|Posted by holmfamilycookbook on August 29, 2011 at 9:15 AM|
Our cousin Lori moved to Texas a few years back for her job and took her two girls, Jamie and Jessica, with her. It just so happened they both found Texans to marry, and have now settled into the Southern lifestyle. On their last trip out from the Lone Star State, they brought me a cookbook, Ropesville Resettlement Project 1936-1943 – Recipes, Memories & History. Jessica’s husband, Robby Smith, grew up in West Texas and his family helped to publish the cookbook.
Ropesville Resettlement Project Cookbook
Ropesville is located southwest of Lubbock in West Texas, close to where I spent a year in a small town called Lamesa in the 80’s, so I found it a very interesting read. We got in touch with Robby’s grandmother, Patsy Sosebee Smith through facebook, and have been gleaning interesting family stories, many similar to our family’s farming way of life during the Great Depression. The book is dedicated to and honors the memory and spirit of the men and women who were residents of the Ropesville Farm Project of 1936-1943, commemorating the pioneering deeds of their ancestors who met the requirements and fulfilled their dreams by their dedication and hard work.
Wylie Sosbee on his tractor in 1948
A quote from the book reads, “The Federal Government, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, established programs to assist the unemployed and to help young farmers become self-sufficient because of the Great Depression in the 1930’s and a severe drought across the Plains. The Ropesville Resettlement Project, which was the largest new Deal farm relief experiment, would become the most successful Colony established in Texas and the United States. The Project was initiated with the idea that a family could go on the land, make a living, and repay the government for the land and improvements over a period of years. The opportunity was given to prospective farming families who qualified. Candidates who were most likely to succeed were chose by a committee from more than 1,000 applicants. The first 33 families arrived in January 1936, excited and ready to go to work...At the end of 1939, the Project had 81 families living on the farms and providing valuable resources for themselves and to the community.”
Two of Robby’s grandparents, Wylie & Bonnie Sosebee and Andrew (A.L.) and Mary Bevers applied for the opportunity for a farm and were chosen. Over 70 years later, Robby’s family is still farming over 9,000 acres in the region.
The Sosbees on the farm: Wylie, Troyce, Linda, Sue, Jessie Biffle, Patsy and Kaye
Patsy shared a few stories with us . . . “Our cookbook was written to keep the history of the project alive, so it will not be forgotten. So many people around our town know very little about the history. It did take a lot of time and effort to get it together. My sister Linda was behind the whole cookbook thing and our brother Troyce and his wife Carolyn did most of the history insert.
Patsy Sosebee Smith and Kaye Sosbee Wylie, photo from an article in the "Lubbock-Avalanche Journal"
The Resettlement Project was established in 1936, with the government buying up hundreds of acres of land from the Spade Ranch. The country was just coming out of the depression and President Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor had this plan to put people to work on all the "New Deal" projects across the country. The Government was the landlord and the farmers were the renters.
Our family was not the first on the farm unit #64. Two other farmers had been there before us but could not make a go of it. In 1943 the government decided to sell the land to the farmers, and our Dad, Wylie Sosebee was able to buy the land. After applying to get a farm on the project, our parents had to keep a journal for the government, to be able to qualify to get on the land, (our family still has this journal in our possession). A list of all the income, expenses, household assets, livestock, farming records was in this journal, down to a pair of socks that was bought for the kids. This was a very detailed journal. We were approved and were able to buy the land in 1943. Until the time we moved to Ropes, we had lived in Abernathy on a farm, about 40 miles to the north of Ropes.
Our family was Mom and Dad, myself (Patsy) and little sister Kaye who was 3 years old. I was 5. We were so excited to move to this new house. We had lived in a very small shack in Abernathy, with no running water and no electricity. Our new house had 3 bedrooms, living room, kitchen and small dinning area. And a room for a bath!! Although, there were no fixtures in it. We had electricity and running water. We were so excited, we thought it was a mansion. Our brother Troyce, was born soon after we moved to Ropes and in a few more years two more sisters. Linda and Sue, were added to the family.
We had a kerosene cookstove and mom cooked some wonderful meals on that old stove. We raised a vegetable garden, and had cows, pigs and chickens, for milk, eggs, and meat. As a young child we all had our chores to do whether it was feeding and watering the pigs and chickens or helping in the house. Our mother was a very good cook and there was always some visitor who would be welcomed to eat our meals with us.
Wylie and the cows
One memory I have is about gathering the eggs. We had to be very careful and check the hen’s nests before we reached in to gather the eggs, as sometimes rattlesnakes would be in the nest.
When Kaye and I were very young our mother made us small cottonsacks so we could help pull cotton in the fall. It was a family thing to do, everybody had to go to the field. I remember when Troyce was a baby, Mom put him on top of her sack and dragged him along as she filled it.
One Christmas, I think it was 1945 or 1946, we did not make a crop, because of either bad weather (hail) or maybe no rain that year, my mother got a Tumbleweed out of the field and dipped it in a tub of something, (not sure what it was) to make it white. We then decorated our little tree with hand made ornaments. Out of all the Christmas trees we ever had, that is the only one I remember in detail.
All in all it was a good life. We were very blessed to grow up on this farm, and it is still in the family, getting close to 70 years in our possession.”
To purchase the cookbook, make your check payable to: Descendants of the Ropesville Resettlement Project or DRRP, and mail to: Ropesville Resettlement Project, Att: Patsy Smith, 6425 Foster Road, Ropesville, TX 79358. Cost: $20.00, plus $4.50 S/H per book. You can reach Patsy at email@example.com.
OKRA, OKRA AND MORE OKRA!
I decided to try a few of Patsy’s okra recipes out of the cookbook, having never cooked okra before. We were able to find fresh okra at our farmers' market, and someone that looked like they knew what they were doing as they were picking okra, recommended to pick out the smaller, slender okra, they would be more tender. I found three recipes, but ended up cheating on the pickled okra, and just picked up a jar of my favorite okra from Safeway, Talk o’ Texas Crisp Okra Pickles!
My family was a bit reticent to try the okra, and Robby happened to be out on a visit from Texas, so he got to try it too, and surprisingly he found that “it tastes better than I remember!” Everyone was willing to give it a taste it, and many came back for seconds and thirds! The overall favorite was the Roasted Okra.
Robby and Brody Smith enjoying Okra!
Okra, olive oil, salt and lemon slices
Toss okra with ample olive and salt to taste. Roast in a 9-inch rimed baking sheet at 400 degrees. Shake the tray and turn it one or two times. Bake a half hour or until crispy and brown. Serve with lemon slices.
We were having lunch over at the ranch the day I was trying out the recipe, so I ended up roasting the okra on the BBQ pit in my Dutch oven, and it turned out great.
Okra, Canola oil, salt, pepper, jalapeno slices
Toss pinky-finger sized okra pods with a little canola oil, salt and pepper, then spread on skewer with jalapeno slices. Grill till okra turns bright green, about 2 to 4 minutes.
Hope ya'll are fixin' to make up a batch o' okra! ~Nancy