Category: My Family History

Gene Foster – Part 10: A boy and his horse

I was at Mom and Dad’s house one day in 2015, when Gene started talking about his childhood horse. I pulled out my smartphone and began to make a video. The horse was named Buck. Gene’s dad, Everett, bought Buck, “from a guy somewhere. I think he was over off of [Highway] 19 somewhere. I never did know who it [was]. . . . He bought another one, old Buster.” Gene could not remember much about Buck other than that the previous owner claimed he had been used in a rodeo.

“He was a good [horse],” Gene said. “You would get after a cow. Dad had cows up in the sand hills back then–you’d get after a cow, just show him [Buck] which one you wanted and all you had to do was hang on.”

I asked Dad how you showed a horse which cow to cut out from the rest. “Oh, you just go in there and cut him out.”

Ferrell: “And he figures it out?”

Gene: “Yeah. You’re wanting to pen that one cow or something, you know.”

[Source: Gene Foster interviewed by Ferrell Foster, Jr., October 2, 2015, at Gene’s house on FM 316 southwest of Eustace. Edited transcript from four video segments.]

Copyright © 2020 Ferrell Foster

Gene Foster – Part 9: A failure and a blessing

After the sixth grade, Gene “went to Eustace School to finish my education. The first year at Eustace, I had to go to a temporary building because the old school burned down. We called it the Cow Shed, because it was a long building like a cow shed and held several classes.”

Seventh grade was “probably the lowest point of my school life,” Gene later wrote. First, he developed appendicitis and had to have his appendix removed. “In those days they kept you in hospital at least a week, then you had to stay in bed at home at least a week, before you could even get up.” The hospital was actually an old house converted into a hospital by Dr. L.L. Cockerell. Gene’s dad had to borrow $125 to pay the hospital. 

The biggest problem came in the aftermath of the surgery. Hubert Wheat, Gene’s seventh grade teacher, “failed me. It wasn’t on grades either. He told Dad I was too young, was the reason he failed me, so I had to do the 7th grade over.”

Dad had told me this story before. It still bothered him decades after it happened. But as he wrote about it in the early 1990s, he saw something different in the experience. “As I write this, something was reveiled [sic] to me I had never in my life thought about. I probably would never have met Hilda Noble in my senior year.” 

This made me wonder about something else. If Dad had finished school one year earlier, he probably would have entered the Army one year earlier in 1943. As it was, he never saw combat in the Pacific because he didn’t make it in time. Graduate one year earlier, and my tender-hearted dad may have had a very different life.

So, here’s a family tip of the hat to teacher Hubert Wheat, whom I’m sure has passed on by now. Wheat angered my dad at the time and for a long time afterward, but that teacher also paved the way for the rest of Gene’s life.

[Source: This reaction is taken from an Internet blog post by Ferrell Foster, “Sometimes it takes a while to see a blessing,” https://ferrellfoster.com/2018/04/08/sometimes-it-takes-a-while-to-see-a-blessing/%5D

Copyright © 2020 Ferrell Foster

Gene Foster – Part 5: Encounter with an axe

Gene’s earliest farm work memories are of his parents picking cotton. While his mother and dad picked cotton, “I would ride in sack or stay in shade until I got big enough to help pick.” 

“Big enough” apparently came quickly. “There were always daily chores around farm,” Gene wrote in the early 1990s while in his late 60s. He put firewood in the house or on the porch, and he fed the hogs and cows. He also dried the dishes for his mother. 

At age 5, Gene’s life could have ended. His older brother, Charles, and cousin, Wilson Beeson, were cutting down a tree “near the tank behind house.” People in many parts of the country, would call the “tank” a pond — stock tank or stock pond. The Fosters had moved dirt to dam up a draw behind (north of) the house. When it rained, the “tank” would catch enough water for the livestock to drink until the next rains. 

The tree stood just off the trail that went around the tank. “I decided I wanted to watch from other side,” Gene wrote later. “I run behind Wilson as he was coming on back swing with ax. Needless to say it layed my jaw wide open.” They carried Gene to Eustace to have the doctor sew it up. “I will never forget, Doc’s office was upstairs. He sent downstairs for some men to hold me while he sewed me up. A man on each leg & arms, I’ll never forget getting one leg loose an kicking Doc in stomach. I still have proof of that experience” — a scar.

[Note: I have kept Dad’s grammar errors intact. I guess I’m just a stickler for historical accuracy.]

Copyright © 2020 Ferrell Foster

Gene Foster – Part 4: Growing in Eustace

Everett, Gert, Charles, and Gene moved to the Cottonwood community northeast of Eustace in 1928 or 1929. Ruth Cook wrote about Cottonwood years later in 1985. Here’s how she described it:

“The once thriving farming community of Cottonwood isn’t very far south of Melton Rock on the Old Prairie Athens Road.

“The Community had a school which consolidated with Eustace in 1943. There was a store owned by Shade Graham. A Post office was located in this store also. Manse Morton owned and operated a grist mill and blacksmith shop. There was a Baptist Church. The Cemetery has existed since 1871. It’s located farther south across FM 2709. There’s a sign showing the direction to the cemetery. It is maintained by voluntary donations. An annual Memorial service is held on the first Sunday in June. 

“Some of the early settlers were the: Benges, Grahams, Campbells, Mortons, Robersons, Allisons, McKinneys, Fraziers, Davises, Blackwells, Stewarts, Greens, Ballards, Hutchersons, Whites and Tucks.” [Source: Ruth Cook, Sept 30, 1985, in a paper. She said she obtained the information from Horace Campbell, Bonnie Green, and Eustace Chamber of Commerce.]

The move to Cottonwood was basically a return home for Gertrude Foster. She was born March 29, 1902, and grew up on Hickory Hill in the middle of Cottonwood, the daughter of John Henry Morton and Amanda Carylon Roberson Morton.

  Years later, Gene wrote about the move. “We moved to Cottonwood in 1929. I was 2 years old. I can remember getting there in a wagon.” 

The house had four rooms — two large ones, plus a small one on the east end and “shed type” room on the north side. The north room initially served as a kitchen, but, Gene wrote, “It was cold and in very poor condition.” So they moved the kitchen to the east room. 

When Gene’s brother, Billy John, was born August 24, 1929, Gene said he stayed with his Aunt Jewel nearby during the baby’s delivery. 

Beyond the circumstances of the Fosters’ meager existence, the broader world soon would change. Just months after their move and three days after Gene’s third birthday, the American economy collapsed.

“On October 29, 1929, Black Tuesday hit Wall Street as investors traded some 16 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange in a single day. Billions of dollars were lost, wiping out thousands of investors. In the aftermath of Black Tuesday, America and the rest of the industrialized world spiraled downward into the Great Depression (1929-39), the deepest and longest-lasting economic downturn in the history of the Western industrialized world up to that time.” [Source: History.com, “Stock Market Crash of 1929, https://www.history.com/topics/1929-stock-market-crash]

The Fosters were no longer sharecroppers. They now lived on land they owned, but the Depression would have ripple effects throughout the nation. Of course, Gene, as a child, would not understand that impact. It merely was life for him. It was a life of simple things–a hard-working Dad and Mom, honored grandparents nearby, hot work in the fields, some time to fish and ride horses, baseball in the fields with friends, church, and school.

Note: This information is more thoroughly sourced in the original document that is yet to be published.

Copyright © 2020 Ferrell Foster

Gene Foster – Part 1: 1926

Note: I am working to gradually tell my dad’s life story, 1926-2019. This is the first section.

1926

Gene Foster got his start in the world on October 26, 1926, in a rural community. The world that welcomed Ferrell Eugene Foster into the world represented an in-between time. The “war to end all wars” rested eight years in the past, and no one knew that Europe would boil into another war in just thirteen years, with the United States following two years later. 

Everett and Gert Foster gave birth to Gene in the Roaring Twenties, but not much was roaring in their part–the sharecropper part–of the world. While the Twenties roared, no one knew that the Great Depression would soon wipe away fortunes of the rich and make it hard for regular folks to survive.

1926 Ford Model T

In this pre-Depression, pre-World War II world, much else happened. Henry Ford announced the 40-hour work week. Route 66 was created, connecting Chicago, Texas, California, and points in between. John Logie Baird provided a public demonstration of a television. National Broadcasting Co. (NBC) was launched. Fighting increased among gangsters as they sought to control illegal alcohol sales.

Probably the most lasting legacy of the 1920s is the novel, The Great Gatsby, published in 1925. “The Great Gatsby is the defining novel of the Twenties,” wrote Matthew J. Bruccoli in 1992. [Source: Matthew J. Bruccoli, “Preface,” The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald] And, because of the novel and movie, we can be tempted to think of the 1920s as lavish parties, drunkenness, organized crime, and uninhibited sex. This was not Gene Foster’s world, but he would connect with the aftermath of this giant cultural party back East — the Depression. The stock market collapse of 1929 ended what F. Scott Fitzgerald called “the most expensive orgy in history.” Gene Foster’s family did not experience the orgy; they did live the Depression.

Before the Depression, “most Texans lived on farms or ranches or in small towns,” says Carlyn Hammons. 

“Though the previous decade saw successes in oil, the economy was still dominated by agriculture — cotton in the north, livestock in the west and a growing citrus industry in the south. When the stock market crashed in 1929, many Texans believed the state’s rural nature would insulate the region from the worst of the financial crisis. As the nation’s economy collapsed, it became clear that Texas would suffer, too. Across the state, agriculture and the new industries of oil and lumber fell victim to the growing economic depression.” [Source: Carlyn Hammons, “The Great Depression and World War II 1930-1945,” http://texasourtexas.texaspbs.org/the-eras-of-texas/great-depression-ww2/%5D

Gene’s birth, of course, was not the only one of 1926. Some other babies arrived that year that would go to be widely known–civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy (March 11), comedian Jerry Lewis (March 16), novelist Harper Lee (April 28), actor Andy Griffith (June 1), actress Marilyn Monroe (June 1), and rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry (October 18).

Copyright © 2020 Ferrell Foster