to be, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, some people were born Thankful
and died Thankful. That’s because, way back, parents sometimes named their daughters
Born in 1803, Thankful Rankin later married someone with a more
common given name, William Watson Wharton. Well into middle age, the couple made
their way to the Texas hill country
Thankful and her husband relocated from McNary County in Tennessee
to Kerr County. They bought 640 acres along the old Guadalupe River road between
Kerrville and Center
Point, a route that came to be called Wharton Road.
William and Thankful
gave thanks for their new home and for their three sons, one of whom was William
G. Wharton, born in 1841. Folks called him Bill. Just shy of 21 when the Civil
War broke out, Bill served as a sergeant in Company A of the Mounted Regiment
of Texas State Troops, a unit which functioned as rangers to protect the frontier
from hostile Indians. Whenever he heard the word “thankful” Wharton thought of
his mother, but her sainted name also summarized his position on chewing tobacco,
hound dogs, whiskey and his six-shooter.
Following his discharge from
Confederate duty, he returned to Kerr County to raise cattle and occasionally
serve as a peace officer.
His father died in 1871, occupying one of the
earliest graves in the Wharton Family Cemetery, founded the year before. Thankful
lived another 15 years before joining her husband in the small graveyard.
some point, Bill Wharton’s long, interesting life moved someone to poetry. Whether
that someone was Panhandle artist H.D. Bugbee, who published the poem in 1960,
or whether someone else penned the poem is yet to be discovered.
matter who wrote it, Bugbee featured the poem along with a pen-and-ink sketch
of Wharton in a small booklet printed by Clarendon Press, “Bill Wharton or an
Example of Early Hill Country Diplomacy.” Today the small piece about Wharton,
his propensity to go around heeled and an understanding county sheriff is quite
collectible and quite scarce.|
Though no mention is made in the poem of
the Second Amendment and the right to keep and bear arms it guarantees, old Bill
seems to have been one of those types who didn’t feel properly dressed without
a pistol hanging on his side.
No subtlety in its rhyme, here’s the poem:
Wharton was a cowman in an early Kerrville
He also was a lawman – in a carefree sort of way.
His ranch was
on the Rock Springs road, he lived there with Aunt Lou.
It made an ideal stopping
place for travelers passing through.
For as long as they would visit he
encouraged them to stay;
A sittin’, spittin’ on the porch, the true Bill Wharton
Wherever that old man would go, his hound dogs went there too.
wasn’t anything, he said, “them hound dogs couldn’t do.”
Quite often into
Kerrville he’d come and bring
his wife –
For he loved the Kerrville
liquor and the Kerrville
brand of life.
Then they passed a law in Texas,
guns must not be worn in view,
So deputizing Wharton was the only thing to
It wasn’t aught that he had sought, that badge pinned on his vest,
Twas kind of forced upon him with the taming of the West.
every morning he had donned his pants and gun;
They couldn’t make him give
‘em up, no sir, either one.
He wouldn’t have felt decent without his gun
It was lucky that the sheriff realized that was how Bill felt.
fifty years he wore that gun, no doubt he packs it still –
For if he didn’t
folks would say, “that cain’t be Uncle Bill.”
Wharton died Nov. 3, 1919 and lies buried with his kin folks in the family cemetery.
Whether he was still packing a shooting iron when they lowered him into his grave
is another unanswered question. If so, he doubtless would have invoked his mother’s
© Mike Cox
27, 2008 column
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