This is a very early picture of our farmhouse, located about 14 miles north-northwest of Flagler, Colorado. I would put the date at 1949 or 1950. I think that the two boys in hats are my “big cousins” from Kansas, Carl and Howard Pickens, and the little guy in front is probably me. (I don’t have Kenny’s curly hair.) Their dad, my Uncle Harold, was my dad’s older brother. The addition that my parents put on the back of the house a few years after we moved to the farm is not yet there.
The tree in the background looks like the old cottonwood tree that grew in the water runoff from the windmill pump, which is out of view behind the house in this picture. Kenny and I loved that big old tree, and we could hardly wait until we were big enough to climb it. But during one severe storm it was struck by lightning (which scared the living daylights out of Kenny and me). The tree never recovered, and a few years later Daddy cut it down because he was afraid that it would fall over and hurt someone. We missed the little puffs of cotton that would descend like magical springtime snow once a year, at about the same time that the little baby chicks and ducklings would hatch out.
In this photo, the chicken house is the building just visible behind our house and to the left of the tree. The corral where we kept the cattle and horses was to the right of the tree.
Daddy would later put in a new back yard fence to keep the animals out and the kids in. It was finished in the early 1950s, after this picture was taken. There were three trees growing within the fenced back yard. My brother Kenny and I had a whole system of roads going through the yard for our toy trucks and planes. There was a huge mountain (the 2-3 foot roof above the storm cellar in the backyard) where the trucks would go careening wildly downhill. We also used to coast down that storm cellar hill in our little red Radio-Flyer wagon. Later on, a swing set was added on one side of the yard that provided hours of entertainment for all of the young Pickens brothers.
Much later, we erected a TV antenna next to the window which is right behind the three of us in this picture. It was an old creosote-coated utility pole, with a pipe that ran along the side of the pole and extended another ten feet higher. It was configured so that a person could go outdoors, grab a lever and rotate the antenna to pick up the signals from Goodland, Kansas, a town about 100 miles east of our farm. Or the antenna could be rotated to get signals from Denver, Colorado, about 120 miles west of us. Needless to say, the signal from each station was very weak and the black and white pictures were full of static “snow” because of the poor reception. But we did have television to watch!
The second window in this photo was the kitchen, the biggest room in the old farmhouse. The kitchen table was under the window and the large old-fashioned furnace was nearby. On cold mornings, Kenny and I would jump out of our beds and run down the stairs and join Daddy in front of the furnace. We would all lean back in our chairs and toast our feet on the furnace grill. Kenny and I had no heat in our attic bedroom, so getting down to the warm kitchen was wonderful! Mommy would be making breakfast on the other side of the kitchen. Usually, it was oatmeal cereal with fresh milk from our cow, but on special occasions it would be a big pile of pancakes, or maybe bacon and eggs.
About half a decade after this picture was taken, we put an evaporative cooler, as a form of air-conditioning, in this window. It helped a little, but it was never quite enough. (Kenny and I later found that if we put a gallon jug of water in the freezer the night before, and then put that ice in the evaporative cooler in the afternoon, it was much more effective in cooling the place down.)
The upper window in this picture is in the room where Kenny and I slept. Years later, when Rod and Bruce were old enough to sleep upstairs with us, Kenny moved into the other upstairs bedroom, and I stayed in the old bedroom. Rod and Bruce would sleep with both of us, rotating every week. The main thing I remember from this period was that Kenny and I would each tell many long, involved stories to our younger brothers, and they had to switch around to listen to them.