My mother remembers those early days (1903) when she and my father came west and settled in Oklahoma Territory. For about 18 months they hauled water, traveling five miles over a bumpy trail to and from a well on another farm. Families for miles around came to the well, and as many as six wagons might be gathered there at one time. Each family would wait patiently for its turn, or help others hand-pump a supply for drinking, washing, and watering livestock.
My mother taught school to buy steel well casing when a new well was built on the home-place. After she earned a diploma at Teachers Normal, Woodward, in the summer session, most schools had signed teachers. So she took her horse, and riding sidesaddle, crossed the country until she found a school 18 miles away. Her salary was $30 a month for teaching 33 students in all grades for the three-month term. She worked mornings, nights, and weekends for her board and room.
In the spring of 1905 my parents were able to buy 210 feet of well casing. The well was put down to a depth of 207 feet with a posthole digger and a sand bucket. When the digger was full, a horse pulled the dirt out. My mother led the horse while my daddy emptied the bucket and started it back down the hole.
When my parents finished their well, they shared the water with neighbors until finances permitted them to dig their own wells.
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.