A SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF
James Thomas Wood
This is a sketch of my life from a child up to now, on the frontier of Texas. I was
born in San Saba County, January 6, 1857, and lived there until I was twenty-one
years old. My father was among the early settlers in that county. I have been told by
some of my relatives that my sister, two years older than myself, was the first white
child born in San Saba County.
My father had a large family. He was married twice and had seven children by each
wife. My mother had one girl and six boys, and my stepmother had four girls and three
My dear mother was like most other women of those days. They had to card and spin
and weave to make cloth to clothe their families. They also knitted all of the socks.
People didn’t buy everything they wore then like they do now. They didn’t have to have
silk stockings to wear every day like most of the ladies and girls do these days. They
wore good substantial clothes, which they made themselves, and they got along just as
well as they do now, if not better. I don’t know how many blankets and coverlets my
dear mother had that she made herself, but she had enough to keep her family warm
in cold weather, and plenty when company came to spend the night. If the women got
new calico dresses in those days, they were just fine enough.
My grandfather settled on a little creek known by the name of Richland. He had quite
a large family and owned several Negro slaves. His children all married and settled up
and down the little creek, so when his grandchildren came to see him, they were quite
a bunch of little folks. He would get us all together and go fishing or plum hunting, and
we would surely have a fine time. He seemed to enjoy it just as much as any of us. I
thought there was none on earth like my grandfather. When he was with us we never
thought of Indians or anything else, although they came in almost every light moon and
stole horses and often killed someone.
As my grandfather died when I was small, I’ll say something about what my
grandmother has told me of her experiences on the frontier. Everybody called her Aunt
Betsy and called grandpa, Uncle Jimmie Wood.
Grandpa cleared a little field and cut poles and made rails and fenced it. He dug the
land up with a hoe, planted corn and raised it for their bread. Of course it wasn’t
much trouble to kill dear and turkey for their meat, but they didn’t have much fat
about them, and she had to have grease to make soap; so she saved all of the dear
and turkey bones, put up an ash hopper and filled it with ashes; poured water on the
ashes, which dripped lye, then made soap.
People couldn’t go to the store in those days, buy a can of lye, and make a pot of soap
in a few minutes. They didn’t know there was any such thing as concentrated lye.
My Father a Blacksmith and Rancher
My father was a blacksmith by trade, but he worked at it only at times because the
heat and dust from the forge seemed to injure his eyes. He followed the ranch
business until after I was born.
People didn’t farm much in San Saba County when I was a boy, although it is fine
farming country now. Of course there was some farming done then, but very few
farmed for a living.
My father raised a few of all sorts of stock except goats. He raised a little buffalo
calf on a cow, and it stayed with the cows just like the other cattle. After it was two
or three years old, he sold it to Dr. Hudson for fifty dollars.
Dr. Hudson was starting to drive a herd of cattle off to market, and he took the
buffalo with the cattle. The cattle stampeded one night and the buffalo with them.
The next day it went up to a man’s house with some of the cattle, and the man killed
it, thinking it was a wild buffalo.
My father was a great hunter, and he enjoyed hunting bees, as well. One time he had
been off on a hunt and found a bee tree. He didn’t have anything to put the honey in,
so he killed a deer, and cased its hide, then cut the bee tree, filled the deer hide full
of comb honey, and took it home.
A Near Encounter With Indians
I have heard my father tell how near he and another man came to running into a gang
of Indians. They were out trying to catch some wild horses. They were called mustangs
because they were unbranded and no one claimed them, and if anybody caught them, he
had a right to them.
Pa saw a bunch of horses down in a little draw around a water hole and supposed that
they were a bunch of mustangs in at water. They fixed their ropes and got ready to
make a run on them to try to rope some of them and then discovered that it was a
little band of Indians at the water hole. So they just slipped off and didn’t disturb
One of the worst murders I ever knew about and one of the saddest sights I ever saw
happened there in San Saba. An old man came in there from up north who had some
money. It was thought that he came there to buy cattle, as cattle were being driven
out of that country by the thousands after the Civil War.
There were two young men came in there, either with this old man of soon afterward.
They claimed that they were waiting for the old man to buy the cattle, and they were
going to help drive them up the trail.
My father and Dave Low ran a blacksmith shop in San Saba at that time, and Mr. Low
ran a hotel. This old man slept in a little room in the back of the shop and took his
meals at the hotel. One morning he failed to go to breakfast, and when they went to
see about him they found him dead. He had been gagged and robbed. The murderers
had tied a big red handkerchief in his mouth and left him that way. I went and looked
at him just as he lay there. It was one of the most awful sights I ever beheld.
The two young men were missing that morning, so the officers suspected them of being
the murderers, and they sent word everywhere to watch for these two men. They
were caught not far from Lampasas and brought back.
The sheriff wanted to chain them together, and he had Pa to make some irons to go
around their necks. Then he brought them to the shop and had them kneel down while
Pa braided the irons to their necks. I watched him while he was fastening them
together, and it looked awfully bad to me to see those men chained together.
The smaller one of the two confessed to the murder, and they were taken off
somewhere and put in jail. The bigger one broke jail and ran off, but the smaller one
refused to go with him. I don’t remember whether or not they ever tried the little
man for the murder.
Frightened By an Old Man
When we lived on Richland Creek, there was an old man by the name of Poe who lived
just across the creek from our house. He gave me a scare someway—I don’t remember
just how it happened. I was small and every time he saw me he would halloo at me and
I would run. I was so afraid of him that I would watch for him, and if I saw him
coming I would run and crawl under the bed and stay hid until he left. He was the only
person I remember being afraid of when I was a little fellow. I don’t think a bunch of
Indians would have scared me worse if I had seen them coming. I don’t believe that
anyone should scare little children and make them afraid of them.
This old man had been married and his wife was dead. His children had all married and
left home, and he married an old maid named Mary Gay, a fine woman. I thought a lot
of her; she was so good and kind to little children. Sometimes old Grandpa Poe would go
somewhere to be gone all night or several days, and Ma would let me go and stay with
Mrs. Poe, or Aunt Mary, as we called her, until he came back. I liked to stay with
her, but I would watch for old Grandpa, and if I saw him coming, I would run, or slip
off and go home.
The poor old fellow went on a buffalo hunt with his son, Jess Poe, and some other men.
He got tired of hunting and wanted to go home before the rest of the party did, so he
hitched his mules to his wagon and started home. That night he camped and hobbled his
mules out to graze.
The next morning it was foggy, and while he was hunting his mules he became lost and
couldn’t find his way back to camp. He was out several days without anything to eat or
drink, and when the rest of the party started home and got to where he camped,
finding his wagon there, they began to hunt for him. They finally found him lying in the
edge of a little hole of water with his tongue so swollen that it stuck out of his mouth.
He was so weak from thirst and starvation that he was helpless, and something had
bitten him on the mouth--they supposed it was a skunk. They took him home, but he
lived only a few days afterward.
An Uncle Crippled While Bear Hunting
While we lived at this place, I had a crippled uncle who would come to see us.
Sometimes he would have a buggy, and he would let us children get in it with him, and
he would drive around with us for awhile. We thought it was fine to get a buggy ride,
for it was the first one I ever road in. Buggies were scarce in those days, very few
people around where we lived owned them. When they went anywhere, they either rode
horses or went in wagons, and often they were ox wagons.
People are so stylish now that they wouldn’t think of going to church in ox wagons. If
they didn’t have cars to ride in, they would stay at home.
My crippled uncle was named Harris Wood. I had another uncle by the name of Bill
Harris. They were out bear hunting together, and while chasing a bear through a
thicket, Uncle Bill’s gun hung in the brush and was discharged, and it shot Uncle Harris
in the hip. This crippled him so that he couldn’t ride horseback anymore, so he always
rode in a buggy after that.
The Civil War
I was very small when the Civil War broke out, so I don’t remember much about the
first part of the war; but I remember well when it was over. Uncle Spence Wood was
in the war, and when it was over, we heard that he was coming home, and all that
could went to meet him. We were so glad that he had gone through the war and come
out without a scratch, although he fought in several big battles. He said that the
Yankees, as they called the northern men, came near to cutting him off from his
command in one battle. He was riding an old sorrel, straight-backed horse that he
called Straighty. He just turned old Straighty loose and outran them and got back to
his command safely.
Uncle Spence was the only one of Pa’s brothers who was in the Civil War; the rest of
them were on duty guarding the frontier against the Indians. My father belonged to
the Minutemen. They served as rangers to scout after Indians, although they had to
scout only ten days each month unless the Indians made a raid in the country. Then
they were supposed to be ready to go at a minutes notice.
Sometimes my father would be gone for two or three weeks, and there was no one but
my dear Mother to look to for protection. But we felt safe as long as she lived, for
she could shoot a gun as well as any man, and Father said she could beat him shooting
a six-shooter. She always kept a good gun handy. I have seen her get her gun and go
out after a bunch of turkeys when they would come close to the house, when Pa was
gone. I don’t remember of seeing her kill any but know that she could have, if she only
got to shoot at them. I know that she was one of the best women that ever lived. I
was only eleven years old when she died. We were living in San Saba town at the time
of her death. She left seven children, one girl and six boys. Our sister was the oldest
child and I was the oldest boy.
As I was the oldest boy in our family, I was the ox driver, or bull-whacker, as some
called him. The last time I was in Austin, a man named John Stevenson and I went
with an ox team each from San Saba to Austin after a load of lumber. I think that
the distance was a hundred miles. I believe that we got one dollars per hundred for
hauling the lumber. It was in the winter and we weren’t feeding our oxen. We hobbled
them out at night, as the range was fine, and they could get plenty to eat.
Sometimes some of the old oxen would try to run off at night. They would hit the road
after dark and go just as far back toward home as they could before daybreak. Then
they would quit the road and go into a thicket and lie down. They would lie so still that
we could not hear their bells ring--we always had one ox of each yoke belled. This
may sound like a big story to anyone who never drove an ox team, but those who have
had the experience of freighting with an ox team know their tricks.
Before we got to Austin a big snow came and covered the ground several inches deep.
We stopped at the edge of a little town--Backdad, I believe it was called--and
bought feed for our oxen from a man named Oliver. He let us sleep in his barn, so we
stayed there until the weather got so we could travel. Then we went n and got our
lumber and finally got back to San Saba. I think that we were a month on the road.
Another time we went from Richland Creek to Concho River twenty or thirty miles
below San Angelo and gathered a wagon bed full of pecans. The country wasn’t settled
up then; we seldom saw anybody or any sign of a ranch. So anyone could gather all of
the pecans he could find, as no one claimed them. The country was full of all sorts of
game, so that we could hunt when we wanted to and kill as much game as we needed.
But we didn’t hunt except when we needed a turkey or deer to eat.
We weren’t gone any longer on this trip than it took us to get our load and get back
home, for it was dangerous to be traveling up in that country, because the Indians
were passing through there often. We carried our pecans to San Saba and sold them; I
think we got four cents a pound for them.
I will try to tell some of the troubles we had with the Indians. Two of my uncles were
killed by them. Uncle John Myers was killed somewhere on the plains. We never knew
for sure whether the Indians killed him or not, but he was killed on “Indian credit, as
many people were killed in those days. Uncle Boze Wood was killed on Richland Creek.
He and Uncle Henry Wood were out north of Richland at what is called Cottonwood
Pond, hunting, when the Indians got after them and they had a running fight. Uncle
Boze was shot but got home before he died.
A while before he was killed, he and his wife were sleeping out on their porch and had
two horses tied close by their bed, so that they could watch and try to keep the
Indians from stealing them. Some time in the night the Indians slipped up and cut the
ropes, and led the horses away without awakening them or disturbing several dogs that
were lying about in the yard.
A man by the name of Jackson Brown lived on the creek two or three miles above us.
One day an Indian boy walked into his yard, approached Mr. Brown, and extended his
hand to shake hands. Of course, Mr. Brown couldn’t speak the Indians language,
neither could the Indian boy speak our language, but there was a man on the creek
named Jones who could speak seven different languages, so he was sent for. Mr. Jones
asked the boy why he came, and he said that he had had a sore foot and that the
other Indians had run off and left him. He didn’t know where to go and finally decided
to go into a white settlement and give himself up, and Mr. Brown’s ranch was the first
one he came to. He didn’t have his bow and arrows with him and Mr. Jones asked him
where they were. He said that he had hidden them before he came to the house and
went with them and showed them where the bow and arrows were. One of the arrows
had blood on it, and Mr. Jones asked what he had shot with it, and he said that he
had killed a little fawn with it.
The next day Nute town took the Indian boy to town so that everyone might see him
and stopped at our house for us to look at him. He was the first wild Indian I ever
saw, and I think that he was the lousiest thing I ever saw. His hair hung way down his
back, and I don’t suppose that it had ever had a comb pulled through it. It was just
covered with nits and lice.
When Nute got to town with him, he had the boy’s hair shingled off short, and the
doctor put something on his head to kill the nits and lice. Nute got him some clothes
and dressed him up so he didn’t look like the same Indian when he took him back home.
He stayed with Mr. Brown a long time and seemed to be very well contented. Mr.
Brown had some boys about his size, and I saw him a number of times with them and
saw him go in swimming with them. I believe that he was still with Mr. Brown when I
left that country. I heard afterward that some of Mr. Brown’s folks took him up to
San Angelo, and he wanted to stay there with the Mexicans, so they left him there.
A man by the name of Wiley Williams lived in San Saba who used to stake his horse
out on moonlight nights in an open place, hide somewhere close by and watch for
Indians. One night he noticed something come up close to his horse and heard something
grunt or make a noise like a hog. He looked carefully and it appeared to be someone on
all fours. He shot at it with a double-barreled shotgun and it ran off. The next
morning he trailed it and found a dead Indian.
I remember of hearing my father tell of a company of Rangers being camped close to a
settlement. Some of the Rangers had families living in the settlement, and sometimes
some of the men would go home to see how their folks were getting along. One morning
they heard a turkey gobble in the direction of the settlement, and as one of the men
was going in to see about his family, he told them that he would go by the turkey roost
where they had heard the turkey gobble, and if he killed the turkey he would bring it
back to camp. After he had been gone a little while and had had time to get to where
the turkey had gobbled, they heard a shot. The man didn’t come back to camp with
the turkey, and they supposed that he had missed it and gone on home, as he had told
them he would do if he failed to kill the turkey.
The next morning they heard the turkey gobble at the same place. Another one of the
men wanted to go in to see his family, so he told them he would go by the turkey roost
and that if he killed the turkey he would bring it back to camp, and that if he missed
it he would go on home. After he had been gone a little while they heard another gun
shot. The man didn’t return to camp, and they supposed he had gone on home.
The third morning the turkey was still gobbling at the same place, and another one of
the men told them he wanted to go home and would go by and see if he could kill the
turkey. It wasn’t but a little while until they heard him shoot, and pretty soon he
came back to camp without any turkey. He had killed it, but it was a buck Indian
instead of a turkey gobbler. He had hid in an old hollow stump that had been burnt on
one side and would watch in the direction of the Ranger camp and was able to see
anyone approaching from that direction. He had a hole to put his gun in and shoot
through. So he had killed the first two men. But the third man had come up on the
wrong side of the stump and spied the Indian in there and had killed him.
I suppose that this man had suspected that there was something wrong about the
turkey and went around on purpose, or the Indian might have gotten his scalp. So the
Indian had gotten two scalps, and lost his own and his life with it by attempting to get
the third one.
After mother’s death, my father married a girl by the name of Warren. Her mother
was a widow and lived in Burnett County. One time father and my step-mother left us
older children at home to take care of the place while they went on a visit to Burnett
County to see Grandma Warren. They were gone several days, and one night while they
were away we heard our two dogs barking just like they were baying at something in
our yard. (We lived in a bottom where the timber made so much shade that it was
very dark in there at night). So I yelled at the dogs and hissed at them, and they
barked like they were about to tear something to pieces. The next morning we found
either sock tracks of moccasin tracks in the yard. We had some plum bushes set out in
the yard, and one of them was almost twisted off at the ground. We thought that the
Indian, or whoever it was, had tried to break the plum bush off to fight the dogs
with, We always thought that it was an Indian hunting for a horse, as people usually
tied their horses up at night in someplace to try to hide them from the Indians,
especially on moonlight nights, or when they thought the Indians were liable to make a
raid in the country.
My father had a mare with a very pretty little colt, and he took her off one night and
tied her in a bottom where he thought she would be safe if the Indians came around.
The next morning when we went to see about her, the little colt had gotten the rope
around its neck and choked to death. I was like most children and thought that it was
awfully bad that the colt choked to death.
While we lived in San Saba, before my mother’s death, my father had one of the
prettiest dun mares; she was just as pretty as a picture. He staked her out one night
right in the edge of town, not over 300 yards from where the courthouse stands. The
Indians came along and cut the rope and led her off. We heard the dogs barking all
over town and heard horses traveling around town, but we supposed that it was
someone living there who had been away and was returning, the next morning our horse
was gone, and several others had been stolen that night from other persons.
I remember being at Grandpa’s once when I was just a little boy, and we children were
out at play. We heard someone hallooing away off as though he was in distress, but
being small, we didn’t pay much attention to it. We just played on, and about ten o’
clock that morning someone came and told us that the Indians and killed old man
Beardy Hall out near the round mountain that morning. He had gone out there that
morning to see about some sows and little pigs that he had out there. I suppose that
he was feeding them to gentle the pigs. The little round mountain was about half way
between Richland Creek and the San Saba River. Anyone could get on the little round
mountain and see a long way in every direction. We supposed that these Indians were
on this mountain looking out to see if they could locate a bunch of horses and saw Mr.
Hall, slipped up on him, caught him, and murdered him. Of course, they took his scalp
so that when they got home they could have their big war dance, as that was their
custom when they made a raid and killed anyone.
One of the worst scares I ever got by the Indians was when I was about thirteen
years old. About seventy- five Indians came down Richland Creek one day. The first
place they came to was close to the head of the creek. A man named Warren Hudson
lived there. He was standing in the door as they rode by. They stopped and led a pony
off that he had staked close to the house and rode on down to where a family of
children lived by the name of Harkey. There were twelve of thirteen of these
children; both the father and mother were dead. But some of the children were grown,
so they still stayed on the homestead. Some of the children were playing out in the
road; when they saw the Indians coming, they all ran to the house except one little
girl; she climbed up in an old live oak that leaned over the road, thinking they were
cow hunters until they were almost under her, She just sat still and the Indians rode
under her without seeing her. As they passed the house Joe Harkey got his gun and
shot at them two or three times, but the Indians rode on without paying any attention
A little farther down the creek they ran on to about fifteen cowmen who had a bunch
of cattle rounded up and had a battle with them. It was about one mile from our place.
We could hear the guns shooting, faster than I had ever heard guns shoot before, or
have since. It wasn’t long until we could hear horses running, and in a few moments we
saw the cowmen coming as fast as their horses could run. Alex Hall was in the lead. As
soon as he got close enough he called to father and said, “John, you all better hide;
there are a hundred Indians after us.” So we boys, or the largest ones, just ran
through the high weeds in the fields as fast as we could and ran across the creek to
where Uncle Spence Wood lived. In a few minutes Pa and the rest of the folks came
over there and the cowmen with them—all but a man named Bomar. They said that the
last time they saw Bomar the Indians were right on his heels and that they were
satisfied that the Indians had killed him.
In those times everybody used what were called cap-and-ball guns and pistols, so it
took some time to reload a gun or pistol. So the cowmen got powder, caps, and bullets
from Pa and reloaded their guns and pistols. Then they all went down on the river
where their families lived except two—they left Parson Davis with us and another man
to wait on him. The Indians had lanced Parson Davis, under the arm, but he soon got
We all stayed at Uncle Spence’s that night. Uncle Spence lived in a field, and about
ten o’clock that night we heard someone halloo down back of the field, and Pa stepped
out and asked, “Is that you Bomar?” Bomar answered, “Yes.” Pa said, “I thought you
were dead.” “No, “ he said, “I aint dead.” So he came on in. The Indians hadn’t even
scratched him. Mr. Bomar said that the Indians crowded him so close that he ran to
the creek, jumped off his horse, and ran under a little bank in the edge of a hole of
water. He stayed there a few minutes and listened, and as soon as the Indians quit
making noise, he slipped out and went into the post oaks and climbed up into a thick-
topped elm tree and stayed until after dark. Then he got down and came on in. The
hole of water that he hid in was called the Bomar Hole after that, and the flat where
they had the battle with the Indians was called the Bomar Flat.
In the battle these cowmen had with the Indians, if they killed an Indian, the Indians
carried him off, as they always did if they could. They found blood on the trail these
Indians took, so we supposed they had wounded some of them. These Indians had
robbed the Widow Lindley’s house and burned it as they came in up on the Colorado
close to Trickum. The widow and children happened to be away from home, or they
might have been murdered.
Capt. Wood was in this battle, and he shot at an Indian who had a dress skirt of Mrs.
Lindley on his head for a headdress. He either cut it off his head or made him dodge
till he lost it, for it was left lying on the battleground.
After this raid, the few families that lived on Richland Creek decided that it wasn’t
safe to stay there because the Indians were coming in so often and in such large
bands, and that the few neighbors up and down the creek wouldn’t have much chance to
defend their families against one of the large bands of Indians. So we all moved down
on the river close to San Saba town where it was more thickly settled, so we would
have more protection. When we moved, we crossed the trail the Indians made that had
the battle with the cowmen. It was so plain that we could see it for a hundred yards
or more ahead of us.
One time after the battle of Bomar Flat, I was horse hunting one morning in the
Bomar Flat and I looked up the creek and saw Sam Dunkin come riding down the road.
As I was afoot, I thought that I would sit down by the side of the road and wait until
he came up to me. He saw me and thought that I was an Indian sitting there and
raised his gun to shoot at me. So I got up and stepped out in the road where he could
see me; then he came on to me. He told me that the Indians were in the country and
said for me to be very careful. He said that he came very near shooting me.
While we lived down on the San Saba River, Pa had a little blacksmith shop. One
morning about eleven o’clock some men came to have some work done. We boys were at
the river taking a bath, except Henry and the baby. While we were in bathing some
Negro soldiers rode up, dismounted, and came marching up to the house. One of the
men in the shop made the remark that he guessed the soldiers were after him and
that he wished he was home. Henry heard what the man said and saw the soldiers
coming toward the house. He became frightened and came running down to the river
where we were bathing and told us that there were Indians of Negroes at the house
going to kill all of us. He didn’t stop but ran on by us, and we grabbed our clothes and
ran after him as fast as we could run until we caught up with him. Then we decided to
go to Uncle Riley Wood’s; he lived down the river about two miles by the road, but it
was three or four miles to go through the bottom and follow the bend of the river. So
we started to follow the river in order to stay in the high weeds and keep hidden.
When we got within about a mile of Uncle Riley’s we heard several shots down the way,
giving us another scare, and we turned back toward home. By the time we got back it
was sundown. We were slipping up behind the cow pen to see if we could see anybody at
the house when Pa called to us and made us jump like we had been shot at. He had
been down the river hunting us and came up behind us.
I will tell of another little scare that we had. While we lived down on the San Saba
River, before we moved back on Richland Creek, there were four families living on the
east side of the river, and our family lived right on the bank of the river where the
road crosses going to San Saba. Pick Dunkin’s was the next family just up the river
about a quarter of a mile, and on up the river about the same distance, Uncle Spence
Wood lived. Just above his place George Barnett lived. Pa and Uncle Spence were gone
from home one night, and we went to stay all night with Uncle Spence’s folks. Just
after dark we children were out at play and having a fine time when suddenly we heard
women and children screaming down at Dunkin’s camp just like something terrible had
happened. We were so used to being frightened by the Indians that we were sure the
Indians were down at Dunkin’s. So we all ran up to George Barnett’s and stayed all
night, and we didn’t play anymore that night. We didn’t speak above a whisper but went
to bed and were very quiet. The women sat up all night, and every time they heard a
little noise they would say, “Listen, we hear them.” Next morning when someone went
down to Dunkin’s to see about them they learned that one of Mrs. Beatie’s little girls
had gotten hurt in playing, and they were making all of that fuss over the little girl’s
getting hurt. Mrs. Beatie was a sister of Mrs. Dunkin, and a widow, and they were
very foolish over the little girl.
As soon as the Indians quit coming in such large bands and so often, we moved back on
Richland Creek at our old home. But they made several raids after that, off and on
for several years. My father had a nice bunch of horses, and they kept stealing them
until they got nearly all of them.
I had claimed several horses, but the Indians had stolen them. So I had bought a pony
and Pa bought a fine mare at the same time. We had had them only about two weeks
when the Indians stole them one night. Some neighbors followed them the next morning,
overtook them sometime that day, and captured all of the horses except the ones the
Indians were riding. The Indians saw the men coming after them, and they ran and
made their escape. Then the men drove the horses back and put them in a pen and
notified the people to come and get their horses. I went that evening and got my pony,
but Pa didn’t get his mare. We supposed that an Indian was riding her, as she was a
good animal, and the Indians always rode the best horses they had when they thought
there was any danger of being overtaken.
A short time after that the report got out that the Indians were in the country again,
and some of the neighbors got up a little squad of men and boys to go up on the head of
Richland to look for them and try to catch them as they went out, or try to strike
their trail. I went along with then; I think that there were about twenty of us. I was
about fifteen years old then, and there were some more boys in the little band about
my age. We rode all day and didn’t see any signs of Indians.
About dark some of the men decided that there wasn’t any use in staying out that
night and were in favor of going home. However, some wanted to stay all night and said
that they were going to do so. So they unsaddled their horses and hobbled them out to
graze. Then those in favor of going home decided that hey would stay too if they would
all hobble their horses and herd them. So everyone agreed to the proposition, and they
unsaddled their horses and hobbled them, all except my horse and Bill Shipman’s; we
were going to take the first turn herding the horses. By the time we were ready to go
on herd, some of the first horses that were hobbled out had grazed off some distance,
so we started out to round them back and get them all together so that we could herd
them. Bill Shipman went west of the camp and I went east. In a few minutes Bill ran
back to camp and said that he had seen a man out there on a horse, and the men all
got their bridles and began to catch their horses and saddle up. Jim Harkey got his
horse saddled first and galloped out in the direction that Bill had seen the man, and he
saw a man on a horse in the shade of a tree. The man ran, and Jim chased him some
distance and shot his pistol empty at him, but he soon disappeared in the brush. After
we got all of the horses rounded up and caught, we decided that it would be best to tie
them and guard them so that the Indians couldn’t run in and stampede them. So we
guarded them the rest of the night, and the next morning we hunted the country all
around there to try to find some trail of the Indians, but we failed to find any trail
that we could follow. So we gave up the hunt and went home.
When I was about seventeen years old, Pa decided to go to Fort McKavett and haul
cord- wood and prairie hay for the soldiers at the fort. So we moved up there and
worked one summer and fall. We lived in a little town on the north side of the river
from the fort called Scab Town. One night about a mile down the river from town, two
men who were freighting for the government camped in a nice flat and hobbled and
sidelined their mules so that one of them could herd them while the other slept.
Sometime in the night the Indians ran in on them and tried to stampede their mules.
One of the men was sleeping under the wagon; he heard them and got out just as two
Indians ran between the wagon and the mules. He shot one of them in the back, and
the Indian rode about two hundred yards and fell off his horse.
The next morning he was found dead where he fell, lying on his back with his left arm
across his breast and his right arm down by his side with the elbow resting on the
ground and his six-shooter in his hand; the hammer was pulled back and his finger was
on the trigger. He was shot with an old rim-fire Winchester that we used to call a
yellow-leg Winchester because the sides were brass. The ball went through the Indian’
s shield and through him, too. Our old Citerson rifles wouldn’t shoot through these
I think that almost everybody in Scab Town went to see that dead Indian. We never
knew why the Indians didn’t carry him off, unless it was because they didn’t know just
where he fell and they were afraid to hunt for him because the moon was shining so
bright, and he was lying in an open place.
While we were living in Scab Town, a man named Frank Jones lived there who was a
guide for the soldiers when they went out scouting for Indians. While we were there
he went out with a company of soldiers; they got on an Indian trail and followed it to
where they were camped, killed some of them, and captured three squaws and a little
baby and brought them back to Fort McKavett. I went to the camp and saw them while
the soldiers had them under guard.
I know a man named Baker who killed an Indian with a shotgun loaded with birdshot.
He was going from San Saba to Austin with his wife, baby, and father, and the
Indians got after them. They were in a hack, and he drove into a thicket as far as
the horses could go. The Indians ran up to the hack and one of them stuck his head
around to try to see into the hack, and Mr. Baker shot him in the face. While the
Indians were carrying him off, Mr. Baker backed out of the thicket and got away. The
Indians shot the little baby with an arrow, but it was wrapped up in blankets and wasn’
t hurt very badly.
A Bee Tree
After we moved back on Richland Creek, Pa and I went back to Fort McKavett and got
a contract to cut and haul some cedar poles for a man to build a picket house; we also
made boards with which to cover the house. We had to go over on North Llano after
the timber. It was about thirty miles from Fort McKavett, so it took us some time to
get the poles cut and make the boards. After we got through and were ready to go in
with our load, I went out to get our oxen and failed to find them that morning, but I
found a bee tree, and we went and cut it that evening. It was the richest bee tree I
ever saw; we got about twenty gallons of comb honey out of it.
We got back to the fort and got ready to go home, there was a soldier there who
wanted to go home with us. He was engaged to a young lady by the name of Beardsley
who was staying at our home, and he wanted to go and marry her. So we let him go
with us. We camped one night on a little creek between Menardsville and Brady City
called Calf Creek. About midnight we heard a turkey gobble close to camp, and in a
few minutes we heard the leaves rustle close by like something walking. We were in a
thicket and had our fire covered so we just lay still and listened, and in a few minutes
some turkeys flew up to roost in some big pecan trees by the camp. Pa shot one the
next morning from the camp.
I’ll try to tell of some of my experiences as a cowboy. After my father married the
second time, we moved back on Richland Creek, as that seemed more like home than
any other place I ever lived. The first cow work I ever did, Father and I helped an
outfit gather some yearlings. I think it took us two weeks to gather them.
I had an old quilt for a saddle and rope stirrups. What would a boy think these days if
he had to work with a cow outfit and ride bareback? But that is exactly the way I
rode on that occasion, and I didn’t think it anything strange, for saddles were very
scarce. Even the saddles the men had weren’t much better than good quilts. Most of
them were rigged with rawhide, and when they got wet the stirrup leathers would
stretch; when they dried they would draw up and get hard. I finally got and old saddle
tree and rigged it up with cowhide or rawhide; I was a real cowboy then. After that I
helped Uncle Riley Wood, (or Capt. Wood, as everybody called him) to gather a herd of
cattle. Cattle were hard to get then, as most of the gentle cattle had been driven out
of the country, and the wild cattle were so wild that they would lay in a thicket all
day and graze all night. Uncle Riley would gather a little bunch of gentle cattle and
take them out in the post oaks and hold them in an open place on moonlight nights. Then
he would round in the wild cattle and bring them into the pen.
I was too small to make a hand rounding in at night, but I could help hold the herd.
We had gotten a big pen full rounded up, and Uncle Riley thought it would be best to
stand guard around the pen to keep the cattle from breaking out, and he and Uncle
Spence Wood went on first guard. About ten o’clock that night one of the men got off
his horse and the horse shook himself. The noise stampeded the cattle and in a
moment they had knocked down one side of the pen and scattered logs for some
distance. I never before heard cattle make so much noise. They came within about
thirty steps of the camp, and by the time I was completely awake I was about ten
feet up a tree. All of the men got their horses and got around the cattle as soon as
possible, but they lost some of them. So the cattle had to be herded the rest of the
night. I never knew just how many got away, but it was supposed that there were
I didn’t have to get out and help that night, as I was small and one of the other boys
couldn’t get hold of his horse, so he took my horse and left me at camp with the cook.
I could hear the men hallooing every time I waked up that night, and it surely made
me lonesome. We had some steers in that herd that must have been twelve or fifteen
years old, and I believe that they were the largest steers I ever saw.
Taking Cattle To Market
It didn’t take a man with much money to buy a herd of money in those days, as they
were cheap. A big beef steer was worth ten or twelve dollars, and anybody that
wanted to could gather a herd of cattle and drive them to Kansas or any other
market. About all they needed was enough to bear the expense of gathering them and
driving them to market. When they got the herd ready to start on the trail, they
would notify the inspector and he would come and inspect the cattle. They would put
them into a pen and run them into a chute a few at a time. One man would get up on
the chute and call out the mark and brand of each cow or steer and another man would
put them down in a book. This was called tallying them. As soon as they would get one
chute full tallied and road branded, they would run in another bunch, and continue until
the whole herd was tallied and branded. Then they were ready to start on the trail.
The inspector would give the boss a pass on his herd to show that they had been
inspected. He would also have the tally put on record in the County Clerk’s office. Then
the cowmen would look at the record, and if they found any of their mark and brand,
the owner of the herd would pay for them when he sold the cattle if he was an honest
man. But there were some that weren’t honest, and they wouldn’t come back after
they drove the herds to market.
I once helped some men gather a bunch of yearlings; I think that there were just
ninety-nine head. They were called mavericks, for they were neither marked nor
branded. They sold these yearlings to a man named pool for a dollar and a half per
head. They branded them and delivered them in his pasture. They paid me a dollar and
a half per day for my work.
There weren’t any wire fences then. The fence for his pasture was built by setting
forks about eight or ten feet apart, and two or two and a half feet high, laying poles
in the forks. Then they were staked and ridered.
We didn’t have as good schools then as we do now. Generally, out in the little country
school, the term was very short, often not more than three or four months, so my
schooling was just enough for me to learn to read, write, and spell, and some
arithmetic. I just got to division; so addition, subtraction, and multiplication were
about all I learned in arithmetic.
I went to one school three miles from home after I was large enough to carry a gun.
So Pa let me carry a gun, for the Indians were coming in almost every month. If they
saw that a person had a gun, they were not so likely to run on to him. Besides, I could
shoot very well.
There were lost of deer there, but I had never shot at one. So one evening on my way
home from school I went hunting for a deer. I saw a little buck under a tree hunting
acorns, so I slipped up to a log and lay my gun on it to take a rest to shoot. It
started to come toward me, so I waited until it got within seventy-five or eighty
yards of me and shot at it; the deer ran a little way and fell dead.
As I don’t believe in ghosts, I’ll tell a little story that reminds me of a ghost story.
After I was old enough to go out hunting alone, I often went to the turkey roost about
one mile from home and sat there until about dark watching for the turkeys to fly in
to roost. Sometimes it would be after dark before I got home. One night I was late
getting home, but the moon was shining bright, and I was watching on each side of the
road expecting to see an Indian of some bogy. All at once I saw something, which
looked just like a man, coming toward the road. It looked like it was traveling just as
fast as I was, or a little faster, and was trying to get ahead of me and cut me off
from the house. I thought sure that it was an Indian and just stopped still and looked
at it a moment. I soon saw that it was only a bush and wasn’t moving. So I decided
right there to always find out what anything was before I ran. That was the nearest
thing to a ghost which I ever saw.
I went on a hunt one time with Father, John Lyon, Uncle Spence and one of Uncle
Spence’s boys. We went from Ft. McKavett to the head of Copress Creek, A little
stream that ran into North Llano. We arrived there about two o’clock in the evening.
The country was full of game, and more turkeys than I ever saw any other place.
We were anxious to start out to see what we could kill, but Pa and Uncle Spence
kindled a fire and made coffee and lighted their pipes before they started out. But
the rest of us started just as soon as we got our horses unharnessed and unsaddled. I
hadn’t been gone long until I noticed a big smoke at camp, so I ran back as fast as I
could go. The grass had caught fire and burnt all around the wagon and burnt a hole in
a quilt in the wagon. I had a good saddle that I had just given a hard month’s work
for, and part of an old quilt which I used for a saddle blanket. I had pulled the saddle
and blanket off together and thrown them down in a pile, and the blanket had caught
fire and burned the hind tree of my saddle in two. The fire might have done more
damage, but John Lyon saw it first and beat me to it and had it under control when I
While we were camped there, Pa took his old dog one day, went down the creek, and
killed a bear that the dog had treed. It was about a year old, fat, and nice eating. I
don’t remember what all we killed on this hunt, but more turkey than anything else, for
there were more of them than of any other game.
When I was about nineteen years old I went on a buffalo hunt with five others --
George Wood, Blufe Hamrick, Hiram Hamrick, Virgil Wood, and a man named Blackwell.
We had three wagons with two yolk of oxen each on two of the wagons and two horses
on the third wagon. We went up Richland Creek to its head, then on northwest until we
crossed the Colorado River up near Tricum, then on up the north side of the Colorado
River until we got above the mouth of the Concho River. There were more antelope
there than I ever saw anywhere else. One morning I saw a bunch of them that looked
like a bunch of goats traveling. I believe that there must have been between three and
five hundred in the herd. Not far from there we saw our first bunch of buffalo but
didn’t kill any of them.
A few miles above the mouth of the Concho we crossed the Colorado and went up on
the west side until we got to the mouth of Oak Creek, then we crossed back on the
east side of the Colorado and went up Oak Creek until we came to a ranch owned by a
man named Brown. Then we went on up to the head of Oak Creek and on up to old Fort
Chadbourne. There had been soldiers stationed there, but the fort was then in ruins.
The buildings were of stone. We went west of there until we crossed the Colorado and
on west up Yellow Wolf Creek. A few miles up this creek we struck camp among some
little brushy hills and stayed there until we had killed all of the buffalo we wanted.
I killed my first buffalo between Ft. Chadbourne and the river. It was an old bull and
so poor that it wasn’t good for anything, so we just left it where it fell. There were
deer and turkey and almost all sorts of game on the creek, but as we were just out
after buffalo, we didn’t hunt anything else.
Mr. Blackwell, Uncle George, and I were out one day and we saw a bunch of thirteen
buffalo grazing in an open place. Mr. Blackwell stopped and watched Uncle George Slip
up within gunshot of them and begin to shoot at them. He continued shooting until he
had killed all of them except a little calf. It stood there until we walked up to the
dead ones before it ran off. He killed these buffalo with an old rim fire Winchester.
It wouldn’t be much of a gun compared with guns that are used now, but it was the
best gun we had in our outfit.
We had all of the buffalo we could do anything with that day, and more to if we had
tried to take care of all of it. But we just took the nicest fat ones and left the poor
ones lying there. There isn’t any meat that suits my taste as well as good buffalo
hump when it’s fresh.
Another Hiram Hamrick and I were out together and found a bunch of about forty. We
slipped up close to them and shot one down the first shot. They just stood there until
I had killed four, and I had only an old Citerson rifle, which had to be reloaded after
each shot. The bunch finally got scared and ran off. Hiram hadn’t killed any buffalo
yet, and as one of those that I shot wasn’t dead yet, he wanted to kill it. I let him
shoot it, and it took seven shots more to kill it after it was down.
Another time Mr. Blackwell, Virgil, and I went north of our camp when it was cold and
misting and freezing a little. We went up on a hill and looked to the north and the
whole face of the earth was covered with buffalo as far as we could see. Some were
grazing; some standing, and some were lying down. I don’t think I ever saw any more
cattle loose on the range at one time than there were buffalo there, and I worked up
in the forks of the Colorado and the Concho after that where they could round up four
of five thousand cattle in half a day.
That night it snowed and the buffalo drifted, and they were still passing our camp next
morning, going south. We got out and killed six or seven before breakfast as they
passed the camp. They stampeded Blufe Hamrick’s oxen and the broke their hobbles
and ran off. We stayed there several days while he hunted for them but he wasn’t
able to find them. So we tied his wagon to ours and started home.
We had been out so long that we ran out of bread stuff, but after we got started
back and got on the road we would meet wagons every day and they would give us
enough meal or flower, so we fared very well. I didn’t think that I could make out a
meal without bread, but I did and enjoyed it, for I think that that was the best meat
I ever ate.
The last buffalo we saw was between Ft. Chadbourne and the Colorado River as we
were going home. We were going down a long slope and saw something coming out of a
draw toward us. It looked just like horses with packs on. We went on meeting them
for some distance before we could discover what they were. Finally we saw that it
was twelve old buffalo bulls. When we got close enough we began shooting at them and
succeeded in killing three of them. We just took a little of the choice pieces of their
meat and left the rest.
Just to think about how the buffalo were slaughtered is a shame. Some were shot
down just for the sport of killing them and thousands, rather, millions of them were
killed for their hides and tallow.
Two or three months after we returned from the buffalo hunt, Blufe Hamrick heard of
his oxen at the Brown ranch about twenty-five miles from where we lost them, so he
went and brought them home.
Moving To Kimble County
When I was twenty-one years old, I left San Saba County. G.G. Hamrick, Cal Wood,
and I moved from Richland Creek to Kimble County. We located on North Llano about
fifteen miles from Junction City, close to the mouth of Copress Creek. G.G. Hamrick
married Cal’s sister; Cal is my cousin. George Hamrick had two children. Cal and I
were single and lived with George.
As we were going to Richland Creek when we moved, we passed Hall’s ranch at the
head of the creek. I think that a man named Roundtree was living there at the time.
He had some horses penned up, and one of them had an arrow in him. I believe that
was the last raid the Indians made in that county. I think that was in 1877.
Hamrick and I each had a little bunch of cattle, and we All had a few hogs. So we
took our hogs with us and left the cattle until spring before we moved them; for I tell
you, we had a job driving those old poor hogs. Sometimes we would strike a place
where there were a few acorns, just enough to make the hogs mean to drive. After we
passed Menardsville, we went up Lost Morris Creek; it was very brushy and had a few
acorns in some of the thickets, just enough for the hogs to run after and make it hard
to drive them. Before we got to the head of this creek we lost an old blue sow of
mine. I missed her soon afterward, but I didn’t hunt for her because I thought we
might lose more trying to find her, I think that it was seventy-five miles back to
Richland Creek, and when we returned in the spring for the cattle, we found that old
blue sow back on her old range.
After we got our hogs located, we had to watch them very closely, for there were lost
of bear in that country, and they would kill hogs often. But we didn’t lose as many by
the bears as we did by some of our neighbors. There were some people living close by
who would drive off a bunch of our hogs, kill all of the big hogs, and change the marks
on the little ones. They drove off a bunch of Hamrick’s hogs once, killed the big ones
and changed the marks on the shouts. The shouts came back and we rounded up every
hog we had and branded. After that we didn’t have anymore hogs come home with their
marks changed. Occasionally we would lose a fat hog or two, but that was about all we
lost after we branded them. The bears killed only a few.
There were two parties living there that seemed to be bad to rustle and take charge
of all of the stray stock. Some of the lived on South Llano and some on North Llano
close to us, but those living near us moved over on South Llano. Two of these young
men came back over where we lived and camped around for a few days. We didn’t know
why they were there until they left. Cal Wood had a stray pony posted; these men
left one night, and the next morning when we went to get our horses, this pony was
We hunted around for him and finally found a place where it looked as though someone
had led him up a mountain over a trail that was used sometimes when people went over
to South Llano. The trail was very steep and the men had had to lead their horses up
the mountain. One of the two men wore a pair of shop made boots, and some of the
tracks were apparently made by shop-made boots so we suspected these two men of
getting the pony.
We all talked the matter over, and I suggested that one of us go down and report it
to the Rangers, and see if we could get the pony back. I told Cal that if he didn’t
want to go that I would go if he would let me have his gun, and he agreed to it. That
evening I rode down to where Capt. D.W. Roberts and his company of Rangers were
stationed, about ten miles down the river, at the mouth of Bear Creek. I reported to
the Captain the circumstances of the case and told him that if he wanted to send some
men over on South Llano to try to recover the pony, that I would go with them if he
wanted me to, for I knew the pony and could identify him. He told me to stay with
them that night and he would send some men with me in the morning.
The next morning he sent four men with me. We went through the mountains until we
got over on South Llano and struck the road on the river. I think that it was about ten
o’clock in the morning, and we had ridden only a short distance up the road when we
met the fathers of these two young men on the road. We just spoke to them as we
passed and rode on a little way, then we looked back and saw them making motions
toward the other side of the river as though they were thinking of going over on a road
that went along the other side of the river and caught one of these old men running up
the road as fast as his pony could go, trying to get ahead of us. The Ranger disarmed
him and brought him over where we were and told the Corporal of the scouting party
where he caught him and what he was doing. The Corporal told him to come on and go
We were within about a mile of where one of these old men lived, so we went on.
About a half-mile from the house we dismounted and the Corporal left me in charge of
this old man and the horses, and they went on afoot. They got about half way to the
house and met these two young men in the road, and they wheeled their horses around
and ran out through the brush. The Rangers fired at them as they ran; I think each
Ranger fired about four times. As soon as the men went out of sight in the brush, the
Rangers hurried back and got their horses, let the old men go, and we galloped back to
where the two men had come into the thicket. They had left the pony for which we
were hunting standing in the edge of the thicket with saddle and bridle on and a
Winchester in a scabbard hanging on the saddle.
So we took the pony and went on back to camp, as we had found what we were hunting
for and thought that it would be of no use to hunt for the men in the brush. I stayed
all night at the ranger camp again, and the next morning I left the saddle and gun
there and went back home.
In a few days we heard that a doctor had come out from Junction that night and
dressed a wound on one of those young men. A bullet had gone through his hip pocket,
hitting a knife and tearing the handle to pieces and causing a very bad flesh wound in
his hip. I guess the knife saved his life, or saved him from being hurt a great deal
I haven’t called these men by name because I know one of them is dead and the other
one may be for all I know. If he isn’t, I hope that he has changed and is living an
honorable and righteous life before God and man.
Another Indian Raid
I think that it was sometime this same summer that I went out one morning after our
horses – we had them hobbled out --- and I struck their trail where they had been
driven up a little draw coming out of the side of a mountain. Right in the head of this
draw I found where they had been rounded up and their hobbles taken off, and while I
was looking around I found a moccasin track. I knew what that meant for I had seen
them before, so I went back to the house to tell them that the Indians had stolen all
of our horses and left us afoot. But by the time I got back someone had come and told
them that the Indians had made a raid in the settlement and taken about all of the
horses on the river. We had only five head on the ranch and they got all of them. Cal,
George, and I each had a pony, and brother Joe had two. We didn’t try to keep any
more horses than we could make out with, for we didn’t know when the Indians might
come in and set us afoot.
Someone went down to the Ranger camp and reported the news to Capt. Roberts. He
took some men and followed these Indians ---they weren’t the first Indians he’d ever
followed---and he knew how to take advantage of them. He caught up with them on
the head of Dove Creek somewhere west of San Angelo. They had stopped at some
water in the rocks, what we call potholes. I suppose that they were going to rest some
before going on. They had a spy out, and he saw the Rangers before they got near; he
ran into camp and gave the alarm and the Indians ran for life. The Rangers ran them
for several miles but couldn’t get nearer to them than about six hundred yards. They
couldn’t reach them with the old .44 Winchesters the Rangers used then, but they
captured all of the horses the Indians had except those they were riding.
The Rangers brought the horses back and nearly everybody recovered most of those
they had lost, but none of our horses were in the bunch that the Rangers brought
back. We thought that the Indians must have been riding our horses when the Rangers
got after them. So we traded for some more horses.
That fall George Hamrick and his family went over to Ft. McKavett on a visit to see
Uncle Spence Wood’s family, and when he started home he saw some horses standing
by the road under a tree. He looked at them and discovered that they were our
horses that the Indians had stolen that summer. They were all there but one and were
just as fat and slick as I ever saw horses on the range. The horse that was missing
belonged to Cal Wood, and he was missing the day before the Indians made the raid.
We heard of a horse after that down on the Saline, about forty miles below where we
lived, that we thought might be Cal’s horse, and I went with Cal and hunted for him
but failed to find him. The person that told us about the horse being there knew Cal’s
We never knew how the Indians lost our horses, but supposed that they went over by
Ft. McKavett to make a raid and the horses got away, running after mesquite beans in
some of those mesquite flats. There were more mesquite beans that summer than I
ever saw before.
While ranching on Llano with George Hamrick, I worked at different jobs and in
different places, but mostly with stock. Hamrick had a family and couldn’t go off and
leave them alone, so I gothic to take care of my stock while I was off at work. One
time Cal Wood and his brother Tom and I went up to San Angelo to try to get jobs
working on a cow ranch. It was the last of August when we got up there. Someone told
us that they thought we might get work on the Tanksley ranch about twenty five miles
west of San Angelo, so we went up there, but Tanksley didn’t have anything for us.
However, Ike Mullins gave us jobs at twenty dollars per month. His ranch was about
twenty miles east of San Angelo on the Concho River. It was almost fifty miles back to
Mullins ranch, but we were out after jobs, so we struck out for the ranch and weren’t
long about getting there.
Ike Mullins had about five thousand of the prettiest red cattle I ever saw. They were
all branded IC, and all of them having the same brand made them look prettier. I
think he was one of the most honest cowmen I ever saw or worked for.
We were camped on the east side of the river when we started to work. We had to
ride the line and keep the cattle rounded back and try to keep them from drifting and
getting out of their range. Especially when a cold norther came, they would drift south
and try to get into the brush and find protection from the cold north wind.
There was some flat open country south of our camp called Lapan Flat. On the first
day of September I was out on this flat without a coat. When I started out that
morning it was so warm that I didn’t think I would need a coat, so I just went in my
shirtsleeves. A cold north wind blew up before I got back. And I thought I would
freeze before I could get back to camp. After that when I started out in the morning
I would tie my coat on my saddle if it was too warm to wear it.
We worked in this camp about a month. There were three more hands in this camp, so
the boss had Cal and Tom and me move into another camp on the north side of the
river, in the forks of the Colorado and Concho.
Rivers. We rode the range line here and kept the cattle rounded back in the range the
best we could, but sometimes a few would get away anyway. So some of us would go to
all of the roundups and cut out all of the IC cattle and bring them back on the range.
Sometimes we would get two or three hundred out of one roundup.
Sometimes while riding the range I would see from two to four bunches of mustangs in
one day. Usually there were fifteen to twenty horses in a bunch. There were lots of
antelope on the range, too. I remember of making my rounds one day and getting n
early, thinking that I would go out and try to kill an antelope. So I took Cal’s old
rimfireWinchester and walked off about four or five hundred yards from the camp and
saw a bunch of thirty or forty. I slipped up to where I thought I could kill one, picked
one out and shot at it. At the crack of the gun two antelope fell. So we had all of the
meat we could eat for some time. I thought I was doing fine to kill two antelope at one
I worked at this job for three months and didn’t miss a day. Then I decided that I
had better go home to see how Hamrick and his family were getting along and to help
him with our stock, as it was about the first of December, and we generally began to
kill our hogs about that time. We would put up our bacon for the next year, and we
usually had a few hogs to sell. The only market we had for our pork was Ft. McKavett;
it was thirty miles away, so it was some job to kill the hogs, haul the meat thirty
miles in a wagon to market and peddle it our from house to house in small pieces.
When we got ready to start home, I went to the headquarters ranch for my pay. I
had worked three months at twenty dollars per month and had spent ten dollars while I
was there. So I had fifty dollars coming tome, and I told Mr. Mullens that I had come
to settle up so that I could go home. He went into the house and got a fifty--- dollar
bill and brought it out to me.
When anyone worked for wages in those days, he wasn’t given a check on a bank;
business wasn’t done that way. The money was always kept in the house instead of a
bank, and there wasn’t nearly so much robbing going on then as there is now.
I remember being at old Uncle Emerson Wood’s on Richland Creek one day for dinner,
and a man by the name of Fiveash stopped there for dinner. He had driven a herd of
cattle off to market and sold them and was on his way home. He had his money in a
sack and carried it across his saddle. When he unsaddled his horse, he threw the sack
of money on the fence, and after dinner when he started to leave he said, “Well, I
guess I’d better get my sack of nails.” So he took the sack of money off the fence
and rode on his way.
When I left the Mullens ranch to go home, Cal and Tom stayed there until a few days
before Christmas, then they quit and went back to San Saba to spend Christmas with
their folks. Their father lived at Richland Springs, so Tom stayed there and Cal came
back to Kimble County in the spring where George and I were still holding our little
ranch down. But Cal wasn’t satisfied there, so he sold out his interest in the ranch to
us and went back to San Saba.
After that I got a job sheep herding from Frank Cloute at sixteen dollars per month.
He made me agree to stay with him until after lambing time in the spring if I made a
hand that suited him. So I started to work. After I worked a month I wanted to quit,
but he didn’t want to let me go, so I stayed with him until after lambing time. It was
the first of February when I went to work and about the fifteenth of April when I
quit. That was the only job of shepherding I ever did and I think about the hardest
job I ever had working with any kind of stock.
It might not have been so hard if I had understood herding them and had had a
permanent camp and a pen to put them in at night, but the sheep were poor and the
range was short, and I just camped where night came on me. Frank brought my bedding
to me. The worst part of the night was that on moonlight nights the sheep would want
to graze all night. After I would bed them, I would go to bed and to sleep. When I
would wake up and listen for them they would be gone. Sometimes I would follow them
two miles before I would overtake them, and it would take a good part of the night to
get them back to camp.
So I worked all-day and part of the night for sixteen dollars a month. I worked about
two months for one months wages, counting the night for part time.
Back to Cow Punching
The next job I got was in the spring of 1880, on a cow ranch hand in Menard County,
working for Pete Robinson and Billie Bevans. Their ranch was seven or eight miles below
Ft. McKavett on the San Saba River. I liked this job better than herding sheep and
got more pay – twenty dollars per month. These men were good to work for too.
It was a little lonesome at night for I was in a camp by myself most of the time, on
Rocky Creek on the north side of the San Saba River.
I didn’t have time to get lonesome during the day, for I was busy all of the time. I
worked there until the first of September, then quit and volunteered in the Ranger
Service at thirty dollars per month.
A Texas Ranger
Capt. D.W. Roberts and his company of Rangers were stationed at that time on the
south side of the San Saba River between the six and seven mile crossings of the San
Saba below Ft. McKavett. I had seen Capt. Roberts during the summer and spoke for
a place in his company. He told me to be at the Ranger camp the first of September,
and he would take me in the company, as there would be some men quitting the service
then, and he would be taking in recruits to fill the vacancies. So on September 1,
1880, I was enrolled in the Texas Volunteer Ranger Service to serve one year in
Company D, Frontier Battalion, State Troops D. D.W. Roberts was Captain, Lamb
Secor, First Sergeant, Ed Secor, Second Sergeant, Henry Ashburn and Doc Gourley,
Corporals; twenty Privates completed the company.
For my first duty, I was sent with six or seven others to San Saba to help the
officers there while court was in session. There was a mob party in San Saba County
at that time, and the sheriff feared that there might be some trouble during court.
Ed Secor was in charge of the detail. Everything seemed to be quiet, and court was
over without any trouble. Then the sheriff had us take the prisoners to Lampasas and
turn them over to the contractor and other authorities.
I think that there were nine of the convicts. A man with a four- horse wagon was
hired to haul them. The wagon had high side planks and the man had a spring seat on
top of the side planks. He was sitting on this seat driving, the team was going at a
trot down the road, and he let the wagon get out of the road. It struck a stump and
threw the driver off the seat and his head hit the ground first. We thought that his
neck would be broken after falling so far, but he was only skinned and bruised. There
was no further trouble, and when we arrived in Lampasas we delivered the prisoners,
spent the night there and bathed in the sulpher springs. The next day we started back
We were gone between three and four weeks on this trip. I enjoyed it for I knew
almost everybody in San Saba County and it was like going home on a visit.
We hunted stage robbers and outlaws of all kinds while I was in the Service. One time
the stage was robbed three nights in succession down near Pegleg Station between
Menardville and Mason. Capt. Roberts heard about it and took me and three other men
and went down there. We hunted several days but failed to find any trace of the
robbers, so we started back to camp. As we were going through the country north of
Menardville, we saw three men on horses and each one was leading a pack- horse. The
Captain thought that they might have been the ones that robbed the stage, so he
stopped them and searched their packs, but didn’t find anything that looked suspicious.
It happened to be my day to drive the pack mules, but I caught up with the rest
before they got the three horsemen disarmed.
When we were out on a scout we had to take turn about at driving the pack mules, but
these mules were well trained. If the men ahead of them rode at a gallop, they would
gallop too in order to keep up.
In the summer of 1881-- believe it was in June--the Captain took nine or ten of us
and made a scout to look out for Indians. We went up the San Saba River about ten
miles above the headwaters to a ranch where there was a well and a windmill owned by
a man named Moss. Mr. Moss joined us there. I suppose that the Captain had spoken
to Mr. Moss previously about going on this scout.
We went west from the Moss ranch until we got on the divide between the head draws
of Devil’s and San Saba Rivers, then we went northwest up the divide. We passed
somewhere close to where Eldorado is now, but there wasn’t a house in that part of
the country at that time.
While we were stopped for dinner on day not far from Eldorado on a little draw running
in the direction of South Concho, we saw a smoke shoot up a little to the left of the
direction we were going. The smoke was going straight up and could be seen a long way.
It looked a little like a signal fire like the Indians used sometimes, so the Captain sent
me and a man named Rawls over to investigate. We went and found an old brush sheep
pen on fire. We supposed that someone was just passing by there and set it on fire. So
we went on and caught up with the scout and reported what we found. Then we
followed the divide on up to the head draws of Dove Creek west of San Angelo and to
the place where the Captain and his men overtook the Indians who stole our horses a
few summers before. We ate dinner there and turned back, as we hadn’t found any
signs of any Indians.
On the way back, after we got somewhere in Mr. Moss’ cattle range, we saw some
cattle lying under some trees up on a hill, and Mr. Moss told the Captain that if he
would let some men go with him, he would try to kill a beef. The Captain sent me, and
three other men with him. As we neared the top of the hill—I think that we were
about two hundred yards from the cattle—they saw us, and jumped up and ran off as
fast as they could go. We had to chase them five or six hundred yards before we
overtook them. We picked out a fat steer about three or four years old, and I shot
him once or twice, as I was in the lead, but my horse couldn’t get up along side the
steer. Hammer was behind me and he told me to let him get up to the steer, so I fell
back, and he ran up by the side of the steer and killed him. We butchered him and put
the meat in our chuck wagon and went on to the Moss ranch. Mr. Moss took out what
meat he needed and gave the rest to us, and we had beef enough to supply us several
days. We were out ten days on this trip, and we didn’t see anyone from the time we
left the Moss ranch until we returned there.
There was a man in Kimble whom we made several scouts after; he was wanted for
theft of cattle. He had a cow camp on Contrary Creek, which runs into South Llano on
the south side of the river just below Paint Rock.
On the first scout I went on after this man, we went from our camp on the San Saba
and traveled through the woods to try to slip over on South Llano without letting
anyone know that we were in the country. We struck South Llano at Paint Rock,
watered our horses and filled our canteens, and went on south up a little draw a few
hundred yards, then camped until night. We had a pack mule along so we unpacked him
and started to get supper.
The only utensils we had to cook with were a frying pan and a coffee pot. This was the
first trip I had made with the Rangers, so I didn’t know how we were going to mix up
the flour and bake the bread for six or seven men without anything to mix or bake it
in. We had a sack of flour, and Dug Colson opened it, jabbed a hole down into the flour
and made the bread up in the sack. Then we cut sticks, rolled the dough around them,
and held them by the fire and soon had enough bread for supper. And it seemed like it
was the best bread I ever ate.
After supper we waited until dark, then saddled up and went over the mountain and
down Contrary until we got within about half a mile of the cow camp where this man
was supposed to stay. Then we got off our horses and went afoot. When we got within
three or four hundred yards of the camp, we pulled off our boots so that we could slip
up without making any noise, but when we got about a hundred yards from the camp the
dogs began to bark and we made a run for the camp. Ed Secor was in the lead, and he
ran into some vines and fell. Tom Carson fell over him, and I fell over both of them.
We got up as quick as we could and ran on into camp, but we didn’t find the men we
I hadn’t been home but once since I joined the Ranger Service. We had just been on
another scout after the man on Contrary whom we had been trying to catch for some
time; but this scout was like the others we had made after him—we didn’t have any
success. So I asked the Captain if I could go by home on our way back to camp. He
told me that I could if I would be back to camp the next day. So I stopped at home
that night, and the next morning it was snowing and very cold. Our camp was about
thirty miles north of home, so I had to face the north wind and the snow all the way
back. My feet got cold a time or two, and I got down and walked and led my horse
until my feet got warm again, then I got on my horse and rode on to camp. I think
that was one of the coldest spells of weather I ever experienced. We were camped on
the north side of the San Saba River, and there was a big hole of water in front of
our camp, and it froze over so that the boys could walk across the river on the ice.
That was the first time I ever saw the San Saba frozen over, and I had lived on it
several years when I was a boy.
In the latter part of the summer of 1881, we moved our camp from Menard County to
Kimble County and camped at the mouth of Bear Creek, about five miles above Junction
City, on the north side of North Llano, within ten miles of where George Hamrick
lived. I lived with George when I was at home. He was taking care of my little bunch
of cattle—I think that I had about sixty head.
Leaving the Ranger Service
My service with the Rangers ended on August 31, 1881, and on September first I
settled up with the boys, got my paycheck, and bid them farewell. I am sorry to say
that I have never seen some of them since, and the majority of them have already
answered their last roll-call on this earth. I know of only five or six who are still
living, and I may not get to meet them any more on this earth, although it would be a
great pleasure to me. I hope by the grace of God to meet them in heaven where there
will be no more parting, in a world without end.
I went from the Ranger camp back to Hamrick’s and stayed a few days, then went
down on the head of Guadalupe to visit my father’s family. While I was there I saw all
of my brothers and sisters, also all of my half-sisters and half-brothers, and my step-
mother. That was the last time we were all home at the same time.
My father moved to New Mexico after that, took pneumonia, and died. It has been
nearly forth years since his death. My step-mother died Jan. 13, 1927. My sister
died in New Mexico just a short time after Father’s death. I have four brothers
living. The names of the members of our family who are living are as follows: Thomas
(J.T.), Henry (J.H.), Joe, Lum (C.C.), and Peter. My half-brothers and half-sisters
who are still living are Lizzie Pope, Belle Wallace, Nan Field, Edward, and Hugh—ten
children out of fourteen are still living.
After I made the visit to see my folks, I went from the head of Guadalupe to the
head of Bullhead Creek, then on to the mouth of Bullhead to Vance, on down the east
Nueces to within a mile of Barksdale, then I turned west and went through a low gap in
the mountains where the Rock Springs and Barksdale road is now (but there wasn’t any
road there then and not much of a trail). After I got through the gap, I struck the
road that went up the Pulliam Prong of the Nueces River, then on up to where Pete
I had come to see Mr. Wallace’s step-daughter. I stayed there a few days and helped
Mr. Wallace make molasses; he was just starting on the job and I helped him until it
was finished. Before I got ready to start home I told him that his step-daughter and
I were planning to get married and asked if he had any objections. He said that he
hadn’t, so on Oct. 2, 1881, Miss Mary Thompson and I were married. We stayed with
Mr. Wallace’s family about two weeks after our wedding, then went back to Hamrick’s.
We stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Hamrick for a few days, and I traded for a little piece
of land across the river from Hamrick’s on the north side of North Llano, about one
mile above the mouth of Copress Creek. This piece of land had been preempted by a
man named Balcum, and I bought his claim. It didn’t have any improvements on it, so
Mr. Balcum loaned me a tent, and we moved on to the place. Then I went to work to
improve it. I first built a cow pen, then went to work putting up a log cabin. I put the
wall up, made boards and covered it, and made a chimney for it. I had it fixed up very
well except for the floor.
Then we made a visit to my wife’s people in Nueces Canyon, and they wanted us to
move to the canyon. It was in February, and the grass was so pretty and green in the
canyon, and everything looked so good that we decided to move if we could sell our
place. After we returned home it wasn’t but a few days until a young man by the name
of Grab Hamilton came along and offered me a very good price for the place. So I sold
it to him, and as I went to town to fix up the deed and give Hamilton a title to the
place, I saw another man who wanted to buy it, but I told him that it was too late.
Moving to Nueces Canyon
We moved in the spring of 1882 to Nueces Canyon, and I settled on some school land
close to the headwaters of the Pulliam Prong of the Nueces River in Edwards County. I
am still living on the place and own two and one-quarter sections of land. I have it
stocked with Angora Goats.
When I came here my stock consisted of sixty or seventy head of cattle. I stayed in
the cattle business until about twenty years ago. Then the country was getting settled
up, and everybody began to fence, and there wasn’t anymore free range. Besides, the
range was getting worn out so that my cattle didn’t do well, and the charbon killed so
many of them that I decided to sell them and try the goat business.
After my wife and I moved to this place we had five children born to us—two girls and
three boys. The two oldest were girls, Belle and Delia. Belle died when she was a
little over two years old. Delia is still living and married to R.T. Craig. They have six
children—two boys and four girls. My boys names are Jim, Bunk, and Dan. Dan was our
baby; he has been dead about six years. He left a wife and a baby girl. Jim’s wife has
been dead about five years; he has a girl about sixteen years old. Jim and his
daughter live with my wife and I. Bunk and his wife live at Camp Wood, Texas. They
haven’t any children.
When I moved for North Llano to Nueces Canyon in 1882 and settled on the Pulliam
Prong of the Nueces, there was just one family lived on the river above where I was
located. It was on the edge of the settlement. The county was just being organized,
and Edwards County was quite large then, almost a territory.
There was a lot of wild game of different kinds in the hills. There were more turkeys
than I ever saw anywhere except on the Llano. I think that there were more turkeys
on the Llano, but there were plenty, for sometimes they would roost so close to the
house that I could stand in the yard and shoot them. The last turkey I killed before I
was disabled, I sat on my porch and shot it. There were deer everywhere, and the
hills were full of bears.
In the fall of 1886 my wife and I went down the river two or three miles and stayed
all night with her mother. As we came home the next morning, we were going through a
bottom, and when we got within about three hundred yards of the house, our dogs ran
on ahead and began to bark very viciously. I galloped up to where they were, and
behold, they had two little cubs up a tree, and the old bear was trying to fight the
dogs off. When she saw me she ran across the road ahead of me. I was riding a wild
pony and was afraid to jump down and shoot, so I jerked my gun out of the scabbard
and fired one shot at the old bear, hitting her in the hind leg. The dogs ran on after
the old bear, so I just shot the little cubs out of the tree, jumped on my horse and
galloped up the river about a half mile to where Dr. Whitehurst lived. Drew Davis, Doc’
s step-son, was there and I told him that my dogs were after a bear. So he took his
dogs and followed them and killed the old bear. I had just gotten up from a spell of
fever, so I didn’t feel like running over the mountains after a bear, so I went back and
skinned the two little cubs. The old bear had killed two of our hogs, a sow that
weighed about two hundred pounds, and a big shout, and had dragged them up between
a large hackberry tree and a little pecan. I just left them there, and both of the
trees died, and the bark peeled off just like they had been burnt,
On another occasion I was out in the cow pen milking one morning when I heard Pete
Wallace’s dogs barking down the river about one mile below where we lived. I soon
discovered that they were coming up the river, so I just kept watching on the mountain
east of the house, and in a few minutes I saw a big bear running on the mountain about
six hundred yards from the house. I ran to the house and got my gun, took my dogs
and ran after the bear. The dogs caught up with the bear about a half-mile from
where I first saw it. I ran up within about thirty steps of the bear and shot at it
three times, and I don’t think I even touched it. If I did, it didn’t seem to hurt it, so
it came down out of the tree and ran off. I have heard of men having buck ague when
they started to shoot a deer. I think that I had bear ague or I would have killed that
Fillmore Wallace lived about one mile down the river from me. I was going over on
Cedar Creek one morning and went by his place. When I got down there, I heard his
dogs running up a draw the way I was going, so I galloped on after them and caught up
with Fillmore. He told me that a bear had gotten into his pen that night and caught
one of his hogs. He had shot the bear and his dogs were running it, so I joined in the
chase. As he was afoot, I soon got some distance ahead of him. The dogs stopped the
bear about a mile from where I caught up with Fillmore and were baying it right in
front of a cave. I ran up to where I could shoot at it and aimed to shoot it in the top
of the neck, but it was moving and I hit it in the top of the shoulders, but didn’t kill it
and it ran into the cave.
We either had to let it go or go into the cave after it, so Fillmore said that he would
go home and get a lantern so that we could go into the cave. When he got back we
lighted the lantern and went in. We had to crawl in, for it was small at the entrance,
then widened out, after we got in a short distance, and we could stand up by stooping a
little. The bear was lying behind a rock in the back part of the cave with his nose
turned up; he was so near dead that he couldn’t get up, but we didn’t know it. Fillmore
said that he could shoot him in the head, but I told him that I was afraid that he
would shoot him in the nose, but he insisted that he could hit him in the head. So I
moved to one side and told him to cut down on the bear, so he shot and hit the bear in
the nose, and the shot put the lantern out. And of all of the kicking and moaning that
bear did ---with us in there in the dark. We looked around and saw a little light spot
at the entrance, and we weren’t long in getting out.
We had to go back home to get something with which to make another light before we
could go back into the cave, and I went that time. When I got back we fixed the light
and went into the cave again. The bear had kicked around until he had gotten down into
the big part of the cave and was lying stretched out on his side, still alive. So I shot
him in the head and killed him, then we dragged him out and skinned him. He was a
large bear but was poor, and his meat wasn’t very good; I never did like poor meat.
The first bear I helped kill, Fillmore Wallace, his father, and I went up the left hand
draw of the Pulliam Prong of the Nueces about four miles above my place where there
were some bears using a big thicket. We got to the thicket about sun up and started
through the thicket, and the dogs ran through it as fast as they could go, barking at
every jump. There was a good trail through the thicket, and Fillmore and I had a race
through it and up the mountain for about a half-mile. When we got to the top of the
mountain, we heard the dogs bay the bear off down in a rough hollow. So we quit our
horses and ran down the mountain, and when we got within sixty or seventy yards of
the bear, it saw us, as it was in a tree, and began to come down. I shot at it but
missed, and the dogs ran it about 150 yards and treed it again. We ran up to the tree
and Fillmore told me to wait and let him shoot first, as I had already shot at it once,
so I waited until he shot and the bear didn’t come down, then I walked up under the
tree and shot the bear in the head, and it fell out dead. This was a young bear and
was fat and fine eating. Mr. Wallace brought our horses on down the mountain and we
soon had the bear skinned and were ready to start home.
About noon on Sept. 23, 1894, I was waiting on Jim Thompson, my wife’s brother, who
was sick with typhoid fever. I was sitting on the side of his bed with my back to him
when he had a delirious spell. He had a knife in his pocket and said that he wanted a
nail with which to pick his fingers, so someone gave him a nail, not knowing, or even
thinking about what he wanted to do. He took the nail, put it under the cover and
opened the knife, then handed the nail to me. I took it and laid it on the bedpost ---
it was an old homemade bedstead with the posts sawed off square ---and after I laid
the nail down, I turned my head and he struck me in the right side of my neck with his
knife. I fell off the bed face foremost, completely paralyzed. I couldn’t move a thing
except my head. I could hear and see everything and could talk, and knew everything
that was going on, but I couldn’t move even one finger or toe.
Before he struck me with the knife, when he wasn’t having one of those delirious
spells, he was so weak that he couldn’t sit up, but when he had a spell, it took about
three to hold him in bed. After that he made all sorts of foolish talk, and kept it up
until he died two days later, about one o’clock on the 25th. I hope and trust that the
good Lord forgave him.
It has been over thirty-two years since this misfortune happened to me, but by the
grace of God and the help of my good wife, we have been able to live and raise all of
our children except our oldest little girl. God saw fit to take her away from us while
she was so young. It grieved us so much to have to give her up, but I hope by the
grace of God to meet her in heaven with our dear baby boy, Dan, where there will be
no more parting in a world without end; where we can praise the Lord forever.
I haven’t been able to walk without crutches since I was struck down and haven’t been
able to work any. If I happen to fall down, I can’t get up without help, but I thank
the Lord that I have had good health. I have been sick only a very few times in the
thirty-two years. The sickest I have been was from being poisoned in the spring of
1910. My wife and I, Jim and Della, and her two boys drank some milk for dinner, and
we all got sick that night about the same time, and we were surely sick, let me tell
you. The doctor said that it was the milk that poisoned us, but he couldn’t tell what
caused the poison in the milk. There were ten who ate dinner with us, but only those
who drank the milk became sick.
My dear wife has had several bad spells of sickness in the last thirty years and isn’t
in very good health at present, although she has been able to keep house most of the
time and wait on me.
At the time I was disabled I was entirely out of debt, had about sixty dollars in cash,
about one hundred head of cattle, and ten head of horses. The saddle horses were
worth about twenty-five dollars per head and the stock horses, about ten dollars per
head. The cattle were worth about five dollars per head.
In the spring of 1894 I sold Al Hayley sixteen god young cows at eight dollars per
head, and he delivered them to the Dragoo ranch about sixteen miles north of
Rocksprings on the draws of South Llano. This shows that cattle were down very cheap
at that time.
I didn’t get enough out of my cattle to support my family, so I had to work at
something else. Sometimes I sheared sheep in the spring and fall. I usually ran a
shearing crew, but we did all of our shearing with hand shears. That was before
shearing machines were introduced in this part of the country. Sometimes I would have
a crew of twenty men. I sheared some in Nueces Canyon, on the divide around Rock
Springs, and up in Sutton County around Senora.
In the fall of 1893 Jim Pope got up a shearing crew to work up in the Senora country
and offered me the job of running the grub wagon and boarding the shearing crew; so I
went with him and took my family and mother-in-law. My wife and her mother did the
cooking and I sheared with the crew. We got five cents per head for shearing, and I
boarded the hands for thirty-three and one third cents per day.
We were gone on this trip a month, and we cleared one hundred dollars in cash and
about twenty-five dollars in grub. That was good wages in those days, but at this time
if we were to start out to board a crew of twenty men, we would charge one dollar per
day. And at that price, I would expect to make very little, for everything is three or
four times as high as it was at that time.
In the spring of 1894, I got a shearing crew myself and went back up in Sutton County
and worked. I took my family and boarded the hands, and my wife and her mother did
the cooking. We still boarded the hands for thirty-three and one third cents per day.
We had twenty hands. We got five cents per head for shearing, and I got 1/4c per
head for bossing the job. This little per cent amounted to two dollars and a half for
every thousand sheep we sheared.
We commenced shearing for O.T. Wood, ten miles south of Senora, on February 26,
1894. I think he had, or claimed, about ten thousand sheep, and we sheared two
hundred sacks of wool. When we finished shearing for O.T. Wood, we went east to
Corthorn’s and sheared for them. I don’t remember just how many sheep they claimed,
but it took us some time to get through.
When we left there we went on east to the Edwards ranch, but as it had taken us so
long to get there, a Mexican crew had beaten us to it, so we came on home as the
shearing season was about over and the boys were getting tired; anyway some of them
were wanting to quit.
The shearing crew had jolly times when out on these trips. Sometimes there would be
someone in the crowd who would make a speech just before going to bed. Wiley Adams
was our best orator. It seemed as though he enjoyed making a little talk as well as
the others enjoyed listening to him. I believe that I would enjoy a trip like that now if
I were able to work, but I know that I am too old and couldn’t do the work even if I
were not disabled. This was my last job of sheep shearing.
I’ll try to tell a little of my farming experience at this place. I had only about ten
acres under cultivation, so I farmed very little; but I managed to raise what feed I
needed, and I had a good garden, for I was able to irrigate part of my land. I also
raised more sweet potatoes than I could use, and I sold them for fifty cents a bushel
at the patch and hauled some to Rocksprings and sold them for sixty and sixty-five
cents per bushel.
I also had a nice peach orchard of about one hundred bearing trees. Some years they
would be loaded down with peaches, and there would be more that I could do anything
with. As Rocksprings was the only market for them, I hauled what I could there and
sold them for one dollar per bushel. I gave my neighbors peaches by the sack full, and
then bushels of them would rot in the orchard.
Since I have been disabled and haven’t been able to take care of my orchard, the old
trees have all died and fallen down. There isn’t a tree left now in the orchard.
The first winter after I moved to this place, my cattle would go up out of the draws
and up on the divide, so I would go out once or twice a week and round them back. I
went out on the divide the day before Christmas Eve, and as I was coming in down a
very rough hollow, which I had never been in, and was looking at the bluffs and caves
along the draw, I looked up under a cliff and saw some honey comb hanging down on the
rocks. I rode over close to the bluff and examined it; the rock extended out like a
porch and the bees had built under there in a hole about the size of a half barrel, and
had filled the hole full of honey and built down on the outside.
I came in and told Mr. Wallace and Filmore of finding the bee cave, and we went next
day to rob it. We carried three big water buckets to put the honey in. When we got
to the cave, all we had to do to rob it was pile some brush up to stand on while we cut
the honey down. We soon filled our buckets but got only what was hanging down below
the hole. As this was Christmas Eve, we waited until the day after Christmas to finish
robbing the cave. We took three buckets again and soon got them filled and still hadn’t
gotten all of the honey. So we came in, then went back the next day with the three
buckets and got two of them full---eight buckets full of sealed comb honey, and it was
as fine as any I ever ate.
County Seat Changed to Rocksprings
Leakey was the county-seat of Edwards County when it was first organized. Ira
Wheat was sheriff. Almost everybody had to attend court. And as Leakey was a small
place with one store, a saloon, a blacksmith shop, and probably a dozen dwellings, and
one hotel, there weren’t sufficient accommodations to take care of the people. So most
of them had to camp. At night we would see campfires in every direction so that it
appeared like a good-sized town. Sometimes court would last two or three weeks. The
county-seat was kept as Leakey for seven or eight years, or longer.
Uncle Bobbie Sweeten and Rube Stewart drilled a well at Rocksprings, and Uncle Bobbie
secured the land and laid off a townsite. He gave away some lots and sold other lots
for almost nothing, and Mr. Stewart put up a little hotel. So they started Rocksprings
to building and also boosted it for the county-seat of Edwards County. Several business
houses were put up and several dwellings, and it soon got to be a nice little town. The
stockmen were having wells drilled all around and starting new ranches. And as
Rocksprings was near the center of the county, and election was ordered and the
people voted the county-seat to be changed to Rocksprings. Even after the county-seat
was moved there, people attending court still had to camp, because Mr. Stewart’s
hotel was not large enough to accommodate all of them. So after night we could see
campfires almost everywhere within a half-mile of town, and some further away.
Visiting in New Mexico
I am a native of Texas and have been out of the state only twice.
I went to Hot Springs, New Mexico, in September 1913, and stayed there three
weeks. I also visited my two brothers, Henry and Lum and their families, living east of
Engle about twenty-five miles. I stayed in that country about two months, then went
to Arizona to visit our daughter, Mrs. R.T. Craig, who lived on the Blue River.
We passed through Luna Valley, a little Mormon town, just a little while before we
started down the mountain into the canyon on the Blue River. That mountain was so
steep that they had to cut trees down and tie to the wagons to keep the wagons from
running down on the horses. We were gone on this trip three months.
My wife, Jim, our oldest son, and I made another visit to New Mexico in 1929. We
visited my brothers again and went to Sulphur Springs about eighty five miles
northwest of Albuquerque. We stayed at these springs twelve days. I saw some
beautiful mountain scenery while there. We got to the springs on the sixteenth day of
June. It frosted while we were there.
We came back to Albuquerque and stayed two weeks, then returned to the J.H. Wood
ranch and started from there for home on July 20, 1929, arriving home July 22nd.
I’ll try to write a few more lines before I close. I am past seventy years old now. The
sixth of January was my birthday; this is February 15, 1927.
I have been a member of the Methodist Church for about thirty years and am trusting
in the Lord as my Savior. He has blessed me all through my affliction and has given me
abiding faith in His Word, and the best of health, although I am disabled. I look to
Jesus for all things and hope to be counted among the blessed in heaven.
Somebody near you is struggling alone
Over life’s desert sand;
Faith, hope, and courage together are gone;
Reach him a helping hand.
Turn on his darkness a abeam of your light;
Kindle to guide him a beacon fore bright;
Cheer his discouragement; sooth his affright;
Lovingly help him to stand.
Somebody near you is hungry and cold,
Send him some aid today.
Somebody near you us feeble and old,
Left without human stay.
Under his burdens put hand kind and strong;
Speak to him tenderly; sing him a song;
Haste to do something to help him along
Over his weary way.
‘Tis not the World, ‘Tis you
When life seems full of trouble and the world seems upside down,
And the smile that you have carried has changed into a frown;
If you but take thought a moment, you will find what I say true;
‘Tis not the world that needs adjusting, my dear friend, it’s you.
When the victuals they are tasteless and the coffee too strong or weak;
When you start fault-finding---trouble with the world you seek.
Pause a moment---stop and reason---take of life a broader view,
For it’s not the world that needs changing, my dear friend, it’s you.
When you feel sad and down hearted, rise up and make another try.
Just remember the sun is shining, though the clouds obscure the sky.
This life of ours is what we make it---we’re repaid for all we do.
So with the world be not fault finding when the trouble lies with you.
I started writing this November 30, 1926, and this is March 13, 1931
James Thomas Wood