Stories are a powerful way to connect to the past. The trick is finding a way to share them that conveys the emotion and passion of the original telling. My dad had a childhood filled with adventures and he loved to tell them to his children and grandchildren. But how to pass those treasured tales on to future generations? To preserve them in a way that will speak to his posterity, I’ve chosen to fictionalize those tales. Enjoy this step back in time to Texas about 1933.
Texas Tricks and Trouble
By Diana Elder, based on accounts from Bobby Gene Shults
Bob felt his swollen cheeks with both hands and wondered when his face would return to normal. It seemed like he’d been sick forever. First he got the mumps and then just as he was getting better the measles hit. To make it worse, his family had just moved to his Grandpa’s farm in Texas and he wanted to explore his new environment. There wasn’t anyone to play with though because all the kids were sick: his older brother, C.H., his little sister Helen, and his Aunt Christine, only two years older than him.
When he first got sick he didn’t want to do anything but lay in bed all day, but now he was starting to feel better he was anxious to get out and go swimming in the mud hole, play kick ball, or anything to escape the boredom. His mom had her hands full taking care of everyone so she didn’t have time to even play cards with him.
Nothing to do but daydream and think back on some of their adventures since coming to Texas. He was still mad at the trick Christine and C.H. had played on him awhile ago but glad he’d learned his lesson. It had all started when he heard . . .
“Come over here Bob and see what we found,” called Christine.
Curious, five year old Bob sauntered over to see what was causing all of the excitement. As soon as he got close, C.H. tackled him and the two older children had him flat on his back over a red ant hill. He felt the big ants starting to crawl up his arms and legs and because they were the biting kind, he began feeling stings everywhere.
Screams of “Let me go” turned to “Get them off of me,” as the ants crawled up his pant legs and shirt sleeves. His skin was on fire from their bites. Christine and C.H. just laughed and laughed. He struggled but the older and stronger children had him pinned. Somehow he always ended up getting the short end of the stick when he played with those two.
“Daddy, daddy, help,” he kept on screaming hoping his dad, Les, would eventually hear him and come to the rescue.
Les was tending to the stock when he thought he heard someone yelping. With four children under eight on the place, there was always something going on. They were probably just playing, he thought. However when the yelling started to get more frantic he decided he’d better get moving.
Les followed the screams until he saw his boy, Bob being held down by C.H. and Christine. “What in tarnation is going on here!” he exclaimed just as they let go and Bob hopped up, covered with red ants. His legs and arms had bites galore and he was sobbing with anger and pain.
C.H. and Christine looked sheepish and when asked what they thought they were doing, just grinned. Those grins soon went away with a good paddling. Bob felt some satisfaction in hearing their own yelps.
A few weeks later the weather turned cold and the first frost hit Levelland, Texas. Bob woke up to a sparkly wonderland. Venturing outside he saw C.H. and Christine already up exploring.
“Bob, come over here,” they called.
With trepidation he carefully walked over to see what they were up to now. They were looking at an old wagon wheel covered with glittering frost.
”Let’s lick it,” they said. “You go first, Bob.”
Bob wasn’t about to get caught up in another of their schemes so he just watched as they crouched down on either side of the central hub. As soon as they touched their tongues to the frost covered metal, they started gesticulating wildly, their tongues stuck fast. Bob was the one laughing this time as he slowly walked toward the house to get some help.
Writing the story
I remember my dad telling these stories about the time his family lived in Levelland, Texas on his grandfather’s place. Because his Aunt Christine was the same age as his brother, C.H., the two of them liked to gang up on the younger Bob. The story of the ant hill and the wagon wheel were favorites. My dad couldn’t get through either story without laughing so hard tears came to his eyes. Writing these stories for his posterity has been a powerful way to connect to him and to another time.
“Moved back to Texas. While in Texas, my brother sister and aunt our age all had the mumps and measles one after the other.
Brother and Aunt always doing things to me. Tied me on a red ant hill.
Winter one cold day touched tongues to cold wagon wheel – stuck. Dad’s crop hailed out – Hailed so much filled up between rails on railroad track. Decided to move again.”
Best of luck in all of your family history endeavors!