Here is an old ranch house I painted in about 1968. It seems like all of these old houses were built from one of two house plans. This one had one front door (sometimes two) and a wing built out in front. (there was usually an add-on shed in the back). Then there was the house with a long porch across the front and two or three front doors. You would wonder which door to knock on. Most of these old places had an out house. The better ones had a pit toilet with a modern looking oak seat and a metal floor. (home for granddaddy long leg spiders.) Others were two and three hollers and a trap door in the back.The yard had a picket fence to keep the stock out. The barn was usually finer than the house and there was almost always a windmill, the sound of the mill turning is something we always remember. There is something cozy about these old houses. A nice place to come home to. When my granddad retired he and my grandmother moved to their farm at Grit. Before they finished fixing up the old house, it was primitive but it did have running water inside. I loved being there, it was wonderful, the kerosene lamps smelled good but they didn’t put out much light. What I missed was a refrigerator, they had an ice box and things were never very cold. Granddad built a big cement tank and we waited all summer for it to fill up so we could go swimming, when it was time for us to come home, there was about nine inches of water in it. I had to save my new blow up water wings for another year.
This is a picture of our two little boys and Big Spook in a field of wild flowers, it was in 1967. We lived over in the farm house and everything was running great. The boys had a nice tree house in the only mesquite there big enough to hold one. It had rails all the way around, it was painted the same color green as the trim on our house, and I put a safety net, which was fence wire strung underneath so if anyone fell out, it would save them. It had a flag pole with the beautiful Texas flag flying every day. There were barns, a silo, storm cellar, and plenty of room to play. One day, Daddy came home in his little green Volkswagen and in the back seat was this huge black dog. He had been to the pound in San Angelo and adopted a ‘guard dog’. When he opened the door, out it came, running our four kitties up on top of the carport. (one kitty lost a tail that day but recovered). It took me three days to get over being mad. He was a Belgian Sheepdog and we named him Spook, ( a name we later gave another of our wonderful dogs). He spent summers on the river at Christoval with us. He was so smart, he knew the difference between ball, bowl and bone, he brought which ever one we sent him after. He had a red life jacket, sat in the boat, waiting for someone to take him for a ride, and had a big inner tube to float around on. We had some great old times with him. All of our dogs have been special, like they are our children~
I put the Bridge party on my blog a few weeks ago and everyone liked seeing the girls. It was back in the 1970’s. Today I want to show you some pictures of these same girls and the hair-dos they wore back then. The hair took time to fix and is probably the reason women stopped wearing hats, they just wouldn’t fit on this big hair. You had to roll it on curlers, then tease or back-comb it and spray with hair spray so stiff you could go through a cyclone and not have a hair out of place. At night you wore a satin sleeping cap or wrapped it with toilet paper, that hair-do had to last a week. I loved the big hair, it was beautiful, the girls were pretty and they always dressed in classy clothes. They could decorate a room by walking through the door~
This picture today is a thoroughbred horse I painted for practice. I have painted a lot of horses in the last 60 years and it has always been a pleasure. People treasure their horses, there is a special bond between them. Ranchers use quarter horses in Texas, I painted a quarter horse for someone who was giving it to her husband for Christmas one year. She gave me a photograph to go by, mesquite tree, calache road and their recognizable ranch land in the background. This was going to be an easy one. I loved doing it, but I did ‘doctor up’ it up just a little, you know, a little more muscle, longer legs, what I thought would enhance it. I showed it to Jim Cawley ~a horse expert and friend~ to have him critique it before I delivered it . His comment was, “Dang, that is a fine horse but that is NOT Bob’s horse!”, so I started over from scratch and painted Bob’s real horse. Jim taught me a lot about horses, I have had to remove the perfectly painted whiskers in a horse portrait, re-work the eyes (moon eyes are not acceptable) and every horse has to be the exact color. Horses have four legs, sometimes I would have liked to have painted them standing in tall grass, the legs are no fun.
Harold Wood, who was in charge of the LBJ Park near Johnson City once sent me an old photograph of a camp cook with his chuck wagon and wanted me use it as a subject for an oil painting. I really enjoyed painting it and it hung in the Library and Conference Room at the park for several years. It reminded me of far West Texas and the Culberson County Ranch. Hunting camps still have camp cooks, usually one of the hunters takes on the job and does it year after year. Sometimes a real cook comes and gets to hunt for free. I can only imagine the men starting out early on a cold morning with a big breakfast of scrambled eggs, boiled coffee and biscuits cooked in an old Dutch oven on the open fire, then heading out for the big hunt. This is where fathers bond with sons, brothers with brothers. This is where friendships are made that last a lifetime.
While I was at UT in the fifties, a friend at the dorm was going to try out for the Tex-Annes, the school dance team. She asked me to go with her, and we both came back that day as new members. The qualifications were: be skinny, do high kicks and show up at practice. It was fun, there were about 14 girls in the group. Several times we went to San Antonio to entertain at Brooke Army Hospital. One of the girls sang ‘red hot mama’ songs, she was good. In March of 1953, there was a beauty contest to name Miss Austin, (the first leg of a journey to crown a new Miss America.) They were having no luck getting girls to sign up so they came to the Tex-Annes and asked if we would all participate. To qualify, you needed to own a bathing suit and an evening dress. The perks were you would be ridding in parades, be featured in the Austin Statesman, and forever more be linked to the famous Miss America Pageant. (whether it ‘ever served us well’ remains to be seen, it has been over 60 years~ I am still waiting~) Anyway, the rules were: #1, Show up at every rehearsal. #2, Show up on time. #3, Miss one single practice you are OUT! We watched as each tried to put together something for the talent contest. The best skit was the ‘Red Hot Mama’, followed closely by the short girl who had an authentic Mexican dress and played the castanets. After weeks of practice it was dress rehearsal time the night before the pageant at the Austin High School Auditorium. Then, in she walked~ this tall beautiful, confident long legged girl we had never seen before. (The 3 big rules didn’t apply to lady long legs!) We kept whispering to each other, what’s going on! We all limped through our routines and knew our Red Hot Mama or the castanets were not going to be winning after all. The next day, clouds came up and a storm was brewing. Mother and my sister Nancy, along with my friend Jimmy had come 200 miles to see the show, there were maybe 30 other people in the audience. The place was virtually empty. The show started, then the lights flickered off and on and off again, the building went dark, everything stopped. After a while the lights came back on. That was the story of the whole night with a sever thunderstorm, hail, power failure, the show was a disaster.They did crown Miss Austin that night and yes it was her~
When I am thinking back to this time, I realize everyone in this group is 80 or more years old, many of them are already gone. Now the contest is which one will be the last one standing~
This is Matt Bumguardner, he was raised on a ranch with three brothers, they lost their mother at a young age, but they had a wonderful daddy who raised them by himself and sent them all through college. They were fine boys, gifted and talented.
We were closely connected to Matt. He knew how to fix things and make things, and didn’t mind hard work. He liked fixing up old cars and pick ups, rebuilding motors getting them running. One day Daddy went to town and was gone for quite a while. I heard the fire whistle blow in town and wondered where the fire was. Then here came a truck down our road, towing Daddy’s completely burned Volkswagen. While he was going down main street the gas line came loose, and with a loud pop the car caught on fire. It looked like a total loss. Sometime later, Matt traded him out of it and completely restored it. When he was finished, it was probably the only Volkswagen anywhere that was painted in Texas A&M University’s maroon and white. Matt lives in Arizona but we were able to visit with him last year at his daddy’s funeral. It was like he had never been away and it has been over 25 years. His kids will like seeing these pictures~
This is a picture taken on the rim of the Culberson County Ranch in the Delaware Mountains. You can see for a hundred miles, it is spectucular, something you don’t expect as you are driving around on the top with it’s more flat rolling terrain . When you get to the edge and see all this vast space, it is awesome. On the other side of the rim you have a wonderful view of Guadalope Peak. Some of the larger ranches in this area are many thousands of acres. That is Dan with his walking stick, he was never without it and he needed it here that day for sure. A young friend once said he wished he could own some land out there, Dan told him he only needed a small spot and the view would be his as far as he could see~that view belongs to everyone~
Sunday is Mother’s Day and what a special day! This was my mother Elizabeth Elder, she was a wonderful mother and grandmother. We were best friends for all those years and almost everything I ever learned came from her, creative in every way, but her greatest talent was painting. To watch her paint was an inspiration, she taught art for most of her life. She introduced the world of art to this part of West Texas. There are many people who come into our lives who mean everything to us but there is only one mother, mine was smart, pretty, creative and so much fun to be with. She was special~
The Bingo Singers~this little group has been active for at least 19 years. It started at the nursing home when I was helping with the Bingo games. Willie Johnson was singing one day and I told her I had a guitar and brought it the next time and we were off and running. She knew every song there was, I made copies of the lyrics for everyone and we sang for an hour before Bingo twice a week. We sang everything from old ‘he done her wrong songs to hymns’. Through the years we have had some great singers, some of the guys like Jack , George , Claudie , and Wally to name a few, and volunteers like Jim , James , Mary , Norma Lynn and a group of women who love to sing . We’ve played a few gigs at socials on the court house lawn. A nice comment was, “you don’t mess around tuning guitars or warming up, you just get up and sing“. It has been fun being a part of this sweet nursing home family, some of my best friends ever, it is nice having a good audience~We meet every Friday at 9:00 and sing our hearts out for an hour. Everyone is invited.
Today I will show you some more pictures from the drilling rig operation. This was the Mittel well that was drilled in August 1990 so all the faces you see are 23 years older now. The chances are many of them are still working in the oil fields. Daddy worked as a roughneck until he was 68 years old and loved his job. These men have to know what they are doing, one mistake and the whole crew can be in danger. Hard work but everyone seemed to like what they were doing. They had to be strong and physically fit, they got dirty and they got tired. The money was good, it was one of the best paying job in this area. Men get broken ribs, some lose a finger, others have had burns from flash fires. and there have been wrecks when the crews were driving home from work after long shifts. It is just their way of life and they like it. Drilling is still going strong in West Texas
I liked making this blog, Dan and I enjoyed meeting these fellows