Jewel Gay Remembers

 

    As young men, John Forrest Hall and James Edward Gay (1871-1960) left Tennessee and worked for a while in Texas. They returned to their native state and James married Della Hibdon in 1898.

    In 1916 the Gay family, including seven children, arrived by train in Bonham, Texas, and was met by J. F. Hall in a “Dort” car. On the way to Mulberry, they had a flat. The Halls’ new house was already finished, so the Gays occupied first the vacant house nearby. Then at Christmas they moved to the Plummer place and a house “on the hill”. Their cotton crop in 1917, six acres near a bottom-land pecan grove, “grew shoulder high and made a bale per acre, the first picking.” James then sold the remainder to his old friend John and returned to Tennessee, where he worked in a “powder factory” till the Great War ended.

    In the spring of 1919, James and Della Gay moved back from Tennessee and settled again in Mulberry on Lightfoot land near the east bank of the river. The following summer the Gays met Robert Lightfoot on one of his periodic visits to Mulberry. Their sixth child, Jewel (born 1910), remembered, “He always wore a coat. A proper man, I guess.”

    Throughout his life, Jewel Gay preserved vivid memories and created pictures in words, like this, of his father and “a silver-plated revolver”.


    Hear his voice....                    


    After his mother’s death in 1922, Jewel lived with his sister Cleo’s family and started work in the Prices’ store. Harry Price made a practice of “adapting” young boys to help out, and for this he bought their clothes and other necessities. The next year Jewel moved into a two-room house that Harry built nearby. In the school year 1923-24, Jewel made weekly trips to Bonham in Harry’s T-model truck to get merchandise. “We sold everything from tooth picks to horse collars. I’d be a little late to school, but that didn’t matter.”

    Jewel Gay and Clarence Hall sat together at a double oak desk. One day they “did something wrong, like kids will.” The teacher came to the back of the room and whacked Jewel and then Clarence, “two at a time,” and the whole room laughed. By this time the school was drinking from a well, instead of the nearby spring. Jewel remembered John Cruz (teacher Effie Phillips beat him so bad) who loved to sing “Little Brown Church in the Wildwood,” and was later crippled by polio. The Barrientez’ called John was “a good baseball player”.


    Jewel (pictured) knew all the characters who would “gang in” at the Price store on winter
days. “They’d play 42 mostly. At the back of the store was a big pot-bellied stove. There was a counter where we sold cheese and crackers and hot pepper sauce and tomato catsup. You had to watch out. Somebody was liable to drop a cigarette in your back pocket or on your hat. Pierce Donaldson liked to do that. Then he’d go in the ice box, light another cigarette and come back looking innocent.”

 

    The woodcutter Richardson lived on the Parks place at the edge of the bluff, not far from the winding gate the school children used. A bachelor son lived with him. The old man could split a bois d’arc knot. “He’d say, ‘There’s more in knowin’ how to stack wood than in cuttin’ it.’ If I stacked a rick of wood, he could come along and stack it again and make two ricks. He’d come in and say, ‘Jewel, I need sum-um for a sore throat.’ He’d pick up the hot pepper sauce and drink it right out of the bottle.”


    J
ewel watched Allie Hall ride up on a small pony covered with sweat. “It was the one son Joe rode to keep cows in a field of corn stalks in front of the store. Elsie (pictured) had tried riding the pony, but it would take her only a short distance, then turn back to the barn. Joe said, ‘Well, sis, I guess I’ll have to show you,’ but the pony was no more willing to go for him. So Allie said, ‘Well, son, I guess I’ll have to show you.’ He put on his big star spurs and rode the pony hard.”


    When Joe Hall died in Eunice, New Mexico, on August 12, 1994 a local columnist wrote, “He was the epitome of the old west...the type of people that settled the West. He was tough, fair, and never gave up.” According to his wish Joe’s ashes were scattered on his own place; his wife Nema wrote Elsie:


    We did the ashes down at his roping arena at daybreak Saturday 27th. The most beautiful experience I have ever had in my life. Joe Jr. rode a horse and led a horse without a rider around the arena three times. On the second go around his silhouette was perfect in the Eastern sky. A silver grey horse appeared in the pasture on the north side of our arena. Then Sammy took the ashes to the middle of the arena and made [the sign of] our brand which was a JH with them and while he was doing that the horse appeared again, and Maudie and one of our little cowboy friends saw it. I thought I was dreaming but after they saw the horse I knew it was an omen from God. The ashes sparkled like diamonds...the air was cool, the sky clear and the sun came up big and bright and the ashes sparkled.