In the 1980s, the author was required to write a family history for his surname as part of the requirements for his Bachelor of Science degree at University of Texas – Pan American. This document became the framework of Twentieth Century Ponders where he attempted to weave the tales of his PONDER relatives that lived from 1901-2000.This is the story of the Ponder family as they moved from Tennessee in the late 1800s and settled in Texas, New Mexico, California, and Oklahoma.

This comes from pages 7-9.

Willie Wierick Ponder


            It was here in New Mexico where their son Bill grew to be a strong young man.  They lived in a very modest house, typical of the times.  During the winter they had heavy snow and in the summer they had dust storms.  Snow and dust blew in through the cracks in the house.  He would wake up with snow or dust on the top of the covering.  The house was heated and food was cooked with a wood stove.  Later they purchased a coal stove.

            Bill and his three brothers teamed up in twos:  Lee and Bill vs. Boyd and Hilary.  Bill and Lee decided they were going to whip Boyd and picked up a brick and hit him with it.  They had to take him inside.  They had an old hot-rod pick-up that they liked to drive in the snow doing donuts.  One time Lee and Ila were riding a calf and it went through the barn door.  They liked to play a game called Galashies.  It was something like baseball.

Bill went to school, when work and time permitted, and was able to make it through the eighth grade.  He sat with the girls at church and fought with them at school.  He made a stab at high school twice.  Latter in life, Bill would brag about his Spanish, saying that his teacher said he had near native-like pronunciations.

 Bill, Lee, 2 girls, and their sister Ila, went to parties.  They had their own party once a year and the girl’s stayed over with Ila.  They went to ball games in Santa Rosa and once, he went to see a play called Shepherd on the Hills.  (Lou Vee and Les saw a performance of this play in Branson, Missouri and brought the program back for him to read.  He remembered it.)

In those days, there was work for Bill to do around the house or on the ranch.  As a result, he had to stay out of school and do what had to be done.  As a teen, Bill became very skilled at ranching.  He could rope and brand well.  There were several occasions where he participated in eastern New Mexico rodeos.  He roped and tied calves, goats, rode horses and mules.  Nancy Ellen would often scold Bill for getting so involved in rodeo work that he tore his clothes.  One time he was roping a calf and the horse got loose dragging the calf until it died.  His mom was rather upset because she thought it was him that was being dragged.

            At home, Bill was known for his skills in the kitchen.  Nancy Ellen taught Bill how to make biscuits.  His biscuits were so good that he became the official biscuit maker at home.  His gravy must have been quite good as well because as Bill got older, he bragged about it.

            While living in New Mexico, Bill encountered a lot of rattlesnakes.  He said that these rattlesnakes were very aggressive and would actually pursue human beings.  He said, “They were just downright mean.”  Bill killed them with sticks, rifles, or most of the time, rocks.

            The family grew beans and raised cattle.  They ate a lot of beans and meat.  Sometimes Bill would hunt wild rabbit and deer.  While living in New Mexico, they ate meat every meal.  Bill claims to have been the strongest member of the family and he was very free about letting everyone know.

            As Bill grew older, the need for money became greater than the need for him to work around the house and ranch.  He began working as a ranch hand on other ranches in eastern New Mexico.  He worked all week for one dollar.  He also earned room and board, but still, that was not very much money.  In order to keep working as a ranch hand, he had to work in northern and western parts of Texas, and all parts of Oklahoma.  After the age of 16, he didn’t stay home much.  Bill continued to work as a migrant ranch hand all through his twenties.  He wrote home once a week.  Boyd wrote home about once a year.

            One time Bill was working as a ranch hand for a very religious family in northwest Texas.  They would invite him to go to church, but he would always tell them, no thanks, and stay home in the bunkhouse.  Bill was a very trusted ranch hand and was given the privilege to listen to the radio in the boss’s house.  Bill tells of the time when he felt so guilty of the way that he was living: staying away from church, and doing things he shouldn’t.  He tried harder and harder to ignore the guilt feelings. 

In those days, the radio was new and big entertainment.  It was a real treat to have the opportunity to listen to a radio because not everyone had one.  One evening, after an unsuccessful attempt to get Bill to go to church with them, the boss gave him permission to stay home and listen to the radio in the house.  On this occasion, he was listening to the radio and before he got up and changed the station, he became interested in the gospel show that was airing.  As he listened, he felt the need and desire to get rid of the guilt feeling and get right with God.  As a result, in his prayer, he acknowledged his belief that Jesus was the Son of God and He died on the cross for his sins.  He also asked pardon for all of his sins.  He asked forgiveness with intentions of not committing them again.  This resulted in Bill receiving salvation and becoming a Christian.  He made this commitment while he was all alone, without the aid of a preacher.  Bill was able to be true to his new faith.

            A year after he was saved, he felt God leading him in a special area: A challenge to become a preacher.  In order for Bill to be recognized by his denomination as a minister or preacher, he had to complete some correspondence courses on the Bible and ministry.  He also felt a need to spruce up his English skills so he enrolled in Texas A & M at Amarillo.  He never received a degree, but was given credit for completion of the course of study for ministers and for his English class.  He was later given a license to preach and a few years later, was ordained as a minister of the gospel.  Ordination in a lot of churches is the highest order you can attain except for an elected position in the church.

            In 1928, Bill was 25.  He began a career as an itinerant, or traveling minister.  He held services in school buildings and in any public hall that became available to him.  This ministry was primarily in the states of Oklahoma and Texas.  Before he was able to buy a dependable car, he would travel from one revival location to the next by either borrowing a ride with someone he knew or just standing out by the road hitchhiking.

            At some time, William Pleasant and Nancy Ellen moved to Olton, Texas.  William Pleasant had been real sick for about a year and had given up.  Bill’s mom asked him to come back home for a week.  On December 10, 1930, Bill’s father, William Pleasant Ponder died in Olton, Texas.  Everyone was home except for Hilary.  Lee found a preacher that had been to their house.  He was T. J. Gamble and he conducted the funeral.  William Pleasant was a very poor man when he died.  The family didn’t have enough money to buy what they felt was a proper burial suit.  Bill had just bought a new suit, which was the only one he had.  He gave it to his mother so that his dad could be buried properly.

This Ponder collective biography can be purchased at