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Our Own Home

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Somehow, Dad managed to purchase two lots on Sikes Rd. from J.L. Nations.  I think it was $500 for the whole thing.  Not a lot now, but it took years to pay off back then.

Dad had tried several times to sink his own well, all by hand, without success, before he finally gained permission to hook onto the city water system.  He finally filled it all back in and decided to hook on to the city water system.  Since the closest hookup at that time was to the west on S. Hickman St.

I remember him digging a ditch across the field (several hundred feet) by hand in which to run a water line.  It hooked up right beside the Burns Welding Shop and Mr Gardeners house.

Building the house was something I'll never forget.  After leveling and placing all the block for the foundation, he began setting his floor joists, the crossties, and eventually the floor.  These were all of used lumber out of an old two story house Dad had located way out in the country to tear down for the lumber.

I remember under the wallpaper were old newspaper, some dating way back to the early 1800s.

And talk about lumber!  Man!!  There was some lumber in that old house!  All fully 1" or 2" lumber, some as wide as 48" and 12' in length, WITHOUT any knots!  It was unbelievable.  The big stuff was mostly Cypress, but there was also a little bit of Oak as well.

I remember on the South wall of the living room in the house Dad built, he covered the entire 12' wall with two (count em: 1, 2), boards.  And, the house was put together with nails pulled from the old house and straitened.

Many times, we'd go down the morning following one of those huge Arkansas storms which had rumbled through town like an out of control freight train expecting to see the framing laying on the ground - laid there by the force of the winds.  But, it always stood solid.

I remember digging in that tough old clay to get the proper height for the foundation pier blocks, pulling and straightening nails, cleaning brick to go in the flue, gathering short pieces of scrap wood to keep the fire going in the winter.  And, was it ever cold.

When Dad was setting his rafters, he made a little platform on the east end of the house for me to stand.  Although the snow was coming down and I was freezing to death, I would line up the ridgebeam as he laid his rafters.  After I'd sighted the beam he would secure them.

Dad cut all his lumber with an old handsaw someone had given him.  He worked at the lumber yard so he did get some kind of a break on his sheetrock, (mostly using a lot of damaged stuff), and mud supplies.

Then, they went somewhere in an old beat up truck and bought a load of hardwood for the floors straight from the mill.  These were seconds, and a whole load could be bought for $15.

The floor turned out beautiful.  It seems as if Dad built his own doors.  I remember handing him tools as he fit the hardware on each one.  With old tools he sharpened on an old whetstone, he would take out the notches where the hinges fastened on the doors and the door frames themselves.

When it came time to roof the house, I remember sitting on top of the ridge and sliding the shingles down one by one to him as he roofed the little house.  I remember seeing him come in from a hard days work at the lumber yard and carry those shingles up a wooden ladder onto the roof.

All his hard work paid off, and we finally moved in.  Our very own home.  Paid for.  Yep, we was walking in tall cotton!  But then the times went from bad to worse and finally got so hard we had to move away to California in order to survive.

We left our beautiful three bedroom home and lived in a one bedroom farm worker camp.  Dismal, dreary, old, not maintained, nasty water . . .  Dad eventually sold the home and two lots for $2,300.

Not much to show for 4 years labor.  After that, we didn't hardly have a pot to pee in, or a window to throw it out and never did buy a home in Corcoran.  We moved to Bakersfield the day after I graduated from High School and purchased a home there on Monterey St.

It may seem that I'm quite bitter about those times.  Sometimes I am.  At times, I lose the wonder of my childhood and think about the hard times, and I let it make me bitter.  But then I am reminded of the wonderful times out on Grandpa Shelton's farm and the picture mostimes get rosy again.  I try not to let those bitter times surface . . .

But then, I see where God has brought me, and the wonderful wife and family He has given me, and I am thankful for the hard times.  For, without the hard times, I would not be able to fully appreciate the good times.

The hard work I did in my childhood gave me a work ethic that few can equal.  It has served me well in my adult years, and has been the cause of a very good living for the family God has given me.

I have in turn handed down those same traits and knowledge and training to my own children with the hopes they'll do the same with with their own offspring.  I believe God helps those who help themselves.

George Cavaness

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