I was born on January 23rd, 1940, to Jessie Gladys McCraven and Owen Newton Steele in the Missouri Township in the city of Prescott, Arkansas.
The birth certificate shows Mom & Dad owning a home but as I can remember they were staying at my Grandpa Steele's place in a house he had on the property. I have a picture of me trying to get into a chicken coop at Grandpa Steele’s place. I remember very little about my younger days, but I remember going to Grade School in Prescott Arkansas, and backing into a metal basketball post, and knocking myself out for a minute.
At some point when I was still a baby, I was in Long Beach, CA. when Dad was in the Air Force. Aunt Elva was there babysitting me while Dad was doing his thing in the Air Force and Mom was working somewhere. Aunt Elva claimed me as her first child because she was babysitting me while in Long Beach, CA.
She would always remind me they considered me her first child when I would come to visit. I was lucky because I essentially had two mothers to watch after me.
The picture to the right is a picture of an old Cypress tee in a slough where I used to fish once in a while. Lots of cotton mouth water moccasin & copper head snakes around, so you had to watch where you stepped.
When I was about seven, we were living in Red bluff CA. in a tent on the bank of the Sacramento River I remember Mom & Dad fighting over something, and the next thing I remember I was in Prescott Arkansas living with Grandpa & Grandma McCraven. I don't know whether it was because I had to start School or something else. Mom & Dad never got back together.
I began helping with the chores right away and by the time I was ten years old, I could run a team of horses and help Grandpa with the daily chores.
Grandpa would take me hunting & fishing. He taught me how to shoot a gun and make bows and arrows at a very young age.
Chuck & I would help in the fields and with the feeding of the animals, mucking out the barn and chore that young boys could do. Bob was too young at this point. One of our chores was to gather water either from the spring or the well, which both were a distance and downhill from the house. Bring in firewood for cooking and heating. I remember clearly was to churning the butter, which took at least a half hour of constant churning. That usually happened after milking the cows. I don’t know what it is but the cows seem to know you were new to milking and would make it hard on you until you got the hang of it. They would step in your milk bucket, knock it over, and give you a bad time until you knew how to go about milking them.
One of my other chores was splitting wood, and I cut the web between my thumb and pointing finger and I still have the scar to prove it. Bob, my youngest brother, walked up behind me during a back-swing with a double blade axe and on the downswing it cut his chin. He wore the scar until his death on February 9th 2020.
We used to play a game called “Annie Over” where we threw a ball over the roof but we didn’t play per the rules we just caught the ball and threw it back over the building but if you didn’t catch it you lost a point.
We didn’t know where the ball was coming over the roof, so it made it a challenge.
During that period, I became pretty good with a 22 caliber single-shot rifle, killing snakes, varmints, squirrels, rabbits and chickens when Mom needed one for dinner. I was pretty good and could strike a match at about 10 yards sticking out of the bark of a tree. I used to carry it to the school bus and hide it in the fence row while I was at school. Usually, walking back home, after getting off the bus, there was a snake on the road that needed to be killed.
We had a neighbor kid named Robert Doughing or Dowings that would literally jump up and down on a snake bare footed to kill it. He was not a likable fellow with warts on his head and not a clean person, so you kept him at arm’s length. I don’t know why he never was bitten by a snake during his stomping episodes. After seeing him stomping a snake to death with his bare feet, I started carrying the 22 rifle and did the killing from then on.
My brothers & I had to walk to & from the school bus with that guy every day and it was like eating crow to socialize with him, but we did for the time we lived there.
I can remember walking to my Granddad Steele’s place, which was about three or four miles away over the road but shorter if you cut through the woods so we did that a few time but you had to stay on top of your game because it was easy to get lost. Over the road it was a no brainier but at the Adam’s I used to cut across the field and the Brahma Bulls got after me and I dove through the fence to get away from them and cut my wrist. Mrs. Moore came to my rescue, patched me up and sent me on my way. Mrs. Moore was the Grandmother of Martha and Mary Adams who lived there with their grandmother. There is a story to tell about Martha & Mary that I will get to later in the story.
I would go over and visit with Grandpa Steele every once in a while. He was a farmer and owned a mill and did a lot of woodwork for people. He built laced bark chairs and tables for his customers. I remember he had a flat belt driven saw mill with the hit & miss motors they used in those days.
I remember he was a big man with large hands and did all the work on the farm and sawmill himself.
The picture below is where I lived when I was a young boy. Bobbie Smith, my first cousin, took the pictures.