Hard Times on Oklahoma Homestead

In the early years of Oklahoma, one family endures hard times on Oklahoma homestead.

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Oklahoma was a very new state when my parents decided it would be a good place for their seven children to live and grow up with the country. Having sold many of their belongings and all of the livestock, they placed the $325 realized from the sale in the bottom of the small basket containing diapers for the baby, and we boarded the train for Oklahoma. Before we left, the straw ticks were emptied and washed, and food was prepared to last the family on the trip. Little did anyone know what sort of hard times we were in for.

The $325 would have to buy food from March till crops were gathered in the fall, as well as furniture. Father bought a small cookstove, a heater, and three bedsteads. On arriving at our new home, Father located a strawstack so we could fill our ticks. He unpacked his tools and began to build tables and benches from lumber salvaged from an old shed. For cabinet, dresser, and storage, we used the large boxes our bedding and dishes had been shipped in.

We planted a garden early, as we had back home, and it came up beautifully in a warm April. But one night, after dark, a hard wind blew in from the north, and the next day our garden was dead. Our neighbor explained the damage was from a sandstorm, something we had never heard of.

We hurried to plant again, and just as lettuce was ready to eat and the beans were thrifty and nice, all disappeared one night. Dozens of jack rabbits left their calling cards.

Some of our happiest times came with the arrival of boxes of cast-off clothing from our more well-to-do relatives. We wore what fit us and made the other garments over. We never dreamed of feeling sorry for ourselves for we did not realize how dreadfully poor we were.

What we missed most was reading material, and when subscriptions to magazines and papers ran out we could not renew. One Christmas Mother quilted three quilts in exchange for stacks of old issues of McCall's and The Ladies Home Journal. We rejoiced in this gift and did not realize the work that was involved until years later.

If Mother and Father worried when our table held only bread and a huge bowl of gravy, we children never knew it. We were taught to be thankful for what we had.

We, as well as Oklahoma, grew up, knowing much happiness as we gathered around that homemade table. Our only wish is that hard times might have been easier on our parents.

Mrs. Zella M. Gamble
Reydon, Oklahoma

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.