some day a scuba diver will find the old bent rifle barrel at the bottom of Lake
Travis. Itís bound to be there somewhere, resting in the sediment in the vicinity
of Hudson Bend.|
When Wiley Hudson came to Travis County in 1854, settling
above Austin in a bend of the Colorado
River that came to bear his familyís name, no one would have considered doing
so without a good rifle close at hand. The state capital lay a dayís wagon ride
downstream, but hostile Indians still preyed on the area.
Six years after
Hudson built his cabin on the river west of Austin,
a federal census enumerator listed Hudson and his wife Catherine as having eight
children. Hudsonís father and two brothers also lived along the bend. All of the
Hudson clan got by as farmer-ranchers, though when the Civil War broke out, the
Hudson boys shouldered arms for the Confederacy.
After the war, the Hudsons
returned to the Colorado, enduring droughts and floods as they made their living
off the land.
On almost any farm in early day Texas, corn figured as an
important crop. The Hudsons and their fellow settlers carried the corn by wagon
to Anderson Mill, where the yellow kernels could be ground into meal and eventually
transformed into cornbread.
By the time Hudson had grandchildren, the
families living in the hills west of Austin no longer feared raiding Comanches.
But well into the 20th century, a rifle still hung above every mantle. And a Texan
learned how to shoot early.
One day in the 1930s, one of the Hudson grandsons
busied himself plunking a single-shot .22 around his familyís riverside homestead.
Wearying of the hornetís buzz of speeding bullets, the grandpa told the boy to
be careful where he aimed. He especially cautioned him against shooting around
the mules. The animals, hitched to a wagon full of corn, had a deserved reputation
But boys being boys, the youngster kept the lead flying.
When a bullet whistled past the long ear of one of Hudsonís mules, both animals
jumped straight into the air and came down going in opposite directions.
Recovering enough to pull together, the mules ran wildly, pulling the corn-laden
wagon behind them. The team ran through a gate, catching the wagon behind them.
That broke the gate and wrecked the wagon, covering the ground with mounds of
Seeing the consequences of his disregarded warning, the elder Hudson
came flying out of the house after his errant grandson.
Grabbing the bolt-action
rifle from the boy, the old man smashed it into the closest pecan, wrapping the
barrel around the sturdy tree.
Unreconstructed, the young man picked
up the .22 and smarted off: ďNow I can shoot around corners!Ē
Hudson retrieved the rifle and hurled it out into the river.
A few years
later, the newly created Lower Colorado River Authority began buying land along
the river in anticipation of building a large flood control dam. With the completion
of Mansfield Dam in 1940 and the filling of Lake Travis, about half the original
Hudson acreage flooded. Remains were exhumed from the old family cemetery and
relocated at Teck, just off present Ranch Road 620.
The area around the
new community of Hudson Bend has boomed, with subdivisions and expensive homes
covering much of the old farm and ranch land. And somewhere out there in the lake
is a rifle barrel with a story.