Catchpenny Farms

Tribute to David C. Paul, the advisor emeritus of Catchpenny Farms for over twenty-five years.


 He wrote a book about living on a farm six miles to town. 






The Last Sermon David Preached at Laurel Heights Methodist Church

The Priority of God


Delivered Sunday, November 12, 2006 by David C. Paul

Unless the Lord build the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
. . . . . Ps 127:1-2.
That is to say that God is first, last and always in every endeavor, and indeed in life itself. Try it any other way, and you will fail. Here it is as given in the close of the Sermon on the Mount: Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the wind blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.
--- Mat. 7:24-27
We should never tire of emphasizing that God is first, last and always in our lives and in our activities. God is prior to all things. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. One traditional way of saying that is that God is
Alpha and Omega.
Let's notice the priority of God in the story of Elijah, part of which June read for us just a moment ago. That is a great story. The principal characters in this story are God, Elijah, and King Ahab. And Jezebel is in the background.
Let's imagine the scene. Ahab is on his throne, he is clothed in his royal robes, and all his underlings are in their places, bowing in awe of his royal power and dignity. And in walks this character from the desert, where his food consisted mainly of grasshoppers and wild honey. He is clothed in camel's hair and animal skins; he has long shaggy hair; and he carries a long wooden staff. He brushes the guards aside and walks straight up to King Ahab. He jabs the floor with his staff, and this is what he said: "As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain, except by my word." Thus began a three year drought, and it did not rain until God was ready for it to rain. This drought was a judgment of God upon the person of Ahab and Jezebel, upon the way they were governing the nation of Israel, and upon their worship of the false gods of Baal.
God has veto powers over any and everything humans can do. If you read the rest of this story of Elijah, you will see the priority of God manifested again and again.
Well, that's the judgment of God, and there are at least two way to take it. One way is to resist it. Draw up a tight fist and fight it. That is what we sometimes do. 
There is an episode in the story of St. Paul that says this so well for me. Paul thought he knew all about God and things of God, and he had it in mind to set things straight. He would go over to Damascus and arrest those people who were profaning Paul's religion. At that time in his life nothing was going right for him. Things were turning out wrong, and finally God struck him down with a bright light. Picture if you will, Paul testifying before the king. Here is the way that passage goes.
Acts. 26 Verses 12 to 14 
[12] "Thus I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. [13] At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me. [14] And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, `Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.´" That figure of "kicking against the goads" has always claimed my attention. It seems so vivid and applicable. Here is the way one scholar explains it.
When a young ox was first yoked it resented it and tried to kick his way out of the yoke. If it was yoked to a one handed plough the ploughman held in is hand a long staff with a sharpened end which he held close to the ox's heels so that every time it kicked it was jagged with the spike."
Going against the will of God is like that ox kicking against the goads and hurting himself by doing so. The young ox had to learn submission to the yoke the hard way and so did Paul. And so do we. Well, that's the judgment of God, but there is also the grace of God. Don't fight it! Just give yourself over to God and his ways, and then all that tension will go away. 
There is a gospel song that says it.
"I surrender all."
One verse goes like this:
"All to Jesus I surrender,
Lord I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with thy love and power,
Let thy blessing fall on me.
I surrender, I surrender,
All to Thee, my blessed savior,
I surrender all."
That doesn't sound right. Don't we have to take care of ourselves? If we don't work, we don't eat. And yet at a deeper level it is the only way to go. Indeed, it is the way we have to go. The conditions for life are given by God. We can't change the basics about life. Remember that passage June read for us from the Gospel of Matthew. "Therefore, I tell you do not be anxious about your life. . . . . Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? . . Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness." As I see it, one of the very greatest spiritual achievements is to acknowledge that God is in charge, and be glad of that. Here it is in a beautiful old song.
My times are in Thy hands 
My God, I wish them there. 
My life, my friends, my soul I leave 
entirely to Thy care. 
My times are in Thy hands 
Whatever they may be. 
Pleasing, painful, dark or bright, 
As best as seems to Thee.
My times are in Thy hands 
Why should I doubt or fear? 
My father's hand will never cause 
His child a needless tear. 
My times are in Thy hands 
I'll always trust in Thee. 
And, after death, in Thy right hand 
my time shall ever be!
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!


Date: Tue, Aug 30, 2005, 9:26am

Subject: Perspective

To several:

The breaking dawn was exhilarating! The sky was clear and the air cool. There was a sliver of a dying moon. Starting just before daybreak, I walked about ¾ mile and felt good about it. Seeing that moon in is glorious purity was like reading a poem. It ought not to be called a dying moon just because it is nearing the end of this phase and ready to start a new phase next week. It was all there. I could see the outline of the entire ball. A small sliver of it was bright, and that small portion was indicative of the whole thing. It is like a cup of seawater. A cup of seawater is not the whole ocean, but it is nevertheless representative of the seven seas. Some aspects of life are like that. We do not possess (or even comprehend) pure goodness or genuine beauty or absolute truth, but the small portions we have are indicative of the whole, and if we have faith, this is a guarantee.

No, the moon is not to blame because it appears to earth to be dying. It was my perspective that was lacking. From another location in space, the moon would appear in its full orb. I am reminded of that old Scottish poet who wrote, "Oh wad some power the giftie gie us / To see ourseles as others see us! / It wad frae monie a blunder free us, / And foolish notion." How much pain and grief, and "foolish notion" the world would be spared if we all took account of our limited perspective! --for whatever it is worth, David C. Paul


SIX MILES TO TOWN . . .Read below a Chapter from the book, Six Miles To Town, titled Filial Piety



Froncell Jackson was about a year older than me, and Jimmy Lee was about a year younger. Froncell was Alf's son and Jimmy Lee was Mandie's son. The four of them lived together in a small wooden house in the pasture on our farm. They worked in the fields, mostly hoeing and picking cotton and shocking grain.

I say "our farm," but that isn't quite accurate. The farm actually belonged to Judge F. L. Hawkins, a member of the court of Criminal Appeals in Austin. His origins were in Waxahachie, our county seat, which was about five or six miles east of the farm. I suppose he bought the farm as an investment. We lived in a nicer house than many of our neighbors, because, as the story goes, Judge Hawkins had built a nice modern house on this farm for his son and family but they didn't live there very long.

We had the place on "third and fourth." That means that at harvest we gave Judge Hawkins one-fourth of the gross proceeds from the lint cotton (not including the seeds) and one-third from the grain. All that we received from the garden, orchard and livestock was ours. We lived in the farm house, did the work, provided the seed and did minor repairs on the fences and buildings. Sometimes these were major repairs. I remember painting the house, which to me was major. The owner paid for the paint, and we applied it.

We were tenant farmers, but Alf and his family worked for wages in season. Our life was meager, but theirs was much more so. They subsisted on a bare minimum, but their minimal existance didn't preclude familial integrity. The husband-wife relationship was firm and meaningful. The parent-child relationship was present and functional.

It may well be that in the ghettoes of large cities relationships such as these are much harder to come by. Perhaps the environment is so bad and the stress so great that it's too much to expect wholesome, responsible behavior among families and between individuals who live there in poverty. I suspect, however, that the commonly accepted analysis of these social conditions and the proposed remedial action should be revised.

Froncell was an obidient son who respected his father. One day when Froncell was shoveling oats from a wagon into an oat bin in the barn, this filial respect and affection showed in an unexpected way. Alf, my brother Eugene and I, and maybe Jimmy Lee, were nearby watching. For some reason I don't remember, this was a slack occasion. It wasn't threshing season, and there was no hurry. I don't remember why the oats were being moved, or why Froncell was shoveling the oats instead of me. In any case, the occasion was almost leisurely.

As the shoveling proceeded, Alf and Froncell slipped gradually into a little game. Alf said to Froncell, "Get a little on the handle," which meant that Froncell should dig deeper with the shovel so that he would get more oats in the scoop - - all the way up to the handle. Froncell mischievously reached down with his left hand, took a handful of oats and sprinkled them on the handle of the shovel, down near the scoop, and proceeded to throw the half-filled shovel of oats into the bin.

I expected Alf to be angry, but the son knew the father and the father knew the son. It became a game. Froncell would drive the scoop only about halfway into the oats and wait for Alf's word, "Get a little on the handle," then Froncell would reach down with his left hand and sprinkle a handful of oats on the handle of the shovel and throw the half-filled shovel of oats into the bin. Soon it was a litany. Alf would say, "Get a little on the handle," with just the slightest hint of poetic rythm, and Froncell would reach down, take a handful of oats, sprinkle them on the handle and throw the oats into the bin.

I marveled at this event. As I interpreted it then, and still do now, the father-son relationship was so wholesome and secure that they could tease each other and enjoy it without compromising the relationship. It's a joy to recall that occasion. I wonder if today's therapists know about the kind of relationship Alf and Froncell had with each other. Do they know any instances such as this to illustrate bonding, communications and parent-child relationships?

One day during the off-season which annually preceded cotton picking, I saw that Froncell and Jimmy Lee were about to go fishing. I asked if I might go with them. It was their enterprise, their initiative, their event, the fact that I was white and they were black didn't mean that I could assume any privileges on such an occasion. They gave their consent, and off we went to the South Prong of the Waxahachie Creek. Gear in hand, they took up a pace, with me in the rear following along as an observer, not a full member of the expedition.

Each boy was equipped with a tow sack into which they had woven a stiff wire at the top to hold it open and thereby creating a makeshift seine. The technique was to wade in the water always holding the sack down in the water with the opening facing away. The fishermen always worked his way up stream so that the water would be clear and the fish visible. At this particular season the rock bottom, gravel stewn creek bed consisted of a limitless series of small knee-deep depressions one after another with a small stream of water flowing into and out of them. Small perch and catfish abounded. Froncell and Jimmy Lee knew just how to maneuver the open-mouthed sack to catch them. Dressed and pan fried, these small fish were delicious.

As we made our way along on that hot summer day, all was still and quiet except for the sound of an occasional bird chirping or and insect buzzing. Everything had become routine and the rest of the world was very remote to me. Suddenly, the two fishermen stopped as still as a bird dog on the point. They turned their faces and looked toward home. One said, "Papa!" And the other agreed. They gathered up their gear and their catch and headed post haste for home. At first I didn't know what had happened, and then I remembered Alf"s horn. He had summoned the boys home with a blast of his horn.

I had seen and heard Alf blow that horn, a hollowed-out cow's horn with the small end whittled to the shape of a trumpet mouthpiece. He would step out in front of their little house, place the horn to his lips and blow a shrill, piercing note that would carry well over a mile - - at least as far as the South Prong of the Waxahachie Creek.

I didn't hear Alf's horn that day in the creek, but Froncell and Jimmy Lee heard it. They knew its sound even when ever so faint. They had been listening while they fished.

The lesson I learned from that memorable experience impressed itself upon me in a profound way. People hear what they want to hear, what they expect to hear, and what they are conditioned to hear. This story is a parable with applications in education, religion, politics and business.

I am impressed by the fact that Froncell and Jimmy Lee heard that horn, faint as it was, but I am impressed even more by the respect those two teenage boys had for the father's command and their unhesitating obedience.



The first few paragraphs from a chapter titled Some Mules I Remember

I remember three mules better than all the rest. Those three mules were Myrt, Kate, and Rusty. Myrt is especially memorable because she was so unwiling to work. She reminds me of a French toy I once saw in a museum. This toy consisted of a donkey hitched to a wagon and a driver seated on the wagon. The driver had a whip in his hand. This toy was of the 19th-century vintage, made of pressed tin, and it had a wind-up mechanism in it. I did not see it run, but I imagine the donkey went sometimes forward and sometimes backward, and probably from the looks of the mechanism it reared up its head and kicked up its heels. The driver seated on the wagon manifested dismay and frustration. I don't remember how that mood was conveyed, but I do remember that the name of the toy was L'Ane Reclacitrant, which translates as The Stubborn Donkey.

Myrt was indeed a recalcitrant mule. She lagged behind, and the other animals had to pull some of old Myrt's share. A whip was useless. She would step lively for about as long as it would take me to put the whip away after using it. She made the phrase "eyes in the back of the head" believable. I once got a nice long sliver off the edge of a boxing plank to use as a prod. This sliver of wood split off neatly. It was about an inch wide and, having straight grain, ran the full length of a eight-or ten-foot board. I sharpened the end of it and cradled it on the cultivator so that I could easily take it in hand and give old Mryt a good sharp jab. She would wince and flick her tail and step up the pace some, but the motivation to move faster was soon gone, and she lagged behind again. She wore me out. I gave up trying to get her to stay even with the other mules.

Myrt had an inexplicable ability to tell the time of day. Each day at eleven thirty she began her midday ritual. As we were going up the row toward the house and barn she walked ahead of the other mules. When we turned around and were set to proceed down the next two rows, this time going away from the barn, she balked. It was the hardest thing in the world to get her to go again, and all the way to the far end of the field she dragged her hooves every step of the way. But coming back toward the barn, she went as fast as she could get the rest of the mules to go. This went on for the entire thirty minutes from eleven thirty until twelve. I have no idea how she could know when it was eleven thirty. Even though she never swayed the situation in her favor, Myrt never changed her ways. From old Myrt I learned a little patience, but mostly I just gave in to her ways.


Selected facts about the book - -

There are twenty-three chapters in the book, Six Miles To Town.

The book is 109 pages in length and has twenty-four original illustrations. The illustrations are by Paul Hudgins and depict the subject matter of each chapter. Mr. Hudgins also created the front cover and flypage illustration that shows as Model A Ford travelling down a farm lane lined by a huge tree and a barbed wire fence.

The book is dedicated as follows: In memory of Ollie and Effie Odom Paul, my father and mother, who brought me into the world: and in honor of Jennie Paul Tucker and Eugene R. Paul, sister and brother, who shared with me life on the farm.

Last Paragraph from page viii of the book, Six Miles To Town

 In a general way, I am indebted to the people of the Buena Vista Community. They contributed to the enrichment of my life in ways that neither they nor I ever knew. But it is impossible to acknowledge them and their contributions to my early life. I simply bless the memory of them and thank them all for being a part of my life.

David C. Paul
November 1996





Six Miles To Town

Vignettes of Early 20th Century Farm Life in Ellis County, Texas

Foreword From The Book (in many libraries including the Library of Congress) 

These sketches of life on the farm in Ellis County in pre-World War II days were not originally meant for publication. I wrote them at leisure after I retired in 1985. Friends and relatives who read them encouraged me so much to submit them for publication that I finally fell victim to their flattery. Commercial publishers and university presses were not interested. Alice C. Evett of Watercress Press has introduced me to subsidy publishing. That was a new and strange term to me. At first I wondered who was going to subsidize the publishing of my little book-some unknown benefactor, a government agency, an historical society? None of these. I would be the subsidizer. There is not a long list of those to whom I am indebted for help. At the beginning of a short list there is especially my wife, Lorraine. Although she was not a part of my life on the farm in those days, she encouraged me to write and to undertake publication. She is the real subsidizer of this publishing project.
Alice Evett has been especially cooperative and helpful. She has corrected my grammar and smoothed the style of my writing. Paul Hudgins' illustrations have just about doubled the value of the book. I am especially indebted to my good friend Floyde W. Burnside, Jr. He has been lavish in his praise and encouragement. He made subtle, and sometimes not too subtle, suggestions as to how I might proceed toward publication. It was he who pointed me toward Watercress Press. I am also indebted to Randell Tarin, who made a failed attempt to find funding for publication. He improved the manuscript and provided the subtitle: "Vignettes of Early 20th Century Farm Life in Ellis County, Texas."



















Six MilesTo Town is a book Copyrighted by David C. Paul. The book was published in 1996 by The Watercress Press, San Antonio, Texas.

Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 96-61585
ISBN 0-934955-34-




Text from back cover of the book, Six Miles To Town

Six Miles To Town chronicles a way of life which disappeared forever by the end of World War II. The author was born to that way of life, and he lived it for 21 years. He enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps in September of 1941 and was discharged in december of 1945. After college and seminary, he was ordained a minister in the United Methodist church and served various churches in San Antonio and south Texas until retirement in 1985.

The author has an eye for detail. He distinctly remembers and describes farm operations seldom recorded elsewhere. He gives an account of digging a well in solid limestone rock with blasting powder. He tells from memory what it was like to work as a member of a threshing crew. He gives many details about growing and harvesting cotton.

This book tells the way it was. It is both nostalgic and documentary.

Table of contents of the book, Six Miles to Town

  • Black Leather Boots
  • Aunt Mae
  • Filial Piety
  • A Midsummer Rain
  • Grandpa's Waterworks
  • Researching the Engine
  • About Wells and Cisterns
  • Hauling Water
  • Digging a Well
  • Halepense et Panicum
  • Some Mules I Remember
  • Our First Radio
  • Saving the Soil
  • Our Model T Ford
  • The Cotton Wagon
  • On the Road to Waxahachie
  • Going to the Thresher
  • The Steam Engine
  • The Cook Shack
  • On the Threshing Crew
  • Memories of the Thresher


Excerpt from preface to the book, Six Miles To Town

I was born in the Buena Vista community of Ellis county, Texas, February 23, 1920. During my childhood and youth we lived on four different farms. The first was the Ralston place, located about a mile and a half northwest of the Buena Vista church and school. About 1924 we moved to the Gross place, which was about a half mile closer. Then in 1929 we moved to the Hawkins place, which was located on the Buena Vista Road about a half mile east of the church and school and about six miles west of Waxahachie.

David C. Paul 1996


Click on the links below to see where David C. Paul went to college:



More Ellis County Links:







Here is a list of the libraries that have a copy of the book, Six Miles To Town

  • The United States Library of Congress, Washington D.C - Card Catalogue Number 96-61585
  • Baylor University Library, Waco, Texas
  • Dallas,Texas Public Library
  • Hillsboro, Texas Public Library
  • Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas
  • Nicholas P. Sims Public Library, Waxahachie, Texas
  • Coates Library, Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas


Currently, Six Miles To Town is in several libraries, including the partial list above. The entire first printing was sold out. 



David wrote a chapter called

 "Some Mules I Remember"

 read an excerpt below.