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Ratliff_narrative.jpg

Note: Sherry, here is my transcription of Percy's tape. The editing I did was to make it more understandable to persons not acquainted with the family. i.e. "Count & Edna" vs. Dad & Mom" etc. Dale Ratliff, Enid OK

The following was recounted by Percy Ratliff on an audio cassette tape on October 14, 1985, for his sister Dorothy Nell and his nephew Ben Ray Ratliff and has been edited.

[Begin tape]

In the summer of 1914, the family moved west in a covered wagon from about 7 miles west of Glen Rose in Somervell County, Texas, to Estancia Valley, New Mexico. John Matthews, who would later marry [sister] Mai, traveled with the family from Glen Rose and had a wagon, which carried feed for the animals, cooking utensils and the like. We went by way of Granbury and Palo Pinto, Texas. The wagon was heavily loaded, and on the hills all the family except me, I was five years old, would get off the wagon and I would "drive" the team of mules until they tired, at which time Count [father] would "scotch" the wheels with a chock, made much like a wooden maul, until the mules could rest. Then the family would all push to help the mules get the wagon started again. When the road leveled, Edna [mother] would get back on the wagon with Ben [brother], and other family members would ride or walk.

Count, who was an excellent shot, kept the family supplied with meat to eat, usually rabbit, and I remember my mother making biscuits in the dutch oven, covered with hot coals, and the rabbit and the biscuits tasting so good. I saw my first prairie dogs and first rattlesnake on that trip.

John Matthews played the fiddle and the guitar, and [Percy's oldest brother] Arthur, played the guitar also. As the family camped at night, usually near where someone lived so that we could have water for the team, John would play the fiddle and Arthur would play the guitar and the people who lived nearby would come down to the camp and listen.

The routine continued until the we reached a place called Gate (?), in Stonewall County, Texas. There Mai, who was the oldest, got typhoid fever. Count bought a tent for the family to live in and we picked cotton until Mai recovered.

I remember being required to pick a certain amount of cotton each day, perhaps 25 pounds, before being allowed to play. I would tire fast while working and rest fast after my allotment of cotton was picked. I found a friend to play with and to get into things with. I remember finding a bottle of whisky belonging to my friend's father, in a barn. We uncorked the bottle and had a taste and did not like it. As far as I know, no one ever knew of the incident. After perhaps six weeks, when Mai had recovered, Count sold the team of mules and the wagons, and continued the trip by train.

When we reached Estancia Valley, it was cold. Icicles were hanging from the tank where the train refilled with water. Count left the family and went to see the half-section of land that he had traded for, sight unseen. He returned and told my mother, Edna, that there was nothing there but a half dugout, no way to make a living there and no way to live on it. The family stayed perhaps a day, then caught the train and returned to Chillicothe, in Hardeman County, Texas. There we picked cotton until it was about all gone then took the train to Altus, Oklahoma, and from there to Wellington, Texas, where people we had known at Glen Rose, had moved to. There we picked cotton also.

Count rented from an old woman whom people said no one could get along with. He thought he could get along with her, but could not. She was "hell on wheels".

In 1916, the family moved onto what had been the Wright Ranch where there was a ranch house and a bunk house. In 1917, Count bought a place near Wellington, Texas.

John Matthews and Mai, who had married by then, lived on the place that first year. Count bought his first car that year and took one end out of the old bunkhouse at the Wright Ranch to make a shed for the car. He reinforced the floor with 2-inch boards to support the car. When he pulled the car in for the first time and got the car where he wanted it, he said, "Whoa" and proceeded to drive the Model T through the back of the shed.

It was hot and dry the two years we lived on the Wright Ranch and the crops were very poor. The following year the family moved to the eighty acres that Count had bought 3½ miles north of Wellington. The land was "sandy" there and crops were good.

Count and Edna stayed there until 1942, then moved to Ft. Worth, Texas.

[End of tape]

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