In telling stories from memories dating back to the 1920’s and 30’s I recognize that few readers, unless they are in their 70’s and 80’s, will know anything about the picnic spots I am referring to in the following article.
Picnicking on the San Saba
Once again in the early morning hours lying abed in that cozy spot which is just between drowsiness and slumber I find myself drifting into the land of remembrances accompanied, as always, by a well remembered tune from the past. The music, in this instance, comes into reality through the magic of the moment as I see a black man with pearly white teeth wiping his sweaty brow with a handkerchief while he pleads with someone to “Give me A KISS TO BUILD A DREAM ON.... and my imagination.... will thrive upon that kiss.”
It is Louie “Satchmo” Armstrong with that gravel throated voice singing this song as he lures me into the land of dreams and fantasies or into that wonderful world of recollections. With his big wide happy smile he chants the words to this song I love and throws open the gate to memory lane over which a sign hangs that reads: “Enter....This road may have been dimmed by the passage of years but it is still yours should you care to travel it again.”
Being one who is interested in knowing what is beyond the next curve in the road or the next bend in the river I enter into what, at the beginning, was unremembered territory. Soon, however, I begin to recognize landmarks and realize that I am on the old Mason road leading to the low water crossing of the San Saba river just a short distance north of the old settlement of Camp San Saba.
As I approach the river I turn left off the highway to that popular picnic and outing spot of the 1920’s. It is located in a picturesque setting on a small peninsula or point formed by the river and Hudson’s Branch which joins the San Saba from the north after meandering some three miles through Brook ranchland from it’s headwaters at the Fritz Otte homeplace which was built there in 1886.
This little peninsula type point provided ideal accommodations for picnics, fishing, swimming and week-end outings. The north bank of the river with it’s high rocky bluffs offered adventure to boys in their early teens who loved to visualize exploring what might turn out to be the homes of ancient cliff dwellers.
Added to the attraction of these high cliffs for these courageous teenagers was the climb to the top; the gathering of large rocks and boulders to roll off the edge of the bluffs hoping they would knock down the imaginary Outlaws or Indians who were attacking them from below; or, missing them, would bounce into the river.
The popularity of this picnic spot, although diminished somewhat by the drownings that occured there throughout the years, continued until the new highway and high water bridge was built further up stream and the picnic spot was fenced off from the public.
Leaving this spot of the 1920’s I enter memory lane again at a place in the 1930’s when, to get to another picnic site on the San Saba, we had to go through down town Camp San Saba, turn left on a lane that led to Alberda Leifeste’s home (with it’s ever running artesian well). Just in front of the Leifeste home we turned right through a gate that led into the Brook ranch. Following the road we crossed the river at a shallow place with rock covered bottom and turned right to a grove of trees at the bend of the river. This camping and fishing site which was popular in the 1930’s was made available to the public through the courtesy of Mr. Lewis Brook.
As I look back to those days and remember the week-end and overnight outings of the younger set I also recall that this was a favorite fishing spot for many of the older folk. At this point my early morning interview with days of the past is interrupted by the woman of the house and I must leave those dim trails of the 20’s and 30’s to join in the fast lane of the 90’s. So, as I arise from drowsy reminiscing I hear old “Satchmo” as he continues this mornings revelry singing “Leave me one thing before we part....A KISS TO BUILD A DREAM ON.”
DO YOU GET THE PICTURE?
“A picture is worth (or equal to) a thousand words” is an expression we have all heard many, many times. I was reminded of this old saying on Thursday night when my son called from Virginia to wish us a happy Thanksgiving and to comment on the Cowboy victory over Green Bay.
Kids, these days, find it much easier to call rather than write and then too the cheaper nighttime rates make long telephone conversations more affordable. (Odd isn’t it how we insist on referring to our adult children as kids, after all Jeb is 49.)
During our conversation my son said, “Dad, your piece about Eddie Arnold’s old song “I wish I had a nickle” drew a mental picture for me as I read it. I visualized myself sitting in the back seat of the car listening to your conversation with Alma about that song. Now that picture I could see.... but not knowing James (Jim) as a songbird I could not see him singing that entire song to Alma over the telephone.”
Now I have used all of the above, I presume, as a prelude to get to the picture I am going to attempt to paint for you in less than a thousand words. So here goes.......
Our conversation continued with him saying that The Brady Standard containing my article about being “Sick and Tard” of a lot of these old cliche’s arrived at his home on the same day that the Washington Post carried a cartoon covering the same subject. It is this cartoon (which we are not permitted to reproduce) that I shall try to describe with words that will allow you to “get the picture?”
Visualize if you will a man standing in front of a huge picture window observing the rainy weather on the outside and where the cartoonist has drawn scads of cats and dogs literally falling from out of the sky.
In the same scene his wife is shown in the nearby kitchen preparing a meal.....now you are called upon to imagine what the man says to her that provokes the following response: “Roger you are a college graduate... can’t you describe the weather without resorting to such a trite and tired cliche’?”
I agreed with my son that the cartoon (which he sent to me) indicating that it was raining “cats and dogs” was quite apropos with my article but I could think of another old Texas expression that might describe more fully such a rainfall.
“Which one is that, Dad?” asked my son.
“Well, you have probably heard me use it a thousand times but picture this scene:
“First, have the cartoonist erase the cats and dogs and replace them with a scene showing mounds of cow dung floating down a roadside ditch in the runoff water. Such a scene is what is known in this country as a tu-d floater and means that we are having one hell of a good rain!!”
Case closed....and it didn’t take a thousand words...or did it?
NOTE: JEB IS NOW 63