The fire of religion was instilled in Francis at an early age. The Means home was used as a rest stop by the circuit-riding Methodist preacher. The Presbyterian preacher often stopped also, Means recalled.
“When I was 4 or 5 years old I used to practice my preaching on my dog,” he said. “I used to stand on a chair and preach to the neighbors and my family, and I would go so far as to pass the hat afterwards, though anything I collected I would return later.”
Francis and his wife, Edna, have attended many national Southern Baptist Conventions over years, in places as far away as San Francisco and Atlantic City. Mrs. Means is one of two surviving charter members of the Newkirk First Baptist Church, according to her husband.
Means received his first eight years of education in rural Dale school, northeast of Newkirk. He believes the building was the largest one-room schoolhouse in the county.
He graduated from an Arkansas City High School and served for six months in the U.S. Army during World War I, but did not see any overseas action.
Means married Edna Bode in 1921 and except for a stay on a 640 acre spteaed in Chilocco, he has lived on his current home site of more than 300 acres. He has raised what, corn, oats, chicken, hogs, sheep, cattle and feed.
Means lost the fingers of his left hand around 1950.
“I was cleaning out the corn picker when my glove got caught on the back of the tractor,” he said. “I hadn’t bothered to turn the machine off. Now I have the best corn-picking hand in America.”
The accident has not prevented him from pitching hay, driving a truck or doing other farm chores. Pounding a nail is a bit of a problem.
“I have more troubles with my eyes than with my hand though,” he said.
Francis and his family got through the Great Depression with the strength of about 100 head of hogs, all coming from one sow and her first litter.
The hot winds of the Dust Bowl era used to burn up the corn, but what Means really dreaded were the chinch bugs.
“They could ruin 12 or 13 rows of corn in no time,” he said. “We used to make piles of dust between the rows and spray the piles with creosote, but it never did much good. And those chinch bugs didn’t quit when the Dues Bowl days did.”
Another problem over the years has been coyotes.
“We used to rig a gun with cyanide bullets under a bait so that when the coyote would clench the bait in his jaws, the gun would fire the bullet straight into his mouth.”
Means has put five boys and two girls through the 4-H program. Two of his sons also participated in the FFA.
His sons include Lloyd, a teacher at the Chilocco Indian School; Norman, who farms near Francis’ spread; Hobart, a dean of instructors at Eastern Oklahoma A&M College in Wilburton; Frank, an employee for an airline company in Tulsa; and Roland, a Hennessey oil suppier.
Daughter Marcelee Goodman lives next to Frances and the other daughter, Mrs. Olive Bradley, lives in Hugo, Okla.
Means keeps active by tending the radishes, lettuce, carrots, okra, beans and tomatoes in the family vegetable garden.