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 Texas : Features : Columns : Lone Star Diary :

Hazel's Whip
or "Freight hauler with a sense of humor"

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery
Recently, I made the observation that not many feature stories were written in the small-town newspapers back in the early 1900s. As fate would have it, after making that remark, I came across several articles in the old Hallettsville Herald that I found to be very interesting, if not downright hilarious.

Take for example the one about a fellow known simply as "Hazel" - back in 1902 it seems he had several adventures that were quite humorous and I would like to share them with you this week. Squire Townsend, a well-known Hallettsville judge, told the story to the paper.

The following article is printed just as it appeared when first published.


Hallettsville Herald - February 6, 1902

"In the early days of Hallettsville before the whistle of the iron horse was heard, and freighting between this place and Port Lavaca and Houston was engaged in extensively," said Squire Townsend while in a reminiscent mood. "There lived a man named Hazel in the northern edge of the county, who engaged in the business.

"Hazel was a big, rough fellow with a streak of humor in his composition and who was one of the most expert men with the bull whip I ever saw. His power was the pride of his comrade freighters.

"I remember an incident that happened in Houston which will illustrate Hazel's deft handling of the whip. Hazel had stopped his team of six mules in front of a hotel and was conversing with a friend. A drummer - one of the first of that profession in Texas - hailing from New York, was standing near by.

"A big horse fly lit on the ear of a mule leader. Hazel, without moving from his lounging attitude, swung his black snake [whip] through the air, nipping the fly from the ear, with the end of the curling lash, without touching the ear.

"The astonished drummer could not believe but what was an accident, and Hazel offered to wager a dollar that he could pin another fly to the drummer's pants and repeat the trick.

"The wager was accepted, a fly caught and pinned to the drummer's pants above the knee. Hazel carefully stepped back the requisite distance and balanced his whip. There was a twinkle in his eye and his friends waited expectantly. Again the lash swished through the air, and mingled with the pistol like clap, came an agonized yell from the drummer that could have been heard half a mile.

"The lash made a keen slit in the fellow's pants and flesh like a knife cut. Hazel paid his wager, but contended that he was due another chance as he had slightly miscalculated the distance. Needless to say the drummer refused.

"The same Hazel had a voice half bass and half tenor. When speaking he would start with the base, and then break into a finer tone which made it sound as if two distinct persons were talking.

"One evening just about dark, while in Houston, and under the influence of liquor, he went out walking. An abandoned well lay in his path, and it was his luck to fall in. The well was just deep enough to make it impossible to climb out.

"He yelled for help and an Irish laborer came along. 'Help me out of here,' called Hazel, his voice breaking from base to tenor. The Irishman turned away in disgust saying, 'Faith there be two of yez, why the devil don't yez help each other out,' and left Hazel in his uncomfortable position."

Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary February 13, 2009 Column
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