from the newly released book about The Texas Hill Country
Cotton Gins, Whiskey and Slingshots
By William H. Whitted of Lampassas Texas
I was born four miles north of Liberty Hill in Williamson Co. Texas on Sept 3, 1926. I did not know at the time of course but I had three older sisters. The oldest was about 11 years older and the youngest about 7 years older. Our Dad was a farmer and rancher and a good one. Everyone planted cotton in hopes of a good crop every year. There was seldom a good year and as an old song went 40 cent cotton and 50 cent meat, how in the world can a poor man eat! About the first thing I remember was some old fashioned oatmeal that my Mother cooked. Mother and the girls kept about four good Jersey milk cows and milked them every day. Mother had an old fashioned milk cooler that most people have never seen. She made lots of good butter, buttermilk, sweet cream. My oatmeal was covered with a thin layer of sugar that was covered with good sweet cream and I really loved it.
During cotton picking time Liberty Hill was a busy place. As soon as I was able to run around, I got to ride to town on a bale of cotton with my dad.
There were three gins and three blacksmith's and they all stayed busy. After all these years I can almost hear those Blacksmith's banging their anvils. Dad went to Mankin's Gin on the right at the edge of town. There was usually several ahead of Dad, so we had some time to spend. We always went to a well out near the street to get a drink of good tasting water and then Dad saw Podaddle across the street. Podaddle was Mr. Munroe and how he got his nickname, I never knew. After the handshakes and greeting Podaddle reached to a back pocket and brought out a small bottle. He offered Dad a drink and of course, he accepted. I could see it had to be as good as a Barq's root beer and I wanted a swig. Dad said no and Podaddle said, "Aw let him have a swig, it won't hurt him." So that was my first taste of whiskey. They were working on the last wagon before us so we sauntered back over there. I was fascinated how the man and big pipe picked up the cotton and he had to know to get the right amount. When Dad's wagon was finally emptied of the cotton, he drove right around the
end of the gin to a platform. Soon the big old bale rolled out and they loaded it with a hoist. Dad drove right down the main street.
There were very few cars but a lot of wagons. Dad stopped at the largest building, which was Connell and Hickman. Mr. Hickman came out and stepped up on the side of the wagon to grade the cotton. He cut the burlap just enough to get some cotton and he graded and told Dad what he would give for the bale. Dad agreed and we rode to the railroad where all the bales were. A man showed where Mr. Hickman's cotton was and the bale was added to the large Hickman's stack of bales. I wish I had pictures of what I saw along the railroad for a long distance. Dad was finished with that bale but there would be many more. We went back to the gin and got the cottonseed, as it was good feed for the animals.
I seemed to grow too fast and got acquainted with boys in the area. I will tell some of our shenanigans in the next part of my story.
Of course, boys including me went to the creek and spring as often as possible. We had several games we played around the schoolhouse. A game by spinning tops into a circle drawn in the dirt. If your top was spinning in the circle it was fair game to all the rest and some were really good top buster. A top could actually be busted wide open so it was a good idea to carry an extra one. Kites were flown in the spring and "Hare and Hound" was almost a daily race. One boy volunteered to be the hare and the others were of hounds.
Hare's safe place was a big ash pile from the wood heater in the schoolhouse. The ash pile had been there so long it was hard. All a hound had to do was touch the hare and he was the hare then he tried to keep from getting touched. Some of us boys carried our slingshots in our hip pocket and practiced on things and sometime a windowpane.
Our teacher was an elderly lady who lived in Liberty Hill and drove a Model T Ford car. I will always remember Miss Staunbaugh and she was a nice lady teacher. The school hired a man teacher to try to curb some of the violence and the first day he made us boys hand our sling shots in to him and he destroyed our weapons. Most made new ones that night but we hid them under a flat rock near Bear creek before we got to school every morning.
I do not remember when the Liberty Hill School bought two buses and that ended my Concord school. At some time later, someone bought the old school house school and dismantled it to help build a house in Austin, Texas. All that is left is a lot of Memories.
I remember a pretty creek that ran through our property with deep holes of water with big goggle eye and Sun perch. I spent a lot of time fishing on the creek and catching a good string of big perch. We all ate a lot of them, as they were really good.
Dad became disabled with his heart and I became the breadwinner at an early age. The girls were all married and gone and no more cotton was planted. The Ranch and farm is one of the memories.