Texas Bob Travels

Life in the Glass Mountains of Texas

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War In Mexico

During this time civil war was raging in Mexico. Their fight concerned organized labor. Carranza succeeded in having Article 123 of the Constitution of 1917 written. It was the most liberal labor code ever written. Villa Carranza, Rodrigues Ranierez. and Madero were some of the outstanding leaders of the various clans. They often fought near the border and the losing side would jump into the Rio Grande and slip on to Texas soil. At such times Marathon, Marfa, Alpine and other small towns and ranches were over run with peons begging for a crust of bread. Mothers carrying babies, old men, old women, children and fighters swarmed the streets looking for food and shelter. During one battle so many refugees came over that the officials had to round them up and place them in stockades in El Paso. Their donkeys were collected and auctioned. The City of New York bought them for their parks.

One could gladly get the promise of work in return for lodging but most of the peons were very illiterate and could be used with little satisfaction.

They had little knowledge of how to live in a house. The open fire had always served as their means of cooking. Some baked in outside ovens. They washed their clothes in the river, when they were washed. We took one such family into our services and thought we would live to regret the day. The Mexican woman and her small boy lived in a tent in our back yard in Marathon. Father took the man to the ranch to help him with small jobs. He was sickly and unable to do heavy work. The woman knew almost nothing of house work and did not speak English. This crazy woman, we decided that was really her state, thought water would kill her little boy and refused to let him drink. He was thin and sickly, as you might suspect. I saw him catch his mother with her back turned and drink a chicken pan of: water before she turned and caught him. She almost beat the tar out of him, but not the chicken water. Another day Mother was doing some baking and left the kitchen for a few minutes. Soon she heard the stove open and close and entered the kitchen just in time to see the little fellow make his exit with his hands full of hot biscuits.

Severro and Sippopa remained with us until we left that section of the country. Severro was a faithful servant but Sippopa was never to be trusted. Father missed the eggs from all of the setting hens and asked Severro about them The light dawned on him and he said, "Maybe me old woman she taka. We gotta mucho chickens in camp". Sure enough she did and only a few hens of her own to lay eggs.

Sometime after the war in Mexico started Father brought home as orphan boy, who had been run across the border in one of the raids. Mr. French had him at his store and asked father if he wouldn't give him a home. He was a natural artist. He entertained the family after our evening meal by drawing pictures on my large blackboard. He taught me to play ball. Often times this lad, Mother, Father, the hired men and I had a game of hide-and-go-seek, brick-yard-up or some other game. Father, who spoke Spanish freely, listened in on a ball game where Severro's boy, this lad and I were playing. After a few minutes Father called me aside and asked me if I knew what I was saying. I said "Oh, yes, I am learning to talk Mexican". Sure enough I was a full vocabulary of curse words.

For several years life along the Texas Border continued to be uncertain. Bands of raiders often crossed the Rio Grande and killed those with whom they came in contact and took their stock back to Mexico. Being saturated from day to day .with tales of death and destruction make an imprint upon my life that I have never been able to shake off. I saved our lives by locking a door, one time, so I still lock doors.

I boarded in Alpine with Mrs. Albert Starr, to attend school one year. While I was there I had several scares. Mrs. Starr had a large rooming house located in the heart of town. The outside walls extended to the side walk. Soldiers often guarded the front of the building as the Army had a large store room there. The upstairs was used for apartments and bed rooms. Mrs. Starr, her two small children and I were the only down stair occupants. One night the lights went out suddenly. Mrs. Starr grabbed the babies and we ran like mad through the night to a nearby neighbor. The man returned and found a blown fuse. I cite this incident to point out how tensely women and children lived.

I had a dear friend, Mary Livingston, who lived not too far from Mrs. Star. Mr. Livingston was the undertaker and grew his own flowers, fruits and vegetables. One afternoon he called Mary and me into the garden and had a fatherly talk with us, trying not to unduly frighten us. He explained how Mexicans could run across the border and raid Alpine. He led us to a deep ditch between the rows in his garden and told us, if the Mexicans should come, to hide in this ditch.

The town of Alpine was thrown into an uproar one night by a killing. We were at a show as Mother, Father, Scott had come in from the ranch, to spend the night. Suddenly someone jumped up in the show and screamed. People went into a panic. They thought the Mexicans were raiding the town. Mothers and fathers were trying to get to the front to get their children, while others were climbing over seats to get out.

I was sitting on the front seat with my friend Holland Spannell and we were about the last to be rescued. On getting out of the show we learned that Mrs. Spannell had been killed. I shall never forget the feeling I had as I stood holding the hand of my little friend and listening to excited voices tell how her father had shot and killed her mother and a soldier, while the three of them were out driving. Some of the Holland relatives came for her and we went home but not to sleep. The town was electrified. The soldiers turned the town upside down searching for Mr. Spannell, but no serious mishap came of the episode.

A rider from the mountains nearer the border came rushing into Alpine one day with the sad news of the death of two people on a ranch near Columbus, New Mexico. The dead lady was the sister of one of the roomers at Mrs. Starr's house. They had been killed by raiders while milking, and had been dead several days before they were discovered.

Another time the fiendish bands slipped across the Rio Grande and committed an offense which shall stand out in history as long as the world swings in its orbit. This raid was carried on at Glenn Springs [8], McKinney Springs, and Boquillas in 1916, by Mexican outlaws. On May 5, 1916 a band of Mexican outlaws, both Villistas and Carranziastas, led by Rodrigues Ramierez, raided Glenn Springs. He recruited more men, until he had some of the most fierce outlaws of Mexico. Some of the bandits crossed the river near San Vincente and separated, pert of them going to raid Glenn Springs and others to Boquillas to rob Deemer's store.

The outlaws made an attack on Glenn Springs about eleven o'clock in the morning. To withstand the attack

There were nine men of the 14th Cavalry (under the command of Sergeant Ellis), C. G. Compton, his small daughter, his son of four, and a deaf and dumb son a few years older. All of the buildings were covered with sheet iron and covered with candililla weed to keep down the heat. There was a small factory there where wax was made from the candililla plant.

When the Mexicans came into town, they stopped at Compton's home and asked if soldiers were in town. Compton, who was a clerk in the store, answered in the negative hoping the Mexicans would go and be caught off guard. Mr. Compton hurridly (sic) carried his daughter to the home of a faithful Mexican family for safe keeping. He left his two sons at his home until he could return and get them. During the fight, the four-year old child stuck his head out the door and was killed. All during the fight cries from the outlaws could be heard that verified that members of both cliques in Mexico were present. "Viva Carranza" and "Viva Villa" rang through the air. The Mexicans came all prepared to carry off the loot gained from the store, as they had wagons and pack animals with them.

The soldiers fought bravely but their number was too few to hold out against the Mexican group. The battle continued until about two in the morning, when the Mexicans set fire to the building by throwing balls of fire into the inflammable candillila weeds on the roof. The solders were forced to run for their lives. Cohen was killed while going through a window. Cole was killed about fifty yards away. Roger met his fate some hundred yards from the house, but he killed a Mexican before he went down. When the roof of the house fell in, three soldiers were painfully burned. From the pools of blood about the place we surmised that several Mexicans must have been wounded.

The party or raiders that went to Boquillas ramsacked Deemer's store at the same time as the Glenn Springs raid. These outlaws took Jesse Deemer, owner of the store, Dr. Homer Powers, and Maurice Payne, a negro with them to Mexico. There they raided the Del Carmen Mine and captured all of the Americans employed there. They took the captured provisions and loaded them on a large truck and commanded one of the Americans to drive the truck. Quick thinking on the part or the driver saved them all. The driver drove the truck into a sand bank in a little creek. He told the Mexicans that he could get the truck out, if everyone would push. As soon as the Mexicans put down their guns and began pushing, the Americans over- powered them and took their prisoners to Boquillas. There they turned them over to the authorities. The main body of bandits had fled to El Paso, Chihuahua. They took Jesse Deemer and the Negro along. The latter were unharmed as was ascertained by Colonel Langhorne and the Eighth Cavalry who chased them into Mexico for 163 miles before making a rescue.

As soon as the news of the raids reached the ears of the citizens in Alpine, Marathon, and Marfa cars were loaded with citizens armed with any available weapon and rushed to the scenes of the tragedies.

Quite a few wounded and unwounded Mexicans were captured and returned to the various towns. I can remember seeing the deputy sheriff of Marathon leading four Mexicans about with heavy chains on their feet and hands. Marathon had no jail. The men were chained to trees until they could be sent to Alpine to jail. Most of the raiders resembled some type of animal. They were dirty, haggard and vicious looking. Some of the outstanding criminals of the time drifted into one of the two prominent bands in Mexico during this period. Most of the time these bands, Billistas and Carranzistas, fought against each other. However there were times when they broke up into small groups and went together to raid towns and villages in Texas. The raids in Texas were conducted only for the loot, which they could carry off. They divided it equally and went their separate ways, often to meet each other in battle later. They caught every available horse or burro and packed them with everything from sacks of flour to bolts of material. They thought no more of killing a man than of killing a jack rabbit, who happened to cross their path. I have often wondered if our kind MAKER didn't look down on such cruel scenes and such devastation and wonder if some way some how, the soul had not escaped these fiendish men.

Footnotes:

[8] Martin Donell Kohout, "GLENN SPRINGS RAID," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/jcgdu), accessed August 18, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.


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