Written by Franklin T. Wike Jr.
Shown above is a photograph of the first car that Rosa ever drove. It was taken when she lived in Perkins, Oklahoma. Her dad Merit Edward Jackson is the driver. Her mother Margriet Lavern Mansell Jackson is in the passenger seat next to Rosa's father. In the back seat are Rosa's two brothers, Thomas Roy Jackson on the right side and Robert Lee (Bob) Jackson on the left side.
On the running board from left to rights is Dorthy Cottman, Ida Delon Jackson, Sue Cottman, Blanch Rains, Etta May Jackson, and Zora Marie Jackson.
Three of the girls in the picture were neighbors and three of them were Rosa's Sisters but Ida Jackson, (second from Left), married Clifton Cottman, a brother to the two girls on each side of Ida. Rosa ended up marrying Cecil Rains, a brother to Blanch Rains, another neighbor girl that is in the picture.
Back in 1996, I was asked to accompany a couple of ladies while they went to visit an elderly relative who was in an "alternative living establishment". As we approached the building, it reminded me of a nursing home, yet I was told that it was quite different from a nursing home. When we arrived at the front door, I discovered that it was locked and that we had to either enter a password into a little computerized keyboard that was mounted on the wall, or speak into a speaker and have an attendant come open the door for us. Once we entered the building, we walked past a nurses' station down a long hallway until we reached a small efficiency apartment, where the lady we carne to visit was living. The apartment was quite nice with a small bedroom, bath, kitchenette, and living room. The kitchenette was simply used for snacks, since there was a central dining hall where the residents went to eat meals prepared by the staff. In the apartment, I was introduced to Rosa Jackson, a very sweet ninety-six-year-old lady.
There were some things Rosa could not remember while I was talking to her, but she had several interesting stories to tell. I am not quite sure where she was born. According to her son, her birth certificate says she was born in Durant, Oklahoma, yet there is some speculation in her family that Rosa may have been born before her family arrived at Durant. But regardless, of where she was born, this is the story, of Rosa Jackson, in her own words.
"I, Rosa Jackson, was born January 7,1900. My mama was Margriet Lavern Mansell. Mother came from Giles County, Alabama. Mama had only one sister and her name was Mattie Mansell. I still have an old picture of my mama, her ten brothers, and Grandpa Mansell.
"My Uncle Walter Mansell was crippled and had to walk on his knees. He owned a Shoe Shop in Perkins, Oklahoma. I also had an Uncle that was a barber down at Fort Sill- in Lawton, Oklahoma. We called him Babe Masell. Most the rest of them were farmers. The one we called Bud Masell, had a farm in Perkins, Oklahoma and one day he fell out of the hay loft in his barn and broke his neck.
"My dad was Merit Edward Jackson, and he came from Tennessee. My mama and Dad met back east in either Alabama or Tennessee.
"We lived in Eube, Texas, for a while, then we moved to Durant, Oklahoma, but we were only there for a short time. Then we moved to Perkins, Oklahoma. There was such a family of us, that when we came to Perkins we had to use two covered wagons. We had a team of mules on one wagon.
"When I was seven years old, my mother had twins, Thomas Roy Jackson and Floy Jackson. The twins were babies when we made this trip in the wagons. My mother had three babies, then, and so we led a cow behind the wagon to have milk for them. We were on the road for eight days coming 160 miles, from Durant to Perkins. My parents settled on the south side of the Cimarron River with some people that we met. We camped there until we rented a farm from the McGee family."
"I remember one time when we was living in an old three-room house, Mama was going to have company at Thanksgiving. Well, we had this old smokehouse they built out back---it was just a little house. So, they moved that old smokehouse up to our house and were going use it for a kitchen. My folks built a fire back there in that room, and Mom and Dad were out there papering it with some stiff tar paper, when they think the chimney flue got plugged and started a fire. Mama was out there working, and she happened to look around and saw my little sister Zora Jackson asleep on the bed. Sissy went in and got her. It was an old house, and it had been a dry Fall, and the house just burnt like powder. We lost everything in that fire, except what we had on our backs, even our coats. And here it was Just a day or two before Thanksgiving. People from town brought blankets and stuff to keep us warm. None of us kids had any coats to wear to school. Mama used to make all of our cloths for us but her sewing machine even got burned up. So, folks took us into nearby Stillwater, Oklahoma and got us new shoes and coats and things like that. Dad picked up a new sewing machine for mom but it was a cheap one and she didn't care for it much, so later she traded a cow for a good Singer Sewing Machine. "After the fire, they built a new house on the same land and that is where my niece Erma was born in 1923.
"We had a fireplace in one house we lived in. At Christmastime, we put nails up and hung our stockings all along the fireplace. One Christmas Eve, I slept with one eye open. I wanted to see who the real Santa Claus was, so I stayed awake. I told Mama about that later on and she said, 'Well, you little stinker.'
"On Christmas Day, we would get an apple, orange, banana, or some candy. We always had a big Christmas. The fruit was a big treat, then, because we didn't get stuff like that very much. We always had a Christmas tree, but we didn't have no boughten fancy stuff to decorate our tree with, so we made our decorations out of paper. We would make rings and paste them together to make a chain to decorate our tree. We colored the paper with crayons because we didn't have no boughten paper."
Editor's Note: While I was visiting Rosa, She sang a little Christmas Song for me,
that she used to sing when she was a little girl. I have included the words to that song.
When I was just a little tot, I went to sleep one night.
I woke up early every morn’, almost before it was' light
I saw a tree so tall and green, it stood upon the floor.
And scattered all around were toys, I'd never seen before.
I said, "Oh, Mother see that tree. Who brought those toys in here?"
My mother said "'Twas Santa Claus, who comes to us each year.
If we have been real good," she said, "and tried to do what's right,
Good Santa would remember you on every Christmas Night."
Ha rah for good old Santa Claus, he loves the girls and boys.
He brings us all some useful things and lots of pretty toys.
And so we show our love for him by sharing with our folks.
Ha rah, ha rah, ha rah, ha rah for good old Santa Claus.
While playing with my toys that day, I looked across the way
And saw the little house where lived my playmate, Jenny Ray.
"Oh, Mother, mayn't I go and give one toy to Jenny dear?
Because, you know, she's poor and lame and can't come over here:'
"Of course you may," my mama said, "For Jenny has no tree.
If you should be her Santa Claus, how happy she would be.
Just share your toys and nuts and cake and fill her with delight.
Good Santa will remember you on every Christmas Night."
"When I was a youngster, we would get together with the neighbors and go to church in our buggies. We didn't have no cars then. Cecil, (my boyfriend), Effie Emerson and a whole bunch of us teenagers would go to church on Sunday night. We would have a string of buggies nearly a mile long and on the way home from church we would put the tops down and sing all the way home. Lord, we had fun.
"The first car I ever saw was the one my folks owned. It was a Ford and it had a canvas top, but we kept it down. I'd always sit in the front seat to watch how Dad drove and shift the gears. We were fixin' to go to town one day, and I was around sixteen at the time, so I asked him, 'Dad, let me drive?'
"'Oh, you'll have a wreck. You can't drive,' he said.
"One time when Dad was driving, he went around a curve and some way or another the car went over an embankment and Mama fell out. Dad was standing up there on the road. He looked like he had been shot at and missed, he was so scared, you know. He was afraid Mama was hurt, but she didn't get a scratch on her. She just got up and was standing down there looking up at dad and laughing. It didn't hurt her, but she had had a bucket of eggs with her and she rolled over on them eggs, and if she wasn't a mess! She got back into the front seat with dirt and eggs all over her.
"One day we drove the car in the mud and got it muddy, and we had to take it to the barn to wash it, because we didn't have enough water down at the house and we had a good well at the barn. So, I had Dad to drive the car out there so we could wash it. We pumped the water and washed that car in a hurry. My sisters Etta, Ida, and I got that washed, and I cranked that thing up, opened the gates, and drove it down to the house. I crawled out of the car and Mama came to the door and said, 'Whatcha doin' driving that car?'
And I said, 'We're going for a ride. Come, go with us.'
"'Noooooo you're not! You'll get out and have a wreck and kill all y'aIl selves,' she said.
"I said, 'Yeah, I'm driving this car. I'm going down to the Cottman's. That was Clifton Cottman's folks.
"And she said, 'Well, if you're going, I am a goin' with you.' So she came out and got into the car with me.
"Well, I drove down to the Cottmans and into their yard and turned it around and drove it back home. So when Dad got back home, Mama said, 'She drove the car!'
Mama didn't know how to drive, so Dad said to her, 'Well, give her the keys and she can take you to town.'
"So after that, Dad didn't have to get out of the fields to take Mama to town. That old Ford didn't have a starter button. You had to turn the engine over by hand with a crank to start it. Well, Sissy was trying to help crank it one time, and someway her hand slipped and she fell against something and knocked both her front teeth out. We kidded her for a longtime, saying, 'All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.'
Comment from Rosa's son Grover Rains:
"Rosa drove all those years and never had an accident until she was 88 years old, then one day she was going to the grocery store and ended up driving right through the big plate glass window in front of the store. She said she his the gas petal instead of the brake. She never drove again, after that accident
"In 1918, when I was eighteen years old, I had a big ole abscess on my left lung. The 'flu was so bad that year, that all of the hospital beds were full and they didn't have room for me. So, the doctors came down to my house and put me on my mother's dining room table and operated on me. The doctor cut into my lung and put a silver tube in there, and they drawed off a half-gallon bucket full of liquid. That's what drained while the doctor was standing there. My mama had to take it out every day and sterilize that tube by boiling it for ten minutes. After it would cool off, she would put in back into me. We all wore long hair back then and mine all fell out while I was sick. I had to go around wearing a cap until it grew back.
"When we went on dates, we would go to a party or a dance. We always found something to do. On Saturdays, we would go into town to hear a band playing, and we would dance in the street. I used to date this boy named Evert Clark and he wore bib overalls. One time during a thunderstorm some lightning came down and hit the metal button on his overalls and killed him. Then, I started dating Cecil Rains. He and I grew up together. His folks owned a farm right across the road from us, and we went to school together. Cecil and I ended up getting married.
"I had all four of my babies, Carnez Rains, Grover Rains, Barbara Jean Rains, and Berdean Rains at home. They just tore down the house on Main Street in Perkins, Oklahoma that my son Grover was born in seventy years ago. He weighed eleven pounds, two ounces when he was born. I wanted the old doctor to give me something to rush things along and he said, 'We're going to stay with nature.'
After Berdean was born, I would put her on a pallet of a sack or blanket and, then, I would go pick or hoe cotton. My father-in-law bought a farm on the next section line west of us. We was in this little two-room house off the highway, up on a hill, and I had to fix him a bed in the same room with us, when he was trying to get his house settled. He sure was a good old man, and he thought lots of me. He thought I could make the best biscuits he ever ate. I had to make bread or biscuits every morning, and of course it was daylight by the time I got it made sometimes. He told his wife, 'I know that Rosa can make the best biscuits of anybody I know.' She said, 'I wish you'd of got her instead of me.' They were really good old folks.
Being A Parent
“Later, my husband, the kids, and I moved to Midland, Texas. I always had a yard full of kids. Carnez and Grover would argue sometimes, like brothers do, so I would have to go out and part them from each other. Sometimes when they was unruly, I would put them under their beds. We had two beds in one room, and I would make one get under one bed and the other under the other bed, and I would sit on one of their beds and they would lie there and say, 'Mother, if you will let us come out, we won't do it anymore.' Grover said he got so tired of looking at those bed springs. They hated to get under those beds so bad. They had those iron bedsteads that were high up off of the floor, but they still would hate to get under those beds.
"Their daddy bought them a team of goats and a wagon, so they could hook them goats up to that wagon. Lord, kids would pile on there and those little goats would be pulling the wagon all over 'til their tongues would be dragging the ground. One goat was black and one was brown. They called them Blackie and Brownie. The black one was Grover's and the brown one was Cornez's. The boys couldn't drive the wagon without both goats. The boys would get to arguing sometimes and say, 'You're not going to drive my goat,' but they had to work it out between themselves, or else neither one could use the goats.
"We was just renting there, in Midland. We had a big pen in back of the house with chickens and goats, right there on the main drag going to El Paso. Later, we moved into a house we called "the peanut house" because it was made of stucco that was painted pink.
"My husband was in the oil business and he traveled a lot. Cecil owned oil wells and he did a lot of drilling in Texas. He wasn't home very much. When he came home, he liked to cook. He would make things real hot and spicy. In 1936, he died in an automobile accident. When he died, he had several oil wells. He was doing real well. There's no telling what would have happened if he had lived.
"Every summer after my husband passed away, I would come up to Oklahoma and bring the kids and we would stay with my parents the Jacksons where Erma and Morcie, my nieces, lived.
"Effie Emerson and her husband ran a gas station in Perkins, Oklahoma called Rosco's. I would give the kids a nickel to go and get a Nehi pop, and Eftie's daughter Maxine thought we were rich because I was always handing out money to the kids to go and get pop. Maxine said that she was always so excited when the kids came to the station.
She would say, 'Here comes those rich folks.'
Maxine's parents had three daughters, and, for a while, Maxine envied my kids because she thought they got so much candy and pop. She said that her dad had everything counted and they didn't get very much.
The Rocking Chair
"My son Grover was walking down the street almost 68 years ago, and there was this little rocking chair sitting out on the sidewalk. Grover was just old enough to start walking then. He was just toddling up the street and he saw this little chair, so he went over and picked it up and started on down the street with it. I had to run and get him. He wasn't going to let me take the chair away from him. He clung to it and sat down and held on to that little chair. He didn't want me to take it away from him, so I went in and bought it and we took it on home. Grover is seventy years old now, and he still has that little chair."
Editor’s Note: This is a great example of the types of stories we would all like to be able to read about the lives of our own grandparents. If your grandparents are still alive, we would encourage you to take a tape recorder along on your next visit, and start asking them as many questions as you can think of about the lives of their grandparents and their own childhood. If you are old enough that your grandparents are already gone, then it is time for you to preserve their lives, by writing down anything you can remember about them. And please send us a copy that we can share with our readers.
Originally published in 1996
Franklin T. Wike Jr
Copyright © U.S. Legacies 1996-2021
All rights reserved. No part of this story may be reprinted without the prior consent of U.S. Legacies, American Legacies or the original author.
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