By H. B. Ballew
(Note: the date and the newspaper in which this history was published is current unknown, but it was written before November, 1934. It was perhaps written in 1900.)
Josh Billings said a good laugh was better than compound cathartic pills and the next best thing to the Ten Commandments. Josh's home spun philosophy has been an inspiration to me for many years. More so, because I had read him close and sat under of his philosophical lectures, and since in touch with him I realize
"You can make the sky look bright
By just whistling.
And most all things seem right
While you are whistling.
Life don't hold so much that's wrong
If your heart is full of song
And you just keep jogging along
Mr. Carter has been called the greatest oat raiser, but I believe I would rather be classed with Mr. Carter and his excellent oat crop, and the half century I have lived among the good people of Honey Grove has stimulated it many degrees. As I have said before, I came here on a midnight train and the first man to greet me was Uncle Hint Smith, with scarcely anything on but his hat.
At the breakfast hour following, as I climbed over the wooden bench and Uncle Hint's brogan shoes, the first thing that greeted my nose and eyes was three big meat platters bountifully supplied with home-made sausages and broiled space ribs. Mrs. May Lane was at the head of the long table, and William Smith, esquire, presided at the foot of the table and said: "Friends, as a morning blessing I invite you to tackle this abundant supply of food as a hungry ox would a haystack or a fond mother for a lost child. In this food there there is no sin, sorrow, selfishness or envy and properly digested will keep you healthy, wealthy and wise."
Mrs. Lane, as the hostess, interrupted her brother and said, "Brother William, it requires more judgment when to talk than what to so. So I suggest you say 'Amen' and sit down." Of course we all laughed then, but "Brother William" was wound up and loathe to sit down, preferring to run down. So he came again and said, "Before I stop I want to say I am like old Brother Rabbit when he jumped into the old oaken well bucket and started rapidly toward the bottom of the well. 'Gee, I know whar I come from and I know what I was born, but fo' de Lord I haint any idea whar I gwine." With this wholesome breakfast before me, this cordiality and reception pub a new song in my mouth and in less than forty minutes I arose from that table with laughter in my soul, and
"If I knew where all the laughs are kept
That make the world so gay
I'd unlock the door of that place
And give them all away.
If I knew where all the tears are kept
that make the world so gray
I'd lock the door of that cavern
And throw the keys away."
Before noon I had rented a store house from Captain Underwood and in a few months I made the best investment of my life, for I married Lucie Davidson, the prettiest girl in town, and soon learned she knew more than I did and was "willing to admit it." On one occasion I chided her for being short of judgment, when she sized me up and calmly replied: "You are right."
Looking back this half century I note but few characters are living that were in the dear old town then, but the generation still living lend me a cheerful hand wherever I go, and I would rather live ten years here than live a hundred years among strangers. Oh, I have had to shed some tears and the reverses in business have discouraged me frequently, but the sympathy of neighbors and the helping hand of the citizenship at large have overcome the disappointments, and in all candor I really believe there is as little gile in this community as in any town in the big world.
After a few years I became a shoe drummer, and every dry goods merchant in town became my customer, and one years they bought forty-two thousand dollars worth of boots and shoes from me. It was no uncommon things to have two or three merchants in my sample room at the same time and frequently the leading merchants would guarantee the account of a smaller dealer. I had ten of these merchants and clerks at my home once on a birthday occasion, and my speech to them was: "Gentlemen, in kindness and confidence you each surpass the other." As I can recollect the business around the square then were Captain W. Underwood, J. B. McKee, J. C. McDonald, Wilkins & Nesbitt, T. B. Yarbourgh, A. G. Stobaugh, William Bramlette, G. A. Dailey, J. C. Sanders, Barnett & Hale, B. S. Walcott & Son, B. F. Wood & Son, A. H. Smith, Lane Hotel, Long Lumber Company, T. H. Steaton, editor "The Independent," M. B. Crowson, Dr. Dailey, the gins and W. E. Dailey four mill. Prof. Parks was school superintendent, G. W. Wells, B. N. Woodson and G. A. Carpenter, the lawyers; Dailey, Gambell, Joiner, Pickens, Meyer, Booth, Bramlette, Grizzard, the doctors; Uncle Poe Smith was major; four of the aldermen, with W. E. Smith as city marshall, were named Smith and all held office at the same time.
The old Union church house was the onlyl house of worship in town, and the big bell hangs and is the property of the Baptist church today. Jobe Taylor was the only drayman and G. A. Dailey was the postmaster.
As I write this I am reminded of the personality of some of the characters in question.
U. T. Cole was practically a retired capitalist and a veritable philosopher. On one occasion I heard him say: "I have been standing around on the street corner for twenty years waiting for something to turn up and 'by-dam' Gus Stobaugh is turning it up every day."
George Carpenter and Bob Baird were the wits of the town. One day a farmer brought a live coon to town and Bob and George both wanted the coon and each offered to buy it. The farmer said: "Boys, sit down there on the curbstone, and the one who tells me which political party he belongs to and gives the best reason why, I will give the coon." George said he was a democrat-republican, because those parties favored both silver and gold. Bob scratched his head and blabbered out he was a greenbacker, "'cause he wanted the coon." Bob was the winner.
John Erwin was the society manipulator and no girl in town was ever forgotten for a dance or social party. Billy Erwin, though wearing knee breeches, was (as he is yet) chief fiddler.
Colonel White and his five sons were the resident drummers; all traveled for the same wholesale house in New Orleans.
Pink Price, Albert and Wiley Smith, Jim Robnett, Jim Woodson and Dr. Joe Meyer were the dudes, each wearing a Greely hat, white vest and button shoes on Sunday.
Colonel Woodson, Jim Brackeen and George Dailey were the champion croquet players, Marshall Galbraith and Port Allen and nearby prominent farmers; Mr. Lamb, Joe Taylor's (State Press) father-in-law, was the Methodist minister; J. H. Boyet the Baptist minister. Mr. Boyet was an ex-soldier and word cowboy boots and government clothing in the pulpit. He was somewhat illiterate and butchered the English language, but was a close student and in a few years became a Doctor of Divinity. It was he who started the Texas Baptist Standard.
Honey Grove was noted those days as a big botton market and distinguished itself very prominently as a mudhole. I remember there were weeks at a time a farmer could not get to town on horseback.
As I look back over this half century I note quite a number of towhead boys who went out into the big world and distinguished themselves in most all branches of business and profession and in all candor I do not believe any town of its size in Texas had turned out a cleaner and better lot of men and women these fifty years.