1960-2010 - 50 Years

This blog is dedicated to the students who graduated from Henryetta High School in Henryetta Oklahoma in 1960.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Memories of Henryetta - Part 2

Remembering Tad Sherman
by Bill Miller

I know that you guys remember Tad Sherman, but I wanted you to see him as I remembered him as a very caring guy. I'm certain we all have many great stories about him as he was a terrific guy and a good man.

Tad worked at the glass plant, his wife Mary worked at the Hospital and there daughter George Ann [Pookey] was a teenager and worked at the Blaine movie theater part time. I think she dated the local HHS football hero, Chuck Yonkers. She may even have been the HHS football Queen in her senior year. Mary drove a respectable blue coupe as I recall. They were all very nice people. Mary once rescued me from a swarm of yellow jackets that I had disturbed and were chasing me across the yard and stinging me as I ran.

Anyway, they all lived in the little rent house that my grandfather owned next door to our house on 7Th and Gentry. Tad said the bathroom in that house was so small you could take care of your business and wash your hands at the same time.

The houses were separated by a double garage with heavy sliding doors. On one of the roofs corners was mounted a windmill shaped like an old woman wearing a sun bonnet churning butter that spun as she churned to show which way the wind was coming from. On the back side of the garage was a very large colony of huge black & yellow spiders. They were called banana spiders I think, but names were not important to a kid. Fear alone of these giant spiders protected there home of large blackberries from only the bravest of the brave. We were sure they could jump 50 ft. and more.

Tad had a black & tan hunting dog named Lady who would follow me to school and to the movies, then wait for me outside until I got out. She was a great dog and I still have a picture of her and I together. When Lady came into season as they say, Tad would pen Lady up and give any stray dog that came sniffing around a .22 Rat shot in the butt that sent them scurrying and yelping down the alley with there tail between there legs.

Tad was an avid fisherman and hunter. At one time he was a game warden and would show us his badge. His side of the garage was full of fishing poles and duck decoys. It was a gathering place for my grandfather, Mr. Tom Lackey from across the street and a passel of kids. Tad was always tinkering out in the garage and he had an abundance of love and patience's for all the kids in our neighborhood and believe me their was a lot. Twenty or more I think John Greiner once counted.

Tad used to practice his ducks calls over and over to and old 78 wind up record player that he had. You could hear that call all around the block and you new duck season was coming. One winter he was going to take Doug Allen and I rabbit hunting early one dark cold morning. The ground was iced over and we two had met outside his house and after waiting a while and scuffling our feet to stay warm, we stepped on his front porch and approached his front door, knocked gently, thinking he might not be up yet or worse yet, that he had forgotten. He came out quickly and told us to wait in the truck until he could get his thermos. Said that if we woke Mary she would shoot all three of us and never think twice. Just go right back to bed and be asleep before we hit the ground.

Pookey or Mary would sometimes drove his old trucks around the block while Tad, holding on for dear life, would lay on the fender well of his old Model "T" truck which was started with a crank, later a Model "A" to listen for squeaks or noise to be mended or corrected with large rubber bands like those we used on our rubber guns. Tad was not fond of vehicle squeaks and they seem to plague him. I guess it was all those unpaved roads that contributed to them.

Tad later upgraded to a Model "A" roadster and built a wooden bed where the rumble seat had been. He would load up as many of us neighborhood kids as would fit in either vehicle and off we would go bouncing down the road for another adventure. We would head for the rivers for minnows and for crawdads although there were times we just went out to the country to cut Johnson grass with hand sickles for his duck hunting blind.
Tad had a small minnow pond by the garage he kept stocked at his house for his frequent fishing trips to both the Old Lake [Nickles Park] and New Lake, where the town got there drinking water I think. These critters that we got with a sane net from the rivers were kept in the pond until needed.

I once stepped barefoot on a snake that was lying on the riverbank. The snake wiggled and squirmed under my instep and I stepped lively in one direction, never looking back, but hoping the snake was doing the same in the other. Sometimes he would get lost out in the middle of nowhere and have to stop and ask for directions on how to get back to Henryetta. Once he asked a man we came upon if he new how to get to Henryetta and the man said "yep I do". There was a long awkward pause before Tad got around to asking the obvious follow up question. We all thought that was pretty funny, Tad did not, or maybe he did later.

Tad had a row boat he kept chained up at the Old Lake which was under constant repair with black tar for leaks. This boat was used for Crappie fishing at night. We would row out and tie up at the old diving board or sometimes near the Spillway. Both good fishing spots. We use the white meat from the tails of the Crawdads which Tad said was the best bait for Crappies and the Minnows for Perch if that was what was biting.

Tad also had a boathouse and boat with 7-1/2 Sky King outboard motor he kept at the New Lake. The motor was kept in a locker inside and the boat was lifted out of the water by hand pulleys, front and back. The boathouse was secured with a combination lock on the door with the code written under the galvanized eve overhang above the door so he wouldn't forget it, which he frequently did. He would admonish me never to tell about the code location and I never did until now. There was a damn with a spillway you had to cross as a part of the road back then. When the spillway was running over he would stop in the middle and we would all pile out of the truck and give it a good washing. Just great fun.

Tad was ahead of his time I guess and he wanted to steer his motor boat from the front instead of the rear. He rigged two heavy strings tied to the motor handle and strung through eyelets on either side of the boat rail interior to steer the motor handle left and right by hand, but I have no idea or at least recall on how he planned to slow down or speed up the outboard engine. I guess he just set the throttle to one speed to start out, but I just don't remember.

At any rate on his maiden voyage as he explained to me, he was so excited at the prospects of it working, he forgot to tighten or clamp down the outboard motor to the back of the boat. He eased out and away from the boathouse slowly and satisfied that all was working well as planned, he moved to the front of the boat and apparently gunned it. According to Tad, he heard a loud noise and looked back just in time to see that outboard engine shoot straight up into the air and then plunged back down into the lake never to be seen again.

Tad said that he had engaged Eddy Anglin and a couple of his high school friends that worked as local lifeguards at the Old Lake to try to dive down to recover the engine, but without luck. Said the bottom was muddy and old SkyKing was most likely under the mud. Tad loved that engine and used to work on it plunging it into a large barrel of water and tuning it up at the house. It made a lot of noise, but we kids loved it too.

Tad would run trout-lines with chicken guts from the slaughter house for bait at the New Lake. One day in the garage he pretended to eat string guts like they were spaghetti dangling them above his mouth when Mary ask what he wanted for lunch. She was not happy but I think she liked him anyway. I saw her smile as she retreated to the house. I know we kids all did and delighted in his antics. You could get a pretty respectable fish on a lake trout line, but you had to watch for the turtles and snakes.

Tad would carry a .22 rifle to shoot water moccasins and he was a good shot. That New Lake was full of them. One night we had run the trot lines and had our stringers full of fish. Tad had looped the stringers around a post on the walkway out to the boathouse. The hour was late and Tad had brought some crackers and potted meat. I had never had this and it was a real treat for me. After our feast, it had gotten dark and Tad lit a Coleman lantern so we could see to get the fresh caught fish and head back to town.

Tad held the lantern high and I lay on the wooden walkway to the boathouse as the stringers had slid below the waterline. I felt around, found them and pulled the stringers up together over the end of the post. Up came our fish with two very large cotton mouth water moccasins wrapped about with their mouths wide open. We were so startled, Tad dropped the lantern into the lake plunging us into darkness and I dropped the two stringers, fish, snakes and all back into the lake and took to my heels with my heart about to explode in my chest.

Tad always claimed the wind blew out the Coleman lantern and I never disputed him, but I knew better. He later claimed to have stored the lantern in the boathouse and I did not dispute that either. I knew that even God's wind cannot blow out a Coleman lantern wick, but when your a kid, there were two sides to a story, your side and the adult side. He always claimed I owed him for two new fish stringers, but he never pressed me for it. I told him I knew exactly where those stringers were if he really wanted them. He mumbled something about a little snake or two would not bother anybody, but to my recall he got out of there as fast or faster than me. I'm guessing he thought he'd let that dog or stringers lay for a few days before he went back for them.

Tad bought a house out on the Lake Road and moved away when we were still in grade school. Mr. and Mrs. Fulton moved into the house. They were the Webster School maintenance folks. The home they had been living in on the other side of my grandfather's house did not have inside plumbing so this was a step up into high cotton for them, no matter the bathroom size.

There was not a kid in our gang who did not miss Tad, or parent for that matter. After all, in a way he sort of ran a free sometimes day care center that took field trips.

I only recall seeing Tad once at the Post Office after I was grown and home on military leave. We visited and laughed for a long while and then parted. Tad had a great since of humor and was a wonderful man.
Thanks you, Bill, for another trip down memory lane!