More Regarding Uncle Claude Argata Enkey
(May 22, 1902 — September 27, 1981)
Wally Lee Parker
(all rights to this material reserved by the Enkey-Parker Family History Newsletter)
Reprint from the Enkey-Parker Family History Newsletter
July/August, 2000 A.D.
… a letter from Alzada Burch …
On May 9th, 2000, I received this letter from Alzada Burch, daughter of
Claude and Olive Enkey.
I am sending you a few memories. Please excuse the ‘messy’ pages. I am pretty sure that if I wait to recopy them I may never get them sent. Hope we’re not too late to be of help.
P.S.: I started to type this, but I’m just too slow. I have arthritis in my hands, so you will have to make do with my scratchy notes. Okay?
One of the items sent by Alzada was the formula for the poultice mentioned by Jack Willis in his memories of his Grandfather, Claude Enkey, published in the May/June newsletter. Jack didn’t know the exact formula, or how his granddad came to start using it. So Alzada explains ...
Dad’s remedy for snake bite was equal parts of coal oil, turpentine, salt, and gunpowder. He learned this recipe when my brother Lon — the oldest of us kids — got spider bit. Lon, and my sister Opal were down at a neighbor’s house (the Steels) when Lon started feeling bad and getting stiff. They figured he had been bitten on his neck, at the base of his skull. The two kids decided to walk home. Lon just kept getting sicker, so Dad decided he’d better take him to the doctor in Tahlequah.
At the farm gate they met an old man passing by on the road. Dad told him what was going on and the old man said, “You can take him to the doctor if you want, but I can cure him.”
At the house, the old man mixed a paste of the above ingredients and spread them on torn strips of a white sheet to make a poultice for Lon’s neck. Opal remembers changing the bandage, and recalls that it was green with the stuff that had been drawn out of the bite. Not long after and Lon was up playing.
Alzada also added this story about Claude Enkey’s impressive physical strength.
Earl Enkey’s daughter, Janice, tells of the time she watched my dad loading a truck. He would carry a 100 pound sack of feed under each arm, one over each shoulder, and another one clinched by his teeth — all at the same time. He was quite the show off that way.
And this recollection of stories told by Mabel Alice Enkey-Martin, Alzada’s aunt, and Lillie Ada Enkey-Parker’s sister, about Alzada’s grandparents, David Enkey and Pearl Lee-Enkey.
Aunt Mabel said her father, David Enkey, hand built a china cabinet for Pearl’s dishes. Pearl was so proud of it. One day Aunt Mabel ran into it, knocking it over, breaking Grandmas dishes. When David came in he told Pearl, “Don’t worry. We’ll get you some more dishes.”
Early on the family lived on a cotton farm. They’d have pickers come in at harvest time. David would haul the cotton to town by wagon. The family was doing quite well for a while, but it gradually became too dangerous. The workers were thieving so bad David began fearing for the family safety.
On one occasion, when David was gone, a man trying to get in the house broke out a window. Pearl sent one of the kids out the back way to get Claude, the oldest boy, who was working in the fields. Claude ran to the house, got his gun, and hollered out to the intruder that he had better go or Claude would kill him. Everyone knew that Claude was a crack shot, so the man ran away.
Whenever David would take produce to town, everyone assumed he’d be returning with a lot of money. So three men laid in wait and jumped him on a return trip. He broke free and escaped. Once home he told Pearl they’d better sell out and move before some of them got killed.
Selling out, the family traveled around by covered wagon for two or three years. During that time David did find one place he really wanted to buy. But an old Indian told them that it was Indian land so he wouldn’t be able to build a house on it. Since David wanted a home for his family, he let it be. He was so discouraged by everything that the family kept traveling from one place to another till the money ran out.
Opal, Alzada’s sister, and the oldest of Claude and Olive Enkey’s children, has a number of stories to tell. Alzada repeats several of them.
Olive was a school teacher. One time, when Opal was just a baby, Claude and Olive were traveling by wagon to see a school board member and took the baby with them. The trip was taking longer than expected. Opal got to squirming and whining. They hadn’t brought anything for the baby to eat.
Driving passed a house, they smelled food. Claude said he was going to get the baby something to eat. He knocked on the door, asking the woman if she had something that he could feed his hungry baby.
“Well mister, I only have some bacon and cornbread.” She gave him some and he gave it to the baby. Opal was as good as gold the rest of the way home.
After she was grown and married, Opal asked mother, “When did we live in a white, two-story house?” Opal described the farm Claude and Olive lived on from December of 1926 to December of 1927. Opal was born there on there that first December.
Opal remembers sitting in a room with a varnished door and a blue speckled doorknob — sitting on a bedroom window seat used to store quilts. It was a second story window. From that window she could see her dad out in the field plowing.
She recalled watercress growing by a brook that trickled near the house, and her mother picking the watercress to put on sandwiches.
Opal told our mom that she could remember her and our dad looking at a brown house, and Opal was wishing she could talk, so she could tell the folks that she didn’t want to move from the pretty white house to the brown one.
Olive said, “Well I guess you do. The white house was the Davis place, and the people who owned it wanted to buy out the lease. We moved from there to a brown house.”
And a story about Claude’s abilities with horses.
Aunt Mabel used to tell about a high spirited horse her brother Claude had been given. He trained this horse so only he could ride it. Then he’d bet people they’d get bucked off if they tried to ride it.
Unknown to Claude, Aunt Mabel got to going out to the barn, feeding and petting this horse, till she got to where she could get up on him and sit.
One day Claude went with two other men to build a fence on a neighboring farm. He had told Mabel to bring him over some lunch around noon time. While working, my dad went to bragging about his horse, how spirited it was, and how not a man in the world could ride it ‘cept him. About noon Aunt Mabel got to thinking about toting Claude’s lunch on that long, hot, dusty walk to the neighbor’s farm — and decided she’d ride her brother’s horse instead. So she got on the horse and off she went.
When the men Claude was working with saw Mabel — maybe nine years old at the time — ride up on the horse her brother had been bragging up as un-rideable, they just started laughing. Aunt Mabel said my father’s face turned bright red. And he was mad. He told her to get off that horse before it killed her.
Then Claude turned to the men and said, “I bet you guys five dollars you can’t ride it.”
Having seen his nine year old sister ride up on the horse no man could ride — and not being too impressed — one of the men took my dad up on the bet. He climbed up, and of a sudden come flying back off. Grinning, and retrieving his pride, Claude pocketed his five bucks.
In reference to Claude Enkey’s unusual methods of hunting, Alzada said …
Aunt Mabel told me how Dad learned to hunt like he did — reaching into hollowed out trees and pulling out squirrels, then killing them with his teeth and such. That was something Grandpa Lee, our mother’s father, had taught him.
And we all knew ‘bout hunting coons. Our dad would hunt at night, with his dogs and a carbide lamp strapped to his forehead. I remember the last time I went hunting with him. I was about 9 or 10 years old and Lon was four years younger than me.
I knew it was a bad mistake when we drove up and parked by some thick timber, then crawled through a barbed wire fence and out into the dark woods with nothing but a lantern. We walked, and walked, and walked. Every once in a bit the dogs would start barking way up ahead and Dad would say, “There they are! Sounds like they done treed something!” He could tell by the way they barked whether they had treed an animal or were just running. He could also identify each dog by its bark. Anyway, he’d hear them and away we’d go.
We run till Lon couldn’t go any more — and my legs felt like they were going to fall off. We decided being alone in the dark wasn’t as bad as more running, so Dad told us to keep the lantern, sit down by a big tree, and he would find us on the way back. We knew there was a graveyard pretty close to where we was, so we sat down in the leaves and stared at the dark, wondering if a ghost was about to grab us.
We swore that if we ever got home we would never go hunting after dark again. Dad finally came back — after what seemed like an hour or two. I personally never went coon hunting with him again. If I had to be alone, I would take my chances at home.
Our father told about an animal encounter when panthers roamed the woods near our Peggs, Oklahoma, home. Every year we picked huckleberries in those woods. And there was a pasture in the timber covered hills we had to bring our cows down from every night for milking, and then herd back up into the hills. You could hear the panthers scream out there in the woods — sounded just like a woman screaming.
Dad said he rode his horse into Spring Creek to let it get a drink. Sitting there, he looked to the bank a few feet away and there was a black panther, standing, staring. Dad’s hair, all the way down the back of his neck, stood straight. Trying to think what to do, he reached into his pocket, got a match, and struck it. The panther bolted, running off into a field.
Entertainment was something family and neighbors worked up for themselves.
In those days there was no television of course, and only on occasion did we listen to a radio — powered by the car battery. But when people came to visit, and all gathered around the wood stove, my dad could entertain them for hours just telling his stories.
He was a good dancer too. He’d square dance — and would call at gatherings. But what I remember best was what he called ‘stomp dancing’. Now days I guess it’s called ‘clogging’.
He also played the fiddle. And that brings up another story.
Me and Bill — Bill being the fourth oldest child and six years older than me — had been looking dad’s fiddle over, wondering if it was one of those expensive ones — a Stradivarius. It had a name on it, but, if my memory is correct, it said Stravinsky or some such.
Dad had just thrown one of his famous Claude Enkey fits — after us for playing instead of working. Bill got the idea of taking away some of dad’s fun to get back at him. He decided to tie some bailing wire to the fiddle, climb up in the rafters of the house, and hang the fiddle from the two by fours.
I was afraid to climb into the attic space. Too many of my nightmares come down from the blackness up there. But Bill came back grinning, “Dad won’t find it now. If we can’t play, he can’t either.” Then he made me promise I wouldn’t ever tell on him.
I never did tell on him either. But my conscious did bother me a lot over the years.
A few years ago I reminded Bill about this. At first he denied doing any such thing. But I could see him wince when the memory finally came back to him. What made it worse, years ago Bill had bought this same place and it later burned down. And he now realized that as far as we know dad’s old fiddle was still hanging in the attic when the place turned to ash.
My father did have a soft side. But years of hard times, futility, and disappointment caused us to see a lot more of the tough when we were growing up. That left its mark on all us kids. And I’m thinking it made us strong.
I think about the chores I was expected to do at age six; milking cows, clearing the fields of rocks, cutting sprouts, cutting and hauling in wood, cleaning the chicken house, gathering eggs, stripping sorghum cane, fighting with yellow jackets when dropping the sorghum sticks into the foaming molasses vats, picking huckleberries and blackberries — then helping mom clean them under the arbor with beautiful clusters of Wisteria hanging down while pumping water from the well beside the house to wash the berries.
In 1947 — when I was seven — we moved from the Peggs place. We moved to ‘the prairie’ home to take care of our mother’s mother, Grandma Freeman. It was like going to a barren desert and I hated it. But life goes on.
My chores seemed to shift some there. I milked cows, churned cream, stripped and cut cane to make sorghum molasses, carried pummies — the cane stacks after the juice was squeezed out — away from the cane press, chopped corn, planted the dreaded black eye peas — and gathered them in the hot sun, and shelled them, and shelled them, and shelled them. It seemed like those dreaded peas lasted forever, always there to spoil my fun.
But there was also some fun times. Lying under a shade tree, birds singing, a cool easy breeze cooling when we were supposed to be chopping the weeds out of the corn. Or digging the sweet, dripping hearts out of delicious watermelons before throwing the rest into the pig troughs. And the smell of cornbread, fried potatoes, corn on the cob, and maybe fried chicken or slab bacon for lunch. How good it tasted after a hard morning working in the fields — bailing hay, picking cotton, or hoeing the garden.
I reminisce occasionally when I see a piece of machinery — a plow, planter, cultivator, disk, hay rake. I suppose I have used just about every piece of farm machinery except the hay mowing machine. Dad was always afraid us younger children would get our hands or feet cut off by that thing.
Life was hard in those days. But I wouldn't trade my experiences for all the gadgets made today. It’s sorrowful, the memories today’s children have lost not being able to grow up on a farm.
I can’t thank Cousin Alzada Burch enough for this wonderful set of memories. Most of us could ‘wince’ a little in sympathy with the story of the lost fiddle. And most of us have our own stories of the pain we’ve caused our parents — pain that we dearly wish we could take back.