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In the Heart of the Blackland Divide

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Out of the Whirlwind: A Novel of Early-Day Roscoe

Maurine Whorton in 1914 and the cover of her novel published in 1975.
I only recently learned that someone had written a novel set in Vista*, the early day precursor to Roscoe, but, when I did, I immediately went online and did a search for it.  I located a hardback copy for ten dollars at a bookstore in North Carolina, ordered it, received it a few days later, and have now read it. 

It was written by Maurine Whorton Redway, a graduate of Roscoe High School and member of the class of 1914.  Her father, Daniel Boone Whorton, was one of the first settlers of the area, and the novel is apparently based on family stories Maurine must have heard while growing up. 

The story begins in 1890 with the arrival of the Hunter family at Stop 53 west of Sweetwater.  The main character, Boone Hunter, is obviously based on the author’s father, and his family closely resembles the Whorton family that came to Roscoe at that time. 

Originally just a boxcar used as a depot, Stop 53 was a water stop for the T&P trains that came through.  Their steam engines had to stop for water about every ten miles, so depots were set at each of the stops, and most of them later became communities: Cisco, Baird, Clyde, Abilene, Tye (originally called Tebo), Merkel, Trent, Eskota, Sweetwater, Roscoe, Loraine, Colorado City, etc.

When the Hunters arrive from Georgia in a boxcar to buy a farm and settle on the cheap, newly available land of the Blackland Divide, only one other family lives by the depot, the Fullers, and they immediately become friends. 

As the story progresses, the Hunter family undergoes all the trials and tribulations encountered by early day settlers—drought, tornadoes, ice storms, wild animals, rattlesnakes, and worst of all, a group of rowdy cowboys led by the scoundrel Buck Brooks.  These remnants of the open range drink whisky, run wild, and oppose the coming of the “nesters” who want to civilize the area, cultivate the land, raise families, build churches, and start communities.   

While the story is fictional with the plot elements and characterization that make a novel a novel, it is laced with a lot of the early history of the area and provides the reader with a pretty good picture of what it must have been like to live in Roscoe in those early days when it was still known as Vista. 

When the author describes the first church meetings taking place upstairs in the community’s only store, and the first school as just a bare building with desks paid for by fund raisers such as box dinner auctions, she is no doubt basing her descriptions on fact. 
Sometimes she throws in long forgotten tidbits of history that are a revelation to read.  

One example is the Johnson grass seed that Boone Hunter brings back from his first trip to Colorado City in 1890.  Given to him by a farmer there, he is told that it will be good for grazing, but Boone has read that it is hard to get rid of, a fact substantiated that same year when the Texas legislature passed a law prohibiting the sale or gift of Johnson grass seeds. 

Characters in the story include the Long family whose farm was southeast of town and Germans from the German settlement west of town, both obviously based on historical fact.    

The story builds to a wild climax with a shootout and a big fire, after which peace is restored and the locals move into the twentieth century with high hopes for the future of their growing community.

Although the novel, published in 1975, never won a Pulitzer Prize or any other major literary awards, it is a rewarding read for anyone interested in the settling of this area and life as it was in the 1890s in Vista and early Roscoe. 

     * The first inhabitants of Roscoe originally called their new community Vista, but when they applied for a post office in 1892, they were told that there was already a town in Texas by that name, so they decided to call it Roscoe instead.


About the author: Born in Roscoe in 1898, Maurine Whorton grew up here and graduated from Roscoe High in 1914.  She later earned a B.A. from the University of Texas and an M.A. from Washington University in St. Louis.  She taught in Texas high schools for twenty-six years before joining the faculty at SMU, where she taught history for five years.  

Her other books are Early Texas Homes, Marks of Lincoln on Our Land, and Marks of Lee on Our Land.  She died in 1981 and was buried in the Roscoe Cemetery.  Roscoe relations include the Whortons, Jays, and Frys.

Maurine Whorton Redway. Out of the Whirlwind: A West Texas Saga. San Antonio: Naylor, 1975.



Carol Jeane Moore, 80, died on Saturday at Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene.  Private services for the family will be held today at 2:30pm at McCoy Chapel of Memories in Sweetwater, followed by cremation.

She was born June 19, 1931, in Oklahoma City and married Jack Moore there on November 25, 1950.  A member of the First Christian Church in Abilene, she lived in Abilene from 1974 to 1983 and in Roscoe ever since.  She was a homemaker.

Survivors include her husband, Jack Moore of Roscoe; daughter Linda Moore of Amarillo; two sons, Steven Moore of Houston and Brett Moore of Iowa Park; one granddaughter, one grandson, and five great-grandchildren. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

No Roscoe Hard Times This Week

Dear Readers,

Due to an illness in the family, I am in Indianapolis, Indiana.  As a result, I am unable to produce an issue of the Roscoe Hard Times this week.

I hope to be back in Roscoe in time to post an issue next week.

Edwin Duncan

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

City Approves Improvements to Downtown Park

Artist's depiction of the proposed layout for Old Town Park. The view is from Cypress at the bottom looking west toward the alley at the top.  This drawing does not show the brick wall to be built in the back, and does show a gazebo, which will have to wait until the budget allows it.
At its meeting in City Hall on Monday evening, the Roscoe Community Development Corporation, also known as the B Board, approved proposed improvements to Old Town Park, the downtown park on Cypress across the street from City Hall and the Roscoe State Bank. 

Improvements will feature a “plaza” in the form of a large Texas star approached by three semi-circular walkways and surrounded by lawns and a memorial to George Parks on the concrete slab that was once the floor of the Roscoe Times office.  On either side of the star will be a large lamppost with a 19-inch tall globe. 

There will also be a brick wall about 32” tall built along the alley in the back, which will have electrical outlets that can be plugged into during city events.  The landscaper’s drawing for the park also includes a gazebo, but that will have to wait until the City’s budget allows it.

Work will begin on these improvements in March and will be finished in time for the Spring Fling on April 21.  



Roscoe’s second Spring Fling Celebration will be on Saturday, April 21.  Like last year, it will be held downtown “on the bricks” and will feature vendors, a bounce house and other kids’ inflatables, as well as live music, a street dance, and a fireworks show. 

This year’s headline band is Eleven Hundred Springs, a popular Texas country rock band from the Fort Worth-Dallas Metroplex.  One of the few remaining outlaw country bands, their influences include Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, and Doug Sahm.  Some of their recorded songs may be heard by clicking here.

Having shared the stage with Willie Nelson, Charlie Daniels, Hank Williams III, and others, they should be just what local folks need to shake the winter doldrums and welcome the return of spring.



Randy Boehmer just east of Roscoe yesterday afternoon.
If you happened to notice someone coming through Roscoe yesterday in a covered wagon pulled by a team of Belgian draft mules, that would have been Randy Boehmer, coming down from northern Colorado and heading east along I-20.

A former taxidermist, he has been on the road now for almost four years, crisscrossing the country in his wagon with his dogs and mules and spreading the gospel to all who are willing to listen.  A big sign on the sides of his wagon says, “Jesus Saves. Ask Him.” 

When asked how he manages to live, he responded by saying, “God provides.”  Most of his earthly possessions are there with him in his wagon.  “Things aren’t important,” he said. “Life here on earth is short compared to eternity.” A small feed wagon attached behind contains hay and oats for his mules. 

He was more interested in talking about Jesus than about himself, but he did say his life changed after he watched his wife die of cancer.  He began reading the Bible during that time, accepted Jesus, and has been spreading the word of God ever since.

When last seen, he was on the access road next to I-20 on his way to Sweetwater.  



On Thursday night it rained just enough to get the sidewalk wet, and the second half of last week was cooler than normal.  The high temperature Saturday was only 37°F with a wind chill factor of 23°.  On Sunday, the high was 32°, and that afternoon it snowed steadily for a couple of hours, leaving about an inch and a half of snow on the ground.  Roscoe’s weatherman, Kenny Landfried, recorded .31” of precipitation from the snowfall.

Then Monday was one of those quick changes typical of Texas.  It was sunny and warmed up into the sixties, and by three o’clock all of Sunday’s snow was completely gone.  It was followed yesterday by one of those beautiful spring days that arrives early—sunny skies, a light breeze, and a 72°F afternoon.  You couldn’t ask for a prettier day, especially in the middle of February.

The forecast is for another warm day today, but windier this time around, followed by cooler days this weekend with highs in the mid-fifties and lows in the mid-thirties.  



This year’s spring cleanup will be from Monday, March 26, through Saturday, March 31.  Dumpsters will be available at the Roscoe recycling center at Business US 84 just across the railroad tracks, and separate areas will be designated for tree limbs, brush, and metal objects.


At its meeting last night in City Hall, the City Council passed an ordinance pertaining to mobile homes, travel trailers, and “HUD-Code Manufactured Homes,” or homes transportable in pieces at least 8 feet wide and 40 feet long. 

Such structures moving into the city will have to have proper skirting, anchoring, and blocking in accordance with state standards.  Ones already in the city will not be subject to the new requirements unless they are sold and under new ownership. 

Travel trailers may be brought in temporarily during the construction or repair of a home but will require a written permit from the City of Roscoe.  Permits will be valid for six months and must follow the city standards for the disposal of sewage and trash.

For details, contact City Hall at 325-766-3871.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Roscoe Firehouse Gets a Makeover

Roscoe Fire Engine No. 2 stands on display before the newly painted American flag.
The Roscoe Fire Station on 909 Broadway, home of the Roscoe Volunteer Fire Department, is looking spiffy after getting some recent refurbishing.  

A new show window shows off the shiny, classic Roscoe Fire Truck No. 2, a 1938 Ford purchased new by the city in April 1938, and new awnings grace the outside of the building.

Additionally, Fort Worth artist Dave Larcom has painted a big American flag on the inside west wall, visible from the outside.  



Kevin Pantoja, a freshman at Highland High and son of Felix and Aida Pantoja, has been selected as a student ambassador of People to People, a program started by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 to promote cultural awareness through travel and direct interaction.  Students chosen must have good grades and meet other requirements.
He will travel with other area students in a group led by Cheryl Warren, who teaches math at Colorado City High. They will visit Italy, Greece, and France during a twenty-day stay.

Kevin says he is looking forward to visiting countries where our soldiers sacrificed so much in times of war as well as learning about other cultures and meeting other people.  He is eager to be a representative of Texas and Nolan County.
He could use your generosity in helping to pay for the trip.  Each Saturday of this month there will be a garage sale just inside the México Lindo Restaurant on the corner of Cypress and Broadway, and you may also see him selling candy or doing other things to raise money.

Donations are also greatly appreciated.

If you have any questions, contact Felix at 325-514-8384 or Aida at 325-766-3011.  More about the People to People program is available on its website, which you can access by clicking here.  



The Plowgirls remain in contention for the playoffs after coming away with a split this past week, losing to Hamlin on Friday night and winning another close one over Stamford last night.

The Lady Pied Pipers, who have lost only once all year, were too much for the Plowgirls, beating them by a score of 60-19.  The victory made Hamlin 8-1 in district and 25-1 overall. 
Lynnsi Moses led the Plowgirls with 12 points while Faith Boren had 4.  The halftime score was 27-8.

Then, last night at Stamford, the Plowgirls eked out another win over the Lady Bulldogs 33-31.  Moses scored 13 for Roscoe and Boren had 10.  The halftime score was Roscoe 17-Stamford 10.

The Plowgirls are now 5-4 in district and  15-13 for the year.  Their next game, the last on the regular schedule, will be in Plowboy Gymnasium on Friday night against the Lady Moguls of Munday. 



The Plowboys had another rough week in basketball, losing to Hamlin last Friday night in Roscoe and to Stamford last night in Stamford.

The Hamlin score was 45-18.  High scorer for the Plowboys was Jesus Leanos with 12, while Keeston Ford had 4.  The halftime score was 16-8.

Last night’s score was 67-22.  Leanos once again led the Plowboys with 10 points, while Luke Rovig had 5 and Ford 4.

The Plowboys are now 1-7 in district play and 1-22 on the year.  The next game, their last, will be in Plowboy Gymnasium on Friday against Munday.



Stina Tomlin’s goat came in eleventh, and Torrey Willman’s Hampshire hog came in thirteenth at the Southwest Exposition and Fat Stock Show in Fort Worth this past weekend. 

Several Roscoe students will be showing their animals at the San Angelo Stock Show starting this weekend.



Punxatawney Phil, the Pennsylvania groundhog, saw his shadow on Thursday, meaning he’s predicting six more weeks of winter, while Bee Cave Bob, the Austin armadillo who makes the Texas prediction, came out of his hole and ran around, which portends an early spring.  The television clip I saw claims that he’s been correct for all three years he’s been in the prediction business. 

He also turned out to be correct on his sports pick, which was for a Giants victory in the Super Bowl.  And, he’s made a political pick in the Presidential race, walking to his left when given that question.  We’ll just have to wait and see how that one comes out.    

The 40% and 50% chances of rain predicted for last Thursday and Friday were totally off as skies never even clouded up but remained clear with stars visible at night and sunny skies by day.  Instead, Thursday and Friday were springlike with sunny skies and temperatures climbing into the seventies.

On Friday evening, however, a cold front passed through and since then the weather’s been cool, with highs around fifty and lows around the freezing mark.

The forecast is for continued cool weather through the weekend.


From the October 16, 1906, edition of The Roscoe Times:

New York burglars are traveling around to business in automobiles.  If you wish to avoid being mistaken for a burglar or a capitalist, don’t travel in an automobile.

And, from the December 6, 1918, edition:

Two airplanes passed over Roscoe Thursday morning westbound.  They each came unannounced, and no one could have dreamed an airplane was within a hundred miles of Roscoe until the buzzing of the motor was heard.

While passing over the city, each aviator emitted a few yells that could be distinctly heard.

It is understood that the aviators were making the trip preparatory to establishing a route from Dallas to San Diego, Calif.  In the event the route is established, Roscoe will be on the line, and airplanes will become as familiar to us as Fords and automobiles.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Vaquero Grill Opens on South Main

The Vaquero Grill
Roscoe’s newest restaurant, the Vaquero Grill, opened for business on Saturday.  Located on 1006 S. Main Street, it is where the Roscoe Flower & Gift Shop used to be, across the street from the Stripes station and just north of Hagerman’s Napa Auto Parts. 

Owned and operated by Victoria Armenta, the Vaquero Grill is open seven days a week, 6:00am to 9:00pm Monday through Friday and 8:30am to 9:00pm on Saturday and Sunday. 

Both Mexican and American food are served, and a wide variety of dishes is available.  A glance at the breakfast menu, for example, reveals such choices as the John Wayne Plate (2 eggs, two sausages, hash browns, and toast), several kinds of pancakes, huevos rancheros, and several varieties of breakfast burritos, along with other choices.  

Dinner choices include taco, tostada, burrito, and fajita plates among others, along with burgers, chicken fried steak, catfish, and steak.  Daily lunch specials are offered, as are children’s plates.

Prices are reasonable and fairly standard for this area, and there is a 10% discount for senior citizens.  Private parties may be booked, as there is room to seat 16 guests comfortably.

For more information, phone 325-766-3460. 



At its meeting on January 27 the Texas Historical Commission approved the issuing of an official historical marker commemorating the Roscoe, Snyder & Pacific Railway and the contributions it made to Roscoe.  Sponsored by Suzie Alford’s third graders, the 18” x 28” marker will be placed in the Memorial Park on Cypress and Broadway, across the street from the Roscoe Historical Museum. 

And speaking of the RS&P, the Roscoe Historical Museum has recently added an RS&P website.  It is still a work in progress, but enough has been done to officially announce its existence.  Besides some slideshows, there is also a prose history of the short-line railroad that served Roscoe from its first run to Snyder in 1908 to its last one in 1983.  Its home page is here



A couple of weeks back I mentioned that I’d been unable to find out anything about the St. George Hotel, which used to be in Roscoe.  But Bruce McGlothlin, owner of the Feed Store and More, told me he felt sure he’d seen something about it somewhere before, and, sure enough, he was going through a box of papers the other day and found an old article about Roscoe that J. B. Cooper, Jr., had once given him. 

Entitled “Roscoe, the Magic City of West Texas,” it was published in the July 16, 1908, issue of the Sweetwater Telegram.  A long article for a newspaper, it begins by talking about how Roscoe is booming and what a wonderful town it is.  Then it lists all the major businesses in town and writes a brief paragraph about each one—and the St. George Hotel is on the list.  

Here’s what the article says about it:

St. George Hotel – The principal commercial hostelry of Roscoe is the St. George.  This hotel is a good one, and commercial travelers know just what we mean when we say that.  Mr. I. T. George has been at the head of this house for the past two years, and by constant effort in catering to the wants of the traveling public has now a good substantial business.  The house contains 21 rooms in all, well and comfortably fitted up for the accommodation of all guests.  Rates from $1.25 to $2.00 per day.

So, there it is.  It doesn’t answer all the questions we asked about it, but it’s a lot more information than we had.  I wonder if Mr. George considered himself the St. George in the name of the hotel.  There has to be a story there.  In any case, thanks to Bruce McGlothlin for providing this information.  The article has specific information about the various businesses of the town in 1908 and provides fresh insights into what life was like in those early days.



The Plowgirls stayed in contention for the playoffs by winning two more games this past week.  On Friday night they defeated Haskell 34-29.  Faith Boren was Roscoe’s high scorer with 11 points.  Lynnsi Moses had 7, and Sara Kingston had 5.  The Plowgirls led at the half 16-15.

Then last night in Rotan they defeated the Lady Yellowhammers 42-24.

The Plowgirls are now 14-13 on the year and 4-4 in district play.  Their next game is here on Friday night against Hamlin.



The Plowboys lost two more games this past week.  On Friday night, the Haskell Indians beat them in Plowboy Gymnasium 69-31.  The halftime score was 30-15.  Jesus Leanos was the high scorer for the Plowboys with 12 points.  Luke Rovig was next with 7, while Keeston Ford had 6.

Then last night the Plowboys fell to Rotan in Rotan 50-42.  They are now 1-19 on the year and 1-6 in district.  Their next game is Friday night at home against Hamlin.



Since rain was still falling as I posted last week's issue,  I was unable to post its total.  At the end of the day, Roscoe's official weatherman, Kenny Landfried, had 1.5" in his rain gauge on the east side of town, while Lyndall Underwood's on the west side of town had 1.3".  Reports I heard about other area locations seemed to fall within that range.

The rain brought January's total up to 3.25", the most Roscoe has recorded for that month since 1983, which had 3.48".   The only other year since then with as much as three inches in January was 1991 with 3.09".

It would be nice if a wet January were a harbinger for a wet year, and indeed that was the case for 1991, the wettest year on record for Roscoe with an official total of 37.05".  But the total for 1983 was 19.42", more than two inches below the average.  We'll just have to wait and see.

The rest of the week was sunny and generally very nice for January.  The last couple of days have been t-shirt weather with highs in the upper sixties and lower seventies.  Today and tomorrow should also be warm and sunny with a 50% chance of rain tomorrow night and a 40% chance on Friday.  The weekend will be sunny and cooler with highs in the fifties.



Timothy Scott Gray, 39, of Champion died on Friday at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas due to complications from a chronic illness.  Funeral services were held yesterday at Trinity Baptist Church in Sweetwater and followed by interment in the Champion Cemetery.

Timothy Scott Gray was born on November 19, 1972, in St. Louis, Missouri.  He grew up in St. Louis and Victoria, Texas, and graduated from Victoria High School in 1991.  He then served for five years in the Air Force and met Kimberly Cornutt while stationed in Abilene.  They were married in 1996, had two children, and lived in Champion.  A member of the Trinity Baptist Church in Sweetwater, he worked as an electronics technician for Ludlum Electronics and served on the Highland ISD Board of Trustees.  

He is survived by his wife, Kimberly, and two children, Kylie and Dustin, of Champion; parents, Chris and Rosemary Jochen of Victoria; sisters, Rachel and Mallory Jochen of San Antonio; brothers, Derek and Matthew Gray of St. Louis; grandparents, Harold and Joyce Ulch of Cedar Hill, Mo.; father-in-law and mother-in-law, Donnie and Jarmila Cornutt of Champion; as well as aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins. 

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