Hiram A. McAdams

Jennie Robbins - Alice Rebecca Williamson

Vernon's Story

By William Vernon McAdams

Information communicated to Thomas Hiram McAdams and Jo Beth McAdams Stutts during an interview in 1976

On Jan. 13, 1901, I was born in the northwest part of Walker County to H. A. McAdams and Alice Williamson McAdams. Since my father was a rancher, I had a very interesting life. I am the only surviving son of the six boys. On April 4, 1925, Annie Cureton and I were married in Huntsville. The preacher who married us was Brother Andrews, the father of Dana Andrews, the movie star. Anita Glynn was born in 1926 at Round Prairie while I was teaching there. Four years later, Bill was born there. I taught there several years after teaching for a year at Rye in the Big Thicket. I then taught at John Conn and in Lavaca county for 5 years and then came back to Grimes county. I taught at Pankey for 7 years before moving to Bedias, where I was Superintendent for 17 years. During that time, on October 6, 1944, Virginia Ann was born in Bedias. I went to Madisonville after Bedias lost its school and was high school principal for three years before I retired. Annie died of Hodgkin's disease on February 18, 1970. I have four grandchildren.

Old Home Place about 1905: The Cotton Gin
When I was small, my father owned a cotton gin. In order to get to that gin from our house, I had to go down a hill and across a spring branch to get to it. I liked to play in the gin but when some of the other boys were working at the gin and saw me coming, they would blow the gin whistle, which would scare me and I would run back up the hill to the house. But if I ever got across the branch before they blew the whistle, it wouldn't scare me and I would go on into the gin and play all day. Old Luby Merchant carried the cotton from the gin stand to the press by hand. He would put it in an old screw press and tramp it with his feet. When he got the press just about full of cotton, we would run and jump in it and play in the cotton. One day, Floyd Roberts beat all of us to the press and jumped in. This time the cotton hadn't been packed and he sunk all the way to the bottom of the press underneath the cotton. He started squalling and Luby had to jump in and get him out.

When it came time for me to go to school, I rode with my brothers and sisters to the Wolf Hill school house. The teacher at Wolf Hill then was Mary Baldwin McAdams. The Wolf Hill school was north of the Old Place about 3 or 4 miles. It was a one teacher school, and is located near the John Wells place and east of Aunt Cat Wilson's house. In that whole first year of school, I must of gone to school about 3 or 4 times. One day I rode a mare to school called "Old Hip." While I was at school that day, "Old Hip" had a colt and I thought the world had come to an end. I didn't know how I was going to get home but after the others found out about the colt, I rode with them home. Later, after my daddy moved us to Bedias, in 1908, when I started to school there they asked me what grade I was in. I told them I was in Floyd Roberts' grade because he had moved there the year before.

"Batching" at the Old Home Place
After we moved to Bedias, sometimes my parents would go back to the Old Home Place and stay awhile. Other times we could stay there if some of the family was there. Most of the time we had to do some "batching," which meant finding fresh meat and cooking for ourselves. We would leave Poppa's house in Bedias on Monday morning and work all week at the Old Home Place, returning to Bedias on Friday night. It was a distance of about 10 miles and took about 3 hours on horseback.

"Mountain Oysters"
Several years later, Joe, Horace, Floyd Roberts and I had been working cattle one day and afterward we cooked up a platter of "mountain oysters." We were seated at the table eating when Clara and Jeanette came in. Jeanette asked us what we were eating. We told her it was "mountain oysters." Of course, Clara knew what we were eating and wouldn't eat any. But, Jeanette didn't know and sat down and ate as many as we did. She got outside and Clara told her what she had eaten. She got real mad at us and hasn't gotten over that incident yet! She finally did admit later that they tasted good. They were batter-fried just like real oysters.

A Whipping
Old Place - One day I ran under the house to avoid a whipping Poppa said he was going to give me for something I had done. Poppa told Joe to get under the house and drag me out. But Joe was afraid I was going to hit him if he tried so he refused to do it. Finally, Poppa started whipping Joe to get him to come after me. Joe finally did haul me out from under there and I got a whipping then.

Chewing Gum
When we were young, we would take pine resin, cook it to get the turpentine out of it, and then we took "stretch" berries and mixed them with the resin to make chewing gum. We would chew on that till our jaws gave out and then cut it into two pieces and chew on those parts awhile, continuing to do that until we finally got a small piece of "chewing" gum. (What are "stretch" berries?)

Christmas Time
At Christmas time, Poppa would soak some corn cobs in kerosene and tie long wires to the cobs and then tie them to his hands, feet and head. He would set them afire, get a cow bell and come down the road by the house scaring the Negroes and all of us kids to death. We didn't get much for Christmas then.

Wolf Pup
Old Home Place - One day Frank McAdams was driving cows when a wolf got after his cow dogs. He knew that there must be some wolf puppies nearby, so he hunted until he located them. Two times that I know of, he came to the house and got some shovels and Negroes to help him and took me with him one time and dug the wolf puppies out of their den. He would bring them back with him and give them to the Negroes. Another time, Frank sent his dog, "Old Doc," into a wolf den they found. That dog wouldn't go in so Frank shoved him on into the den and he soon came out dragging a half-grown wolf pup. The Negroes carried it to the house and chained it to that old tree that still stands by the well. When the chickens would get up early in the morning and start walking around, that wolf pup would catch them. Momma got tired of losing her chickens, so she made us get rid of that wolf.

Drinking from a Spring
Joe and I went cow hunting over on the Scales ranch land once by ourselves. We went to an old spring for a drink while we were over that way. There were boards spread over the spring and one was missing so that you could put head down between them and drink that old sulfur water. Of curse, Joe was the first to drink since he was the oldest. When my time to drink came, I got down and drank and while I was stooped over drinking, Joe sat on me and pushed my head down in the water. I was mad and told him I was going to whip him when I got up. He continued to sit on me until he saw his horse graze over near us, and then he got up and ran for his horse. Well, I caught him as he was getting on his horse and pulled him down and there in the middle of the Scales ranch we started to fight. He whipped me so bad I wish I hadn't caught him!

Opening Gates
Another episode like that occurred one time when I was riding with Horace. When we got to a gate, Horace told me to get down and open it because that was the only reason he brought me along. I told him he would have to whip me first before I would open that gate. Before the day was over, when we got to a gate, Horace would get down and open it himself, he was so tired of whipping me.

Dodging Rocks
When we lived at the Old Home Place, our post office was located over at cousin Eugene Woods' house. The post office was called "McAdams." Joe and I would walk over there to get the mail. That was about one mile away from our house. Harold Woods, one of cousin Eugene Woods' boys, would collect a bunch of rocks and when he saw Joe and I coming for the mail, he would throw those rocks at Joe and me. Well, when he ran out of rocks we would get him down finally and start whipping him good. Then, the Woods' girls would come out and tell us to "get off Harold cause he's ruptured." So, we would get off him. But, the next time we came for the mail, Harold would have another pile of rocks waiting to throw at us.

Fight Over a Wagon
Another time when we were little, Poppa brought a wagon home for Joe. When he started pulling that wagon around, I couldn't stand it so I started fighting him for the wagon. Poppa settled that argument by whipping both of us. It seems like I was always getting into trouble.

Aunt Frank
Bedias - We had a Negro wash-woman named Aunt Frank who called me "Leonard." One day when she was washing and I walked out by her, she said, "My God, Leonard, you have more 'rompers' (underwear) than anybody I know of."

Running from a Cow
Old Home Place - In the spring of one year, I was playing with a neighbor, Ransom Wells, down by the spring creek behind our house. We decided we would go swimming in the creek. Well, Ransom Wells was a red-headed boy and when he started taking off his clothes and got down to his red flannel underwear, that was too much red for an old cow that was grazing nearby. That cow chased us away from the creek and up the hill till we got over the fence.

Poppa had a lot of hogs running loose in the woods then. Sometimes after a hog hunt, there would be as many as 20 hogs hung up on poles, being cleaned and prepared. Again, all this meat was divided among all the neighbors and Negroes who worked for us.

Sugar Cane Mill and Grist Mill
We had our own syrup mill also. We would have a mule-drawn grinding stone to crush the sugar cane and cooking vats to prepare the syrup. The syrup mill was located in different places depending on where we grew the sugar cane. We also had a grist mill down by the cotton gin back of the house where we ground the corn to make corn meal.

Rock Candy
Our sugar cane syrup was stored in barrels. At the bottom of the barrel, the syrup would crystallize and turn into "rock candy." When the older boys would go to Ft. Worth to take a load of cows to market, Momma would get them to bring her back a pint of whiskey for medicinal purposes. Remember, Poppa wouldn't allow any drinking whiskey to be used around him. Momma would mix some of that whiskey in a container with that hard "rock candy" and use a teaspoon of it as medicine for us when we got the croup.

Pop's Land
Old Home Place - The countryside out around the Old Place looks quite different today than it did when I was young. It was more open, with less trees than we have now. Poppa had cattle all over the open country and piney woods, from Pine creek down by Hopewell and all along the South Bedias creek to the forks of the North and South Bedias creeks on the Madisonville to Huntsville road.

A Cougar Visits Us
One day the older boys had penned a bunch of cows by the Old Home Place. During the night a cat (cougar) came close by and scared the cows so bad they stampeded right through the sides of the pen. After Carl, Edgar and Frank had chased the cows a good ways and caught up with them, they found some of the cows with parts of the pen fencing still on their backs. They carried them on in to Bedias and loaded them on railroad cars to ship them out to market.

Our Dogs
Old Home Place - We had a dog named "Old Nipper" who never would stay at the same place for long. He would alternate staying with Edgar and Mary, or with Carl or with Frank and sometimes he would come back to the Old Place. But, any day it rained, he would come back to the Old Place because he knew that Poppa was probably going hog hunting the next morning. On these hog hunts, "Old Nipper" would sniff out a bed of piglets (with the old sow usually off feeding) and start playing with those piglets to make them squeal and attract the sow back to them. You had to have good dogs to herd both cattle and hogs in the piney woods. We had a few of the old breed of dogs helping us then. These were the dogs that were part wolf. Joe had a dog named "Jane" who was quite a cow dog. When we were herding cattle, that dog had to be in the lead and wouldn't quit till she found the lead cow and stayed right with her. I had a part Newfoundland bull-dog named "Watch" that was a good cow dog also. When we were herding cattle, if a calf dropped out of the herd, old "Watch" wouldn't bother it, but if a cow or bull tried to stray, that dog would chase it and grab it right by the end of the nose and back to the herd that cow would come with that dog holding it by the nose.

Bedias - Poppa had a real good milk cow when we lived in Bedias. After you milked, a good part of the top would be pure cream. Joe and Horace did most of the milking and they tried to teach me how to do it. But I wouldn't listen to them or even try to milk while they were at home. After they left home, I finally had to do the milking. Later on, Jack Langley liked to do the milking. When the cow had a calf, Jack would hog-tie that calf flat on its side while he was milking so it wouldn't bother him.

Trips to Huntsville
We didn't go to Huntsville very often. I did go with Poppa by horseback when he went to pay his taxes. We would spend the night there before returning to the Old Place. Later on, when I went to college in Huntsville, I drove a T-model Ford back and forth.

Sleeping at the Old Place
When the boys were staying at the Old Home Place and working the cattle, Poppa would sometimes come out there from Bedias and stay the night with us. He would wake up in the middle of the night, around 2 a.m. If anyone so much as wiggled a toe, he would be up and calling you. If you answered him, he would talk to you the rest of the night. We learned not to make any noise during the night. He went to bed early, right after dark, and woke up early.

Rope an Alligator
Old Home Place - Joe and I were hunting hogs down in the Bedias creek bottom one time. The creek had dried up into holes separated by dry spots. Each of us had a rope on our saddle that we were going to use on any hogs we found. As we crossed South Bedias creek, we saw where an alligator had dragged his tail along. We looked at each other and both said, "Let's get him!" We followed the creek a ways and came to a shallow hole of water with a number of logs in it. I saw the alligator in it and yelled at Joe. When I started making a lot of noise, the alligator left that shallow hole of water and started for another. Joe roped that alligator and dragged him away from the creek several hundred yards across old Horse prairie. I had thought about trying to carry him on to the Old Place, but that alligator was heavy and my horse had a sore back. So, we decided to tie him to a tree near a shallow hole of water and come back for him later. When we did come back the next day, that alligator was gone. He had pulled on that rope till it frayed and broke.