Oklahoman comes to own ‘piece of God’s good earth’

By Don McAlavy: Local Columnist

Editor’s note: The following was told by Jewel Buttram Ames.

We came to the (New Mexico) territory Feb. 20, 1907. I was 5 years old. I think we came to establish a permanent home and to own a piece of God’s good earth. We came from … Henryetta, Okla.

My dad and grandparents shipped to Clovis and drove our wagon drawn by our two big white horses (Old Buger and Joe Dabbs) with all of our worldly possessions in that old Springfield wagon. We spent our first night in a tent pitched in a sand bed in the little village of Melrose. A terrific sand storm blew all night.

I lost my only bonnet, and we were completely covered with sand. The next morning we proceeded on – to three miles south of Forrest and settled. The next year we moved one-half mile east of Forrest in a dugout 12 feet by 24 feet. We hauled water in barrels from the old Yates place two miles from our abode.

Our most interesting neighbor, Dr. William Lancaster, settled about eight miles from us. He made house calls by horseback, then later on a motorcycle, and then a winter snow had him fixing a sled and bolting a water barrel on it, cutting a hole in the barrel to see through and pull the reins to his old mule through the hole. He had an ingenious mind! Later he settled in Clovis.

For fuel we went to the brakes (the caprock) and cut our own wood to cook and heat with. We supplemented our wood with cow chips. For a living my dad, Millard Buttram, taught singing school, grew broomcorn, sold post to the settlers that he dug out of the brakes, and dug bare grass that a company bought.

We had so much time to learn things. We learned how to hoe, to handle a go-devil (plow), pull broomcorn, dig bare grass for money or groceries. We learned to saddle and harness and ride horses, play baseball, horseshoes, mumble peg, ciphering, spelling matches, lots of singing and dancing and walking. … We didn’t need centers and schools for exercising. We drove six miles in a wagon to church.

My first year of school was in a lady’s home. She taught about 10 of us. The second year, the settlers managed to build a one-room school and called it Forrest School. Later, it became a 16-teacher consolidated school in which I taught 25 of my 37 years.

Back then our schools were so meager, I hesitate to talk about them for fear I won’t be believed: 70 pupils in one room with one teacher for the first to third grade, sitting on a 12-inch-wide board across bricks on the floor. Very few text books, no libraries, a small amount of paper, no magazines, etc. Yet we learned. We learned many principles and methods that have carried over into our characters and made us tough, so tough.

I had to go back to Henryetta, Okla., to finish high school, and then came back to find my husband, Jim Ames (James Black Ames), who had moved here from Oklahoma. We were married Sept. 6, 1924. We had a son, Jimmie Jr., who died at the age of 18 months. Then we were blessed with a beautiful little daughter, Shirley Kay, who married Robert (Bob) Herron in 1950. They had two daughters, Bobbie Kay (Wagley), Judy (Sours) and a son, Jim Herron. Each of them had two children. My six great-grandchildren I love equally well.

We enjoyed it all, those years, and are none the worse for it. My honest reaction to this life is not unhappiness but memories that live. These things taught us how to combat tough problems that are bound to confront us in this life.

Here in the country we know everyone’s good and bad faults and love them. I love it here in southern Quay County and never want to live anywhere else.

(Jewel Ames passed away in January of 1990 at age 88. She was buried in the little Plain Cemetery west of Grady. She will be remembered.)