for the duration of the trip.

Life was hard, but good for the Hodges' family, with good neighbors (including William Loren DeWitt, living straight north across Big Creek about a mile) and the family and friends in and around Flora, Elizabeth, Mitchell, and Viola.

Family outings were to church, family get-togethers, weddings funerals and the necessary trips to town for needed groceries and supplies. These trips were made afoot, by horseback or by horse-pulled wagon.

Dad recalls that his father could make anything from wood and was a good carpenter.
As we all know well by now, this idyllic life came to a crashing end, and more difficult years ensued, prefigured by that cold, snowy January day and a grave waiting to be filled:
In early December of 1941, Horace was "skinning" [i.e., "skidding"] logs (on the Gilmore place, straight east of the Flora farm on the old road toward Mitchell) for later transportation to the saw mill, when a log broke loose from the chain, swung around, and crushed Horace's leg. He was able to unhook the team of horses, climb aboard one and seek help. He was transported to the V. A. Hospital in Fayetteville, and on to the V. A. Hospital in N. Little Rock. Horace died there on December 30, of a blood clot at the age of 48. Funeral services were conducted at the Elizabeth school, with burial at the Elizabeth Cemetery on a cold snowy January day.
Readers will recall that this last, sad paragraph appeared in a recent blog entry here on Gypsy Scholar, and the larger passage parallels part of Uncle Bill's report on yet-another blog entry, but one point is still unclear to me, namely, which one of Grandpa Horace's legs was injured in the accident?

In the larger passage, I learned a few new things, such as the curious fact that my "[Great-]Grandpa Stephens never washed the coffee pot used on fox hunts, believing a cleaning would ruin the coffee flavor." In his favor, I can well imagine that if lye soap were used in the cleaning, the flavor might well be ruined for future coffee-brewing.

I learned as well that I teach like my Grandpa Hodges did, for I'm also strict but with a good sense of humor.

No brag, just fact.

And if any students post comments disputing this unbragged fact, pay no attention to them. That'd be students just misbehaving, and I'll exact appropriate punishment upon the young whippersnappers myself.

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At 7:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll just mention a curious bit concerning the washing of coffee pots. This might help explaining some things, I dunno.

When the younger JK, (yep, I was not always the wizened ol' geezer) went aboard his first ship... Yes Cran, I am wont to say "his very own first ship" anyway the Division Officer didn't quite know how best to put young JK's obvious talents to good use.

After some thoughtful consideration Cmdr. Talent (I for the life of me never figured out how such a guy came to be named "Talent") but there's other stories which aren't applicable here.

Anyway, after some brow-furrowing Cmdr. Talent came up with the "lightbulb moment" and sent Airman JK off with a huge, yes HUGE coffeepot with instructions to clean and then prepare coffee for the big meeting of the Air Wing Division Officers Cmdr. Talent was to host at 1500.

Airman JK's first ship was kinda like the coffeepot, HUGE, it was an aircraft carrier. JK had left on his quest about 1330 and had a great deal of difficulty finding a sink big enough to fill and clean then refill for the making of the officer's coffee.

JK finally located a head that sported a HUGE sink. Note: for some odd reason bathrooms aboard ships are known as "heads" - don't ask.

Anyway after a thorough scrubbing JK managed to get the filled coffeepot into the meeting space, again, rooms on ships are not called rooms, rooms are called "spaces." JK got 'er plugged in and Cmdr. Talent ordered JK to go "explore" (actually he said "familiarize.")

Another thing about aircraft carriers is that they have CCTV in nearly every "important space." And a damn fine speaker system/intercom. But JK wasn't initially aware of just how Cmdr. Talent managed to locate said JK.


Should any non-sailors ever read this, take this to heart. Should a "superior" order you to wash a coffeepot, take along a coffee cup, find the smallest sink you can. Then fill the coffeepot cup by cup.

HUGE sinks are more often than not supplied with seawater. Coffee made in coffeepots that have been filled with seawater doesn't taste good in close proximity to superior palates.

The good thing about all this was that JK was never asked to make coffee again.


At 7:37 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Great tale, JK, and I couldn't see what was coming though I knew that something was.

Could have been worse, I suppose . . . bilge water or whatnot.

At any rate, I now know why Great-Grandpa Stephens refused to wash his coffee pot. It might get filled with sea water!

True, there are no nearby salty seas in the Ozarks (though plenty of salty tales told around fox-hunt campfires), but one can never be too careful.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bilge water normally has an oily sheen and so is obvious enough. However bilge water is usually to be found where few "Air Wing" personnel ever find themselves, that being "below the water line."

However. Cmdr. Talent did eventually find a place that kept JK sufficiently far enough away (and incidentally provided JK with intimate knowledge of where to find bilge water).

Except for the occasional trip aboard some sort of aircraft, JK could normally be located in or around CIC. Very far from Cmdr. Talent.

It suited both of us.


At 8:15 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'm happy to hear that Talent and you scarcely ever met . . . but tell me (again if you've told me before), what is "CIC"? (It looks like an abbreviation for "Commander-in-Chief.")

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Methinks it means "Combat Information Center," "Communications Information Center," "Command Information Center," or some similar meaning.
Being a Radioman, I was always in the Radio room, or occasionally delivering messages to various officers, .
JK would know.

At 8:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding Fox Hunting:
I went to a few "fox hunts" as a small boy, with my older brothers.
The only hunting was the dogs locating the fox and chasing it for a few hours, until the wily fox would make the dogs lose its scent. The men would do as recorded --- build a fire, make coffee, maybe a sandwich, tell tall tales, and listen to the dogs.
Every dog had a unique bark, and everyone knew their own and usually the other hunters' dogs by the sound. They knew exactly where the dogs were, and could identify which hill or hollow they were located.
My job was to curl up and go to sleep until everyone was ready to go home. My fox hunting ended when my older brothers left home, except
Woodrow had some dogs until a few years ago, and I did go with him one time after we moved back to Arkansas
That tradition is no longer being observed in this area, except I have heard of someone having a kind of preserve where a few older men still take their dogs. Ranzy Cotter is the only one I know who still was doing this, at least a few years ago anyway.

At 8:36 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran, those all sound plausible, so I'll be satisfied till JK's return.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:39 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

That sounds like the fox hunting that I always heard about, except that moonshine was usually involved as well. I think that this sort of 'hunting' was merely an excuse to get out of the house.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There were a few spaces designated "CIC" in a generic sense (as Cran suggests) but they were all tied together. All the various functions were integrated.

In JK's case (and yes JK knows this sounds oxymoronic) it was "Command Intelligence Center."


At 8:47 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Command Intelligence Center. Nice ring to it, JK. You should be proud.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 8:07 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Question for Cran-who "hunted" the foxes whose tanned hides served as small area rugs in a couple of bedrooms at Grandma Nora's?
Dad said Grandpa Horace never shot fox, so which older brothers (my uncles) did the shooting, skinning and tanning?

At 8:13 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Cousin Bill, that was me what shot 'em. Like Davy Crockett, I could handle a gun as a mere babe in the woods. If you recall seeing those fox skins before 1957, well, that just goes to show how good I actually was!

I also skinned and tanned 'em. Ate 'em, too.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chances are that they could have been shot after being treed, or even by someone happening upon them while hunting other things.
I have come upon foxes while squirrel or deer hunting.
I don't know who shot them, or when, so you will have to ask some of my brothers.


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