When we lived in North Texas Dad had two hobbies—raising bees, and fighting game cocks. When he was 16 years old, Grandpa H.T. Saunders gave him a hive of bees for his Birthday. He began raising and shipping the fine-bred Queen bees to foreign countries as well as to many other States. These were sent by mail in little cages made of a frame of wood covered with screen wire, that he made himself. He became quite well known in “bee circles.” The Game chickens were the kind used for “Cock-Fights” – quite the sport in most South American countries and Cuba—he shipped the cocks to most of those countries. It was, and still is, against the law to hold cock-fights in the United States. These game cocks had long wicked spurs—Dad had many scars on his legs the results of being “spurred” by these fighting cocks. The foreign countries always paid for the Game Cocks and Queen Bees in coins—many of them gold coins.
Dad just kept these and had a larger than gallon tin bucket—it had once held Arbuckle Coffee– full of the coins. When our house buned these were all melted together in one big lump. I think Dutch or Polly has it now.
On Dad’s 17th Birthday Grandpa gave him a matched pair of cream colored fine mules—there were no cars, etc., then to give! One of these mules was slightly larger than the other, they were called “Big-Un” and “Little-Un.” Dad was very proud of them. But they later had a bad accident. This happened when I was about six years old, and I remember it well. The mules got entangled in a barbed wire fence one night, and in thrashing around trying to escape, they only got more entangled, and terribly cut on all their legs, stomachs, shoulders, and hind legs. They had almost bled to death when Dad found them next morning. He sent for the Vent, and got some neighbor men, as well as our hired hands to help him cut the barbed-wire away, and load the mules onto wagons—they were too weakened to stand or walk—and bring them home. By that time the Vet had arrived, and said the mules would have to be destroyed. Dad refused and insisted on the Vet sewing up the wounds, after first washing them with disinfectant. And Dad paid the vet double his fee. The Vet said the mules would have to be kept in a standing position, so Dad had a building built for them, with all the front screened to keep the flies away, and so the mules could see out and be better satisfied. He had the harness-maker to make “slings” that fit under each mule and so it’s feet did not touch the ground suspended from the ceiling of the building, with feed and water troughs for each. He kept the wounds clean, and the Vet visited them every other day.
In time they both recovered, only the bad scars remained. But Dad never used them for work again. When we moved to Uvalde in 1914, these mules were brought along. We still had them when our house burned four years later.
Eventually they died of old age.
Dad gave up raising the Game Cocks after wo moved from North Texas, but continued on with the bees and became one of the leading “bee men” in the Southwest. We had five different apiaries. Right around Uvalde is the only place in the world that the little shrub Guajilla grows and honey made from its flower is the finest honey in the world. This little shrub has leaves like the sensitive plant—they close when touched—and round cream colored flowers about the size of marbles—and claw-like thorns.
Dad had a glass barrel made and filled with the Guajilla honey. It was exhibited at the Texas State Fair at Dallas. The honey was so clear that a newspaper placed behind it could be easily read.
Dad had brought all our bees with us when we moved to Uvalde from North Texas. They were an extra fine strain of bees. They were used to him and wouldn’t sting him. He worked with them without gloves– but they would—and did—sting strangers. They know a stranger by their scent.
I’ll tell you more about bee-keeping and what is involved in a later story. When I start on the stories after we moved to Uvalde, this was an ill-fated move, and the start of a long series of bad luck, and sad happenings.