Interview with Dessie McCarty Goodell (1889-1971) in 1964
Her son Lawrence Goodell (Senior) was present at the beginning. Larry Goodell, her grandson, conducted and recorded the interview on a reel to reel recorder and subsequently converted the interview to digital and a CD for the extended McCarty family. Larry’s transcribing the interview takes place in August 2021. Anything in parentheses are his comments.
(Interview starts in the middle of Dessie’s talking about a new chair, not the rocking chair you hear throughout the interview!)
Dessie: They asked me for 138 dollars to cover that old couch and chair and here I get this new one for 50! So I figure I got plenty yet of that 138 dollars to buy me a nice chair.
(Speaking of the recording). . . He played me back a little.
Lawrence: Did you think you sounded that way?
Dessie: No, did you ever?
Lawrence: Oh I’ve been recorded lots of times.
Dessie: Did you ever think so?
Lawrence: It’s a great surprise at first when you find out how you sound, but you get used to it.
Dessie: Do you know who I sounded like to me? I sounded like Dot Eldringhoff. (one of Grandma’s sisters) You always sound like someone else. (To Lawrence) You can play what I said about the water. It’s gone though now.
Larry: She wants to know about the water, what you thought about the water (in Seattle, just back from a visit to visit his brother Harry).
Dessie: All I heard him say was how he was impressed by [?] He didn’t say anything about how he was impressed by all the water he saw. (Laughter) You did get a good view of Mount Rainier?
Lawrence: Oh yes.
Dessie: Did you [?]
Lawrence: I think there were some up there but I didn’t [?]
Dessie: See the ships?
Lawrence: Yes. It was a very clear day and you know the natives, the native people were all admiring the view and of course it was just the usual view to us because we can usually see 2 or 3 hundred miles in New Mexico any day.
Larry: The only trouble with that of course is what can you see?
Dessie: Yes. And just like what your dad said, “It’s a beautiful view of a lot of nothing but I like it.”
Larry: I like the view.
Dessie: Yeah I know it. I read one time that every inhabitant of the city of Seattle could be on a boat at one time, that they’ve got enough pleasure boats and private boats. And more people drown in the summer time than are killed in automobile accidents.
Lawrence: I don’t know if that’s any recommendation.(Laughter)
It’s a great country but I was not impressed by it. I would much rather live in New Mexico . . . or Southern California.
Larry: Did it rain much when you were there?
Lawrence: It didn’t rain at all.
Larry: When I went to Rainier I could not see it. I got one little glance and then it clouded over and started raining.
Lawrence: Well when we flew into Seattle we couldn’t see it. It was clouded over but later, it was clearer and we could see it . . . Are you going to put down about the trip coming in a wagon from Kansas?
Larry: I want to ask you about this.
Dessie: Oh I’m afraid I’ve forgotten so much of it. I came over a lot of the same ground, same road. I sure did.
Lawrence: I remember sleeping under that wagon seat, on that hay.
Larry: Did you have any streams to cross? That’s what Mamaw (Hattie Brown, Larry’s maternal grandmother) was talking about.
Dessie: Oh I was telling them (the Browns) when we were coming down that road how you sat in that front seat all the time and would not get back and I was counting on you to have a nap and you would not and every once in awhile you would wiggle and say “My bottom is tired.” But you didn’t [?] and say anything.
Lawrence: I can remember a lot about that trip although I was 4 years old. Is that right? Dessie: Yes.
Lawrence: And I can also remember the time we got the horses, can you remember that?
We picked up the horses somewhere in Oklahoma and . . .
Dessie: No, we picked them up in Great Bend, Kansas, and took them to Liberal.
Lawrence: I can remember how it snowed.
Dessie: And I can remember we hitched those horses in and spelled off our horses that were so tired because we were in mud ooo! just awful mud. Highways are a different proposition now, I tell you. The country looks different too, I’m sure.
Beautiful streams. So much water.
Larry: But it doesn’t look this way all the year around.
Dessie: No, the Spring is the nice time.
Lawrence: How long did it take us to make that trip.
Dessie: I think it was 28 to 30 days.
Lawrence: We didn’t hurry though did we?
Dessie: No, I don’t think so, we couldn’t have you know
Larry: Were there four of you?
Dessie: Four of us and two kids.
Larry: Who besides you and . . .
Dessie: Joe Goodell and his wife. He had a team of mules and we had a team of mares.
Larry: He’s the one you just saw wasn’t he.
Dessie: Unhuh. His wife cooked for 7 years in that hospital. She’s not the main cook but she tends to the diet and fixes the plates. 69 years old and she could retire but they’re afraid to on account of their circumstances and the prospect of a long sickness. He has had 3 or 4 strokes, but not bad ones.
Lawrence: I can remember when we lived in the wagons out on that little homestead and they built that house.
Larry: What homestead.
Lawrence: At Clayton.
Dessie: I can remember different towns where we had camped. We stayed all night in Meade, Kansas when we went through Meade. We stayed all night in Liberal.
Did I tell you we ate with Ernestine?
Lawrence: Yes. Was that a homestead, that piece of land that . . .
Dessie: It was a small . . . The ranchers in the early day had their men file in adjoining quarter sections around other places so that they could surround this place and make it undesirable for anybody to come across that land and they fenced the whole thing and they had what they called an “isolated acreage” within their fences. And this was an isolated 40 that belonged on a ranch to a ranch.
Lawrence: Was it just 40 acres?
Dessie: Just 40 acres was all it was.
Lawrence: But how did you find out about it?
Those people who were friends of ours who had moved there several years previous went to the land office. They were wanting us to come and they went to the land office and located this isolated 40 and wrote and told us about it. It was right on the highway in Clayton about 2 and a half miles South. So that was all we had to go to when we started out. We wanted to go to New Mexico and that was all we had to look forward to was getting that 40 acres. And the ranchman who told us the day we proved up on it he would give us 10 dollars a quarter acre for it. So, and, under the law, covering that kind of a deal, you could get it or, you could prove up in 14 months.
Lawrence: You would drill a well on it.
Dessie: No, we built a cistern and had the water hauled out from town.That is what we did and we rented some land from this rancher and put in row crops which consisted of broom corn, and feed crops which did real well.
Lawrence: How long did you live on it?
Dessie: 14 months and we proved up on it and he gave us the 10 dollars and in the meantime, you know, Papa had gone to work for Common[?] Lumber Company and then they transferred him to Grenville. (Just can’t make out company name)
Lawrence: What year was that?
Dessie: Well it was, I think it was 1916. Don’t you think that’s when it was?
Lawrence: I think that’s right.
Dessie: And I know that in 1918 we were in Grenville. I know that because that’s when the War started.
Larry: How far were you from downtown Clayton? Or was there a downtown.
Dessie: Oh less than 3 miles. We were right next to the highway.
Lawrence: There’s still a little cement thing there that was a chicken house wasn’t it? Or something, a barn?
Dessie. A chicken house and a cistern and the barn. Somebody moved the house away I presume.
Larry: Has Clayton grown or is it little tiny?
Dessie: Oh I don’t think it’s grown much larger than ?
Lawrence: I don’t know, probably about the same. Poppa had a motorcycle, didn’t he buy a motorcycle?
Dessie: Yeah he bought a motorcycle and rode it into work after he started working for Common Lumber Company. And I think he spent more time pushing it than he spent riding it because it didn’t work very well.
Larry. They had motorcycles in those days?
Dessie: Oh yeah, oh yeah.
And I can so well remember the ranchers hauling their broom corn and then they’d go past the house and one time some women the rim ran off of a wheel and they had to get somebody to come and fix it, then they came in the house and stayed and one of them looked around, went out and got a can sat by her chair she was dipping snuff. And that’s the first time I’d ever seen anyone dip snuff.
Larry. How big of a can?
Dessie: Oh just a little can.
Lawrence: I remember that when Papa was going back for the harvest in Kansas, a coyote came up to the chickens and you tried shooting the coyote with a gun. (Laughter) She was holding it like this. You got the gun out to shoot the coyote.
Dessie: I remember they ate the watermelons out of my garden, dug up the peanuts, we planted peanuts, they dug those up and ate them.
Lawrence: I remember one time, you know we had an outside toilet, and Virginia was going to the toilet and Uncle Joe said Hey Sis where are you going? And so she turned around like this, there was a tub of water sitting out there. She turned around like . . .
Dessie: Talking to Joe.
Lawrence: and fell in the tub of water.
Dessie: And you know that Joe, one of the things he told me.
Lawrence: It didn’t hurt her at all. She just backed into the tub of water.
Dessie: Joe sure did love her, my my.
Larry: I’ll bet he hasn’t seen her for a long time.
Dessie. He hasn’t.
Lawrence: It has been a long time.
Dessie: You know when she came up here the other day she said “I just think about and think about why I couldn’t have arranged to go with you. I would have given anything else in the world but I couldn’t possibly have taken just a week off.”
Larry: Doesn’t she get a vacation?
Dessie: Yes but she took one week of her vacation and cleaned house.
And so she didn’t have enough time left. I certainly would have been proud to have taken her with me.
(Lawrence leaves to go back to work)
Larry: Well I was wondering about when you moved from there to here.
Dessie: From the land down to . . .
Dessie: Oh. While we were still on the homestead . . . Grandpa went to work for the Common Lumber Company and then after the Depression, no, not the Depression it was before then. So many homesteaders were coming into the country and we did an enormous lumber business and they moved us to run a yard in Grenville which is between Clayton and DeMoines and they built a new yard. No, they had a man there in a small lumber yard who absconded and I had worked himself up to be a book keeper for the manager of this yard where he was working in Clayton. So after this man absconded they telegraphed and wanted to know if he would send him up there and take over this yard. And he went and after that, was about 1918 or 17, and the crops, dryland crops were wonderful and so many ranchers, or farmers, dryland farmers were improving their farms and there was an immense lumber business. We sold lumber, coal, cement, barbed wire, posts and a line of hardware, builder’s hardware. And I kept books and we were quite well paid and oh my we enjoyed it all. Lawrence and Virginia were big enough to go to school, but about that time along came Harry and I had to resign on that account and no longer kept the books. And he stayed there for I think into our eighth year in that place. And by that time why things were not so good and they closed the lumber yard. And we went to work for . . . no, before that
Larry: Who was they?
Dessie: The Common Lumber Company. But in the meantime Roberson [?] and Alber Company from Amarilla had built a yard there and we took over that. And then moved from there to Artesia for Roberson Alber in I think about 1925.
Larry: For the war years you were in . . .
Dessie: In Grenville and I remember in that little lumber yard one year at prices of course low prices, we did 100,000 dollars business which was a lot, but so much of it was building material, houses, and cement and the town boomed and Poppa and another man bought a tract of land off to the North, up to the Southwest part of town, opened up an addition, sold lots, and together made quite a little bit of money. And a few houses were build on these lots before times got hard and we left town. Then we went [?] Artesia in a lumber yard about 8 or 9 years before the depths of Depression. At that time we left and went back to Kansas and Colorado.
Larry: Oh I didn’t know you had gone back to Kansas.
Dessie: Yeah, we did, we went back to Kansas. The lumber yard was closed in that town.
Oh I might tell you about when we started to New Mexico we left from my father’s farm and ah we had the two wagons and what personal belongs we were bringing with us. And my father put in sacks of corn and even some bales of hay down underneath the seat, the wagon seat and Lawrence, the kids sat down on those bales of hay to rest, and when we started out I had the idea of writing a diary every day to send back home and I’d sit on that bale of hay by a lantern and write [?]entries in this diary. And then about every so far we stopped to pick up the mail. We had 3 or 4 places specified along the way where we would stop and ask for mail and then we would mail an installment of this back to
Larry: Back to your father . . .
Dessie: back to our folks and oh my! They just were so anxious to get it because they felt we were doing a rather courageous thing to start out on the highway you know and camp beside the road.
Larry: And where was the farm, Grandma?
Dessie: South between Clyde and Concordia in Cloud County.
Larry: Well why did you move to start out with?
Dessie: Why did we?
Larry: You got the land I mean . . .
Dessie: We had that land to come to and Harry and his brother Joe had owned a dray service, what we called, hauling for a lumber yard and oh they worked so hard, they would unload loads of coal and service down in people’s basements and unload lumber and stack it in that lumber yard and they worked awfully hard but they made pretty good money and they both were raised on a farm and I had been too and we all wanted back on a farm and we figured we never could own a farm in Kansas – land was too expensive so we thought we’ll just pioneer and we’ll just go to New Mexico where land is cheap and maybe sometime we’ll all get back on a farm which was our intention and while we were in this time in Grenville we did, while we were prosperous in selling those lots, we did buy a big farm. And made a down payment on it, but never were able to go ahead on the contract because times got hard and it just had to be lost what we put into it. It wasn’t any great amount. But it was really what we wanted to do.
But as we were coming we got [?]in the spring I can’t remember I think it was March and when we got down to Great Bend Kansas we got into a snow storm and the most horrible rain, biggest rain and the roads were just bottomless – there weren’t any paved roads there weren’t even gravel roads and the horses would have to pull so hard and it was so cold and miserable that we found a place, a wagon yard to put the horses and a rooming house for us to stay and we must have stayed there for 4 or 5 days. And (laughs) I remember walking down the hall with the kids and there was a sign up there I suppose it said “This Way in Case of Fire” or whatever to do and one of the children, I never can remember which one, stopped and said “How many miles to where does that say, Mom?” We’d been reading road signs.
Larry: Well you had Virginia and
Dessie: And Lawrence, Virginia 3, Lawrence was born in 1912 so he was 4 and she was 3, that’s how old they were. But anyway while we, when we went to leave that wagon yard a man came in. He’d gotten acquainted with the boys and he had a team of horses that he wanted taken to Liberal, Kansas, to a man there, they belonged to this man, or he was just sending them to him I don’t know. He wanted to know if we would take these horses and deliver them to that man. Well, we were glad to do it because I’m sure they had eyes on spelling our horses with these, putting them in the harness part of the time, so we started out with bad roads and heavy traveling, so we would occasionally hitch one of these horses in to help out the mules and the mares. And we were delayed, we didn’t get down there as quick as we were expected to, so these people at Liberal had the word you know that we would be there a day or so late getting to Liberal because of the bad roads and they were a mile or so on the other side of Liberal watching for us. I know they were wondering if we were a bunch of horse thieves.
I can’t remember, I’m afraid I’m not a very good narrator.
And you want to remember how long has it been? It’s been nearly 50 years. Because that would be 18 from . . . 50 . . .
I’ve got a picture somewhere of a wagon – we took the top, the cover part of the wagon off and sat down on the ground and we slept in there until well when we built the house there wasn’t room for all of us in the house – Joe and Mabel and the 2 kids slept in the house and we slept outside even in real cold weather in that wagon, what you call wagon jet, it’s set up far enough that we put a floor underneath it and then a canvas top over it and we slept out there. And we took the wagon and got the seats on it and went to Sunday School, a school house over about a couple miles, and we’ve got a picture of us and the kids and some neighbors all of us in that big ole wagon getting ready to go off to Sunday School. (Laughs) And then Joe, the big joker, he had a gun or two in the house, we thought we had to protect ourselves along the way, which we didn’t need – people got more friendly, the farther West we got the more friendly they were. They would come out and say “Well help yourself to the feed in the field here for your horses and after you’ve had your supper why come in and visit with us awhile.” Through Oklahoma and the Panhandle and down through Boise City everybody was so friendly.
And people began to try to sell us a place, where are you going and where would you like to locate. Well right here is the best place. They’d had a lot of rain around Boise City and they had some good dry land feed crops and they would ask if we would like to buy some land. And one day we came to a church in Boise City and there were clothes hanging out on the line – have I told you about that? – there was clothes hanging out on the line and one of the children said “Does somebody live in the Church?” And Joe, the big wag, said, “God lives there when He’s not out on a land deal.” (Laughs)
Larry: Well they take land and when they arrive and when others arrive they make a little money if they sold the land.
Dessie: Oh [?]. . It’s a dry land country which is the biggest gamble out of doors. [?]dry land.
Larry: The 20’s I guess that’s when you lost a lot of money.
Dessie: And the depression.
Larry: It didn’t seem too roaring to you.
Dessie: No it really wasn’t. I so well remember when the War broke out and so many people are going.
Larry: I guess they don’t have that diary, Grandma, do they?
Dessie: Well I’ve . . .
Larry: Have they traced it down?
Dessie: No, it was sent back to me and I’ve got a few sheets of it somewhere. It wasn’t as wonderful as they thought it was because they were so glad to hear from us and know how we were getting along.
But the very first stop we made the next county south of home we stopped to see at night if we could water our horses and the woman looked askance at us and turned around and asked her husband if it would be alright and we wondered if we were going to get to come in and water our horses and that was the first county South of where we’d lived all our lives. And then the farther west we got the more friendly and the more pleasant it was [?] we actually had a lot of [?]
Larry: Did you actually go back to Kansas first? Or what?
Dessie: We were in Kansas. (?) We never left here after we got here. And I didn’t even go back for a visit for 5 or 6 years.
Larry: Oh. Where did you go during the Depression? That’s what I was trying to . .
Dessie: We moved to Artesia from Clayton.
Larry: Well why there?
Dessie: Because the lumber company that we worked for closed their yard and moved us. Oil had been found in the Artesia area and they put in what they call a rig yard and sent us down there on the rig yard.
Larry: Well how did that work?
Dessie: Oh fine for awhile, just fine.
Larry: And then did they close that down?
Dessie: Let me think. I believe they sold to the Big Joe Lumber Company. I believe they sold it. And then we were out of a job.
Dessie: And then we decided to go back to Kansas. That’s when we got in the restaurant business.
Larry. But you didn’t go back to Kansas
Dessie: We did go back to Kansas.
Larry: Oh you did.
Dessie: And stayed there a couple years and the black blizzards came. That was the dirt storms. The very first of the dirt storms.
Larry. Was that back on your father’s . . .
Dessie: No, that was western Kansas. We never went back to that part of Kansas, that was western Kansas. And we went there because my mother had a brother who was running a restaurant in a hotel and she was sick and tired of it and we . . . well we were just sort of desperate for something to do or we never would have traveled. And we went back there and kept the same cook, a young woman, and then rented it, rented the place from them. And oh it was when things were so cheap. That must have been about 1937. And we took that over and from the time we started it we did better and better and . . .
Larry. Where was it, Grandma?
Dessie: Atwood. Atwood, Kansas, which is the second county from the northern tier and the second county from the western side of Kansas, a big wheat farming country, and they raised a big corn crop and wasn’t too good plains[?]. We specialized in Sunday dinners and we’d just begun having a crowd and we doubled that business within two months’ time, a nice place. All it needed was for someone to furnish good food. And then this woman who had promised us that we could have it indefinitely if we could make a go of it – she owned it – and she was the wife of my mother’s brother. Well she told us she wanted it back. (Laugh). She thought the Depression and all the hard times was over.
But we bought turkeys for turkey dinners for 10 cents a pound on foot. Just think about it. And eggs for practically nothing. Well then we went over to another town and rented a restaurant over there.
Larry. My dad was still in Artesia.
Larry. And had married and I’d been born.
Larry. My mother was in the hospital I guess.
Dessie. She went to the hospital I think while . . .
We went to this other town and started again and these horrible black blizzards came. It would darken, the earth would darken the sun. It would be dark at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The wheat fields just raised up and blew away. So that was when we . . .
Larry: Tremendous dust storm.
Dessie: Yes. And it went on and was driving people out [?] and we left there and went to Denver.
Larry: Well, why? You started west.
Dessie: It was just too bad there. We decided that we might go back to New Mexico. And we went to Denver and looked around for a location and finally found this place in Empire which we built up, you know, and when we left there, we’d been there 15 years and we were the oldest persons in the food business in the county and I’m sure had the very best reputation.
Larry: What year did you get there, do you know? In Empire?
Dessie: Well let me see now, it must have been ‘32. Harry was in the 8th grade and he was born in 1920 so it was about 32. And stayed 15 years. And we enjoyed it after we began to do well and we made money. Saved money. In fact that’s the money I’m living on until the time I started doing what I’m doing now. And I haven’t touched one dime of that since for four years since I’ve started baby sitting and staying with Mrs. Reynolds [?]. I’ve got a lot to be thankful for, a LOT to be thankful for, taking care of Poppa for the ninth year when he died without any income at all, you know, except for what interest I got.
Larry: Well you worked awfully hard.
Dessie: Yes I did, Larry, I don’t see how I ever did it. I don’t. But, Larry, it didn’t hurt me. I’ve observed that of all the people I saw and I saw all the old folks, in fact, you know that old poem “If I should live to be the last leaf upon a tree, let them smile as I do” . . . no, “If I should live to be the last leaf upon the tree in the Spring, let them smile as I do now on the old forsaken bough where I cling . . .” and I told Leo (oldest McCarty sibling) we certainly are the last leaf because there are no more. There are so few. Everybody I’d asked about, well now he died, many of them much younger than I so I don’t figure that those days that I worked so hard hurt me very much.
Larry: Well you were the major cook. I mean you wrote checks.
Dessie: Yeah when I started I was doing it all and when I finished I had two helping me you know, one morning shift and one after shift but I was supervising them both so I was really working two shifts. Think of the wonderful friends we made.
Larry: How many pies did you bake a day, 15?
Dessie: Well, yes, on Sunday.
Larry: I recall that.
Dessie: We used 3 ovens and two of us worked on them. And we had to have them out by 8 so the roasts could go in, and the turkey.
A lot of pleasant memories. And made the most wonderful friends. And they still remember me.
Larry: Concordia, Kansas (recent visit)?.
Dessie: On this last visit of mine I arrived in Concordia on May the 29th and that night was the night of the high school alumni annual meeting for all graduates of the high school and their friends and since I had 5 brothers and sisters who had graduated from that high school I felt more than eligible to attend as one of their guests and I went hoping that I would see somebody that I knew. I saw a few and several spoke to me and talked to me because they remembered these younger brothers and sisters of mine who had graduated, each one of them having been elected president of his class when he had entered the highschool except the twins and they couldn’t have two presidents so the day they had the meeting to elect the class president they broke up because they couldn’t decide which one of them to make the president. The next day they had another meeting and made one of them president and the other vice-president so to keep up the tradition of the members of this family being the president of the freshmen class when they enrolled in highschool. I don’t know how long they continued to be but that’s the way they started. And I went and I had enrolled in that highschool, let’s see, 50 years, no, 60 years ago this same year I had enrolled in 1904 and would have been a member of the nineteen eight graduation class but I stayed on part of the year and we moved then to Concordia and I went to the highschool in Concordia. So I despaired of seeing anyone, almost anyone there that I knew and I finally decided that if I felt like it, if I felt good enough, strong enough to get out and do it, but I was tired, I would walk up to these people and I would say what is your name? I probably knew your grandfather (laugh). I really wanted to do it. But several came to talk to me that were friends of my younger brothers, and one man said, my brother introduced me to one man that I knew the family but didn’t know him and he said now this is my sister and she is from New Mexico he said “Oh my goodness I don’t see how you stand it. I got down as far as Tucumcari once and that’s all I could take.” (Laugh) And my sister-in-law was the next to the oldest one there and she graduated in nineteen six and then one woman was there who had graduated the year I had entered high school 60 years ago. There were a lot of them there and we had a very nice time.
And then furthermore I want to tell you this. The graveyard that we all visited on Decoration Day was a corner out of the homestead of my grandfather who came there and homesteaded after the Civil War under the law that allowed a Civil War veteran to apply the length of his service on the two years that it took to prove up the land, so he got his land without having lived there very long cause he had spent a full service, you know, in th Civil War. And then the school house where we had attended this reunion was on the exact side of the home where my mother was born and where the homestead stood, where the house stood, the homestead, that’s where the highschool was built. So that made it interesting.
Larry: What did you see in the graveyard?
Dessie: Well, graves of my grandmother’s parents, some of the oldest of the inheritance, graves of many many relatives, far more than . . . all, far more than, well there are none left but my immediate family, there are none.
Now that’s all I wanted to tell you about. The county was named by my Grandfather who was the first Representative in the Legislature after the County was organized and editor of the oldest newspaper, weekly newspaper in the county.
Larry: What was it called?
Dessie: It was called the Clyde Herald (laugh), what else, they were always the Herald or the Blade or the Clarion or the Enterprise.
Larry: Such as the Territorial Enterprise.
Dessie: Yeah. Those were the old days.
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The actual recording is here.
Related, from Lawrence Goodell years later: