Linden Tree Leaves

Genealogy and Ancestry Explorations


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Nona’s Stories: Leaving the Ranch

Finally the day came for us to leave the ranch and go to Laredo.

Some friends of ours, Hanel and Lillie Peterson, were to come by the ranch for us. Hanel was to be the Engineer at the new Power Plant, and Ray was to be the Power Dispatcher.

So I fed all my pets for the last time, and scratched Alonzo’s head for him. But Who-Who wouldn’t come down from his tree because of the strangers. There was a faint answering when I called him, and he watched all the activity, but stayed in the tree.

It was hard to leave them for I knew I’d never see any of them again.

With our luggage and the Peterson’s too, there was no room for my guitar and mandolin, so I gave them to some friends from an adjoining ranch that had come over to tell us goodbye.

We arrived at Laredo the next morning.

We came to the ranch in the middle of the Winter and left in the middle of the summer, so were not there for the round-up and branding of the cattle, which is done in the Fall.

Nona


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Nona’s Stories: Spring Chores and Friends

Some times on Sundays friends would come out to the ranch – a few from San Antonio – Dixie Collins, a friend of mine – lived in San Antonio – We would pack a lunch of fried chicken, saddle the horses and ride across the big pasture to the Nieces River which bordered the ranch.

We kept a flat-bottom boat tied up there. We would spend the day fishing, boating and swimming. The Nieces was six or seven miles from the Six-Mile Ranch.

Once when we were out on the river in the boat, a herd of deer, with several fawns, came down to the water on the other side of the river to drink. They didn’t seem to be afraid of use, or to pay any attention to the boat.

The best time to watch the watering animals is late in the evening, but we couldn’t stay that late, because we had to get back to the ranch house to do the chores, feed the stock, milk the cows, etc.

On the way home, in the open meadows, we usually raced – but Ray always won, his horse, Eagle, was a spirited, headstrong horse and much faster than any of the others. Usually our friends were not much used to riding horseback. They would write us how sore they were for days.

Ray and I had much riding to do. We had to keep a close check on the stock for any signs of Anthrax – sometimes called charbon or blackleg. Every rancher dreads this disease. However, we didn’t have any outbreaks of it while we were there.

There was four thousand acres in the big pasture. In the Spring there were hundreds of lambs and kids. Bobcats and coyotes raided the herds almost nightly. Sometimes several nannies or ewes would be killed, leaving their kids and lambs orphans. These orphans were called “sanchos” – a name given them by Mexican sheep and goat herders.

So we would have to provide them with “foster” mothers – other nannies or ewes that had kids or lambs about the same age. We had to put the mothers in pens and the kids and lambs in another pen. At feeding time we would have to hold the mothers and allow her own kid or lamb to suckle on one side and an orphan on the other side. Some of the mothers would accept the “sanchos” after it lost the scent of its own mother and acquired the scent of the new foster-mother by association with her and her own “child.”

Lambkins was born very early in the spring when there were no other nannies with kids, so we had to bottle-feed him.

Once when we were riding the big pasture and several miles from the ranch house, we were caught in a rain and electrical storm. When we left the ranch house that morning the sky was clear and no sign of rain, so we didn’t bring along our ponchos – they are especially designed to protect the horseback riders from rain and bad weather.

We always took along food and a canteen of water, for we were usually too far away to return to the house for lunch. Being Spring, thunderstorms can develop quickly, and this one did.

There was a lot of hail in this one which frightened the horses. It was hard to hold them to a walk. But we knew if we allowed them to run they might slip in the mud and water and fall and there was real danger of them breaking a leg – or falling on us. A horse has to be destroyed when it breaks a leg. And, too, we had to keep control of them to avoid any big trees that might be struck by lightning.

That was a long, cold walk home. We were wet as the proverbial wet hen.

But before we could go home we had to go by the goat and sheep pens to take care of kids and lambs. When they are very young they chill easily and die.

That done we went on to the ranch house and changed our wet clothes before doing the chores.

After that experience, we rolled and tied our ponchos on the back of our saddles so we would not again be caught without them in a rain, but as it happened we didn’t need them again.

The calves are born in the Spring and the little white-faced Hereford calves are beautiful. They are gentle and docile and seem to love to be petted. I was always getting off my horse to pet one and sometimes their mothers took a dim view of this. And after a few foot races back to my horse, I learned to keep him near with the mounting side toward me. After the calves are a few weeks old the cows are not so protective.

We had to examine all the newborn calves to make sure they were not infected with screw-worms which can kill them. This is a great problem on all ranches, especially during that time when there wasn’t the Federal program to combat the screw-worm as there is now.

Nona


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Nona’s Stories: Found Treasure

This is a story of found treasure, and a story I wouldn’t tell lest no one believe it, except for the fact that Ray’s youngest brother, Gene, and sister, Maidie, still live at Uvalde and know all about it. Jean and Bud, too, have heard the Milams talk about it many times.

In the early Spring most ranchers bun the pack-rat nests—piles of branches, sticks, grass, etc. the rats have collected, usually piled up around clumps of prickly-pear or low shrubs.

Under this “nest” is a maze of rat tunnels and holes. Rattlesnakes den up in these to hibernate during the Winter, and its really to get rid of the rattlesnakes, always a danger to the stock, that the “nests” are burned.

This is a somewhat time consuming task as all the dead grass, and brush around the rat nest must be cut and raked away as a “fire ring,” so as not to start a grass and brush fire.

One must have a hoe to do this, and to kill the rattlers if they crawl out of the holes. After the nests are burned, cynide powder is poured into the holes, and dirt tamped down to kill any rattlers in the holes.

Ray and I didn’t have time to do this as we were kept busy with the ranch chores and looking after the livestock.

So Pop Milam brought a Mexican man out from town to burn the rat nests.

He slept in the bunkhouse, but I prepared his meals along with ours.

He had only been at the ranch a few days when one evening he failed to return to the bunk house. We were worried that he may have been bitten by a rattlesnake or had an accident. Ray went out to the bunk house several times during the night to see if he had returned, but he wasn’t there.

All the saddle horses were accounted for, and we were puzzled as to why he would walk to the big pasture.

The last time we had seen him was very early that morning. And he was hurrying toward the highway which was about the distance of two city blocks from the ranch house. We spoke to him, but he hardly spoke to us, and didn’t return for breakfast.

We knew there were no rat rests there as it was part of the “trap” around the ranch house, so we wondered a little about it at the time.

A big gate opened off the main highway and a road led down to the ranch house.

A few months earlier a man with his wife and two children, in a truck loaded with camping equipment, had appeared at the ranch house to ask for permission to dig for treasure.

We told him he would have to talk to Pop Milam, so he waited around until late that afternoon when Pop Milam came out from town, as he did almost every afternoon for the eggs. There were about 150 or 200 White Leghorn hens, and a bushel basket of eggs every day. These supplied one of the store in town with “fresh country eggs.”

Pop Milam told the man to go ahead and dig all he wanted to, but that there was no buried treasure there. He had heard that rumor all his life and that was all it was, just a rumor. The only stipulation was that he was to fill in any holes he dug so the stock wouldn’t step into them and break a leg. And he was not to leave any gates open or cut any fences—unforgiveable “sins” on any ranch.

The man and his family pitched their tent under a big live oak tree about half a mile from the ranch house and he dug around that poor tree until he almost uprooted it.

They carried water from the ranch house, and we gave them milk, butter, and eggs, as we had more than we could use.

Sometimes we could see him digging by the light of a lantern at night.

The children told us their father had a treasure map and was going to dig up a lot of money.

He finally gave up, though, and went back East.

There was about a month’s time after he left, and when the Mexican man came to work at the ranch.

And to get back to him—the next morning after we had last seen him, we started out to look for him on horseback. We decided to start where we had last seen him.

Riding up toward the highway, not far from the ranch house, there was a little clearing where there were no trees or shrubs. We saw something strange—out in the middle of the little clearing was a pile of mesquite branches with fresh green leaves on them.

So we investigated. When we removed them there was the rust-coated clear imprint  of an old iron kettle with three little “feet” about an inch and a half long. The kind used to cook over campfires, of iron. The kettle came to the ground level. The lid must have been exposed. Right across the road from this was the ruins of an old Stagecoach waystation and Inn. The foundation and stones and rubble from the walls were still there.

There were signs of a lot of digging done over the years all around it.

This road was part of the old Spanish Trail. It also wound its way across the Saunders ranch on the other side of Uvalde and, after all the years, the trail across our ranch was clearly discernable, no trees or brush grew on it.

Evidently the Mexican man had just stumbled onto the old iron pot with it’s lid exposed, while he was rounding up a horse to ride that day. When Pop Milam came out from town we took him to the nearby clearing and showed him the imprint of the iron pot. He was flabbergasted. He went back to town and tried to locate the Mexican man, but he was nowhere to be found. All the other Mexicans claimed they hadn’t seen him. And he was never seen around town after that.

We could only guess that he had somehow managed to take whatever treasure he had found to old Mexico. He didn’t own a car. But he could have been the only one that could have put the fresh green branches over the rust coated imprint clearly showed that it had certainly been there. If he hadn’t put those branches with the green leaves on them there, we probably would never have found that hole, the branches just couldn’t go unnoticed. That was his mistake.

He left a few clothes in the bunk house that he never returned for.

-Nona


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Nona’s Stories: When Hanse Met Kazan

The ranch cat was an old gray Tom named Hanse, in honor of Hanse Smyth, then Sheriff of Uvalde, and owner of a nearby ranch.

Hanse the cat lived in the big barn, and it was his duty to keep the barn free of rats, mice, weasels,-and hopefully-discourage snakes from taking up residence there.

Sometimes Hanse favored us with a visit to the ranch house, walking stiffly past Buff and Duff, and daring them to interfere. They pretended they didn’t see him. Hanse considered his visits of great importance, and expected a special treat.

There was always plenty of meat, so after he ate, it was his habit to take a nap on the sunny end of a couch on the screened front porch. As he started through the door from the kitchen to the living room, he literally met Kazan head-on—they ran smack into each other—Hanse fell backward, spitting and yowling, every hair standing straight up– he didn’t wait for me to open the kitchen screen door, but climbed it and refused to come down. When I finally got him down he streaked back to the barn, spitting and snarling all the way. It was plain to see what his opinion was of people who kept coyotes in the house!

That was his first visit since we had acquired Kazan and Scotty, and he didn’t know they were there.

They had both been asleep, but had heard me talking in the kitchen to Hanse, and I guess thought I was talking to them.

Kazan had such long legs, he was always loping way ahead of Scotty, who, at that stage, was about as broad as he was long, and bounced along like a rubber ball. So, it was Kazan than ran into Hanse. And, Hanse didn’t need anyone to tell him that was a coyote.

Kazan yelpe and stopped so suddenly he skidded into Hanse as he fell backward—and no doubt Hanse thought he was being attacked. Scotty just sat down and studied the situation, pricking up his ears with great interest.

As long as we were at the ranch, Hanse never came to the house again, believing, no doubt, that it was overrun by cat-eating coyotes.

The barn was his Kingdom, where he reigned supreme, and no coyote dared enter. He had his own bowl, which was filled with warm milk night and morning when the cows were milked. He was sleek and fat.

When he came out of the barn at times to greet us, he kept a wary eye on the house, expecting, no doubt, to see coyotes burst out of every window and door.

-Nona


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Nona’s Stories: Lambkin the Goat Kid

One morning in late Winter we woke to find the snow had been silently falling during the night—a very rare happening at Uvalde.

So we quickly had breakfast and went out for a walk in the snow with the dogs. I’m sure it was the first snow they ever saw. But they seemed to enjoy romping and playing in it.

LambkinPhoto001

Me and Buff and Duff at the Milam Six Mile Ranch

They were completely baffled when they were chasing rabbits and they suddenly dived under the snow and disappeared from sight.

They looked so puzzled, and would run in circles looking for them.

We walked for miles, going to the big pasture to check on the livestock there.

And it was a good thing we did for we found coyotes had attacked the goats and killed several—one had a little kid, and it was almost frozen in the snow.

Ray had on a sweater under his jacket, so we wrapped the kid in it and hurried back to the ranch house.

We built a fire in the big iron cookstove and warmed blankets to wrap it in. I fixed it a bottle of warm milk and started teaching it to take its milk from the bottle.

Kazan and Scotty were delighted with the new “bottle-baby”, but seemed upset by its constant “ba-a-a-ing” for its mother.

Kids are much more vocal than lambs. We mis-named it “Lambkins” – jokingly using the name at first, but it “stuck” so that turned out to be its permanent name.

The puppies watched the feeding process with great interest. But they didn’t understand the “baa-ing.” Scotty climbed into the “nursery box” with it and whined and licked its face, but Kazan just stood with his forepaws on the top edge of the box, ears pricked up and turning his head from one side to the other, face wrinkled in puzzlement.

But, strangely, the little kid seemed to be comforted by Scotty being in the box with it, and soon quieted down. Maybe it felt less alone in a strange place.

None of the baby animals we had while on the ranch seemed in the least afraid of each other. They hadn’t learned about fear and danger.

Scotty loved them all, showing his love by licking their faces.

Kazan played and romped with them but he never licked their faces, or a person’s hand. That form of affection seems to be something dogs have learned over the many  years of association with man.

LambkinPhoto002

Me feeding Lambkin. Sleeping porch in the background. Lambkin grew fast, eating a quart of milk each feeding. He preferred to take his bottle while standing on his hind feet like he is doing in the picture. He soon developed a fine coat of glistening-white mohair. The ranch goats were fine-bred goats, raised for their mohair. They were sheared each Spring, by a shearing crew that went from ranch to ranch.

Scotty would bed down for a nap with whatever “bottle-baby” we had in the Nursery-box at the time, but Kazan always sought a dark place where he could hide alone for his naps.

Lambkins took to bottle feeding without any trouble, and soon there was less “ba-aa-ing” at night. Scotty slept with it in the Nursery Box, and I guess he was a comfort and a consolation, something alive and warm, and it didn’t feel so lost and alone.

In a week or so it was out of the box and scampering all over the house playing with the puppies. In  a short time it started some bad habits—nibbling on the bedspreads and any other cloth it could find, including our clothes. And it could jump amazingly well—and high—up on a chair– then to the tabletop—or dresser top, which was its favorite spot, and study its reflection in the mirror.

So we had to put it out in the yard, much to the disappointment of Kazan and Scotty. We brought a big turkey-coop into the yard for a shelter for it, and told Buff and Duff they were to watch it. They understood, and would have guarded it with their lives. They were used to all sorts of ranch livestock and were trained to protect them.

In the daytime I let Kazan and Scotty out in the yard to play with Lambkins and they had a lot of fun. Lambkins could jump up on top of the coop and look down at them, but try as they might, they couldn’t jump up there with him. The dogs kept a watchful, though bored, eye on all three of them.

-Nona


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Nona’s Stories: Hanse and the Snake

One Spring morning we went out to feed the saddle horses and milk the cows. The grain for the horses was kept in metal barrels in the barn.

We opened the barn door and discovered Hanse the Cat with arched back, fur standing on end, fearfully surveying the area of the grain barrels.

We thought there was at least a six foot rattlesnake hiding there, judging from his actions. The two things Hanse feared the most  was coyote pups and snakes—in that order.

So we got a hoe to kill it with, and slowly and carefully moved one of the barrels—there was a meek little chicken snake hiding behind it—it was only about two feet long, but when Hanse saw it he took himself with all possible speed to the hay loft—leaping the bales of hay two at a time—spitting, snarling, and hissing. He must have thought that little snake was going to swallow him alive.

We killed the snake and took it outside and buried it.

Actually, it would have done a lot of good in the barn, as chicken snakes also prey on mice, but they do kill baby chicks, birds, and rob nests of eggs, so we thought it best to get rid of it.

Anyway, Hanse made his attitude clear—”either that snakes goes or I go!”

We fed the horses and milked the cows, and went back inside the barn to fill Hanse’s bowl with warm milk—he was still hiding in the hayloft—we could hear him grumbling and growling.

We finally coaxed him to come down for his warm milk.

He walked gingerly and slowly in as wide a circle as possible, because of the stacked hay, around the area of the barrels, eyeing them suspiciously, and snarling under his breath, ready to flee if even a straw moved.

For weeks he wouldn’ t go near those barrels.

Hanse was given to us by a neighboring rancher, who had an over abundance of cats. He assured us that Hanse was a “marvelous mouser.”

He just didn’t like varmints of any kind and was scared to death of anything larger than a mouse.

A friend caught a barn owl—they are really beautiful birds– and offered it to us but we were afraid Hanse would have a nervous breakdown if we put it in the barn with him.

Barn owls are excellent “mousers” and will remain in a barn.

They sleep quietly in the rafters by day, and hunt mice at night, swooping down almost noiselessly. They don’t  “call” as the screech owls and Great Horned owls do.

I was always amazed that so large a bird as Who-Who made so little noise when flying—there was hardly a whisper of sound as he glided down from his tree to the post-top.

-Nona


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Nona’s Stories: Rattlesnakes

One night we were awakened by the spine-chilling sound of rattle-snakes under the house. Anyone that has ever heard a rattlesnake rattle will never forget that sound.

RattlesnakePhoto1

With a magnifying glass you can see its head at the top of the coil, a little to the right. It was facing Ray, coiled to strike as I took this picture-and it did!

It sounded like there was more than one, and we could tell by the sound of the rattle that it was a large snake. This wasn’t long after Scotty had been bitten by one.

 

We could hear it strike the armadillo’s shell. Two armadillos had tunneled under the yard fence, then under the house in the Fall. We  didn’t mind as they could do no harm and had told the dogs it was alright, so they didn’t bother them.

There was no fireplace at the Milam Six Mile ranch, big cast iron heaters and cook stove were used. But the brick chimney serving as flues for the woodstoves extended down to the ground under the house for a supporting base for the bricks.

Around this base the pack-rats had built a nest. Pack rats are the bane of every ranch in Texas. It does little good to destroy the nests—they will build them back in one night.Rattlesnakes also den up in these nests in Winter, and feed on the rats.

The armadillo’s shell protected them from the rattle-snake fangs, so they were unharmed.

In a short time, Buff and Duff started barking so we knew that one of the snakes had crawled out into the yard.

It would be much too dangerous to go out in the yard with a lantern to look for the snake, and we knew the dogs were wise in the ways of rattlesnakes and would stay out of reach.

As soon as it was light enough to see we got dressed and went out to check on the dogs, and they were still keeping tab on the rattler. It was coiled up near the woodpile not far from the kitchen door. If there had been others they had left the yard. Ray got a rifle with which to kill it.

When rattlers come out of hibernation in the Spring, they are in a vile mood, partly blinded by the bright light, and strike at any sound or any thing that moves. I guess this one was mad as a hatter because the dogs had been harassing it most of the night.

Though Ray was out of reach, it could hear him and struck at him. When he stepped back it heard the sound and started crawling toward him, rattling, with its head drawn back to strike. He killed it with a shot from the rifle.

RattlesnakePhoto002

A very angry rattlesnake-headed for Ray, and ready to strike. It was so angry it started chasing Ray, rattling furiously.

I don’t think this was the rattler that bit Scotty, as one this large would surely have killed him.

After this we got the chores done early– and on a ranch there are a lot of chores—so as not to be out after dusk.

In Texas every Spring people have “Rattlesnake Round-ups.” And a lot of rattlers are killed. The type there are very large. Not at all unusual for one to be six feet long.

A few days later Pop Milam came out to the ranch from town and told us a Mexican ranch-hand on a neighboring ranch had been bitten by a large rattler. He was alone on the ranch, had no transportation, and the telephone was out of order, so he could get no help and died.

After this we kept a spare horse in the corral at night. We decided on the horse I always rode, a big grey horse named Gray Boy, because Eagle, the horse Ray rode, was too headstrong for me to handle—in case I should be the one for a “mid-night ride” for help.

In the next story, I’ll tell you about the mischief Grey Boy got himself into, and the results.