My Daddy, Bennie Eugene Lawry, was born February 15, 1895, near Bronson, Kansas. Evidently, he wasn't too fond of the "Bennie." By the time I first knew him he had shortened it to Ben.
When he was small, he must have had two brothers, two sisters, one half-brother and one half-sister living at home. Grandpa Lawry lost his eyesight in 1888, so they had to struggle just to live.
He attended Stony Point School. I believe he completed the eighth grade. He said he farmed the home place the year he was 14. It was done with a plow and a cultivator that he walked behind as the horses pulled them.
He never told me much about his early life. I do have two tales of his experiences during his horse and buggy days. He had a "moon-eyed" horse that ran him into a creek off a low water bridge, and one time he asked a girl if he could drive her home. She replied, "you can if you have any harness that will fit me.”
He married my mother in 1918, and they went to Santa Rita, New Mexico, where he obtained a job carrying samples of the copper ore from the mines. I think one of Grandpa Lawry's daughters by his first marriage lived there and found the opportunity of a job for him.
He told of an incident which made him think his guardian angel was watching over him. He was walking along in the dark when he felt that something had stopped him. He stopped immediately and lit a match. He was standing on the brink of a deep pit. One more step and he would have fallen, probably to his death.
They came back to Kansas after the war, and I was born at my Aunt Cody's (Cora Hixson) farm. It was a few miles northwest of Bronson, Kansas. In 1920, Mama and Daddy were living in Mildred, Kansas. There was a cement plant there, and Daddy worked as day watchman. He broke his leg getting it caught while stepping over a moving belt.
Daddy ran a restaurant in Yates Center, Kansas in 1924. I don’t know how long he had it, but I think he went broke running it. He fed the prisoners in the local jail, and I was in awe of them when I went with Daddy to take their food.
I'm uncertain when Mama and Daddy first separated, but I remember living in Chanute, Kansas when there was just Mama and I. AIso, I remember living in Wichita, Kansas with Daddy and Mama. He worked at the oil refinery. They evidently separated again before I was six, because Mama and I were living by ourselves when I started school.
In March 1926, Daddy was working for a construction company building an addition to a salt plant in Lyons, Kansas. He worked in several places, finally coming to Buffville, Kansas to work in the brickyard. He married Hazel there on September 3, 1927.
His job was shoveling shale into metal carts. I believe they were one-half cubic yard capacity. They dynamited the shale down, and Daddy loaded it with a shovel, picking up big chunks and loading them by hand. He had to push the carts on a narrow gauge railroad track to the bottom of an inclined ramp where they were pulled up to the place where the shale was ground. He got 25 cents for each cart that he loaded and pushed up the ramp.
In a letter he wrote on October 28, 1928, he said: "there were two days that I made $6.90 a day each.” In the same letter, he told of paying $240 to pay off his model A Ford. When he was thinking of buying it, the salesman came out where he was working and helped him load shale all day to clinch the sale. Daddy didn't teII him until the end of the day that he had decided to buy the car before the salesman came out!
In October 1929, the brickyard closed, never to reopen. Sometime after that, we moved to a farm east of Buffville where we rented a house with garden Space and pasture for a cow. We lived there for several years. Our house burned down when I was in the eighth grade, and we moved back to Buffville until the owner of the farm bought an old house and moved it to the farm. Then we moved back to the farm again.
Later we lived on similar farms north of Altoona, south of Altoona, and east of Altoona. We also lived in Buffville again part of my senior year in high school.
Daddy didn't want to go on WPA but finally did when our cash income one month was only $5. He went to broom corn harvest and followed the wheat harvest to North Dakota one year before finally giving up and going on WPA.
While he and Grandpa Reeve were working in the Dakotas, the old German farmer's wife where they were working had twin babies during the morning and yet got up and prepared their noon meal!
When we were living east of Altoona in 1940, Daddy decided to move to Missouri, so we loaded our possessions on a trailer behind the old Model A Ford and drove it most of the way to Poplar Bluff, Missouri. We lived with Jessie and John Borton in a three room house. Ten people in 3 rooms.
Daddy and Uncle John worked for a man who owned a greenhouse for 10 cents an hour. I couldn't find any work so left home in early 1941, and hitchhiked to Texas.
One year while they lived in Missouri, Daddy took the family to Michigan to pick fruit. The family moved back to Kansas and bought 80 acres of farmland with an old house on it. They lived there for several years.
Daddy worked for the W. J. Small Company in Neodesha for 15 years. It was an alfalfa dehydrating plant. Daddy was in his late 40's and his 50's during these years. He sewed sacks and stacked bags of alfalfa meaI. The filled sacks weighed 100 pounds, and it was terribly hard work.
The farm had several miles of mud roads between it and town, so these years of arduous labor were plagued by fighting bad roads and a car which often refused to start until it was pulled by their team of horses. Hazel and Delbert did much of the farm work while Daddy worked in town.
Daddy and Hazel went to Oregon to pick fruit and vegetables one year. They stayed all winter after picking was over. Hazel got a job and daddy loafed all winter and read a lot of books.
In the 1960's, Daddy and Hazel bought a farm and a few acres east of Altoona. They had a truck farm and raised tomatoes and strawberries as well as other vegetables.
After Bob's family moved to Mena, Arkansas, Daddy and Hazel also moved there. Daddy was happy with his chickens and his garden. He would say, “tell the people you have been to Paradise," when we would leave to go back to Irving. He puttered around the garden patch on the day he died. He died on December 2, 1981, of heart complications.
He was a kind, gentle, hard working, loving man. I have my Lord’s assurance that at some point in eternity I will again see him in heaven, as he used to sing, “where they ring those golden belIs for you and me.”