Personal History – -1 to 5 years

Note: These records of my first  six years (minus one to five years) are probably reconstructions of  Ira’s memories, as I remembered nothing about what happened in that period, except what I later reconstructed with Ira’s help, after I reached about nine years of age.

0th year of life (in the womb), sixth to 10th of January 1927 to early October. (These are reconstructions from mostly non-verbal experience, recounted in -- maybe slightly damaged-- American English.) 1st October to 11th October, later revised to 9 October 1927.  Some (Arkansan) English I heard: But, not well understood at the time.  I attempted to store what seemed likely to be important… in memory and decoded later, with Ira's help, to interpret and understand.  Mommy's 19th birthday and marriage to George Embry was on 4 Jan 1927. Aunty Holloway (or was it Hoskins) (my great aunt), Mommy’s (and my?) midwife, delivered me from Mommy and always said my birthday was 11 October 1926(??).  I never heard, or heard anything about, any doctor having anything to do with me, before, during or after my birth, until the 1930s.

1st year, Life in Arkansas: I became (vaguely) aware of "Ira" when I was about nine years old (just a name I made up for him). A little later, I realized he had been in my mother's womb, with me, in my first nine or so months. He had always been still around, standing just out of sight behind me, seemingly to my right.  In year one, I was trying to learn a language (and talk) as quickly as possible: But, Ira could not, or would not, help me: So, he was of no use to me. He seemed only to be interested in some kind of talk that I could hear, but could not understand.  I could not understand why, nor tell anything about what he thought was happening.

My first challenge was learning to count, up to 100, starting with listing my aunts, uncles and cousins.  Mommy Albertha’s five brothers and four sisters had grown up living in Madison County: Uncles Harrison, Howard, Daniel, William (Bill), Archibald Quentin (Archie) and Aunts Alicee, Velma, Nancy and Dorothy.

Daddy George has 16 siblings already (or 17, including the two or three born by Grandmother Susan, nee Bryant) before she married Grandfather Emmanuel Embry. Uncle John (and Aunt Julie) had 20 children; Uncle Bill (and Aunt Ester) had 10 children (including young Cousin Joe, and much older Cousins Ervin and Mervin). Aunt Cora married Ace Gilbert (who was knifed to death in a tavern in Newton County), then. to Uncle Ed Cowan, had Augustus (Gussie) Cowan: Dad’s other siblings, had fewer children each, but adding up to over 96 grandchildren, in all.

I lost counting lots of tame animals, such as:

  1. cows,

  2. horses,

  3. mules,

  4. donkeys,

  5. hogs,

  6. goats,

  7. sheep,

  8. dogs,

  9. cats,

  10. chickens,

  11. turkeys,

  12. geese,

  13. guinea pigs,

  14. guinea hens. There were many more wild ones---

  15. armadillos,

  16. gila monsters,

  17. razor-back hogs,

  18. peccaries,

  19. alligators,

  20. crocodiles,

  21. elk,

  22. moose,

  23. deer,

  24. wolves,

  25. cougars,

  26. mountain lions,

  27. panthers,

  28. pumas,

  29. coyotes,

  30. [o]possums,

  31. prairie dogs,

  32. squirrels,

  33. flying squirrels,

  34. ground squirrels,

  35. skunks,

  36. bob cats,

  37. wild cats,

  38. ground dogs,

  39. civet cats,

  40. rabbits,

  41. [ra]coons,

  42. beavers, and in other counties

  43. (apes,

  44. monkeys,

  45. lions,

  46. leopards,

  47. tigers,

  48. wildebeests,

  49. antelope), in the water

  50. cat fish,

  51. bass,

  52. perch,

  53. whales,

  54. sharks ,

  55. porpoises,

  56. dolphins,

  57. squid,

  58. octopi, and on land

  59. (four poisonous snakes – including copperheads,

  60. rattlesnakes,

  61. cotton mouthed moccasins,  in rivers, and

  62. coral snakes -- and many more poisonous  snakes -- in other countries),

  63. earth worms,

  64. grubs,

  65. lady bugs,

  66. potato bugs,

  67. beetles,

  68. caterpillars,

  69. millipedes,

  70. centipedes,

  71. toads,

  72. tadpoles,

  73. frogs,

  74. crawdads,

  75. slugs,

  76. scorpions,

  77. spiders,

  78. ants,

  79. termites,  

  80. piss ants,

  81. butterflies and

  82. moths.

I either saw (or heard stories about) all the “wild” ones being

  • caught,

  • hunted,

  • fished or

  • trapped.

(Much later, Ira had a story about a venomous rattlesnake Mommy had stepped on when both of us were still in her womb together (Or, when he was behind us. on the right, bitten and died...temporarily... before joining me in the womb???. I never really trusted that Ira remembered this, rather he heard the story told to me, by Mommy, years later, after he learned how to understand English.) Almost all the birds were wild (other than a few pet canaries and love birds) such as wild:

  1. turkeys,

  2. ducks,

  3. geese,

  4. pigeons,

  5. doves,

  6. quail,

  7. partridges and a few really wild ones:

  8. cranes (which I heard about but never believed had delivered me, rather than Great-Aunty and some)

  9. sea gulls,

  10. albatross,

  11. pelicans and French man-o-war birds (all of whom must have gotten lost from flying too far inland).

A lot of the kids my sizes were catching whooping cough, diphtheria, typhus,  scarlet fever and  I heard about a few dying from being bitten by mad dogs, so getting lockjaw from rabies.  I never caught any of them (except mumps): But, when I climbed up on some high shelves in a closet with the door left open, I knocked over a big bottle of carbolic acid, broke it, spilled it all over me and scared the poo-poo out of Ira. (Ira seemed to me to be uninterested in stories and learning about, or how to do, things: But, he reacted much quicker to surprises, especially my personal disasters, than I did.) The carbolic acid* stung me, but didn’t cause blisters or blind me, after Mommy dumped several buckets full of water, carried from the spring, all over me: And, again, I had to wear diapers (unnecessarily), for whole week.

*A bit later I learned (probably by reading) why Mommy had put carbolic acid in our closet. About the use of carbolic acid, originally to save (up-to half of all pregnant) mother’s lives from blood poisoning caught from the hands of hospital doctors delivering babies. I tried to find out the name of the doctor who invented the idea of washing hands with an antiseptic (much later, using carbolic acid, sometime after 1860) that way. That doctor wrote a book about other doctors causing them to get his wife to trap him into visiting an insane asylum, arranged to get him declared insane, confined, beaten to death (or murdered) with the same blood poisoning, to prevent him from ruining the reputations (and income) of all the other doctors who were (accidentally?) infecting, and killing mothers and their new born children.  (Lister used this antiseptic method successfully, for the first time, on August 12, 1865.) My mother had acquired the carbonic acid, and kept in our house, for use by my Great-Aunty and other midwives.

2nd year, No real memory of this, though I was later told we sometimes went to Mommy and Dad's Christian Church or Church of Christ Church. (I understood they were the same: But, one church allowed instrumental music, the other allowed a cappella (voice) music only.)

That year, or possibly the next year, walking home through the woods from Church after dark, I heard bob cats yowling, frightening Ira so much that he wanted to pee: But, it was the only way I was sure I had had his attention. I definitely was never baptized nor preached to, nor about. Neither Ira, nor I, had any interest in what the preachers were talking about.

Squirrel, rabbit and possum meat became very popular with me, as soon as I had enough teeth to eat them. Dad’s favorite rhyme was “corn bread, butter milk and good ole possum jaw”. His other poem he taught me was: “Ring around a raccoon’s tail, a possum’s tail is bare, and a rabbit has no tail at all: But, a little bitty bunch of hair.” (I never grew any “wisdom” teeth, and only 25 new adult teeth to replace the 28 baby teeth.)

3rd year. There were radios in one or two of the houses we walked (or drove in buggies) by, with talk: "Piedras Negras, Coahuila", Ciudad de ??" possibly "Mejico" (according to what  Ira told me after I was nine). In later years, there was also a preacher talking, in English I understood, and a theme song about “blood and whiskey on the highway”. Mommy and Dad also disapproved of drinking whiskey, especially while, or before, driving a car. Ira seemed to be interested in this, but couldn't communicate with me in English, and I didn't know what Piedras Negras was about. Mommy said it was Spanish, probably about “black rocks”. We didn’t have a car, though Dad once owned an Essex, before he married Mommy. So, we often walked down to the filling station and general store in Boston AS, to buy and carry home groceries. I liked the saltine crackers, from the barrel, I was allowed to take. Daddy would sometimes buy some more for us to take home: And, I liked candy canes (but I was seldom given any; except, sometimes, by the grocery clerk or the grocery keeper’s, wife who worked there).

There was a spring, about a mile and a half from our house, which was the start-up of White River. I asked Mommy where the White River water went to: She said to the Mississippi River, then on downstream to the Gulf of Mexico. I wanted to know how to get to Mexico.  She said take a boat always going downriver, to the Gulf of Mexico, and then turn right: But, if I took a car or rode a horse: Go southwest, but stay out of Newton County, where the outlaws live. She was suddenly curious as to why I wanted to go to Mexico (actually prompted by my secret friend, “Ira”). I explained I wanted to see what it was like to learn Spanish: But, she suggested that down at the foot of the Mississippi, the people spoke an old fashioned French, called Cajun, and teachers in some high schools taught Latin: For, priests to make Masses, lawyers to argue in courts and doctors to write prescriptions to druggists.

I had a problem with Dad’s interpretation of the New Testament, which he said described: The wind blows from the four corners of the earth”. Mommy told me a story of Christopher Columbus who knew the earth was round, like a ball, and you could find the Indian country by sailing west (from Spain) rather than east, around the southern tip of Africa. Dad argued that the Bible was true, and Columbus was mistaken and, obviously, misnamed the Indians, “Indians”, rather than Americans*. I suggested, even better, “Cherokees” (Mommy’s tribe) or “Chickasaw” (Daddy’s tribe). Mommy countered that “Mayan”, “Aztec” or “Inca” would have been better still, for that part where people lived in where Columbus  discovered, for the King and Queen of Spain.

*My favorite history of the word “America” is: “Another theory, first proposed by a Bristol antiquary and naturalist, Alfred Hudd, in 1908 was that America is derived from Richard Amerike (Richard ap Meurig), a Welsh merchant from Bristol, who is believed to have financed John Cabot's voyage of discovery from England to Newfoundland in 1497 as found in some documents from Westminster Abbey a few decades ago. Supposedly, Bristol fishermen had been visiting the coast of North America for at least a century before Columbus' voyage and Waldseemüller's maps* are alleged to incorporate information from the early English journeys to North America. The theory holds that a variant of Amerike's name appeared on an early English map (of which no copies survive) and that this was the true inspiration for Waldseemüller.[17][18][19]

*From Waldseemuller: “Americus Vespucius is the Latinized version of the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci's name, and America is the feminine form of Americus. Amerigen is explained as Amerigo plus gen, the accusative case of the Greek word for 'earth', and meaning 'land of Amerigo'.[25] (See etymology.) Amerigo itself is an Italian form of the medieval Latin Emericus (see also Saint Emeric of Hungary), which through the German form Heinrich (in English, Henry) derived from the Germanic name Haimirich.[26] Vespucci was apparently unaware of the use of his name to refer to the new landmass, as Waldseemüller's maps did not reach Spain until a few years after his death.[25] Ringmann may have been misled into crediting Vespucci by the widely published Soderini Letter, a sensationalized version of one of Vespucci's actual letters reporting on the mapping of the South American coast, which glamorized his discoveries and implied that he had recognized that South America was a continent separate from Asia; in fact, it is not known what Vespucci believed on this count, and he may have died believing what Columbus had, that they had reached the East Indies in Asia rather than a new continent.[27]  

NB: The similarity of Amerigo to the German Amalric, the French versions of Amaury (and Aimery, all names of Kings of Jerusalem) from which the following, Anglo-French names evolved: Amory, Amery, Emory, Emery, Embrie, Embury, Embree, Embry as in Henrie Embrie, Xth great-grand-father of (James) Gavin Embry.

4th year: Mommy taught me to read books she "borrowed" from some of our neighbors, and the school where she used to teach. Ira wanted me to find (that is, he made me interested in things he wanted me to pay attention to) books in other languages, especially Spanish, and read them for him: But, I couldn’t find many.  I tried reading Dad's Holy Bible (to Ira, silently) but he had absolutely no time for that. Dad said the Old Testament was old “fictions”,  by Jews: But, the New Testament was all the absolute truth, and included the actual words Jesus Christ had said before he was crucified (killed), printed in red letters. Much of it was difficult to understand and had a lot of words I was not allowed to say out loud, or even ask about, even to Mommy and Daddy, teachers or preachers.

I could earn a whipping by cussing, that is saying certain words, and neither Dad nor Mommy said them either. I could not even say “Jesus”, “Christ” or “God” unless I was praying to them for something. “Moses” and "Abraham" were okay, but not “Peter” for some reason. Mommy could say “My God”, as a (very short) prayer.

They didn’t drink any strong tasting stuff out of bottles, or jugs, for medicine or with meals or not. Though, a lot of our neighbors did drink, in taverns, beer halls and dance halls or at barn dances: And, they could buy the stuff in bottles from stores or cook it at home, made out of grains of corn. My parents did not allow any kind of gambling, even card playing; except just for fun, or matches, like pitch or gin (but no poker). No dancing, party-going nor going to square dances.  Checkers was okay for Dad, and, also Chess, for me, if I ever learned how to play it.  

Sometimes, in the spring, I followed Dad around, also behind a mule pulling a double-shovel plow, around steep hillsides, getting the fields ready for sowing corn, potatoes, tomatoes and beans (growing on vines climbing up on stakes). Later, in corn fields, we used a single-shovel to plow up weeds, between rows of corn (and sweet-corn) stalks. Dad and I both decided it was better to walk around with a hoe to chop down the weeds: Before they got too big, or to be too many of them. When the sweet corn was ripe, but before it got too ripe, it was easy to gather and shuck, and delicious to cook and eat off the cob, rubbed with butter, and seasoned with salt and pepper. Regular corn was excellent food for horses and mules, without cooking, either on cobs or having the grains removed from the cobs first in a corn-cob-grinder. Before corn or sweet corn was too hard, I used a grater Dad showed me how to make. I made it using a tin bucket split open and nailed to a board, after using a hammer and nails to make jagged holes to grind up meal from the grains of corn, right off a cob.  Mommy used the freshly ground-meal for the most wonderful corn bread.

I used to go out with Joe, Uncle Bill Embry’s and Aunt Ester’s youngest son (I think), in the woods. Probably, Joe was the one who dropped out of school after the fourth grade, and still couldn’t read: But, I could. (Mommy said Daddy finished the seventh grade.) Joe and I went out to gather up hickory nuts, walnuts, pecans: And, acorns, for the pigs. Some places also had wild berries: gooseberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and huckleberries I could bring home for Mommy to make wonderful pies. I could gather polk-leaves for eating-greens: While, carefully, avoiding their poisonous, purple parts, especially the berries. I used the berries, instead of eating them, to make a beautiful purple ink to write with, using a turkey feather as a pen. (Ira hated the purple ink; I didn’t know if he didn’t like the color or it worried him because it poisoned people who stuck it in their mouths or ate it.) I really liked mushrooms and toad stools*, easy to find: But, neither I (nor anyone else) trusted me to pick the ones which would not kill you. Joe and I gathered rabbit tobacco to dry up and grind, as a substitute for tobacco.  I never dealt with real tobacco as, when Joe tried it, it was strong, made him dizzy and stink real bad.

*” Mushroom vs. toadstool

The relative sizes of the cap (pileus) and stalk (stipe) vary widely. Shown here is a species of Macrolepiota.

The terms "Mushroom" and "Toadstool" go back centuries and were never precisely defined, nor was there consensus on application.

The term "toadstool" was often, but not exclusively, applied to poisonous mushrooms or to those that have the classic umbrella-like cap-and-stem form. Between 1400 and 1600 A.D., the terms tadstoles, frogstooles, frogge stoles, tadstooles, tode stoles, toodys hatte, paddockstool, puddockstool, paddocstol, toadstoole, and paddockstooles sometimes were used synonymously with mushrom, mushrum, muscheron, mousheroms, mussheron, or musserouns.[3]

The word has apparent analogies in Dutch padde(n)stoel (toad-stool/chair, mushroom) and German Krötenschwamm (toad-fungus, alt. word for panther cap). Others have proposed a connection with German "Todesstuhl" (lit. "death's chair").[4] Since Tod is a direct cognate to death, in that case it would be a German borrowing.

The term "mushroom" and its variations may have been derived from the French word mousseron in reference to moss (mousse). The toadstool's connection to toads may be direct, in reference to some species of poisonous toad,[5] or may just be a case of phono-semantic matching from the German word.[6] However, there is no clear-cut delineation between edible and poisonous fungi, so that a "mushroom" may be edible, poisonous, or unpalatable. The term "toadstool" is nowadays used in storytelling when referring to poisonous or suspect mushrooms. The classic example of a toadstool is Amanita muscaria.*

Ticks (and chiggers in the grass) were also definitely to be avoided, or immediately removed before their heads got buried under my skin (under my bag). Cockle burrs got stuck in my clothes, hair and, especially, any of our tame animal’s fur.

We also pulled up and destroyed “crazy weeds” to keep the cows from eating them and going mad. (After I grew up and had teen-age children, they thought they learned that crazy weed was marijuana, and they could smoke it like Mexicans. They were wrong about both, especially that it was safe for people to use.)

(Except for Ira, who was my own private secret), I had no brothers of sisters, and we kept no pets, but only working animals: Including cats to keep down mice and rats in barns and fields: Who, otherwise ate, or spoiled, our and the other animals’ food, or both.

Review of Learning Experience

I did not think about many of the things I had learned, or was aware that I had learned, until I reviewed my memories of those years before I got to be nine years old, with (and without) Ira’s help,:

  • Every kind of living things is one or the other of the two sexes, called male and female. Each of the opposite sexes, of the same kind, behave differently, can and want to do different things

  • New living things descend as one or the other of the two sexes, from collaboration between two of the opposite sexes of the same kind of living things

  • Males cannot reproduce with males nor can females with females

  • Even  if two different kinds have descendants, their descendants cannot have descendants (eg a jackass and a mare, can have a mule but mules cannot have mules)

  • I remember (and dream) in images I saw, sounds I heard, things I felt, or smelt (a bit), pains that hurt me, pleasure, disgust, hunger, thirst etc, or

  • Words and phrases I heard, or said or, now, I read or wrote

  • There are different kinds of several kind of words, phrases and sentences: heard, said, or written, in writing, or written in print

  • The words, phrases and sentences are organized into different languages which some people understand and use and other do not. (Ira does not understand English very well, but he understands Spanish better than I do)

  • Ira and I can help each other with the different languages (but neither of us will get as good as the other one of us, with our own “native” language)

  • The relationship between opposite sexes of the same kind is a little like me and Ira, needing to collaborate to do certain things, each type being better than the opposite sex of the same living kind (or same person) at certain other things

  • Some new born kinds of living things need collaboration from one (or both) of the sex(es) of their own adult parents, to survive, get better lives and reproduce (most mammals)

  • Some new born kinds only need very little collaboration from adult kinds or parents (Amoeba)

  • Some kinds  of sexes need tricks to get collaboration from other sexes of the same kind (Ball & Chain), to reproduce (Primates)

  • Some kinds of sexes need better tricks  to keep collaboration working with opposite  sexes, of their kind, to care for their descendants well enough.

About 1st of April of 1931.  We moved from Boston AR to Missouri. My earliest memory of moving house was riding in the back of a friend’s Model T Ford Pickup Truck to stay on a friend's farm in Bates County MO, near Hume (on the Kansas-Missouri border) next to a (Southern Pacific ??) railroad track.  For the first two weeks, every four-in-the-morning, the steam train woke me up from my palette. Later, about once-a-month, the train woke me again, by failing to roar and rumble by and toot the whistle, until I got used to sleeping through the train not passing by.

I went out along the railway most days, collecting chunks of coal that fell off the coal tender, for our fireplace and our big iron, wood-burning, cook stove. Much better than chopping down trees and splitting logs with an axe. (My Dad saved some of the coal, combined them with oranges, and gave them back to me as a gift, on Christmas Days.)

Daddy bought our own Model T Ford Pickup Truck and drove it all around Bates County MO, looking for a farm to rent. He promised the farm-owner to share a third of all the crops we raised and sold: But, neither our animals, nor the crops we ourselves, or our animals, ate. At the bank in Butler, he found one farm we could move to on the next 1st of March 1932, owned by the bank (or maybe by a much better-off banker) in Butler, who drove around in a big black Buick. (I quickly learned how the Model T worked, how to fix it, and could have driven it, once my legs grew long enough.)

By the end of this year, I was getting the hang of how things worked. Almost every form of life had different relationships between:

  1. others of the same kind

  2. others of different kinds

  3. younger

  4. not younger

  5. Smart and smarter

  6. Smart and stupid

  7. Male and male

  8. Male and female

  9. Child and child

  10. Child and Parent

  11. Brother and brother

  12. Brother and sister

  13. High and higher rank

  14. High and lower rank

  15. Well dressed and  better dressed

  16. Well dressed and poorly dressed

  17. Educated and better educated

  18. Educated and not educated

  19. Healthy and more healthy

  20. Healthy and not healthy

  21. Strong and stronger

  22. Strong and weak

  23. Understands spoken language and understands the same spoken language

  24. Understands spoken language and doesn’t understand the same spoken language

  25. Understands other spoken language(s) and understands the same other spoken language(s)

  26. Understands other spoken language(s) and doesn’t understand the same other spoken language(s)

  27. Could read and could read better

  28. Could  read and couldn’t read

  29. Friends and better friends

  30. Friends and enemies

  31. Same religion

  32. Different religion

  33. Same beliefs (mostly)

  34. Different beliefs

  35. Same politics(mostly)

  36. Different politics

  37. Partners

  38. Not Partners

  39. Collaborates

  40. Does not collaborate

  41. From same country

  42. From different country

  43. From same family

  44. From different  family

  45. Same sex

  46. Different sex

  47. Sibling

  48. Not sibling

  49. Final comparison

  50. No final comparison.

From what I had read about Aristotle, and Mommy had told me, he would use these ideas to calculate things, ie with two values only, “0” and “1” for example. If I score everyone (everything?) “1” is for same as me and “0” is for different form me, then  anyone who scores 50/2, ie  25,  is exactly like me, in fact my brother, but not Ira, who did not get a point by being able to speak English.  I wanted to improve on Aristotle and assign a value (from zero to 100, -- or zero to 1000 --) to each number, using the zeros and ones (ie odds and evens) to represent pluses and minuses. I will call this is at least one form of multivalued logic, to make a final decision, between for example “Yes” and “No”.