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Travels with Grandma...
Preserving the stories, legends & history of Texas for generations to come...
Bluff Dale...

Hello everyone! Welcome back! I’m glad you could join us today. Well, it’s August now and with August comes that dry Texas heat that we all love so much! Today, we’re staying pretty close to home. Just a short jaunt down Hwy 377 and into Bluff Dale.

Now, I know, most of you are wondering, “why in the world, Bluff Dale?” Well, there’s a little more to it than you see whizzing by on your way to Stephenville and points west. How many of you have seen the old town water well? How many of you know that there is an arm buried in a cemetery near there? How many of you have had a chance to walk out on one of the first bridges built in this area? Or walk around an old hardware store that has been in the family for over 90 years?? When we get through, maybe you will know “why in the world Bluff Dale”.

So load up the car, hop on in, and we’ll be off…

Our first stop is just a little over 4 ½ miles down the road at Friendship Cemetery. I had heard there is an arm buried there so I just had to go find out why. Remember me telling you that there are stories to be found in cemeteries? Well, let’s start here…

Last week we talked about lay doctors and how they filled in for the regular doctors who traveled circuits to care for their patients. And sometimes, people just did what they had to do to survive. And that is the story I’m going to tell you today.

I know that most of you have never know what it is like to not have a doctor to go to, or a hospital or a clinic. Most of you can’t imagine a time when medicine was the roots you dug out of the ground or leaves you pulled from branches of trees or flowers; and the best pain killer was a good shot of whiskey. But it hasn’t always been that way. Sometimes people just did what they had to do to survive.

I learned that arm belonged to Mr. J.E. Arrington, and after a little research on the internet, I learned that Mr. Arrington came to Texas with his family when he was 13 years old in 1839. (Now who can tell me how long ago that was??) I would imagine the land didn’t look much different than this when they first arrived.

He grew up on a farm and didn’t have much “schooling” – just a short time at a private school. He sure learned plenty about farming and taking care of live stock and when he was grown, he found his own land and started his own farm and family. He served during the Civil War in Carmichael's Brigade-home guards It was nicknamed "the Bloody 20th" because they saw little "action." However, it did keep busy with local marauding Indians.

After the war, he returned to farming and raised his family. Somewhere along the line he contracted cancer and amputated his arm ad that’s how it came to be buried in Friendship Cemetery.

Back on Hwy377 and heading through Tolar we can see the buildings that remind us of the time when Tolar was a bustling farm town and the local farmers came to trade and shop.

Up and down the hills and through the farm country that remains much like it was during the times of Mr. Arrington and the others who helped settle this land. Our first stop is a right on Main Street in Bluff Dale. Unlike some of the other small towns we’ve visited there is only one store open today –J.F. Warnock Hardware. There we wandered the crowded isles that used to be home to the implements and tools that helped the farmers build futures for their families, tend their live stock and the gardens that fed those families. Today it is still stocked with the same type items, only a little more modern versions.

Ms. Vernish is full of tales of the past and history of Bluff Dale. Her father bought the hardware store as an established business “about o’eight” and in about “o’ten” built this building next to the buggy shop in downtown Bluff Dale. That makes 98 years in business for this family. She is hoping to hang on for two more years so they can celebrate 100 years.

Look up at the ceiling and you can see the original tin tiles and a hole where the old wood stove pipe used to be that provided warmth for visitors and strangers alike.

Take a look at this old safe!! Can you imagine someone trying to sneak off in the middle of the night with that tied to their horse? I guess that is why robbers in the “wild west” used dynamite to break into them! Take a look at all the boxes stacked behind it – a pack rats dream come true! What I wouldn’t have given to be able to dig through them and see what kinds of “treasures” are hidden there!

I hope you will stop by and visit Mrs. Vernish sometime when you are passing through town. She loves to talk and enjoys the company and I am sure she has many more stories to share than what she told me and Aunt Alicia while we were there.

One was an old-old story, probably happened before the turn of the century, in the 1800’s that is. It was about a man “up the hill” who came put one night to find someone stealing his horses. When asked what he did about it, he just shrugged his shoulders and said “he shouldn’t have”. A “few” years ago, the lady who lives across the street from his place was building a fence when the man digging the holes came running up, all out of breath, saying “There’s a man in that hole, there’s a man in that hole”. Sure enough they pulled a skull from the hole, took it to Tarleton to be tested and it was a man’s skull. Guess he shouldn’t have. Back in those days you didn’t call the police. They were few and far between and you didn’t have a phone to call with any way. People just handled justice they way they saw fit.

At the end of the street is the old town pump. It was used by cattle drivers, settlers moving on in their wagons and the town people who lived there. It is still used today when people have emergency needs for water.

Can’t you just see the cowboys, dirty and dusty from a hard day on the trail, stopping for a cool drink and to water down their cows and horses? How about the town people gathered around with their buckets, gossiping and visiting and sharing tales and stories, waiting for their turn to pump the water, fill their bucket and head for home trying not to spill one precious drop? Yes, water was precious back then. You didn’t just turn on the faucet and “wha’la” you had all the water you could ever dream of, you worked for it and you didn’t just let the faucet run. When you worked that hard, every drop was precious.

Across the street someone has restored an old building into a period saloon. Take away the modern lights and you have a saloon much like it was in the 1800’s. That was worth the stop! Old Victorian furniture a grand old piano and you just have to see the crystal chandelier that graces the entrance! I found a few pictures of old times on a table.

It’s time to wander on down the road, just a short distance to CR149 and what I consider another surprise in Bluff Dale – the suspension bridge. I’ve been in around and through Bluff Dale a thousand times over the years and never knew it was there. Turn off on the dirt road and step back in time. There is a new paved bridge crossing the creek now, but stop and get out and take a look down the road. Listen to the wind rustling through the trees and hear the quiet.

Look at the iron bars suspended across the creek, the cables supporting the side rails, holding it up and the hinged metal flaps covering the base.

Picture a community coming together to build this bridge and provide a safe crossing across the creek for their neighbors and traveling strangers alike. What a day that must have been – men working hard, women gathered together preparing food and sitting in the shade of the trees, babies on their laps, quilting or mending as they chattered away. The children running and playing with friends they hadn’t seen in a while and teenagers nervously eyeing each other. Then, stop. Listen. Can you hear the wagon wheels traveling across it? Clickity, click. Clickity, Click…

We weren’t quite ready to call it a day so we wandered to the end of CR149 finding old houses and old barns and turned around and came back to Hwy 377. Then we wandered a few more back roads, taking in the pretty day and the pretty countryside and back to home.

It sure is hard to head for home when you have views like this just over the next hill, but alas, responsibilities call and we must go.

Till next time…


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© Story and all pictures are copyright of Sharon L. Curry. No portion of this story or pictures may be reproduced in whole or part without the express written permission of Sharon L. Curry.