(A True Story)
In a time before welfare, unemployment and food stamps, you worked, or you and your family starved. The people were dirt poor, the land was poor and getting poorer from growing cotton year after year on the same land. But, it was not that many years ago when north east Arkansas was all wilderness, wild and untamed swamps and wilderness. One of the pioneers who helped tame this area of north eastern Arkansas was William “Bill” Lamb my Grandfather. He died just before I was born in June 1949, he had lived a rough life considering the times. When he was young he was tutored by college a professor at home so he had a very good education for the times. In those days teachers when they retired they would survive by tutoring kids in there parents home. Bill’s tutor was a stern task master who did not spare the rod on Bill if he didn’t learn his lessons. So, Bill learned. As my Dad would often say he was brilliant when it came to education and especially math, but he had no common sense. He was always getting into one bad business deal after another. And when he would get involved in a profitable business or job he would often loose interest and quit or sell out. He was bored, with him the thrill of the chase was always more exciting than the rewards of the success. What he really wanted, was to be a successful cotton farmer with hundreds of acres in high cotton with hired hands working for him. At that time and place, the people with money and power were all big cotton farmers with many acres in Cotton. So everyone’s goal was to be like them and I guess Bill Lamb had that dream also.
Bill Lamb became a surveyor and was one of the original surveyors for much of the area around Black Oak and Caraway Arkansas back when it was all swamp, thicket and untamed wilderness. He also worked at a local cotton gin and was the weigh master, he could take and measure the depth, width and length of a trailer load of cotton and tell you exactly how much cotton you had not only in volume but in weight also. He eventually grew bored with that job and quit that, to go back into cotton farming.
My Dad, John Lamb was born in May 1920 to dirt poor parents who were cotton farmers and worked from sun up to sun down to scrape by and feed there family. Times were very hard and the area was very poor but kids being kids they didn’t know they were poor and shabby looking until much later. Dad would look back and say; “everyone was poor so we didn’t know how bad off we were until years later and we would look back and wonder how we ever survived”.
Dad enjoyed telling us about his life and the hard times he had to endure. He was only 9 years old when the Great Depression started and by the time he was 14 he was out on his own. He had to work where ever and at what ever he could find, just to have money to eat. He was homeless and many times near starving. When he couldn’t find work he would steal food usually just an apple from some one’s apple tree that kind of thing just to survive.
My Dad met my Mother (Marie Martin) and they were married in 1943 she was almost 15 years old but being in a family where there were 17 brothers, sisters, step brothers, step sisters, half brothers and half sisters it got very confusing who was who. You see my Mother’s, Mother (Della Blake) was married three times and her second and third husbands were widowers with there own kids. Grandma’s first husband was killed in a freak accident when he was drinking and celebrating the 4th of July by placing dynamite in lard cans and he would light the fuse and place it on a fence post and RUN! It seems one of the charges did not go off after some time he cautiously approached the lard can and just about the time he reached out for it, it exploded and killed him, While my Grandmother watched horrified and helpless. At 15 years old she was a widow with a month old baby girl to raise all alone.
My Mother told me her very first house had a dirt floor and she asked me laughing one day if I had ever tried to clean a dirt floor. It was a comical question but I got her meaning, you can sweep and sweep and sweep but it’s still DIRT...
When I was about 5 years old in 1954 we moved to Flint, Michigan the auto factories in the north were needing labor, the economy was going good but the price of cotton was down so people moved in droves to places like Chicago, Detroit, Flint and many other places north where there were good paying jobs and plenty of them. My Dad worked at Buick in Flint, Michigan a while but then was laid off. All of a sudden the economy turned sour and the factories started laying off workers. My Dad worked as a mechanic a while and then we moved to the Denosky Farm mid way between Flushing and Montrose Michigan. My Dad was the hired hand. He hired my Dad for $6.00 a week, but that included a big house for us to live in free on the farm.
I started kindergarten in a one room school house, my first and second grades were in a two room school house. Just after I started third grade we moved back to Flint, Michigan then over the next several years we made several moves and it always seemed it was in the middle of the school year.
Somewhere when I was around 12 or 13 years old my Dad would tell some stories about when he was a kid and some of the things he had seen and done. But the stories I found most fascinating was when he would talk about his Dad (William Lamb). Once Grandpa went into partnership with another man to buy a section of land in Oklahoma near Tulsa right in the middle of the oil fields (now) but then no one knew there was oil there. They got the land for $1.00 an acre and my Grandpa owned 180 acres for his part of the section they bought. Grandpa never paid the taxes on the land and after three years his partner paid the back taxes and took position of Grandpa’s land. Amazingly just about the same time they discovered oil there and lots of it. It was just another venture gone bust for my Grand Father as all he really wanted to do was be a successful cotton farmer.
When I was in my early teens my Dad started telling me stories that were what I believed at the time was just stories like when you tell ghost stories to scare kids. He always swore they were true and that there were living witnesses to many of these events he would tell me. At the time you don’t know what to think about something you hear that seems impossible. I was NOT about to call my Dad a liar, so I listened and asked questions but believing it was another matter. I didn’t tell other kids as I was afraid they would call me a liar. Besides, my Dad asked me not to tell anyone in those early years because he said that people would NOT believe me and if they did they would just think our family was involved in something occult or satanic. And that was the farthest thing from the truth. My Mother was a God fearing woman who lived her whole live devoted to her family and her church. She supported her church with her money and her time
After my mother passed away in 1996 my Dad and I grew closer than we had ever been before. It was kind of like we realized that we really needed each other. And I took a deeper interest and appreciation in his history and family. He told me about his Dad and some of the amazing things he had done in his life. He use to do stage shows and do amazing tricks at local bars and saloons and once a young man stopped by my Grandpa’s house and asked to see his “bag of tricks”. The young man explaining that every magician/performer had a “bag of tricks” that he kept hid from the public? My Grandfather scoffed at the young man and repeated “I don’t use tricks and I have no “bag of tricks” to hide”. The young man persisted, but my Grandfather then commanded the dining room table to chase the young man out of his house. The table started bucking and jumping toward the young man who fled out the door never to be seen again.
I sat at the dining room table of my Dad’s house with his sister and overheard them discussing how their Dad would do amazing things for the neighbors. In a time before electricity (at least for them), no TV, not even a radio people found entertainment where they could and often it was at William “ Bill” Lamb’s house. They discussed how on numerous occasions the neighbors would gather at Bill Lamb’s house and be all sitting on bench seats (that were attached to the table) around a heavy solid wood dining room table with huge post legs that would seat maybe 10 or 12 people and my Grandfather would lay hands on the table and mumble some words and the table would start to shake and move. He mumbled some more words and it quit. He than would ask 4 and sometimes 5 big grown big men to sit ON the table. After they got on the table and sat down my Grandfather mumbled more words and passed his hands over the table (never touching the table) and the table started jumping and bucking violently until it threw all four men off it onto the floor. And NO one touched the table it just started jumping and bucking as if it came alive.
On several other occasions the neighbors gathered in Bill Lamb’s home and were told to sit either in the living room or at the dining room table and NOT to look outside. Bill Lamb would pull all the blinds down and go outside in the dark. Yards in those days were little more than dirt areas between the cotton fields and the house. They could hear my Grandfather walking around and again mumbling something and sometimes taking up to about 5 minutes. But then finally he would walk back into the house. And ask everyone to look out the windows and open door but NOT to go outside. What they saw amazed everyone, the ground was covered with millions of miniature twinkling tiny lights like they were sparkling, shinning and shimmering lighting up the whole yard like Christmas. And the nearest electricity was 20 miles away. He would let everyone watch as long as they wished usually 10 to 20 minutes. Then he would have everyone return to their seats pull all the blinds down and go back outside again. And everyone could hear him mumbling words and walking around outside and after about 5 or 10 minutes he would return indoors and everyone would look out and the ground was back to normal.
One day my Dad and his Father were walking home from a hot and nasty job of chopping cotton and they were both tired and thirsty and so they stopped at this farm house and asked if they could have a drink of water from their pump. The old lady was crotchety and told them to get lost. But my Grandfather and Father were really thirsty so my Grandfather picked up the metal cup hanging from the pump and began pouring water from it and they both drank their fill and the water never stopped flowing from the cup until he hung the cup back on the pump handle. My Father saw this with his own eyes and swore it to be true.
On another occasion a young man with a new hat confronted my Grandfather while he was working in a cotton field. The young man was trying to provoke my Grandfather into showing him some of his “magic” he had obviously heard about from somewhere. He was calling him a fake and some other choice names, so my Grandfather snatched his new hat from his head and asked where and when the young man had purchased it. While the young man was responding to his questions my Grandfather pulled the hat band from the hat and threw the hat on the ground. Then he ripped the hat band in half and squeezed the hat band making a tube out of the hat hatband and then throwing that on the ground and he told the young man to watch and while he watched 6 huge long pincher bugs crawled out of the hat band and crawled away. The young man ran off in a hurry cussing all the while. People knew not to mess with my Grandfather and the one’s who did usually paid some kind of a price for it.
The man who showed my Grandfather the “trick” was a man named Cid Barrett I have no information on him or where he found his “trick”. I do know this is a real person as my Father and Aunt Marie have mentioned him numerous times in regards to his Dad and the things he could do. My Grandfather told my Dad it was a spirit that did his bidding named “Deep Water”. I have heard the name Deep Water from not only my Dad but from his sister as well, her name is Marie “Myrtle” Copland. My Dad when he was 77 and dying from lung cancer from smoking I recorded him talking about Deep Water and the things my Grandfather had done. I also went to my Aunt Marie and recorded her in regards to Deep Water at this time she was 83 years old and this was early 1999 my Dad died at the Dardanelle AR nursing home on May 23, 1999. Marie Copland died in Little Rock AR a couple years after that in a nursing home. I have their recordings today. They had another older sister her name was Willie (not sure of the last name) she died in Little Rock several years earlier. Marie Copeland told me that her sister Willie use to “dabble” with Deep Water. She would make salt and pepper shakers move across a table that kind of thing. Then one night she went to bed in a four poster bed and was awakened by a loud vigorous knocking on one of the posts of her bed. Willie asked knock once if your are Deep Water it knocked once. Using the knock once for yes and twice for no, she determined the spirit wanted her to commit and use it more vigorously and publicly. She then began crying and prayed and said NO and prayed all night long and after that she never ever mentioned Deep Water and when anyone would ask her about it she would act like she didn’t know what they were talking about, but people who knew her said she looked terrified when asked about Deep Water.
My Grandfather on his deathbed was asked about Deep Water by my Dad and he told my Dad it was much to dangerous and he would take Deep Water and it’s secrets to his gave, and he did. My Father always felt a little disappointed about not finding out about Deep Water. He had seen it, (what it could do) and lived with it. And to now be told it’s to dangerous for him, I think he felt disappointed.
My Grandfather would put on stage shows in saloons and bars and would do what the audience called magic tricks but to my Grandfather and his family they WERE NOT TRICKS. Now since my Dad was to young to go to bars to see my Grandfather’s shows, a lot he heard about his shows came from other people. Such things as Bill having people take off their shoes or boots and placing them on the floor only to watch snakes crawl out of them. Having people take off their hats and placing them on the floor open end down only to have large pinching bugs, mice, rats, small snakes etc. crawl from under their hats and crawl off. Sometimes he would have several grown men set on top of a table and after my Grandfather said a few mumbled words and pass his hands over the table it would begin to come alive and buck like a bucking horse becoming more violent until throwing the men onto the floor. My Grandfather could guess any card with amazing accuracy. Someone would pick a card and show it to the audience (but not to my Grandfather) and then my Grandfather would tell them the card. Sometimes they would make him leave the building and while someone was watching him, someone on the inside would show the audience a card they would put it back in a deck and ask Bill to come back in and he would guess it correct every time. No one could figure out his trick.
I once asked my Father if Deep Water was a demon or something of the Devil and he said he didn't know, it was a secret his Father took to the grave. I asked my Dad if people were into witchcraft or satanic worship back then. He said there were people who felt God had forsaken them so they turned their back on God blaming him for the Great Depression. He said there were people who would curse the name of God for there situation.
By Tony Lamb
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I am interested in telling my full story to a serious writer to help me write my story, my Fathers story and his Father’s story into a book. If you are a serious writer please E-mail me at: email@example.com