A TALE THAT IS TOLD:
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF OPAL EARP POUNDS
by Opal Earp Pounds
Geraldine Pounds Robideaux and Wayne Pounds
Wayne Pounds at Shakespir
Copyright 2017 Geraldine Robideaux
Table of Contents
A Tale That Is Told
The Gusher: A Short Story
Family History Notes
Coda by the Editors
Opal left behind three manuscript documents about her life. “A Tale That is Told” is the longest and most complete, but two other excursions exist. The earliest is a short piece she called “Down Memory Lane,” which has been collated with “A Tale That Is Told” and does not appear here as a separate text. The third takes the form of a short story that she hoped to publish. It has no title, so we have called it “The Gusher” and placed it at the end. It sometimes repeats information in the first part of “A Tale That Is Told,” but many of the details are new.
The Home Place about 1910 (above).
Chapter 1: A Tale That is Told
As I begin this little composition I am reminded of the words of the Psalmist David. “We spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are three score years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off and we fly away” (Ps. 90:9-10). David’s years were filled with many conflicts, defeats and victories and in them all, his praises to God never ceased. Like David I longed after a relationship with God in my youth but never really found that fount of blessing until I was a young mother thirty-three years old, but I’m getting ahead of my story.
I was born to Hugh Ernest Earp and Arlie Avenell Flatt Earp in Stigler, (Haskell Co.) Oklahoma on June 5, 1920, the second of four children she was to bear to him. A brother, Ernest Faye Earp, was three years old at the time. We also had a half-brother, Kenneth Hugh Earp, who was a few years older than us.
My first memories are of the home northwest of Stroud, which was the first home of all the Earps in Oklahoma Territory, called now the “Home Place.” I understand that my Grandfather didn’t win it in the great land run of 1891 but purchased it soon afterwards from a man who had staked a claim on it. The farm is located three miles north of Stroud and about two and a half miles west and then north again for half a mile.
I remember a cement porch on the east and a screened in porch on the west. Just outside on the west was a dirt covered cellar. I remember a little stream that ran along the east over rocks where my older brother Ernie and I played and waded in the cool clear water. Also a red barn with a loft full of sweet smelling hay where we romped. Many times I fell out of the loft and thought I was going to die because I couldn’t get my breath. Why didn’t I learn there was a hole there by the ladder where Daddy threw down hay for the horses?
Then there was the day that Ernie and I killed a big black snake. We left it by the side of the barn but when we came back a few hours later to exult over our kill, the snake had disappeared. We puzzled about that for days. But in later years we realized we must have only stunned the snake.
It was here on the old home place that my sister Vera Dene and my brother Wendel were born. My Daddy had sent us three older ones upstairs out of the way, but like curious kids we sat on the stairs listening and wondering why we were banished from the downstairs. Soon we heard the cries of a new baby brother. Wendel came to live among us that day.
I remember visiting Grandmother and Grandfather Earp and our half-brother Kenneth when they lived on the “Old Trail.” Grandmother’s old Rhode Island rooster chased us and Dena was especially afraid of it. We were also apprehensive around Kenneth’s big brindle-and-white bull dog until someone poisoned him. I’ll never forget how he suffered, slobbering, foaming at the mouth. What a terrible way for an animal to die.
Kenneth was born to Hugh and his first wife Lenna Wilburn Earp on Nov. 30, 1914 at Stroud, Oklahoma. Lenna died when Kenneth was 7 days old from blood poisoning. I was told by Mother that the doctor who delivered Lenna had come from helping to deliver a cow and his hands were not clean. In those days they didn’t understand too much about germs. Lenna is buried in the Black Cemetery north of Stroud, presumably on the Black farm. When I was a child we used to go there yearly so that Daddy could help care for the cemetery and the grave.
As a result of Lenna’s death Grandmother Earp took Kenneth and nursed him back to health as he too was very ill as a result of his mother’s blood poisoning. The grandparents became so attached to him that at the time of my parents’ marriage, when Kenneth was two years old, it was breaking their hearts to part with him. So my Dad quit taking him to his new home and told his Mother that since she had cared for Kenneth when he could not, so she could keep him. In my opinion that was the greatest mistake Dad ever made, for Kenneth grew up without the family circle. Grandmother loved him too much and spoiled him. She was left a widow when Kenneth was ten and she was sixty-four. How does an old lady cope with a teenaged boy?
I remember going to Grandmother’s and finding her in distress many times in those years because she didn’t know where Kenneth was. Daddy would go up town and find him, bring him home, and give him a strapping. I’ve always felt that Kenneth should have been in our home when we came along. I wonder did he ever feel abandoned and unwanted by his only parent? We never really knew him like a brother until he married Laura. But that is another story, and I must return to the present one.
One Saturday evening, I may have been three or four years old, I remember going home with my grandparents the Flatts, mother’s parents. We rode home from Stroud in a wagon. Grandpa had bought me a sack of candy. He was my favorite Grandpa. He was always holding me on his lap and kissing me while his coffee stained mustache tickled my face. He was a loving person. I don’t remember how old I was when I got too big to sit on his lap but I never got too big to kiss. Anyway, I was so happy and felt so important to be going home with them all by myself. But the next morning I was homesick and cried so, I had to be taken home.
It was on the old home place that I started to school at a little one-room school called Buttermilk. My cousin Ruby McDaniels [born 1906, daughter of Ocie Ann Flatt and Homer McDaniel] was the teacher that year. We had to walk one and a half miles to school and because of leg-ache pains I didn’t go too often.
Opal, 1929 (above)
I remember coming home from school one afternoon and the water bucket was empty, so I proceeded to the well for a drink. It so happened that the well handle was held on by a bolt and not knowing it was about ready to fall out, I proceeded to pump. The bolt came out and the iron pump handle hit me on the forehead and split my head open. I began to scream and my screams awakened a driller who was rooming with us. He slept in the day and worked nights on the oil derrick which was drilling on the home farm at that time. He put me in his car and we started for town, but my folks came home about then and they took me into Stroud to the doctor, who fixed me up with some stitches. I still wear the scar today from that mishap.
I remember catching the excitement of the first oil well drilled on the Home Place where we were living. What a great day it was for everyone when it blew in a gusher. Black oil was sprayed all around. My dad had been working with his team and a slip helping to build that pond that always afterward was to be known as the Carter Pond because it was the Carter Oil Company that drilled the first well. As I have mentioned, the driller was rooming with us. He and Dad had become good friends. He was also an A-one type of guy. He realized the Earp family was a hard working group and just very good all-around people, but he had orders not to bring the well in but to shut it down and proclaim a dry hole. But for the sake of the family for whom he had formed an attachment, he determined to bring it in. He told my Dad what he planned to do. He brought it in up to the point where it would blow itself in and then went home and went to bed. He said to my dad, “It will blow in by morning.” And sure enough by morning it was blowing over the top of the wooden rig. (See photo in the story “The Gusher.”)
That was a time of rejoicing. Grandfather Earp died before the well came in but he had said that if there was oil there, he wanted each of his six sons to have a new Model-A Ford and line up to have their picture made for him. He wanted all of his six sons to line up in their new Model A’s. He knew that was the first thing they would all buy. And it was. But my Grandfather didn’t get to see that day as he died before even knowing that oil was found on his farm.
After the well came in, I remember the first vacation I ever had. We went with Uncle Obe and his family in our new car to Hot Springs, Arkansas. Our parents took hot baths in the famous mineral springs there. We stayed in real motels and ate “store-bought” meals.
As a result of the first well, many others were drilled on the farms around and much oil was taken out of that field. My Grandmother, as the main heir, came into a small fortune. She gave all of her eleven children $20,000 apiece. They each bought a good bottom farm except for her daughter, Aunt Coy Miller, who was a widow. Grandmother built a nice new home in Stroud for herself and Kenneth. Aunt Coy built a house exactly like it on the opposite corner. Grandmother also built the Church of God in Stroud.
Aunt Ina and her husband bought a farm close to Bristow. Uncles Obe and John bought near Midlothian. Uncle Earlie bought near Sparks, Uncle Otto bought north of Stroud, and Uncle Claud bought the Old Earp Homestead from Grandmother. Also Aunt Ona, who was a teacher, bought wheat land in Vega, Texas. She and her husband never farmed as they were both teachers and lived and taught in Oklahoma City.
My Daddy bought the old Jackson farm on South Fifth Street in Chandler that adjoins the old golf course on the north edge of Chandler. It has been known as the Jarvis Place for years. I was six and had been going some to the little country school I mentioned, but in Chandler I started to school to Miss Ola Faye Armstrong. I didn’t make it that year under Miss Faye. I took the first grade again the next year. She was a great teacher. Later two of my children would be first graders under her tutoring. We lived on that farm for five years. They were good years. We had lots of friends up and down the streets.
At that time in the Tilghman Park there were two swimming pools. One for pre-school, which was free, and one for adults, who had to pay. We would go swimming in the small pool for free and then slip over into the larger one. I’m sure we all learned to swim by that maneuver. We would peddle Mother’s tomatoes to the neighbors for spending money, and also deliver milk in glass quart bottles every evening on our milk routes. My Dad always kept lots of cows and we all learned to milk them early in life. He taught us to work and the old work ethic became a part of our lives. But life wasn’t all work. There was always time for play too. Mother was always a lot of fun. She could play softball and horseshoes with the best of us. Dad too joined in the fun.
It was sometime during those five years while we lived in Chandler that Grandmother lost the family fortune. My Grandmother was an old-fashioned, shouting Church of God lady. A holy woman and righteous. She was also a widow of not much education and very trusting and naïve. When two salesmen came by offering her a great investment in gold mine stock, they persuaded her first of all that they were Christians. They would offer thanks at her table and get on their knees and pray with her like a Wesley.
She believed they were who they said they were and with the help of her banker, who my Dad always said was in on the scam, over a period of some weeks they persuaded her to buy their gold stock. Some of her children did their best to keep her from buying, even chasing the men off when they found them there. More than once Kenneth would call Dad and say, “Those men are here again.” Dad would tie up his team at the end of the field, get in his car and rush to Stroud, and run them off by threatening their lives, but they always came back. Grandmother would be very unhappy at him for that. The children talked of putting her under a guardian but in order to accomplish that all eleven of them would have had to sign the paper, and some of them didn’t want to do that to her.
At the same time they were getting Grandmother’s money in this way, they were also selling her daughter Coy, who lived across from her, their worthless stock. She too was a widow and a Christian and they persuaded her to believe in their integrity. Once, at the end of all this, Dad and his brother Vernie followed the men to Tulsa, and with their guns threatening to blow their lights out they retrieved $10,000. I’m not sure if that was Grandmother’s money or Aunt Coy’s. Aunt Coy had to take in sewing the rest of her life to support herself and her daughter. The great bulk of Grandmother’s money was gone, but she always had an income from her royalties. She lived to be ninety-nine years old. She didn’t leave us any money but she left us a rich Christian heritage. I bless her memory.
As I said, we lived five years in Chandler. Then my Dad sold the farm there and bought another three miles south of Agra. He said town living was going to ruin us kids and he had to get us to the county. We loved living there in the Columbia community of Agra and going to school in the two-room school house. At that time Winifred George taught the first four grades, and Hugh Baird taught fifth through eighth. I was in the fifth at that time. My best friend was Naomi George, who was also in the fifth. There was a Friends Church in the community, and our social lives were enhanced by attendance there and by all the other activities that the community afforded. There were pie suppers, sewing parties, revivals, and ice cream socials. It seems there was always something going on for the young people, well chaperoned by our elders, of course. I shall never forget the friends we made in Columbia Community or the good times we had there. We always had good fellowship with our neighbors, the Georges, who lived up the hill from us. They were a great family of eight children, mother and father and aged grandmother.
We started to high school at Agra High, riding the school bus morning and evening. Ernest was a senior the year I was a freshman. My first boyfriend was Chester Key. We double dated with a couple called Willie Williamson and Ruby Watkins, who later married.
Opal, 1934 (above).
There was an outside Baptist revival in our community the year I was fifteen. It was held by a Rev. Hatchett, who was also Principal of Agra High and pastor of the Agra Baptist Church. Among others who were converted to Christ in that meeting was my sister Vera Dene and myself. I’m not sure about my conversion but I did repent and believe. We wanted to be baptized afterward but it seems Baptists only baptize into their church. Our folks would not hear of that so they took us to the Stroud Church of God one Sunday morning, and we both joined the Church and that afternoon were baptized in the old Carter Pond that my dad had helped to build ten years earlier.
In my sophomore year my Dad and his brother Vernie traded for a farm. We moved back to Chandler again. The farm he traded for was one mile north, half a mile west, and then half a mile north of Chandler. It was heart breaking to take leave of my friends at Columbia and Agra High. It was lonely and sad to start back into school at Chandler. I found that all my old friends that I used to play with had grown up too, had acquired new friends and new interests, but worst of all was to find and to feel that I didn’t belong anymore. But after I got over my lonesomeness for old friends and Agra and began to enter into the spirit of Chandler High, I began to feel that I belonged again. I began to see the advantage of this high school over Agra and to feel that my Father had done the right thing in moving back to Chandler. I was about seventeen at this time.
Catching the school bus was no easy feat in those days. My Dad always kept a large herd of milk cows. We were up at daylight putting feed into their individual troughs. Each cow knew her own stall. When she put her head into the stanchion and bean to eat, we fastened the stanchion on her neck until she was milked. In the spring and winter Dad had green wheat fields for them to run on. Usually their bowels got very runny on the green wheat and their tails got nasty. It wasn’t any fun to get swatted across the face with such as that. I hated it. In the summer their tails got infested with cockleburs, and that hurt enough to make you angry. Sometimes while sitting on the three-legged milk stool you could catch and hold that cocklebur tail between your thigh and calf.
When the milking was done, the milk had to be separated. You strained the milk into the separator tank, turned the handle, and the milk was separated from the cream. It took two of us to do this as one turned the handle while the other strained the milk and changed the buckets when they were full. Then the calves had to be fed, and often there was a new born one who had to be taught to drink. You did this by putting your hand into the bucket of warm milk and letting the calf suck your fingers until he learned the drinking process. Three or four times and he usually had it down pat. By this time Mother had breakfast ready.
Then we made our own lunches, got cleaned up and dressed, and walked a half mile to the corner. If the bus driver saw us coming he would wait, but if we were late he went on. We were left to walk the mile and three quarters to school. We tried hard not to miss the bus. By the time we on the bus it was loaded. There was a large group of kids in the back who seemed always to be having a great old time. They were from the Oak Grove community and had known each other for many years. I envied them. They always seemed to be having so much fun. As we were the last ones on, we were the first ones off in the evening. When we go off at the first stop, we went out the back door. There was this young man on the bus who always seemed to manage to flip me on the behind as I got off. I later learned his name was Archie Pounds. More about him later.
When we got home from school the first thing we did was to change our clothes. We had chore clothes and chore shoes to wear. One kept her school clothes clean for the next day. There was wood and chips to carry in, eggs to gather, cows to get in from the pasture, milking, separating, calf feeding, milk buckets to wash, water to pump and carry to the house, and lamp chimneys to clean. Finally, when we were all finished Mother had a big pan of cornbread and fresh milk ready for our supper. It was always so good and we were always so hungry, even though we had already eaten everything in sight in the kitchen when we got in from school.
We each had our assigned chores but naturally we had a good bit of sibling rivalry. My sister Vera Dene and I seemed never to get along too well even though we shared the same room and the same bed. We were nearly the same age and the same size but very different in personality. She was always rather tomboyish and hated housework and cooking. I guess I was a little more feminine and loved to try my hand at cooking. She was always outgoing in personality and had lots of friends, while I was of a quiet nature and mostly liked a special friend. Looking back I guess I was a little jealous of her and I always considered her prettier than me. She had lots of pride and she and Mother always liked to fix up and pretty up as much as possible, while I was minus that pride and was considered, even by Mother, as “common Opal.”
Ernie was the dreamer. He was always dreaming about exotic places and faraway lands that he was going to visit someday. He was always good natured and helpful. I can never remember quarreling or having a fight with Ernie, though he liked to hide around the corner of the barn and let you have a surprise corncob on your head, and he liked it even better if the corncob was wet. But it was always in fun. Ernie hated the farm so when he graduated from Agra High at eighteen, Dad decided to send him to Hills Business School. Of course, he had to get a job to help out.
He got a job “busting suds”—washing dishes in a cafe. He wasn’t happy at that so he took a job as a traveling book salesman and headed toward California. He arrived broke and no job so he worked picking fruit and picking up almonds while pawning his clothes to live. He did that for a few months, and then one day we looked down the road and saw this dirty, ragged tramp-looking fellow with worn out shoes coming in at the gate. It was Ernie. Hungry and broke, but he had seen some of the world, even to getting himself locked in a freight train boxcar and stranded on a railroad spur. By good grace someone came along and heard him yelling and pounding inside the car and let him out. He had been asleep when he was stranded. After that he joined the Army.
Wendel was my pal, my sidekick, a sweet little kid but with a temper when riled. He was easy to love and to get along with. Loved horses and loved the farm, and very intelligent. Perhaps the most intelligent of the four of us. Since Dad saw that he loved the farm and because he was the only one of us left at home and Dad really did need him on the farm, he talked him into quitting school his sophomore year by giving him a start of farming animals, a team, and some dairy stock. I think he even gave him $50 a week for spending. After about a year and a half, World War II broke out. Wendel was only seventeen and couldn’t join the war effort without parental approval, so he sold his farming start and he and Dena headed to California to work in a defense plant. When he was eighteen they came home and he joined the Marine Paratroopers, while Vera Dean went to Tulsa to work in a defense plant helping to build airplanes. In the meantime she had been dating a handsome young man named Ted Phillips. When the war started Ted enlisted in the Air Corps, but they corresponded throughout the war, and when it was over they were married and went to live in Lovington, New Mexico.
When I was about seventeen years old, Kenneth married a girl called Laura Withers. I’ll never forget the day he brought her to our home to meet all us us. She didn’t know until after they were married that he had any family but Grandmother, and when she did hear of us she wanted to meet us. Through Laura we all came to know Kenneth and to love him as a brother. Until then he had seemed like a fancy cousin that we didn’t know very well and didn’t care about knowing any better. Laura was such a sweet and lovely young lady that her loving and laughing ways soon endeared her to all of us and we knew that she genuinely cared about us. They moved to Chandler after that and they spent many Sundays with us. We discovered the brother that we never really had known very well and found him to be a pretty special person. There was a new bonding that happened between all of us. His job took them to Oklahoma City for a while and then to Dallas. Kenneth had graduated from Draughn’s Business School and was an accountant. After they moved to Dallas two beautiful children were born to them, Susan and Kenny. We didn’t see much of them after that. Perhaps once or twice a year.
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The title of this book is a quotation from Psalms 90:9-10, and the Biblical reference is a key to the Christian concerns that characterize the author's life from her conversion in 1952 at the age of 32 to her death in 2009 at the age of 89. Born in 1920, Opal Earp was reared on a farm northwest of Stroud, Oklahoma where her grandparents had homesteaded. In 1938 she graduated from Chandler High School and the next year she married Archie Pounds of Chandler. They had three children born between 1941 and 1946. The account of her life after 1952 is controlled by her desire to be a Christian mother, and her description of family events after that year is strongly colored by this desire. Thus the narrative is not only an account of the life of a farm girl born in Lincoln County, Oklahoma, it is also a conversion narrative in the tradition of Jonathan Edwards. Fifty years after Edwards' death, large numbers of people were converted in the Second Great Awakening of 1800 and the great revival at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, that quickly followed and which became the pioneering pioneering event in the history of frontier camp meetings in America. Opal knew very little of these earlier events, but they figure strongly in the tale that she tells. that his ministry fanned into flame at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th.