Ancestry: The LeGendre’s of Arkansas (4)
Continuing the memoirs my mother wrote down for my sister and me. As previously stated, I’m typing it word for word, including punctuation.
There are a few ho-hum parts in the middle but it gets more interesting when my mom, at the age of 4, thought she was old enough to cut turnip tops unsupervised. I often wondered why my mother used lysol as a cure-all.
My childhood memories, dating back to my pre-school days, are few and far between. A few vivid memories:
- I was always happy to see Dad come in the door because I knew I would get a hug.
- Mother enjoyed sewing, and took pride in the clothes she made for Herbert, Harold, Bob and me.
- My clothes were covered with fancywork. She made all of my slips and panties, which were trimmed with ruffles, frills, lace and embroidery.
- As a rule, we were considered the best dressed children in the neighborhood; which filled Mother’s heart with pride.
- Mother’s cakes were a work of art and delicious.
Mother took George Herbert and me to a photo studio to have our pictures made. The photographer stood George Herbert (about one and a half years old — dress in a white sailor outfit) on a chair. Then he sat me (about three years old — dressed in a cream colored dress with a large dark blue square collar and a bow of ribbon on my hair) beside him.
- Satisfied with our position, the photographer suddenly rushed behind a large black box, and wrapped himself in a black cover.
- While I was trying to figure out why he was hiding himself, he started shouting, “Watch for the birdie.”
- I didn’t see any bird and was puzzled as to why a birdie would want to be in such a dark place. Nevertheless, I was doing my best to see if I could locate it.
- Suddenly, the photographer reappeared and stood in front of us gleefully asking, “Did you see the birdie?” I was dumbfounded; but since the photographer seemed to be seeing things I wasn’t, I said “Yes”.
3 January 1917 Warren, Arkansas: William Harold Le Gendre was born. The William is after Mother’s Uncle Willie (I think). The Harold????
(I have no recollection of the times surrounding the births of George Herbert or William Harold.
- Apparently Dad had returned to Warren to update a light plant for Mr. Couch.
Mother would take George Herbert and I for an afternoon walk, carrying William Harold in her arms. Occasionally we would walk to the power plant and chat with Dad over the roaring sounds of the whirling motors — which were polished and shining. The noise was terrific.
- On our return home, we would walked along a stretch of railroad tracks, as a short cut.
- I had fun trying to walk the rails.
Sometime after William Harold was born, I had either small pox of chicken pox. I remember the bottoms of my feet were covered with sores and blisters. They were so painful that I had to walk on the outside rim of my feet.
1917 fall? My next recollection is of a large, two-story house, on a farm (plantation?) near Dardanelle, Arkansas, were Mother’s Uncle Willie and Aunt Mamie were living:
- How we got there or why, I haven’t the faintest idea — unless it was by rail, and we were met by Mother’s uncle at the Dardanelle railroad station, during the night.
- The Why? may have been World War I. Dad’s number was coming up on the next draft call.
- Or? Harvey Couch had send Dad there to remodel a light plant in Russellville or Dardanelle.
Their large two-story house was out in the country. I remember a large screened-in backporch; the screen door opened onto a long row of steps leading down to the ground near a large tree.
- George Herbert and I would play outside, near the porch steps, under a tree while Mother was in the kitchen cooking.
- Mother came out often to give us a treat — a piece of fresh bread, cookies, slice of cake, a sandwich, or fruit.
- Once we watched her set out some pineapple tops in a flower bed near the porch.
- I haven’t the slightest idea what Uncle Willie’s line of work was. I don’t remember seeing him do anything other than visit. Yet they lived in nice places and lived comfortably.
- What amazed me is the way Mother’s uncle and aunt always seemed to pop up in the most convenient places.
- Years later, I got the impression from Mother that she and her aunt never got along very well
Soon after our arrival, Mother and her aunt gave a birthday party for someone. It may have been my birthday — since we always seemed to move around that time — although, I was never aware of it, at the time.
All of the young people were strangers and seemed to be much older than me.
I remember being blindfolded, a stick placed in my hand, turned around and round, and making a few wild, unsuccessful, swings into the air.
Several of the other children took their turn swinging at the bag; before one of the older and taller participants finally broke it open, and all the “goodies” fell to the floor.
- Suddenly, I became alive and raced around the floor collecting my share of the loot.
- After the party was over, I remember wondering why the children left without their toys?
- It took a while for me to start playing with the toys: (I thought they belonged to someone else.)
Dad was gone when I awoke in the mornings and he return late at night. Other than taking the two families out for a ride in the car — occasionally on Sundays- — I don’t recall seeing Dad on the farm during the daytime.
- Its possible that Dad was working for Mr. Couch, and driving back and forth to a light plant in Russellville or Dardanelle.
- I had always asumed the car was Uncle WIllie’s, because he and Aunt Mamie were in it when Dad took us for a ride.
- Now I’m inclined to believe that Dad bought the car for his own transportation — to and from work. It was only when Dad was around that the care was there.
Upon the arrival of our furniture, we moved into a large log cabin, a short distance from the main house where Mother’s uncle and aunt were living.
- A few days later a large hog was butchered and hung on the rafters upstairs, in the log house, to cure.
- During the night, blood began dripping through the ceiling near my bed.
- Pans were placed on the floor to catch the blood.
It was wintertime. Mother and her aunt went into the garden, next to the log house, to gathering the winter turnips.
A large butcher knife had been left on the ground, at the spot where the turnips were to be thrown — over the garden fence, in a pile, as they were pulled from the ground — so the tops could be cut off, before storing.
- I was four years old and decided that I was big enough to help.
- I took the knife and started whacking the tops off the turnips, unnoticed by Mother.
- Everything went along fine until I threw away a bunch of tops, and noticed that the bottom section of the left hand forefinger had been cut off at the knuckle and was hanging by a thread of skin; and blood was gushing forth.
- I called Mother and showed her my finger.
- She ran around the fence and gently placed the severed portion back on top of my finger; and escorted me into the house, where she washed the cut and my hand in lysol water.
- She tore clean strips of cloth from a sheet and bound the finger securely. (Gauze was unheard of at the time.) Reminding me to hold my finger up so it would heal in place.
- I sensed the urgency and made every effort to keep the finger upward.
- About a week later, she bathed the hand again — in lysol water and replaced the bandage.
- The finger healed in perfect condition and other than the scare, there is no indication that the lower part of the forefinger had ever been cut off.
After the finger had completely healed, I was trying to figure out how Mother’s, foot treadle, sewing machine worked. I succeeded by running the sewing machine needle through the nail and bone of my left thumb. Mother had to come to my rescue. (She had me where I couldn’t move.)
- Years later I heard Mother make the remark that she always seemed to be able to take care of an emergency when it occurred; but after it was over she “would go to pieces.”
During the winter, a four room house, with a large screened backporch, was built on the farm (plantation), for our family — about a half-mile through the woods from the main house.
Near the back door of the house, a well — about six feet wide and twelve deep — was dug with pick and shovel through the slate rock.
- The dug rocks were piled near the well hole and made a mountain of rocks for Herbert and I to play on later.
1918 Spring?: We moved into the new house.
George Herbert was about three years old — and William Harold was a year old — (both boys were called by their full names for years).
Although I had been told to stay away from the well, I got the bright idea that I would like to look down into the well. I pulled myself up over the top rim of the well box; and hung the top middle half of my body over the edge, to watched my reflection in the water at the bottom of the well.
(I thought it was fun, until it suddenly dawned upon me: “How would I get out if I fell down in the well??” There would be no more “me”)
You may be wondering how I can look at the words and type them if I’m dyslexic. There are raised dots on the f and j. I’m aware when my fingers aren’t on the right keys. When I type, my mind is spelling out each word. I know how it’s spelled even if my eyes don’t want to see it that way.
Often, I can tell when I’ve typed the wrong word just by the feel of it. After typing, I look for the red line on the screen that says I made a mistake. Once those are corrected I use a text reader to hear if I made any other mistakes.
My mother made errors in spelling and tense, which I’ve ensured are written as she had written them 23 years ago.