Texas Bob Travels

Life in the Glass Mountains of Texas

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Winter in the Mountains

Our first winter nestled in this wonderland was glorious. The earth was dressed in white satin most of the time and the tanks (dirt) were frozen so that the men had to work long hours cutting ice to get stock water. They cut out a square of ice and slid it under the other ice, leaving an opening for the stock to drink. The opening did not remain liquid for long since the temperature was below freezing most of the time. The stock followed the men about begging for a drink as well as for food. Often the earth was covered with snow and ice for a period of a week or more at a time. I remember one percheron horse which came to us from the North. He was very independent about his drinking and employed a trick he learned in early life. He lifted his foot and pounded away at the ice until he succeeded in making a hole through which to get a drink. Mr. O. T. Word had made a special trip to Illinois in 1909 where he bought two fine stallions. The ice cutter was one of the stallions. His companion met his fate in a fall from a high mountain.

My joy knew no bounds when ice cutting time came each day. I always followed my father on his round and skated while he cut ice. I can still almost hear the ringing sound of the cracking ice when I got too near the thin surface. I don't know how I escaped but never once was my doom sealed and an icy dunking my fate. Sometimes we took my brother, Scott,[4] for a ride. He was crippled so Father made a small sled on which to pull him about on the ice and snow. One day Father pulled the sled to the top of a small hill and gave Scott and me a push. As soon as we started coasting down the hill Father realized that we were going to hit a post gave chase. Scott, Father, and I arrived at the post at the same time and had a glorious spill with big papa bear on top no casualties results, three snow men.

Perhaps I should explain something of the water system in the mountains. The rains do not come very often, once or twice a year perchance. I can remember times when the drought lasted much longer. It was very important to catch water during the rainy season, if there be such, and store it for the dry days to follow. Otherwise the stock would have to be removed from the ranch. Since rains most often came in the latter part of the summer, old tanks were reinforced and new ones built to have everything in readiness for the rains. Tanks were made of dirt and rock. Scrapers pulled by horses or mules served as the means for moving the dirt to a desirable location for the dam. Usually a small canyon or bayou was dammed to make the tank. The old were better than the new, as the dirt was packed harder in the bottom and held water better. Stock was often herded in the tank beds to help pack the dirt. Many of the tanks were quite large. They looked like small lakes and were a beautiful sight to behold, after a hot ride through the mountains wondering if you would ever see anything wet again. Father and I often had a thrilling time hunting ducks on "Old White Elephant", one of our favorite tanks.

Water wells were almost unheard of in the Glass Mountains. We had a hand dug well only by the Grace of God and Uncle O. T. Word's determination and liberality. He spent a lot of money drilling here and there trying to strike a good well of water. If my childish memory isn't playing me tricks, I think some of the wells were drilled eight hundred feet or more. The dug well we had happened to run into the only spring known in that part of the country. It was not an ordinary well to us but the fountain of life. People now tell me that water has been found in very deep wells where Uncle O. T. drilled. They have water in abundance where we once longed for a tub full of that essence of life.

Footnotes:

[4] Scott Anderson Witcher b. 1908 d. 1983


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