Interview with Mrs. Hext, of Canadian, TX
May 5, 1932
(Conversation is per letter - Webmaster)
Question: "Tell them about your early life in East Texas."
Answer: "Well, I don’t remember so much about it. I can remember when I was not more than five years old, though. I was born in Young County, in 1863. My father was M. B. Lock, a scout whose place it was to help protect the families from the Indians. There were some "tonks" on the Indian Reservations that were civil toward the white people. When the Indians from away from there came to tonks would act as interprets. They could talk their language, and went so far as to train the wild Indians. When I was five years old we lived on the Brazos River. There Indians were on the other side, and several times they stole my father’s horses and put him afoot. We plowed with oxen. My father got in several fights with the wild Indians, the Comanches, but never was wounded. Some of our friends were though.
Question: "Do you remember where the fights were?"
Answer: "They were down on the Brazos River, not far from where we lived. One was on Ward Mountain, I remember."
Question "Did they have any names?"
Answer: "No, I don’t think so. After an Indian raid, the citizens would just gather and follow the Indians and have a fight wherever they caught them. Sometimes they fought at an old fort."
Question: "What was the name of the fort?"
Answer; "Well, I don’t know what they called it. It was on the Cox bend of the Brazos River. I crossed there about a month ago, but there ain’t no Indians there now. Just filling stations."
Question: "Tell about going to church."
Answer: "We lived about seven miles from the neighborhood where they would have church. About once a month a circuit rider from Parker County would come and preach to us. William Fatcher lived on the Brazos River at Oake Crossing and he would send men up there on Saturday evening with guns and guard us to church. They would ride in front with the Winchesters, and we would ride in a wagon. My father would have his gun, too. So one day we were going to church and we saw the branches shaking at the side of the road. We all stopped right away to watch, but directly we saw it was hogs hunting acorns up there. We were glad of it, because we thought it was Indians and that we were going to have a fight. We children lay in the bottom of the wagon and covered up with a quilt.
Question: "Was your father in the cattle business?"
Answer: "No, he was a farmer, on a small scale; he raised hogs."
Question: "How did you happen to come out to this country?"
Answer: "Oh, our grass got scarce and we had a small bunch of cattle, so we bought them up here, and worked for the J. D’s close to Mobeetie. We wanted to move to a grass country. We came up close to Lefors, but had to leave our cattle on account of quarantine about three miles from where Lefors is. And then we had heard about the Indian Territory going to be opened up, and the run that was going to be made. On the strength of that we went down into Greer County and lived there that winter before the run. I was there, and had three children and we lived in a dug out. I left my children there to go as far as Mobeetie to get groceries, and then I came home by myself. It was about 35 or 40 miles. I had a little Shepherd dog along and I kept him in the wagon with me. About noon, --of course I didn’t have nay way to tell time, had to guess at the sun, --I stopped at a lake and fed my team and ate my lunch. While I was there the antelope come in to water. There were 10 of them not more than 100 yards of me. They weren’t afraid then because men hadn’t started killing them. It took me all day to make the trip. I stopped at a neighbor’s house about three miles from home to spend the night. They had brought the children over there, two boys and 1 girl. I got pretty lonesome going across the Prairie.
Question: "What did the Prairies look like?"
Answer: "They were just all waving grass. The grass was fine. The lakes were full of water then. And then sometimes it would look like waves of water, but you never would get to them. They would disappear when you got close.
Question: "Were there any roads?"
Answer: "Not much. Just a little dim road where a wagon had gone along."
Question: "How high was the grass?"
Answer: "Sometimes high enough to cut for hay around the lakes."
Question: "Tell about your trip out here."
Answer: "My father came out to see me in a wagon and we decided to come across the plains. So we came up, and camped at the 101 Ranch where Panhandle is now. We came along there and camped all night. I forget where we camped the next night, but it was close to Washburn. Then we came through Amarillo. There were not many buildings in Amarillo then. I stopped for groceries, and I think there were two grocery stores there, maybe three, and blacksmith shops, and a few drygoods stores.
Question: "You came out here in 1891, didn’t you?"
Answer: "Yes, 1891. We came right through the Canyon in a wagon, and went down to Tulia. We were down there the Fourth of July and they were celebrating the first year the county was organized. People were from Deaf Smith and other counties, miles and miles, in wagons, on horseback, and in buggies. We had dinner in the courthouse. I remember it was a plank building. From there we went to Deaf Smith County, near Hereford. We made our bed under the wagon at night. We went on back to Lefors.
We were in the big run. I set my stake right where Sayre, Oklahoma is now. But our cattle died out, and we sold the remnants, and didn’t hold the land."
Questions: "Describe the run; tell all about it."
Answer: "There wasn’t much to tell. We all gathered at one place and then we rode on down about three miles from Timber Creek, which was territory then. We all gathered up on a high hill on horses, and a man stood there to give the time; I believe it was 12 o’clock when he fired the pistol to start the run. Everybody went just as fast as the horses could carry them to stake the claims they had picked out before. Men and women staked their claims and got good farms."
Question: "How did they stake off their claims?"
Answer: "Everybody had pieces of pine board tied to their saddles, with their names on it. Two or three would want the same claim and there would be a contention."
Question: "How would they settle that?"
Answer: I don’t know, but some of them didn’t settle very easy. I guess they had to prove who got there first, who had the fastest horse."
Question: Describe Mobeetie."
Answer: "There weren’t many houses there. Old Fort Elliott was there. There were buildings, ammunition buildings and a hospital building. It was a shame all that couldn’t have been there where we were living in dugouts. But the people went there and stole windows and doors. Well, they just went there and took them. I don’t know whether you would call it stealing or not?"
Question "What were the houses built out of?"
Answer: "There were some good plank houses there."
Question: "Any Tents?"
Answer: "Yes, lots of tents. There were blacksmith shops, didn’t have any filling stations then. There weren’t any farms, just little patches. Some new settlers were sodding in row stuff."
Question: "Did most of these people live in dugouts?"
Answer: "yes, and some of the dugouts were mighty nice. They managed some way to get lumber and put in walls, and they partitioned them off and made fireplaces. I went in
Several to look at them to see how I was going to build mine. We built on white gyp rock, I guess it was. The floor was right white and just packed down like cement. You built up your walls and put in your windows, and then put on riders across them, and then gathered willow branches and then put bear grass on like shingles. Bear grass turns water, and when dirt was put on top of that it wouldn’t leak."
Question: "How deep were they?"
Answer: "Oh, if it was a right tall man he would hit his head against it. About five and a half feet I guess. The bedsteads were built into the dugouts, and were made out of sticks and boards. We gathered grass and made straw mattresses."
Question: "When you went to Tulia what kind of supplies did you buy?"
Answer: "Sugar, coffee, flour—you couldn’t get fruit then. But here were lots of wild plums and grapes. I never had learned to put up much fruit, but I learned then."
Question: "What kind of jars did you have?"
Answer "We just used glasses, stone jars, tomato cans. It will keep in tin cans for a year without poisoning. Then we put paper over the top."
Question: "Do you remember anything else about that celebration at Tulia?"
Answer: "They didn’t have any fruit, but had lots of good chicken pie and nice custards. My aunt killed four chickens next day and made a chicken pie in a big dishpan."
Question: "About how many people were there?"
Answer "About 300. I expect some of the old timers could tell you exactly."
Question: "What did they do for celebration?"
Answer: "They had some speaking—I don’t know who—and had a few pony and horse races, sang some, and set around and talked and visited."
Question: "Did they have any tournaments?"
Answer: "No. The cowboys would just play and run their horses for fun, but there wasn’t any prize or purse."
Question: "Did you know anything about buffaloes or buffalo hunters?"
Answer: "I have seen a lot of buffalo. My father, when I was six or seven years old used to come up and hunt buffalo and kill one and bring back the meat to eat."
Question: "Did you ever know any of the hunters."
Answer: "I knew Charlie Goodnight well. My mother and him were good friends in Palo Pinto before he came up to the plains."
Questions: "What did the people think about the buffalo hunters?"
Answer: "Wasn’t enough up here to think anything about it. They took just enough to keep the Indians away. They killed them for the hides and meat. They used to come up for pecans, too. One time my father bought home three or four wagons full of pecans to sell."
Question: "Where did the buffalo hunters go after they killed the buffaloes out?"
Answer: "Just lived around in West Texas. They just went home and quit. Mr. Hext used to know a song about buffalo hunters."
Question: "Do you remember any of the words?"
Answer "No, I don’t remember. He used to sing it a heap."
Question: "Tell them something about your ranch life, Mrs. Hext."
Answer: "Well, my husband had 100 sections of land. Lots of people there just lived in dugouts, and had to leave when the dry spells came. He would buy them out. His pasture went clear to Erick, and back down to the North Fork his side of Sayre. He didn’t have to pay any taxes because Texas and the government were in dispute."
Question: "What date was that?"
Answer: "Mr. Hext was there before me and him were married. I think he came up there in eighty something. He had been there six or seven years when we married in December 1893."
Question: " Do you remember when that land was fenced?"
Answer: "No, I don’t. It was just in little patches, and then he joined it up. Not all of it was fenced. He had line riders that camped out there and rode the line."
Question: "What was the name of the ranch?"
Answer: "Just the Hext Ranch. He was the first that ever had a ranch there. We never leased land, always owned it. But settlers came in and settled on the improvements. We had to take our cattle, about 3000 head, and get away from there. We got in a hack and came to Texas hunting land. We looked at a ranch in Hemphill County but didn’t buy it then. The man was anxious to sell because he had more land than he could pay for. It had been the old Y.L. Ranch in the early days. We heard of some Clay County school land. We went up to Roberts County and stayed with O. P. Jones. He told us about this Clay County school land and we went up north and looked at it. They wanted 75 cents an acre for it, but it was broken up and not good farming land. There was very little water on it. One spring, called Three Corrals was the only water there. We stayed there two days and nights, and then went back on down to Canadian. This man there had priced his land at $2 an acres."
Question: "How much of that land could you get?"
Answer: "We bought 22 sections, at $2.00 an acre, and paid cash for it."
Question: "Was that all school land?"
Answer: "Some of it was patented land that this man had paid out. We deposited $500 to secure the trade, and got Judge Ewing to go over the papers. We knew they would be all right if Judge Ewing went over them. Mr. Hopkins came in next day and said he didn’t want to take that price for the land. He wanted more money for it. Mr. Hext said it was a trade, and that he was going to take the land. Judge Ewing went to Austin to see about the papers. We camped in Canadian five days until the papers were fixed up, then went on to the ranch. Mr. Hext went back to Greer County and bought up 300 steers that fall and put on two men. We couldn’t get possession until the next spring. Then we built a log house, the first log house built in that county. It was sealed overhead and had floors in it."
Question: "What brand did you use?"
Answer: "H E X. He just left the T off of his name. Mr. Hext started that brand 16 years before. We moved on the ranch in 1902. We later sold off 8 sections for $8.00 an acre. That bought us in as much as we paid for the whole 22 sections. Then we bought five more sections. We owned three miles on the Washita River.
Question: "What other ranches were around you?"
Answer: "Mr. Fletcher was above us, and R. T. Alexander and a man named Parmer were East of us, and Frank Trammell was on the Trammell Ranch, and this Hopkins was back of us."
Question: "Did you ever know anything about the L X Ranch?"
Answer: "No, I don’t know anything about that."
Question: "Did you know a man by the name of M. L. Alexander?"
Answer: "No, R. T. Alexander was the only man by that name I knew."
Question: "Tell about some of the roundups and branding."
Answer: "Of, course, our pasture was pretty good size. Whenever Mr. Hext went to roundup, he let the neighbors know about it. We had built us a big three-story house there on the ranch. We never had much help, because we had a big family. When they would roundup to brand the cattle, I would put on the beans early and cook them a big plum cobbler, they always liked something sweet, and take bacon and ham and coffee. And I would take clabber out for them to drink. I’d drive out in the pasture; I knew the land just like you know these rooms here. I would get there and gather up the wood and make the fires and have dinner started when they got there. My boys could cook just as good as I could. I learned them how. I would put a tablecloth down. I always fixed up pretty good for them because they worked hard. We had a branding pen out there so we wouldn’t have to bring the cattle so far. We generally branded some six or seven hundred calves."
Question: "When did you sell those eight sections."
Answer: "I don’t know as I remember just what date."
Question: "Were there many cattle rustlers?"
Answer: "They stole cattle sometimes, but Mr. Hext always belonged to cattle associations, and usually got part of them back when they took them to market."
Question: "Who were the rustlers?"
Answer: "Generally they were men around close trying to get themselves up a bunch of cattle."
Question: "What class of cattle did the rustlers take?"
Answer: "They generally took steers."
Question: "Did they change the brand?"
Answer: "Yes, they would burn out our brand and put another on to it."
Question: "Was it all right to go out and brand Mavericks?"
Answer: "Not much then; they had sort of quit that. When I was a child that was all right. They claimed every stray for Jack County. But they never branded them—honest people didn’t, that is."
Question: "When did you begin to farm out here?"
Answer: "This ranch we were on had 30 acres of millet on it when we came. Mr. Hext sowed oats, the first ever sowed in this county. Then the next spring, Mr. Hopkins sowed wheat, the first in the county. That started it. When Mr. Hext died last year we had about three or four acres in cultivation. We had 29 ½ sections of land all in one body and 13 windmills. The land brought me $10.00 an acre in cash."
Question: "Did you know anything about the Rocking Chair Ranch?"
Answer: "When I came up to Greer County a line rider boarded with me from there."
Question: "Did you know anything about leasing?"
Answer: "We never did lease our land until the last year or so. We always kept it stocked. We didn’t lease our land to anybody, nor didn’t lease land from anybody else."
Question: "How much did you lease it for?"
Answer: "About three years ago, we leased it. We usually charged by the number of cattle on it, 50 cents a head."
Question: "Were the Turkey Track and the Rocking Chair the same ranch?"
Answer: "No, but they joined."
Question: "What size headquarters on the North Fork did the Rocking Chair have?"
Answer: "I don’t know; I never was there. But I think they had a pretty good one."
Question: "Did the people think the rustlers were ex-buffalo hunters?"
Answer: "No, I don’t think they rustled much cattle; not the ones from down in our country anyway."
Question: "Did you ever hear of any Cherokees down in Palo Pinto Country?"
Answer: "No, they lived in the Indian Territory."
Question "Do you know anything about the number of Comanches in Palo Pinto County?"
Answer: "No. Sometimes there would be as many as 15 or 20 in one troop. They always came on moonlight nights. We used to dread moonshine nights; we were afraid the Indians would come and steal the horses. I used to think I was unusually brave. I had a pistol, but I never shot much, only at squirrels. One time we went possum hunting one night after the Indians had quit coming. The dogs treed something. We had a six shooter, a cap and ball pistol. There was a possum on the limb. We could have shook him down, but we wanted to shoot him. But the gun wouldn’t go off and we couldn’t shoot the possum and finally had to shake him off and let the dogs kill it."
Question: "Do you remember when the railroad came to Mineral Wells and Ft. Worth?"
Answer: "Well, there wasn’t any railroad nearer than Ft. Worth."
Question: "When was that ?"
Answer: "In the spring of 1880. I went down there with John Slaughter and rode from Ft. Worth to Dallas. That was the first train I was ever on. When we got on they told me I was going to have to sit by a Negro. I said I would stand up first. They built the T P road through there, but it didn’t come to Mineral Wells. They never built a road to Mineral Wells until about 15 or 20 years ago."
Question: "What about the morals of the cowboys? Did they drink and gamble much?"
Answer: "They were always mighty upright people. They would fight for you to the end and treat you honorably, too. Oh, they would have their time when they went to town, but they were always polite and nice. They always carried guns, but they weren’t fussy."
Question: "Did they keep clean in camp when there weren’t any women around?"
Answer: "Yes, they would keep clean. They did their own cooking, and kept everything so clean and nice."
Question: "Did they shave?"
Answer: "Yes, they shaved every Sunday, almost, and when they went to see their girls, I guess they shaved oftener that that."