T. W. Goodson
is reported to have
taught at his own "academy" in East Texas before he was
married. Later he taught a one-room school near Roberts,
which his older children attended. Harry, always
full of good nature because he so loved
stewed apricots, was a notorious giggler, even in the
schoolroom. His father once scolded, "Harry, an' you giggle one more
time, I shall raise little
whelps all over your backside." Well, Harry
was also a studious and
curious little fellow, and there was a dictionary in the
scampered right to it. When he discovered Webster's
meaning for "whelp," a giggle escaped him in spite of himself. The
loved to tell such stories over and over again, claiming one improved,
an old stew, every time it was set forth. When he was an old man, Harry
still told this one, which he would
conclude with his wheezy laugh: "And that's exactly what
Papa did. He
raised little puppy dogs all over my backside."
Plain Folks in Arkansas
(1856-1936) may have been born in Texas, but in 1875 his
father obtained an eighty-acre homestead in Arkansas. The
settlement, Boyd, became one of the stops
along a logging railroad
out of Texarkana in 1888. Other stations were at Ferguson's Mill,
where there was a school, Fouke, Black Diamond (where Tom and Molly
were living in 1899, when my mother was born), Dodridge, Ida and other
villages on into Louisiana. The rails were taken
about the middle of the
century, and the last old depot disappeared a few years later.
villages except Fouke, and perhaps Dodridge, have long
disappeared. But during the last decade of the nineteenth century
the first of the twentieth, the slow train provided
cheap transportation from one to the other, through the pine and
hardwood forests where Tom delivered the mail with his buggy while Nell
hopped the train to Liberty School at Roberts.
On the first day of
school, the children had to supply
their names for Tom to enter in his school book, where he recorded
attendance, as well as the tuition each family paid, often in
kind. The story goes that
one child said
her name was Baby Rose. "Baby Rose," Tom Goodson growled at the poor
girl, "I shall call you Mary." And so he did.
Tom's was still a day when
religion reflected a
considered position. For example, you may recall that the Methodists
agreed with the old Anabaptists in discounting any mystical power in
the sacraments, which they liked to explain as mere symbols. It was
misleading, they felt, to perform any particular rite without
understanding exactly what it meant, and stood for. Therefore they
thought it foolish to baptize mere infants. One should wait until the
child reached an age of understanding. But
of course there were also still those denominations which did firmly
in the mystical efficacy of the sacraments. Tom Goodson had always been
an argumentative fellow, loved reasonable discourse, really appreciated
Since his own Methodist congregation could not afford a preacher every
frequently had to attend amother church nearby. One Sunday the old man
himself as guest
right down front. The preacher was haranguing the congregation on
crucial importance of baptism for infants. "I tell you brethren and
he shouted. "They is babes in hell not a span long." Tom, being up in
by then, may not have appreciated the resonance of his own voice.
a lie," he muttered. His fellow worshippers were scandalized; he went
across the street to a justice of the peace and paid a fine for
public worship, five dollars I believe. My mother remarked that it was
good thing he did so.
But Tom did have a sense of humor that today may
not seem very nuanced. I have a typed report telling how Tom, as a
man teaching in a particularly blighted neck of the woods called
Hill," wrote a squib about one of the parents.
|Of all the men of Hungry Hill
|There's one superior man.
|They called him John McCan.
|To hear him tell about himself
|You'd think no one could be
|So brave, so strong, so
|So wise and learned as he.
|He knew the history of his own,
|And foreign lands also.
|He knew the Bible lid from lid
|There was little he did not know.
|He really believed when he'd
get to heaven,
|St. Peter would take him by the
|And leading him up to the Golden
|Say, "Have my seat, John McCan."
later, so my report continues, "at an exhibition for the last day of
school exercises, a cousin asked Mr. Goodson if he
could give a number, to which Mr. Goodson agreed, asking if he himself
should select the subject to be recited. No, the cousin would select
own number. Imagine Mr. Goodson's horror when the cousin began
being introduced by the master of ceremonies the night of the
'Of all the men of Hungry Hill'--but Mr. Goodson relaxed considerable
instead of [John McCan] the cousin shouted 'Ephraham.' You see, John
was really a friend of Mr. Goodson's, and was present at the
As Tom and Molly grew older, the
children took a more protective posture. I believe it was Gerald
his mother a huge specimen of the favorite dog of that day, a German
His name was Tony, a perfectly lovely dog, but I take it the beast was
intimidating. It is said he liked to stroll down the sandy lane under
oak trees behind some unsuspecting pedestrian, then silently leap over
head. They said Charley Cox poisoned Tony. I think the children may
all contributed to buying Tom and Molly another of the fads of the day,
automobile. I remember it well. I believe it was a Chevrolet, but in
case a coupe, with a rumble seat upholstered in red imitation leather.
got to ride in it.
Family of Thomas Watts Goodson (1856-1936) m. Mary
Elizabeth McClure (1862-1938):
Standing: Gerald, Harry, Albert.
Pearl, Nell, Ora, Ray
Albert followed in
his father's footsteps delivering a rural mail
route, but Ora actually succeeded her father as postmistress in Fouke.
Pearl became an R.N., and Raye followed her example but then went ahead
and became a school nurse, ultimately the head of that department in
the Dallas Public School System. Harry went to the University of
Arkansas, became a C.P.A. and eventually a partner in Haskins and
Sells. Gerald and Florence got positions with oil companies, he in
equipment sales for Continental, she as legal
secretary for Gulf Oil. Although Tom and Molly, children of the
age, had nine children (including Little Charlie, who died as a boy),
there were only six grandchildren. Three of their offspring did not
who did remained childless. It was the ones espousing urban life who
Gerald came on a visit to Dallas one hot summer, Nell, Raye,
Harry, Elza and Gerald decided to run down
to Cabell's and get some ice cream. Cabell's was the best ice cream
in Dallas. Harry, being the one with plenty of money, was the first out
of the car to go in and buy it. "Will a pint be about right?" He asked.
"Aw, make it a pint and a half," Gerald suggested.
Tom and Molly's grown children would "go home" for
Christmas. Our little family traveled from West Texas, Harry and Raye
and Pearl from
Dallas, Florence from Houston, Gerald from Tulsa. Some might sleep at
Ora and Russell's, others with Albert and Hortense. Gerald and Harry
would bring their fancy hunting coats, gear, and automatic shotguns.
Harry brought the bird dog which his trainer kept for him during the
the year. Russell (Ora's husband) would take them quail hunting. Albert
did not go, but his teen-aged son,
Albert Jr. did, and he was by far the fastest with his shotgun, speed
all important when you flush a covey of quail. Harry would show off the
set of chokes he had for his gun. In those days pretty much any field
open to quail hunting, and most people could direct you to where a
had last been seen. One good field was the Old Goodson Place, where the
triangular fifteen acres south of the county road was still an
open field surrounded by remnants of the rail fence
the Goodson boys had built. Several old black oaks marked the site
where the house had once stood. The place was surrounded by big
On Christmas Eve we would go up
to the Old Place and
Albert Junior would scale a huge holly tree and saw the top out so that
we had a Christmas tree which reached to the ceiling of the front room.
Rough banquet tables borrowed from the church yard were set up from the
room through the dining room out onto the back porch. After dinner the
would sit around the fire and light their pipe by putting a red coal
the bowl. For them, Christmas Eve was the time to shoot off the
had all brought along for me. We would take a shovelful of red coals
into the dark backyard. You could stick the fuse of a firecracker onto
hot coal and when it began to fizzle, you had to throw it. I remember
when I was about four I did not throw it in time, and my hand was
really stunned. I had Roman candles, too.
may have been born in Alabama, he may have lived for
a time in Texas, where his father had ventured before the War, but I
found records in the old Washington (Miller County) Courthouse of his
marriage to Mary Elizabeth McClure.
Molly Goodson nèe McClure, with author, 1932