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Moses Uriah Henderson 1880 - 1950 Clara Mae Scott 1889 - 1975 As Remembered by their Daughter Betty J. Hunt

Betty J. Hunt Remembers Her Parents, Clara and Mose Henderson.

Moses Uriah Henderson 1880 - 1950

Clara Mae Scott 1889 - 1975

As Remembered by their Daughter

Betty J. Hunt

The sunset of my life so pleasantly carries me into the memories of my past that I sometimes find it difficult to return to the complex life of the present. So come -- escape with me back to the early 1900's in Oklahoma and my life with my parents, Clara and Mose Henderson, and all the others that I can remember, within their world.

You may wonder why I put my mother's name first before my father's. Well, there may not be many things in life that we can be absolutely sure of, but my father made certain that all twelve of his children understood that our mother was first in his life and first in ours as well. And so it was. And so it shall remain!

However, from this point on I will refer to them as Mom and Dad since that was what all their children called them.

First, I want to preface this with what little I know of their "roots." Mom was born in August, 1889 in a dug-out just four months after her parents came to Oklahoma in the land rush in April. Her parents, Fredrick Jesse Scott and his young pregnant bride, Addie Mae Hatfield, competed in that chaotic, life-threatening, mad scramble for free land in a horse drawn buggy.

Grandpa Jesse Scott was a U. S. Marshal in the Oklahoma badlands until he was shot through both knees. Exactly how that happened, I'm not sure. There are several versions told by several people. It left him severely handicapped for the rest of his life. After surviving the rush for land and staking his claim, Grandpa Scott fashioned a dugout as temporary shelter until he could get help to build a house.

My father never knew much about his background except that he was raised in an area called the Creek Nation. His sister Mollie adds a little. "The family moved by covered wagon into the Cherokee Strip (now Cherokee County, Oklahoma) in 1889 from Arkansas," she writes. Dad told many colorful tales about his young life there and we laughed and enjoyed all of them.

Before he married Mother, Dad was briefly married to a "city girl" who abandoned him and their young son, Oscar. This "city girl" simply showed up one day at the home of Dad's parents, put the child in the middle of the floor and said, "He's yours." According to family members, she walked out the door and was never seen or heard of thereafter. I remember Oscar fondly as my "oldest" brother.

Dad and Mom met at a barn dance. Dad was playing the organ and the minute he saw Mom, he knew he was going to marry her if she would have him. He courted her, made her fall in love with him, and promised to love her forever. He never broke that promise. They were married in 1907 and began their pursuit of happiness, which they not only found, but managed to hold onto throughout their life together. Trouble and hardships brought out their courage and bonded them ever closer to each other.

The most pleasant memories I have of them would be the soft gentle voice of my mother singing church hymns as she busied herself with the overwhelming volume of work to be done, and the muffled humming my father always did as he worked. It seemed he could not even walk without humming and rubbing his fingers against his thumbs. Perhaps it drowned out some of the worries he surely must have harbored about how he could continue to feed and care for his large and growing family. Keeping a tight rein on growing boys and yet giving them a sense of freedom too was no easy task.

I was the tenth born of the twelve with eight boys being born between my oldest sister, Ethel, and myself. Ethel was already married and had one child when I was born. The next eight were … Roland, Norman, Herbert, Troy, A.B., Frederick, James, and Jerrel. James died from an abscess on his lungs caused by pneumonia. He was eight years old and I was only five when it happened. My only memory of that time is that there was a lot of crying and great sadness in our home.

I had the traditional brother-sister relationship with my siblings. They were all protective of me and yet accepted me as "one of the guys," in their rough and tumble world. I learned to play their sports and to hunt as good as any of them (well, almost as good). But, my brother Jerrel, being closest to me in age, was my fiercest competitor, my best friend, and forever there whenever I needed him. He was then, and will always be, my "closest" brother.

My younger sister, Marie and another boy, Delbert, were born after me. The doctor had told Mom that she wouldn't have any more babies after my birth because she was already into the "change of life." Thus, for almost five years our house was full, but Mom's arms were empty. She was never quite sure why, but she was always so glad that God gave her two more babies to love and cherish.

Marie and I had a very special relationship. We got to share girl things with each other and with Mom. We both became little sponges, soaking up all the wisdom Mom had to give about life. Mostly we learned just by watching Mom -- how she tried every day to keep all of us happy and in doing so, created her own happiness.

My memories only go back to about age six, so anything before that can only be attested to by my older siblings. I guess those were the times of Mom and Dad moving from place to place in town and even leaving Oklahoma to try their luck in New Mexico, where I developed typhoid fever. The doctor said it was only a matter of time until I would die, so Dad brought us all back to Oklahoma. They had to carry me around on a pillow because I was so thin and so very ill, but I believe they literally willed me to live, because obviously I did.

None of us could get away with disobeying Dad. We were an unusual family because we somehow seemed to maintain a happiness that some families during those hard times, simply could not achieve. Yes, times were extremely hard. Impossible by today's standards, but Mom and Dad were so clever at covering up for our near poverty conditions that I swear I never even knew we were poor until I was grown. Of course I knew I wanted a lot of things I could not have but I was also taught to be very grateful for any and all blessings.

A good example of this was Dad's way of handling our pleading for something we could not afford. He would say "Now, before I can know if you really need this, you must tell me all the things you already have that are wonderful. Things like your two eyes to see with, two ears you can hear with, two legs,…", etc., etc. This listing of blessings would continue through brothers, sisters, good parents, aunts, uncles, cousins. And on and on to all my personal belongings, until we got to the point that I really didn't care any more about the thing I had wanted. I would simply go away thinking I had it pretty darn good after all. I do remember one exception to all that.

One year at Christmas I had pleaded for a gold locket I had seen in the window of the jewelry store on a trip to town. I just knew it had been made only for me. Even though I named off all the things I already had, and even all the things the family had, I still wanted that necklace.

Christmas was usually the same every year at our home. Everybody got one gift that was either made by Mom or Dad or some inexpensive item they could afford. We always got an orange, some nuts, and a bag of chocolate drops in our stockings. The day was always festive and happy with Mom and Dad getting a lot of handcrafted things from us kids. Mom had tried to explain to me that they would like to be able to give me the locket, but that would not be fair to the others even if they did.

Well, that Christmas morning after the excitement died down, Mom called me into her bedroom and said Santa had left something in there for me. I opened a small box to find my beautiful locket. I learned later from one of my brothers that Dad had sold one of our milk cows to buy the locket and to give Mom some extra money for Christmas that year.

When I asked Dad about it, he explained that they had talked it over and decided since I wanted it so much, they needed to give it to me. Never in my life has a gift meant as much to me as that little gold locket. I wore it and cherished it until it was stolen many years later. Even though the locket is gone, the memory will be with me forever. The locket was only another symbol of their love and sacrifice for all of us kids.

Looking back, I can't even imagine all the personal sacrifices Mom and Dad must have made or all the heartaches, hopelessness, and desperation they must have felt during their life together. They somehow managed to endure all the hardships as they accepted each child, making a home for all as best they could. Our home was always clean, warm, and filled with love. I never heard my parents fight with each other and they hugged and kissed during both happy times and sad times. If I learned nothing else from them, I learned the difference between want and need and that striving for something better in life is commendable so long as we do not lose sight of what we already have.

Perhaps it is fitting that I get into some of the wonderful things we had as I was growing up before I tell of all the things we did not have. I probably will not get them listed in order of importance because it would be difficult to say, as memories go, just what was most important to me as a child.

When I was hungry, it would have been the wonderful pungent smell of my mother's fresh baked bread filling the house and half the country side with the most enticing aroma in the world. Mom usually baked eight loaves of bread once a week both summer and winter, most of the time saving back enough dough to make a large pan of cinnamon rolls. Since there was no electricity and no gas, they were baked in the big oven of our wood-burning kitchen stove. It was almost a welcome chore in the winter, but became strictly a labor of love in the stifling heat of summer.

We were only allowed to use the loaves of bread for lunches during the school year. In the summer they were for our big meal of the day and sometimes toast for breakfast.

That same oven baked four pies at a time and the oh so delicious chocolate cakes baked in the old yellow enamel pan holds fond memories with every one of us. Mom was so clever in figuring out how to keep us from fighting over who was getting the biggest piece of cake.

She would assign the task of cutting the cake to one of us, with the understanding that everybody else got to pick first before the cutter. I can assure you there has never been a precision tool that could have measured those pieces any more evenly than we did.

The bean pot was the biggest pot in the kitchen and one of the most used. A typical gourmet dinner for us was some fried potatoes, corn bread, green onions, and a big pot of pinto or navy beans cooked with a large slab of sow belly, better known today as salt pork. Nutritionists today try to educate everybody to the value of the bean, but we always knew it.

Another thing we had was a big Dripolator coffee pot. Every day of my life began with the wonderful smell of coffee brewing while Mom began breakfast for us all. No matter how much I pleaded for a cup of coffee, I was not allowed to have it until I was 13. They insisted it would stunt my growth. I guess there is something magical about the age of 13, and nothing, not even black coffee can ever change you once you've made it that far.

Mom's biscuit bowl will forever be embedded in my memory. It was a huge wooden bowl that always sat on top of the 50-pound flour can. Mom would make a well in the middle of the flour in the bowl and pour in milk, lard, salt, baking powder and just a sprinkle of sugar. She never measured anything. Using her hand, she would work flour from the side down into the well until she had kneaded it all into a very soft dough. Then she would simply roll out, cut, dip one side into melted lard, and place them into big bread pans. She seemed to make them so effortlessly, yet they were without a doubt the best biscuits in the world. The biscuit bowl was never used for anything else and it was never to be washed. It remained always at the ready.

Getting all of us up and ready for breakfast was no easy task, and much harder in the winter than the summer. None of us ever wanted to climb out from under the big warm quilts Mom piled on us. The house would remain cold for a long time before the wood fire could put out enough heat to overcome the cold of the night.

It would seem even colder as we made our mad dash for the out house. We had a "three holer" and since there were only two girls, myself and my little sister, Verna Marie, we usually had the luxury of going first. If the boys couldn't wait, at least they were better equipped to rough it out behind the barn.

Providing our large family with food was an ongoing challenge for all of us. We ate everything we could trap, shoot, grow, catch, and gather, from the countryside around us. I remember all of us kids gathering possum grapes every summer. They were called that, I guess, because their vines climbed the tallest of trees and produced large amounts of pea sized purple grapes that hung there much like the possums do. Mom made grape juice, grape jelly, and jam, and the most delicious grape cobbler that anyone could ever hope to savor.

Wild blackberries were another marvelous and free food that was plentiful in the summer. We staked out all the thickets far and near, persistently watching for just the right time to pick them when they would be ripe enough for Mom to work her wonders on. The bad thing about blackberry bushes was that they had almost as many thorns and chiggers as they did berries. We always had plenty to eat right away and all the rest would be canned as juice, jelly and berries for pies.

Everything that was canned was stored away in the cellar, the only place safe from the winter freeze. Apples, peaches, pears, and apricots were either canned or dried.

Another sweet and delicious fruit was the small but sweet persimmon that that grew wild around the countryside. I really loved them, especially since all the other fresh fruit was gone long before the persimmons were ready. I sometimes got impatient waiting for them to get soft and ripe enough to eat, and would try one before it was ready. For this, I suffered with locked jaws and puckered lips for a long time.

Oklahoma's wild sand plums were another source of free food, and sour as they were, they made the prettiest red jelly I've ever seen. Mom also made watermelon preserves which I didn't care for at all. I only wanted to eat all the watermelon I possibly could while it was fresh from the vine. We grew both red and yellow meated watermelons, and Dad grew the biggest and the best. I can attest to that because all of us kids swiped melons from all the surrounding farms, and other kids swiped melons from our patch. Ours were definitely the sweetest, the best, and the most stolen.

Dad didn't mind the kids raiding his patch, but he was ready to kill to protect them from the crows. The crows were never satisfied to just eat one melon. They tried to peck holes in as many as they could, as though they were tasting to see which was the sweetest. When flailing white strips of cotton, or funny looking scarecrows failed to keep them out, Dad and my brothers would go on crow patrol with their rifles.

Summer always meant lots of good, fresh fruit, and no school. Spring rains had filled the cattle ponds and the river to allow for great swimming and fishing. Chickens were frying size, frog gigging was easy, and catfish were just waiting to be caught. Fresh garden vegetables were all ready at once it seemed, and what we didn't eat, we canned.

I hated the big pressure cooker, and the smell emanating from the dancing pressure valve on its lid. I had the smallest hands of all the kids, so I was the chosen one to wash all the canning jars. As a child I didn't care much for many vegetables. Mostly, I just liked potatoes, corn, and of course, green onions. So, I couldn't work up too much enthusiasm for storing away canned vegetables for the winter.

But, summer was a time for work as well as play, and somehow we all accepted that.

(Thanks to the Gibson Booze Home Page for initially gathering this information and posting it for all to enjoy. And to Betty Hunt for writing an excellent account of some of her family memories.)

Linked toGibson Booze Homepage; Family: HENDERSON/SCOTT (F46); HATFIELD Addie Mae; HENDERSON A.B.; Living; HENDERSON Delbert; HENDERSON Ethel; HENDERSON Frederick; HENDERSON Herbert; HENDERSON James; HENDERSON Jerrel; HENDERSON Marie; HENDERSON Mary Matilda (Mollie); HENDERSON Moses Uriah; HENDERSON Norman; HENDERSON Oscar; HENDERSON Roland; HENDERSON Troy; SCOTT Clara Mae; SCOTT Frederick Jesse