While growing up I spent many wonderful hours in the company of
my great grandparents Hazel May Trail and James Garfield Hicks.
Nonnie always provided the ice cold watermelon, and Pappy the stories.
Wedding day Blues
On the day of their wedding Nonnie and Pappy were given many gifts that were common for the times. Along with the quilts and dish towels was a dozen chickens and an old mother pig about to give birth to her litter. Pappy said that he was so delighted that his little farm was starting off with a pretty fair amount of livestock. There was to be fresh eggs every day and chickens for the pot, not to mention fresh home grown pork.
The day following the wedding Pappy set out to tend to the stock, gathering eggs and feeding the chickens, sloping the hogs and of course walking down to the river to get water as the farm had no well. Well unknown to him the buckets had been used for something else (he speculated salt) and contained a residue that when wet with water and given to the chickens resulted in the death of every last chicken he had. So his dream of fresh eggs for breakfast and selling eggs in town was now laying scattered around the chicken coup floor. So they set out to pluck every last one of those chickens and started cooking, eating chicken every meal for quite a while. As I remember Pappy was not to found of chicken.
That Damn Mama Pig
And then came the great day when that mama pig gave birth to litter of babies. Pappy was excited about the prospect of raising those little ones up and the pork chops and hams he and Nonnie would have. But like the chickens there was trouble coming. One morning Pappy woke up to find one of the baby pigs dead, with a big bite out of the side he was convinced that he had a coyote or some other critter that was getting in the pen and eating the piglets. So he set out traps around the farm in hopes that he catch that critter. Every couple of days he found another dead baby, and as he related the story he began to cry because the thought of those dead babies broke his heart. Well one morning he got up just a little earlier than normal stepped out the front door only to discover that it was that damn mama pig eating her own babies. Now as he continued to tell his story the tears really began to fall. When he found that it was mama that was the last straw, he went back into the house grabbed his shotgun walked back out to the pen, dropped down on one knee and shot that “son of a bitch”. “I just wasn’t gonna have a pig like that”, “that would eat her own babies”.
And Speaking of Those Traps
One day one of those traps caught something, now Pappy had two old hound dogs that rose up a ruckus hearing this critter in the trap. So he grab the dogs he shotgun and Nonnie and headed in the direction of the trap. As they neared the critter Pappy could see that it wasn’t caught real good and was trying real hard to free itself. He told Nonnie to hold the dogs and he was gonna get up closer and shot it before it got out. When he got about half way there the dogs passed him up dragging Nonnie screaming and hollering all the way with her hand wrapped up in the leash. He had no choice but to shoot from the distance he was at because the critter would surly hurt Nonnie. The shot was a clean one and did the job, but Nonnie never went to check the traps again.
The Freezer is Upstairs
Another unusual story was that when they lived in Wyoming the winters were very cold with
snow pilling up against the house. My grandmothers bedroom room was on the upper floor, but in the winter when the nights were extra cold she slept in the kitchen next to the stove, that was the only source of heat for the entire house. Dee Dee said that she didn’t mind it at all, she always slept nice and warm as Pappy kept the fire burning good, and she always woke up in the morning with the smell of fresh baked breads that her grandma King baked every day. This worked just fine for Pappy who took that room and converted it into an ice box. Leaving the window open a bit letting the cold air flow in kept the room at just about freezing so he would slaughtered a cow, a pig and deer from a hunting trip and hang the carcasses in the room. Then no matter what was for dinner all Nonnie had to do was go up to DeeDee’s bedroom and cut it right out of the freezer.
Pappy’s Blue Jay Magic
One of the things that always amazed me as a kid was Pappy’s ability to call in the wild blue jays. On several occasions I was invited out to the swing in the back yard, being told “now sit real still right here beside me and don’t make any noise”. The sparkle in his eyes told you that something very special was about to happen. He had already changed his hat to his old one and grabbed a leftover biscuit or two that Nonnie had baked that morning, and settling in on the swing the magic began. He would take a deep breath and call out “here blue buck, here blue buck”, and in just moments 1 or 2 blue jays would fly into the back yard and land in front of him answering his call with squawks of delight, dancing for their breakfast. Pappy would call out again and more would arrive landing on the swing, his shoulder and sometimes our laps waiting for the biscuits to be handed out. Before we were done there would be 20 or more wild birds flitting around us jumping at the last crumb of biscuit that Pappy had thrown. Then the fun began when the biscuits were gone, it was as if the birds were screaming at us that they had not had enough and wanted more. In their anger they would fly off to gather any junk they could find, rocks, twigs, leaves, or over to Pappy’s fig tree find some of the softest figs, and drop them right on that old hat, some when they couldn’t find anything else just landed on the bar across the top of the swing and crapped. When Pappy had enough he would stand up and say “that’s all”, and just as quickly as it began it was over and all that remained was the sparkle in his eye and the mess on his hat and the magic.
Nonnie Had Stories Too!
One story I remember her telling was that one time the family was camped down by the river when a family of indians rode up the squaw was holding a new baby in her arms. This squaw also noticed Basil who was the baby of the family, and wanted to trade her baby for the one with the curly hair.
And now there are new stories to tell, Hazel Irene Trail Robinson
I met Hazel through a contact, Betty Berndt in Mercer Missouri. Hazel is the daughter of Bazil Trail, brother of my “Nonnie” Hazel May Trail, who she was named after. She is the grand daughter of William Martin Trail, and great grand daughter of Bazil Trail and Sarah Wright. In her first letter to me she related some of her memories. I will attempt to translate those stories here. “Pa Trail (William Martin Trail) lived with Uncle Ocal and Aunt Myrtle. When his pension check would come, he would go out in the road that went by their house, stand out there and maybe kick a few pieces of gravel as he waited for a car to come along headed for town.
He would be in the middle of the road where people would have to stop,not wanting to hit him ( and everyone knew him and his habit of doing this). He’d go cash his check, go to the tavern, stay awhile then go catch another ride home. Maybe he wouldn’t be home very long and he’d go outside, stand in the middle of the road and start the process over again. Lots of times 2 or 3 times a day, he’d show up in town.”
” Dad ( Bazil) and Ocal farmed together for a long time, and haying time was a time for a picnic at the haying grounds, especially when they were working N.W. , up the creek from our place. Aunt Myrtle would walk from her house carrying 2 buckets of food she’d prepared, and with Moms food we’d walk on over to the field and eat, then help Dad and Ocal in the hay field – working with horses. We’d eat in the shade of the willows near the creek. One thing Aunt Myrtle usually brought was boiled eggs, which I always enjoyed. Uncle Ocal never bought a car ( he could have) but in later years bought a used “B Farmall” tractor and used it to go to town for groceries, etc. We all lived several miles from town. Lynn ( Hazel’s husband) asked him if the tractor had much power. Uncle Ocal said his old rooster had died and he could drag that old rooster all over those hills with the tractor until one of the roosters spurs caught on something.”
“I remember one evening we had a gathering of family and friends at our house in the evening. Tables of food were out in the front yard, a wash tub of ice to cool bottles of pop and beer. Someone asked Pa Trail what he wanted on his plate and he was feeling pretty good by then. All he wanted was a piece of carn bread! He never would say corn bread, always carn bread, and I doubt there was even 1 piece of it that evening, so I don’t know what he ate that evening”.
“The day he (William Trail) died, he and Aunt Myrtle were in the living room and she was reading a letter from her daughter Roma and he died and fell out of his chair. His grave is in the Middlepoint cemetery south of Mercer.”
“Dads father ( Willim Trail) was on the New Zion school board when dad and Ocal were kids. When the school board members gathered at Pa’s house to fill paper sacks with candy, for treats for the Christmas program.
Dad and Ocal crawled under the table they were working at, and if a piece of candy was dropped, the boys grabed each one, store bought candy was seldom seen in those days. I’m guessing there was along table cloth on that table and the boys were extra quiet.”