Difference between revisions of "Kelton, Elmer 1998-06-11"

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[[Category: Needs Review ]]
[[Category: Needs Review ]] [[Category: SWC Interviews]] [[Category: 1990s]] [[Category: Family Life and Background]] [[Category: San Angelo, Texas]] [[Category: Writing]] [[Category: Ranching]]

Latest revision as of 15:06, 9 July 2019

Elmer Kelton talks about his family, growingup on the McElroy Ranch, people he has known, and sources of characters and settingsin his novels.

General Interview Information

Interviewee Name: Elmer Kelton

Additional Parties Recorded: None

Date: June 11, 1998

Location: San Angelo, Texas

Interviewer: David Marshall

Length: 1 hour, 50 minutes


Tape 1: Elmer Kelton b. April 29, 1926, in line camp on 5 Wells (?) Ranch east of Andrews, Texas, Father – b. 1901, Cow puncher, Grew up on homestead north of Midland, Texas on 5 Wells (?) Ranch, Mother – former school teacher, Grandfather – foreman of 5 Wells (?) Ranch, Paternal Great Grandparents, Came from East Texas in 1876 by covered wagon to Callahan County, Texas, Paternal Grandfather, Born in neighbor’s log cabin, Started ranch work at age 12 when father died, Married in 1897 or 1898, Hard times early 1900’s, Grandparents moved to Midland – 1906, Partnership on ranch lease, Father (again), Cowboy in Midland-Odessa area in Texas, McElroy Ranch – 1929, McElroy Ranch, Origins, Oil discovered, Sold to French oil company, Lester S. Grant, Operations Manager, Lester S. Grant, Background, Father (again), Mayfield Place, Foreman at headquarters of McElroy Ranch – early 1930’s, Life in the line camps, Electricity, Plumbing, House construction, Mayfield Place (again), House construction, Dugouts, Hugh Campbell, Kermit, Texas dugout, Sand Hills, Family life, Brothers, Line camp, Mayfield, Isolation, Roads, Supplies, Sand traps, Terrain, Flora, Fauna, Roads, Grassland, Flatland, Drought, Sheep grazing, Sand Dunes, Location, Size, Movement, Arrowheads, Grass lands, Best grass country, Problem for cattle (shinery [?]), Shinery (?) (Scrub Oak), Holds sand, Blooms poisonous to cattle, Oilfield hazards for cattle, Pecos Water, Childhood awareness of local history, Castle Gap, Goodnight’s Cattle Trail, Horse Head Crossing, School history lessons, Vegetation, Sand grasses, Weeds cattle ate, Creosol, Mesquite, Use of Mesquite, Construction with wood, Cattle and horses ate Mesquite beans, Health problems, Benefits, Rain fall, Droughts – Mid 1930’s and Mid 1950’s, Flood – 1941, Firewood, Cooking with wood, Butane cooking now, Kerosene heat, Drought – 1930’s, Affects on cattle, Contrast to earlier cattle loss, Father’s cattle lease, York Ranch, Check ground moisture by ground plug, Blizzards, Sand storms, Big rains, Flood of 1941, Screw worms, Sand Dunes (again), Drift against houses, Sand Camp, Childhood play in sand hills, Childhood at the Sand Camp, Played with whatever they had, ed records on parents wind up phonograph, Played horses and cattle, Marbles, Imagination play acting games, Didn’t relate play to World War I because didn’t hear about it, Heard stories when older from men who had been in World War I, Dad a year too young for World War I, Ranching environment, Subject for play – cowboys, cattle and horses, Surrounding environment, Oil wells in distance, Crane, Texas, Oil boom town, Tents, Childhood at Sand Camp, Played with Merle, Rocking horse, Stick horses, Cowboy hats and boots, Horseback riding, First rode with Dad at one year old, Lots of time on a horse growing, Duties as a child on the ranch, Line camps too young to work, Six years old when they moved to headquarters, Pulled weeds, Milked cows, Brought in wood, Sand Camp environment, Cattle, Mother’s garden, Milk cow, Cowboy on ranch went into Air Corp just before World War II, Impressed with milk bottles on front porches, Duties as a child on the ranch (again), Milking, Bring in wood, Feed horses, Sand Camp environment (again), Mother took care of chickens and gathered eggs, Hereford cattle only, Never milked Hereford cow, only Jersey cows, Jerseys, Cows docile, Bulls mean, Cows easy to handle, Lifestyle change from Sand Camp to headquarters, 32 volt electricity to all buildings, In door plumbing, Houses built after ranch bought by oil company, Old facilities run down, McElroy house was not run down, Demolished old facilities and built new, Lifestyle change from Sand Camp to headquarters (again), Moved into fairly new house, Surrounding buildings new except for the McElroy house, L-shaped bunk house, Step up in lifestyle, Visit to grandparent’s north of Midland like stepping back, Food and Grocery Supplies, Not much change from line camp, Company furnished the beef and staple goods, Warehouse commissary, Milk cow, Bought fresh fruits and vegetables, Trips to Crane, Texas, Somebody went every day for mail, Didn’t go to town much before starting school, School, Mother home schooled, Started public school at age 7 at third grade level, Lifestyle change from Sand Camp to headquarters (again), Telephones at headquarters - no phones at line camps, Up to date except for the 32-volt electricity, Radio, Battery operated radios, Morning glory speakers, Antenna ran up windmill towers, Picked up Mexican border stations, Entertainment shows, Radio stations, Border stations were strong, WFAA, WBAT Fort Worth, Midland, Texas station –middle to late 1930’s, Main stations out of Fort Worth and Dallas, Not many strong stations in the state, Typical Meals, Breakfast, Dinner, Supper, Big meal at noon, Biscuits and gravy at almost every meal, Cattle and Hogs slaughtered on ranch, Killed own beef when needed, Heifers usually slaughtered because not worth as much as steers, Milk pen calves went to slaughter, All slaughtering done on the ranch, not sent to slaughter house, Meat then divided up among employees, Foreman and cowboys did the slaughtering, Carcass hung in barn a couple of days, Windmill man cut carcass into portions, Beef cut in chunks, not steaks, then each family cut up their own, Windmills, Cliff Newland was the windmill man for years, About 80 windmills, Cliff kept windmills going, epairs required two people, Cowboy or handyman from kitchen helped with repairs, Cattle tanks, Round concrete tanks – 30 feet across and 4-5 feet deep, Wildlife, Occasionally coyotes and skunks got into chicken house, Badgers went for chicken eggs, Quail and Dove, Never saw deer or antelope growing up, Deer and antelope "planted" later, Snakes, House construction, Ranch Layout, Enclosure, Bunkhouse, White frame house, Manager’s house, Office, Warehouse, Shop, Later added garage, Manager’s new house, Moved house to Midland in the 1940’s, McElroy House, Foundation left, Built early 1900’s, No concrete used on foundation, L-shaped bunkhouse, Location, No foundation left, Wooden foundation on piers, Three to four individual rooms, Two cowboys at headquarters, Social life at Sand Camp, Not much, Transportation problem caused by sand, Model T or Model A - tires narrow and would sink deep into the sand, Social life at the headquarters, Played common games, Common games, 42- players, Dominoes, Social life at the headquarters (again), Story telling, Influence of cowboy stories on writing, Influenced by tone of the stories rather than content, Social life at the headquarters (again), Sociable group, Manager, Mr. Grant and his wife, Wife didn’t socialize, Wife detested ranch life, Mr. Grant was reserved and detached, Crane, Texas, Midland, Texas, Tom Schriner, Bookkeeper, Norwegian, Loveable old man, Lonely because he was like a fish out of water on a ranch, Saturday nights in Midland, Texas drinking, Father (again), Egalitarian with the cowboys, Neighbors, Socialized with each other, Mother (again), Methodist Church, Friends in town, Kids went to church with their mother, Father (again), Church only for funeral, Believer, just didn’t go to church, Friends in town, Friends from oilfield and business, Crane, Texas (again), Open community, Egalitarian society, No one was rich, all on equal economic footing, Working town, Midland, Texas, Rich lived in Midland, Texas, Executives lived in Midland, Texas, Odessa, Texas, Working man’s town, Midland, Texas (again), Oil company offices in Midland, Texas, Social life at the headquarters (again), Pleasant, Wide circle of acquaintances in cattle and oil business, Church social functions, Didn’t go much – nine miles out of town, ol band, School band, Played in band 4-5 years, Played clarinet, Still owns the clarinet from high school, but doesn’t play it anymore, Brothers, Bill was in the band, d Bill played football, Gene didn’t play football because of heart problem, All brothers are still living and in good health, Boy Scouts, Star rank, High school Scout, Camp out in sand hills, Scout trip to Fort Davis, Troop photograph, Uniforms, 4-H, Fed steer one year, Not much guidance, Showed steer, "Sifted", Merle got ribbon, Father (again), Buck Kelton, Heavy man – over 200 pounds, but strong and a hard worker, Mild mannered, he was rarely upset with the cowboys, Never struck the kids, disciplined with words, Only shortcoming as a father was the lack of verbal instructions, Buck Kelton’s work routine, Up before light to milk cows, slammed the door on way out to wake family, Most work done on horseback, leaving before dawn, returning late evening If it wasn’t a school day, he took the kids with him, He was in bed by 9:00 p.m., Childhood jobs on the ranch, Round up cattle, Branding, Screw worm preventative, Linseed oil to heal brands, Steer cut treatment.

Tape 2: Throw calves and hold them down, De-horning steers, Childhood jobs on the ranch (again), Holding the cut, Wrangling horses, Horse "jingler", Mother (again), She was the glue that held everything together, Social, Seldom cooked for cowboys, Grandmother, She was expected to cook for the cowboys, Mother (again), Sandstorms bothered her, she couldn’t keep the house clean, Liked living in the country, Grew up in the country, Other women at the headquarters, Mrs. Newland lived next door, Cook in the bunkhouse, Mrs. Vines, Mrs. Smeltzer, Bernice Cooper, Reading, Mother read more than Dad did, Dad just read newspapers until he was older, Fort Worth Star Telegram, Semi-weekly Farm Journal published by the Dallas Morning News, Livestock journals, Elmer started reading the funny pages in the newspaper, Mother read: McCalls, Ladies Home Journal, Life Magazine, Ranch Romance magazine, Elmer enjoyed reading western stories, Comic books not around until the 1930’s, Tip Top Comics, Famous Funnies, Superman – 1938-1939, Batman – 1938 – 1939, First comic books, Pulp magazines, Reading that made an impact: Wild West Weekly, a Street (?) and Smith, Publication, Reading (again), Bought magazines with covers torn off for $.05, Zane Gray, Will James, J. Frank Doobie, School library, Mother home schooling, Started learning letters from grocery carton over window, Picked out letters on canned goods labels, Mother taught the alphabet, then taught reading, Started public school ahead of other kids, started at 3rd grade level at age 7, Early writing, First writing for 2nd grade teacher, Preacher and Bear story, Red Stegal (?), Turentine (?), 2nd grade teacher, Now living in New Mexico, Teachers that had an impact, 3rd grade teacher – Ms. Lois Ann Hicks, Paul Patterson – Journalism and Spanish teacher, Subjects of theme papers, One based on a song about a grandfather’s clock, Most subjects assigned by teacher, School newspaper, Writer, Sketch artist, Newspapers are on microfilm at the school library, Linoleum cut prints, Wanted to be a cartoonist and writer, Western sketches, Earl did most of the sketches, Dad sketched horses, Mother bought sketchpad, Used pencils and pad, Home-made movies, Picture stories drawn on strips of brown wrapping paper run through, cardboard box with slits, Elmer wrote the dialog for the "movies", Sketching, Started at age 6 or 7, Drew posters for school plays, Writing, News stories for school newspaper, Decided to be a fiction writer and illustrate own books, Sketching (again), Sketched ads for Livestock Weekly, School Newspaper (again), Made contribution to paper in every issue, Junior and senior years – 1940-1942, No By-lines on articles, Linoleum cuts were marked with EK brand, Brothers (again), Merle, Bill, Gene (Boob) He is the youngest, Merle, Best cowboy, good horseman, good roper, still team ropes when back isn’t out, Sibling rivalry with Merle, Good cowboy, but he had bad luck around horses, He was always getting hurt, Boob, In grade school when Elmer graduated from high school, Health wasn’t good – heart problem, Now in his mid-60’s, Nickname came from their Dad – from Boob McNut comic strip, Elmer’s nickname was Pop. Stayed with him throughout work in the oil fields, Gene (again), Still called Boob, Brothers (again), Worked closely together on ranch growing up, Each had a company horse, Merle and Boob’s horse named Twilight, Elmer’s horses, Blackjack and Socks, Elmer (again), Not as good as Merle on horseback or roping, Felt like a misfit, like he wasn’t as good as he should be, Age 10 or 11 had tuberculosis, The oil field gasses were thought to be the cause, Several kids in Crane, Texas schools had tuberculosis, Confined to bed for almost a year, No sign of the tuberculosis when he had his military physical, Brothers (again), Played well together, Age Differences, The other brothers were closer to each other, Elmer a little too old for them, Games the brothers played, Cattle and horses, Built match stick corrals in side yard, Round ‘em up, Climbed the windmills when folks were not looking, Parents’ concerns for kids’ safety, Not allowed under windmills in case something broke and fell, Not allowed to carry ropes on saddle until older, Brothers (again), Personality differences, Cowboy on the ranch, One of the top ropers around, Might have been champion roper if not for WWII, Toots Mansfield, Six times World Champion Roper, Came out to ranch to practice, George Teague, Lived at Sand Camp many years, Bill Nix, Alan Holder, Walter Holt, Corral, Size and construction, Built for practice roping, Father (again), Never contest roper, Good horse roper, Cut the horses for everybody, Roped in the pasture, Horse breaking, Every cowboy broke horses, None of them contest bronco riders, Sun Euing (?), Worked on ranch after WWII, Inspector for Cattle Raisers, Retired to Tahoka, Texas, Brothers (again), No interest in reading and sketching, Thought Elmer’s reading and sketching "sissified", Teased Elmer about his incompetence as a cowboy, Roundup, Day work, C Ranch – north of Midland, Texas, School friends from Crane, Texas schools, W.H. Loveless, Ted Hogan, Bill Altman, Not much time to be together, Travel to and from school, Jack Newland, Feeler family, Dad arranged for ride with anyone with kids in school, Age 11 or 12 Elmer drove to city limits, parked and walked to school, Upton County subsidized travel to Crane schools, Ranch location, Crane County, Texas for the most part, but headquarters in Upton County, Texas, Daryl Vines, Several years younger than Elmer, he remembers Daryl when he was a baby, Cowboys go to work in oilfields after marriage, Not enough room for married cowboys on ranches, Vines Family, Slim Vines – Daryl’s dad, Gulf Camp, Lived in Crane, Texas for many years, The Kelton kids waited at Vines’ house after movies, Close to Vines family, Remembers Slim Vines before Slim married, Slim’s personality, Came to ranch on weekends to cowboy, Mrs. Vines’ personality, Mrs. Vines and Mrs. Kelton were good friends, Paul Patterson, High school journalism teacher – started at Crane, Texas in 1938, John Patterson, Paul’s brother, Worked as steady hand on the ranch, Worked on ranch as a kid when Mr. McElroy was still there, Paul Patterson (again), Had taught in Sanderson, Texas, Joined summer roundup before first year teaching in Crane, Texas, Personality, Journalism, Elective class for upper level students only, Typing was a pre-requisite for journalism, Elmer Kelton novels, Experiences on McElroy ranch and in novels – not specific experiences, but collective experience of ranch life, Ranch work was an education for later writing, Historic view in writing, Grandparents place in The Good Old Boys, but never used McElroy Ranch, Never used McElroy ranch in a novel, Used McElroy Ranch for short story in pulp magazine, Dad and Merle were used in the short story "Showdown at Horse Wells" early 1950’s, Started publishing ranch romances in 1948, Horse Wells, Located in Sand on one side of the ranch, Legend of murdered cowboys dumped in the well, and horse thieves, A grave of a murdered cowboy was actually on the ranch, As a child, Elmer was leery of the well, Part of legend was true, Horse thief was hung in Midland, Novel characters, Not many characters based on actual people, Borrowed things from people: manner, traits, character of speech, etc, Old Man Irasmus in The Good Old Boys based on an old drifter, Sheep buyer in Crane, Texas used in The Time It Never Rained, The Time It Never Rained, Elmer’s mother thought the main character was Elmer’s Dad, Charlie Flag, main character, A lot of Charlie Flag borrowed from Elmer’s Dad, Charlie Flag’s character was a composite of several of several people, Novel characters (again), Mostly a composite of people "leavened" with imagination, Leery about using real people in novels, Mr. Newland, Windmill man, Dug for Maximillion’s gold, Many holes dug for gold, Searching more important than finding, Bowie’s Mine, Borrowed idea of searching more important than finding, Influenced by Mr. Newland’s search, Maximillion’s gold, Mr. Newland never found it, Gold’s location was questionable, Some say it was found long before Mr. Newland’s time, One story of gold being found in 1919-1920 in this book, Story of Maximillion’s gold not very plausible, Interest in history, Started listening to old cowboy stories, Read a lot of history in school about the West, Kid’s interest in history today, Importance of history, History a "living" thing, James Greer, Texas history teacher at University, Imparted relevance of history to Elmer, L.L. Martin, High school Superintendent in Crane, Texas, Taught history indirectly through other classes he taught, Shared experiences in WWI and Europe in math class, Gave Elmer idea of importance of past to the present.

Range Dates: 1876-1998

Bulk Dates: 1926-1950

Access Information

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