My Story

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by Dorothy (James) Reddell

Not long after my mother, Ida Pearl Swan, age 22, married my father, James Bowman James, age 29, they moved from somewhere in Texas, around Kirkland I think, to homestead 120 acres near Clayton, New Mexico. 

I was born on August 29, 1916, in New Mexico, on that homestead. From what I remember hearing my parents and older half sisters and brothers say about those years in New Mexico, they were hard, unpleasant years, filled with poverty and illness. Farming wasn't profitable because the growing season was too short. Winters were long and cold. 

My dad built a two room house there. Connected to this house was a half- dugout. A half-dugout is a room in which half of it is dug in the ground. The other half was above ground and had stone walls. 

In this place, my birthplace, lived my mother, 22 years old, my father, 40 years old, my five half brothers and sisters, Artie age 14, Rosey 12, Otha 10, Ruby 8, and Lorene 4. They were that age when I became a member of the family.

 Dad tried to farm his land, but the summers were too short to raise cotton. Then he tried to raise broomcorn. The whole thing turned out to be a failure. My sister Ruby said we almost starved to death. 

While living there, mother stepped over a rattlesnake in our kitchen with me in her arms. Our cow tried to swallow the floor mop. Dad ran a broom handle down her throat and un-choked her. Sometime before I was three, my mother gave birth to a baby boy named Harold. He died two weeks later. They prepared him for burial and he lay in the house until the grave, not far from the house, was ready.

 My half brother, Otha, took a trip up there a few years ago. He said the stone walls were still standing, and he found the little grave. The man who owned the property told him he would care for the little grave. 

My mother was dad's second wife. His first wife was Margie Dunn. They had seven children, five girls and two boys. Artie came first, then Rosie, then a baby girl that didn't live long. Otha, Ruby, and Lorene were the next three. Little Margie was last, and her birth was the cause of her mother's death. Marrying a man with six children, the oldest 14 and the youngest less than a year, was quite an undertaking for a young 22-year-old woman. 

She adored the baby, but the first tragedy of her married life occurred when little Margie died from diphtheria a few months after she and dad were married. I know very little about mother's family. I just can't remember her father's first name.


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