History Concerning My Father
Written Nov. 9, 1968
By Florence Mason Caywood Stout
Thomas Lindsay Caywood was born May 20, 1859 at Ewing, Ky. – the oldest of 8 sons of Mason Caywood and Elizabeth Ann Moore. He grew to young manhood on the tobacco plantation owned by his father – who was fairly well fixed financially. The older boys worked on the land. I can well remember my father telling me how the boys would go to the fields with slender paddles and “worm” the growing tobacco plants – by popping the worms between the paddles. And some of it was done by hand – a pinch and a twist on the head. These worms grew to be 3” to 4” long and were green in color and quite fat. They are sometimes found on tomato plants.
James Walter, the second son, was the one who provided much of the fun. One thing he did was to gallop to and from the field like a hound. He selected smooth, round rocks that would easily fit into his hands. Getting down on all fours he would lope all the way to the field – and carefully lay his rocks where he could easily find them. When noon came he would pick up his rocks and gallop to the house for the noon meal. Afterward he would take up his rocks and lope back to the field – as he went along he would say “ta-bick – ta-bick” –when he came to a fence (which would be a stake and rider) he just loped over – landing on all fours. My parents said they wondered how James Walter could work all day and have so much energy to play also.
My father told me about the big tobacco barns the tobacco growers built. He explained to me how the huge leaves were picked and carefully laid out, stacked and placed in the barns on gib beams to dry and to cure. He showed me how they took the leaves, rolled them and made tobacco twists.
When my father was nearly grown, his father, Mason Caywood and two other men signed on a note for his brother-in-law. When payment could not be made – the other two signers took the bankrupt law and each salvaged $1,400 – but my grandfather, Mason Caywood, looked upon taking bankruptcy as being dishonorable. And to keep his brother-in-law from going to jail – he paid the note off and was forced to sell all he had. It was then they decided to go to Kansas. They with the Dotsons, Shepherds and Stouts chartered a railroad car to get to Kansas. They took one horse with them from Ky. – he was called Pompi.
My father remained in Ky. with his grandmother Moore and worked. Then on December 19, 1882 at Oakwood, Ky., – he, Thomas Lindsay Caywood married my mother, Henrietta Elizabeth Moore of Flemingsburg, Ky. Pastor Day of the Mount Olivet and Mount Tabor Methodist Churches performed the ceremony. She was the daughter of James Monroe Moor and Caroline McCord Moor. These “Moors” or “Mores” as it was later spelled “Moore” were not related to the Moores on my father’s side. I asked my mother about this and she said her father’s people were from England and spelled their name “Moor” or “More” – I can’t remember which. Her mother’s people, the McCords – were of Irish descent. My mother’s father, John Monroe Moor, was a magistrate of the law. He must have been a very fine man for my father and mother both held him in high esteem. Soon after my parents were married, they also went to Kansas and lived with my grandfather’s for a short time.
The part of Kansas where they settled was 3-1/2 to 4 miles north-west of Alden (not then founded). All the land through this part belonged to the Santa Fe Railroad. My grandfather bought 150 acres and a little later my father bought 90 acres, adjoining; both for 90 cents per acre. A Negro called Bart went to Kansas with them from Ky. He made an “egg basket” from hickory bark and gave it to my parents. My mother prized it highly and it remained in our family until 1949. It wore out. This Negro did not stay very long with my grandfather’s family. He left and was not heard from again. It is believed he joined other Negroes at another settlement.
Times were rugged those years. They had few personal possessions and little to work with. There were no trees near that could be used for fire wood – the closest were the cotton woods growing along the Arkansas River – 3 miles south. The first crop of corn they raised grew huge ears of corn – and the following winter this same corn crop had to be used as fuel to keep the family warm. As told to me by my mother the following was their procedure of cooking the meals: meat was prepared and placed in the skillets, vegetables were prepared and put on the stove, biscuits or cornbread were ready to cook – then the fire was lighted – for buffalo chips were used for fuel. They could buy sorghum molasses but no fruit was to be had except a few sand plums which grew along the Arkansas River. I still have the cast iron skillet my parents went to house keeping with – and they bought it second-hand.
At this time there were still a few Indians around. Once in a while they were seen along the Arkansas River – mainly camping. But people had to watch their dogs. Indians would catch them and make stew of them.
My parents told me of a few lively times – even in rough times. Once in a while a family with several children would come to visit them – staying over night. After the evening meal the adults would all join in one room – close the door and turn the kitchen over to the youngsters for play. Some times the noise got pretty loud.
One incident as told to me by my parents – concerned the two younger boys, Cleon and Eugene. Company was being entertained one day and they were able to seat every one at the table except these two boys. As grandfather was saying grace and all the house was deeply silent – two little voices were heard saying loudly “you licked it” – “I didn’t lick it” – “you did too lick it” – “I didn’t lick it” – on and on. What had happened was that grandmother had made a bowl of gravy for the meal and had left some of it – and the spoon in the skillet for the 2 boys to eat with some bread – and one of them had picked up the spoon and licked it and the other boy was angry about it.
When Eugene was about 8 years old he decided to pop some corn one snowy winter day. He popped corn until he was rather damp from perspiration – then suddenly disappeared. Some of the family went to look for him and found him on the north side of the house pulling off his shirt – to cool off!
Another thing I remember as told to me by my father was a game the Caywood brothers played when all were at home. They called it “running the Gauntlet.” The family had 3 or 4 cats to keep down mice and rats. In cold weather the cats wanted to stay indoors by the fire. The boys would fill their pockets and hands with corn cobs and line up on each side of the road from the house to the barn. Then one boy would slip into the house – shoo out the cats and run back in line. The minute the cats were outside they knew what they had to do. With tails straight up in the air – they went for the barn as fast as they could go – with boys from both sides throwing corn cobs at them.
Here at my grandfather’s home – my oldest brother Cyrus Elmer Caywood was born November 26, 1883. When he was about one year old my parents went to Ky. for a visit and while there the second son Vernon Oren Caywood was born March 16, 1885 at Ewing, Ky. After going back to Kansas my father built a small house on his land and moved to it.
Four years later my grandmother, Elizabeth Ann died – in 1889. Then in 1895, January 21 – I, Florence Mason Caywood was born and named for my grandfather Mason Caywood.
On November 12, 1896, my youngest brother Bruce Prater Caywood was born. At this time my mother had “milk leg” and was bed fast for some time. When I was in my “teens” my mother and I were talking of this time when Bruce was born. I told her I remembered that time. She said I could not – as I was too young. Then I told her where the big rocker sat, a trunk was in a certain corner, her dresses hung on the wall beside the bed in which she lay – she said I was right.
After my grandmother died my mother helped grandfather’s family all she could. Each week she walked the 1/2 mile to grandfather’s house – put all their laundry in a sheet – carried it back home – did the washing on a rub – board and when it was dry she carried it back to grandfather’s. At this time I was born – and as my mother told me in later years, no one expected me to live. After a battle of 2 hours – I finally breathed – but all my young years were filled with much illness – and also so much of later years.
In these years I grew deeply attached to my grandfather. In my eyes he was perfect and could do no wrong. He was my only grand parent as all the others had passed away before my time. Whenever I had to take to my bed with sickness – he always brought me some little thing to cheer me. It was a few flowers if any were in bloom. One time that I remember well, he bought me a bouquet of alfalfa blossoms, as no other flower could be found. He was always so kind to me.
Something that stands out boldly in my memory are the things about the heavens of sky that were taught me by my father and grandfather. I followed them about as they watched and talked – and I listened. Often I went with my father to the corral, climbed to a high perch on the feed rack and just sat there and watched with him – he could tell me what was going on. They taught me which clouds carried rain; which ones had hail; which brought wind; which were electrical; which were cyclonic and how tornadoes were formed; what winds blowing from different directions and at different seasons meant; the difference between a storm cloud coming with the wind and one coming against a wind; which wind brought drought and which moisture; forming the rainbow and its signs; how to go out in the morning – evaluate the sky, clouds and wind and pretty well tell what kind of day it would be.
When I was six years old, my father filed on a 160 acres in Okla. Territory – 20 miles south of Woodward, Okla. In proving up on the land my father, mother, my youngest brother Bruce and myself spent one winter there – a very miserable one. My mother and I almost died – she with erysipelas, resulting from a fall. The only doctor we had was a dope addict – much of the time he seemed half asleep. In my sickness I well remembered how I begged for water – but the doctor would not permit even one spoonful. Someone had to help me walk when I got up. At this time I received a letter from my grandfather which I have kept through the years. It is to be found with this part of the history.
My older brother Vernon went to Oklahoma with us but became so ill with asthma he had to return to Kansas. Then my oldest brother Elmer and a cousin Nora McCord came to help us out and stayed through the winter.
My grandfather’s home was a Christian home. His sons all grew up in that atmosphere – and were taught God’s precepts of character building. This kind of heritage is more precious than silver or gold.
Once when I was about 10 years old grandfather took me upstairs at his home, opened an old trunk and showed me the personal things he had kept that had belonged to my grandmother. I have a pin that belonged to her. He was very sad as he showed me the things.
About this time I decided I wanted to make a quilt and give it to my grandfather. My mother cut out the blocks and I sewed them all together. My mother then bought material to finish it up, quilted it – then I proudly gave it to grandfather. It was not my work I was proud of – but it was the fact that I had something to give him. For I loved him so very much.
He bought a small book of songs and gave me when I was about 10 years old. It contained a special song that he often asked me to play for him. Only he and I would be in the room as I played it and I knew tears were running down his face for I had seen them. The song was “I Will See My Mother.” When he passed away, a great light went out of my life.
Due to ill health, I could not attend school until I entered the fifth grade. My oldest brother, Elmer, was the one who tried in so many ways to make me smile during my many and long illnesses. He would even catch birds and bring them in for me to look at and pet – then turn them loose.
Whenever Grandfather came to our house for a meal I always sat by him – for he shared his coffee with me. This was when I was only 6 or 7 years old.
Often I went to the table with the family but ate little or nothing. Sometimes I would sit between my two older brothers. Vernon emphatically declared he did not like white soup beans, but liked the red ones. One day my mother cooked some white beans, and as usual Vernon passed them up. I was sitting between the boys with a few on my plate. I had a sudden thought, and promptly executed it. I filled a spoon with white beans and as Vernon opened his mouth for his bite of food I shoved my spoon of beans in also and he had to eat them.
In warm weather Bruce and I climbed over every building on the farm, even on top of the house. Elmer and Vernon made us a rope swing, fastened to very high limbs on cottonwood trees. Then they would swing us so high we went way out over the tops of big peach trees.
All my young years were absorbed in a deep and intensive desire to obtain a musical education from a conservatory. My father played an accordion and my older brother an auto-harp – and I was trying to learn to play both. But when I was about 16, we learned my younger brother, Bruce, had a heart defect and would not be able to over exercise. I knew he must have a good education, so I said nothing about my musical career. I then decided to train and work for some time as a nurse, but my mother stopped that flat. I then planned to teach, go to school, teach, go to school, ‘till I achieved my ambition but that did not work out either. Many times I have felt like I was pretty much a failure. I did teach 2 years.
While my two older brothers were still at home, for several years our house was filled with young people. Nearly every Sunday and sometimes evenings through the week. We had lots of fun but how tired I did get helping with all the cooking and dish washing.
One day my parents, Bruce 12 and myself, 14 went to pick delicious sand plums south of the Arkansas River. Bruce and I were picking on opposite sides of a plum bush. Suddenly we heard a rattle. We both froze – ‘till we could see the rattle snake, which was between us. I told Bruce to stand quiet and watch it while I hunted something with which to kill it. I could find nothing but a 10 inch wrench. When I got back the snake had gone underground, but I dug it out with the wrench and killed it. We told our parents afterward.
Uncle Bill’s two oldest, Ray and Lizzie, Bruce and I, Uncle Elzay’s two oldest, Virgil and Lola, Uncle Cleon’s oldest boy Willis and our cousins, Lawrence and Emma Fair, all attended elementary school in Alden. Our conveyances were horses and buggies. Bruce and I drove a white cow pony (trained to herd cattle) – named Old Jim. If we feared we might be late for school, we laid the switch on. When Old Jim got enough of it he would kick with both high feet. One time the switch had worn down to a stub and Bruce had to get down on his knees to whack the horse and Old Jim kicked so high he almost got Bruce. And at times he seemed to try to get even with us by trying to get scared at a mule, a bunch of grass or anything he might see. And he wasn’t scared at all – just horse philosophy!
When school was out for the day, sometimes our thought turned to mischief. One evening Virgil decided to see how close he could circle a telephone pole and not hit it. He got too close, hit it and upended the topless buggy, dumping Lola out and I think him also.
Another evening Lawrence and Emma got into an argument. Lawrence took over the whole buggy seat (topless buggy) and made Emma stand on the back end of the buggy. When we all came to the rail-road crossing, Lawrence headed down the railroad track – the horse between the rails and the wheels going bumpity-bump on all the ties. They kept on going about a mile to the next railroad crossing, where they turned on to the highway and on home.
Before I was school age my two older brothers attended a school 2-1/2 miles west of our house. They took their lunch in a nice rectangular pail, with inside tray for pie or cake and a top which could be filled with liquid. The boys, many times, would walk 3/4 mile; hop a freight train and ride nearly to school. At this point grew a small grove of trees and the boys kept out of sight among the trees. They had to figure out a way to hop the train and also keep their lunch pail. This was their strategy. They put a certain distance between them. The one nearest the approaching train had free hands – the other had the pail. The free handed one would hop a car, ride to the other boy, pick up the pail and then the other was free to hop the next car – and both ride nearly to school and jump off. But some times the train would speed up and when they jumped off the landed in a big sand bur patch on their knees and seats and their lunch spilled all over. At these times they spent some time picking out sand burs and at noon their lunch was seasoned with sand. But my parents knew nothing about this. I wondered why their lunch pail was so dented. Many freight trains ran and at slow speed.
Another trick they pulled was to get in a buggy and drive to Alden early in the evening. After tying the horse up well – they would go to the depot or nearby, hop a freight, ride to Sterling – then fool around ‘till another freight train came along going west. They would hop it and ride back to Alden, then get their horse and buggy and go home. My parents did not know this either. Years later the boys told it.
Uncle Cleon and Aunt Ollie lived in a 2 story house. Their five boys had the entire second story for their bed rooms. Aunt Ollie told me about the wild pillow fights the boys had. She laughed about it and said boys would be boys.
Their oldest son, Willis, pulled a prank I’ll have to tell – though there were many others. Willis was at Uncle Bill’s house in the summer doing some work I think. One evening he went upstairs to go to bed. An electrical storm was getting under way. Willis’ bed room was directly above the living room down stairs and in its ceiling was a hole through which the stove-pipe went in the winter. Uncle Bill’s youngest son Myrl who was grown up, had taken a wash tub of water into the living room and set it directly under the hole in the ceiling, and proceeded to take a bath. When Willis heard the water splashing he had a sudden idea. He very quietly slipped a bed slat from under the bed springs – lowered it very quietly through the hold and down ‘till it was at Myrl’s back – but swung far out. When Myrl stopped over in his bath tub – Willis let the slat pop him on his seat. The phone was just near the bath tub and Myrl thought lightning (fire) had shot out of the phone and he almost tore up that corner of the room. Willis jerked the slat up and rolled on the floor to keep from being heard laughing. He told me this story.
Uncle Elzay knew a very funny story – my parents often spoke of it, but said no one could tell it like he could. Finally, I asked him to tell me, but he refused. I never knew why. Wish he had, so I could write it.
My youngest Uncle was Eugene who married Clara Lyon and they had one son, Evert. Eugene was a Baptist minister and they had some rough times and also many times of laughter. I’ll relate one story about them. The three had worked pretty hard one day, even until after dark. Evert got tired and sleepy so crawled up and stretched out on top of the piano. A little later Aunt Clara, to equal Evert, lay down on the table and went to sleep. Uncle Gene looked around and wondered how he could out do both of them. He finally managed to crawl up to the top of a high cupboard. He was a tall man and found it difficult to crimp himself to fit the small space. He said he sure couldn’t nap and was might glad when the other two woke up to see he had out done them. Some years later in W.W. II, Evert enlisted in the navy and was killed on a ship by a Japanese suicide plane. He left a wife, Alma, and a son, Arlen, who live in Woodward, Okla.
In 1901 my father built a new house. I was 6 years old then. In 1904 Elmer went to the World Fair being held in St. Louis. For me, he brought from the Fair a small metal trinket, shaped like an egg, a chain fastened at each end and when opened, had a small thimble inside. I still have it.
Kansas is one of our heavy wheat producing states. But harvest time in 1968 is far different from what it was in 1900, when wheat was cut with a binder and put in shocks – later headers were used to cut the wheat which was caught in large header barges, then taken and put in big wheat stacks to be threshed out later by the threshing machine, which was run by a steam engine. In those days there were no bakeries, no canned meat or vegetables. We had to grow our food. Each fall my father butchered 6 to 10 hogs, depending on size and also some beef. I well remember Bruce and I were washing dishes and pulling weeds when we were 6 and 8 years old. When we were 12 and 14 we had a little idle time. Wheat harvest was hard work, but we also had some fun. While the men ate at noon, Bruce pumped water to fill the big water tank. When the men finished eating, the younger ones were sure to see to it that one of their number was thrown in the tank, then they usually scuffled ‘till all had been dunked. When the last day came, my father would write out checks to all the hired men, then followed a big ice-cream feed.
When my two sons were in their teens, they and my oldest brother helped in the wheat harvest at my brother Vernon’s home. They cut wheat through the day with the tractor pulling the combine. At night a carbide light was put on the tractor and it pulled a three row lister to tear up the ground – 35 acres could be listed in a single night. One morning Vernon was out in the field oiling up the tractor to cut wheat. A new, full 5 gal. can of tractor grease was sitting near. My older brother Elmer started out to the tractor in a pick up. He followed the rows ‘till he had to turn toward the tractor. He thought he could go diagonally – but crossing the furrows and ridges this way – shook and rocked the pickup and himself so badly he could barely hold on – he saw that can of grease in his path but was unable to change his course – so he hit it squarely and grease flew in every direction. When he got the pickup stopped, Vernon was doubled over laughing. He said it was worth the cost of the oil to see Elmer trying to hang on long enough to get the pickup stopped. He always laughed when the joke was on him.
That same summer my two boys… and Vernon’s two teenage girls… pulled a good joke on Elmer. He was out working and didn’t get to the house for his breakfast ‘till after the others had finished. His breakfast was prepared and set on the end of the table. He sat down and was eating and talking to the four boys and girls – who had stationed themselves for a good view. [One of them] quietly slipped a light big fire-cracker under his chair (from the back). When that cracker went off – he just about made shambles of that corner of the kitchen. But any prank pulled on him, he had it coming for he surely enjoyed them all.
Wheat threshing time was shorter than harvest time but the work was harder. I well remember we had at times 26 men to feed at noon. About half that number for evening and breakfast. My day lasted from 6 A.M. to 9 P.M. – then I worked another hour practicing on the piano.
Although in 1968 Kentucky is not a prominent state it has been in the past. It was called the “blue grass” state and was known for its fine horses. Being raised there my parents were hard working, industrious, and promoted education. Pride and good manners were very important also. My mother had 3 sisters and 4 brothers. Hemp was grown and woven into material for clothes. The men wore white linen shirts, even in the fields. My mother and her older sister did the family wash. They took the clothes down to a creek, boiled them there, then scrubbed them on wash boards. It took them all day. I have a piece of fine linen and also one of heavier linen that were woven in 1815, and belonged to my mother’s parents – also calling cards and other things of that era. I have a glass that belonged to my father’s grandmother.
My parents had two books “Stories of the Bible” which they read to Bruce and I (we were quite small) ‘till they almost fell apart. Then when my two boys were very young, five and two years old, I had no Bible story book, so I read to them practically every story right from the Bible. When they were 8 and 6 I read the book “Ben Hur” twice to them, besides Bible reading.
I want to state most emphatically, that during all the years I lived in my father’s and mother’s home – the one thing that lodged deepest in my heart and had the most lasting effect, was our Family Altar. When work was finished for the day, my father would take his Bible or ask one of us children to bring it to him. He would read a portion of God’s Word as we all sat quietly and reverently listened. Then we all knelt at our chairs, while he prayed aloud. I have never ceased to be thankful for this Christian training.