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

Old blacksmith shop full of stories

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
The Trew Ranch blacksmith shop, a relic of the 1920s, stood for 75 years before a wind storm left it beyond repair. The old hand-mixed concrete foundation and floor served another 30 years before being uprooted by bulldozer.

This unique structure was built in a T shape with the top bar of the T to the west. The site had a slope allowing the bottom of the T pointing east, to be raised above the ground the height of a wagon bed floor. This elevated room was the McMurtry Ranch salt block storage shed holding about a boxcar load of salt blocks.

The top of the T to the west was a long narrow room with double barn doors opening to the south and allowing a wagon to be pushed inside for shelter or repair. The north end of the room contained a blacksmith forge, a coal bin, anvil on a stump, wall-mounted post drill, a workbench, a wall for hanging hand tools and a galvanized tub to hold water to cool the heated iron. Almost any ranch or farm equipment repair could have been managed with this equipment.

The middle of the lower shank of the building sported two open carportlike roofed areas where teams pulling wagons could enter and park them under shelter, be unhooked and driven on to the stable located in another ranch barn. Harness was kept in the stables in a protected room.

The concrete was poured with a mixer filled by men with scoops shoveling creek sand and Portland cement. The concrete forms were made in 4-foot sections for both the foundation and the floor. Walls of the building were made of vertical 1x12 boards with the cracks covered with 1x4 bats. The roof was covered with wooden shingles.

All roof ends of all the ranch buildings were hipped as the thinking was, hipped roofs didn't catch the wind like a gabled roof. The old ranch house was white stucco, had a peaked, tee-pee type roof that was very steep to shed the rain and snow. All roofs were painted charcoal color with other building walls and corrals painted barn red. This old original line camp for the McMurtry Ranch was called Red Camp at one time.

A Rock Island Railroad boxcar sitting on concrete blocks at truck-bed height served as a cake house. The bunk house that housed the old time ranch cowboys for many years is now a guest house. An Eclipse windmill on a wooden tower pumping into a cypress water storage tank, all painted white, provided water for both man and beast. Mr. McMurtry was very proud of this camp at the time we purchased the ranch.

Though the years have taken their toll on the old original structures, repairs and upkeep have kept all in good shape. Although modern in every way today, the ranch still looks almost like it did in the good old days.

I'll bet that old blacksmith shop could have told some mighty good stories if it could have talked.

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" November 25, 2008 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.
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