Friday, June 15, 2018

                            The Prison Story and the Family Relocation to Oregon

When my Daddy, Fred Owen, was sentenced to one year and one day in Federal Court for not paying taxes on his moonshine, he was sent to a Federal Prison in Atlanta, Georgia. By the way there is no way that Georgia Moonshine can compare to my Daddy's whiskey.

We had no income while Daddy was in prison. We subsisted on canned goods, garden vegetables and what game we could catch or shoot. We ate squirrels, groundhogs, rabbits, deer and other animals too slow to get away. Uncle Robert gave us a big Russian Hog for winter meat. We had an old Jersey cow for a milk cow. We made our own butter and butter milk. My Mother always found a way to put food on the table along with either biscuits or corn bread.
Sometimes a meal would consist of a bowl of buttermilk and cornbread broken into the bowl.

One staple was pinto beans which we referred to as "soup beans". When I got married, I asked Anita to go to the store to pick up some soup beans and she came back empty handed. "I searched every pack of beans in the store and they did not have soup beans" said she. I went to the store with her and pointed out the bag of pinto beans. She still argues that the package did not say "soup beans" which is a minor technicality. Sometimes my Daddy would just spoon the soup from the beans and have the soup with cornbread. My brother Charles would mash the pinto beans up on his plate and mash homemade butter into the beans. To this day when I see a can of what is called "refried beans", I think of Charles.

Without Daddy, my Mother took over management of the 12 children or at least tried. It would be kind to describe us as manageable. Charles, as the oldest of the clan was appointed as the family Sheriff by Mama. He would run down whichever kid needed a whupping and deliver him or her to Mama for the application of a hickory switch. 

At any rate, without the income from selling of Daddy's whiskey, our food and resources dwindled. 

My sister Thelma and my brother-in-law Henson packed us all into a green and white Chrysler and took us to Oregon. What a long and tiresome trip that was with kids stacked to the ceiling of the Chrysler from the floorboard up. Several days later we arrived in Westport, Oregon. Thelma and Henson put us up in a beautiful home that set at the foot of Nicoli Mountain.
They bought the house and several acres from Earnie, the store owner in Westport. Mama went to Earnie's store and asked him where the grits were located. He gave her a strange look  and asked : "what are grits". Well the store started carrying grits. My brother Gerald was with Mama at the store and as he was exploring the store goods, he turned a corner and ran into the bread man who dropped his crates of bread on the floor. As he was picking up the bread, he said to Gerald, "excuse me" and Gerald blurted out "Thank you".

To call Gerald a rascal would be an understatement. At that time we both loved peanut butter and we were racing to the house to get some peanut butter. Gerald beat me to the house, grabbed the peanut butter jar and scooped about 4 tablespoonfuls of into his mouth and tried to swallow. Well, that much peanut butter is hard to swallow. He got a strange look on his fact and started turning blue as he grabbed his throat. I called Mama who rushed in the kitchen and almost beat him to death as she slapped him on the back until enough of the peanut butter went down so he could breath again. I don't think he has had peanut butter since. 

We survived Oregon by picking berrys, stringing bean fields, picking beans and strawberries. We would never have survived without Thelma and Henson's help.

Gerald and I were climbing an English Walnut tree when we saw a strange car coming up the drive. It was a taxicab. We were totally shocked when Daddy climbed out of the taxicab. He was carrying an old brown suitcase and he looked awful tired. He had spent a year and one day in prison and here he was in Oregon after a long train ride and a taxi cab ride. He told Gerald and I to go and get Mama and tell her to bring some money to pay the taxi cab man. We started to climb the hill to the house but we saw Mama running down the hill  flapping her apron up to her face and crying. I could never stand to see my Mama cry so  I shed a tear too. We were finally a family back together again.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

48th Wedding Anniversary New Ways to Send Flowers

Repost of My Woman My Woman My Wife

Marty Robbins did a great job  singing the song "My Woman My Woman My Wife. When my daughter Margaret first started this newsletter it was not a blog but just a collection of stories. The stories I wrote prior to the blog coming along did not get transferred.

Since today is the Anniversary of my marriage to my wife Anita (aka White Girl) I decided to repost the story previously posted in the original pre-blog Owen Newsletter. I am fortunate that the white girl has stuck by me these many years (48 today). She has stood by me through thick and thin with more thin than thick.

My grandpa told me that if I decided to get a woman to be my wife to keep her and that is what I have done. I learned the hard way to listen to my grandpa.

I found her in a little dusty town in Arizona, fell in love, left her and went to Viet Nam and then she finally chased me until I caught her in Rockville, Maryland and married me on 30 September 1966.

Anyway, I won't go into the details but at some point I stole Marty Robbin's song title and here is the original story.




I’ve told the kids a lot of different stories over the years about how Anita chased me until I caught her. Well, that part of the story is true. I might have exaggerated some on the rest of the story.


I joined the Navy on a guaranteed Aviation School Program. Henry McDevitt and I tried to get a job right out of High School and didn’t have too much luck. I will always remember my high school graduation. Mama, Grandma, and Thelma were out there in the auditorium on June 9th of 1964. My brother Harold gave me a watch for a graduation present. I kept that watch for years and years and lost it in Hong Kong or the Philippines. I don’t rightly remember which. My graduation ring went to a pretty girl who wrote me two or three letters in Boot Camp and then finally a Dear John letter. Gerald could identify with that since he has always called himself John. Course I have heard Mary Grace call him some other names that we won’t put in the newsletter. So you could say that Gerald has gone by quite a few names. Allen Fisher always called him Joel and I picked up on that. Daddy called him Dammit Gerald.


Any way back to the graduation. They were proud of me and I was proud to have them there. Well, Henry and I got a wild hair one day after putting in 20 or 30 applications and being rejected because we had not put in our service time. At that time the draft was alive and well and Vietnam was just heating up a bit. Henry and I called the Navy recruiter and he met us at Verona’s house in greater downtown Rosman. When the recruiter got there, he wanted us to take a test so Henry took his arm and knocked about 2 cases of empty beer cans off the kitchen table and we proceeded to drink our breakfast beer and take the entrance test. The Navy recruiter sat there and sipped beer while Henry and I finally qualified for a job. We joined on the buddy program and went to San Diego Boot Camp and then to Naval Air Facility, Litchfield Park, Arizona.


There were lots of girls in Arizona and most of them liked Sailors so Henry and I had no problem getting a date for a movie or a drive out to the mountains to look at the moon. One day we went into the drugstore in the small town of Avondale and there was this girl there that acted like she did not especially care for Sailors. I found out quickly that she made the best Tuna Fish Sandwiches I had ever had. Her burgers were so so. Anyway, eventually, Henry and I started dating Anita and Lupe. I don’t know how Lupe got Henry to marry her, especially after Henry lost her to me one night in a Poker Game. When I left town to go to Vietnam (Henry and I both volunteered), Anita was bad sick and when I went to tell her goodbye, her Mama would not let me in the house to see her.


 Not too long before Anita and I had argued and she told me that she would not marry me unless I was the last man on earth. Well, after I left and she didn’t have me there to argue with, she started writing me letters. She courted me pretty heavy in those letters and one day I got a letter with a key to her apartment in it. I guess she wanted the last man on earth to come visit her in Arlington Virginia. She had trained for and become an Airlines Reservation Agent and lived in Arlington Virginia and worked in Washington D.C. with Northwest Airlines.


Well, to make a long story short, the last man on earth went to Arlington, the key fit, and he took the girl to Rockville, Maryland and married her. We got in a big fight on our wedding day but I’ll save that story for another time. We just recently celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary and have two great children and some pretty nice grandchildren. I guess you could say that Henry and I lucked out. I guess you could also say that I taught Anita to never again threaten to not marry me if I was the last man on earth. Who got the last laugh there? If I had it to do all over again, I would do it again. She still makes the best Tuna Fish Sandwiches and keeps the last man on earth happy. You don’t suppose she said she wouldn’t marry me because she knew how stubborn I was and planned to marry me all along do you?  Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.




Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Hog came Home


Sherman and Jason went into the house and proceeded to the kitchen table. Jason was married to Sherman's daughter, Dora, bringing the McCalls into the spreading Owen family. Dora and Jason recently added a new member to the family,  a boy, Elzie.

Sherman poured a cup of coffee for Jason and they sat down at the table to look at the Sale Bill.

Sunday, August 3, 2014



            Scene from Sherman's side porch

Sherman and the boys trudged home along the banks of Diamond Creek. As they got to the pig pen Sherman went to the broken locust post attached to the gate and examined the break on the post. It appeared to have broken even with the ground and not rotted as he suspected. He told Leonard to get some wire from the overhang of the corn crib and to bring the post hole digger.

He walked to the back of the pig pen and selected a locust post that Robert had recently split from the locust logs gathered at the top of the ridge overlooking his house and the creek. Locust is an extremely hard and durable fence post and lasts for years before beginning to show signs of rot. The pen had been constructed just three years prior and he did not think that the post would have  deteriorated that quickly.

Fred and Robert had retrieved a hammer and a small bag of staples and Leonard had returned with the wire. As they were finishing up with the repairs Loan came out on the front porch and banged the triangular iron  hanging by the porch swing.

"Lets go wash up boys your mama is calling us to eat." Robert retorts, "I guess we won't have to fill the hog trough or put leaves in the pen." The hell you won't", replied Sherman "We are going to get our hog back come hell or high water."

As they approached the front porch of the house the Guinea hens flocked around them and Sherman stopped and lifted the top off a barrel and threw out some shelled corn to the hens. They made an awful racket as they fought over the corn. He did not like the noisy clucking but they had proven to be good watch dogs and the eggs were good. He chuckled as he thought of Bell, the beagle who mostly laid around on the porch and welcomed visitors. Some watch dog he thought but she did occasionally bring in a rabbit or two and she was good for squirrel and coon hunting also.

They stopped on the porch and washed their hands from the pan that Loan had put out for them. As they entered the house, the smell of frying pickled green beans and corn roused their appetite. Sherman knew from past similar meals that there would be fresh corn bread and a plate of radishes, lettuce and onion awaiting and possibly some fried okra and pinto beans.

He had called it exactly right. As they sat around the long table Loan poured coffee for all the boys and Sherman. He admired her new apron she had just made from the colorful flour sack they had purchased from the Company store in Rosman.

After lunch Sherman took a cup of coffee out to his favorite chair on the porch. His thoughts drifted back in time to sitting on the porch with his Daddy William Baxter Owen. His father was a great storyteller but mixed in with the stories Sherman learned a certain code of honor. Many of William's stories centered on past events within the Owen family and they always seemed to have a message of proper conduct. One such story came to his mind as he sipped his almost boiling cup of coffee. William was helping a friend across the way build a barn and he had left his wagon in the field loaded with lumber. He just unhitched his team of mules from the wagon and left it by the barn site. The following morning, he returned to find his wagon missing. He returned home and was strapping on his gun belt with the two pearl handled 45's that now hung in Sherman's bedroom. The word had gone out about the missing wagon. As Sherman watched his father oil and load the pistols he asked, "What are you going to do Daddy?" His father replied, "Gonna go get our wagon back." "You gonna shoot somebody?" asked Sherman." Son, never carry a gun that you are not ready to use. "You have to intend to use it or just don't take it. But if you find the other feller armed and you aren't then you are in a world of shit." "Can I go with you Daddy?" pleaded Sherman. "You can if you promise to stand to side out of danger. Now go saddle up the hosses"

Sherman and his father rode out from the house and trailed the Diamond Creek to a wagon crossing about three miles down from the house. "Where we going Daddy?" "Going to Balsam Grove." The mules trailed behind them as they wound down the hill to the road to Balsam Grove. Later in the day, they came to a road leading to the top of a hill. "How do you know the wagon is here Daddy?" "I don't for sure but this Morgan feller was eyeing us building the barn and he asked a lot of questions. Plus he has been known to take things that are not his before. We will just have to see what we will see." As they reached the top of the hill a small clearing among the trees on the ridge became visible. Nestled within the trees was a small cabin with a small barn. No one seemed to be home. William told Sherman to hold his position and he dismounted by the cabin and walked up some rickety steps to the front porch. When he knocked on the door there was no response. Sherman thought he saw a curtain move in the paned window to the right but he wasn't certain.

William came back to the horses and said, "Let's check the barn and see if anyone is there." As they rode down the ridge to the barn they saw the tail end of a wagon at the back of the barn. William called out, "Hello the barn." Receiving no reply he told Sherman to wait and he rode around the barn. Soon Sherman heard his father say, "Son, bring the mules." As they were hitching the mules to the double tree they heard a noise and down the hill came a man with a rifle cradled in his arms. They finished hitching the mules and the man called out as he got closer, "What the hell are you two doing?" "Oh," replied William, "we are hitching our wagon up"" I bought that wagon from a man from Tennessee Gap." the man blustered. William told Sherman to stand back and he stepped toward the man. "I think I know you. You are Alf Morgan aren't you?" The man cradling the rifle said, "What's it to you?" "Well, its just that I like to know the name of people I intend to shoot for stealing what is mine" "Wagons look a lot alike. How do you know this is even yore wagon?" " Well, for one thing I built the bed and rails of this wagon and my initials are on the planks."

"I didn't steal your wagon. I told you I bought the wagon" and he moved the rifle slightly. Sherman tensed up as his father put both hands on the Colt 45's holstered on his hip. The man said, "Hold on now there is no use for trouble" Sherman said, "Either you stole my wagon or you know who did. You give me the name of the feller from Tennessee Gap and show me a bill of sale and I will shoot him instead of you" The man stuttered as he blurted out, " M m mister, if that is yore wagon take it. I don't have a bill of sale and I will take the loss." William said, "There will be no trouble if you lay the rifle on the ground and do it gently." Morgan bent his knees slightly and laid the rifle on the ground. As William stepped toward him the man stumbled backwards a few steps keeping his eyes on William's 45's. William reached down and picked up the rifle. "You stay here, we will be leaving now. Yore rifle will be left on the porch. I don't want to see you again so take some advice. If I see you around me and mine again I will shoot first with no warning." He put the rifle in the wagon bed
as Sherman tied their horses behind the wagon. Sherman watched the man as they rode to the porch. "Git the rifle, unload it and place it on the porch. We will keep the shells."

Riding back to the Balsam Grove road, Sherman asked his father, "Would you have shot him? "Yep", replied William, " You do what you have to do." If you allow someone to take from you and yours word will get out and a man has to be able to hold his head up or he ain't much of a man. You have to watch out for yourself and yore family. A man doesn't have much without his name and  his word."Were you scared" asked Sherman. "Nope once I make up my mind about something being afraid would only make me subject to fear directing my moves instead of determination. Come hell or high water, I was going to get our wagon back."

Sherman finished his coffee and started back into the house as Jason McCall rode up to the porch and tied his horse t the rail. "Sherman", he called out, " Patterson plans to sell your hog at the Diamond Creek School house sale on Saturday." He carried a sale paper as he climbed the steps to the porch.

Stay tuned for Part 5.


Burdens are a blessing!.