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Texas | Columns | "They shoe horses, don't they?"

Country Living in the Mid-1900’s

Chalk Mountain, TX

by Bruce Martin

Growing up in the suburbs of Houston, I looked forward with excitement the opportunity to visit my grandparents “in the country”. They lived along Hwy 67; and, from Houston, it was a six hour auto journey, mostly on Hwy 6.

Our visits were usually during the summer months when we could enjoy the outdoor experiences of rabbit hunting throughout the cedar-breaks, hiking to one of two stock ponds to fish, “help out” with feeding the chickens and gathering eggs, “slopping” the hogs, or just playing in the fields.

Some excursions included going to Glen Rose to swim in that fabulous pool, driving to Mineral Wells (I never acquired a taste for the water from the mineral springs), and going to the Paluxy River to drown worms (we were sometimes lucky and actually caught fish!).

My cousins scratched their names in the soft rock of Chalk Mountain. For whatever reason, I never had the opportunity to autograph the landmark for posterity.

I recall celebrating one Fourth of July, back in the days when one could buy those loud, repeating, colorful fireworks… it seems that the sounds of the booms echoing back from surrounding hills are still ringing in my ears!

For one Christmas trip, I was bundled in blankets in the back of Dad’s ’52 Chevy pick-up truck, along with the suitcases and packages (no room in the cab), observing the light decorations of farms and small towns along the way, and arriving late at night. I tried to imagine how occupants of the rural homes were spending their evening. Granny and Grandpa did not have a Christmas tree, so we went out the next day and cut a three-foot cedar, brought it back to the house, and proceeded to decorate it. We scrounged about a half-dozen ornaments, made bows from ribbons, and made a popcorn string for a garland. In the eyes of many, it was probably pretty pathetic; but, to me, it was pretty grand! That night we slept on pallets on the floor near the old wood-burning stove in the living room.

Grandma cooked meals on a wood-burning stove and oven; she had that down to a science, as I cannot remember eating tastier home-cooked meals and bakery goods. She also had a kettle in which she heated water over an open fire in the back yard for doing laundry. That kettle was also used for making homemade lye soap. We had to haul water by bucket from a neighbor’s well across the highway. The house had electricity, but no plumbing.

Grandpa had a knack for story-telling. There was the one about the old Spanish explorers hiding treasure chests in a cave in one of the mountains located toward Glen Rose, being guarded “to this day” by hoards of rattlesnakes. Then, there was the one about (Spanish explorers, again!) constructing a pig pen from bars of silver somewhere in the hills. And, (yep, you guessed it) Spanish explorers burying bags of gold among the roots of a walnut tree near Walnut Springs.

There was a general store nearby where we could get candy, while the grandparents where shopping for their goods. There was no television; entertainment was provided by radio programming.

The only family names of nearby residents that I can remember are Parham and Underwood.

In their later years, the grandparents relocated to Stephenville, in a house at 515 South Devine, where they continued to raise a few chickens and grow productive vegetable gardens for cooking and canning. Upon graduation from high school, I wanted to live with my grandparents and attend Tarleton College; but, that did not happen.

The parent and grandparent generations have passed to their rewards, but left me with memories that do not fade.

© Bruce Martin
They Shoe Horses, Don't They? February 23 , 2012 Guest column


It's amazing how one article can prompt others to recall their earlier years...

  • I received a letter from Zoritta Jackson, now 91 years old. She and her husband operated a general store and gas station on Hwy 67 in Chalk Mountain until his death in 1998. - Bruce Martin, Leawood, KS, , October 04, 2012

  • Great story! Good website, too. Makes me think of all the stories that disappeared because no one wrote them down. - Nancy Wood, February 26, 2012

  • It made a very interesting article. It seems so much is lost from small towns across the U.S. I won’t say Waco, TX, where I was born, is a small town like Chalk Mountain was, but I have come to realize a lot was lost in Waco back in 1953 or so. A tornado ripped through the downtown area, especially the town square, and today I really can’t identify a lot of the places there. I remember the old buildings and walking around the square as an aunt of mine worked in a bakery there. The old Brazos River bridge is still there, but you can only walk over it now. My aunt drove over that all the years she worked in that bakery. After my folks moved to Fort Worth, I would spend a good portion of my summer in Waco with my grandmother, two aunts and uncles and a cousin. It was a lot of fun that was for sure. My aunt would drive her son and I by the Baylor campus to see the bear mascot they had. I probably couldn’t find my way around that campus now as the university has grown so much. Guess those were my “good old days” and it was fun. - Nancy Howard, February 24, 2012

  • I really enjoyed your article. I didn't know you had roots in what I believe they call the Cross Timbers region--Stephenville, Glen Rose, Granbury, and regions roundabout. The section of the North Texas District of the Assemblies of God takes that name, Cross Timbers Section. We live just north of Alvarado only an hour or so from the sites you describe. We went to the Passion Play in Glen Rose last fall with the senior adults from Crowley Assembly of God ["Crowley Classics", we're called]. Thanks for sharing. - Melvin Surface, February 24, 2012

  • Interesting! I had not heard that term before being used to identify the region... - Bruce Martin

  • Great story. I remember all of that, too.....in central Kansas. Only my grandparents didn't have electricity, nor indoor plumbing. Great memories. - Don Homrighausen, February 23, 2012

  • Ed and I really enjoyed the article. We're impressed with your writing. Ed said he grew up pretty much the same way only in a different part of the country, Homedale, Idaho. His grandparents sound a lot like yours. His grandpa could sure tell the stories, like how they pulled the big Sturgeons out of the Snake River and had to pull them out with a tractor.....Ha. This is the story he used to tell Doug Buchanan and he would laugh and laugh. - Ed and Linda Wolt, February 23, 2012

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