JACQUELINE MARIE APPLEWHITE
About Jacqueline Marie Applewhite
Land Without FencesOnce upon a time, in this land so very old,
The Medina picked up speed as its creeks did overflow.
Beyond the hills and valleys, I heard the windmill sing,
“This is a Land Without Fences to separate wild things.”
Neither stirrups nor a saddle needed girding underneath,
The gallop of her ride had a rhythm quite replete.
A fist full of black mane tangled in her yellow hair,
Her dad gave her a race horse that flew right through the air!
Steer pulled down porches from the pressure of their horns,
Scratching ticks and insects, using studs as emery boards.
Cowgirl built from bailing wire a great big Bovine Swatter
To “shoo” the steer away lest her farmhouse turn to fodder!
In nineteen-twenty-one on a sun drenched August day,
Her father and her uncles set the windmill in deep clay,
It sang a country tune and this is what it said,
“Black charged the steer while she smacked it in the head!”
As I look out of my window I can hear the windmill croon,
Singing of a Detroit daughter and her Texan wed in June.
In a little country church they vowed as man and wife,
The secret to their marriage was to always kiss goodnight!
"Ma" plucked a dozen eggs and then sold them for a dime,
Kept birthdays on the books when a Jersey had her time.
Windmill spun with glee as each screw was greased in milk,
Three daughters and a brother now kept fences tied with silk!
My dad became an oilman and he always loved his wife,
He kissed her twice a day and again before goodnight!
One day on the Medina, dad told me to take note,
“Swim on your back, my child, and you will always float!”
The cowgirl went to college and taught a music class,
Thirty-five years later, she moved back at home, at last.
Replaced the rusted windmill, turned clapboards into stone,
And refurbished the old farmhouse into a cozy, country home.
Another rusty windmill keeps a watch on those therein,
Since Texan and the cowgirl have passed on their land to kin.
A silver chain link fence now surrounds the little ranch,
Grandkids play there freely where steer didn’t have a chance!
© 2012, Jacqueline Applewhite
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
Jacqueline Applewhite comments:
"Land Without Fences" is about a piece of paradise that my granddad carved out of nothing less than a wilderness where wild animals roamed from neighbor to neighbor in open fields because there were no real fences to separate one farm from another, back then. There might have been short stone walls if you could find the stones and put them together yourself.
Barbed wire didn't come to central Texas until thirties and wood fences were built only for very wealthy families who could afford the expense. Cougars, all kind of snakes, Jack rabbits, wild hogs and longhorn steer ran wild and threatened the farmers very existence until barbed wire came to the region. When it came to putting windmills up, the entire family or their communities would have something similar to a barn raising and get that windmill up and running before nightfall!
Repairing the windmill usually meant my Aunt Bebe climbing up to the top of the windmill and dangling like a ballerina from it to tighten screws and follow instructions from down below. But, like my grandmother used to say, "If you can't find one way to fix something, then there must be another way to fix it," because they improvised constantly, using what their dad could remember in his college days, what he read about it from the Department of Agriculture pamphlets, or what Grandmother would figure out on her own with such "tenacity of purpose" that she never let anything stop her. They put a life together where there used to be nothing but wild animals and a wild and open range and that that caused challenges, solutions never thought of before and witty inventions, grandmother's Detroit sisters and cousins to smile "with tongue in cheek" at their "country" sister, and taught the children to become self-sufficient leaders as adults.
From 1921 until the girls went off to college in the 1930s and '40s, Frank Applewhite, Sr. operated the 7AL Ranch in San Antonio, Texas with just his children and wife. My dad, Frank Jr., was delivered on my grandparent's double bed by a country doctor on a rainy April afternoon in 1928, and became his father's namesake.
Granddad majored in agriculture at Texas A&M and went there for three years. When a typhoid outbreak closed the school down for six months in 1915, he married my grandmother and they had a baby girl, my Aunt Bebe, that next year. He never did graduate but was an avid reader and read everything he could get his hands on to teach him about dairy farms, peach orchards, and even rental houses off a little country road known as Farm to Market 1518. His mother gave him his land before she died as a sort of bribe to get him to move back home where she could see her grandchildren grow up close to her. It worked and my grandparents loved the country and farming.
In 2003 I lived on this ranch with my Aunt Bebe, a retired music teacher and family historian, was given the edict to tell me the stories, thus giving me my roots. The stories came alive to me in the same way her blue eyes lit up like candles as she sat in her baby blue Lazy Boy recliner and told me, day after day, a volume of rich family history. I typed them up that night and gave them to her for review the next day. She would sometimes tell me, "No that's not the way it happened..." and proceeded to tell me all over again until I "got it right." This was indeed the most formative year of my life, and I was forty six years old at the time. I was a late bloomer!
Aunt Bebe's stories made me aware of the country they grew up in and the cloth that they were cut from. Bebe, Josephine and Jane rose at 4:00 A.M. sharp every morning to feed and milk the cows, and then at 4:00 each afternoon, seven days a week. Eight cows a piece would be assigned by my grandfather to his three daughters and he would switch off with Grandmother with the other three. My dad was born toward the end of this era and he was always referred to as "the baby" of the family because he was twelve years younger than the youngest daughter, Jane. The longhorn steer story and her "great big Bovine Swatter" and all her "yeeeooooowwwwwsss!" just stuck with me and five years later I wrote this poem She's in heaven now, but I think I got this one right!
The above poem, story, and photos are also included in Western Memories.
About Jacqueline Marie Applewhite
You can email Jacqueline Marie Applewhite.
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