When I was growing up we lived on our family farm near Harper, Kansas, and later moved into town, where my father worked for the Santa Fe depot.
My mother’s folks lived on a farm near Manchester, Oklahoma, so we went there often as children. A few miles north was Uncle Victor, my dad’s brother, and his family. There were three children: two boys and a girl. One of the boys was my age, and the other boy was my brother’s age.
We went to Uncle Victor’s farm nearly every weekend. They made homemade ice cream with an old-time ice cream freezer that we had to turn by hand. Nothing was as good as that ice cream!
We went to church at the Rosedale Community Church. I was born about one-half mile south of there on December 10, 1911. The church was built with the door in the front part, so that when you came in everybody could see you. You wouldn’t dare be late and walk in with everyone watching you! My mom said it was built like that so folks wouldn’t have to turn around to see who was coming in.
My father had played a guitar since he was 16 years old, and Uncle Victor played the guitar too, so when we went to Manchester, Dad loaded the guitar in the car, an old Model T sedan, with all of us kids. My mother really got tired of being so crowded in that car.
Grandpa Bennett lived two miles south of Uncle Victor, and he had a high hill out in his pasture. As kids, we would climb to the top of that hill, and on a clear summer day we could see several towns around. One time I rolled halfway down the hill while my dad and uncle were at the foot watching. They just laughed and laughed at the sight, but I didn’t think it was so funny.
My grandpa had a big garden each year. The ground was sandy so he raised good tomatoes. Those were the best tomatoes I have ever eaten. We could pick a bucketful in five minutes. Grandma always had a big platter of tomatoes and a platter of fried chicken, roastin’ ears and blackberry pie. I ate six roastin’ ears one day, besides the chicken and all the rest of the dinner. Grandma said I would sure be sick, but I wasn’t.
My brother and I used to go out in the “patch” and eat water-melons. We had a picnic in the yard many times at Grandma’s. There was always a big tableful each time we got together. I remember there was always a big bowl of fruit in the center of the table.
We also used to go to another aunt and uncle’s north of Harper, Kansas. That uncle had hounds that he used to hunt skunks. He knew I was afraid of dogs, and he would let those hounds out every time I had to go outside to the outhouse.
Once my cousin was there at the same time we were. As we were ironing Grandma’s clothes, we came across her underpants. We laughed and laughed because they were long, muslin undies. We had never seen anything like that before!
My uncle, Lee Bennett, had a motorcycle, and as a youngster I rode in the sidecar several times. The road was sandy and he drove a little fast, so we usually went sliding from one side to the other.
As children we used to pick up wheat. around the stacks of wheat straw. We got to keep all the wheat we picked up. I” almost stepped on a snake while doing that. I found a dime in the house one day, and my sister claimed it was hers. I ran and hid it in the corral for safekeeping, and my father found it months later while working there.
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.