know how things used to work in rural Texas. In the 1930s and 40s
I spent a lot of time at Pollok
in Angelina County.
There were places that were only known by descriptive names. Here
are a few: family names were used like roads named Fenley Flat and
Edwards Loop instead of numbers like they are now. Other locations
used place names like The River Bottom (Angelina River at the one
easy access road. If you said you are going Across The River (Neches)
that would be to buy alcohol and drink in a wet County. If you had
fish to sell you would go to The Sawmill (Keltys was a company town).
That was all changed on July 1, 1963 when the whole country was
assigned Zip Code numbers based partly on local reasons. With past
ghostly events in Hays
County, it accepted the zip code of 78666 as recognition of
it's history. I am not trying to settle which came first the chicken
or the egg but Devil's Backbone Road existed long before the Zip
In the fall of 1963 - it was deer hunting season in Hays
County. Four of us hunting on the D Ranch decided to stop for
a beer on Ranch Road 32 otherwise known as the Devils Backbone.
The name is partly because the road follows a local mountain chain.
What happened during this time frame was very much like a step back
into the then popular TV show of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone.
Beginning at Ranch to Market Road 12 (RM12) in Wimberley,
Ranch Road 32 travels west to US281 south of Blanco.
I think most Texans know of it. The highway known as Devils Backbone
is only 24 miles long.
I have written about Roadside
Mile Marker 666 on I-10. Purgatory Road and Devil's Backbone
intersection are near the west and north boundaries of zip 78666.
Purgatory is also a place believed by some religions after death
to purify the soul.
For about 15 years or more, Don invited friends to gather a few
times a year for a week or a week-end at D Ranch we would renew
our comradeship with hunting, shooting pool and playing poker and
chainsaw cutting cedar while drinking beer. We also told all our
best old stories, one more time, just so we didn't forget how to
tell them. We brought our rifles and other shooting irons to accompany
us into the deer stands that we had built over many years. Have
you ever heard the song that says a pistol is the devils right hand?
Naturally some of our time was spent trying to kill a deer. Most
of our time was spent doing what we called - BEING TEXAN.
On this particular November 1963 visit, all week end football telecasts
were cancelled because of a Dallas
event. Football telecasts were a big part of our entertainment at
the ranch. That being the case four of us decided this would be
a good time to ride the Devils Backbone Road. We had heard of awesome
views from this road built on a mountain ridge.
Photo courtesy Ken
Rudine, May 2017
| The road is
not Rocky Mountain high at 1250 feet elevation, but we were higher
than the ground around us. The Devils Backbone Tavern eventually appeared
in front us and our thirst helped us decide to stop. The Tavern is
on the south side of the road near the Hays
County line. The four of us walked in and went to the small end
of the "L" shaped bar. In the vernacular it is what we call the gunfighters
seats. That means seats positioned so that when someone comes in the
door, you can see who is coming in and judge his attitude. The long
part of the bar seats your backside facing the door.
The Barkeeper came over to our small section of bar and said, "I won't
serve you in these seats, you will have to move.'" We thought - Well,
what the hell? He said something to the effect those seats are reserved
for men who are dead now but when occupied by others it causes changes
to occur in this place. He said that the customers here change and
begin to act belligerent. The images on that wall (he motioned - behind
the long bar) sometimes move. Just take a seat at one of the tables
over there. Puzzled - Our thirst encouraged us to do as he said and
As he recited that story we thought it was according to some legend.
Or maybe the driver misjudged a curve killing all of them on their
way here for their usual visit. None of us were aware of the mysterious
stories from this areas past.
We discussed our belief of what we thought we heard. When finished
with our beers we instinctively looked over our shoulders behind us
and then walked out the door. We got in our car and left. I don't
remember any of us discussing this happening that day or all the years
that have passed since.
Tavern end of long bar and missing short bar
Photo courtesy Ken
Rudine, October 2017
| Now fast forward
54 years to 2017. It is time for my old hunting buddy, Gene, and I
to meet to swap stories of our original trip to the Devils Backbone
Tavern. While we waited I asked the lady bartender to tell me about
the ghost stories that have been written about this place. She would
only say - they vary, and walked away.
Gene arrived and we renewed our old acquaintances, and drank our beers.
I shared my remembrances of the original trip here and he agreed he
remembered that day. Gene read the notes that I had written and his
attention was really pulled in when he remembered we were in the gunfighter's
seats back then. That old west expression helps you realize it's the
ghosts of the gunfighters who haunt this tavern. They get upset when
other people sit in their seats. You bet that is Trouble spelled with
a capital T. The expression I use in situations like this is -- people
begin to be hombres - bad hombres. Experience tells you don't mess
around with these men whether they are present or their ghosts from
Gene and I have always been friends but have not necessarily always
agreed. At times we could be like two desperados waiting on a train.
This time Gene said I really hit the nail on the head about the chill
that we felt when the thought about four ghosts were on our tails.
He recalled the gunfighter's seat means facing the door and only having
to shift your eyes to know if trouble just walked in the door.
Now that small section of the bar is no where in the room. Over the
years this was probably someone's idea of how to eliminate others
from sitting in that reserved position. Gene and I witnessed nothing
of a ghostly nature in 1963 or now in 2017. That does not affect our
belief in the past claims made here or other claims now of the dead
interacting with the living as described in my story
of Seul Choix Point, MI.
December 2, 2017 Column