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In the Heart of the Blackland Divide

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Captain McBurnett's Trip to West Texas

Unbroken Texas prairie.
(Capt. E. B. McBurnett's account of his trip from Eastland is from the December 9, 1938, issue of The Roscoe Times and originally the January 29, 1909, issue)

In 1880 I was living at Eastland City, which was then the terminus of the T. & P. railroad.  I wanted to find a home in the west, and an opportunity was offered me to see the country and at the same time make a little money by hauling a load of oats from Eastland for a contractor to a grading crew which he was working on the T. & P. grade at that time about at the Colorado river.

On October 27, 1880, in company with a boy of fourteen years of age, I left Eastland for the west, following the T. & P. right of way out by where Abilene, Sweetwater, and Roscoe now are to where Colorado [City] now stands.  There I unloaded my wagons.

Hearing that there was plenty of turkey in that country, I decided to go out on a turkey hunt.  We had one sharp knife and one shotgun that had fallen from the wagon, and the stock had been broken by the wheel running over it and one hammer had been knocked off.  However, we wired the gun up and fixed it so one barrel would shoot and pulled out after some turkeys.  Going south from the present site of Colorado City, we ran across a bunch of antelope, and I killed one of them and struck camp on the north side of Champion creek above Seven Wells.  We did not have any water that night for ourselves, so next morning at daybreak we started down the creek and at sunrise came to Seven Wells, which to me were a great and grand curiosity.

Here were seven wells as round as auger holes, with water running out one of them, all in solid rock, ranging in depth from about seven to fifteen feet.  One of them seemed to be very deep, practically bottomless.  In the sand rock near the wells are perhaps a hundred buffalo tracks just as plain today as when they were made.  West of these buffalo tracks was a rock that had several names and dates on it; one date cut in the rock was 1830.

These wells were on what was called the “Centerline Trail,” traveled by California gold seekers who went from Mississippi, Alabama, and other southern states to California in search of gold.  These wells were a favorite camping site for the weary traveler, and Big Spring was the next place where plenty of water could be had.

Two hundred yards down the creek on the northwest side I saw a rock clear of loose sand, and on this rock were four tracks, moccasin tracks, made by a person making long strides and traveling from the southwest to the northeast.

You that have never been to Seven Wells should go and see these curiosities for you will be well paid for your trouble.

This was on November 1, 1880, and I want to say that on this day I saw and heard more turkeys than I had ever heard before in my life, and I arranged everything for a turkey hunt that night.  At “flying up time” I was ready with my little friend to assist me.  For the first hour or two the turkeys were easy to get, but they soon got wild and I asked the boy to stay back until I could kill them; this he did for a while but he finally came running to me badly frightened, having seen something, he said.  That night we got twenty-nine turkeys, and the next night we got ten and the boy was again badly scared.  That night while I was lighting a lamp the boy came running to me and said, “Here is that thing now, going between us and the creek.”  I turned my head to see what it was.  I could distinguish the bulk of something about twenty feet away but did not pay much attention to it.

The next morning I went out early to get our horses and saw three very large panthers going to a bluff near where we had camped the night before, so we made up our minds to leave for home.  We started out in a southeast direction, and it was not long before we were lost, as the day was cloudy and there were no roads.  We were lost all that day and the next night.  The following morning the wind was cool, so I decided it was from the north and took what I believed to be the northeast course in hopes of coming back to the road we traveled in coming out.  I was right in my calculations and we struck the old “Centerline Trail” near where Roscoe is now located.  We struck camp and then took dinner.

Right then I made up my mind that if there was anything in the looks of a country, this was the place for me, and here I would like to make my home.

I went back to Eastland City and disposed of my turkeys, 39 in all, at 75 cents apiece for the hens and $1 for the gobblers for Thanksgiving, thus making my trip a profitable one.  I had fully made up my mind to come west, and I reached Nolan County again on April 12, 1881, and settled the place on which I now live.  My place was the second one improved in this part of the country, the first one being settled by Houston Patterson, and our farms joined.

My house was built of lumber from the first carload shipped to Sweetwater, and I paid for it partly by hauling buffalo bones.  The house was one of the first plank houses in Nolan County; there were probably a few others built out of lumber before this—lumber hauled by ox wagon from Round Rock in Williamson County, which at that time was the nearest railroad.

In 1881, when I settled, there were several log houses in the county made of cedar logs but none of any kind in the Roscoe divide.

The buffalo disappeared from this country between 1875 and 1880, but there was one killed by Frank Malone and Tom Poston, two campers, in July 1881 in what is now Seales pasture at Walker Springs.  So far as I have been able to learn, this was the last buffalo killed in Nolan County.



Faith Boren scores two of her 18 points last night against Ira.
The Roscoe Plowgirls continued their winning ways this past week, beating Westbrook 53-29 on Friday evening and Ira 47-30 last night.

The Plowgirls jumped out to a 9-3 first quarter lead over Westbrook and never looked back.  The halftime score was 24-13.  Faith Boren was high scorer with 18 points, followed by Carolina Perez with 13 and Eva Aguayo with 10.

Then last night the Plowgirls finished strong against Ira.  The Lady Bulldogs actually took the lead late in the third quarter 24-23, but the Plowgirls came roaring back by retaking the lead 29-26 at the end of the quarter and then outscoring the Lady Bulldogs 18-4 in the fourth quarter to win by the final score of 47-30.

Faith Boren was once again the high scorer for the Plowgirls with 18 points, while Stina Tomlin had 7 and Carolina Perez 6.  The Plowgirls are now 6-2 in district play.  Their next opponent will be the district leading Highland Lady Hornets at Highland on Friday.



Brant Burnet takes a shot under the basket.
The Roscoe Plowboys won one and lost one this week, beating Westbrook  62-47 in Westbrook on Friday  and losing to Ira 64-22 last night in Plowboy Gymnasium.  The victory over the Wildcats was the Plowboys’ first district win of the season.

In that game, the score was tied at the end of the first quarter, but the Plowboys took the lead in the second quarter and held it for the rest of the game.  The halftime score was 32-23.  Jesus Leanos led the Plowboys with 31 points, while Dillon Freeman had 14 and Kevin Lavalais 7.

The district-leading Ira Bulldogs were another story, however, as they easily defeated the Plowboys last night in Roscoe.  The Bulldogs led 21-6 at the end of one and 36-18 at the half.  Jesus Leanos once again was high scorer for the Plowboys, this time with 9, followed by Cutter Davila with 6 and Dillon Freeman with 5.

Next up for the Plowboys are the Highland Hornets at Highland on Friday.



Sunday's sunset.
It was an interesting week for weather in and around Roscoe.  Last Wednesday and Thursday were warm and breezy with temperatures climbing into the upper seventies both days, but then a cool front blew through on Friday, when the high got up only to 53°F. 

Saturday was somewhat warmer, but then Sunday turned out to be one of those perfect winter days that reminds you that it will be spring again before long.  There was only a slight breeze, and the afternoon temperature was 77°.  I took advantage of the beautiful weather to open the windows and doors and let the house air completely out.  At the Stripes station, the Roscoe Girl Scouts were outside selling girl scout cookies and doing what appeared to be a brisk business.

I opened the doors and windows again on Monday as it warmed up to 79°, and the nice weather continued until yesterday around noon, when Mother Nature did an about face and a cold front blew in, coming directly out of the west instead of the north or northwest.  It came with high winds with gusts up to 45 mph, coloring the sky reddish with the first dusty weather of the year.  It also sent the temperature plummeting down to 34° last night with wind chills down into the lower twenties.

There was no rain this past week and none is in the forecast.  In fact, there has been a fire weather warning for the area since Sunday.  The high temperature today will be only in the fifties with a low in the low thirties tonight, but Thursday and Friday should see slightly warmer weather with weekend highs in the sixties and lows in the upper thirties. 



John Settle Bostick, Sr., 82, passed away on Saturday, January 26, at his home in Roscoe.  Services will be held at 10:00am this morning at First Baptist Church in Roscoe followed by interment at the Round Mountain Cemetery in Fisher County.

Mr. Bostick was born in Rotan on January 2, 1931, and was a graduate of Rotan High School.  He married Geneva Watkins on June 20, 1948.  He worked for B. J. Hughes Co. in Odessa for 31 years before moving to Roscoe in 1990.  A member of the First Baptist Church, he was a farmer and rancher and went to all the area cattle sales every week.

He is survived by his daughter, Dianna Heady and husband Richard of Roscoe; son, Mack Bostick and wife Martha of College Station; sister-in-law, Minnie Rose of Sweetwater; niece, Marla Andrews of Sweetwater; nephew, Marty Rose of New Braunfels; seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Geneva; son, John Bostick, Jr.; grandson, Jasen Bostick; granddaughter, Colby Duckett Bostick; sister, Jimmie McCright; and parents, John T. and Tennie Sally Bostick.

Pallbearers are his grandchildren: Tony Heady, J.T. Bostick, Ricky Heady, Jennifer Bostick, Kyle Bostick, Cody Bostick, Mackenzie Bostick, and Dustin Heady.

Honorary pallbearers are Derryl Overby, Billy Joe McCombs, Bubba Cleveland, James Ratliff, Tony Ham, and Truett Bruns. 


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Car Chase, Police Manhunt Cause Local Excitement

A police helicopter joined the manhunt at I-20 and FM 1230 next to CWH Farms, owned by Cody and Willis Hughes.  (Photos courtesy of Cody Hughes.)
Shots fired at a highway patrolman and a high-speed car chase resulted in a heavy response from law enforcement and caused considerable excitement near Champion in western Nolan County Monday morning. 

At about 6:20am a DPS trooper on I-20 in Mitchell County caught on radar an Oklahoma-registered SUV  heading east at 109mph, and pulled it over for speeding.  The trooper noticed three men inside, and as he approached the vehicle, the driver jumped out and fired three shots at him, then jumped back in and fled eastbound at speeds exceeding 100mph.  A high-speed pursuit followed and more shots were fired at the trooper during the chase.   

Near Loraine, the trooper lost sight of the vehicle, which was later found abandoned near I-20 on FM 1230, about six miles west of Roscoe.  Law enforcement officers were unable to locate the suspects, and a major manhunt ensued with helicopters and officers on horseback taking part. 

All three area schools—Roscoe, Highland, and Loraine—were notified, and all three took precautions, locking school entrances and keeping children inside while the search for the fugitives was on.  The manhunt at FM 1230 was cancelled at about noon.

Then, at around 2:00 that afternoon, citizens in Colorado City notified police that three males were inside a house, referred to as a private café, in the southeast part of town in the 100 block of S. Austin Street, just south of Business 20. Officers went to investigate and found the three hiding there and barricaded inside.  Police set up a perimeter and evacuated nearby houses as a precaution, then began a siege of the place that lasted more than nine hours.

Shortly after midnight, a SWAT team set off stun grenades at the front door of the building and without firing any shots captured all three men and took them to the Mitchell County Jail.  Arrested for attempted capital murder, felony possession of a firearm, and evading arrest are Myron McDonald, Jr., 22, of Oklahoma City and Christopher Deshawn Johnson, 24, also of Oklahoma City.  The identity of the third suspect has been withheld because he is a 16-year-old from Edmondson, Oklahoma.  He has been transported to a juvenile facility in Taylor County. 

Colorado City radio station KVMC also reported that two others charged with hindering apprehension of the above three are Felicia Diaz and Brandon Emerson.  They allegedly helped the three men get from FM 1230 to the private café in Colorado City.



Torrey Willman shoots against Hermleigh.
The Roscoe Plowgirls continued their winning ways this past week with easy victories over Loraine and Hermleigh. 

The Plowgirls rolled over the Lady Bulldogs in Loraine Friday evening, 72-23.  The score at the end of the first quarter was 14-9 Plowgirls and 35-20 at halftime, but in the second half the Plowgirls pulled away scoring 37 points to Loraine’s 3. 

The Plowgirls were led by Carolina Perez with 18 points, while Shelby Brown had 17 and Faith Boren 16.

Then last night the Plowgirls beat the Lady Cardinals of Hermleigh in Plowboy Gym 56-38.  The Plowgirls jumped out to a 15-4 lead in the first quarter and were ahead 36-14 at the half.

Carolina Perez was once again high scorer with 18 points.  Faith Boren had 10 and Mirian Solis had 9.

The Plowgirls are now 4-2 in district play and will play Westbrook there on Friday.


Cutter Davila (24) takes a shot.
The Plowboys are still looking for their first district win after losing to Loraine away on Friday and to Hermleigh at home last night. 

The Loraine game was tied 41-41 at the end of regulation, but the Bulldogs outscored the Plowboys 8-4 in overtime to win by four 49-45.  Loraine had led 21-20 at halftime and 32-28 after three quarters, but the Plowboys tied it up in the fourth before losing in overtime.

High scorer for the Plowboys was Jesus Leanos with 19 points, while Kevin Lavalais and Shelton Toliver both had 6.

Then last night the Plowboys also led for much of the game against Hermleigh only to fall behind and lose at the end.  Roscoe was ahead 10-8 at the end of the first quarter and 22-18 at halftime, but the Cardinals pulled ahead in the third and led 33-30 going into the fourth quarter, when they widened the lead to seven to win by a final score of 43-36.

The Plowboys were led by Jesus Leanos again, this time with 11 points, while Dillon Freeman had 10. 

The Plowboys are now 0-4 in district play.  Their next opponent is Westbrook in Westbrook on Friday.




A number of Roscoe FFA students did well at last week’s Nolan County Stock Show.  Stina Tomlin had the Reserve Champion Goat and also won the Senior Showmanship Award in Goats.   Shelby Spencer won the Junior Showmanship Award in Broilers.

Other Roscoe winners include the following:

               Braiden Moore – 2nd Place – Swine
               Ty Fullwood – 2nd Place – Lamb
               Torrey Willman – 3rd Place – Swine
               Tait Fullwood – 3rd Place – Lamb
               Jaci Alexander – 3rd Place – Lamb
               Megan Boren – 4th Place – Swine
               Gage Hoskins – 4th Place – Swine
               Zeke Murphy – 5th Place – Lamb
               Dillon Freeman – 5th Place – Swine



The weather was considerably warmer than the previous week.  Highs through the weekend were in the mid-sixties with lows around forty.  On Monday it was cooler, getting up only to 52°F, but warmer weather returned yesterday, and temperatures should climb into the seventies today and tomorrow before cooling off again on Friday for weekend highs in the fifties. 

There is no rain in the forecast.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nolan County Stock Show Underway

Goats at last year's Nolan County Stock Show.

The Nolan County Stock Show has begun at the Nolan County Coliseum.  The weigh-in for steers and heifers was yesterday.  Here is the remaining schedule:

Wednesday (Today): Weigh-in for swine: 1:00-7:00pm.  All other animals: 4:00-7:00pm.
       Steer and Heifer Show 6:00pm

Thursday (Tomorrow):

       Sheep and Goat Show 4:00pm
       Rabbits and Broilers 5:00pm

Friday: Swine Show 4:30pm

Saturday: 10:00am Honorary Show

       Barbecue 11:00am-1:00pm
       Awards 1:00pm
       Premium Sale 1:00pm


Plowbots in Lubbock.
The Plowbots, Roscoe’s robotics team, were in Lubbock this past weekend for the Hub City kickoff. 

Faith Boren and Tito Arce were asked to do a presentation on how Roscoe has managed to win three awards in the past three years, and the team learned about this year’s challenge, called “Ultimate Ascent,” which will require a robot to throw Frisbees through targets and have the robot climb a pyramid. 

They have six weeks to come up with their best possible solution.  Team members also attended workshops on building, wiring, and programming.  



Highland's Ron Covington makes a free throw for one of his 15 points.
Highland’s varsity boys and girls won both games against Roscoe in Plowboy gym last night.

The Lady Hornets, who are undefeated and the class of the district, started fast and coasted to victory.  The final score was 41-20.  It was 9-2 at the end of the first quarter and 19-4 at the half.  High scorers for the Plowgirls were Faith Boren with 9 and Stina Tomlin with 3. 

The boys’ game was closer but the Hornets pulled away at the end to win by 12, 35-23.  The halftime score in that game was 15-12 Highland.  High scorers for the Plowboys were Cutter Davila with 8 and Shelton Toliver with 7, while Ron Covington had 15 for Highland and Brandon Stevens had 7.

Next up for the Plowboys and Plowgirls are the Loraine Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs on Friday evening in Loraine.



The total rainfall for last Wednesday was .66”, bringing the year’s total to .78”.  Warmer weather followed, and on Friday got up to 68°F but with high southwest winds with gusts up to 35mph.  Then on Saturday a cold front blew in, and it has been too cold for comfort since then.  Highs haven’t got out of the thirties and lows have been in the mid to low twenties. 

The forecast is for slight warming with highs in the upper forties today and in the fifties through the weekend.  Lows will rise into the thirties and stay that way until Monday, when another cold front moves in and drops the low back down into the twenties. 

There is no rain in the forecast.



Services will be held at 2:00pm tomorrow, January 17, at McCoy Chapel of Memories in Sweetwater for Ola Mae Bunnell, 92, who died on January 11 at Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital.  Interment in the Roscoe Cemetery will follow.

Born on February 7, 1920, in Grapeland, Texas, Ola Mae married Jimmy Golden Bunnell in Elkhart, Texas, on April 24, 1940.  She came to Roscoe in 1968 and opened the Busy Bee Tax Service, Busy Bee Donut Shop, and the Roscoe RV Park.  She was a member of the First Baptist Church, served on the City Council, and was curator of the Roscoe Historical Museum.  She also served on the Community Center Board and was a staunch supporter of Roscoe. 

Survivors include a daughter, Carol Atwood of Glendale, Arizona; sons Kenneth Bunnell of Roscoe and Larry Bunnell and wife Rose Mary of Farmington, NM; daughter-in-law Karen Bunnell of Albuquerque, NM; nine grandchildren, thirteen great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be this evening from 6:00-8:00pm at McCoy Funeral Home in Sweetwater.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Roscoe Race Track and the Nolan County Fair

Modern chariot racing in Utah.  The chariot race was one of many racing events at the Roscoe fairgrounds.
We Roscoans are rightfully proud of our three major civic events of the year: the Spring Fling in April, the Independence Day Celebration in July, and the West Texas Wind Festival in October.  All are well attended and have steadily grown to become not just local but  regional in scope. 

With the city’s lean years in the eighties and nineties, one might assume that these recent annual events are unprecedented for Roscoe, but, as I discovered not too long ago, there was a time when our fair city put on a major annual celebration that has been largely forgotten—the Nolan County Fair—which in the early days was held in Roscoe, or more specifically, just east of Roscoe at what was then known as the Fairgrounds, located just south of Broadway across from the American Legion post.  

The focal point of the Fairgrounds—and its greatest drawing card—was the race track, reputed to be one of the finest around.  Recently, I examined the 1915 Nolan County Fair’s program, which had been sitting unnoticed on a shelf in the museum for years.  Its contents are fascinating and reveal much about the life of the town back then.

As one would expect, there were several contests typical of county fairs: ladies’ crafts with separate competitions for embroidery, crocheting, and tatting; best cooked and baked dishes, flowers and pot plants, art, garden produce, even a pretty baby contest. Cash prizes were in the $3 range for first prizes with second and third prizes correspondingly less.

Not all the prizes were money, however.  The award for the best jar of homemade sour pickles, for example, was a bucket of Seal Brand Coffee from Dodds’ Grocery along with ten tickets to the Gem Theater, Roscoe’s silent moving-picture house.  The best loaf of salt-rising bread got ten gallons of oil and five gallons of gasoline from J. E. Russell’s garage, and so on.

There was also an extensive stock show with $10 prizes going to the best draft stallion, gaited stallion, and all-purpose stallion, $8 to the best jack and $5 to the best jennet, and $7.50 to the best span of mules along with numerous other categories.  Cattle categories (Jersey bull, cow, heifer; Durham bull, cow, heifer, etc.) had $5 first prizes and $2.50 second prizes as did the hogs (red boar, sow; Poland China boar, sow; etc.).

In addition, the organizers engaged a big carnival from outside that employed 150 people and had equipment that took seven railcars to transport.  Midway on the Roscoe fairgrounds must have been quite a sight.

But back to the races—at the beginning of the racing section of the program, the Nolan County Fair Association addresses horsemen with the following enticement to participate:

“We have a splendid track, and it will be in the finest condition for this event.  Plenty of sheds, stalls, and other conveniences have been provided, and every courtesy possible will be extended to those making entries.”

Racing took place on all three days of the fair with the largest prizes on the first and third days.  The top purse was $150 for the 2:20 pace or trot on the first day and $125 on the third day.  That was quite a chunk of change in a time when laborers worked for 15¢-20¢ an hour.  The half-mile race had a $100 purse on both the first and third days.  Purses were divided 50%, 30%, 20% for first, second, and third places. 

The first and third days also had a quarter-mile saddle horse race ($25 purse), and a chariot race ($25).  I can’t help but wonder what the chariot race was like.  I would love to have seen one.   

There were also separate races for motorcycles ($10), bicycles ($5), mules ($5), and burros ($5).  Boys ages 7-10 could compete in the turkey roping where the prize was the turkey, and boys ages 10-13 had a pig roping where the prize was the pig.  There was also a goat roping contest ($10).  

In short, the Nolan County Fair must have been quite an event for Roscoe, its citizens, and the county at large.  It is a shame that, as far as I know, no photos of it are still in existence.  

The Roscoe Historical Museum would love to have any photos of the race track, fairgrounds, or any aspect of the Nolan County Fair when it was in Roscoe.  If you or anyone you know has any, please notify me so that I could make a copy or copies for the museum.  

The entire program for the 1915 Nolan County Fair is available for viewing online by clicking here.  Note: As a .pdf file, it requires Adobe Reader for viewing.  To rotate the view, right-click and then click "Rotate Clockwise" until the pages are upright. 



Carolina Perez sinks a jumper against the Lady Cats last night.
The Plowgirls are now 2-0 in district play and 13-8 on the season after putting away Westbrook in Plowboy Gym last night 31-19.  The Plowgirls led all the way with the halftime score 15-9.  High scorers were Shelby Brown with 9 points and Faith Boren with 8.
The Plowgirls won their district opener against Hermleigh in Hermleigh on Friday 75-34 with Boren scoring 20 points and Eva Aguayo 13. 
The previous weekend, the Plowgirls won two and lost two in the Eula tournament, losing to Munday 42-22, then defeating Hawley 38-36 and Paducah 38-35, before losing to Eastland 50-26.
Their next opponent is Ira in Ira on Friday evening.  The Plowboys begin district play there following the girls’ game.  



If you missed KTAB-TV’s weekend news report on developments regarding the prospective business growth in Nolan County due to the oil industry, you can view it on the Big Country website by clicking here.  It lasts 2 minutes and 53 seconds.



Plowboy freshman running back Vincent Pantoja has been named The Abilene Reporter-News Newcomer of the Year for the recently completed football season.  To see the article, click here.


The Texas High School Coaches Association in conjunction with the United States Marine Corps is proud to recognize Jose Rangel to the first-team boys' football Academic All-State team for 2012-2013.  It also awards honorable mention status to Plowboy Brant Burnett. 



City Manager Cody Thompson reported on a number of issues at the monthly City Council meeting in City Hall last night.  

Bids have opened on the five houses receiving financial assistance from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.  Last year, Roscoe applied for and was approved for the assistance for up to five older houses that were to be demolished and be replaced by new ones.  The five new houses will be approximately 1,157 square feet, and bids ranged from $59,500 to $70,000.  Here are the houses to be replaced:

               Address:                         Owner:
               307 N. Cypress St.        Herminia Garcia
               1206 10th St.                  Maria Orozco
               104 Hickory St.             Lupe Kidd
               901 Hickory St.             Eugene Griffith
               500 Hickory St.             Brad Willman

There has been some delay in Austin of the review of the proposed construction of the Roscoe's reverse-osmosis water treatment plant, which will unfortunately push back the projected August completion date.

An RV Park is planned on the recently sold Emerson property near the City and County barn by the baseball field.  The Council discussed revising city rules governing RV parks. 

The McVeys have bought city property on the north side and have begun work to establishing a nursery there.

Brick work has been completed at Old Town Park and the Community Center although some electrical work remains to be done. 

The contractor for the new north side lift station will begin in a week or so. 

Swimming pool contractors are being contacted to repair the filtration system that caused the pool to be shut down in August.   



Last Thursday's snow of an inch or less was melted and gone by 11am.
A light snow on Thursday was followed by several days of cool weather with lows dropping below freezing and highs of 50°F or less.  Then, rain was forecast for yesterday, today, and tomorrow with chances of precipitation reaching 90%.  So far, the results have been disappointing with only about a tenth of an inch.  However, more may be on the way.  Whatever we get will be welcome as it is pretty dry around here.  

The forecast is for clearing skies and warmer weather with highs in the fifties tomorrow and the sixties on Friday.  Then another cold front should move through Saturday, dropping weekend lows into the twenties and highs in the forties.  


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Mayor of Fort Worth and the Roscoe Rabbit Drive of 1915

Children display captured jack rabbits from a Pyron rabbit drive of about 1915.
[Editor’s Note: As curator of the Roscoe Historical Museum, I sometimes do research into the history of old Roscoe and occasionally come across interesting information about the town that has been forgotten and would be lost forever if it weren’t located and retrieved from dusty old archives.  The following account is about one such event that occurred in 1915, preserved in the historical archives of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.]

Jack rabbits are relatively scarce around Roscoe these days, but it hasn’t always been that way.  In the early days of the community all the way up to the 1950s, there were often so many rabbits that they were major pests.  The early settlers killed off their natural predators--the coyotes, wolves, cougars, foxes, and wildcats--because they were a danger to chickens, pets, and livestock.  As a result, the rabbits proliferated and created considerable damage by eating farmers’ crops. 

To counter the problem, community rabbit drives were organized.  These were all day affairs participated in by a large number of people, who would go to a designated area, either a pasture or ranch, to round up the rabbits and shoot them.  Men and boys would divide up into two groups, the drivers and the shooters.  The drivers would go a mile or so away, and then space themselves out in a line 15 or 20 feet from one another and start walking back toward a similar line of shooters, yelling and making noise to frighten the rabbits and drive them toward the shooters, armed with shotguns, who would then shoot them. 

In the meantime the women prepared and set out a big picnic lunch, which was then enjoyed by all.  Successful rabbit drives frequently resulted in the death of hundreds of rabbits.

Since tularemia, or “rabbit fever,” wasn’t a problem until the 1930s and later, early-day rabbit drives yielded a lot of edible rabbit meat, which was fed not only to the pets but also often eaten by people, especially poor people.

Picnic lunch at a Bernecker rabbit drive in 1925.

In late March of 1915, S. D. Knox of Roscoe wrote Fort Worth Mayor R. F. Milam, offering him all the rabbits collected from a big upcoming drive.  He said to expect about five hundred.  “They are good to eat until May 1,” Knox wrote.  “Parboiled and baked, they are good and wholesome.  If the out-of-work people of your city would care for them, we will prepare them and ship them to you.  All we ask is that you pay the freight.”

Mayor Milam enthusiastically accepted Roscoe’s offer, announcing that he would set up a “rabbit bureau” in the corridor of the City Hall and give one rabbit to every unemployed man asking for it.  He sent his secretary to the Carnegie Library to obtain recipes for both cottontails and jackrabbits, and also received recipes from others. 

Here is one of them, claimed to result in “good, tender eating” even if the rabbit is old:

“Fill with dressing to suit the taste, well moistened with hot water.  Sew up the carcass, sprinkle well with salt, put in your roasting pan, some strips of pork laid over the carcass, or if you have no pork a little butter will do very well.  Bake in medium oven from two to four hours.” 

Copies of recipes for fried rabbit, broiled rabbit, roast rabbit, and rabbit hash were also made for distribution under this heading: “The great municipal mayoralty recipes for cooking rabbits, advocated and promulgated by leading scientists and artists of cuisine, and guaranteed to meet the approval of the most fastidious epicure. These recipes comply with the pure food law and will be found to be gastronomically perfect.” 

Then the word was spread to the unemployed of Fort Worth.  All that was needed was the rabbits, and they were due to arrive on the Monday following the big Roscoe rabbit drive that Saturday. 

However, in the immortal words of the Scottish poet Robert Burns,

                            The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
                            Gang aft agley,            
                            An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
                            For promis'd joy!

On Monday, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, men and women, boys and girls swarmed in front of City Hall and in its corridors for the promised free rabbits.  But train after train arrived from the west with no sign of them.  Finally, the Mayor’s secretary made a long distance call to S. D. Knox in Roscoe to find out what had happened. 

“Mumps,” was the reply.  The rabbit drive had been called off because several of the leaders of the drive had come down with the ailment, prompting the others to stay home for fear of contagion.  Knox said, however, that the people of Roscoe intended to keep their promise and would let the mayor know when the drive was held.  

What happened next is best expressed by the Star-Telegram reporter who reported on the situation:

"There was no howling from an angry mob when Watson [the Mayor’s secretary] made the official announcement that the rabbits were still loping over Nolan County, but there was deep gloom.  Recipes for frying, roasting, and broiling rabbit that had been published by sanction of the mayor were folded and tucked away, and the rabbit hunters moved silently away."

But all’s well that ends well, and on Saturday morning, April 3, the rabbits arrived in Fort Worth.

They were carried in big sacks to City Hall and placed in a huge pile that blocked the main entrance. Mayor Milam then “played host to a constant stream of men, women, and children” that came for the promised rabbits, which had been “beheaded and semi-cleaned.”

Newspaper photographers and even a motion-picture cameraman were on hand to capture the event, and the Mayor, who hadn’t planned to distribute the bloody rabbits, nevertheless was asked to pose doing just that so many times that he wound up handing out as many rabbits as anyone. 

“Sad commentary on things in general,” the Mayor said as he surveyed the rabbit applicants. “I believe there are more silk-socked men in that crowd than unemployed and needy, but it’s unemployed first, and the silk-socked boys may have what’s left over.”

And apparently everyone, silk-socked and poor alike, went home that day satisfied.


Information about the great rabbit giveaway comes from these four articles published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

1. “Mayor to Give Away 500 Rabbits Caught in Drive,” 

      March 24, 1915.
2. “Rabbit Recipes Hold Attention of Mayor Milam,” 

      March 26, 1915.
3. “Rabbit Drive is Stopped by Mumps; Poor Here Losers,” 

      March 29, 1915.
4. “Rabbits Distributed to Big Crowd; Mayor Milam Takes an 

      Active Part,” April 3, 1915. 


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