Snake Tails

In South Texas where my Grandpa Sewell was raised, snakes are a big deal…A really BIG deal. Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes of six feet and longer are common. In the summer and fall 0f 1972, when I lived with my grandparents, we tanned a rattlesnake skin that was over eight feet long and about eighteen inches wide at the widest point. Grandpa was quite proud of the fact that he shot the head off the snake at 20 to 30 yards as it crawled across a right-of-way where his deer stand was located. At least that was the story he told. You have to understand my Grandpa, he was prone to tall tales. He just loved pulling the wool over the eyes of gullible grandkids. His favorite day of the year was April 1. The world was always full of April Fools and he loved every one of them.

The Stick

One of the tales Grandpa loved to tell was of the Rattler we walked up on on the first night my family visited the ranch in the ’60’s.

When we arrived it was already late and the sun was setting. Grandma and Grandpa had just recently had a two bedroom house built but were still using the small hunting trailer for storage. With four adults and four kids we needed bedding for the night. So Grandpa led a small caravan of children on a hike to the trailer for sleeping bags. As we walked thru the dark led by Grandpa and his flashlight he was regaling us with all of the dangers of the night in south Texas. He was telling us about wolves and coyotes, huge owls that could lift a child by the hair, and rattlesnakes. To this day I can remember his words, “You have to keep your eyes on the ground at all times around here ’cause there are rattlesnakes under every bush” and with that he swung the light over and said “there’s one now” and damned if there wasn’t.

“Get me a stick” Grandpa instructed. My two brothers hauled it for the house while I tried to see a stick on the ground around me.

“Here’s one” my sister said as she handed Grandpa a stick.

It was only a matter of seconds before Grandpa dispatched the rattler, then he turned to my sister and asked her, “How did you know that wasn’t another snake?”

Her answer was “I kicked it first”.

Grandpa told that story for the rest of his life…”I kicked it first” was the punch line he loved.

To be continued in…

Waking up a Rattler

Snake Tails

In South Texas where my Grandpa Sewell was raised, snakes are a big deal…A really BIG deal. Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes of six feet and longer are common. In the summer and fall 0f 1972, when I lived with my grandparents, we tanned a rattlesnake skin that was over eight feet long and about eighteen inches wide at the widest point. Grandpa was quite proud of the fact that he shot the head off the snake at 20 to 30 yards as it crawled across a right-of-way where his deer stand was located. At least that was the story he told. You have to understand my Grandpa, he was prone to tall tales. He just loved pulling the wool over the eyes of gullible grandkids. His favorite day of the year was April 1. The world was always full of April Fools and he loved every one of them.

The Stick

One of the tales Grandpa loved to tell was of the Rattler we walked up on on the first night my family visited the ranch in the ’60’s.

When we arrived it was already late and the sun was setting. Grandma and Grandpa had just recently had a two bedroom house built but were still using the small hunting trailer for storage. With four adults and four kids we needed bedding for the night. So Grandpa led a small caravan of children on a hike to the trailer for sleeping bags. As we walked thru the dark led by Grandpa and his flashlight he was regaling us with all of the dangers of the night in south Texas. He was telling us about wolves and coyotes, huge owls that could lift a child by the hair, and rattlesnakes. To this day I can remember his words, “You have to keep your eyes on the ground at all times around here ’cause there are rattlesnakes under every bush” and with that he swung the light over and said “there’s one now” and damned if there wasn’t.

“Get me a stick” Grandpa instructed. My two brothers hauled it for the house while I tried to see a stick on the ground around me.

“Here’s one” my sister said as she handed Grandpa a stick.

It was only a matter of seconds before Grandpa dispatched the rattler, then he turned to my sister and asked her, “How did you know that wasn’t another snake?”

Her answer was “I kicked it first”.

Grandpa told that story for the rest of his life…”I kicked it first” was the punch line he loved.

To be continued in…

Waking up a Rattler

Phone Line Troubles

As strange as it may sound, our land line phones cannot get a dial tone but dsl is working intermittently. The problem has been reported to AT&T and they are guaranteeing resolution by 7pm tomorrow. But the last time we had a problem it took 3 tries to get it fixed so there is a good chance that I will be forced off-line for a good part of the weekend. I don’t know what this family will do without access to their email and myspace and im…Oh my God, we might have to talk to each other…he, he, he.

If you wander by and don’t see any posts, you’ll know why. If I vanish for longer than a few days, send a rescue party ’cause the family probably has me hog tied and gagged…

Life’s little milestones…

This past weekend we passed another of those little milestones you don’t really think about as you are getting older. My youngest daughter and I started her driving practice so she can get her license. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was doing the same thing with her mother…my how time flies when you are having a life. At 16 she has been pushing for her license for a couple of years now. And with our auto insurance bill, I’ve been pushing back. Looks like I am about to loose the pushing match…

Around my family, for some reason, driving licenses are not a big push for the kids. Except with this one. Youngest son waited until he was 18…Now we never see him.

All in all the experience on Saturday went better than I hoped, and Sunday went even better. Tonight she will be driving with a professional instructor and I do not envy him his job at all. I guess what amazed me the most was I managed not to raise my voice more than once. That time all I said, rather forcefully, was “TAKE YOUR FOOT OF OF THE GAS”. Not bad…we lived.

Oh well, time to move on…Have a photo…

From my last photo run to Bolivar…Post processed through Photomatix Pro
Have a great day.

PS Santa came early…

Friday 13

My Grandpa Sewell always thought 13 was his lucky number. His place in Orchard, TX was 2.13 acres by deed. The “ranch” he bought before he retired was 213 acres…maybe 213 should have been his lucky number…
He would have considered Friday the 13 as a most auspicious day, and enjoyed it immensely. It would have tied in well with his favorite “holiday”, April Fools Day. My how he enjoyed catching you in an April Fools Day joke.
In his spare time he ran a nursery out back of the house. His specialty was Live Oak trees. Even the scar on his arm looked like the silhouette of a Live Oak. He always had a few hundred growing in 1 and 5 gallon paint cans he recycled from the highway department…They always had splatters of white and “highway yellow” around the rims. I can remember, as a young child, following him down the rows of trees as he drug a hose behind him splashing a couple of inches of water into each can. As a I grew up I thought how monotonous that job must be.
Now I envy him the meditative nature of the sameness. I understand the reason for the daily recording of rainfall. The monitoring of the windmill and the cement tank that held the water until it was needed for the trees (though at the time the cement tank was nothing but our private swimming pool). The slow but steady movement from tree to tree, the swing of the arm to move the stream of water from can to can. Filling each to the rim before moving to the next, up one row…down the next…back up again.
Another memory is of the small clay pots he filled with dirt and spread under the White Oak Tree that grew behind the old chicken house. Talk about taking the long view…Grandpa placed those pots to catch the acorns which would fall and sprout under the parent tree. You don’t get a lot of trees this way, but the ones you do get tend to grow on. Where this old white oak came from I don’t know, it was unusual for the area in which we live. I don’t know that I have ever seen another in this part of Texas. Grandpa always could grow things that were commonly not grown where he grew them. I think his thumb was green all the way to his shoulder.
Grandpa Sewell died on the 12th of January 1995 at the age of 88. I miss him.

Howard Eugene Sewell
7 Jan 1907 – 12 Nov 1995

My Family History

I was raised in a family that was slightly removed from the immediate locale of the rest of our relatives… therefore, whenever we were able to get together with our grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins it was a special treat. My dad’s family had moved into Wharton County, west of Houston, in the 1910’s and my mother’s family moved into Fort Bend County in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s. Both of these counties are second tier counties on the Texas Gulf Coast, meaning that the topography could be compared to a plate. The only relief from the flatness of this part of the state is negative, the streams and rivers are all cut into the surrounding flatness.

Even with the many visits and summer weeks staying with my kin, it was mainly just the immediate generation members that we knew. Our family Bible only went back one additional generation listing Great-Grandparents. As a child growing up I remember driving around Wharton County with my dad as he pointed out old houses set in cotton fields where he lived at one time or another growing up. Today I couldn’t even get you close to any of those sites, so that much of our family history is lost now. My dad was also great at passing on the stories he heard as a child growing up. Being the last of 13 children, a lot of his family’s history had happened before he showed up on the scene, so I am sure some of the stories had already taken on a certain amount of myth before he arrived.

I remember the thrill in 1972 when my Grandpa Sewell bought a copy of “Linville Family in America” by Alice Eichholz. There in the book was my family right down to me and going back into England in the 1500’s. I was so impressed with this information I painstakingly copied my direct ancestors all the way back from the book. These five pages of data I have managed to hang onto to this day.

When my dad passed away one of my long lost cousins showed up for the funeral. One of the things he brought was a copy of the ancestry chart for the family. When I had the opportunity to really look over his information, I noticed some discrepancies in the info and what was in our family Bible. Eventually, this led me to the local genealogy library and hours of research only to discover that both of our sets of data were partially right and, of course, partially wrong.

This search for my family’s history started in 1996 with the death of my father (it should have started earlier when I could still pick his brain) and has continued to this day. From the very first some of my research was done online, and today, with the digitalization of old records, more and more of my research is done on the internet. In the process of doing this research I have visited a number of states (and a lot of dank, dark courthouse basements) and sat with the graves of grandparents and aunts and uncles who just a short time ago didn’t even exist in my world. I will say that today I never pass a cemetery without wondering who might be there that I am related to.

Over the last decade I have met and enjoyed the friendship of enumerable other researchers looking for the same ancestors. These distant and not so distant cousins have shared in the thrill of the discovery of each little clue in the long search. It has been with the help of these researchers that I have expanded my research, and it has been the expansion of the available data on the internet that has made re-researching so much fun. The thrill of finding reference to a cousin (long gone now) and then tracing that family back through multiple generations in an hour is like finding buried treasure on the beach.

It was also this search for family history that led me to the Blue Ridge back in 2000. I had a couple of days to kill on a trip to Charlotte, I had a car, and I had a map that led me to Linville, NC. At the time I was not aware of the actual connection I had to the area, as a matter of fact I had made four trips into the Blue Ridge of northwestern North Carolina before I stumbled onto the information that the Linville River was named for a multi great uncle. It was just last year that I came across the records that my fourth Great-Grandfather was one of the original settlers of what was then Wilkes County and now is the community of Vilas, North Carolina. It seems he paid taxes on 270 acres in 1787 on what is to this day known as Linville Creek and were members of the Three Forks Baptist Church from 1790 to 1800. Sometime after 1800 the family moved on to the west and ended up in western Missouri by the 1830’s.

So, does this make mine a 200 year “slow road home”?

The photograph at the start of this text was taken about 1939 and is of my Dad and his family. James P and Sarah (Sallie) Boyd and Family…

Unseasonable Spring

I was sitting at the kitchen table this morning with the doors and windows open enjoying our unseasonably cool morning, answering email and reading the daily news and views (as in blogs), when my youngest daughter wandered in and wanted to know why the AC wasn’t on. Now folks, the outside temperature at the time was just hitting 72 (I told you it was unseasonable for SE Texas), and I had really been enjoying the breeze along with the birdsong and wind chimes.

I think the poor girl would shrivel up and die if she had to go through the summers we went through with only an attic fan. Now for those of you who don’t know what an attic fan is, it’s a large fan that is built into the ceiling (usually in a central hallway) that pulls the hot air out of the house. Usually, when you ran it all night with the bedroom windows open it would get so cool you had to have a quilt or a blanket before morning. During the day you would turn the speed of the fan down and close up the house to keep the cool in while blowing just enough fresh air through the attic to keep the heat from building up too high before evening when you would start the whole cycle over.

As I remember things, the fan would provide a low white noise (not that we knew what that was back then) and you could still hear the night sounds through the open window. I guess we could be a little more trusting back then, ’cause I’m sure not many folks today would want a window open all night by their bed…

Being as we were deep south here the only real disadvantage to this whole affair was that the humidity would still permeate the whole house and everything in it. Even so, some night I really miss the old days.