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OUTDOORS ALONG THE BRAZOS: EVERYBODY WORE A LIFE JACKET
BOMBS AWAY DESDEMONA • A TEXAS TANNENBAUM
CHASING OUR TALES to Cisco and Beyond
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 2
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 3
Mary Jo Watson
LAYOUT & DESIGN
North Texas Star
OUTDOORS ALONG THE BRAZOS
Everybody Wore a Life Jacket
By Don Price
CHASING OUR TALES
to Cisco and Beyond
By Sue Seibert
A TEXAS TANNENBAUM
By Randall Scott
By Jim Dillard
BOMBS AWAY DESDEMONA
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 4
Outdoors Along the Brazos
By Don Price
e owned and operated a Western Union in
downtown Mineral wells for nearly 40
years, back when Judy Garland spent a
night or two at Earl Baker's hotel, I think.
I really mean we had a mom-and-pop Western Auto
for nearly 40 years on the main drag. My memory's
We catered to the wants of the outdoorsmen. To
ratchet up sales we gave away a fancy, engraved, nick-
el-plated Winchester Buffalo Bill 30-30 rifle or carbine
for the biggest set of white-tailed deer antlers each year.
And also we awarded a handsome
trophy for the biggest largemouth
black bass each month to a proud
angler. Publicity and photographs
appeared in several local newspapers
for many years.
Hunters and fishermen are great
people, but they tend to stretch the
truth a tad sometimes. All have sto-
ries to tell.
The center aisle in our mom-and-
pop store was travelled so much
until it was downright dangerous, at
least a foot deeper than in the other
aisles. Rolled up pant legs didn't do
the job; it took a life jacket for the
salesman. Man, it got deep.
We could have been sued. It was
risky in the center aisle, so we issued
life jackets at the front door when a
local angler was heading for the
scales in the center aisle, dragging
his big-mouthed bass to be registered
Sometimes it got downright awe-
some; each salesman was required to
wear his life jacket in the center aisle at all times
between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. You were permitted to
remove your life jacket during lunch breaks.
One of our best customers stretched the truth so
much he actually believed it himself. [He had a copy
of Field & Stream Magazine rolled up in his back pock-
et.] We never questioned him. Thankfully, we were
blessed with Consumer Reports life jackets, the best.
This same customer got mad somewhere around
1947 because we didn't award a trophy for catfish. After
six months of protesting he began to sound like a pho-
nograph record of Ernest Tubb on 78 rpm but played on
33 1/3 by mistake. He sounded a little like one of
Charlie Goodnight's dying cows, I think... I"m not sure
But we were sure of one thing: we were sure of los-
ing our best customer if we didn't come up with a prize
for the biggest catfish.
Continuation of our business establishment con-
cerned us. During a board meeting we decided to award
a trophy for the biggest catfish, but only for the store's
After having heard about the biggest catfish trophy,
our "Ernest Tubb" began singing country and western
songs early the next morning while in a wooden boat at
a big deep stock tank. On the end of his line was a
record-breaking “ole yeller.” There were no other fish
'cause ole yeller had eaten all the rest; he was big and
he was mean.
Well, our best customer, yep, "Ernie Tubb," was in a
wooden rowboat about 100 yards out in this big, deep
stock tank, and his fishing rod was bent double, when
he suddenly pumped this heavy-duty tackle to haul old
yeller over the side and into his wooden boat. Old 33
1/3 rpm Ernie could hardly wait to grab the catfish tro-
phy at our store.
But the fish was so big the stock tank went dry when
our best customer, yep, "Ernie Tubb," yanked him out
of that body of water. The poor fellow had to slide the
trophy winning specimen over the side of his wooden
boat and back into the big tank in order to have enough
water so he could float his boat back to the landing.
This is the gosh-awful truth. This is what he told us.
He hadn't been drinking as far as we could tell.
So do you know what we did? We gave him the tro-
phy anyway, and at the same time offered our condo-
lences because of his humble decision of releasing the
huge catfish or being stuck in the muck forever.
Do you know what he did [this is the best part]? To
show his appreciation of our attitude toward his humble
sportsmanship, he bought every artificial lure we had in
stock, all the expensive rods and
reels. He cleaned us out. He was so
happy to have been awarded the cat-
The moral of this story: the cus-
tomer is always right, but keep your
life jacket handy, just in case, espe-
cially in this case; just rolling up
your pants' legs ain't near enough.
It happened near the middle of
the last century. Some memories
stay locked in one's mind seemingly
forever, especially deer camp stories
and Brazos River float trips, some-
thing hilarious perhaps.
I think it took place on April 1st,
a bad date for an honest fishing
story. Old Lake Mineral Wells was
the hot spot for those who knew
how to plug, but knowing structure
gave the serious angler the edge,
and a powerful 10-horsepower
Wizard outboard got your little
wooden Skeeter there in plenty of
time – to the mass of willows in the
upper end perhaps.
My father, Cutter, was plugging Lake Mineral
Wells on April Fool's Day when he snagged a lunk-
er; on the next cast he hooked another heavy fish,
landing both of them.
The solar system tells us there is a major and a
minor feeding period, rarely lasting two hours every
day. But not on this April 1st. My father caught big bass
all day – until he just got tired. So he cranked the old
Wizard to aim for the boat house. In the little 12-foot
boat's bottom flopped a stringer of blacks most pluggers
could only dream about.
Late that same evening, April Fool's Day, Pete
Medlin and I drove out to nearby Lake Mineral Wells to
see how Dad fared on his quest [he plugged every day].
He'd just killed the 10-horse and was gliding in to boat
Everybody Wore a Life Jacket
Wearing a white shirt and tie is C.F. (cutter) Price,
owner of the WESTERN AUTO store in Mineral
Wells. The store’s grand opening was Nov. 30, 1945.
continued on page 6
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 5
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 6
continued from page 4
He showed us his stringer and we couldn't believe it; he
mentioned the intense experience and that he was actually
worn out – there was no major feeding period, no minor
feeding period, but an intense period lasting all day.
We asked him if we could use his boat; he agreed, plus
he gave us his awesome stringer of largemouth black bass.
It didn't take us long to throw our tackle in the boat and
start the engine. The sun was setting and we had about an
hour – no moon tonight, pitch blackness, it was going to be.
We were heading to the rocky shoreline instead of the wil-
low-infested upper end.
But let's do a little flashback here. Before we left the
boathouse, Dad told us what we needed to know: where to
fish, what plug to use, and how to use that particular lure.
He even gave us his last two 1/3 ounce black-and-white
Swimmin' Minnow lures, manufactured by Tackle Industries
These lures sink fairly rapidly. We'd been tipped off to
cast, letting these Swimmin' Minnows hit the water within a
couple inches of the big boulders, but hold our rod tips
high, high as you could reach, and then reel in as rapidly as
Doing as told would keep this rapidly moving black body,
white ribbed lure so shallow (and so rapidly moving) it'd
almost break the surface. But not quite break the surface.
You'd have to slow down a tiny bit if it broke the surface.
black bass can be particular.
It was nearly dark when we got to the big boulders to cut
the 10-horse Wizard outboard. Little Pete Medlin hung the
first one even before the boat stopped moving, a 4-pound
fish, and I had a 3-pounder on before Pete could get his fish
out of the water.
I guess an hour passed before we quit; I remember it was
pitch black as there was no moon. Luckily for us Pete had a
flashlight in his tackle box, a nice item to have when faced
with a backlash, some call it a “birdnest.” Some call it, well...
We had an eye-popping stringer of hogs [counting the
impressive stringer Dad had already given us]. Lake Mineral
Wells just didn't yield that many bass in a single day.
Satisfied with our catch, we cranked the motor to flash-
light our way back to the boat house. At the dock an old-time
angler saw the bass and said it was the best string he'd seen
come out of our city lake since it was finished in 1922, built
with mule-drawn fresnoes.
We had 24, all beautiful fish [thanks to Dad], and we putt
them in the trunk of Pete's car to head to his house to clean
them. Bass are delicious table fare; we could hardly wait.
But before we got to Pete's house I suddenly remembered
an old fishing rival, a competitor I thought I'd fix for the rest
of his life. I told Pete to whip by the smart guy's house. Sure
enough he was home. Showing aplomb and a bit of dash, we
opened the trunk, knowing he would eat his heart out.
We knew he'd be flabbergasted, even nonplussed; we
knew we'd have to wait patiently for the smart aleck to get
over the knee-trembling shock, the hard evidence before he
could start shaking, let alone speak. We gladly put in fresh
flashlight batteries so he could be shocked more. Careful
now, we didn't want him to have a stroke.
He hardly gazed at the mother lode, finally saying,
"Did I tell you about the 1-pound carp I caught last
The sly rascal was making us feel guilty because we
were game hogs, fish hogs. So Pete and I rolled up our
pants' legs and donned our Consumer Reports life jackets.
The moral of this story: tread lightly. •••
Carl Forrest Price “Cutter”
March 16, 1900 - March 20, 1965
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 7
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December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 8
Chasing Our Tales
to Cisco and Beyond
By Sue Seibert
mma Le Veaux was pictured as a senior in the
yearbook, “Yucca,” of North Texas State Normal
School (later to become the University of North
Texas) in 1908. Her residence of record was Cisco, Texas,
where she was living with her parents at age 13, in 1900.
Her father was apparently not living with the family, but
the census noted that he had been born in Germany. He
had, in all likelihood, died before this time.
The family in her household at the time were M.J.E.
Le Veaux, her mother, age 46, who was also from
Germany; a sister, Lillie, who had been born in New
York; and a brother, Louis, who, like Emma, had been
born in Texas. Mrs. Le Veaux was listed as a widow who
immigrated from Germany in 1872.
In 1910 I found Mrs. Le Veaux, spelled Levens or
Lebeau, now called Elizabeth, living with C.R. and L.D.
Baugh. That was probably her daughter, Lillie. Also in
the home was Lillie’s daughter, Frances, age 6, and
Louis Degenhard, who may be Elizabeth’s son. Emma
was no longer listed.
However, in 1910, I did find Emma, probably as a
renter, in the home of Hugh L. and Mallie Taylor in
Cisco, along with Cate Daniels, Bettie Jean Walker, and
Verna, Virgie and Annie Owen. At that time Emma was a
teacher (after all, she had attended a Normal School).
There were several other teachers in the house. She is
listed as the Taylor’s daughter, but so are most of the
others, except Bettie Walker, who was listed as a board-
er. This could have been for several reasons, perhaps for
taxes of some sort, or maybe the Taylors were not sup-
posed to have a boarding house. I really don’t know.
Hugh Taylor listed himself as a traveling salesman
who sold insurance. Almost everyone on that page of the
census listed themselves as a laborer from Mexico,
except for a neighbor named McDonald, who was a
bookkeeper. That sounds odd, as I presume the census
taker was going from door-to-door when he took the
census. Perhaps this was in an area of apartments or
lodges of some sort, but Cisco is a small town with a
population of only 1,514.
Twenty years later I discovered Mrs. Le Veaux, now
spelled LaVeax, still living in Cisco. It appears her
daughter Lillie, whose last name is now Bauger or
Baugh, and a grandchild Francis/Frances Bauger, was
also living in the same house. Evidently Lillie had been
married to Clarence R. Baugh, but he died in 1912.
They had two children, Frances Edna Baugh and
Thomas Carleton Baugh. Thomas died shortly after he
was born in 1906, but Frances lived until 1941. Lillie out-
lived both of her children.
The year 1930 found Elizabeth, now Devaux, and Lilly
Dora Baugh, mother and daughter, still living in Cisco,
but no one else was living with them.
There was little information on Elizabeth. It appears
that she was born to Ludwig Degenhardt and Elizabeth
Zeiss Degenhardt in Hanover, Germany, in 1854. She and
her parents first lived in Carbon, Penn., when she was 6,
and later, when she was 26, she was living in Bosque,
By 1940, when you would think writing, spelling and
so on would have improved for census takers, I found
Lily G. (not D for Dora) Baugh and Elizabeth (last name
blanked out), living at 808 Avenue G in Cisco, where at
63, Lily was a postal clerk. The census noted that
Elizabeth had three years of college.
I’ve got to stop here and note that the census takers
may not have had much more education than anyone else,
and they simply spelled the names of the people as they
heard them. Also, their handwriting was such that one let-
ter could not always be distinguished from the next.
Further, the census takers got relationships, places of
birth, and other things wrong. In all likelihood, however,
the family name was Le Veaux, as that was the way it was
spelled in the “Yucca” of 1908.
I have found Louis Carl Leveaux in a family tree. He
was Emma’s brother. He evidently moved to El Paso
between 1900 and 1910 where he married Mary W.
Tisdale. He died in El Paso at the age of 86, on Dec. 13,
1970. His wife, Mary, was born in Dallas, Texas, and her
father was born in South Carolina. She died in 1956 at the
age of 62.
I have been able to find that Louis, Lilly and Emma’s
father was F. Leveaux, who was born in 1849 in
Würtemburg, Germany. By 1880 he was living in Bosque,
Texas, and Louis may have been called Degenhard in the
1910 census because it appears his mother’s maiden name
I have found only one other reference to Emma Le
Veaux, and that was in the Haskell Free Press on Aug. 13,
“From the way several members of the party speak of
it, there is no doubt but that the picnicking crowd
Wednesday had a great time. They drove out ten or twelve
miles to a shady and inviting grove on Paint Creek, where
they spent all the warmest part of the day in dolce for
niente neath the cool shades of the umbrageous canopy
spread by nature. They were not altogether idle, however,
as it is reported that they consumed unlimited quantities
of ice cream and watermelons, besides the many good
things provided by the young ladies. The following com-
posed the party: Mrs. J.U. Fields and Miss Belle Rupe,
Eld. C.N. Williams and Miss Lillie Rike, Mr. Joe Irby, and
Miss Ethel Alexander, Mr. Emmett Robertson and Miss
Beulah Chambliss, Mr. Ed Whitaker and Miss Hassie
Hudson, Mr. Roy Cummings and Miss Willie Chambliss,
Mr. C.N. Porter and Misses Emma Le Veaux and Kate
Chambliss under the chaperonage of Mr. and Mrs. Ed.
Now I will focus on some more Texas people named
Le Veaux. Paul Le Veaux, who was born in Prussia, was
living in Brazos, Texas, in 1880, not that far from Cisco.
He was 30 at the time and listed himself as a farm-
er. Those living in his home were Belle Le Veaux,
Doshia Eustice, Maggie Eustice, Alevelda Cooly and
I found a Paul Le Vaux, who came from Cannstatt,
Germany. He made application to come to North
America in 1869 when he was 19 years old.
I also found a F. Leveaux and Elizabeth Leveaux liv-
ing in Bosque, Texas, in 1880, along with Lillie
Leveaux, age 3, M.A. Sullivan, and John Fonville. I
believe this is Emma’s family before they moved to
Cisco. I have found a handbook from Hill Business
College in Waco, 1902-1908, which lists L.C. Le Veaux
as a student. This, I believe, is our Louis.
I have done some research on the Leveaux/Le Veaux
family name, which, as I thought, is French. During the
early development of the French language, in the Middle
Ages, a person gave his version of his name phonetically
to someone who could write. Therefore, there are many
variants of the name, but this name was first found in
Brittany where the family seat was in honor of the sei-
gneurie of la Burie.
There is quite a history of the family in both Canada
and in Louisiana; but my question is, why were they in
Germany? This family came from Germany, possibly
from Prussia, which does not touch France. They came
to the United States about the middle of the 19th century.
Why did they travel to Texas rather than to Canada or
Louisiana? Why were these Germans called Le Veaux?
Thanks for reading. If you have any ideas, let me know
at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check out my novel, “Home
to the Brazos,” a mystery set in Palo Pinto County, Texas.
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 9
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 10
s a kid growing up during
the WWII era, I spent much
of my outdoor time playing
either “cowboys and Indians” or
“war.” The romanticized image of
cowboys, Indians and soldiers flashing
across the one and only “picture
show” in the small blackland farming
town in Central Texas where I grew up
fueled the flames of my imagination.
Whether it was the Lone Ranger, Gene
Autry or Roy Rogers racing through
the rocky hills in pursuit of the bad
guys, or Audie Murphy lobbing gre-
nades into an enemy machinegun nest,
the silver screen brought them to life
as my childhood heroes. Newsreels
that played before the opening of the
main feature and cartoons were usual-
ly filled with scenes of airplanes, ships
and army tanks fighting in far off
places. My battle cry of “Bombs Away
Tokyo” and the smell of caps popping
in my trusty toy pistol still reverberate
in my mind.
Similar experiences were shared by
young boys and girls throughout the country during
that troubled time in our country’s history. Believing
that the good guys always won or the battles resulted
in victory for our side bolstered our sense of security.
After all, the war was far away across oceans and our
cowboy heroes would always prevail to fight another
day in their quest for justice and honor. However, that
sense of safety was jeopardized on March 23, 1945, for
people near the small rural community of Desdemona
in southeastern Eastland County when a Japanese bal-
loon bomb drifted to earth. On that day, Desdemona’s
reputation as an oil “boomtown” took on a whole other
When 15 year-old C.M. (Pug) Guthery got off the
school bus at his rural home just south of Desdemona
on that day, he saw something descending in the south-
eastern sky that he described as looking like a giant
basketball. Whatever the object was, it landed south of
town about 2 miles from the cemetery and just across
the Comanche County line. Men working at the
Magnolia Refinery near Desdemona also saw it. It was
also seen by Inez Heeter who had signed up as a
Civilian Air Observer during the war. She was certain
it was not a weather balloon since it had the emblem of
the rising sun of Imperial Japan on its top. When she
reported the sighting to the military officer she was to
contact in the event she saw anything suspicious in the
sky, he was skeptical.
Pug Guthery and several other children raced to the
scene of the crash where they found a large balloon
flattened out in a field with grass ropes attached to a
gondola-like apparatus on the bottom. When he
approached it, he smelled a strong odor of creosote and
stayed away from it, but other children took pieces of
the balloon as souvenirs. Fortunately for the children,
bombs that had been attached to the balloon had
already dropped at another location.
One bomb was reported to have dropped in a Brown
County pasture creating an 8-foot-deep crater. Another
exploded in the air in Comanche County
from a balloon that passed between
DeLeon and the small community of
Comyn. A third unexploded bomb was
found buried 6-feet-deep in a field just
north of DeLeon. Other witnesses
reported hearing an explosion south of
DeLeon that day but at the time believed
it was only a fuel tank explosion. When
military officials came to the area the
following day they retrieved the remains
of the two balloons but provided little
information to local people about what
they were or where they came from.
They also collected all the pieces of the
balloon the children had taken from the
crash site. The following day a much
larger balloon bomb was found by cow-
boy Ivan Miller on the Barney Davis
Ranch 8 miles north of Woodson in
southeastern Throckmorton County. It,
too, had the emblem of the rising sun of
Imperial Japan on its top and at various
locations around the bottom.
After the United States bombing raids
of Tokyo during April 1942 by Col.
Jimmy Dolittle, it is believed the Japanese developed a
plan in retaliation to demoralize the American public
and perhaps cause civilian deaths and start hundreds of
forest fires in the Pacific Northwest. The Japanese had
learned from their high-level flights during the war
over the Pacific Ocean that their airplanes used half the
fuel going east as they did on their return flights. They
had discovered an upper-level air stream (jet stream)
that flows at 30,000 feet across the Pacific from Japan
toward North America.
The Japanese “fusen bakudan” (Fu-Go or balloon
bomb) was developed by the Imperial Japanese Army’s
Number Nine Research Laboratory under the direction
of Maj. Gen. Sueyoshi Kusaba and Technical Maj. Teiji
Takada. The balloons would be launched into the jet
stream to travel across the Pacific Ocean in three days
to drop bombs and incendiary devices to kill
continued on page 12
By Jim Dillard
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 11
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continued from page 10
unsuspecting Americans, start forest fires and destroy
The first of over 9,300 balloon bombs were
launched from Japan on Nov. 3, 1944, to coincide with
the Japanese Emperor’s birthday. Each balloon was 70
to 80 feet in height, 33 feet in diameter and filled with
19,000 cubic feet of hydrogen gas. The balloons were
made of “washi,” a durable and impregnable paper
derived from mulberry bushes. The paper was made in
squares about the size of a road map and glued together
in three or four laminations using edible “konnyaku”
(devil’s tongue) paste. The paper was made in many
locations across Japan, some by young teenage girls,
and assembled into balloons in sumo halls, sound stag-
es and theaters.
Each balloon carried four incendiary bombs for start-
ing fires and one 33-pound fragmentary anti-personnel
device. The sophisticated electrical control mechanism
and bombs were suspended below the balloon by fiber
ropes. Altimeters regulated the balloon’s altitude by
triggering bags of sand ballast to drop when the bal-
loon descended below 30,000 feet. If a balloon rose to
38,000 feet, an altimeter would release hydrogen to
bring it to a lower altitude. After three days when the
balloons would likely be over the United States and
most of the ballast expended, a flash of gunpowder
triggered the release of the bombs and lit a 64-foot fuse
that hung from the balloon’s equator. After 48 minutes
another flash explosion would destroy the balloon.
Of all Japanese balloon bombs launched from main-
land Japan between November 1944 and December
1945, only around 300 were reported to have reached
North America. Sightings were made in Alaska,
Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Idaho,
Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Texas,
Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota,
Michigan, Iowa and other places in Canada and
Mexico. Due to their random flight pattern, most that
actually detonated bombs did little or no damage to
civilians or property. A few balloon bombs were shot
down by P-38 and P-40 fighter planes before they
could detonate on the ground.
There was only one reported case where fatalities
resulted from Japanese balloon bombs in North
America. On May 5, 1945, Pastor Archie Mitchell, his
pregnant wife, Elsie, and five Sunday school children
were out on a picnic in the forest of Gearhart Mountain
in southern Oregon. While Archie parked the car, his
wife and the children searched for a suitable picnic site
and discovered a strange balloon lying on the ground.
As they approached it, a bomb detonated killing all six.
These were the only Americans killed on United States
soil from enemy action during World War II. Just 135
days after bombs fell near Desdemona, the United
States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima and
10 days later Japan surrendered.
In 1976 there were still 90 wells pumping oil and
natural gas from the Desdemona Oil Field and a Mobil
Oil plant producing butane. Today it would be hard to
find a field of peanuts growing anywhere in the sandy
country around the town where once they were the
cash crop. Hog Creek still runs a little water when it
rains and the hum of traffic on Highway 16 breaks the
monotony of the day for the few people who still live
there. For the most part, things are quiet now in
Desdemona, with only two businesses still in operation
in the small community. About all that can be seen in
the skies around Desdemona these days is a cluster of
wind turbans on the hilltops northeast of town. There is
no historical marker or other evidence of the event that
almost made the old oil “boomtown” of Desdemona a
real “BOOM-town!” •••
ing-texas; DeLeon Messenger: September/October
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 13
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 14
By Randall Scott
A Texas Tannenbaum
3508 Hwy. 180 E • 940-325-3253 • Mineral Wells, Texas 3508 Hwy HHHHHHHHHHHHHwwwwwy 35508 08 08 35 35 35555555555 3508 08 08 08 08 08 08 08 08 08 08 08 08 08
oments after final exams, the usual romp
and ruckus on my school campus fell eerily
silent. Probably the last person to leave
Abilene Christian College, I left with my car’s sound
system blasting country music star Charlie Rich’s new
hit single “Behind Closed Doors.” The highway was all
mine, or so it seemed. With each mile driven there were
flurries of ice pellets and high winds obvious to some-
one who noticed, but not me; I didn’t let a little thing
like that concern me.
Thirty miles down the road Charlie was crooning,
“Hey, did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in
the world?” By then, the wipers and defrosters cranked
to their highest setting couldn’t keep ice from accumu-
lating on the windshield. Sliding from one side of the
road to the other I slowed to a crawl just to keep it
between the fences. I finally gave in and exited at
Highway 281 and turned off the paved frontage road
onto Live Oak Road.
The less traveled farm-to-market road was glazed
over with snow-covered ice and it was another 2 miles
to my grandparent’s house. They lived on a cattle ranch
in Palo Pinto County not more than 4 miles from the
Brazos River and only 17 miles from Weatherford.
Close to completing my journey home, I didn’t want to
wake them at such a late hour.
They were Cedric and J.L. Odom, but to me, they
were Mom and Granddad. Glad to see me, they were
obviously surprised to have a late night guest in such
inclement weather and I apologized for the intrusion.
Despite my objections Granddad stirred the fire alive
while Mom warmed supper in the kitchen.
I felt odd that night, as if something was missing, but
I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe I’d regretted
having awakened them, while on the other hand they
looked to be enjoying brisk activities for folks in their
70s. Instead of sleeping through a cold dreary night,
they looked happy to be serving hot coffee with good
conversation by the fireplace.
Granddad said it’d been such a long night he wasn’t
sleepy and had wanted to get up anyway. He asked me
if I knew the shortest day and longest night of the year
falls tonight on Dec. 21, and it’s called the winter sol-
stice. I thought to myself: Well, gee whiz, Granddad, I
didn’t know that. He liked reading “gee-whiz” books,
and he often spoke about interesting trivia like that, or
at least, I believed Granddad was interesting.
Mom dragged her rocking chair near the hearth next
to the warm fire and sat sipping her coffee while she
stared intently into the bright orange glow of burning
coals. We talked about our ancestors, and then she
asked me if I’d ever heard of the Geupel Story. Not all
the details were clear, so I asked her to tell the story
again. Besides, I enjoyed Mom telling stories about her
mother and I anticipated it to be a real treat to hear her
speak of her grandfather, John Geupel (Guy-Pull).
She said it was exactly 100 years ago this month
when the Geupel Story took place. Strangely enough,
the snowstorm tonight was similar to that same cold and
wintry night in December of 1875. That was the night
John saved a pioneer family from freezing to death,
which was the essence of Mom’s Geupel Story.
As the story goes, John was riding home from his
Santo Tin Shop after a long day’s work when he came
upon a wagon in the middle of the trail.
He thought it was peculiar for someone to leave such
a fine wagon abandoned on an isolated trail in the mid-
dle of the Live Oak Community, but there it was. That
wagon was none of his business, and besides, it was too
cold to get down off his horse for a look-see inside.
But, luckily for the inhabitants, John did just that. He
brought the young family home and nurtured them
through the Holiday season, saving their lives from
assured death in the freezing cold.
The story intrigued me to know more about my great-
great-grandfather, Grandpa Geupel. Mom was more
than eager to oblige my request with stories of John’s
childhood where he learned the trade of a tinner as a
young boy in a German orphanage. At the age of 19 he
left his small village of Wunsiedel and boarded a trans-
Atlantic sailing vessel, the Magdalena. Four weeks later
he set foot on American soil for the first time at New
York’s Castle Garden wharf, on May 21, 1848.
Like so many others, John had immigrated to
America and brought with him the skills of his trade,
ambition, and deeply rooted family traditions. He was
an easygoing man who took life as it came, she said,
and to exemplify it Mom quoted her grandfather’s
favorite saying, “It don’t make no hoot.” When family
was troubled with life’s difficulties, Grandpa could
soothe their worries with a smile, a hug and his usual
advice, “It don’t make no hoot.” And, when Mom quot-
ed her grandfather, she would imitate his broken
English in a German accent, and very convincingly, I
Mom said it was his love for Christmas that pro-
foundly influenced her life. As a little girl, Mom heard
him tell stories of living back in Germany where they
attended holiday carnivals and festivals to celebrate
Christmas. At these carnivals, bakers made shaped gin-
gerbreads and wax ornaments for people to buy as sou-
venirs of the carnival and take home to hang on their
Christmas Trees. At the end of the day, carnival-goers
would picnic in the foothills of the Bavarian Mountains
and cut a tannenbaum to bring home and decorate for
That’s what had nagged at me all night long. There
was no Christmas tree. And, it was more than just a tree
missing, there were very few decorations in their living
room. Some that were obviously gone were my favorite
ornaments from previous holidays, the ones I remem-
bered as a toddler.
This was strange behavior for my grandparents.
They’d celebrated Christmas with all the trimmings for
as long as I could remember. I didn’t say anything and
preferred not to make it obvious, so I ignored the sur-
roundings and suggested we retire for the night.
Granddad covered the fire with ashes to preserve some
hot coals for in the morning and we went to bed to the
sounds of howling winds.
I awoke to see the sun rise in a clear blue sky where
sunlight glistened over sparkling white snow. The beau-
tiful countryside looked to be a scene right out of a
Norman Rockwell painting. Bitter cold hit me when I
stepped out back for firewood, but the winds were calm
and warm sunshine felt good on my face.
The obvious had to be said, so when we sat down for
breakfast I mentioned their Christmas tree had been
continued on page 16
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 15
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(Mineral Wells Only)
2103 E. Hubbard • Mineral Wells, Texas 76067 • 940-327-0985
Watch for our specials!
DECEMBER 4, 1812
Palo Pinto County cattleman Oliver Loving is born in Hopkins County, Ky. In 1843 he
moved his family to Texas, arriving in 1855 in what would become Palo Pinto County.
DECEMBER 12, 1929
Texas trail driver and Palo Pinto County cattleman Charles Goodnight dies at his winter
home in Phoenix, Ariz., aged 93.
DECEMBER 21, 1861
The Frontier Regiment – a regiment or rangers formed to protect the northern and west-
ern frontiers of Texas – is authorized by the Ninth Legislature of Texas.
DECEMBER 22, 1977
Davidson Hardware on South Oak in downtown MIneral Wells burns along with the
Damron Hotel to its west.
DECEMBER 24, 1877
Mineral Wells founder Judge James Alvis Lynch and family arrive in the area, traveling
by covered wagon from the Denison area. As the story goes, while attempting to cross
the Brazos River from east to west, one of their oxen drowned and the other was struck
by lightning. They turned back some 4 miles to camp in the site later to become Mineral
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 16
continued from page 14
“stolen.” Mom looked down at her fried egg and
Granddad paused, put his fork down, and looked across
the table at me. After a long silence he told me that there
were few cedars to be found in the pasture and none that
could make a decent Christmas tree.
Granddad explained the drought was bad for all plant-
life, but mostly for trees like cedars that spread their roots
atop the ground. And add to that his bulls broke limbs off
at the base when they used them for backscratchers. This
didn’t sound right to me. Having slain many of them with
my chainsaw, I didn’t think there was much that could kill
a hearty cedar tree.
It wasn’t easy. In fact, cutting cedar was a difficult job
at any age and especially for any elderly man. But I didn’t
say so. Instead, I asked Granddad where a man could find
a decent Christmas tree, that is, if he were searching in the
freezing snow for one. His eyes squinted as if to question
my sanity and then he looked down his nose at me
through the bottom of his trifocals. He answered me with
a wave of his hand towards the south pasture and
described an abundance of cedar trees growing in the
fence-line they shared with our kinfolk, Auburn and
Georgene Taylor. I knew where he was talking about and
it was a long ways away on the far end of the ranch. We
usually went out together, but he was 73 years old and
had no business being outside in freezing weather. What I
needed was a way to keep him safe inside while I hunted
for a Christmas tree.
My idea pleased him when I suggested feeding his cat-
tle from horseback. That way, the pickup truck remained
parked in the garage and he stayed in the house. But I
could never keep anything from him. Granddad probably
figured me out and knew I was Christmas tree hunting
under the pretense of feeding cattle. He pretended not to
know, but when he helped me collect my gear, Granddad
said the broadax was in the woodshed. My hat was back
in Abilene so I borrowed Granddad’s along with his heavy
coat, gloves and scarf.
Big Red was never saddle shy. He locked his knees and
waited for me to sling it high over his back. At 13 hands
tall, that sorrel was a big horse and just the kind of ride I
needed in deep snow. His was a double-cinch saddle and
each time I pulled a cinch taught, Red would take in a
deep breath and swell up like a toad-frog. A poke in his
ribs fixed that problem. Then, I took the double-edged
broadax and shoved the handle through both cinch rings.
He exhaled a blowing complaint, did his little intimidation
dance, and then bobbed his head up and down in protest. I
simply ignored him.
Mounted high atop Red, I took inventory of my tools
and decided another lariat was needed for backup. I
grabbed it off the trailer gate as we rode by and hung it
over the saddle horn. He wasn’t too enthused with snow,
which was made evident by his prancing about in a ner-
vous trot. I suppose he didn’t like the feel of snow on his
hooves, and rightfully so – he’d never seen it before.
We left the backyard fence working our way down the
side of a creek embankment sliding into belly-deep snow-
drifts. He stood shaking half-buried in snow and voiced
his complaint in a fearful whinny. With a few soft words
of encouragement and a nudge to his flanks, Red leap-
frogged three hops through the deep snow and across the
dry creek-bed to the other side. Slipping and sliding, Red
scrambled up the embankment and back onto flat land.
Once on level ground, Red bucked a halfhearted kick
out of protest and I got the message loud and clear: no
more horse skiing. I looked around to see that Granddad
was right; cedar trees were more like squatty bushes than
fully shaped Christmas trees. Red launched into a trot that
soon slowed to a walk on level prairie footing. Then my
thoughts turned to supplies and equipment again. I was
wishing for my sunglasses. The bright glare of sunlight
reflecting off the snow was giving me a headache. What
else did I forget?
My mind wandered to Mom’s stories last night about
Grandpa Geupel and his travels through Texas. He’d
found fellow countrymen in Waco and worked as a tinner
at the Rogers Plantation in Falls County. Mom said that
Grandpa could recite “Silent Night” in the German lan-
guage, a Christmas song he’d learned as a small boy back
In the darkest hours of the winter solstice, ancient civi-
lizations believed that evergreens would keep away witch-
es, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness. They hung evergreen
boughs over doors and windows to guard every opening.
Legend has it that the triangular shape of the fir tree
describes the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and
People who’d converted to Christianity began to revere
the fir tree as God's Tree and by the 12th century it was
being hung, upside-down, from ceilings at Christmas time
as a symbol of their faith. Thus began the tradition to dec-
orate their homes with pine, spruce, and fir trees. Germans
turned the tree right-side up and are credited for the tan-
nenbaum tradition, which is to decorate indoor trees with
handcrafted Christmas ornaments.
Problem was there were no pine, spruce, or fir trees in
the area. So, it wasn’t by choice that Germans used the
lowly cedar - it was the only evergreen in Central Texas.
And, it was Mom’s mother, Emma, who’d carried on her
father, Grandpa’s, tradition to decorate a cedar Christmas
tree for the holidays.
A century later, that same family tradition was honored
by my parents. When I was a schoolboy I knew of no
other Christmas tree than cedar trees. But without a doubt,
they had a very special meaning to Mom and Granddad.
That’s why Red and I were freezing it off in this snow-
storm - we had to find them a Christmas tree.
Red traipsed through the barnyard of the old home-
place and stopped in front of the barn. This is where Mom
and Granddad lived before they moved to the other end of
the ranch. The old barn provided much needed storage for
his winter feed supply of hay and range cubes. I unbuck-
led my gun-belt and draped it over the saddle to feed
Poor cattle still had snow on their backs and looked as
if they truly appreciated lunch. But they were more thirsty
than hungry and all 40 some-odd followed me to the stock
tank. Yanking the axe from out of the cinch rings I walked
out onto the ice and swung it as hard as I could. The
impact didn’t even crack the thick ice. Chipping away at
the bank’s edge had broken open a small round hole, and
that’s when they charged. Slipping and sliding I couldn’t
get out of their way and they knocked me sprawling
across the ice.
They fought each other to drink from the small hole,
and, eventually, one fell through the ice. Then, they all
charged out onto the ice. I skated to the other side for
safety and just in time to see the ice give way and sink
below the surface under the weight of all those cattle. By
then, the whole herd was swimming around blocks of ice.
Luckily, the water wasn’t that deep and they crawled up
the side of the tank dam, but only after they’d drank their
fill. No telling how long those poor cows had gone with-
out a drink.
Red and I continued traveling to the southwest on our
quest for the perfect tannenbaum. Some mean looking
clouds began to gather over the northern horizon in a
threatening wintertime storm. That could’ve put a hitch in
my giddyup, but I didn’t let it discourage me. I was deter-
mined not to turn back and keep going till the job was
This was probably one of those times when Grandpa
would’ve given his words of encouragement and said, “It
don’t make no hoot.” Besides, the only distance we need-
ed to go was across an old cotton field, over the hill, and
into deep forest where those cedars grew. And, if
Granddad said they were there, I had no doubt in my mind
those cedar trees were there and that I would find them.
My mind begins to wander when I’m loping along
horseback and again, I was thinking about Mom and her
stories last night. She said Grandpa had a tin shop in
Santo where he’d pierce small holes through tin in the
outline of Christmas images (Santa, tree, elf, or candy
cane). The pierced tin was crafted into lanterns and when
backlit by candlelight the images were projected on the
wall. Some were designed to spin in a circle and it cast,
what appeared to be, moving images dancing across the
Decorations of all kinds were cutout, stitched and glued
for tree ornaments. The general stores were hunting
grounds for old magazines with pictures, rolls of cotton
batting (cotton wool), and tinsel. Tinsel was invented in
Germany around 1610. At that time real silver was used,
and machines were invented which pulled the silver out
into the wafer thin strips for tinsel. By the 1870s, both
glass ornaments and tinsel were imported from Germany
and sold through catalog stores such as FW Woolworth
and Montgomery Ward. It soon became a status symbol to
have glass ornaments on the tree - the more one had the
better one’s status.
Howling sounds perked up his ears and Red fidgeted
his hooves in a nervous prance. I unholstered my Colt and
cocked it, just to be ready. This dense forest was dark and
scary enough to spook anyone and then I heard them
again – it was the howls of pack-wolves. Maybe not
wolves, they could’ve been wild dogs or coyotes, but like
Granddad always said, “There ain’t no difference. They
can all bite-cha.”
Skirting around a Live Oak grove, the back fence-line
was in sight and I reined Red parallel to it. Within a few
hundred feet I saw something green up ahead and there
they were, beautifully full and thick cedar trees lined
along the fence. Some were just the right size, between 6
and 7 feet tall, all of which gave me a wide selection to
choose from. Tying Red to a nearby tree, I chopped down
a real beauty. In no time, I was back in the saddle with my
lariat tied to the horn pulling a Christmas tree home
through the snow.
Backtracking near the old barn lured bawling cows that
wanted to be fed again. I did a double-take to make sure
what I saw wasn’t creatures from outer space. Their swim
in the stock-tank had frozen into long ice cycles that hung
from their horns, ears, and tails. Headed homeward along
the trail, snow began to fall and nighttime quickly turned
into total darkness. With it, came a silence that only the
clippity-clop of Red’s hoofs were heard between swishing
sounds of the tree dragging across snow.
I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face and it
continued on page 18
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 17
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STORIES & SNIPPETS
continued from page 16
would’ve been total night blindness had it not been for fall-
ing snowflakes. Tying the reins together I laid them over the
saddle horn and gave full control over to Red’s surefooted
guidance. By now, the temperature had fallen somewhere
down in the teens.
Not wanting to catch cold, I removed Granddad’s felt hat
and slapped it across my knee to shake away a thick collec-
tion of wet snowflakes. I wanted to dry it out, but the bitter
cold made me cram it back on my head. There wasn’t a whis-
per of wind blowing from any direction, which allowed for
free-falling snowflakes to slowly float to the ground. I made
a game of catching one in my glove and releasing the snow-
flake before it melted, but I could never do it.
Red abruptly stopped in his tracks and like the smokestack
of a locomotive, he snorted a long blast of frozen steam from
his nostrils. We were home! Fumbling for the switch, I turned
on the lights inside the barn to locate the tree stand. I nailed
it on the base of the tree-trunk and Red ate his extra helping
of oats while he watched me work. When I stood it upright
the limbs spread outward into full boughs of thick foliage,
and to my surprise showed no signs of damage.
Mom and Granddad had already gone to bed and would
have to wait until morning to see their living room adorned
with a cedar Christmas tree. It stood tall by the front door as
if it were grown solely for that one purpose: to please my
grandparents. I spent the following days helping them deco-
rate the tree and bringing down all of their old decorations
from the attic.
They thanked me, but the smiles on their faces had already
done that. I couldn’t decide which one was pleased the most,
Mom or Granddad. What was clear was that both relished a
room full of decorations. They could recall who gave them
the decoration and each one brought back fond memories of
Christmases past. They weren’t fancy and only a few were
illuminated, but all of them were well-crafted, nonetheless.
And, not all of them were old. I asked Mom if Grandpa
Geupel would approve of her new-fangled electrified
Christmas tree lights. With a smile she replied, “It don’t
make no hoot.”•••
(1) Junior Louis (J.L.) and Cedric (Taylor) Odom,
(2) Emma Wynell (Odom) Erwin - daughter of Cedric and
(1) “THE CHRONOLOGICAL HISTORY OF THE
CHRISTMAS TREE,” copyright 1986, “The Christmas
Archives” - by Countess Maria Hubert von Staufer
(2) “Christmas Tree” copyright 2012, Encyclopedia
(3) “German Christmas Trees” – London Times –
December 20th 1842 p.1 [London, England]
Randall Scott, Author of “The Tinner,” is a member of
Western Writers Of America, Western Literature Association,
and Texas Historical Association. You can find Randall on the
Internet at http://Randall-Scott.com
Monday, December 6, 1934
Mineral Wells Index
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO
omething of a human interest story was developed at the post offce one day this week, an inci-
dent that caused some long faces and a few “damp lamps” among Postmaster
Cranford’s jolly force.
Nearly two years ago a young boy of the city yielded to temptation and committed an act of forgery
that landed him in the penitentiary for two years. Otherwise he was a good boy, and had always been
and was of good family.
Of course his mother never forsook him, and no weather or other conditions prevented her calling at
the offce for the letter which was invariably there from the son in the Texas penal institution.
By good behavior, the young man had gotten full measure of merit marks, and the result was that he
was released sooner than he thought. So when he was released he at once came home, not stopping to
write or otherwise communicate with the home folks.
Thursday, the mother, with the devotion that only a mother can know, appeared at the window of
that section where letters from “A” to “M” are handed out. The delivery clerk ran through the letters in
the usual way and shook his head. The letter was not there. He knew it wasn’t, but the mother’s appeal-
ing face said as plain as words: “Please look again.” He looked – even in a box of another initial letter
just to please her. Other clerks had noticed the little drama and there was a good-sized
sympathy party formed there and then.
In an almost dazed and painfully surprised manner, the mother, with a last look
at the long rows of letter boxes, turned away–only to fnd herself in the arms of
her darling boy!
It is the policy of the Index to foster up, rather than parade the weaknesses of
mankind, and we here and now hope for and predict a useful life for the young
man, and that he will ever cherish his saintly mother, who, though a busy world
had forgotten the boy and his trouble, never forsook him, but regularly wrote
endearing and encouraging letters that doubtless infuenced him to so deport himself
as to be pardoned and restored to citizenship. In the years to come, when the hoary
frosts of many winters have settled upon his head, he will remember the incident in
the Mineral Wells post offce. So will the clerks.
This series of pieces from the past is meant to remind us of this area’s unique
history. The material comes from old issues maintained at the Index offce and is
presented pretty much as it appeared in print. These papers are quite yellowed and
brittle, deteriorating from age. By publishing these pieces perhaps we can keep them
in play in the digital world for years to come. For clarity, some punctuation issues
have been addressed. Hopefully you will enjoy these tiny windows to the past.
Feedback is appreciated and will be shared. E-mail publisher@mineralwellsindex.
com or send your letter to Mineral Wells Index, P.O. Box 370, Mineral Wells, Texas
76068, attention publisher. You may also drop it by our offce at 300 S.E. 1st. St.
in Mineral Wells. Thanks for reading!
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 19
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 20
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December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 21
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1550 Millsap Hwy • Mineral Wells, TX
• Open Dance Hal l st yl e pavi l i on wi t h st age •
• Rust i c Count ry Cabi n wi t h f ul l ki t chen •
• Hi l l - t op RV Park excl usi vel y for your guest s •
• Private Parties
• Family Reunions
• Class Reunions
• Cook Offs Store Hours:
9 am-5:30 pm – Tuesday-Friday
9 am-3:30 pm – Saturday
Polaris ATVs, Rangers
Warning: ATVs can be hazardous to operate. Never carry passengers. Be especially careful of difﬁcult terrain.
Never ride on public roads, always avoid paved surfaces. Always wear a helmet and protective clothing. Polaris
ATVs may not be ridden by anyone under 16, and all riders should take a training course. For training and safety
information, see your Polaris dealer or call 1-800-342-3764.
Old fashioned service at a reasonable price
No Hidden Fees or Charges
Commercial & Residential • Propane Sales & Service
New & Used Tanks Installed
“Our Propane is State Approved HD5” We can sell propane
cheaper than our competitors because our overhead is lower
Call Heine Propane Today! Owner Scott Heine
14324 Baker Rd. Weatherford
MENTI ON THI S AD FOR $5. 00 OFF OF PURCHASE
Performance Exhaust Systems, Lift Kits, Lowering
1208 East Hubbard, Mineral Wells, TX 76067
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 22
• Kitchens • Baths • Concrete • Carports • Trim
• Custom Fences • Bell-Tec Service • Cabinets
• Rooﬁng • Barns • Room Additions
• Custom Ceilings • New Homes
Ofﬁce • 817-596-7791
Cell • 817-597-0430
Country Club Estates
100 Country Club Parkway, Mineral Wells
Monday-Friday 9-5:30 • Sat. & Sun. 10-3
W/D Connections, Range & Refrigerator
BEST LOCATION...BEST PRICE
FREE MONTH RENT! FREE MONTH RENT!
C/H & A
3 BR House
4 BR House
C/H Unit Air
1 BR Duplex
2 BR Duplex
3 BR Duplex
Weldon C. & Bill
Excavating & Asphalt Paving
Parking Lots, Site Preparation
1516 Ft. Worth Highway
817-594-3171 or 613-0348
First National Bank
P.O. Box 338 • 254-672-5211
Servi ng Mi neral Wel l s & Surroundi ng Areas For Over 20 Years
Submersible Pumps • Pressure Tanks Repair & Service • New Pumps
S i Mi l W l l & S di A F O 20 Y
Personal - Fri endl y - Servi ce
4ë00 N8fk0l $lf00l Nlß0f8l N0ll8, 1K ¡ë0ë¡ 940·JZâ·11âZ ª f8K 940·JZâ·4ZZ4
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Mini Storage & Climate Controlled
Controlled Access & Security Lighting
3101 M.H. 379 • Mineral Wells
(On Corner of S.E. 25th Ave. & South Loop)
Assortment of Sizes Available
Voted #1 Flooring in Palo Pinto
NAPA Auto Parts
800 S.E. 1st Street
1512 Ft. Worth Hwy.
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 23
December 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR • Page 24