Most of these stories were told to me by various members of the family as I was growing up. Most of the tellers have passed on now, so I will try to document what they said. I am also trying to put them in chronological order.
William Armstrong Turner
(12/24/1831 - 06/18/1899 Born in North Carolina).
Mary Ann Callaway
(12/05/1833 - 04/09/1919 Born in Georgia)
William Argstrong's Page
William Armstrong Turner was born Dec. 24, 1831 in North Carolina. In the 1880 Census, William stated that both his parents were also born in North Carolina. One unresolved question is, did William move from NC with his parents or alone as a young man?
William married Mary Ann Callaway on Oct. 17, 1856 in Taladega Co. Alabama.
William Armstrong served in Hilliard's legion 10th Confederate Cavalry, 5th Alabama Battalion, company 'C' from April of 1862 until the end of the war in 1865. At the Hilliard's Legion link above scroll down and click on "5th Battalion [Cavalry]", then click on "Muster roll", and then "Co. "C"". At the bottom of the enlisted men, note "TURNER, William A". Here is his service record from the National Archives. Before May, 1864, He had been transferred to Ramsey's Battery (Horse Artillery). Ramsey had recently assumed command after Huwalt was captured. Here is a timeline of the units he served in at the time he was present. I discovered his service activity by a search of the Texas "Confederate Pension" data base, which revealed that Mary A. Turner, wife of W. A. Turner, who lived in Wood County, received a confederate widow's pension. I applied to the State of Texas for a copy of her application and received these images of Mary Ann's pension application. After receiving a copy of her application and some of other documents that the state had, I was able to verify some of the other signatures on some of the documentation as being members of my family. Mary Ann states the date and place of their marriage, and the unit that William served in. In addition John (my Son) found William and Mary Turner and Mary Ann's parents, James and Naomi Callaway, in the 1860 Alabama Census (See William's Page). Note: William Armstrong's occupation was listed as "mechanic". Since Armstrong was a somewhat unusual middle name, I am assuming he was named after his mother's maiden name or some important person his parents knew.
They moved to Texas in 1870.
William died June 18, 1899 in Wood County Texas. He is buried in Ebenezer Cemetary between Quitman and Winnsboro near the community of Oak Grove Texas.
Mary Ann was killed in the 1919 tornado in Wood County Texas and is burried beside William at Ebenezer.
Ary and Sue, in their research, listed William Armstrong's birthplace as North Carolina, with no town or county and no other ancestors are known before him.
As told by Sue M. Turner:
"We talked to Ary's aunts who said that their grandparents came from Talledaga County, Alabama. We went there and found in the cemetery a family plot but we were never able to prove that it was the family. It had impressive stones as though they had some money. William Armstrong must have had money when he came to Texas because he immediately bought land in Wood County.
From our investigations we determined that William Armstrong came with a group from Alabama. I cannot remember the name of the town now where they boarded a ship that sailed into the Gulf an up to Jefferson. James Callaway seemed to be the leader of the group. One of the stories we heard was that the road from Talladega to the place of embarkment was a toll road made of wood. Each landowner had to keep his part of the road in good condition. Without this the road would be impassable much of the time. We could not find that any of the Turners other than William Armstrong came to Texas at that time."
I was told by a number of folks both relatives and others, that Mary Ann was too feeble to go to the storm house and was killed in the great East Texas tornado of 1919. Neil Penix told me that the tornado cut a path one mile wide across Wood county.
Noah apparently worked as a deputy sheriff in Tarrant Co. Texas as a young man (probably before marriage late 70s, early 80s).
During his service, he was directed to take a very unpopular prisoner to a distant jail.
The prisoner was so unpopular, he had inspired a necktie party. Noah loaded the prisoner into a covered wagon and drove off down a back street (I assume in Ft. Worth).
Unfortunately, word had leaked out and a group of citizens met him not too far from the jail.
The mob was angry, noisy, and threatening to take the prisoner and hang him right then and there, when a stranger stepped up out of the crowd and asked Noah if he could use some help.
Noah said yes, and the stranger climbed up into the wagon and asked Noah if he had an extra pistol.
Noah gave him one, whereupon the stranger faced down the crowd saying the first few to come forward would be the first ones killed.
The crowd reconsidered how desperately they wanted to hang the prisoner and dispersed.
The stranger handed the pistol back to Noah as he climbed down from the wagon. Noah later discovered the man's name was Frank James (Brother of Jessie).
Noah was married to Martha Jane Fletcher 10/30/1883 (at age 27), and had nine children who survived to adulthood. These were my great grandparents on the Turner side.
Uncle Johnny (John Richard Turner) told me a story about his dad, Noah. It seems that when Uncle Johnny was a boy, he sold Cloverine Salve and was able to buy a Stevens Crackshot .22 rifle. Uncle Johnny, was very proud of his rifle, and took it with him everywhere becomming a very good shot. Of course he couldn't afford to buy expensive ammunition (.22 longs or long rifles), so he had to buy .22 shorts. After a few years he noticed that he was no longer able to hit anything he shot at with his beloved rifle. So he took it to his father, Noah, who was plowing a field and asked him what was wrong. Noah, sighted at a nearby target and, sure enough, when he fired, missed. Noah said the rifle was "leadded" and flung it under a nearby bush. Uncle Johnny was totally devastated, and retrieved the rifle but never shot it again.
Martha Jane (Noah's wife) loved to travel and go camping, so when she and Noah heard of some land for sale in Jack county Texas, they wanted to take a trip to see it. This probably sounded good to Noah since he had lived in Tarrant county when he was younger. The fact that Martha Jane was very pregnant, had 1 and 4 year old daughters, and Jack County was well over one hunderd miles away, didn't seem to bother them. After the crops were laid by, they loaded their clothes, some food, and the two girls (Bernice and Ella) in the wagon and headed out. This was in the fall of 1890. They were going across the prarie of grass stretching to the horizon and was starting to turn very brown as fall approached, when Mary started into labor. Noah stopped and set up camp by a branch (creek) and there on October 16, 1890, in their covered wagon, Mary delivered her first son to survive to adulthood. A ranch hand rode by a few days later, and discovered them. He stopped and talked to Noah who confessed they hadn't planned to stop just then. When the ranch hand returned to the ranch headquarters, he told the owner about the Turner family camped with a newborn baby boy, two little girls, and not much food. The owner sent the hand back with a freshly killed haunch of beef, a real treat in those days (before refrigeration) since beef didn't keep as well as pork (which clould be salted), and had to be eaten soon after killing. Mary and Noah were very thankful for the generosity and decided to name their son after the ranch owner, Mr Ripley, hence my grandfather, Andrew Ripley Turner, known to his nephews as 'Uncle Rip'. The name was ultimately passed to my brother Rip (Ben Ripley Turner). I have often wondered if the Ripley family still owns land in Jack County?
Susan Katherin Bivens 08/16/1854 Red River, Texas. - 9/24/1904 Wood County Texas.
Katherine Bivens' father was Lee S. Bivens who left to fight in the war between the states, leaving little Katherine (about 6 or 7 years old) with a neighbor family, and never returned (at least as far as we know). She lived with neighbors until grown when she married to Henry Pierson Childress (marr 12/23/1873). Somewhere along there she acquired the nick name of "Kitty". We don't know who Kitty's mother was or when she died, but kitty died at the age of 50 when Leatha was 13.
Andrew Ripley Turner 10/06/1890 - 02/13/1960 Born on the prarie in Jack County Texas.
Leatha Ida Childress 02/26/1889 - 09/03/1971 Born in Red River County Texas.
Andrew and Leatha had one of the first "drive-through" marriages. They drove to the Little Hope Church, in a horse drawn buggy, the minister came out and married them while they were still in the buggy (if there had been a curb, it would have been curb service).
Leatha Ida Childress was born 02/26/1889 in Red River County Texas. Her mother, Susan Katherine Bivins, was known as "Kitty". Her mother passed away when Letha was about 13, so she quit school and stayed home to help raise her younger siblings. Andrew Ripley Turner was born 10/16/1890 In Jack County Texas. Andrew and Leatha were married 10/08/1911, on 01/20/1914. Their only child, my father Ary Lee Turner, was born in Wood County near Pine Mills Texas, Jan 20, 1914.
The origin of "Ary"
When Grandmother Letha discovered she was pregnant, she wanted to name her son Larry, but Grandfather Andrew wanted his son's name to begin with the letter 'A' like Andrew. In one of the few compromises ever documented, they decided to name their son by leaving off the 'L' in Larry, leaving Arry. When Dad started to school and was learning to write, he didn't like the double "rr"s so he just started writing it as "Ary". Since Dad was born at home without the aid of a doctor, he had no birth certificate, and the original name was never documented. As a side note, when Dad needed a passport to go to Europe, he had to get Aunt Ozie (Grandmother Letha's baby sister, Ozella Dobbs, who lived nearby at the time Dad was born) to swear out an affidavit to Dad's authenticity
Grandfather Andrew was always fond of mules, saying he could get more work out of them for less feed, and they were smarter than a horse. When dad was about 5, they were still farming in East Texas. Grandmother Letha would take lunch to Grandfather Andrew in the field where he was working. While Grandfather Andrew ate and he and Grandmother Letha talked, dad would walk around looking at the mule and plow. Dad would always get behind the plow and loop the lines around his neck and shoulder just like Grandfather Andrew did. Then he would slap the lines against the old Jack's rump, like Grandfather Andrew did, to make him go. Old Jack, being very smart, wouldn't move, he knew he didn't have to move unless Grandfather Andrew held the lines.
Moving to Dallas County:
When Ary was 8 years old (1922), Andrew and Leatha, moved from Wood County to Dallas County. Grandfather Andrew (Andrew) was sharecropping for a Mr Grubbs on land several miles north of Mesquite near what is now the intersection of Belt Line and Tripp roads. In 2003, I purchased a house and soon realized that it is on part of the original Grubbs place that my grandfather had farmed as a sharecropper.
Some time in the late twenties, Grandfather Andrew must have gotten tired of sharecropping and went to work for the Texas and Pacific Rail Road as a section hand. I'm not sure how, but Grandmother Letha got on the same section gang as a cook. Dad lived with some friends named Cole, in Mesquite, in the winter so he could go to school. In the summer he stayed with Grandfather Andrew and Grandmother Letha on the rail road. They lived in section cars which had bedrooms, a kitchen, and a dining room. Dad's job was to cut stove wood for the cook stove.
One of Grandmother Letha's responsibilities was to buy groceries to feed the hands, so she bought a lot of produce from local farmers. On one of these occasions, Grandmother Letha was looking at produce brought in by a local farmer and negotiating a price. The farmer had been accompanied by an old stringy hound. Dad noticed the bound and had an Idea. Grandmother Letha made baking powder biscuits for breakfast every morning, and kept whatever was left in a five gallon can which had an airtight lid. The biscuits Granny made were large (one of my great uncles, Roy Jaco called them "Terrapins", implying they were as large as box turtles). These left over biscuits were used to make bread pudding (for which Grandmother Letha was famous). Dad got a biscuit from the can and threw it out of the car to the hound. It never hit the ground, the hound caught it in the air. Dad thought this was entertaining, so he got another, and the hound didn't let it hit the ground either. When the hound had caught and eaten 23 biscuits, Dad suddenly realized he was going to be in big trouble.
On one of the times when Ary was staying in the section car, he was awakened in the middle of the night by a passing locomotive. This was unusual even though the section cars were on a siding and just inches from passing trains on the main line, they were so used to the rail road's train schedule, that normal (scheduled ) trains didn't waken them. But this one did, and Dad was just going back to sleep when a tremendous concussion brought him wide awake. A mis-scheduled locomotive and tender had been moving down the line and hit a train stopped at the Mineola station.
In the early thirties, (during the depression) Grandfather Andrew went to Kilgore Texas where an oil boom was in progress. There he worked building wooden oil derricks and sent money home to feed the family. I remember him saying one time he lived and ate in tents with a lot of the other workers.
When I was very little, I spent a lot of very happy time at my granparent's house. I can remember in the evenings after supper Grandmother Letha and Grandfather Andrew would sit in their old wooden rocking chairs in front of the open gas stove, listening to the radio. I remember hearing reports from post war Europe, which were always very noisy (a lot of static) and hard to understand. The radio sat on a small square spindle table in the corner of the dining room (where the stove was). That small oak table was the first piece of furniture Grandfather Andrew and Grandmother Letha bought as a married couple (1911) making it the oldest piece of furniture in the family. That small oak table, purchased second hand in 1911, now sits in my den.
As a small boy, staying with my grandparents, I remember Grandfather Andrew would come in early on a winter's morning and say gruffly, "get up boy". Of course, when I ran across the cold linoleum floor to the family room (which also served as the dining room), I would find my clothes, very warm, on the arm or back of one of the old wooden rocking chairs before the old gas stove.
Grand paw used to take grannie and I to the movie in down town Mesquite every Saturday night.
Once, I must have been about 5, grandpaw took me deer hunting with him on the Fidler ranch in south Texas along with several other men I knew from Mesquite. I remember we stayed in a two room log house with dirt floors and a limestone fire place in the main room (the room with a door to the outside). We cooked our meals over the fire in the fireplace. I believe Hack Wagner and Bob Shaw were in the group that went to south Texas with us. Knowing what I do now, about men and deer hunting, I find this very unusual. When I think of all the things he did for me, I realize my grandfather loved me very much.
When I was a little older, grandpaw would take me to work with him (he had to work half a day on Saturday). His first job that I can remember was for the Coca Cola company, refurbishing wooden coke cases (this would have been right after WW II). Later, when I was about 8, he worked as a finish carpenter for a contractor named Ed Burke, and would occasionally take me to work with him when he worked a half day on Saturday. He showed me how to hang a door when I was 8. I was impressed by the way he worked, even then, I learned that being a carpenter was all about thinking and planning ahead so things would fit together and even assembling things wasn't made more difficult by something you had alread finished. I saw him take out his pocket knife and whittle the end of a complex piece of moulding so it would fit snugly in the corner. He always kept dry powder glue in his tool box, and would use it to glue pieces of wood which were too small to nail, into small or tight areas. I didn't realize it at the time, but this was my first exposure to "craftsmanship". I now have grandpaw's old tool box in my shop. After sitting in my father's shop at the farm for many years, some of the tools were rusted, so I cleaned them up and now use them. They still work fine mostly because grandpaw took very good care of them, after all, thats how he made his living for many years.
Grandmother Letha had an old wash pot which she occasoinally used for making soap, and a little more often for scalding chickens.
I remember seeing Grandmother Letha catch a chicken by the head as it was walking around the yard and ring its neck until the chicken went flying, headless, and then flopped around for a few seconds.
Then it was scalded in the wash pot and the feathers plucked (I helped).
Dad once mentioned that he had bought Grandmother Letha a variety of tools, but she never used them for what they were intended. She always found another very good use for them.
I believe it was in 1953 I got up one morning and discovered that the High School was on fire. In those days, the entire school system (all 12 grades) was on one city block, which is the front half of the present Mesquite High Shcool campus. During the day of the fire every one in town worked getting furnishings out of the school and storing them at a variety of locations in town. I worked with a group on a pickup, hauling text books. We were storing these books in the old First National Bank building on the North West corner of the square. During the day we made many trips and I noticed that the old bank building still had the high teller's desk running from the door back to the offices and vault in the rear. I also noticed there were two pieces of furniture in the bank, one wooden desk chair with arms and an old Dearborn Stove. Many years later, I noticed a similar stove in my Dad's work shop and mentioned that the last time I had seen one like it was in the bank on the day of the high school fire. Dad then told me he had bought the old bank building, as an investment, and this stove had been in the bank. He later gave me the stove so I could work in my garage in winter. I recently gave it to John (my oldest son). The old stove has been in the family for over 50 years and it was second hand when Dad bought it. That old Dearborn still works great. After I moved into this house I got the stove back from John and have been using it in my garage (shop). Here it is in my shop.
Because of the high school fire, the next year, I went to school in the basement of the Presbyterian Church, located where the old Savings and Loan building is now.
Grandpaw's Snow Cone Stand
Grandpaw had a heart attack in the early fifties. In one of his post attack conversations with the doctor, he was told he had to quit smoking. Now Grandpaw had smoked Camels as long as I could remember and probably quite a while before I was born. When the Doctor told him to quit, he reached in his shirt pocket and handed his current pack to the Dr. As far as I can remember, he never smoked again. This is one time that Grandpaw's legendary stubbornness worked in his favor.
Speaking of stubbornness, Dad once told me, about his parents, that when you said something to Grandpaw about some new idea, he would say "no it ain't", but in a few weeks you would frequently see him doing exactly what you had suggested. Now when you said something to Grandmaw (Letha) and she didn't like it, it was useless. She just didn't want to be confused with any more facts after she had made up her mind. Its strange and probably a matter of prospective, but I remember my Grandmother Letha as the most loving and sweet lady I had ever known. She was the closest thing to a mother I ever knew.
Since Grandpaw was in his early sixties and couldn't work as a carpenter anymore, he cast about for something else to do. He apparantly saw an old snow cone stand for sale somewhere and decided that would be a good summer job for himself. He bought the old stand (which was built on a small trailer frame) and proceede to competely dismantle it. I can remember seeing the bare trailer frame in his drive way. When he was finished, he arranged to rent a corner on the southwest corner of the square in Mesquite. Now at this time, Mesquite had an entertainment on the square every Saturday night called "Amateur Night", so every Saturday night grandpaw did a land office business (Texas summer nights are very warm and Snow Cones hit the spot).
Mesquite's old black water tower.
Right across Main street from the Presbyterian Church, to the north, stood the original old black city water tower. The water tower was filled by electric pumps from 5 deep artesian wells located about three blocks west of that church, near an old creek bed, and surrounding a small red brick pump house. The water in these wells was said to be some of the purest in Texas, and I remember going into Dallas and how their chlorinated water had a strong "whang" to it. The water tower had a white square board which traveled up and down the outside on some kind of rails controlled by a cable and pulley with a float in the tank. The system was manually operated, when the white board got too near the top of the tank (float at bottom meant empty), a city employee would go the small red brick pump house near the wells, and turn the pumps on. Later in the day, he would come back an turn them off (hopefully when the tank was full). I rememer some time the pumps would be left on too long and the water tower would overflow, causing it to rain on that part of Main street. This happend one winter when the termperature was well below freezing, causing a small spectacular ice storm on the north side of the Presbyterian Church.
Speaking of Mesquite's old red pump house.
About 200 yards from my Granmother's house stood a small red brick building which served as the municipal pumphouse and jail. Outside the pumphouse were 5 electric pumps each atop a deep well. These 5 wells supplied the water supply for the entire city (Mesquite). I remember the water at home having a very sweet taste and when I went to Dallas, it's water had a strong taste of chlorine. My Dad once told me, that occasionally, some drunk would be put in the cell in the red pump house and the next morning, having slept off the alcohol, he'd start yelling for someone to let him out. The wells, pumps, and pump house were in what is now a parking lot for a very small strip mall just west of a creek bed and between the East and West boud lanes of Military Parkway (AKA Davis and Main in Mesquite).
Dad and I went to visit Uncle Clifton when he lived in Haynesville. I believe it was shortly after Grandfather Andrew passed away (Feb. 13 1960). It was in the winter and it was cold. When we got to Uncle Clifton's house, Old Sport (a large English Bulldog) was laying on the porch and actually got up to greet us (Dad had always maintained that bulldogs appeared to be smiling due to their characteristic underbite). Later, Dad mentioned to Uncle Clifton that Old Sport would really smile if he was allowed into the house on this cold day. Uncle Clifton replied "Yes and if you let him lay down in front of the fire he would laugh out loud".
The old Lawrence Mansion:
When I was small, Bob and Rex Shaw lived behind us, with their son Bobby. Bobby and I were about the same age and frequently played together and sometime we went to visit Bobby's aunts, Opal and Garnet Lawrence. These ladies lived in what is now the Lawrence mansion on Long Creek Road north east of downtown Mesquite. It was a truly amazing place for small boys to visit. The legend was that the nephew of the original owner was a sometime member of the Jessie James gang. The reality of visiting the Lawrence girls was way better than any legend. The sisters were very good cooks and treated small children like royalty. They had a small refridgerator on the back porch which was full of cold drinks. In the kitchen they had two large stoves a gas range and a wood range. My dad told me they said the wood range was better for baking. One of the sistes told me that once when the James gang was hiding there, Frank shot a deputy sheriff on the stairs. She then showed me a pattern of holes in the ceiling and wall around the area where the stair went through the ceiling that she said was from the shotgun blast. I remember the bedrooms had very high ceilings and no closets but, instead had large chifferobes (sp). The bedrooms I remember each had large four poster canopy beds made of heavy wood.
One of the reasons this would have been a good hideout was it sat on the state highway (352) and two floors, an attic above and a small tower above that. I remember Bobby and I climbing to the tower one day, we went throught the attic which was floored and contained a wealth of very interesting items (to a small boy). There was a dress maker's dummy (the first one I remembered seeing), and what must have been a tricycle, but like nothing I had ever seen beofre. The tricycle had a gold wrought iron frame and a large rectangular, velvet covered seat. The tower was all anybody could expect, a steep ladder (which might be called a stair) went from the attic through a small hole and into the tower. In the tower, which must have been about 6 or 7 feet square, there was a piano stool and of course the four windows looking in all four directions. The view was great, espeically since the house was surrounded by pasture and a large cedar break to the north.
My dad told me that, as a boy, working with my Grandpaw when he hired out as a hand to help with the harvest at the Lawrence farm. This must have been in the middle to late 1920's, Dad would have been 10 or 12 years old. Dad said they arrived at the mansion a boy 6 o'clock AM and the Lawrence ladies had already laid out a full breakfast on tables set under one of the rows of cedars in front of the house. These tables were made of planks laid across carpenter's saw horses. Dad said there were three kinds of meat (probably ham bacon and sasuage), biscuit, gravy and eggs both fied and scrambled. Dad didn't mention whether or not they had toast but many times I heard him comment that only poor people had to eat cornbread with their meal, light bread was for people who were better off (financially). Dad's job for the harvest was to keep the boiler in a steam tractor fired with straw. The steam tractor provided the power for the harvesting machine.
At dinner time (lunch to northerners), there was another large meal set under the cedars, with several kinds of meat, vegetables, and bread with several pies and cakes for desert.
The Lawrence Mansion is now a Texas state historical monument and the City of Mesquite's Opal Lawrence Historical Park.
On October 20 1962, I married Cynthia Claudette Rutledge at the First Methodist Church in Mesqite.
Cynthia and I had only been married a month when Thanksgivving came along. CT (my nickname for her) had not learned to cook at home since her mother loved to cook so the girls (Cynthia and Sandy) didn't get much opportunity. Cynthia asked me If I wanted anything special for Thanksgivving, and I said yes, pumpkin pie. Unbeknownst to me, CT phoned her Mom and asked how to bake a pumpkin pie. Jessie (understanding her daughter was a beginng cook) said to get a Pet-Ritz pie shell and some Comstock Pumpkin Pie filling, dump it in and bake appropriately. When CT went to the store (Safeway) they were out of Comstock but she did find some Libbeys Pumpkin. Not knowing the difference, she proceeded to bake the pie. I remember it smelled like a pumpkin pie when it was baking. When we had finished our Thanksgivving dinner, she brought out the pie and cut it, giving me a large piece. I bit into it and discovered the starngest taste, it tasted like grass, kinda green flavored!
On Janurary 18 1968 John Andrew Turner was born (5lb. 13 oz.) at Florence Nightengale Hospital (Baylor), in Dallas, John was named after two of my favorite Turners, uncle Johnnie and Grandfather Andrew.
On March the 11, 1970 Jason Matthew Turner was born (5lb. and 3 oz.) at Presbyterian hospital in Dallas. CT decided to give Jason (or Jace as we call him) with biblical names.
CT's Driving experiences
We had bought a mini-motor home for camping and since we could't afford another car, CT drove it to work. She worked about three blocks from home at a State Farm Insurance Agency located in a neighborhood bank building. One day, as she was leaving work, she backed out a little too far and hooked the rear bumper with an Austin Healy parked across the bank parking lot behind her. Now the mini-motor home was about 8 feet wide and she couldn't see what had happened at the rear. She placed the truck in drive and proceeded through the parking lot heading for the street and thinking that the motor home didn't seem to have much "pep" (her words)! A bank gaurd seeing her coming, ran out into the parking lot waving for her to stop. When whe stopped and got out the guard showed her she was towing the Austin Healy by it's back bumper. The Guard got them unlocked, found the owner, and every thing was worked out.
One day CT came in from work and told me the camper was making a loud noise when she turned a corner. I asked which direction and she said on left turns. I went out to the driveway in back of the house, and got in the camper, started it up and tried turning from side to side listening. I couldn't hear anything unusual, so I stopped the engine, got out, and walked around the camper. I noticed that a small piece of moulding on the right hand rear of the camper was pulled loose and twisted back. I raised my eyes and looked across the alley and saw a large horizontal gash about 18" above the ground in the neighbor's fence. That explained what made the loud noise on turns.
Since CT worked for an insurance agent, she was always telling customers to never admit liability when they were involved in an accident. One day CT was going to the store (we had sold the camper and owned a 3/4 ton pickup). She backed down the drive and started into the alley when there was another loud noise. She ralized she had backed into a passing car (which was probably speeding down the alley). She jumped out of the truck and rand down the drive shouting "it's all my fault".
The "Clumbsy Oaf"
Cynthia was the kind of person who usually had positive thoughts about everybody and rarley said anything negative about anyone. One time CT, John, Jason, and I had gone to the farm for the week-end. It was early fall and Mom (Sue) had backed two peach cobblers. Sue has always made superb peach cobler. She baked these on this particular day and put them into the fridge so they would be cool for supper. But since the fridge was small, she place them one on top of the other. In those days the house at the farm only had two rooms and a bath, the kitchen and den were combined into one long room. We all ate at a picknik table Dad had finished, which sat in the middle of the kitchen. On this day, we had all finished eating the main courses, and it was time for dessert, Mom asked Dad to get one of the cobblers from the fridge. Dad turned around, still seated, and opened the fridge door, picked up the top cobbler. As he lifted it from the fridge to the table, he didn't realize the second cobbler was stuck to the bottom of the first. As luck would have it, about half way from the fridge to the table, the lower cobbler turned loose and fell to the concrete floor shattering the dish and spreading fresh cobbler across the floor. There was absolute silence for about two seconds then everyone heard Cynthia say "Clumbsy Oaf". This brought down the house and will forever be remembered by all present.
One evening when I came home from work, I walked through the back door into our breakfast nook, I looked down and in the middle of the table was my 1/2 inch wood chesel. I picked it and was about to ask why it was in the middle of the table when I noticed a large chunck of the bit was broken out. I proceeded to suffer a mild cardiac arrest and was finally able to ask Cynthia how this had come about. She simply replied, the handle was loose on one of her cook pots and she needed a screwdriver to tighten it. Immediately, I wasted a whole lot of air trying to explain the difference between a chisel and a screwdriver.
About two years later, Cynthia and I were at my favorite store (at the time) Sears. I was in the tool department and she had been shopping elsewhere. As she walked toward me she paused in front of bins filled with different sizes of wood chisels, and muttered under her breath "screwdrivers".
My grandson Christopher at 14, was about 6 feet tall, weighs about 200 LBS and is currently under going a trememndos growth spurt (as teen age boys are wont to do). During Christopher's growth spurt, he was ALWAYS hungry. At one time I took John, Michelle, Christopher, and Chelsea to supper at Ryan's Steak House (for those who aren't familiar with Ryan's, its an all you can eat buffet with very good food). Near the end of the meal I missed Christopher and decided to look for him. I found him in a line waiting to get ice cream from a machine. The only thing funny was, he already had an ice cream cone in his hand. Then it dawned on me, he was getting an ice cream cone and then going to the back of the line. While in the line, he ate the cone he had, so when he got back to the front of the line, the previous cone was gone and he was ready for another.
Call Forwarding, country style.
I was telling Bill the other day about something that happened at work. One of the monitoring men came in and said one of his associates, a 20 year old, had seen a TV commercial which showed a rotary dial phone. The young man asked what is a dial telephone. While we were laughing, we started talking about the first phones we had ever used. I talked about the cranked phone at home and that you had to tell the operator what number you wanted (our number at home was 13). I also remembered my mother calling my dad at work, when the operator answered Mom said "15" (the number at the lumber yard where Dad worked). The operator replied "hes not there, he went to the bank" and asked if Mom wanted to be connected to the bank. Upon reflection, this was the first call forwarding that I can remember.
BTW, I put these notes in when I remember them or sometime just add a note to remind me to add a story when I get time.
Uncle Johnny and the Concord Cemetary ghost
Once when Uncle Johnny and Uncle Willie (Willie Stafford James) were young men (or late teens) they were attending an all day singing and dinner at Concord Church between Hainesville and Quitman. Concord Church is at the intersection of FM778 and what is now CoRd2590 (on the north side of CoRd2590), which were probably both dirt in the early part of the twentieth century. As was typical in East Texas, the church had a cemetery, and in Concord's case was across CoRd2590 to the south, and enclosed by a small wrought iron painted fence with a gate in right at the corner and diagonally between FM778 and CoRd2590. The gate has since been moved to the southern end of the cemetary and faces on FM 778.
The all day singing was a form of spiritual revival and also a primary social event. Now at this time I don't believe Concord (or many other places in East Texas) had electric lights, hence the singing ended at dark. Both the boys had dates, and at the end of the day each walked their date home. Since the boys lived near each other and in a different direction from either of the girls, the boys planned to meet back at the church and walk home together. Uncle Johnny's date lived closer than Uncle Willie's so Uncle Johnny got back first. By this time it was dark as only country kids could appreciate how dark it gets in the country with no street lights or even lights in nearby houses (if there had been any nearby houses). On this particular night there wasn't even moonlight, only starlight. When he arrived back at the Church, Uncle Johnny sat down under a large post oak in front of the church and near the corner, directly across the road from the cemetery gate. He had been sitting for a little while when he happened to look across the road into the cemetery and noticed a white irregular shape. As he watched the object drifted slowly about occasionally pausing then moving on. As it moved about in the dark it ocassionally changed shape getting wider then narrower, but stayed the same distance from the ground. Soon, Uncle Johnny realized the object was drifting generally toward the gate, just across the road. As he watched, it moved closer and closer to the gate, continuing to move then pause. By this time Uncle Johnny was getting anxious and stood up, looking around to find a limb nearby which had been blown off a post oak during a recent storm. Uncle Johnny always maintained that he didn't believe in ghosts, but in this circumstance he didn't feel comfortable just sitting idle. He didn't know what good the limb would do, but he felt better just holding it. The object slowly drifted over near the fence and closer to the gate. Finally, it moved out of the gate and turned which revealed it as a white spot on the side of a cow, which had been grazing in the cemetery. That was always the end of the story, but I've recently wondered what Uncle Johnny told Uncle Willie when he returned.
Uncle Frank's Wife's, ghost.
Uncle Frank's (Charlie Franklin Turner) first wife (Aunt Bess) died, by falling into a well. This was a well known event in the family by the time I came along, but it was seldom mentioned. Uncle Johnny told this story several times and if I am not mistaken it was about Uncle Frank. On the day of his wife's funeral, and when the services were over, Uncle Frank returned home alone, since they never had children. He went through the rest of his day as near to normal as possible, and when the time came took a drink from the bucket in the kitchen, wound the clock, blew out the lamp and went to bed. He didn't go right to sleep and after a few minutes heard a loud "Thump". He got up and searched the house with no result. He returned to bed and went to sleep. The next evening, he went through his normal regimen and after he had been in bed for a few minutes, again heard the loud "Thump". He told a neighbor about the noise which started the evening his wife was buried, but the neighbor just suggested it was his departed wife's ghost. The noise continued for several nights, until he finally asked a friend to come spend the night and hear the noise. That evening both men went to bed at the same time and sure enough a few minutes after the lamp went out, the loud "Thump" was heard. Both men got up and searched the house but found nothing unusual. They talked for a while and the friend got another drink. Then continued to talk for several minutes when the "Thump" was heard. They went to the kitchen and found that the dipper in the bucket had a tiny hole which let in the water. When someone got a drink they left the dipper floating on the top of the water. The water slowly filled the dipper until it sank, and "thumped" on the bottom of the bucket.
I heard many of these stories when I was a boy, all of which had the same theme, the phenomena always had a logical explanation!
Uncle Riley (James)
Uncle Riley, was my great aunt Ella's (Ella Belle Turner) husband. He passed away when I was still In high school, but I remember him from numerous visits when I was staying with Uncle Johnny. He was tall and slender with white hair and spoke slow with a soft voice. He said he thought he was a distant cousin of Jessie and Frank James. Uncle Riley had a natural gift for mental addition and subtraction, being able to add or subtract multi digit numbers in his head. This was even more remarkable since he had not gone far in school. In the early days of Texas, many children had to quit school in order to help wok the farm and provide for the family. He also had a great amount of patience since, on one occasion, he had actually counted the number of bolls of cotton required to make a bale. One day while working in the field, Uncle Riley felt a sting in the back of his arm, he went to the doctor, who X-rayed his arm revealing a .22 caliber bullet?? He never knew where the bullet had come from, nor had it been removed. Uncle Riley was said to be one of the best in the family with an axe, since he had built a lot of fence using hand made rails.
One of his favorite expressions of amazement was "by the war" (I never asked which one).
I'll never forget being a young boy, following Uncle Johnny and Uncle Riley through the woods and listening to them discuss all manner of things, both present and past. I remember being shown a huge number of different kinds of trees and bushes, each with a careful description of what made this particular type of tree different from other similar trees. I wish I had paid more attention so more of this would have stuck with me.
Uncle Johnnie and Aunt Estelle
I used to stay with Uncle Johnny in the summers and during school breaks when I was between about 12 and 16. Uncle Johnny had a magical ability with any and all kids, and every kid he came in contact with loved him. My cousin William James (Uncle Willie's boy) said it best "When Uncle Johnny asked you to do something for him, it never even crossed your mind not to do exactly what he asked".
Uncle Johnnie and Aunt Estelle (Penix) only had one child, Lyman Richard, who died at birth. A lot of folks in the family felt this was a real shame, since Uncle Johnnie loved kids so much and had an almost "magical" way with children, they all loved him.
Aunt Estelle's father was Uncle Tom Penix (not my uncle but thats what everybody called him) who owned a large farm north of Haynesville on Smokey Lane. When she was a young woman (about 17 or 18), her father had given her a horse, which she rode everywhere. She also had a .38 revolver which she carried in a scabbard on a belt around her waist. It was very common to see her in Mineola or Quitman on her horse and armed. Of course this raised some eyebrows, since young ladies were supposed to be home learning to cook. As far as I know, Aunt Estelle was never a great cook, but she sure could shoot. And, according to my grandmother, it was scandalous for a woman to ride astradle of a horse. Ladies rode side sadle (which no one in my family could afford) or they rode in a wagon.
The Coon Hunt
One summer while I was staying with Uncle Johnnie, he asked me if I wanted to go coon hunting. Being about 10 or 12, I said sure. So we went to David Turner's (a distant cousin, I believe his dad was Uncle Johnnie's uncle). David loved to coon hunt and had several black and tan coon hounds. Uncle Johnnie and David agreed upon a time in the not too distant future and I couldn't wait. On the way home we stopped at Mrs. Moore's house and Uncle Johnnie told her what were going to do, then invited her to go. Mrs Moore, was the widow of Dr. Moore who had been the doctor in Haynesville for years. She loved to hunt and play 42 so she said 'sure'. On the chosen evening, Uncle Johnnie and I drove into the river bottom and met David at a chosen point on the bank of the river. Shortly afterward Mrs. Moore arrived. David turned the dogs loose while Uncle Johnnie built a fire. Then for a long time we just sat and listened to the hounds. David taught me to tell what the dogs were doing just by listening to the kind of sound they made. You could tell when they were just looking for a scent or when they were actually on the trail, and when they caught the coon or 'treed' it. Each dog had a unique bay that was unmistakable after you listened a while. When the dogs 'treed' a coon we got up and went across the bottom to where they were baying. David would kill the coon (David brought them back and sold the hides I believe). As soon as one coon was dispatched the dogs would take off looking for another scent, and we went back to the fire.
Central Texas Barbeque
One time, when the boys were about 12 and 10, we were returning from Patty's (my sister who lives in Houston) when about an hour into the trip the boys wanted to stop at McDonalds. Their mother told them no, Patty had prepared an excellent breakfast which they didn't eat. The boys fussed and fumed for another hour and a half when Cynthia, tired of hearing them, told me to pull off at the next exit (we had been seeing signs advertising a barbeque place). We stopped and went in, where Cynthia ordered 4 barbequed beef sandwitches. As she got back in the van carrying a brown paper sack, I noticed the sack was turning orange with grease spots. I ate about half my sandwitch (the lean part) and left the fat which was very thick. After a few minutes I noticed that the boys were very quiet and looked over my shoulder at John. He was just sitting there holding a sandwitch with one bite taken out of it and an indescribable look on his face. Needless to say the boys never ignored one of Patty's breakfasts again.
On February 22 2003, John and I went to Wood County, where we visited Mt. Pisgah, Concord, and Ebeneezer cemetaries.
We were able to find William Armstron Turner and his wife's grave (Ebeneezer).
We also found Thomas B. and his wife (son of William A).
In addition we found uncle Hoy and Huge with some of their families.
We didn't find Noah and his wife's grave but they are burried there.
I last remembered seeing Great Grandmother Martha Jane in Nacogdoches.
Andrew and Leatha are burried in the old city cemetary in mesquite, just west of old city lake.
Dad was cremated, his ashes scattered in a dog wood grove on the farm.
There is a memorial to him (also containing a portion of his ashes) at the old city lake cemetary near his parents.
A side note: John and I were talking and realized that his son Christoper is the oldest son of John, the oldest son of Paul, the os of Ary, the os of Andrew, the os of Noah, the os of William Armstrong. I wonder if William Armstrong was someone's oldest son?