James and Mable Venable

    James Elmer “Jim” Venable (1896-1971) was the last of eleven children born to Ezekiel (1852-1916) and Martha (1852-1929) of Coal Hill, Arkansas. Ezekiel’s mother died when he was twelve. When his father, a prominent Baptist minister, remarried, Ezekiel left home; he married Martha Collins Hodge (a widow with one son) in 1873. They moved to Fort Worth, Texas, in 1886; Jim Venable was their only child born in Texas, in Ladonia, Fannin County, “on the day Sherman was blown away” (May 15). 
    Jim Venable married Mable Ola Shannon (1908-1982) in 1921. Her father had died in a railroad accident when she was two. Mable preferred the Holiness, or Assembly of God, church in Mulberry. But Jim and Mable’s first child, Margaret, born in 1922, attended a Methodist church in Bonham with grandmother Martha. Other children of Jim and Mable Venable who moved to Farm Unit No. 15 were Loyd, Dewey, Billie Doris and Jack.        
    Returning to Coal Hill, Jack found relatives who knew about a “loner” who left Arkansas and never re-established contact with his father. Grandmother Martha Venable (the story is told) was an aunt of Robert E. Lee, and named one of her sons Lee.
    Margaret married Audrey (pictured below), the only son of Alva and Myrtle Cain, in September 1939. Mrs. Cain’s memories and stories made life difficult, or “interesting” for Margaret. During a school board election soon after her marriage, Margaret was at her in-laws’ house when a procession of cars went west toward Earl Smith’s, to line up his support. Myrtle’s sister Jubie Bramlett was there, angry about threats to Helen McKnight’s position as a teacher. So Margaret learned that day “to listen,” and from this practice many stories of Mulberry will be preserved.
    Loyd Venable was born in 1925; he was twelve when his family moved from Edhube, south of Bonham, to Mulberry bottom. “I drove a team of mules and wagon all the way. Daddy and the others went ahead, and checked on me through- out the day. The wagon had butcher-knife wheels (with narrow rims) and when we got to the foot of the hill, there at the sandbed, those mules were just about give out. We didn’t have a lot at the barn yet, so we had to tie the mules out with a rope. I loved fishing and hunting and was thrilled to death to be moving to the river.”

The Venable Men: Loyd, Dewey, Jim and Jack	
below: “Scenes of home”

“We were just kids,” Loyd said.

[The invasion of Okinawa, in the Pacific, began on April 1, 1945.]

            “We were scared. If anybody says he wasn’t, it’s not the truth. Everybody was scared.” Loyd went in around April 15 with “replacements”. “Down the Jacob’s ladder” to landing craft; walked in on a ramp. Told to lie down and wait. They kept coming till the number was about 10,000 men. “It was mass confusion, but fortunately nothing happened that night.” Assigned to the 27th Infantry Division, about four miles from the front line. “The 27th had been hit hard. Its commanding officer was back for the fourth time, full of shrapnel. Noncommissioned officers had all been promoted from the ranks.” (Loyd will be promoted to sergeant.) “...Grave registration. Going up we passed one of their units. Dead men stacked everywhere. Jeeps coming in with four stretchers: one on either side, front and back. Limbs dangling; maybe they treated the injured better.” “Strung out across the island, moping up...the misery of war” affecting civilian women and children. No young men to be seen. In one village “the Japs had slipped in and cut off the mayor’s head. There were three. One killed himself; we killed one, and one was taken prisoner.” From April to August. “On a ridge about four miles from Naha; on the front line four days and three nights. When our aircraft flew in low for an attack, you could look up and see the pilots sitting there. The earth shook.” One man started to cry; he was comforted, moved on and survived the war. “...told we were going to move. Forward or back? I had to get to the command post for water and rations. Marines moving up. Half way...under shelling again; bodies flying...taking off any extra ammunition we had, bandoleers, giving it to the marines going forward.... They were building landing fields all over Okinawa; bull dozers uncovering Japanese dead. Ours were taken care of.... The big bombers were going out every day toward Japan, and coming back. I’m not aware when I knew that the atomic bomb had been dropped. Late one evening we knew it was over. We were living in 6-man tents. The commander put out an order that any man outside with a weapon would be court martialed. This was to prevent accidental killings in celebrations. We had set up a base camp of three rifle companies, in the 8th Army, doing close order drill, about to start more training. Transferred to the 10th Army which landed in the Tokyo bay area. It had been saturation bombing...can’t imagine the destruction, but the buildings of any use had been left. A hospital, the railroad station, the imperial palace.” Assigned to military police. Japanese “polite” during inspection of a railroad repair station.         
    “Yes, I met Cooter Carroll [Steve, Jr. pictured left with revolver] on Okinawa. He was in the marines. Knew my unit; came looking; knew the password; walked up. We ate our rations, talked, lay down on the ground and slept. He went back to his unit the next day.... I knew that my parents were praying for me. They had given me a little Bible. But I’m not aware of being religious then. We were trained to be soldiers, acted like soldiers. Not a normal thing...bewildered. We did what we were ordered to do. That’s where the training came in.... I’ve often thought how blessed I was to have been able to serve.”