From a little girl’s viewpoint, Dad Ritchey, as my cousins and I called him, was an interesting, funny, quiet little old man with a gentle spirit. He was already an elderly white haired man when I was born in 1952. He was born John Renrick Ritchey on October 4, 1880 and passed away 89 years and 4 days later on October 8, 1969. I was 17 years old when he passed away and I did not attend his funeral. It was just too sad because Mama Ritchey, (Beulah Mae Crump Ritchey) my grandma, passed away just 5 months earlier that same year.
|The John R. Ritchey family. The little blonde haired boy in the middle is my daddy.|
Dad Ritchey’s short, roundish frame moved slowly across the florescent-lit den at the back of the house to his chair near the windows. I remember he would whistle softly through his pursed lips as he shuffled his feet across the floor. My grandfather could recite all the presidents of the United States in order from Washington to Eisenhower without missing a beat. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, he could also say their names in reverse order. It was only when my older brother showed expressed approval of our grandfather’s feat of memory that I realized my granddad had done something few others his age could. After that we often asked Dad Ritchey to demonstrate his knowledge of U. S. presidents. I fondly remember the grin on my daddy’s face listening to his dad show off for the grandkids.
Over the years what seems right to me about my Oklahoma grandparents in truth may not be too accurate. As kids, we were all over their house in Ryan playing hide and seek, pushing each other in the wheelbarrow, playing upstairs and on the cellar door in the backyard. I remember their house very well. My cousins and I loved playing in the attic bedroom. Walking up the stairs we had to pass the vent for the large attic fan. My brother tried to convince me a monster lived there and I'd quickly zip up the stairs passed the vent to avoid the monster's claws. The long, narrow upstairs bedroom had a sloped ceiling and a window at each end of the space. There were two twin beds, flowered wallpaper and a trunk of intrigue, if memory serves me right. I don’t remember ever opening the trunk and now I wish we had. What treasure we might have found! Many times my cousin and I played dolls upstairs and the dry, dusty Oklahoma breeze gently blew through the screens. As I lay in bed at night, I could hear the large 18-wheelers and cattle trucks traveling through Ryan on the main highway not far from their house. Behind the house was a cellar with a sloped metal door to play on. There were no cellars where I lived in Texas, so this thing was new, different and fun. The roof of the cellar was a concrete slab that was about a foot off the ground. I thought it was the perfect stage for many singing and acting performances. I loved to slide on the cellar door when it was closed and I still can hear Mama calling to me from inside to “stay off of that cellar!” Going down inside of the musty smelling cellar was creepy, but I loved it. Mama Ritchey canned vegetables and fruit preserves from Dad Ritchey’s little garden, and stored the cans in the cool cellar. She served her canned beets one night at dinner. I’d never eaten beets before, but gave them a try when she insisted. Dad Ritchey ate peas on the wide blade of the table knives, which I always thought was an odd way to eat little peas. There are still certain food combinations I eat that remind me of meals at their house.
|Mama and Dad Ritchey the way I remember them.|
A funny story about Dad Ritchey happened when I was about 5 or 6 years old. He was asleep on the couch and I observed the slightest gray whisker stubble on his face. I had a strong curiosity about how the stubble would feel if I touched it. It was too much for me to resist and laying my little hand on his face, I rubbed his whiskers. As I thought he was asleep you can imagine how I jumped and screamed when Dad Ritchey raised up with an abrupt, “Brrr-uh!” I laughed so hard and so did he. If my grandfather ever hugged me, I do not remember. It’s been too long and I was too young for that memory to have stayed with me. I think my grandfather was a humorous man, but had a serious side and chose just the right time to joke with us.
Once strong men like Dad Ritchey provided for their families during the roughest of times, and were hard workers of the earth, plowing out gardens, and building homes. Although, regrets are erroneous, it is unfortunate we didn’t live closer to my grandparents so I could have known them better. The memories I have may not be exact, but they are my memories. I’m blessed to have known Mama and Dad Ritchey and to now something of my ancestry.