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  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Evolving farms
grew to look like small towns

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

Many early-day farms and ranches appeared to be small towns because of all the out-buildings on the premises.

The small additions were added as families grew and when prosperity allowed the expenditure. An original homestead usually consisted of a dugout, half-dugout or small frame dwelling.

This often evolved into basements or root-cellars as homes were enlarged or remodeled. A much-needed addition sometimes came as porches and verandas were added for hot weather relief and shade, a scarce item on the treeless prairie.

Most early homes had an outhouse of some sort depending on the economy of the era. The shanty-types had to be moved from time to time and eventually evolved into well-built, permanent structures provided by the Great Depression era of WPA programs for rural home improvement.

The turn of the century brought drilled water wells with windmills and hand pumps.

Overhead water storage tanks sitting on raised platforms evolved into well-houses when the platforms were enclosed. The common well-house evolved into a wash house with the advent of the washing machine and rendered the wash pot, poke-stick and lye soap obsolete. Wash houses often had hot showers added for the harvest time employees.

Another important structure, the chicken house made hard times better by providing fresh eggs and meat for the table and a source of outside income by selling eggs. Serious chicken-raisers added another brooder house to the property operating incubators or ordering chicks from hatcheries and raising flocks of chickens from scratch.

A smoke house graced the farms of people who processed and cured their own meat. The inside was black with smoke and the rafters hung solid with hams, sides of bacon and other meats. Some smoke houses, like my grandmother's, were built over root cellars where other farm produce was stored. A friend near Higgins had a big smoke house and his pack of greyhounds always lay downwind to enjoy the delicious aroma.

Lack of firewood on the early-day bare prairies sometimes inspired the building of a chip house in which to store cow chips. In later years, firewood, coal and kerosene were stored there. After propane arrived, an electric generator could be housed in the old chip house.

With the advent of sacked feed cubes for livestock, the need for cake houses arose.

Some, like the man we purchased our ranch from, installed a used box-car raised to truck bed height to make loading and unloading easier. We also had a salt house in which to store livestock salt.

No ranch was complete without a saddle house and feed house to store the ranch tack and horse feed. We also have a bunk house built in 1921 to house the single cowboys working on the ranch. From these many small out-buildings we now go to sheds. There were hog sheds, buggy sheds, blacksmith shop, wagon sheds and when automobiles arrived, car sheds.

Now you can see why many farms and ranches resembled small towns when you approached.

Today, a huge metal barn houses all such needs under one roof. Something seems to be missing.


Delbert Trew

"It's All Trew" Column
- May 22, 2006
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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