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In the Heart of the Blackland Divide

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Roscoe in Years Gone By: "Blind Walt"

Walter Lewis, outside the Bourland Hotel, where he once lived.

(Like all small towns, Roscoe has always had its town characters with names like Rooster Rhea, Lester Stevens, and Pete Stewart immediately springing to mind.  The following is an account of one of Roscoe’s best known back in the 1920s and 1930s, Walter Lewis, or “Blind Walt.”   About two years ago when W. G. and Modena Hughes gave the Roscoe Historical Museum the above photo of "Blind Walt," they both assured me that back in those years he was one of the fixtures of downtown Roscoe that everyone knew.  

Being too young to remember those early times, I asked some of the local old timers—my mother, Clyde Ater, and Harold Duvall—if they remembered him, and they all did, each telling me something they knew about him.  So when I got this story about him by John Beryl Witherspoon, I was already interested in learning what he’d have to say about "Blind Walt," and his story is one worth repeating.  However, it’s too long to put in one blog post, so I’m posting only Part 1 this week.  The thrilling conclusion will come next week.)

by John Beryl Witherspoon

Walter’s father walked him right up Cypress Street every weekday morning to go to work.  You see, everybody had to work whether they were blind or not.  There was no federal aid for anybody.  No, Walter came right up Cypress Street while all us kids were going the other way to school.  We always spoke to him, and he knew many of us by the sound of our voices and called us by name.

When his father was walking him, he would take his cane and hang it on his arm and walk as fast as anybody.  He didn’t have a white cane either because nobody had thought of that safety device for blind people; consequently, Walter had a brown cane.

When they got to town, Walter’s father would take him to Russell Haney’s Tailor Shop, and from then on until time to go home, Walter was on his own.

Russell allowed Walter to keep merchandise and “Punch Boards” in the back of his shop.  Now, everybody knew that punch boards were unlawful, but Walter disagreed.  His contention was that they were not unlawful but illegal, and everybody knew that an “ill-eagle” was merely a sick bird!  Anyway, there wasn’t a sheriff in Texas who would have arrested him because he never abused the privilege.

By nine o’clock, he was on the street with a Navajo blanket or some other gift under his arm and a punch board in the other.  He went from one store to the next.  You could hear him coming because he tapped his cane on the sidewalk, and he always knew where he was.

He had several types of punch boards.  Sometimes, each punch had a girl’s name on it and underneath a space where the person who punched it could write his name.  Up in the corner was a secret tab that could be pulled off that revealed which punch was the lucky winner after all the punches had been taken.

When all the punches had been taken, which cost ten or fifteen cents each, depending on the cost of the gift, Walter would ask one of the merchants to pull the secret tab off to reveal the winner.  If the name under the tab was “Mazie,” and your name was under Mazie on the board, then you were the winner.

Nobody ever turned Walter down when he asked them to take a punch if they had ten or fifteen cents to spare, but when few customers were in town, he could always count on the merchants to see him through.

Walter contended that if he could make one person happy in Roscoe every day, eventually he would make the whole town happy—at least for one day.

By eleven o’clock in the morning, his day’s work was usually done, and he would retire to Russell Haney’s Tailor Shop.

Russell had a settee behind the counter and other places to sit.  Walter always sat on the settee.  He would sit there and rub one arm from the wrist to the elbow, and then he would rub the other arm the same way, and when Bood asked him why he did it, he said he felt like something was crawling on him.

Some of the town bullies teased him by pinching and goosing him when he was making his rounds but they always quickly retreated because Walter was handy with his cane.  Nowadays, psychologists would say that his problem was nothing more than a nervous condition.

One afternoon when Bood and I came from school, he was lamenting the fact that he got so tired making his rounds every day and that day when he came out of a store, he couldn’t remember where he was, and he was completely lost.  He said he had to concentrate, and if he didn’t, he would find himself in trouble.

“That doesn’t sound too difficult to me,” said Bood looking seriously at him, and Walter said, “Well it is.  You should just try blindfolding yourself sometime and start walking around and see just how far you will get,” and Walter rubbed his arm vigorously.

“I’ll bet you anything you could blindfold us and we will be back here in fifteen minutes,” Bood said proudly.  “Why, Walter, you only have four blocks to go, you might say, because you make stops for two blocks on the other side of the street and two blocks on this side of the street, so actually you only travel two blocks.  We can make your route and be back here in fifteen minutes without a hitch!”

Walter took out one of his two-for-a-nickel King Edward cigars, lit it, and replied, “You can’t do it because you haven’t developed the instincts that it takes those who are blind years to develop.  You have to use your nose, your ears, and your sense of feel, and you haven’t done that because you depend on your eyes, and when you are blind, you develop the other senses to compensate for the loss of the eyes.  Therefore, I say you can’t do it.”

Check Farmer, who had been listening to the whole thing, said, “I am going to the barber shop for some blindfolds,” and he hurried out the door.

Everybody began to talk at once.  Some said we could do it, and others said we couldn’t.   Everybody was choosing sides.

Suddenly, Check came back down the street, taking long steps with two fresh face towels in one hand and two safety pins in the other.  He came back into the Tailor Shop.  He folded the towels and proceeded to pin them around our heads in such a way that we were in total darkness. 

Then somebody said, “Alright, Check, start them off.”  Check led us out the front door.  We had our arms locked tight and couldn’t see a thing.

As soon as we were on the sidewalk, Check spun us around two or three times, and when we started walking, we fell right off the curb!

We tore our blindfolds of and went flying back into the Tailor Shop.  Bood was vehement.  He was almost crying.  He accused Check of being unfair because nobody ever spun Walter ‘round and ‘round, and he declared that we deserved another chance at it.  Everybody agreed that we deserved another chance without any more spinning.

Then Walter said, “I want you two boys to come over here and sit down, and I am going to help you in every way that I can.”

But, help or no help, we were determined to do it regardless of the obstacles we might encounter.

(to be concluded next week)



Irrigated cotton just east of Roscoe in November.
According to gin manager Larry Black, the ginning season for the Central Rolling Plains Co-op Gin is now over for the 2013 cotton crop.  The gin rolled out the final bale last Friday morning just before 5:00am. 

The gin’s final total is 71,849 bales.  Here’s how that total stacks up against those from the previous six seasons, i.e., since the Central Rolling Plains Gin consolidated from the Roscoe and Inadale gins:

                                             Year         Bales Ginned
                                             2007           109,991
                                             2008             57,184
                                             2009             39,626
                                             2010             70,379
                                             2011               9,966
                                             2012             66,985
                                             2013             71,849

The total number of bales for all seven seasons averages out to 60,854 per year, so this year’s total of 71,849 is 10,995 bales, or 15.3%, above the seven-year average.  That’s not spectacular, but it’s not bad at all when you consider what farmers were thinking they might get back before we got the big rains in mid-July.



The Plowboys had a good week with victories over Hermleigh and Westbrook, and even though they lost to Ira last night, they are still in the driver’s seat to finish second in district and earn their way to the playoffs.

The Plowboys defeated the Cardinals last Wednesday evening in Hermleigh by a score of 56-39.  At the end of the first quarter, the Plowboys led 11-6, and by halftime they had extended the lead to 24-14.  After three, it was 43-28, and by game’s end, they had won by seventeen, 56-39. 

High scorer for the Plowboys was Jesus Leanos with 19 points, followed by Javier Leanos with 12.  Cutter Davila had 10, Shelton Toliver 4, Kevin Lavalais 3, and Luis Villa 3.   

Then they won their fourth district game in a row Friday evening by downing Westbrook 54-28.  That’s quite a turnaround when you consider that they’d lost six consecutive games before that.  The victory put them in second place in district with a 4-1 record. 

The Plowboys jumped out to a 24-4 lead over the Wildcats in the first quarter and never trailed after that.  The halftime score was 33-14, and at the end of three it was 47-24.

Jesus Leanos led the Plowboy scoring with 20 points, followed by Javier Leanos with 17.  Davila made 5 points; Toliver,  Lavalais, and Anthony Ortegon had 4 each; and Dillon Freeman had 2.

Then last night the Plowboys lost to Ira in Ira, 68-58.  The game wasn’t really as close as it sounds as the Bulldogs were already ahead by 18 points at the end of the first quarter, 26-8, and at halftime the score was 40-26 Ira.  At the end of three, it was 58-45.  

Even so, the Plowboys showed great improvement over the two teams’ first game in Roscoe when the Bulldogs trounced them 62-29.  Ira is undefeated in district, having beaten all the other teams at least once, and they will probably stay that way until the regular season ends. 

Once again Jesus Leanos led the scoring for the Plowboys with 22 points, while Javier Leanos had 21.  Lavalais had 5, Toliver 4, Davila 3, and Villa 2.

Next up for the Plowboys are the Highland Hornets in Roscoe Friday evening at 8:00.  The Plowboys won the first match-up between the two, 39-33.



The Plowgirls clinched a playoff spot Friday evening when they beat Westbrook 46-22.  That made the Plowgirls 6-1 in district and assured them of a second-place finish next to first-place Highland, currently ranked second in state. 

The Plowgirls led the Wildcats the entire game.  The score was 8-1 at the end of one, 23-12 at halftime, and 34-20 at the end of three. 

High scorer for the Plowgirls was Eva Aguayo with 14.  Sunshine Saddler had 10, Sam Ortega 7, Shelby Brown 5, Selena Perez 4, Whitney Williams 4, and Mia Herrera 2.

Then the Plowgirls lost to Ira in Ira last night, 46-40.  They kept it close the entire game but were unable to come away with the victory.  The Lady Bulldogs led 8-7 at the end of the first quarter and 21-17 at the half.  At the end of three it was Ira by four, 34-30.

Sam Ortega led the Plowgirls with 14 points.  Aguayo had 7, Brown 5, Saddler 5, Herrera 4, Williams 2, and Danielle Dean 1.

The Plowgirls are now 6-2 in district.  Their next opponent is Highland here in Roscoe at 6:30 Friday evening.



What a week it’s been for the weather!  It might best be summed up by paraphrasing Mark Twain’s famous quote, “If you don’t like the weather here, just wait a few minutes.”  And that’s the kind of week it’s been with the weather going back and forth like a badminton birdie.

A week ago on Wednesday, the weather was beautiful with a high of 61°F and a low of 38°, and that 38° that midnight was as high as it got on Thursday, when a norther blew through late that night and sent temperatures down to 19°.  Winds were high and gusts up to 39mph sent the wind chills down into the single digits.  Friday morning’s low was 13°, but then it warmed up to 45° that afternoon, which was actually pleasant because the winds died down to just a slight breeze.

Then Saturday and Sunday were two of the most beautiful days you could ask for at this time of year.  On Saturday, temperatures rose to 62°, winds were calm, and the sunset that evening was gorgeous.  Sunday was even warmer a morning low of 44° and a high that afternoon of 70°.  The evening was also warm, and at midnight it was still 52°, but it was too good to last.

At about 3:00am early Monday morning another cold front hit, bringing howling winds with gusts up to 41mph.  The temperature plummeted, and wind chills once again dropped into the single digits.  It was freezing all day Monday and Monday night, and yesterday’s high was 32° after a low of 12° with wind chills down to zero. 

Apparently, though, the weather is changing again.  This morning’s low of 18° is as cold as it will get for a while, and a high of 75° is forecast for tomorrow and Friday afternoons.  Lows for Friday and Saturday morning should be in the high to mid forties, and Saturday afternoon should be only slightly cooler with a high of about 60°.

The only constant for the entire past week—and the forecast for the coming one—is the absence of any precipitation.  In fact, there is a fire weather watch in effect for Nolan County and the surrounding region due to the dryness and expected high winds.



Services for Carroll Nelms Reed, 64, will be held at 2:00pm tomorrow, January 30, at the McCoy Chapel of Memories in Sweetwater.  Interment will follow at Pyron Cemetery.  He passed away in Rankin on Sunday, January 26. 

He was born in Dequeen, Arkansas, on August 16, 1949, and was a 1967 graduate of Roscoe High School. 

Survivors include his wife, Marilee E. Reed of Sweetwater; son, Jaylon Reed of Sweetwater; daughter, Kelly Chapman and husband, Greg, of Coahoma; grandchildren: Nathan and Reagan Chapman of Coahoma; Jayton and Annabelle Reed of Sweetwater; brother, Stanley Elmer Reed of Mineral Wells; sisters: Danielle Kowalsky of Forney, Annie Green and husband, Buddy, of Lake Whitney, and Johnna Reed of Simpsonville, NC; as well as numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

He was preceded in death by his parents.


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