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Tall tales of the trunk


This trifle is written in response to a letter from my brother Stan regarding a trunk refinished by him and his son Jeffrey for Jeffrey to take to college in Virginia.. Stan acquired the trunk from our mother Florence. In his letter, Stan reports on the great effort spent in restoration of the trunk, and makes inquiry of me, the “de facto” family historian, for information as to its history. In my limited research, I have discovered three stories which may shed light on the trunk’s history. You should believe whichever you choose, or make up your own.

The first theory is that the name JA Barnett, as found on a piece of paper in the trunk refers not to James Albert Barnett, our brother, but to Jasper Barnett, our greatgreat grandfather, who served as a sergeant in the Confederate Army. Jasper was killed in the battle of Shreveport, in 1864. Though Jasper’s remains were never accounted for, at least as far as the family knew, the trunk was mysteriously delivered to Francis Austin Barnett, our great grandfather and Jasper’s son. Family legend reports that the trunk simply appeared on Francis’ front porch in McKinney, Texas in the spring of 1874, still packed with Jasper’s personal belongings. The only item which can be accounted for is Jasper’s straight razor, which is presently in the possession of David Barnett.

Theory number two is that although the olive drab color of the trunk suggests that it may have been military issue, the trunk was actually part of a promotional effort by the White Cloverine Salve Company. The details of the 1953 promotion were that if a young entrepreneur would purchase at least 500 tins of White Cloverine Salve for resale to his friends and neighbors, the company would send his order in an authentic Army trunk. Our brother James saw the future in such an offer and ordered and received not only the trunk, but a virtually endless supply of White Cloverine Salve, which would cure everything from warts to chafed udder. James’ attempts to sell the salve met with limited success and Mother ended up with several hundred extra tins of the wonderful salve in addition to the authentic army trunk.

The final theory of the trunk’s origin is that sometime in the late 1940s, Florence purchased the trunk, along with another just like it, from an army surplus store, and used them for storage for clothing and bedding for our growing family, and as the boys left for college, they were used some as luggage. This accounts for the name JA Barnett appearing in the trunk, since James almost certainly used it for luggage in his first year at Oklahoma State (only 63 years ago).

Unlike some of this writer’s previous “tall tales”, this one gives the reader an option to choose the historical account most likely to be accurate. The choice is yours, and I hope that these stories provide to the reader even a portion of the fun they have provided to me in the writing. Balderdash!!

Reach David Barnett by contacting Cheryl Orr at 580-379-0588 or

David Barnett Contributing Columnist Barnett Contributing Columnist

By David Barnett


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