EULA GIDEON 1897 – 1991

Hood County News – December 14, 1991

Eula Davis’ Travels

 “The Tolar to Arkansas route was traveled by covered wagon to air conditioned vehicle.”

How many times have you heard this? “We need to record these wonderful stories before it’s too late.”

Fortunately, a Missouri newspaper published Mrs. Eula Gideon’s bevy of pioneer tales before she died at age 94. She was the mother of nine children, including a proud son, Tom Gideon, of Lake Wood Hills east of Granbury. Mrs. Gideon lived two different times in Tolar and married Berry Gideon, a Fall Creek boy, on December 17, 1916, in Granbury. Mrs. Gideon was born in Pocahontas, Arkansas in 1897. At age 2, she and her family moved to Tolar by covered wagon to try their luck farming in Hood County. During the long, dusty trip, one of the oxen died, leaving them stranded. “Father put us on a train,” Mrs. Gideon told the Daily American Republic in Poplar Bluff, Missouri in 1975. “He walked the rest of the way to Hood County. Father didn’t much trust trains then.”

In 1904 her father sold the farm and took his family back to Arkansas, leaving much of the clan in Tolar. “This time the whole family rode the train,” the paper reported. “Apparently father had built up a little more courage this time, or remembered his sore feet from the last time.” At age 7, Eula’s memory was better. “We rode on a Frisco train,” she related. “It had strange looking things at the end of the coaches. I asked the porter what they were. He said they were electric fans, and turned one on so I could see how they worked. I’d never seem or hear tell of one before that.”

Eula started to school in Pocahontas. The school was a tiny one-room log house. Walking the half mile to school wasn’t bad for Eula. Her grandfather had a store on his farm that was on the road to school. “I’d stop there every morning and granny would have some apples and cookies waiting for me,” she said. The family, after three years in Arkansas, loaded up again on the train and headed back to Tolar. After only two years, the family returned to Arkansas. The family passed up the train in favor of a covered wagon pulled by horses.

“At age 12, Eula was better able to recall the rigors of trail life,” the newspaper said. She told them, “When night came, we’d pull off to the side of the road to make camp and fix supper. We didn’t have no bread and sandwiches then. It was bacon and hot cakes.” Since water was rare, the family would have to travel late into the night to find water. “At times we’d have to stop and ask homesteaders if we could have some water from their wells,” Mrs. Gideon said. “Since the water was scarce, they’d say sure you can have some for yourself, but not for the stock. Once we stopped for some water and Uncle Ed held the water bucket up for ol’ Beck (the mule) to have a taste. The owner of the well said, “Hey, I told you you couldn’t have any for the stock.” Uncle Ed got mad and said, “Okay,” and poured all the water back in the guy’s well.”

There were no interstate highways back in 1909. Mrs. Gideon continued, “The trails in those days were just like takin’ off down through the woods. It was just wide enough for a wagon to get between the trees.” The road signs were different too. “There were notches on the trees,” Mrs. Gideon remembered. “When you stopped to ask directions, they’d say, “Turn west when you get to the crossroad with three notches.” Tom Gideon remembers his mother as a loving, hard-working person. “She lived for her kids,” the minister said at her funeral services in Colleyville last month.

Tom didn’t have any fancy clothes or toys while growing up, but always had supper on the table. “We didn’t have any money, but we had plenty to eat,” he said. Tom’s father was a sharecropper. They raised cotton, maize, and corn. In Arkansas, the family sold syrup from cane. “We’d kill three or four hogs every fall.” Tom remembers burning corn for heating fuel in treeless West Texas. “It was cheaper to burn corn than buy coal, ” Tom says. “We even burned cowchips.” Tom, like his mother, also had many homes when he was young. In Arkansas, Tom remembers one vivid trip that he took with his father. “I guess I was about 12 years old when I went with my father in a 1932 Ford car to trade for about 10 cows.” The Gideons rounded up cattle and started back home on foot for the 10-mile trek. Darkness came and the two were forced to spend the night in a barn.

Mrs. Eula Gideon saw much of the South Central states in her life. The route between Arkansas and Hood County was a familiar one. Her mode of transportation included everything from a covered wagon to an air conditioned car. When Mrs. Gideon died, her body was transported from Missouri by airplane, above the same route she had taken in 1899. Very appropriate.