William Fontaine Canady
tells some stories about his father's family.
During my trip home to Texas in the summer of 1990, Mother and I went to visit Fontaine at his home in Lampasas. It was decided that we would drive up to Brown county to visit the area where our Damron family had lived. Mother's mother was Sallie Elizabeth "Lizzie" Damron who married William Jefferson Canady. The lived in Milam County. Lizzie's parents and most of her siblings remaine in Brown County.
With Fontaine, his wife Lugenia, and daughter Melissa and grandson Andy, we set of for Zephyr where so many Damron relative are buried. Then we drove out to the immediate area where they had lived. Return from that visit Fontaine began telling stories of the Canady in Jones Prairie. As often happened, when he would relate these his manner of speaking would shift into a more "country" sounding style. I am not certain of the time that each occurred but I think it would have been in the 1920s. Grandmother Canady died after Christmas in 1924. Vernon died in 1925. This helps set the time frames.
I was sitting in the front seat as he drove. When he started telling the stories I put a small tape recorder on the seat between us. Later, I transcribed them and retained the original recordings.
Below are these stories. I will adding recordings as I can.
Mealtime at the Jeff Canady Household
See, Lynn an' Vernon was young and Aunt Maudie was young an' when the married kids'd come well that put the single kids at the foot of the table. The way they had it all lined up, well, the ol' man sat at the end of the table an' Grandma'd sit on the west side next to 'im. An' then Annlee so she could see after Annlee. An' she'd gettem all to eatin' an' she knew what each, uh, like Ivy an' Big R... she knew just exactly what they liked the best. So she'd sorta watch an' keep one eye one 'em. ya know, an' she'd get up from that table. She'd run up an' down there, sez, "Orval, doncha want some more of my bacon?"
"Yeah, Mama, I shore do."
Bacon was about that long an' about that wide an' about a quarter inch thick. The rind was still on it. Eat about six o' them. An' sitting by them was Ivy an' Ethel.
Sez, "Ivy, doncha doncha want some more o' my black-eyed..."
"Yeah, Mama, I shore do."
She'd go on there an' ... sez, "Newt, doncha want some..."
"Yeah, Mama, I want some more o' that drease gravy." He wouln't call it "grease gravy," he'd say, "yeah, Mama, I want some more o' that drease gravy." That's the drippin' off that bacon, see. He'd put than on his biscuits an'...
Well, after them damn guys eat like a hog.... black-eye peas was a staple then. After they'd all eat like a hog, couldn't eat no more, then they'd get them biscuits. They's about that big around. An' then, meat skins, they called em' meat skins, they didn't call it rind, they called it meat skins. They didn't eat the meat skins with the bacon, They's eat that off an' stack 'em on the side of the plate. Then, they'd open up this biscuit, "one more biscuit, Mama." So, Grandma'd put out another biscuit. They'd take them meat skins an' lay 'em out in there an' made a sandwich out it an' then eat the meat skins.
But the ol' lady was pettin' them boys. Her boys, she thought they 'uz hot stuff. The married boys, she was pettin' 'em cause the was home.
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Ya know they wadden ascared of that ol' man. Them other boys were. They weren't ascared... Lynn 'n' Vernon weren't ascared of that ol' man. Hell, they'd even needle 'im.
They's out there makin' syrup. An' they had the cane all pile up there ... An they's 'pokin' it through there. When it come out on the other side it was crushed. They threw it in a pile...in the shade over there. They's gonna throw it over the fence for the hogs. So, come dinner time, well, they unhooked the ol' horses, the mules. That's lynn 'n' Vernon's job. Anything that had any runnin', well, they do that that cause they's runnin' anyway. So, they... they unhooked the... they already had one of 'em out there. They's just one horse pullin' the...
So, so come dinner time an' they took that other mule an' put him over there an' uh they were nibblin' round on that cane there. An' during the course of the dinner hour, well, the sun come on over an' the shade lifted an' stuff started turnin' into home brew. An' them mules kept eatin' that an' they's big around as a barrel. When we went bac to hook 'em up an' the ol' mule fell down. Made about two rounds and fell down. They took him out an' put another un in an' he fell down. Thats when they found out they's drunk.
The horses came untied an' went over there an' eat that stuff. He (Grandpa Canady) giv 'em a story about how to... the proper way to tie horses. Yeah, he'd talk like that, ya know, (gesturiong a hand into the air) with his hands comming up an' down. An' afater he'd spoke his piece he'd, well, he'd tuck his head down an' go on about his work. An' he'd work like a wild man.
Lynn, Vernon and the Car
Did I ever tell ya the one they pulled on Grandma about.., when they's gettin' in a row about drivin' the car? Well, they had this car, not so terribly long, an' theys still all fightin' about who was gonna dirve. Uncle Lynn an' Uncle Vernon...an' they'd find an excuse to go to the store 'bout ever' day. An when they'd get ready to go there'd be a big knock-down drag-out fight 'bout who was gonna drive. So, Grandma settled that!
An' she sez, "Now, Vernon, you drive over there and, Lynn, you drive back."
Well, that went on pretty good for a while. They went to the store. They come back by the mailbox.
(Lynn) sez, " I'm gonna stop here, Bunny," Sez, "look over there an' see if I've got any mail." Sez, "I'm expectin' a letter."
Well, he got... Yeah, sure 'nuff, he had a letter.
Sez, " Why don't you drive on in, Bunny, I wanna read that letter."
So, Vernon drove on in an' when they drove up out there in the front, Grandma was on the front... " yeah, I told you boys I....how come... he drove over there an' he drivin' in... I told you boys.."
Lynn sez, "that's all right, Mama, I'll drive both ways next time." And the mail box was just 'bout two three hundred yards from the house, ya know.
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The Well Casing/Lining
Ya know, Grandpa could do any damm thing he needed to do. They don't never talk about what the ol' man did, about what he did that was any good. Ya know, they always talk about how damn grouchy he was. He good be any damn thing he needed to be. Pretty good, too. He built a well curbin' forty feet long. How do ya think he stood it up an put it in that well? He built a well travern out of lumber, ya know. A big four by four in the corner with a round... all around it was just lumber. 'Bout three foot in diameter. Well, they jacked up that... they had one end of it right at the opening of the ground. An' they jcked that other end up pretty high. High as they could. Put some blocks under it. an' tied ropes on to that upper end, extended 'em over the well-hole an' tied the wagon on to it on the other side. An' he tied ropes on the lower end an/ run them up to the ... toward the upper end. An' tied the wagon on to that to keep the bottom end from slippin' on past the hole, see. It held it right where it was at so when that upper end went up, That one team held the bottom end while the other team pulled the upper en up an' made it stand up. An; I never will forget, boy, when it went in that hole, it went in that hole.
Did I tell ya the story 'bout when they cleaned out that well? They's cleaning out that well puttin' new curbin' in it. Well, Grandpa, he come over there, ya know, an' he showed 'em hoe to fix the windlass... he'd tell everybody how to do it. He's workin', too, as far as that's concerned. An' fix the windlass. He'd nominate somebody to go down in that well, 'course, next time, it was somebody else's time. Ol' Jack Pond an' Bosie Pond, that was the neighbors, they's over there. An' they's just about a duplicate copy of Lynn an' Vernon. No difference in 'em. So, Jack an' Bosie, Lynn an' Vernon, and Daddy was there. An' they was apullin' that slush outta that well, ya know. An' ,this that and the other. They was just pourin' it over there on the ground. Slush about that deep.
After a while, Ivy, he decided he had to go in the house for sumpin, to getta match. I guess. Light his Bull Durham. On a little table there in the kitchen, there was a little vase thing where him an' Mama had been throwin' their nickles an' pennies. He had a big wad of nickles an' pennies worth. Ivy he just got those an' put 'em in his pocket. So, he went back out there an' nobody wasn't lookin' so he sorta give it that. (He sprinkled the coins in the slush.)
"I say, looka there. There's money commin outta that well. Looka there." So, they all went wild over that, ya know.
Caught 'em not lookin', he tried it again. I never will forget Uncle Lynn said "Let me go down in that well."
They played back an' forth there. After a while, well, Pa slipped some in the bucket goin' down. An' the ol' boy got down in the well and said, "look in there an' see if there's any money in that bucket." Sure enough, there's money in there.
They finally caught up with him. He just laughed. They got to havin' so much fun, finally, Grandpa sez, "That'll do." He sat over there. He knew what was goin' on an' he never cracked a smile. Ya know, it looks like he'd laughed a bit more than once in a while.
Old Pomp, the Mule
I'll tell ya sumpin the ol' man did that I ain't never heard nobody mention. But, I know damn well he did. He bought... When them boys got married, the first three boys, he bought each one of em' a span of mules. An' he give 'em some plow tools. Got 'em started, ya know. You never heard anybody mention that.
He give Uncle Newt an' ol' blue roan mule that come from down there on that Snead Plantation. But the n___rs down there had ruined that mule. He was a high spirited mule. An' they'd take that line, they'd take that pell line that come down on his back an' give 'im a good lick. Well, he finally got smart enough he knew just exactly how to... He's watchin' an' when that line come to a certain he'd flip that tail an' then would hit it. Uncle Newt'd plow with that mule, ya know. Well, ever so often the mule would miss his lick an' the line 'ould get under his tail. I'm tellin' you. I seen that! They had it down there that mornin" since they had this farm out there. House was sittin' 'bout half a mile from the road. An' on that side Uncle Newt had his an' the other side, Big R had his. Well, they's always arranging their stuff where they'd be as close together as they could. They'd start plowin' so ever time they made a round well they meet at the road an' turn around, they could say sumpin to each other. They liked that. Well, ol' Thomp, he got that line under that tail that morning. Made a big mess outta hisself. An' they went home to dinner. I was there, They's always havin' me around. I don't know what I was doin' there but I was at the end of the rows. I was at the end of the rows when they'd turn around an' I'd hear 'em talk. I'd wait for 'em to come back. Dinnertime. Well, Big R says "gimme that mule, this afternoon I'm gonna break him from that."
Sure 'nough, They made about two rounds an Ol' Pomp started cuttin' up. He'd walk up on top of the row. An' he'd get his foot out of the trail. Uncle Orval... tip tack. That mule had him timed just right That mule put that line under his tail an' Uncle Orval started pullin' it. The harder he pulled, the tighter it got. That mule was standing on his head. Goin' in circles an ever time he went around he got a little bit wider. An' after a while it got so wide that it headed right straight to the house. Right across the middle of the field. I never will forget Uncle Newt standin' up there laughin' and hollerin'. He said, "Big R, I thought you was gonna break him from that." Those damn guys had more fun with each other than anybody that I ever saw. But Uncle Orval wasn't in no good humor about it either. That mule had done made an ass outta him! Ol' Pomp. Ya know, Uncle Newt kept 'im. He kept that mule. He's the damnedest mule you ever seen. You'd work 'im all day an' he'd never get tired. He wasn't a Spanish mule. He was a lil bigger than a Spanish mule. He kept that mule an' another mule that Grandpa gave him until about 1932 when the depression got so tough and the bank took 'em away from 'im. He owed the bank. He had those mules mortgaged to the bank, ya know. To get money to live on. An' couldn't pay it an' they took 'em away from 'im.
Last time I talked to Uncle Newt, I asked 'im about Ol' Pomp. He laughted and would tell stories about that ol' mule. An' I asked 'im, I said, "Did that Mule ever get tired?"
He laughed, he said, "If he did I never did know it."
Them guys had a lot of fun 'til the Depression got 'em. An' all them other boys, Uncle Orvall an' Uncle Lynn, an' Uncle Newt, they'd always find sumpin they'd hooraw Mama about. If they could hooraw her, an' they'd do Grandma the same way, they'd get sumpin off on Grandma or Mama... some kinda joke or sumpin.
The Farm "Big R"
Them guys had a lotta fun ‘til the Depression come. And all them other boys, Uncle Orval an’ Uncle Lyyn an’ Uncle Newt, they’d always find something to hoorah Momma about, an’ they’d do Grandma the same way.
Me: How long did Grandpa hold on to that place out there?
How long did he own it?
Well, he went there in 1910, an’ he died in 1942. He still owned it when he died. Yeah. (unintelligible) told me how he paid for it. I didn’t think he had to pay for it. But, I guess he did. Aunt Maudie would know. I guess. But they said, yeah, he had to pay for it. But he owed the store. The old store, that’s what the debt they was talkin’ about. I always thought that maybe he’d put a little on that place. But they told me about three, four five years ago that he had to pay for it. I asked Elmo the other day about how much was raised of that corn and sorghum to take care of the livestock. I said, how much cotton did he make on that old place, on average, year in and year out? He says about ten bales. Which was more than I’d a thought. He made ten bales of cotton, he done better than I thought he done. He had to keep up on Uncle Orval. I don’t know whether he did Orval a little bit dirty or whether that he just didn’t have it.
During the Depression, there’s some years that Uncle Orval couldn’t even buy his kids a Christmas present. I mean nothing! It damn near run him crazy too. He went like a crazy man there for several years. An’ when the Depression was over, an’ he sorta went back to his original self, he went back to his original self a whole lot quicker than Daddy did. He went back to his original self. I run across him one day an’ hadn’t seen him for four or five years. He was laughin’ an’ hollerin’ an’ havin’ a good time, I couldn’t believe it was the same man. I couldn’t believe it was the same man. He was laughin’ an’ hootin’ an’ hollerin.’ Big R couldn’t tend to money, he couldn’t. He couldn’t save fifteen cents.
Lugenia: My God, he had a lotta mouths to feed. All them fine lookin’ boys. Five boys and a girl.
Mother: Who is this?
Lugenia: He’s talking about Big R couldn’t save any money. I said he had five big ol’ boys to feed.
Mother: I took my kids, cook the best brown beans you ever ate.
Ol’ Potty (?) she’d cook them brown beans couldn’t she?
Mother: Yeah, she’d put’em on that old stove would...
I tell ya what she’d cook biscuits. She cooked biscuits, too.
Mother: Yeah, she could make cornbread.
She’d make that cornbread. But, I seen cake she cooked one time an’ I didn’t even try to take a bit of it. She can’t make no cake. She’s pretty good ol’ cook for what she had to cook.
Mother: Yes, she was. That’s one thing that you...
Wayne, the younger boy, wasn’t there this year. (The 1990 Canady reunion) He’s laughin’ an’ talkin’ all the time a lot like Uncle Orval used to. An’ Uncle Orval’d laugh an’ talk to everybody. Daddy wasn’t too much on that. He’d laugh and talk when it gets to Big R. Uncle Newt an’ Uncle Lynn, now, they’d talk, holler and laugh... (unintelligible) ...transportation, had some nice clothes and money to spend. That’s a whole lot more’n I had. More’n I had... (fade out)
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