My Earliest Recollections

I was born August 13, 1920 on a hot Friday afternoon. My birth record says it was 15 minutes after the thirteenth hour (1:15 p.m.). I have always said the clock was two minutes fast. The doctor, (xxxxxxxx), who delivered me was under indictment for murder, but was freed later by a jury who said he acted in self defense. If my memory serves me correctly about what I was told, the doctor had whipped a gun out, after a man had whipped out his gun, with the intent to kill the doctor on the street of this little country town. The man was accusing the doctor of tending his wife after she had miscarried and the doctor had been called in by a neighbor lady while the husband was away because the Rice farm in about 1910neighbor lady knew the woman needed help---but the doctor had gone there without the manís permission. Quite a Kansas frontier beginning for me as I came into the world into a sod house of my fatherís mother who was Lizzie (Clemments) Rice. It was a farmhouse located about half way between Ness City and Brownell in Ness County, Kansas.

At the age of 6 weeks, I had whooping cough after my mother had unknowingly taken me into a home where a small child had whooping cough (the childís parents didnít realize he had it). I guess it was a hard struggle and day and night vigilance for my parents to keep me alive. I carried a cough until the warm days of the next spring came and I was able to be gotten out doors in the sunshine.

When I was about a year old, my Grandmother had a stroke. She went to stay with my Dadís twin sister, Besse (Rice) Hackett and died shortly afterwards. My parents shortly after this moved to Pawnee County, Kansas to a ranch on the south side of the Arkansas River about five miles West of Garfield. The house had been built by my Dadís uncle "Nick" Rice. Uncle Nick moved to a farm north of the river and he and Aunt Lizzie lived with their son and wife. Shortly after we moved there Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Nick celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a huge family celebration. A year or two later Uncle Nick died. The wedding anniversary and the funeral of Uncle Nick stand out in my mind until this day. They were momentous occasions for those about me in those years of four and six. They were events that left me with lots of mystery to ponder.

The place where we lived was always known as the Rice ranch. Lots of my Dadís cousins lived in that area (the Garfield area) and most of our social life was centered around these relatives. Most of the cousins were descendants of my Dad'í Uncle Nick, Uncle Bill and his Aunt Mary (Rice) Bingaman. As of this writing (1994) we still attend the Rice-Bingaman reunion in Larned, Kansas (county seat of Pawnee County) about every year. My Dad played musical instruments "by ear"---He seemed to like the violin best, but he played piano, guitar, banjo, accordion, too---and enjoyed playing for neighborhood and family dances in peopleís homes. I enjoyed all the kids at such dances. After we got tired playing, we kids would sleep on the beds (amongst the coats in the wintertime). My father rarely danced and my mother danced very rarely, but she loved to visit and always helped lay out the supper of sandwiches and coffee as the midnight hour approached. All the women brought in the sandwiches when they came to the dance. Each family brought enough for their own family plus a few besides and the host family furnished the coffee. Paper cups, we didnít know about, so if the hostess needed extra cups some others brought them. Lots of time there was a drink of lemonade or cocoa for the "kids", but not always. Usually there was a square dance or two for the youngsters. I loved to square dance. We had a big living room and a dining room, so we had the dance at our house quite often.

The living room would be cleared of furniture, the hard wood floor waxed and it was ready. At our home most of the living room furniture could be fitted into our dining room and my folksí big bedroom. Two sets could be put in our living room for each dance number. There was "round" Leona Rice on the Rice Ranchdancing, too---polka, shoddiest, two-step, one step, waltz, etc. My folks liked to play cards, so frequently we had people come in to play "pitch". I learned to count on a deck of cards.

I had a sister eleven years older and a brother nine years older than I and a brother three years younger. They were Fern, John, and George. At an early age, my brothers played with my Dad---usually my Dad on the violin and John on the guitar and later George played the guitar. Fern usually sang. We had our own evening "sings". My mother and I werenít very musically inclined, but my mother was a "kitchen sink" hymn singer. Even today I get a great joy recalling all the old hymns and singing in mind more often than aloud, snatches of all those hymns of my childhood. I enjoy my Dadís songs of the early 1900ís and John and Fernís songs of the 1920ís. By the time the 1930ís rolled round, we had a radio and were introduced to the "Hit Parade" songs. I am very catholic in my taste for music--ófrom classical, pop, country, to soft rock (hard rock and the frenzy that goes with it isnít musicójust a form of noise making). I think I owe my feeling about music to my growing up years, even my love for classical music can be traced to my school years. I went to the consolidated grade and high school at Garfield, Kansas. Iíll never forget how I loved hearing my music teacher playing "To a Wild Rose" and the "Flight of the Bumblebees" in my first grade music class. It opened up another avenue of music appreciation for me.


Pictures

  1. The Rice farm about 1910.  Left to Right:  Lizzie Clements Rice holding Fern Rice, hired man, Aunt Irene, Aunt Dode.
  2. Leona Rice with kitten and windmill in the background.