“…[A]nd there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles….Mark 13:8
Due to all our media, we are today aware when there is an earthquake in San Francisco or Chile, we know when California needs water and when the ‘Territory’ is experiencing twisters. This has not always been so. In years past we were primarily aware of what was going on in McDonald County and times were when the pasture on the other side of the fence looked safe and prosperous.
I am reminded as I read words written by a very dear friend of mine, Mr. Jim Wallis of Noel, who shared with me a time when his family sought a better life, leaving Pea Ridge in 1936, headed for that promised paradise of Southern California. I will share his “As I Recall …”
“We were in the middle of the great American drought. Rain ceased, crops failed, jobs vanished and because of that hundreds of thousands of peoples’ lives would change.
“Dad made his living as a teamster. He hauled fruit, grain, lumber and anything else he could load on his wagon drawn by a team of horses or mules. He preferred mules. Because of the steep hills, he usually had a four or six horse hitch. To supplement his income he milked a few cows and Mamma raised some hens.
“When crops failed Dad began looking for work. He went to the wheat harvest of Kansas and then to Oklahoma to build wooden derricks in the oil fields. During the Oklahoma period we lived in a tent provided by the oil company. The tents were reinforced with a wooden frame and doors and windows were framed in as well. One time a great wind roared through. The dust turned the day to night. Daddy put us all on the floor and he held the door shut. I watched him holding the flapping door. I was amazed at his ability. We all survived in spite of being terrified and later we were told it was a cyclone.
“A plan was born out of his frustration of not being able to provide for his family. The great Southwest offered hope for a new beginning.”
I expect some of my readers may share memories that I share with Jim, as they prepared for the trip.
”Kinfolks and friends had brought gifts of food by the house for the trip. Since there was no refrigeration and ice was hard to come by, most of the food was dried, smoked, or canned. Mamma planned to eat the food that would easily spoil first. The food that would not spoil easily was put in wooden crates, boxes or bags and tucked into cooler places. We would depend on stores along the road and farmers who displayed roughly lettered signs offered fresh eggs, milk and sometimes butter and cheese.
“With everything secured and everyone aboard, Daddy carried a long crooked tool to the front of the car, inserted it into a hole under the radiator and into another hole at the base of the engine. A rapid crank of the motor and the prized vehicle clattered to life, Mamma hurriedly followed Dad’s instructions and adjusted ‘the choke.’ He stored the crank under the seat, climbed into the car and we chugged up the hill.
“Tears flowed, hankies waved, and voices became a jumble of sorrow, and then they were out of sight. We stopped at the lone stop sign which stood proudly at the only intersection in town.… We turned south out of town, to join the great migration West.”
Jim shares “Dad was the only one who could drive, he sat tall in the drivers seat and Mamma sat beside him, in the right seat, with a bundle of information, maps, notes, letters and scraps of testimonies offered by others ‘who had been there.’ That was our most reliable source of wisdom guiding us to the West Coast.”
I am grateful to pioneers like Jim who will share their experience, take time to jot it down and take us with him, sharing a life that some can relate to and others find fascinating.
Do you have memories you would like to share, memories that others can relate to? The McDonald County Historical Society would like to hear from you. Write to us at P.O. Box 572, Pineville, 64856, check us out on Facebook, or come join us as we meet every other month in Pineville, Our museum will be open again (free to all) in May, and we would like to issue this invitation to all to join us.
Alberta Anders writes a weekly column for the Daily News.