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In the Heart of the Blackland Divide

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Crop Maybe Not So Good This Year Says "Injun Robert"; March 22 Revisited

Injun Robert's pre-dawn fire used for the "Sunrise Wind" ceremony.
“Injun Robert,” also known to local palefaces as Robert McBride, took up the challenge and performed the smoke ceremony as prescribed in last week’s Roscoe Hard Times.  If you’ll recall, I described there Injun George’s former practice of building a fire at dawn on March 22 every year, noting the direction of the smoke, and then predicting the success of the coming year’s crop.  

The results for Injun Robert were not as auspicious as might be hoped for since the wind was out of the southwest, which according to Indian tradition presages an inferior crop. 

If that prediction  had come last year when at this time the country was already suffering from sandstorms and wildfires, I’d have been more comfortable with it than this year when we’ve had more rain than normal for the first three months.

In addition, I’ve been bothered by the use of March 22 for leap year.  This is an issue that also worried Injun George, and he wrote about it in more than one article.  Once, he even went so far as to ask Injun John if the Plains Indians of the 1880s would have been aware of leap year and Injun John naturally answered, “probably not.”

Most likely the Indians had their own methods for determining the day of the spring equinox and then performed their smoke ritual the day after.  If that’s the case, then the ceremony should be on March 22 on most regular years but on March 21 on leap year, since in both cases those are the days after the coming of the spring equinox.

In fact, more research into the ceremony provides some corroborating evidence that backs up the assumption.  An AP article entitled “’Sunrise Wind’ is Good Omen for Farmers,” published several years ago, gives more detailed information on the ceremony than Injun George probably knew about. 

According to the article, the “Sunrise Wind” ceremony was known in the Comanche language as Taba’na Yuan’e and was performed on the first day following spring’s start. 

Also, according to the article, if the wind comes from the east or northeast, there will be plenty.  If it blows from the north or the northwest, conditions will be average.  A west or southwest wind doesn’t bode well, and a south wind is just plain bad news.

This additional information about the ritual suggests then that performing it on March 22 in a leap year is a day too late.  It should have been done on March 21.  Just for the record, the wind at dawn on March 21, i.e., last Wednesday morning, was out of the northwest—predicting an average crop. 

And that’s the prediction I’m going with—but we’ll have to wait until fall to find out for sure.

Roscoe High School, built in 1904.

That was a question I was asked by four or five different people this week.  Judging from what they told me, there is a plan afoot to put a marker somewhere in the new building noting the year that Roscoe High School was established, and they were seeking confirmation from me about the correct year.

My honest answer to all of them was that I am not sure, but since they wanted me to put a date on it, I responded with 1904 because that was the year the first high school building was built in Roscoe.

But it wasn’t the first school that Roscoe had.  Several sources indicate that Roscoe had a school in the 1890s.  Maurine Whorton Redway’s novel, Out of the Whirlwind, which is set in early day Roscoe—or Vista, as it was called then—describes the building of a small wooden school building, which had a single teacher. 

Also, Stanley Cleckler has several essays written by students who were assigned to compile histories of Roscoe.  Most were written in 1928 and 1936, when the students could still talk to people who were around when Roscoe was first being established and settled. 

The essays that have a date for the first school in Roscoe put it at either 1891 or 1892, the latter year appearing more often than the former, and all agree that it was a small, unpainted wooden building, which was also the site for church services of all denominations.  The first teacher was a Mr. C. S. Knott, also known as Professor Knott.

These and other sources also agree that Roscoe’s first brick school was built in 1904, and early day post cards of the new building identified it as Roscoe High School, although it also apparently housed the grade school as well. 

My guess is that it was labeled Roscoe High School to indicate that it was more than just a grammar school, as the majority of schools were in those early days.   If there were any graduating high school classes before the new building, I have no record of it.

So, unless someone comes up with more definitive information than I’m aware of now, the exact date cannot be given with any degree of certainty—but if 1904 is not correct, at least it’s close.



The City of Roscoe is currently holding its annual Spring Clean-Up from 9:00am to 7:00pm daily through this Saturday, March 31, with city employees on hand to direct and assist in trash disposal.   

Dumpsters are available at the Roscoe recycling center at Business US 84 just north of the railroad tracks, and separate areas are designated for tree limbs, brush, and metal objects.  There is also a place for tires. 

For more information, contact City Hall during business hours at 325-766-3871.


The Roscoe Plowboys finished first in Saturday’s Double Mountain Relays in Rotan, amassing 145 points to second-place Roby’s 103, while the Plowgirls came in second with 99 points to Roby’s 100.  Other high schools in the meet were Rotan, Loraine, Westbrook, and Trent.

For the boys, Jesus Leanos won first place in two events, the 1600-meter and 3200-meter runs.  Dillon Freeman was first in the 300-meter hurdles, Devon Freeman was first in the pole vault, and the 400-meter relay team (Dillon Freeman, Eduardo Gallegos, Landon Jones, Jose Rangel) also came in first.

For the girls, Jacinda Morales won the 400-meter and 800-meter races and was a member of the winning 1600-meter relay team (Jacinda Morales, Katie McIntire, Whitney Williams, Olivia Rovig).  The Plowgirls also won the 400-meter and 800-meter relays (Katie McIntire, Whitney Williams, Olivia Rovig,  Mireya Sanchez). 

The Plowboys’ and Plowgirls’ next meet is at Colorado City tomorrow afternoon starting at 3:45pm.



Last Thursday, Roscoe got .06” of precipitation.  Ever since, it’s been springlike weather with sunny or partly cloudy skies, high temperatures in the eighties, and lows in the upper fifties.  The forecast is for more of the same with a 20% chance of precipitation for the next couple of days. 

The old mesquite trees have finally decided to bud out, so it really seems that we’ve had our last freeze and that winter is a thing of the past.  I’m not the only one who’s been working to get a garden ready for the coming year.


† C. W. HEAD

Graveside services for C. W. Head, 87, were held on Saturday, March 24 at Sweetwater Cemetery.  He died on Thursday, March 22 at the Sweetwater Health Care Center.

Born on August 23, 1924, in Henderson County, he attended school in Athens and married Jo Ann Boone on July 28, 1967, in Sweetwater.  They lived in Roscoe for many years before moving to Sweetwater.  He worked as a heavy equipment operator for Lone Star Industries and helped build the facility.

Survivors include his wife, Jo Ann Head of Sweetwater; daughters, Doris Harvey of Abilene, Sherene Templet of Roby, Celia Rasberry of Roby, Shanna Zelner of Seminole, and Kelly Espinoza of Abilene; sons Winfred Head of Granbury, Teddy Head of Victoria, and Kenny Head of Mt. View, California; numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. 

He was preceded in death by a son, Clinton Head, in 2007; a daughter, Kimberly Jo Head Davis in 2010; four brothers, and one sister. 

Online condolences may be made at


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Arrives—and with it, Memories of Injun George

An unmistakable sign of spring, the return of the buzzards.
Spring has sprung in Roscoe.  Fruit trees have blossomed, and all the other trees, excepting the old mesquites, are budding out.  Lilacs and forsythias are in full bloom, and wildflowers, especially those little purple ones, cover yards, lots, and other open spaces all over town.

Moreover, the buzzards are back.  A few could be seen as early as last week, but then on Monday afternoon I saw a flock of forty or fifty of them circling overhead over in Sweetwater, confirming their annual return to the area.   

So, not only are the local signs of spring on display, but the new season has also officially arrived according to the calendar.  Today, March 21, is traditionally seen as the first day of spring.  

Scientists are even more precise.  For them, spring arrives at the exact moment the sun is positioned directly over the equator of our tilted earth.  This year, that moment occurred yesterday at exactly at 12:14am central time (i.e., on the 20th because this is a leap year).   And when the sun came up yesterday morning over Egypt, the Sphinx was pointing directly at the rising sun, as it always does on the first day of spring.

Many of us can remember when Roscoe had its own special spring ritual, and I was reminded of it on Monday when Stanley Cleckler came by the house with several old copies of the Roscoe Times, each of them containing commentary on the rain dance that used to be done each year by Injun George, a.k.a. George Parks, in some lonely spot in the country at sunup, always on the morning of March 22.

This ritual was not confined to Roscoe, however, but was done in a couple of other west Texas spots every year, the continuation of a ritual of the Plains Indians, who observed the practice in these parts long before the white man came. 

Injun George’s version of the ceremony was a variation of the original, though.  He did his first rain dance in 1972, after hearing of an “Injun John,” John W. Crim of Muleshoe, who performed a similar ritual there that he’d learned from his father, who in turn had learned it from the Indians in the nineteenth century.

The story goes that the elder Mr. Crim in the 1880s was in charge of the mule teams used in the building of the T&P railway across west Texas.  While in the mountainous Van Horn area, he noticed early on the morning of March 22 puffs of smoke winding upward from all the Indian huts in the area. 

He inquired why this was being done on that particular morning and was told that it was the Indian way of foretelling the crop outlook for the year.  Just as the sun came up, the fire was lit and something was put in it to make the smoke dark.

The Indians then watched the smoke swirl upward. If the wind that carried it upward was from the northeast, it foretold plentiful crops.  An east or north wind was pretty good, a west wind bad, southwest still worse, and a south wind terrible.

The rain dance around the fire was an innovation of Injun George, who did it in an attempt to bring plentiful rain to the Roscoe area.  Each year he would don Indian garb, including a headdress with feathers, and do his solitary dance at an undisclosed location.   Then, observing the direction the wind blew the smoke, he would make his prediction for the year and announce it in the Roscoe Times.

Once he started, he continued the ritual every year for the rest of the 1970s.  Then, in 1980, the year of the great flood, Injun George hit a major snag as several of the local farmers blamed him for the crazy weather of that year. 

Not too long before March 22, he fell from the press in the Times Office and broke his hip, causing him to limp around the fire on the morning he did his dance. 

All that spring and summer, it hardly rained at all, and then in September, the remnants of a hurricane stalled over west Texas and Roscoe got something like seventeen inches in two days, causing the worst flood seen in generations and wiping out what little cotton crop there was.

Several farmers swore it was because he limped around the fire on the day he did his dance.

Then, two years later, in 1982, May and June were so wet the farmers couldn’t get into the fields to plant their crops, and Injun George decided to give it up.  Here is his final quote on the issue from the Pickin’s column of the Roscoe Times of June 25, 1982:

“Injun George has resolved never to do another rain dance.  This is the second time in three years when his dances have nearly drowned Roscoe out.  Find you a better Injun.”

Injun George went to the Happy Hunting Ground the following year. 

Tomorrow is March 22, the day that the Plains Indians--and Injun John and Injun George--always lit their fires and observed the direction of the smoke.  All swore to the accuracy of the ceremony’s predictions.  I do not intend to light a fire and perform the ritual at dawn, but next week I will duly report here in the Roscoe Hard Times the findings of anyone who does. 

Let me know.



The City of Roscoe will hold its annual Spring Clean-Up next week from Monday, March 26, through Saturday, March 31.  Hours of operation will be 9:00am to 7:00pm.

Dumpsters will be available at the Roscoe recycling center at Business US 84 just north of the railroad tracks, and separate areas will be designated for tree limbs, brush, and metal objects.  There will also be a place for tires.

For more information, contact City Hall during business hours at 325-766-3871.



It is signup time again for boys and girls who want to participate in this year’s Roscoe Little League program, and the deadline for registration is this Friday, March 23.  The first meeting is also this Friday at 6:00pm at the Roscoe Elementary School.

If you have questions or need more information, contact David Pantoja at 325-280-1917.  The Facebook page is here.


The all-District 9-1A, Division I, honors have been announced, and a number of Plowboys and Plowgirls have been named.

For the Plowboys, sophomore Jesus Leanos was selected as one of two Newcomers of the Year.  The other was Kelby Bell of Haskell.  Also, Keeston Ford received honorable mention. The District MVP was Jesse Ramos from Stamford.

In addition, four boys received academic all-district recognition: Brant Burnett, Keeston Ford, John Hermosillo, and Luke Rovig.

For the Plowgirls, Lynnsi Moses was on the all-District first team.   Jacinda Morales and Faith Boren were on the second team, while Sarah Kingston and  Mirian Solis received honorable mention.  The District MVP was Chelsea Rodgers of Hamlin.

Ten Plowgirls also made academic all-district: Kendall Moses, Lynnsi Moses, Natalie Anthony, Carolina Perez, Stina Tomlin, Jacinda Morales, Faith Boren, Torrey Willman, Sarah Kingston, and Mirian Solis.



Several Plowboys and Plowgirls scored points at last Saturday’s Piper Relays in Hamlin.  Athletes from 23 area high schools competed in the boys’ events, while girls from 27 high schools participated.  

For the Plowboys, Jesus Leanos came in third in the 3200 meter race with a time of 11:00 minutes; Eduardo Gallegos was fourth in the 400 meter dash at 54.82 seconds; and Devon Freeman was fifth in the pole vault with a jump of  11’6”.

For the Plowgirls, Jacinda Morales was third in the 800 meter race with a time of 2:34.

Both the junior high and high school track teams will participate in Saturday’s track meet at Rotan.  The meet begins at 9:00am.



This was an unusual week for weather—not for the rainfall or the high temperatures, but for the lows.  For four consecutive days—Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—the temperature never fell below 60°F, not normal at all for this time of year.  The daily highs during this spell were in the mid to high seventies, except for Sunday when it got up to 83°. 

Then on Monday morning, a front moved in, temperatures dropped, and we got about a quarter inch of rain, bringing the total for the year up to five inches.

Since then, the sun has come out, and it’s been breezy and cooler, with lows dropping back into the forties, more normal for this time of year.  The forecast is for warmer weather as we move into the weekend with sunny skies and highs in the eighties and lows in the fifties.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Smackers Café Re-Opens Downtown

Smackers Cafe
After a two-year hiatus, Smackers Café, on the corner of Broadway and Main, has quietly re-opened under new ownership and management.  This time it’s a family affair with Jess and Bobbie Lambert the owners, Tim Lambert the baker, and Terry and Tammy Lambert the prep cooks.

Specializing in coffee and donuts, the new Smackers offers a variety of freshly baked pastries including cinnamon rolls, donuts, kolaches, fritters, and cakes.  So far I’ve tried only the fresh cinnamon roll but can confirm that it was excellent.

In addition, you can order such food items as breakfast burritos, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, pork cutlets, chicken-fried chicken, and daily specials.

Smackers is open from 6:00am to 2:00pm daily Monday through Saturday. 

A Grand Opening is planned for later when all new equipment has arrived and is in operation.


The first two days of this year’s Rattlesnake Roundup at the Nolan County Coliseum suffered from the weekend’s cold, wet, and windy weather, but the crowds were out on Sunday afternoon, and the Sweetwater Reporter estimated that as many as 30,000 people overall attended the festivities. 

Friday was so cold and wet that the annual Rattlesnake Roundup parade was called off, and Saturday was no better.  Outside food vendors, the carnival, and outdoor activities suffered from a shortage of patrons. But Sunday was warm and sunny, and the crowds were so thick that just getting from one place to another was a problem, especially in and around the coliseum annex, where the vendors were located.

There were live music and dances on Friday and Saturday nights, a new Miss Snake Charmer was crowned, and the Gun, Knife & Coin Show was as good as ever.  The Sweetwater Jaycees paid $10 a pound for rattlesnakes, and Donnie Willman had the longest beard in the the Jaycees’ beard contest.



Plowboy Corey Hatcher has been named as a state alternate in the 220-pound class after coming in third Saturday at the regional weightlifting meet in Sundown.  He totaled 1365 pounds with a 500-pound squat, a 300-pound bench press, and a 515-pound dead lift.

Landon Jones placed seventh in the 181-pound class.  



The Roscoe City Council last night voted unanimously to proclaim April Child Abuse Awareness Month.  The Nolan County Commissioners Court made a similar announcement on Monday.

The Council also set May 7 and 8 as days to stay open for twelve hours during the early voting at City Hall.  The election will be in the Community Center on the following Saturday, May 12.  

Two City Council seats are up for grabs, and there are three nominees—incumbent Robert McBride, recent appointee Christi Pepper Beal, and challenger Robert Fortin.  The two candidates receiving the most votes will be elected.

The Council also received the city’s financial report from accountant Ricky Bowman and was informed on several matters by City Manager Cody Thompson.  These included progress reports on the north side lift station, the water treatment plant and water lines, and Clean-Up Week, which will take place on the last week of this month.  



The weekend was cold, windy, wet, and miserable.  With temperatures in the thirties, the Rattlesnake Roundup's annual parade was canceled on Friday, as was the track meet scheduled for Plowboy Field. 

Temperatures never went below freezing but with a sharp north breeze, the wind chill went down to as low as 23°F, and a few snowflakes were witnessed here and there.  All told, it was cloudy and drizzly for three days, yet the total precipitation for the spell was only about .3”, bringing the year’s total to 4.75 inches.

The skies cleared on Sunday, however, and the weather that afternoon was about as perfect as it gets, with a light breeze, sunny skies, and temperatures in the seventies.   Monday was even warmer, with afternoon temperatures in the low eighties, but the wind was also higher.  Yesterday was more like Sunday and was a beautiful day to be outside. 

Local students have been enjoying the weather this week while they are on spring break. 

The forecast for the next few days is for cloudy skies and a 20% to 30% chance of precipitation, with highs in the upper seventies and lows of only about sixty.



After postponing Roscoe’s scheduled track meet last Friday because of the weather, the Plowboys will resume their track season on Saturday with a meet at Hamlin, which starts at 9:00am.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Plowbots Win Awards in San Antonio

The Plowbots at the San Antonio Convention Center last weekend.
Roscoe Collegiate High School’s robotics team, the Plowbots, won two awards at the Alamo Regional Event of the US First Robotics Competition, held at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center in San Antonio last weekend. 

Their robot with its farming motif won the Creative Design Award, and the team also received the “Cooperatition Award” for its helpfulness toward other robotics teams during the competition.

They competed directly against high schools of all sizes and were just one of 64 teams in the event, making their successes all the more impressive. 

In November, the Plowbots won the Big Country Hub Meet.  They are led by Coach Dan Boren, and Club President is Hannah Weems.  Their primary sponsors are the Texas Workforce Commission and Ludlum Industries.



The Plowboys opened their track season at a meet in Roby last Saturday.  In the boys’ competition, Jesus Leanos won the 3200-meter race and was second in the 1600.  For the girls, Jacinda Morales was first in both the 400 and 800-meter runs. 

Workmen are busy putting the final touches on the new track surface for this weekend’s track meets to be held at Plowboy Field.  The junior high meet will be tomorrow afternoon, and the high school meet will start at 2:30pm on Friday.



Rattlesnake hunters display some of their catch in this 1957 rattlesnake hunt that inspired the Rattlesnake Round-Up.
The Annual Rattlesnake Roundup will be held this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Nolan County Coliseum, and, as usual, plenty of Roscoe folks will be involved in the activities—as they have been since its inception in 1958.

In fact, Wilburn Hughes recently lent me a copy of an old Sweetwater Reporter article written by Otis Francis that says the Jaycees initially picked up the idea for the roundup from a 1957 rattlesnake hunt conducted by a group of men from Roscoe and Sweetwater who bagged 64 rattlers in a couple of hours.  

In that group were Wilburn Hughes, Leon Davis, Harvey Staton, Hillis Thornburg, and H. T. Zimmerman from Roscoe and N. A. Dressler, Jimmy Dulaney, J. B. Harley, Slim Staton, and Harold Clegg from Sweetwater. 

The complete schedule of this year’s roundup events, along with other information, is available on the Rattlesnake Roundup website, which you can access by clicking here



An Abilene Reporter-News article published on Saturday mentioned Roscoe farmer Doyle Edmiston’s illustrious basketball career at Rising Star and at Hardin-Simmons University. 

Selected All-Border Conference twice in a three-year career, he led the Cowboys with over a thousand career rebounds, still a school record.  He also holds the single-game record with 31 against West Texas State.  He was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 1959.

The article is accessible by clicking here.



A recent article in The Abilene Reporter News reported that Texas ranked tenth in the nation for its 2010 high school graduation rate of 84.3% and that Roscoe Collegiate High School led schools in the Big Country with its graduation rate of 100%.

RISD Superintendent Kim Alexander stated that the school has had a 100% graduation rate since 2009.  In 2008 its rate was 91.3%, and in 2007 it was 96.3%.

Texas had the fifth-highest rate for African-American students at 78.8 percent.  The article is accessible by clicking here.


Spring seems to have arrived.  The trees around town, excepting the mesquites, are all budding out, and temperatures have gotten up into the seventies the past couple of days.  We've also been having springlike winds of 20-25 mph with gusts up to 40 out of the southwest--with wind advisories in effect for all of the Big Country.

The forecast is for more of the same today with a front coming in tomorrow that will cool things off and bring a 30% to 40% chance of precipitation as we move into the weekend.

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