Richest memories are growing up poor

By Don McAlavy

Jim “Mac” McDonald of Clovis plays a round of golf almost daily. He’s 84. He says golf keeps him fit.
Twenty-three years ago, I wrote a column about his grandpa, Moses B. McDonald, the accepted leader at the little settlement at Plain, which is a few miles west of Grady.
Plain is where Mac McDonald was born in 1918 and where he was raised. Today there is nothing there except a cemetery. That is why Mac wrote his life history for his kids. He wanted to tell his kids and grandkids where he came from and how he was raised. His memories follow:
“My earliest recollection of being a part of this family of McDonalds was when I was 5 years old. I remember our pinto bean harvest. It was a good crop.
“After filling a bedroom full of beans on stalks, we left with the Davidson family early one morning in our wagons and these two pioneer families set out for a journey to Sudan, Texas, to pick cotton. It was to make some money for clothes and food for the winter. I remember the hot cakes off the open fire and playing around the camp while the older ones picked cotton. We got started back late in the season and it was snowing when we came by Clovis. Last few miles to Plain was by sled through the snow.
“My dad, Jimmy McDonald, deposited the money we had just made in the bank at Grady. I don’t recall it but later I was told the bank had gone belly-up that winter and of course Dad lost our hard-earned money.
“My childhood was normal for those times. We didn’t have any money, but always seemed to have some kind of food. My Mama could make a good meal out of nothing.
“My first two years of school at Plain we lived 2 1/2 miles to the east and us kids had to walk to school. Then we walked home even in the snow. Plain then had a store, a one-room schoolhouse and a Masonic lodge building. The bottom floor served as church and all community activities.
“All the McDonald clan were Masons. Religion was a very important element in my bringing up, yet I was notorious for being pretty mischievous at school. By now, Plain, Forrest, and Jordan had consolidated at Forest. I remember Mama driving an old Model T with a small bed on it for the kids to ride on. One time she ran off the road and fell into a cattle guard. The larger kids just lifted it out.
“Like I said, I was pretty mischievous. Being smaller than most, I was usually picking on the girls. They would report me and I was sent to the ‘office’ and got a licking. I was used to that but when I got home one of my two sisters, Ora or Cora, would blab out: ‘Woodrow (that’s me!) got a whipping today!’
“I managed to graduate and my family moved to Portales so the girls and I could go to college. The college didn’t do much for me. I took different jobs during the Depression, even picking cotton, but our family got by. As World War II was approaching I got hired as a fireman on the Santa Fe. My work on the railroad was from Roswell to Pecos, Texas.
“I met the most beautiful girl I had even seen in the Busy Bee Cafe in Roswell. It developed into a full-blown romance and we were married April 11, 1942. The honeymoon lasted three months as I got drafted in the Army.
“After basic training they assigned me to Camp Reid here in Clovis were the railroad was teaching soldiers how to run trains, and build tracks, etc. for when we went overseas to war and operated those railroads over there. I returned from the war and found I had accumulated a lot of seniority on the railroad while away in the service. When I was 62, a train wreck about 10 miles west of Vaughn caused me to quit the railroad. Two friends of mine were killed in that wreck and I thought I had better quit or the next one might be me.
“My retirement has gone real well. I even get to write a letter once in a while to this newspaper and express my opinion on different subjects. Our own kids are Jim Jr., Pat, and Sue. My grandkids called me ‘Poppy,’ ‘Pepa’ or ‘Mac’ and I love them all. Maybe they will learn something from their old grandpa.”

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian.