With my last article, we wrote the end of Erna as a trade center about 1946 when it all shut down about the same time and everyone went their ways at the end of WW2. The highway system was in progress as the highway was changed and paved in 1943 and this eliminated the bogs and sand beds and most of all, the nails and staples causing a flat tire every trip one made and we all missed the rub board road of the past..
The original highway designation for the road when the state took control was Highway 385, which originated in Refugio and made a wide sweeping curve to the norhthwest thru Burnet, Llano, Mason, Junction on to Del Rio. And of course, every mile in our part of the country was dirt subject to all the floods, bog holes, sand beds, rock ledges and any other obstacle that may be in place, as the machinery was horsepower, I mean the real thing horse drawn equipment and as a result, the highways did not make a straight line between two points but stayed on routes that were easier to build and maintain but as a rule, the roads followed a section line, thus a 90 deg. curve ever mile or so.
Mr. Ferdinand Hahn had the contract from about Streeter to the Menard-Mason County line to grade the surfaces, I would guess, after a rain or once every 3 months. He had a four mule team to pull the horse drawn grader which was all manual, with about an 8 foot blade. Hydraulics was a thing to come much later for machinery. The grader had 4 large wheels about 30 inches in diameter, when turned by hand, operated rack and pinion gears that moved the blade into different positions to rake the dirt across the roadway. There was a platform over the rear axle to stand on, which was convenient to the wheels to turn by hand to regulate the cut and roll of the dirt across the way. The reins to the team were tied together and looped around the operators neck for quick access but the mules were a trained bunch and they followed the roll without much guiding.
Of course, in operating the grader, one always had to be cautious in regard to rocks that had a good anchor because when the blade came into contact with the object that did not move, with the blade being at an angle, the grader would suddenly slip to the side, throwing the operator into the wheels or off the machine. I am sure Mr. Hahn had all those obstacles located after a run or two so he would have time to change the blade angle and save broken ribs. In the sand, the surface would return to rub board condition in a short time and would shake an auto apart causing debris to be strewed on the roadway causing a flat tire on a regular basis plus nails and staples. Every operator of an auto always carried tube patching glue and rubber to patch the holes and a Golden Rod hand air pump to re inflate the pneumatic tires. Some autos had rubber inserts in the tire and if you turned a corner too fast, you would scatter the inserts over a 10 acres area and the whole family looked like they were on an Easter Egg hunt gathering up the inserts. I remember in the 1930’s, the Hwy. Dept. operated a magnet truck to go over the roadway about every quarter picking up the debris, as it was such a problem. A flat tire was a common occurrence, as no one was immune to the disasters.
Travel was never a walk in the park, even a trip from Erna to Mason, as back then, we had rain on a regular basis so there was either a flood to cause delays as the only way to advance, was to wait till the water was down safe enough to cross and then, one would have to wade across to check for washouts. I went to school at Long Mountain and it seemed that once a week in the fall and spring, we would have to wait for the Leon Creek to run down in the afternoons to cross to get home. We had the good ole Henry Howell, WOAI, thunderstorms then to contend with and it was wonderful. I remember that we would have a chunk floater at night and the frogs would holler all night long and for a week. We no longer have the rain to stand water over a day nor the frogs to chirp. In the ‘30’s, every draw had running water and all the ponds in the country were full for winter and then, those ponds would freeze, making a good skating area. We would back off on land, run and hit the ice to see how far on could slide and eventually, the ice would break and we would have to build a fire to dry out. That was just part of the day. We didn’t have to worry about grass fires as everybody ran sheep and there was not enough grass to burn. We would stack up a few daggers and keep the fire going for about 45 minutes and then we were ready to travel.
Back in the mid ‘30’s we still had a few teens in the area of Erna Hill and specifically, Leon Point, where Mr. Shobee Allen lived and fortunately, the old road had a long, gentle run in front of his house and it became a gathering place for his two boys, Cotton and Toddle, my older brother, Cecil, and Louis and Milton Eckert. I so happened that Mr. Allen had a wagon with pneumatic tires that was easy to pull and it became a projectile on the downhill at the Leon Point. The guys would pull it to the crown of the hill by hand, all but one would load up, fold the tongue up to the bed to steer and one would push off and jump in for the ride. The going was rather easy as there were no sand beds to alter the steering and when the gravity gave out and the ride ended, all would debark and pull the empty wagon back to the top for another run. This went on till time for Mr. Allen to return or a turn over happened and once all wiped off the dust and checked for the scratches, they got the wagon back on its wheels and they pulled it back to it’s parking place and waited for the next Saturday, for that was egg and butter day for most in the community so Mr. Allen went to town and the wagon would come out. Traffic was no problem as a good day for traffic was a dozen autos. I was never invited to ride as at that time, I was 5 or 6, or I was too smart. I was one cautious kid and as result, I never had any broken bones or missing teeth. Oh—The Good Ole Days.