On the old Case place that the Choc Pitts Family had rented from Mr. Berry, in January of 1931, Dad and his boys had taken out all of the apple orchard, had fixed all of the fences and had the Delco Remy generator working so there were electric lights in the house. Now Mr. Berry wanted his farm back!
Dad found a 40-acre farm on the road between the John Lasater place and the Willie Jordan place east of Pea Ridge. He had rented it from its owner, Mr. Brinkman, who lived near Seligman, Mo. It was a three-room house with a large living room, large kitchen and a lean-to bedroom, all the way across the back of the house on the north side. It had a front porch on the south side. It had a barn and a good well dug near the house.
Mom and Dad put theirs and sister Helen's beds in the front room. The boys were in the large bedroom at the back. The problem was that the door to the bedroom was so close to Dad's bed that the roughhousing in the evenings came to a sudden halt.
The four Pitts boys were now having to walk nearly a mile to the Pea Ridge School. The rule was that if you lived less than a mile from school, you couldn't ride the bus. The place we lived in now was less than a mile.
Bob and Charles walked straight west and came out on the highway near the Pickens cave. Mother wouldn't let Dave and I go that way, we had to walk across the field to the highway and then to Pea Ridge. One reason we had to walk the mile was that Mother had some good friends on the highway who would keep an eye on us. (Early Neighborhood Watch!)
This didn't suit David and me so well as some of the friends were keeping too good an eye on us and we got reprimanded for minor infractions. In one case, about once a week we would take the coal-oil can and leave it at the Clint Mount Store in the morning and pick it up full in the afternoon. The gallon of coal oil cost a dime and Mother would give us a nickel to spend for candy.
On one of those afternoons, we bought a penny box of matches. It took just a tiny bit of coal-oil to make the horse piles burn up. We thought we were doing a good deed getting rid of the dried horse piles. In a couple of days we saw a good neighbor coming across the field. David said, "We are in trouble now."
The good neighbor and Mother were sitting on the front porch talking and David and I were on the east side of the house listening. After a while the good neighbor asked, "Phebe, how is your coal-oil lasting?"
Mother said, "No problems, why?"
The good neighbor said, "It would last a lot longer if Joe and David wouldn't try to burn all of the dried horse piles between here and Pea Ridge!"
David said, "I knew something was coming when I saw the good neighbor coming across the field."
Mother later asked, "Where did you get the matches to set the horse piles on fire?"
We told her we used the money for candy, and she told us that she may have to take away our nickel for candy. That ended the burning of horse piles.
Dad and the boys moved one of the haystacks that was on the Carter farm and put it into the barn so Mother could feed the heifers she bought. Felix was working for Eugene "Debs" Hall on the Ed Hall apple, grape and truck farm. Ed had a fruit stand in Oklahoma that he ran most of the year. That left Debs to take care of the farm.
One day Ed said that the rats liked his apples so much that they stole his false teeth to eat them with. He had put them into a cup one night and in the morning they were gone. They had trimmed all of the apples and grapes and were getting ready to start spraying. Debs had two younger brothers, Billy and Coalie, but he couldn't seem to get too much work out of them.
Mother had Felix go up to Gateway and buy her six new oak kitchen chairs from a man names Ash. Ash made his chairs out of white oak with split white oak thin strips woven for the seat. At last she had put the long bench out on the porch and we all used chairs to eat. We used the bench to set the drinking water and wash basin on. We were crowded but we could handle it. At least we didn't have to walk a mile for our water.
Charles was working for and staying with Leonard Miser. That left Dad and Bob to do the farming. They broke the largest field on the place to sew oats in. Dad had such good luck with oats on the Carter farm that he thought he was an oat farmer.
When Debs Hall got ready to spray, he hired Dad to help.
I had a hernia when I about 4 years of age so I wasn't allowed to do any of the farm work and was appointed as Mom's helper. I would keep her reservoir in her stove filled, kept the water bucket filled by the wash stand and kept her cooking water bucket full. I kept plenty of wood for her cooking in the wood box. I also ran errands for her.
At noon, I would catch the mare and take Felix and Dad their lunch. They were spraying the grapes and apples at Debs Hall's. One day as I was coming back from taking their lunch, I came to a pond where they got the water to mix with their spray dope. I tried to get Kit to go through the pond but she refused. I put the milk bucket that held their lunch on the ground and rode Kit back about 10 apple rows. I put the switch on Kit and had her going pretty good. When we got to the pond Kit stopped and I didn't. I went head over heels into the spray dope pond head first. I waded out of the pond, got the milk bucket, caught the mare and rode home. When Mother smelled me she asked if I had tried to run the mare through the spray dope pond.
You couldn't fool Mother, she was raising eight boys and knew us pretty well. She kept my secret, for which I was very thankful.
Editor's note: Joe Pitts (1920-2008) was a native of Pea Ridge and regular columnist for the newspaper. He began writing a column for The Times in 2000 initially entitled "Things Happen" by Joe "Pea Patch" Pitts.