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These are some of the stories my grandmother, Margaret Donley, told me and her other grandchildren. Most of the stories are about her childhood in rural Texas -- mostly Montague County and Wellington -- before and during the Great Depression. Among the people she references often are her parents, her grandparents, and her siblings, Mary Jo, Muriel, Kathleen, Ben, and Snooks. These stories were collected by my mother prior to my grandmother's 95th birthday; they are told in a close approximation of my grandmother's storytelling style. 

Read Part 2 and Part 3.

Quicksand - June 9, 1920

On Ben's thirteenth birthday, we all went berry picking. Only Mama didn't go, and I can't remember Mary Jo being there. We had no conveyance, so we walked about two to three miles northwest of Whitesboro. We were looking along the creek, and Muriel yelled from across the creek, "Over here! There's lots of them!"

Papa, Snooks, and Ben ran across the sandy creek bed. When Kathleen and I went across, we sank in quicksand. It was up to Kathleen's neck. I pushed down on her trying to get out. The more we struggled, the worse it made the quicksand. Papa and Ben got a big tree limb and got us out. Our berry picking buckets were lost in the quicksand. Even though we were soaking wet, we didn't go right home, but kept picking berries.

Later, Snooks (age 7) yelled, "Looka there, look there!" Muriel said, "Get back! It's a copperhead!" He had been standing right by it.

We went home when we had our berries. It was getting dark, and Kathleen and I were cold. We stopped at a house and borrowed coats for us.


We lived on the edge of town. We were quarantined because Mama had smallpox. We didn't have a telephone, but after quarantine, we asked to have one installed. They wouldn't enter our house, so they put it on our front porch. That way, we could call in and order our groceries to be delivered. When the deliveryman came, he wouldn't come up to the house. It was set back from the road a good bit. He was afraid of taking smallpox.

Mary Jo and Muriel were teenagers and were the chief cooks. Mama loved vegetables and thrived on them. Mary Jo and Muriel didn't know how to cook and took the easiest route for meals. We used 18 dozen lemons for lemonade and made homemade ice cream over and over. The quarantine lasted 21 days. Mama was anxious to get out of bed because she was hungry for vegetables and wanted to cook.

She was covered in smallpox, even in her mouth. We were all vaccinated. Papa and Muriel had what they called viriloids. Papa had about a dozen pox on his forehead, and Muriel had a few. The rest of us got by without a pox. Papa and Muriel were really sick.

Old Boston

There was a little boy by the name of Rutledge who lived next door. His name was George. He was about four years old. He just loved Ben. He'd come over to see us every little bit hoping to see Ben. Ben would say "Hi, Pard," and George would say it back to him. He was at our house a lot of the time.

Every time he came, Mama was busy doing something. He came one day and didn't see her around anywhere. He called both Mama and Papa "Old Boston," because that was our last name. He said, "Where's Old Boston?"

Papa said, "Here I am."

He said, "I don't mean you, Old Boston. I mean Old Boston that does all the work."

Puppet Show

Papa would get under the bed. He'd put his hands together with a towel over them. He'd lie on his stomach and stick his hands out from under the quilt. We kids would ask him questions like "Do you like me?" -- Just kid's questions. He'd shake the puppet's head and answer by the puppet's movements. It entertained us.


It was a summer night. We had a kinda high front porch. All eight of us were on the porch or on the steps. We sang songs as we thought of them. Papa would sing tenor; Muriel sang alto; Mama, Mary Jo, and I sang soprano. Ben sang baritone. Snooks still had a little boy's voice. Kathleen couldn't carry a tune, but didn't know it.

We sang until bedtime. We didn't know anyone was listening to us. When we stopped singing, our neighbors began to clap. They had been sitting on their porches listening.

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