Haskell County Historical Society

Hardin, Norman Glenn - Interview by Nancy Kathleen Hardin Clark (Excerpt)

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BELLE STARR Rides in Haskell County, Oklahoma

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Transcribed by his niece Mary Kathleen (Hardin) Clark



This family history of the John Hiram and May Modena Hardin family is transcribed from tape recordings made in 1985 by my uncle, Norman Glenn Hardin, who was born on August 4, 1906 and died on January 13, 1990. Although I did try to use Uncle Norman's words as much as possible, I did put the material in chronological order. Here in his own words he expresses his feelings about the recordings and what he hopes to accomplish with them:

This is the first installment of what I hoped would be a library of this sort of thing. You have to get your thoughts composed and organized before you can record anything and I'm not too good at that. I realize there are some gaps in this--but maybe this will furnish some pleasure and amusement and interest, I hope. If I seem to ramble, remember this is my maiden effort at recording history and it will not be in chronological order but it will be complete within itself and it's the best I can offer.

My father was the brother Guy referred to in some of this stories and I remember hearing about some of the events he talks about, such as the musical concerts, Guy's antics with the kite and lantern, and Conrad's death. But most of the stories about Kinta and Pursley I had not heard before and it was exciting to relive this time through his experiences.

The proper beginning for this story would be the marriage of my father, John Hiram Hardin, and my mother, May Modena Frederick, in Pursley, Texas, on December 20, 1896. My parents had seven boys, four full term and three preemies. Guy Rufus was born in Pursley, Texas; Hubert Roland, Victor Leroy and I were born in Oklahoma, Indian Territory; John Carroll and William Frederick, who lived only six months, were born in Pursley. Another boy, born in Kinta, lived only one day and was not named.

My father was a very versatile man, and at various times worked as a coal miner, a blacksmith and a brakeman on the Kansas City Southern Railroad. He was also a highly skilled wood worker and a wheelwright, which was making wooden wagon wheels.

Even though my memories are somewhat dim now, I remember my mother as a person who was an eternal optimist. A person who made the best of any situation in which she found herself. She was patient, she was kind, but she could be firm I have nothing but the greatest admiration for her, for the things she endured, for the way she conducted herself at all times, and for the way she cared for her family as best she could with what she had available.


Soon after my parents married they moved from Pursley to the Oklahoma Indian Territory where they led an adventurous life. They lived briefly in Sutter, Porum, Poteau, and finally settled in Kinta. They also had lived in Pittsburg, Kansas, but apparently this was for a very brief period of time. At some time during this period, they lived in a tent, but I am not sure exactly where. But from what I remember hearing about it, it was in real pioneer style.

My earliest recollections were of Kinta, which happed to be the capital of the Choctaw Nation and also their travel headquarters. Two of the leaders of the Choctaws, George Scott and Green McCurtain, were members of First Christian Church where my mother played the pump organ.

Nearby where we were living out on the prairie, was a flint bank, or an outcropping of flint, which the Indians used to make arrowheads. There we found thousands of half finished or broken arrowheads which we collected in water buckets. I don't know what happened to all of them that we collected but I wish I had a bucket full of them now because they're pretty valuable.

Kinta and the area out on the prairie where we lived was in the Southeastern part of Oklahoma about 45 miles from Fort Smith, Arkansas, and not too far from Sallisaw and Muskogee, Oklahoma. It is in the area where the bandits and desperados of earlier years hung out. There was a place not too far from Kinta called Tucker Knob, another called Robber's Cave, and another place that was used f through it.

There was also a place called Bell's Pond in the area and every winter they would run water into it and let it freeze. Then they would go out with saws and cut out blocks of ice. These big blocks of ice would then be hauled to the Ice House, which was really just a half-dugout, and stored in sawdust. That way we did have ice for summer and ice for refrigeration.

Our little town was a typical American town of that time, but we did have one special attraction, the Fort Smith and Western Railroad. It had a brightly painted locomotive with the tall smokestack that formed a bulb on top. We jokingly called it the "Foot Sore and Weary" Railroad, but in reality it was about the only way we had to travel between our place and Fort Smith as the roads were generally not good.


One of the things I remember about Kinta was the annual 4th of July picnic when the whole neighborhood, including the Indians, whites and everybody else, would gather in the flats below were the Fort Smith and Western Railroad ran. They would bring in some carnival rides all the way from Fort Smith, Arkansas, put up a barbeque stand and have lemonade, that sort of thing. It was quite an event, that 4th of July picnic!

One of the strange sights to see at the picnic was that of the Indians playing ball, which was the beginning of the game of lacrosse that they play today. There seemed to be an indeterminate number of players on each side and it was amazing to watch them manipulate the cups tied onto long willow sticks.

Another thing that I remember about the picnic was a young Indian lad whose father was the chief. He would always come down to the picnic area on horseback and ride his horse around the picnic grounds. As he rode by the barbeque stand he would get a long strip of BBQ meat, eat off of it, then whip his horse with it, and then eat off of it again. We thought that was quite a sight to see.

It was at one of these picnics that I first saw and ate canned wieners, the little Vienna sausages, and I was carried away by them. I thought they were just super!


During this early time in my life in Kinta I remember an old dog that we had. We called him Old Carlo, but he certainly wasn't your ordinary dog. He was about 59 varieties, not 57, and somewhere along the line he had been neutered, but we didn't know it at the time. As you may know, but we didn't, unneutered dogs will not fight a neutered dog, so we thought we had the finest dog in the territory. Part of our pleasure, if you can call it that, was standing in the door of the blacksmith shop, which Dad ran, waiting for the wagon trains to come through, because we knew that there would be a dog traveling with them. Well, Old Carlo would challenge every one of them and whip every one of them. We soon found out that the surest way to start a dog fight was when they were examining each other for identification, to flip a small rock at one of them because that would trigger a fight right off. And as I said, Old Carlo fought and won many fights, many of them started by us boys just looking for something to do.


One of the things that left a lasting impression on me in Kinta was the night that the livery stable caught on fire and burned up twelve horses. It was then that I learned that you cannot drive a horse out of a burning building, but you have to blindfold him and lead him out. That event made a deep impression on me and I cried for days thinking about those twelve horses that perished in the fire. Nobody knew at the time, at least in Kinta, that the way to get a horse out of a burning building or any kind of fire is to blindfold him and lead him out of danger. That was a hard lesson for me to learn.


You have to remember that we lived in another time and another culture as we entered the 20th Century, and where we lived there were no telephones, no automobiles, no radio, no TV, and no theaters. The only entertainment that we had was a traveling tent show which came through town about once a year. It was at one of these traveling shows that I saw my first moving picture. It was a short three minute film about the assassination of President Garfield, complete with sound effects no less. They set up this white screen, which was just an ordinary white sheet, and they had this fellow with a shotgun who would fire a shot into a barrel, synchronizing his shot with the action of the pistol shot on the screen. The "live" action moving picture just about frightened the daylights out of us unsophisticated country kids who had never been anywhere or seen anything like this before.

We were living out on the prairie from Kinta when I saw my first automobile, such as it was. I think it was a little Oldsmobile, but it actually was only a gasoline buggy with a steering column that came up with a lever that you shifted back and forth. But, nevertheless, when we would hear this contraption coming, we would all run out and line up along the road to watch it. The owner was a fellow who lived at Stigler which was about twelve miles from where we lived.


In our little town were several people that I remember that were close to our family. Dr. Johnson and Dr. Twitty are two that come to mind. Dr. Johnson wasn't any great shakes as a doctor, but he had two medical books and some formal training, and Dr. Twitty only had one medical book and no formal training, which in those days was not required, especially in a small town of 400-500 people such as Kinta was in those days. Anyway, Dr. Twitty was a man of very small stature, probably a midget, and was frequently the butt of many jokes and everybody who had an opportunity to do so would challenge him in one way or another. There was one time I remember when Dr. Twitty was in Mitchel Woolard's restaurant and this big lummox picked and picked at him until he got Dr. Twitty mad and then turned his back on him. Dr. Twitty doubled up his fists and flew into this fellow and was flailing him right and left on his back side. The man turned around and said, "Dr. Twitty, what on earth are you doing?" and Dr. Twitty drew himself up to his full four feet and said, "By God, I'm fighting, that's what I'm doing!"

When they began to organize the state and establish regulations for doctors, an official came to town and told Dr. Twitty that he would have to take his shingle down and would not be able to practice medicine anymore. When this happened, Dr. Johnson built a small house in the corner of his yard for Dr. Twitty and he had a home there for as long as he lived.

Another friend was Cleve Wade, the U. S. Deputy Marshall. He was the only law enforcement we had in our little town but he managed to keep things pretty well in hand. I remember on at least on occasion a posse being formed down in front of the blacksmith shop that my Dad ran. They road out into the hills looking for some desperate character and several days later they began to drift back into town one at a time. Nobody ever mentioned anything about the posse or the fellow they were after, whether they caught him or what happened to him. You were left to your own imagination as to what happed.


Since my father was considered to be the best Choctaw beer maker in town, it was not unusual that he and two friends, George Lance who was his partner in the blacksmith shop and U. S. Deputy Marshall Cleve Wade, made kegs of Choctaw beer. Now this is not the "chock" beer that was made during the dry days of Prohibition but a really powerful drink which was supposed to have originated with the Choctaw Indians.

Making the beer entailed the use of a wooden keg and boiling the ingredients, which included hops, malt, and yeast. One evening the three of them were making a keg of beer in our kitchen when someone came to the door. As Dad went to answer the door, he dropped in a cake of yeast. Dad came back and said that Cleve was wanted at the door. As he walked by the keg he dropped in a cake of yeast. Then Cleve called Dad to the door and George looked around and decided that the brew was ready to cap off so he dropped in a cake of yeast. That made three cakes of yeast in a ten gallon keg that was supposed to have only one cake of yeast. At any rate, they proceeded to drive in the bung, strap in the head of the keg and carried it down to the blacksmith shop where they put it on boards on top of the rafters. Now this was in the summertime and it was supposed to cure for three weeks and "work". Well, it began to "work" immediately since it contained three times the charge of yeast. After about ten days it blew up and the blast blew off some of the corrugated iron roof of the blacksmith shop. As you can imagine, the ladies at the churches really got stirred up about this and wanted Cleve to do something about those people who were making that vile stuff. Of course, this put Cleve in a precarious position, and I don't remember exactly how he got out of it but he was pretty good at side stepping the issue and I know that they didn't make anymore Choctaw beer and put it up in the rafters of the blacksmith shop.


My mother's father was a medical doctor and her mother was his traveling nurse and a pretty good doctor in her own right. I don't think they actually realized what a fine thing that was for that day and time.

I was the baby of the family for nearly seven years and for at least a part of that time my Grandmother Frederick lived with us, or at least came for long visits. But oh, how we dreaded to see that little woman coming for a visit. You talk about a physical examination! She gave us a physical examination! She would commandeer a bedroom and line us up. Then we would strip off to our birthday suits and she would give us a going over you wouldn't believe.

One time I had been sickly before her arrival and after she looked me over she said to my mother, "May, this child has rickets" and my mother replied that Dr. Johnson had been giving me some medicine. Grandmother Frederick said, "Pshaw, just throw that stuff away. Go down to England's store (the town's general store) and get a bottle of Scott's Emulsion and give him three tablespoons a day." Now if you don't know what Scott's Emulsion is, it is raw cod liver oil and that was a pretty rugged dose for a small child to take. She also told my mother to have my father take me with him to the cow pen every time he milked and have him push back the foam off of the raw milk and make him drink all of it that you can get down him right there at the cow pen. Well, that certainly gave me my quota of sweet milk, but along with the cod liver oil I overcame the rickets and I know it was beneficial because I never had a broken bone or decayed tooth until I was well past 50 years of age. However, it destroyed whatever liking I ever had for sweet milk because I can close my eyes now and still smell the old wet cow and the hot milk.

As I said earlier, Grandmother Frederick was a pretty good doctor in her own right.

(Skip ahead--)


I remember the presidential election of 1912 when Woodrow Wilson defeated Howard Taft. In those days it was three days before anyone in Kinta knew who had won the election and the custom in our little town was to shoot anvils in celebration of the victory. In shooting anvils you take two anvils and bury one of them in the dirt with the base up. There is a small concave place in the base where you set the other anvil on top of it. Then you put a small charge of black powder in the space between the two anvils with a trail out where you ouch it off with a red hot rod. The Republicans had stored a bunch of black powder because they were sure that Mr. Taft would win. In the meantime, the Democrats came to Dad and wanted his two anvils from the blacksmith shop. Dad being a good Democrat went along with it, but it put him out of business for a couple of days waiting for the election results to come in. The Republicans had intended to get his anvils and had hidden their powder somewhere in the event of a victory. When word finally came through that Woodrow Wilson had been elected, the Democrats made a beeline to the Republican's hiding place and got their powder. So they shot "Democrat" anvils with "Republican" powder.

The blast is the most ear shattering you can imagine. To put about a cupful of black powder in this concave place on the anvil, touch it off, and see that anvil go into the air about 20 feet makes quite a boom! After they shot up the keg of the black powder and ran out of anything to shoot, they went over to McCurtain, a mining town about 20 miles away and got a case of dynamite to shoot instead.

What a difference there is today when they can predict the results of an election before the polls close with their sophisticated communications.


(This concludes the excerpt from the transcription of the tape recording of Norman Glenn Hardin, by Nancy Kathleen (Hardin) Clark.)

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