When we lived in North Texas, the Henry Marshall farm was the first farm East of ours, beyond the Bottoms.
Henry Marshall was a railroad engineer. There were three children, identical twin girls—Mae and Gae, my age, and a younger boy named Crockett.
Henry Marshall and Dad went to the Dallas State Fair each September, Dad riding in the engine cab with Henry. Dallas is about 75 miles from Trenton.
One year Henry brought back a beautiful black and white Shetland pony for Crockett, and a green wagon with red trim and red wheels for Mae and Gae. The wagon was wood, with built up side boards, and large enough several of us could ride in it.
It was pulled by a matched pair of goats named Billy and Willy. They had specially made harness, and were the most beautiful goats I ever saw, with hair, curly and wavy, that reached almost to the ground, glistening white. They had long, twisting horns that were almost the length of their bodies. They were perfectly gently, but we soon discovered no-one, adult or child, dared turn their backs on Billy. He couldn’t resist butting anyone that he saw with their backs toward him. Harry found this out the first time we visited there. Billy butted him so hard he went sprawling headfirst, badly scratching his face, and getting dirt in his eyes. This enraged our Bulldog, Jack, so much Ralph could hardly hold him with his choke-collar. Jack was trained to protect us kids and he would have killed anything, animal or human, that harmed us, unless prevented from doing so.
Jack neither forgave nor forgot the goat butting Harry. So we had to chain him until we took him home.
That evening we were sitting on the front porch after supper, as we always did. We loved to listen to the night peepers and crickets, and watch the fireflies. And to hear the sort-of-sad call of the whip-poor-will that lived on the wooded hill of the farm adjoining ours on the West, toward Trenton. We called this little hill “Whip-poor-will Hill” because the bird lived there. The hill was very steep, but there was a grassy slope leading up to it. The Johnsons had four goats that were grazing on this slope that evening.
Jack sat on the porch with us, intently watching those goats. But no one thought anything about it as the goats had been on the Johnson farm a long time.
One of the grown Johnson boys worked for Dad. His name was Lawrence, and he had been married the Sunday before this incident, at the Burns Chapel.
The next morning when Dad went out to take care of the stock. Jack was on the back porch, but he had blood around his mouth and on his chest and forelegs. He was white, except for his ears, which were brown, and a coin-dot of brown between his ears. Dad examined him, thinking he had been hurt, but found no wound, so thought he must have been in a fight during the night with a stray dog.
When Lawrence Johnson came to work, he told Dad that the four goats had been killed that night. Dad figured Jack must have killed them, so he went over to the Johnson farm and paid Mr. Johnson for the four goats. Dad said he supposed Jack, in his way or thinking, thought the goats were a threat to us kids, and felt it his duty to protect us. Since that was what he was trained for, he wasn’t punished, for Jack took that duty very seriously.
Sometimes it was comical, though.
In the late Fall, Ralph, Harry and I went to the edge of the Bottoms to gather black walnuts under the big walnut trees, there were a few wild pecan trees there, too.
The Bottoms were dark and gloomy, thickly grown with tall trees that shut out the sun, and even thicker underbrush. It was almost marshy, with the little creek running along the edge.
Only small animals lived there—’coons, ‘possums, squirrels, weasels, rats, etc. And many domestic cats that had ‘gone wild.’ Having such an abundance of food from the small animals, plus fish and crawfish from the little creek, they were quite a bit larger than the usual house cat.
They sometimes raided our chickens at night, and could easily carry off a grown chicken.
Sometimes there were blood-curdling yowls coming from the Bottoms—which were only the old Tom Cats fighting and settling their disputes but were frightening enough we wouldn’t ever have dared go into that spooky area.
However, when we went there at the edge of the Bottoms, we would tease Jack by pretending we were going on into the Bottoms. Jack would get in front of us and lean against us to try to stop us, that failing he would grab our clothes in his teeth and set back on his haunches and pull with all his might. If that failed, he ran around in front of us, jumped at us, knocking us down—and sat on us. He was determined to prevent us from going into the Bottoms by whatever drastic measures it took. We would never have gone in there anyway because of the Copper-head snakes there. They are almost as poisonous as rattlesnakes—but rattlesnakes don’t live in North Texas—it’s too cold there in the winter for them.
Fearing Jack would go back to the Marshall farm and perhaps kill the goats there because of the butting incident, Dad went over and told Henry about Jack killing the Johnson goats. They decided to build a strong pen for them using “hog-wire”, a very strong wire used to fence hog pastures, and so they built it, making it six feet tall, with outward slanting wire at the top so Jack couldn’t climb over. But, so far as we knew, Jack never went back. I guess he felt that Ralph’s “No!” meant he wasn’t to harm those two goats, but that the others were a threat to us kids.
Lawrence Johnson had married a girl named Jane Boer. The Joe Boer family lived on the road from our house to the Burns Chapel and cemetery. They were married by Grandma Burns’ brother, Rev. John Connelly.
The following Sunday they had Sunday dinner at her parents’ home, some friends came home with them for dinner. Afterward Lawrence and some of the men went for a swim in a pond on Grandma Burns’ place, Lawrence got cramps and was drowned. He is buried in the Burns Cemetery. He was a nice young man and we all liked him very much.