An Interview with Roy Dennis Terry (1910-1987) recorded ca. 1983 while visiting with his son Dennis Terry in Wellington, Kansas. Roy was the child of Wesley Sartin Terry and his wife Edna Maggie Boyd Terry. Roy worked for over 3o years for Boeing Aircraft of Wichita and helped construct two of the first "Air Force One' craft. In his spare time he raised and competed pedigree Beagles through his kennel, Slate Creek.
“I was born near Butterfield, Missouri on a little 40 acre farm a mile and a half northeast of town, in a one room log cabin and lived there until I was five . They then (my parents) built a new house. It was not a log cabin but was made of pinewood. It was on the same forty acres only in a different location than the log house.
When I was three years old, mom, Edith, my baby sister, and me were at the house when the house caught fire on the roof. Mom told me to go down to the cornfield (about a half a quarter [mile] from the house) and call dad. I ran down there and just calmly told dad ‘there’s a big blaze on the house”. Dad dropped everything and run to the house and put out the fire.
I remember when I was just three years, before we moved from the log cabin, we had a horse that got tangled up in some barbed wire and cut itself and bled to death. It must have made a big impression on me for I can’t remember the horse at all. Also, Dad had gathered the popcorn in this box on the sled with a box on it that he hauled things in and pulled by a horse. Dad gathered the popcorn in this box on the sled. I seen this popcorn and thought it was the most popcorn I ever saw in my life, of course it was a lot of corn. We always had a lot of popcorn balls, and made sorghum candy called taffy at taffy pulling times. This was the land of treats we had.
When I was about three Mom always milked the cow. My job was to go out when she milked and watch Edith who was about a year and a half old and sat on a pallet on the ground. She reached over on the ground and found some dried cow chips and started to eat it, so I helped her find some more until Mom came and caught me. I don’t remember the tune she played on me but it left a big impression I won’t forget.
The fall I was five years old we moved from the log cabin to the new pine house. They had to move the stove wood in, so I went along every trip. On the way, we had to pass a yellow jacket nest and I would get stung, but by the time they were ready for the next load I was ready to go again. Got stung every trip but managed to go every time they went.
The first summer we lived in the new house dad cut down a tree in the yard, which was at the edge of the woods. He left a log laying there and Grandpa came up the road. About this time, we saw a snake by the log and it crawled right over Grandpa’s toes, he just calmly moved it over with his walking stick and went on. Don’t know where the snake went. I think it was a blue racer.
When I was seven years old my cousin Oscar TERRY was getting ready to go to the army. His dad was Kelso Terry and they lived in Rago, Kansas. He rode a motorcycle down to Missouri with his father. He had a about 30 days left. He brought me a set of dominoes and taught me how to play. I got where I could play pretty good. I kept those dominoes for years after that.
Back in those days we were all poor and about all we had was bread and flour gravy. I saved the family from starvation because we had one big old spoon that mom stirred the gravy with. Well, the oldest child, Clyde, helped stir the gravy; he was right handed. Then Pearl came along and she stirred with the spoon and was right handed. By this time the spoon was wore clear to the middle from that right side. My folks couldn't’ afford to buy another so they didn’t know what they would do. Then I came along and was left handed, so I started stirring the gravy with my left hand. So, we were in business again. I saved the family!
When I was about ten years old, they were cutting cord wood. That is wood four feet long and used to heat boilers with. They were cutting it right in front of our house and stacking it four feet each way. At that time there was a man the law was looking for and they all came out there and was looking for him where the cordwood was stacked, guess they thought he was hiding in the wood. We were real excited about all of this; we had never seen a desperado or a hunt for one. I don’t know if they ever caught him or not.
The only time I was ever really scared of the dark was when I was about twelve years old. My sister Pearl and brother Clyde and I walked down to Gunter, where they were having band practice. While we were there word came that the little town of Butterfield was on fire and the business district was burning up. So all of the older ones jumped into buggies and went to see the fire. All but me. I was left there alone. It was only one and it was only a quarter mile but seemed like ten. Every time I took a step, it sounded like there was a step behind me. And I could hear all sorts of noises like hoot owls and everything else you could imagine. This was the first time I was ever out alone at night. By the time I came to my aunts house I was scared pink. But I borrowed a lantern to go the rest of the way home.
A year or two later I was going to school, and I always took my lunch in a syrup bucket. Well, mom also kept her clabbered milk in a syrup bucket. I ran through the house and grabbed my bucket and away I went to school. About half way there I heard a noise like my lunch was splattering, so I looked at it and you guessed it, I had a bucket full of clabbered milk! I threw it over the fence and done without lunch that day. So the rest of the year they called me ‘clabber milk.’
My last year of school in Butterfield there was a kid there who was real little. One recess he didn’t come in the schoolhouse. He hid under the school and made noises pecking on the floor. The teacher sent me to see what was making the noise. I found him under the school and told him he better go on home because the teacher was looking for him. I didn’t tell her I found him. So, the boy went on home and caught it the next day from the teacher.
The first date I had, I went with Clyde to a band concert. I was to take this girl home and took her home in the buggy and in the meantime, Claude had made a date to take his girl home. When he came out to take his girl home, the buggy was gone. So I really caught it from him.
It wasn’t just that I was such a bad boy, it was just that all the things I did and thought were funny, no one else thought they were funny at all.
One time I walked up to the Bradley’s store to get some gas for my old Model “T” car. The store was closed when I was there I knocked. Had to knock several times. Finally, the door was opened and three guys were standing there with guns. Boy, those guns were big. They had heard the store was going to be robbed but of course, I didn’t know this. I was probably about eighteen then.
I was raised on cornbread and the hoe handle, and the reason I never got any bigger than I did was I got more of the hoe handle than the cornbread. The only difference between me and George Washington was he president and I never was.