William Roy Hayes subjected to mustard gas in WWII had died before any of his grandkids were born. We are told he wore a wide bandage around his stomach to hold everything in place. When he was young, he was quite a cowboy. In the Sandhills, that was saying a lot.
We never got to experience this man. We didn’t get to laugh with him or listen to his stories. We never got to hug him or sit on his knee. There have been many an event in each of our lives that we missed him being a part. But…..
Thanks to the long hours, days, months and years of our researching family members, we have begun to discover what kind of people we descend from. We are learning the true essence of their spirits and characters. Additionally, by researching the political and social climate during their years, it helps us put events and reactions into proper perspective. We now understand the why and how of the family migration routes and how it was possible for our parents to meet on horseback one spring day on a 22,00-acre ranch in Cherry County, Nebraska.
Now Grampa Hayes, was born 17 Jul 1889 in Brunswick, Chariton, Missouri to Caroline Birch and Ewiel Lafayette Hayes. William Roy was their third and last child. Less than ten years later his mother Caroline died in 1897, of Chronic Gastritis. His father remarried to a lovely lady Mary Stanley by 1910. Records show that Ewiel Hayes and his new wife left the children with their maternal grandfather Joe Birch for a time. They traveled north to Nebraska to explore taking advantage of the Kincaid Act of free land to farm. The kids came later and in fact William Roy also purchased 295 acres of land near his father’s 360 acres. Uncle James came a bit later, and he bought 387 acres of land. The Hayes men realized early on that the land was poor for farming, so they invested in cattle and worked hard to etch out a living. They lived in a community of honest, hard working homesteaders, who only wanted a better life for their children and the respect from their fellow homesteaders. In the Sandhills of Nebraska, the race issue was not a card that was often played. These homesteaders knew they needed each other to make it in this harsh environment of bitterly cold winters and sandy soil that was not a farmer’s friend. In Audacious, the children were all taught together. Barns were erected by the community as the women would prepare a feast. Yes, there was a division of sorts but it was not a major negative that polarized neighbors.
Roy was remembered fondly by one of his neighbors in these stories told to me by Vickie; ” Even after he got so sick, he would sit on the front porch of their house in Valentine, and rope the kids as they ran by……they kept him busy all day…just trying to make it by without being caught. Don Colburn told me this story. When they were living north of downtown, they were on the Chaloud place about 2-3 miles west of our home. Douglas wife said that their barn was burned down at that time, and horses killed.” Another story: According to my late aunt……one especially harsh winter, many of the homesteads ran out of hay for livestock. My grandfather Tate had a slight surplus and could share. Roy Hayes was given a wagon loaded with hay. Another neighbor was given the same (white man) – later that year Roy returned with a wagon full of corn for grandfather – the other man never stopped, again. Grandfather said, “Now, you tell me which one is white!”
So when I couple these stories with the one’s my parents told us, I’m left with a real sense of William Roy Hayes. For starters, he was kind, loving and honest! Yes, I missed out being in the company of my grandfather but I’m so proud to know he was a good man. A man who’s character was above reproach, a man who was brave and loyal!
Yep, that’s my Grampa!!