LET'S REMINISCE: Remembering a pioneering grandfather
I am always happy to hear from readers of this column, especially when they share a family reminiscence, like this one from Connie Culp of Howe, TX.
James Olin Nix, my dad's father, was a true pioneer, born in Anson, Texas. He was the oldest of eight children, and he remembered wearing a dress until he was six years old. When anyone came to their house he would crawl under the bed and hide. Remembering how proud he was to get his first suit of clothes with pants, he could describe it in great detail.
He remembered going to school but said he never got through the first reader. He was given a spelling book one day and had to walk three miles home in a bad sandstorm. He finally dropped the book and saw it blowing away, the leaves flopping and tearing to pieces.
When his father died Olin quit school to farm and help feed the family. Plowing with mules, he made his first crop of cotton and maize, doing most of the work himself. In the next six years he and his family moved three times; he found work wherever he could and his mother took in washing.
His usual wages were $15 dollars a month, or 50 cents per day. He and one of the farmers he worked for put two planters together and made a 2-row planter with steel wheels and a tongue hitch. He said people came from miles around to see this innovation.
On December 24, 1913, when Olin was nineteen years old, he married Irene Stovall. The newlyweds moved to Hamlin, TX, and rented land that they farmed together. Their food was dry salted bacon they could buy for 3 or 4 cents a pound, red beans, and potatoes, which cost a dollar for 100 pounds.
They made a bale of cotton in 1914 that sold for four cents a pound. Then they received a letter from Irene's father asking them to come back to Paducah, TX. He offered to give them a cow and calf and $60, so they moved back there. In 1916 they moved to Lamesa in Dawson County, where they lived the rest of their lives.
The young couple bought their first piece of land, 160 acres for $500 down, plus two land notes for $110 each plus interest. Olin paid the notes by working for $1.50 per day. He dug postholes, put up fences, and all sorts of odd jobs. However in 1918, after he had completed paying for the land, he offered to
return it because of a severe drought. But they were persuaded to stay, and became a vital part of that area.
Olin had many jobs and businesses. He traded mules, cattle and hogs, owned a restaurant, a hotel, a farm equipment dealership, and had oil and natural gas wells.
Most people without an education would've never attempted all these enterprises, but Irene was a true helpmate for Olin. When he came home he would recount to her all his dealings of the day, and she kept records.
He loved to trade – livestock, land, businesses – and had an excellent reputation. Many people have told stories of their dealings with him. He could look at livestock in the field and come very close to guessing their weight, buying them on the spot. But when he took them to town if they weighed more than he'd guessed, he would go back to the farmer with more money.
Granddad was still alive in 1976 at 82 years of age. At that time he had just lost his wife after 62 years of marriage, but he was still quite active. My grandfather died at 87 years of age from a blood clot following a surgical procedure.
His grandchildren still gather every couple of years and we marvel at the legacy he left. We feel very fortunate to have known and loved such a courageous Texas pioneer.
Jerry Lincecum is a retired Austin College professor who now teaches classes for older adults who want to write their life stories. He welcomes your reminiscences on any subject: email@example.com.