perfect, but occasionally a good writer manages to arrange the literary building
blocks we call words, sentences and paragraphs in such a way as to surprise and
please the reader.
An excellent example is a 198-word item that appeared
in the Meridian Tribune at some point in 1902 -- the month and day of publication
were not given in a recent reprinting of the piece. While the old
news story raises some unanswered questions, it’s hard to quarrel with the
work of a clever wordsmith.
Interspersed with bracketed reactions readers
likely had to the story 108 years ago, herewith a news snippet not in need of
rewriting or paraphrase:
afternoon as some boys were crossing the pasture belonging to Col. Ramsey Cox,
they came across the dead body of one of Bosque County’s oldest residents.”
my goodness! Who died?]
“The find was at once reported to the proper authorities
and preparations were made to give the poor old fellow a decent burial.”
who died already?]
“He has quite a history, having been raised in this
country since his early youth and has seen service in many bloody battles between
the Indian and the white man.”
[Let’s see…I saw Mr. So-‘n’-so just yesterday.
Couldn’t have been him. Maybe it was old Mr….Or possibly Mr….He looked awful feeble
last week in church.]
“He has been faithful and true to every trust, and
his many friends will grieve to hear of his death.”
[Surely. Now tell
us who died?]
“He took a quite prominent part in the Old Settlers Reunion
at this place a few weeks ago and seemed to enjoy the day as much as anyone present.”
[OK, come to the point. Who from Bosque County went to his maker?]
a late hour in the afternoon sorrowing friends took the corpse up near the hill
commonly known as Hat-Top, dug a grave and consigned to the dust the dead body
of Sunday, that faithful old horse who has served our friend, Col. Buck Barry,
for 40 long years. If we can get a biographical sketch of his life we will give
some to our readers sometime in the future.”
start at the bottom and work back up, James Buckner “Buck” Barry was one
of Texas’ best known frontiersmen. He had ridden as a Texas Ranger, and when he
posed for a photographer in 1853, he unknowingly became the first true Ranger
ever known to have his picture taken. Three years later he came to Bosque County
and spent the rest of his long life there, dying in 1906.
While there’s plenty of information on Barry, his memoir does not mention a horse
saddled with such an unusual name for a steed as Sunday or even make any reference
to having a favorite mount. If the Meridian newspaper ever came up with a “biographical
sketch” of Sunday, it hasn’t come to light.
There’s one likely boo-boo
in the piece, at least as it was reprinted. The Web site www.mountainzone.com
lists 36 high spots in hilly Bosque County, but no prominence called Hat-Top.
That’s probably because whoever transcribed the article mistook Flat Top for Hat
Top. Look at “Fl” just right and it could easily be misread for an “H.”
there are two Flat Tops in the county. One is a mountain that rises 1,178 feet
above sea level 3.4 miles from Walnut
Springs, which is Barry’s old stomping grounds, and the other is a 1,161-foot-above-sea-level
feature located 3.6 miles from Cranfills
Gap. If old Sunday is buried near either location, no reference to a marker
appears on any Bosque County-related Web sites or in books dealing with the county’s
Ramsey Cox was easier to find. In the spring of 1898,
a Waco newspaper
listed him as a traveling freight agent for the Texas Central Railroad. He continued
to move up the management ladder and by 1911 had become assistant general manage
of the line, working out of Waco.
To get back to Barry, he didn’t weigh more than 145 pounds, wore his hair
long and liked to wear buckskin. An old Southerner full of energy and possessing
what one contemporary described as a “militant, decisive bearing,” he was mighty
tough on Indians. Over the years, he gave away scores of captive horses to those
who had lost stock on Indians or Anglo rustlers.
“He could never tolerate
theft, or cowardice, or attacks on the weak, and he believed in upholding the
law, even in the absence of law,” the acquaintance recalled.
his reputation and a pile of official paperwork sent to Washington never resulted
in Barry getting any government compensation for all the horses he’d lost to Indians
over the years. At least he held on to old Sunday.
© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" March
4 , 2010 column