I Remember When . . . .
Great Stories about growing up in the Horntown, Oklahoma area!

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A Horntown Citizen

     Preston Carmichael was a good man. Everyone knew that. I never heard a single bit of criticism about him. But I didn't know just how good he was until I Was grown and had not seen him in years.
     He looked like an average farmer. His wife Evy was a good old country Mama. They had two pretty daughters, Jo Ann and Alsa Dean. Jo Ann sang Soprano and Alsa Dean sang alto at the Hickory Grove Baptist church. Both were good students at Moss and neither was ever in trouble for any reason. Preston and Evy also raised a boy who was not their own son. He was younger and I did not get to know him. They were all good people.
     They lived on an eighty acre farm two miles west and three south of Horntown. The farm was pure sand and was best suited to peanuts and watermelons. Preston always planted a large watermelon patch near the road. I always wondered why he planted such a large field of watermelons. Hundreds of them went to waste each year. The field by the road was a bad place. It made the melons...well...ah, shall we say, accessible. The road was lined on both sides by large trees making a dark tunnel on a moonless night. It was easy to ride a horse down the road, tie him to a tree limb and crawl through the fence. And I've been told (blush) that boys all around Hickory Grove did this regularly and often. There was little danger of cars coming along that road. In the forties, people around Horntown did not go out after dark.
     There were several problems. (or so they tell me) One was those painful little sand burs. The second problem was a huge weed called Canadian Thistle. They grew profusely in sandy soil. If the weed so much as touched your skin, it would burn for hours, worse than any wasp sting. The third problem was even more serious. Little copperhead snakes loved the shade of melon vines. They looked harmless enough but were dangerous. Just ask Johnny Roberts. He stepped on one once and walked on crutches for six weeks.
     Stealing watermelons sounds like larceny. I'm not so sure. I've searched the Bible and have yet to find any prohibition of stealing watermelons or lying about fishing.
     At the Hickory Grove church, people did not go home for an hour and a half after the services were dismissed. Women visited inside, the men hunkered down against the side of the church, sharing a 'plug' of Day's Work tobacco and some of us younger people stood out by the road, told stories and entertained each other.
     One such Sunday, Preston talked a while with the men and walked out to where we were having fun. He walked up and said, "Boys, the watermelons are ready. If you don't get at em, they're gonna spoil." Being good boys, we did as we were told.
     Years later, it dawned on me that he planted extra melons each year just for us. It must have been a lot of work. All the plowing, harrowing, planting and hand hoeing of the thistles and crab grass. Unselfishly, he did it for us, all of us, just so we could experience that rite of passage that was so much a part of our tradition. He well knew the tradition of ..ah... procuring melons and he made it easy for
us.
     I've thought about this a lot through the years, and, as I look back, I see more and more reason to believe that Preston was a special man, with a very special family. It was a privilege being neighbors with the Carmichaels.
     I wish I had told him so.
Clayton Adair, Class of 1954 (Clayton attended Moss 1942-53 and graduated from Holdenville - 1954)

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