Wagon Yard Days
The following articles could be viewed as reruns inasmuch as they are taken from the initial portion of my MEMOIRS which began appearing in the Brady Standard on Oct. 16, 1992.
In again reminiscing of that long ago era I am trusting that the replay of some of those early day articles will reveal a portion of history to the young who perhaps missed the early installment and will not be remembered by the elderly who, while recalling those days, will have forgotten by now that I even wrote about them in the first place.
Having been born in the year 1911 I missed the early and glory years of the Wagon Yard. My entry into those days came in 1917 which was the beginning of the end of the horse drawn era and the beginning of the motorized revolution which buried the wagon and the Wagon Yard in the graveyard of the past.
In my searches through some of the existing encyclopedia I have found no information about Wagon Yards of the past and yet in my youth I recall the time when there were three of them in Brady. Perhaps then these meager memories of the Bodenhamer Wagon Yard may in some measure be responsible for preventing a small portion of our early day history from being consigned to oblivion.
THE WAGON YARD DAYS
Although I do have recollections dating back to my third, fourth and fifth years my most vivid memories begin in my sixth year. This was the first year that we lived at the Wagon Yard.
We lived in a house located on a corner of the lot which encompassed the entire Wagon Yard. It had (if I remember correctly) three bed rooms, one for my sister, one for my two older brothers and one for Mama, Papa and baby sister, leaving a pallet on the living room floor as a bed for me and my younger brother. Then there was a dining room and a very small kitchen with a wood cook-stove.
The bathroom, or the place where we took baths, was the kitchen and the bathtub was a No.3 washtub. Our toilet, which was known in those days as the outhouse, privy or two-holer was located at the north end of the lot and backed up to First Street for the convenience of the scavenger.
I will explain, for the edification of the young, that in those days we had no sewage disposal system. Therefore the city provided scavengers (men with horse drawn wagons) to drive the streets and alleys to clean out from under the outhouses on a regular basis.
While we did have indoor access to water from the city water system much of the water we used was taken from a cistern that was adjacent to the house and filled with the rainwater which fell on our roof and was piped into the cistern with gutters.
The primary use for the cistern water was for washing clothes for, as I recall, it was quite often filled with those things we called wiggletails that later developed into mosquitos.
Our house was separated from the Wagon Yard proper by a fence on the south. The entry into the Yard was between our living quarters and a large building that was known as the feed barn and the entryway had a gate which could be closed at night.
The Wagon Yard was located between 1st and 2nd street and bordered Oak street. It covered one city block and in addition to the living quarters and feed barn consisted of a long roof covered shed under which wagons could be parked, 3 two room bunk houses, 1 one room bunk house, 1 two holer out house for the yard customers, 100 or more stalls for horses and mules, 1 large pen for unstabled animals, and a large open area for outdoor camping.
The barn was covered with corrugated iron, hot as the devil in summer and cold as a well diggers whatchacallet in winter, the only warmth that was provided in winter time was from a large pot bellied stove that would burn wood, coal or anything else you could get into it. In 1917/18/19 the barn was full of hay and grain for the animals. In later years, after the automobile came onto the scene, it became half feed and half groceries.
Before the automobile took over in this part of Texas all travel was by horse/mule drawn vehicles (mostly wagons). When country people had to come to town it might take from one to two days for them to reach town, therefore they had to have a place to stay or camp over night. Such places were called “Wagon Yards”—replaced later by “Tourist Courts” and then “Motels”.
I just today read the first death knell of the Wagon Yard in a 1916 issue of The Brady Standard which read as follows: “Since January 1st. of this year 128 cars have been registered. Up to June 20, 1916 the total number of cars registered with County Clerk Yantis was 502. At a corresponding period last year the number totaled 366 cars, showing a gain in 12 months time of 196. It would be a very safe and conservative estimate to put the average amount paid for the cars at $500 and you will be forced to the conclusion that McCulloch County is “some” prosperous.”
It is apparent that my dad, who bought the Wagon Yard in 1917, did not read this paper and if he did he was like many others who never dreamed that the automobile would displace the horse drawn vehicle.
At the Wagon Yard people could park their wagons under the covered shed or camp out in the open area, stable their animals in covered or uncovered stalls or turn them loose in the large pen. Each of the stalls had a rack to hold hay and a feed box to hold oats, corn and other grain. It was these feed boxes that our hens used as nests in which to deposit their eggs just as soon as the stalls were vacated.
I never knew what the charge for an overnight stay was and I was too young to be interested, however, I read in a book written in 1938 that the usual charge for an overnight stay in a wagon yard was twenty cents and that the accepted amount of feed given to each horse or mule stabled was two bundles of fodder and 12 ears of corn. (to me that sounds like a lot of corn for one horse, but who am I to argue. Then too, perhaps that explains why we have that old expression of “eating like a horse” )
Those who could afford it would rent a bunk house (if a large family maybe a two room bunk house). They had to bring their own bedding because the only thing furnished in the bunk house was a wood stove for heat and or cooking and a bedstead with springs and a mattress.
Those not renting a bunk house would sleep in or under their wagon—build a camp fire out in the open area and cook their meals. Others, who could afford it, ate in town which was just three blocks to the west.
Footnote; Mason wagon yard?