It was spring revival time at Gum Branch School where the Hailes and Carsons were attending Sunday school. "We went every night and every morning for a week," Alma recalls. "The pastor, Brother Benson, was doing the preaching and it was during this spring revival meeting of 1902 that Lola and some of the other kids were converted. We were baptized in a pond across the road from the school or if the creeks were full we would be baptized in a low place in the creek," Alma recalls. "The last Sunday of this meeting it started raining and it was so bad that we couldn't go home after the morning service. About 2:00 p.m. Carl decided he would go home and get a wagon with a canvas top on it and take us all home. He made about 3 trips but he got us all home, a little wet, but we were home anyway," she recalls.
This harvest time of 1902 was a special time for the Hailes. Up to now Jim had to buy his seed oats and wheat if he didn't want to take time to put the bundles of oats on a wagon sheet and beat the oats out with sticks and then wind blow the chaff out of the seed. There was something new in the community a threshing machine, and Jim hired the owner to come and thresh his oats. "It was run by horses," Alma recalls. "It took eight strong horses and they went round and round like a flying jenny. They had to catch the oats in sacks and then load them on a wagon and haul them to the barn. Paw would hire a straw stacker who could stack the straw so it wouldn't be ruined by rain. Then during the winter the cattle and horses on the home place were allowed to graze on the straw stack, and Paw had his seed oats and wheat for next year."
Jim Haile went to Hico for supplies one morning and happened to see a family in a covered wagon just at the edge of town. What really caught his eye was a beautiful paint mare that was tied to the wagon. "Sure, I'll sell her," the owner said, "but I'll have to have $50 for her. We saw Paw coming up the road leading her behind the wagon," Alma recalls. "She was the nicest, gentlest thing you ever saw. We all tried to set on the mare. Mollie was a little thing about three years old and it scared her to death," Alma laughs, "but after that when she got bigger she was worse than a boy to want to ride a horse."
"The Laings had moved to the farm just west of where my momma lived when she was a girl," Alma recalls. "I guess that's where Ollie met Dora. We had just had a big Christmas party at our house. We had all the Carsons and other neighbors over and had a lot of apples and oranges and Christmas candy and we played a lot of games. Ollie brought Dora to the party and told us that they were going to get married."
"Ollie had a matched team of horses and when he hooked this team to a nice buggy and went to see Dora he was stepping out in high cotton. He was sure proud of that team," Alma recalls. Dora's father had served under General Robert E. Lee in the Army of the Confederacy and had moved to Hamilton County shortly after the war. Dora was born in a log cabin near Jonesboro just inside the Hamilton county line on March 1, 1883. Her father died just three years after she was born. She attended school in Stanford Valley, Ireland, Jonesboro and Pleasant Valley where she graduated from the 8th grade.
Ollie Lee Haile, 22 years old and Dora Mae Laing 19 were married in Dora's mother's home on December 28, 1902. The well-known pioneer Baptist preacher, Reverend S.A. Raines performed the ceremony. After the vows were said, the wedding party went to Olin Baptist church for a worship service.
"They lived in the house with us two or three weeks, then they moved into the little gray house just a little ways down the hill," Alma recalls. "Then Paw bought the Rogers place and Ollie and Dora moved up there and lived there about 67 years until he died," she said. "Right after Ollie and Dora moved to the Rogers place some 'night riders' came to his house and threatened him if he didn't pay money for protection. They told Ollie that they would be back for the money. Paw told Ollie that the next time they came for him to slip down to the ranch and then they would all take their guns and go back up there and show them a fight. Well, I guess the 'night riders' got scared off cause they never came back," Alma remembers.
The following children were born to this marriage: William Noble, December 30, 1904; Wallace Lee, April 30, 1908; Daniel Layton, March 25, 1910; and Ray, September 20, 1915.
"Soon after Ollie and Dora moved to the Rogers place the Post Office out of Hico started delivering mail every day," Alma recalls. "The carrier came in a double buggy and delivered our and Ollie's mail right to the corner of his place. We got the Hico newspaper, a few magazines, and some letters and one of the boys would go up everyday and get our mail."
It was spring of 1903 and Ollie and Dud were planting the corn and cotton. Ollie was farming for himself now but he still swapped work back and forth with his dad. He was still planting his oats by hand but he had seen a drill that would plant the oats in little rows in smooth ground and he knew it wouldn't be too many years before he had one.
The garden was up pretty. The 15 peach trees were loaded with peaches. "They weren't small grafted trees like we have now," Alma says, "they were big and tall as a house and made lots of peaches. We had a plumb orchard, and lots of grapes and we put up lots of preserves and jellies. Maw had a long wooden table in the smoke house and we would put the table legs in cans with water in them to keep the ants off. She would start cooking plumb and grape jellies and preserves and start filling about a half dozen 8 gallon crock jars that were on the table." Alma continues. "She always put lots of sugar in the preserves and jellies so they would keep. But they didn't have to keep very long," Alma laughs, "Cause there was so many of us kids and we ate them up pretty fast."
"She would put down a layer of cucumbers then a layer of salt then another layer of cucumbers and another layer of salt till she filled some more crocks," Alma recalls. "Then after awhile she would take the cucumbers out and wash them and soak them in water for about a week, then she would make pickles. When we wanted some grape and plum preserves or jellies or some pickles we would just go out to the smoke house and get them. It was sure nice having all these things to eat," Alma says.
"We always had lots of dried peaches too," Alma remembers. "Sometimes we would have the barn roof covered with them while they were drying." They were sure good in cobbles and pies and fried pies," she laughs. "We canned some peaches too but we didn't can vegetables cause we didn't know how as yet."
"Sure, we had horse and cattle thieves," Alma says. "I remember one time Paw had just traded for a team of black horses. He put them in the barn and fed them and while he was in the house eating supper, thieves stole the horses and we never heard from them again. You really had to watch your stock in those days," she says.
"I remember that the cattlemen didn't want any sheep in the country cause they thought the sheep ate the grass down too close to the ground and ruined it for the cattle," Alma recalls. "There was a man that lived about a mile south of us and he had sheep. The cattlemen threatened to kill his sheep and kill him too if he insisted on keeping the sheep," she says. "Now Paw was a cattleman but he figured a man ought to be allowed to raise any kind of livestock that he wanted to on his own land.
Many nights after dark Paw would take his gun and go down to that man's house and they'd sit under the sheep shed waiting for anybody that might come to kill his sheep. A few years later Paw leased part of the big Chitwood pasture to a sheep raiser. They soon found out that sheep didn't really hurt the pasture cause they ate the weeds and left the grass for the cattle," Alma said.
"Every fall us kids had to go down to the river on some pasture Paw was leasing and pick up pecans," Alma recalls. "We'd pick them up on the halves. When we got all thru we'd fill up a barrel and ship half of what we picked to the owner of the land. Those pecans were sure good on cold winter nights around the fireplace. We also bought maple syrup by the barrel full too. It took an awful lot of groceries to feed all of us and we always had a school teacher and maybe a traveler or politician or a pots and pans salesman staying all night with us."
A soft snow had fallen during the night and this made the Christmas time of 1903 even more enjoyable. "As far as Santa Claus was concerned, I never did see one until I was 21 years old," Alma recalls, "but they talked about him all the time and I was scared to death of Santa Claus till I was 12 years old. We were all afraid to step out of doors at night cause we were afraid he would grab us and pull us under the house."
"We'd hang out stockings on nails driven into the mantle and that's how I kina caught on that there wasn't any Santa Claus. We had the cradle sitting by the fireplace and there were so many of us kids that we couldn't all get our stockings hung up and maybe we'd get a big doll or something that wouldn't go into the stockings. I got up that night to go out doors and it was getting along towards daylight and I saw Ole Paint standing by the saddle house and I thought, boy that's the reindeer, that's Santa Claus right there!! I went back into the house and saw that a light was lit in the fireplace room. I looked thru a crack in the door and saw Paw and Maw putting things in the stockings and laying some on the cradle. That's when I figured out that there wasn't any Santa Claus," Alma laughs.
"We had parties on Christmas," Alma recalls, "we'd cook cakes and cookies and Paw would buy candy, apples, and oranges. We'd have Carl, Arien, and Thurman come over and also John Carson's kids Mollie, Kate, Ray and Curtis and of course all the other neighbor kids would be there. Carl was really beginning to make eyes at Lola. He had some competition too, it was Burt Burney," she laughs. "Carl was so jealous of him. Arien went with Dud some too but they never really got serious. We had to walk everywhere we went and Arien said that Dud walked real fast, like he was pulling corn."
"Mr. Wiseman, the photographer and Cubbie Hooker, who worked in Petty's store and the one that my brother Cubbie was named for, came out that Christmas to hunt. We always had big dinners and everybody came," Alma recalls, "and we all sure had a good time. Mr. Wiseman and Cubbie Hooker brought a big basket of apples, oranges, and bananas and set the basket on the floor in the fireplace room. They thought us kids would start eating the fruit but we were all so bashful and we didn't make a move. Well, as soon as they stepped out of the room, we all made a dive for that basket of fruit and we sure made a big dent in it cause we didn't have fresh fruit very often," Alma laughs.
"We didn't have dances but we all played 'ring plays' I guess you would call it square dancing now. We didn't have any music. Somebody would call it off and talk songs like Ole Joe Clark and others," she continues. "We sure had a lot of fun on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years eating all those goodies and playing all those games," Alma recalls.