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Tom West Remembers, Too...

In 1928, Mr. Floyd bought a syrup mill, which he set up just west of his home place. The cane was hand stripped, cut with long knives, placed on flat-bed wagons, and carried to the mill. Places were provided at the mill for each farmer's cane, which he unloaded, stacked, and left to be ground when his turn came. Power was provided by a mule, walking in a circle and pulling a shaft that turned the wheels. Cotton Floyd attended the grinder. The ground-cane remains had to be carried off as waste; this was a heavy job, which Cotton "enjoyed" when the mules stopped to rest. Mr. Floyd made syrup for all the farmers on a commission basis. The mill later was sold to Mr. Swindell at Maxey Hall, and he ran it for several years.

One time Jimmy Pierce of Celeste wanted some sorghum syrup; so he and little Freddy Gaulden went to Mr. Bickham's Store to pick up my father to show them the way to the mill. A batch of syrup had just been run through the mill. It had thick skimmings on top, which was good eating, but had to be removed before storing the syrup in gallon cans. The day was extremely hot. Freddy ate far too much of the skimmings and wandered over to the shade of a nearby oak tree, sat against it, and leaned his head back. Mr. Pierce noticed him, walked over, and asked what was the matter. Freddy replied, "Mr. Jimmy, I'm sicker than Hell!"

No doubt he had heard that expression many times at his father's City Drug Store in Celeste.

Working for the Ford Company in Dallas, "Dutch" Floyd was the owner of a the first V-8 Ford in the community. Coming home from Dallas, he and his brother, "Fat" Floyd, were just west of Kinser below the old Hillbilly Baseball Field. Near there was a ninety-degree turn. Across the bar ditch was a big sign which read: Drive Slow or Call 80.
I. M. Stinger Funeral Home, Greenville, Texas.

"Dutch" didn't make the turn, but, luckily, both boys were uninjured and no one had to make that call.

We had another type of country store in those days. Paul Freeman had a store on wheels. It was a covered wagon pulled by mules. He had merchandise for sale and he bought chickens, eggs, and butter. He gave a better price for the farm produce if it were traded out for his wares.

Everybody raised chickens--for eating and for their eggs as well. In the spring, we separated our setting hens from our laying hens, but sometimes a laying hen left an egg in the setting hen's nest. Papa had some cottonseed saved for planting, stored in a shed close to where a mean old setting hen had her nest. That hen could take a piece out of anyone who bothered her. We had a hired hand who dipped snuff and tried to court one of my sisters. He hid his snuff (which came in a tin box and cost a dime) among the cotton seeds. We kids found it, removed the lid, and held the box so that the old hen would peck the snuff instead of pecking our hands. After a few pecks, the old hen had a mouthful of snuff and was one sick chicken! We got scared of what might happen to us--so we put the lid back on the box, secreted it again in its hiding place, washed off the chicken, and sold her and her eggs to Mr. Freeman, hoping Papa wouldn't miss her.

The gin was managed by Mr. Bob Blankenship. The boiler room was run by Tom Battle, the stands by Prentice Young, and the press by Clifford Green and Buck Weaver. Tom Battle was a big man, just of the Navy. When the gin was stopped, the machinery would stop on compression. The boiler was run by coal, which provided the steam power for the gin. The coal room was south of the boiler room. All the pumps for the press were operated by steam. Tom Battle would have to turn the big fly wheel over by hand before he turned the steam on. Years later, when Ellis Floyd was the manager and Lucian Greenwood was firing the boilers, the pressure rose too high, and there was a big explosion. Luckily, no one was in the boiler room at the time, so there were no injures except to the gin.

In 1934, Hickory Creek won their boys' tournament, beating Bailey in the finals. G. A. Lloyd and I made all-tournament and received a silver basketball with the inscription, "All-Tournament H.C., 1934." I still have mine in my keepsake box. The next year High Prairie and Sulphur Springs had two great players, one called "Cotton" and the other one, Don Looney, who later made All-American for TCU in football. Coached by Curly Cummings, High Prairie had Earl Witcher, Harold McRay, and Gene Hodges. These boys would come down our court saying, "You get Cotton; "I've got Looney!" We were impressed, and that statement became our slogan for sometime. However, Sulphur Springs won the tournament.

Until next time,
Tom West
382 East Louisiana Avenue
Raymondville, Texas 78580

(July 16, 1976, The Celeste Courier)

Submitted by Sarah Swindell

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