Bronc Busters

There never was a horse that couldn’t be rode;
Never was a cowboy who couldn’t be throwed.

[Cowboy Way]

harry_blackOne time when my father was about twelve years old, he and six or eight of his pals were looking for a job. They thought if they could get themselves a job they’d have money of their own to spend. They heard that a man had brought a herd of wild horses to the railroad corral, and he was looking for somebody to ride the horses. You see, if he could say to a prospective buyer that the horses had been ridden, they would bring more money. So he hired this bunch of boys to ride his horses. They were wild mustangs and the boys were to get twenty five cents for each horse that they rode. The first day that my father went home all ragged and muddy and bruised, Grandma demanded to know where he’d been run over. He was proud to say that he had made fifty cents riding the wild mustangs. That irritated her so she got ahold of the mothers of the other boys and they started for the railroad corral. Now can’t you just see a bunch of angry mothers lifting their long, full skirts and trudging down through the dirt and everything to the corral? They confronted that man (Grandmother did the talking) and she told him what she thought of an adult that would use little boys roughly like that, and that if he didn’t get his horses out of town, she’d have him run out. Well, before dark, he and his mustangs were gone. She really put the fear in him.

The following is an MP3 audio file of Mama telling the same story as quoted above:


Amos and Susanna Black

What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance.
They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life.
And, most importantly, cookies.
[Rudolph Giuliani]

Susanna and Amos Black

Susanna and Amos Black, c. 1890

I loved to go to town with Grandpa Jim in the horse and buggy because, while he was buying groceries or visiting with old friends, I would get to go to my Grandmother Black’s. Her name was Sue Ann. Grandpa Black, Amos, Grandpa Amos, had come to Cherryvale many years before as an employee of the Pennsylvania Railroad. He was a bridge builder and trestle builder for the railroad. When he got to Kansas, the railroad was dividing out and spreading this way and that all over the country and he finally ended up working for the Santa Fe because it spread faster than the Pennsylvania at the time. When he sent back to Pennsylvania for his family, there was Grandma Sue and three, four children, three children, four children (laughs). I forgot how many! Robert, Rose, Alice, and my father Harry.

Well, they had to prepare for this long train ride which took them about four days from Johnstown, Pennsylvania to Cherryvale, Kansas. And of course there were no ways of getting food on this trip, at that time, or sleep, so she had to prepare food to last four children and her, that many days. It was stored in a huge brown basket—hand woven basket. Mostly meat she had cooked, baked and sliced, would keep longer so they had that and lots and lots of hard boiled eggs because those would keep. I don’t know what they did for drinks, but anyway, they made it to Kansas.


Amos Black built his family this home in Cherryvale, KS

When they got there Grandpa had a home he had rented. In the meantime Cherryvale was growing and they were selling downtown lots to business people who would help the town grow larger, so Grandpa Black bought two blocks of business building lots and in the years that followed he had built businesses on all of those two blocks and rented them to prospective business people, saving a corner of one of the lots practically in the center of town, he built a big two story house and that’s where I used to visit my grandparents. It’s still standing. Not too many years ago I drove over to Cherryvale to see how it looked. One time when we were out there on vacation and I sat out in front of that big house, trying to get up courage to go inside and tell the people how long ago I used to visit there, but I didn’t make it. Somehow I felt it was an intrusion on their privacy and I appreciated that and drove away. The only difference in the old house was the big wrap around porch was gone. Of course I suppose through neglected and ages of weather it deteriorated and was torn away, but anyway that was a delightful place to go. [ed.—Rachel’ made her trip to Cherryvale around 1980.]

Grandma Black was a very strict lady. She was of Quaker stock and serious as could be. She had a work basket that I used to straighten up for her. I thought I was doing her a great favor, I don’t know whether she liked it or not, but I’d see that all the spools were wrapped neatly and put in a row and that was a great thing was to clean up Grandma Black’s sewing basket. And I had a shelf, on the lower shelf in her pantry, that was mine. She told me I could keep all my toys there and anything I wanted to cherish and hold on to I put on my shelf and nobody would bother it. Of course I was the youngest granddaughter and probably, now that I look back, favored an awful lot.

The following is an MP3 audio file of Mama telling the same story as quoted above:


(Editor’s note: One must remember that memory is often faulty. One reference says that Grandma Sue was actually named Susan and her family was German Baptist or Dunkard Brethern.)

The Hatchlings

The song-birds leave us at the summer’s close,
Only the empty nests are left behind,
And pipings of the quail among the sheaves.

[Henry Wadsworth Longfellow]


clip1_story5Grandpa Jim came home from town one day, saying that he knew where he could get a pony for me providing my parents thought it was okay. Seems this other family had children who had outgrown the pony and they were wanting to find it a nice home. So, the pony was brought to the farm. It was bay and white spotted, half Indian pony and half Shetland. It was very gentle and a dear thing. I loved it and rode it to death probably.

I used to carry water to the farm hands as they were out in the field working. Mid morning my mother would send a cold drink and a snack of some kind— cookies and so forth—to them. I always rode out with it. Mid afternoon, when she knew they were at the end of the field where the trees gave them shade, I went out again with another snack and cold drink. And that was, I felt, very important because they were so glad to get it.

One time I went to the hay field where my father was mowing. When I got to him he said, “I have something for you in this little box.” He said, “I accidentally mowed over quail nest and so I put the eggs in here and you can take them to the house. We’ll watch them hatch.”

I thought that was a great idea so I hurried back with the quail eggs, but on the way I realized that this box I was carrying was Chipping. “Chip, chip, chip, chip, chip, chip, chip.” Well, I of course didn’t know what was happening, but when I got home I told my mother what I had in the box.

She said, “Well I hear it too. I hear this chipping. Let’s open it and see what happened.” We opened the box and out jumped these little quail. They were about to hatch, and it was so warm with me carrying them along in the sun so they did hatch on the way back to the house. They hopped out of that basket box and scurried all over the house.

The first thing mother did was shut the cat up so it couldn’t get any of them. We were all afternoon hunting those little quail. As we’d catch one I’d run out to the back lot and turn it loose in the bushes because there were quail out there and we knew they’d be okay since they are prepared to run and hunt food for themselves. About evening we were through catching seven little quail.

My father had a good laugh when he came back in that evening. Of course he didn’t realize that they were that near hatching, but anyway we had fun over the whole deal, and the cat was shut up in the clothes closet.

The following is an MP3 audio file of Mama telling the same story as quoted above:

Photo Source: Ohio Department of Natural Resources

The Buggy Horse

The good old horse-and-buggy days:
then you lived until you died and
not until you were just run over.

[Will Rogers]

Grandpa Jim had raised Morgan horses when he was younger so he prided himself in having such a beautiful team and buggy horse. We didn’t have a very good buggy horse and so one day he found someone in town who had a horse for sale. It was a good looking animal so he bought it and brought it home.

My mother was pleased to have a new buggy horse. The first time she and I went to town, we drove along pleasantly and stopped at my Grandfather Black’s home. As we started home the horse didn’t go very good, so she jerked on the reins to help it get started. It started trotting. Then she wanted to slow him down and she pulled hard on the reins. The horse started to run faster. Well, she held me against the buggy seat with one elbow, while she drove with the other hand. She kept trying to stop the horse—it was going down Main Street at a dead run, and we were coming to the corner where we had to turn South. She didn’t know what to do so she guided it around a big turn. and we headed south at a dead run. People gapped at us as we went pass—and her trying to stop that horse.

Well, she didn’t make it. It ran two miles and she wondered how we were going to get stopped. We came to our house, she slackened the lines, and the horse begun to slow down. When she got the lines real slack, it stopped. Well she couldn’t understand that. She’d never driven a horse under those conditions before.

She scolded Grandpa and my father, “There’s something wrong with that horse.”

“Oh,” Grandpa said. “I forgot to tell ya, he’s a [harness] race horse. He injured a foot and he can’t race any more, but he’s a good buggy horse—the harder you pull the faster he will run.” Well, of course that told the secret and after that we were very careful how we handled him. He was a good buggy horse.

The following is an MP3 audio file of Mama telling the same story as quoted above:

Our first farm

Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil
and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.
[Dwight David Eisenhower]

childhood home

Rachel’s grandfather, mother, sister Esther, and Rachel.
Esther was 2 years old and Rachel was 7 so this was 1913.

My father loved animals, and he wanted to be a farmer so badly that we moved to a big farm Southeast of Cherryvale [Kansas]. Our house was a four roomed house, but huge rooms. And Grandpa Jim had the smallest bedroom. The big bedroom, which accommodated four beds, belonged to the rest of the family. The living room and the dining room and the kitchen were ample for a farm. There was a wrap-around porch, which means it ran all the way around and each room had a door that opened out on this big porch.

Close to the kitchen door was a cistern and a cellar. The cellar was over half way into the ground and then the top of it was covered with another building which we called the smoke house. Many things were stored there like, cured meat that bake in one part of the smoke house could smoke the meat—that’s the way they processed it in those days—and the cream separator. That was a machine turned by hand that separated the cream from the rest of the milk.

In the barn lot was a huge barn that could accommodate a lot of horses and cows in stalls and the hay mow above and there were other sheds, like the chicken shed and chicken house and the pig sheds and many trees—mostly locust. In the spring of the year when they would bloom, great bunches of blossoms would hang down like bunches of grapes and the odor was delightful. Back of the house was a wood lot and that was mostly Maple.

Well, there were many things new to all of us except Grandpa Jim. He had been through all of this before. And the big yard was fenced around the house and many trees and bushes and two rose bushes I remember especially—one was a huge pink rose called a cabbage rose. The other one was more or less a wild rose. It was yellow, not as large a blossom as the pink one, but had millions of thorns everywhere. You could hardly pick a rose for getting struck. And there were lilacs, and lilies, and irises. The yard was loaded with beautiful flowers.

The following is an MP3 audio file of Mama telling the same story as quoted above:

Sisters are different flowers from the same garden.
[Author Unknown]


Esther at eight months with Rachel at age five.

Auntie Clay was a colored lady who lived near us. She was born a slave, grew up a slave until freed, and she helped my mother do a lot of things. She would come and work in the garden. Help can. At butchering time she was a great help. She’d done so many things in her life that she just knew how to do everything. And when my sister [Esther] was born there wasn’t any of the modern foods of course, and my mother didn’t have any nurse for her at first. So I remember Auntie Clay sitting at the corner of the cook stove, with a little pan on the stove, with tea in it. She kept it warm on the stove and would dip a spoonful out at time into a dish onto a cracker, make the cracker real soft, and feed that to this newborn baby who seemed to like it very much. And for three or four days all she had was tea and crackers and the love that Auntie Clay gave her.

The following is an MP3 audio file of Mama telling the same story as quoted above:

Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.
[Oscar Wilde]

baby Rachel

I was born September the 7th, 1906, at Cherryvale, Kansas. My father was fireman for the steam boilers in a brick yard about two or three miles south of the city. A little village grew up around the brick yard called Corbin City. But we soon moved closer to town on 10 acres and had several cows, a team of horses, pigs, chickens and a huge garden. My grandfather, my mother’s father, lived with us and he had to have a garden. One morning, as my father came from work, he asked me to put my hand down in his overcoat pocket. I did that and felt something warm and fuzzy. He brought it out of the pocket and it was a yellow kitty. There were some kitties at the brick yard and he noticed that this one looked so hungry, and was in need of TLC, so he brought it home to me. I had a book that was The Three Kittens, and one of the kittens was yellow and named Mouser so of course that became my kitty’s name. Well we had Mouser sixteen years before he died.

[The photo below is our home in Corbin City, Kansas, c. 1908.]


The following is an MP3 audio file of Mama telling the same story as quoted above: