Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski
Used with permission
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Linda Kirkpatrick has written poetry and stories about her father, and we invited her to share more about him for Father's Day, 2008. Below are poems, photos, and her words in a tribute to her father, Alton Stuart Kirkpatrick.
Alton Stuart Kirkpatrick
Who would have ever known that this cute little boy would grow up to be a hero?
Alton Stuart Kirkpatrick was born February 3, 1920 in Segovia, Texas. His middle name came from the doctor who delivered him. Being the third child of four and brought up in a strict Southern Baptist home, he soon learned that his mother, my very mild-mannered grandmother, would not even allow the word whiskey to be spoken in front of her!
Daddy spent his entire life as a ranch working cowboy. That was all that the family knew to do, care for the land and family. They raised sheep, goats and cattle. My grandmother had her chickens, turkeys and garden. The rest of the family raised everything that they needed to exist in south Texas.
Daddy and his younger brother Lloyd were very close their entire lives. They did have their spats though. One story relates that Lloyd did something to my Dad’s cat so Daddy in retaliation got a hot poker from the fireplace and branded Lloyd on the back of the neck. Lloyd wore the brand forever. Maybe that is where the kids today got the idea! Their last years were spent together in a nursing home Alzheimer’s wing.
When they were kids and a little older, the terrible twosome were skinny-dipping in the South Llano River. My grandmother was always a “fraidie cat” as Daddy would say. So when she heard of the Lindberg kidnapping she was sure that somebody would more than likely snatch up those two “little heatherns.” She sometimes put an “r” in some of her words. So Alton and Lloyd had to be kept close by and they could no longer go to the river to swim. However, being the two that they were, who needed swim suits anyway? They slipped off to the river bottom and shucked their clothes and in they went. After a few minutes of cooling bliss they noticed a man on the other side of the bank and remembering the words of caution from their mother and in fear of being kidnapped, they departed the water and streaked all the way home. Their older brother Vernon fetched their clothes from the banks of the Llano River and the man was still on the other side...fishing.
After the “kidnapping incident”, life went on for Alton—just typical early Texas ranch life. Alton reluctantly went to school. Money was scarce and mostly non-existent but they managed. They hauled their own water from about 2 miles away and read by a coal oil lamp. Their mother ran a very tight household. Everything was spotlessly clean right down to sweeping the yard!
Burl, Audrey (sister) and Alton & Lloyd hauling water
Alton and his younger brother became day working cowboys. They helped their dad and hired out for other work. They would also team up and hunt coons, ringtails and fox. The pelts were worth money. It was on one cold Saturday night in December of 1941 that Alton and Lloyd left the house to hunt coons. It was a good night. The pelts that they brought in were in good shape and would bring a good price. They were surprised to find their dad sitting on the porch. The news that he told them was devastating, Pearl Harbor was bombed. At that moment life changed.
Alton on Paint Stud "Charlie"
I am quite sure that my grandparents were sad to learn that all three of their sons would join the armed forces, Vernon the Seabees, Lloyd the Navy, and Daddy the Army. [See a photo of Linda's uncle that was used for recruiting, in our Veterans' feature here.] Daddy departed the safe confines of a remote ranch in the Texas Hill Country to the city life and boot camp.
The following is excerpted and edited from a paper that my nephew, Connor Kirkpatrick, wrote about his grandfather.
Alton Kirkpatrick was a Staff Sergeant for the United States Army. He was also my grandfather. He was such a great man. My dad tells me a lot about him. He was sent to Philadelphia for boot camp. Boot camp was really tough. The food was gross, the officers were strict. One time he didn’t make his sheets on the bed tight enough that when the drill sergeant threw “the quarter” on the bed it didn’t bounce high enough and he had to do a severe work out.
At boot camp he learned to respect his officers, how to shoot a gun and how to eat a meal in one minute or less.
After boot camp he boarded a train for California and from there shipped out to Hawaii where he served in the Search Light Division. One night the action started. A kamikaze plane was spotted; the plane was following the beam of light with the intent of crashing into the search light. My grandfather shinned the light lower causing the plane to crash before it got to him. He described it as the most dangerous and scary moment of his life.
World War II ended and Daddy came back to Texas with a new Philadelphia bride. Life in Texas proved very different than life in Philly but they weathered the challenges. Daddy, his dad and brothers formed a ranching company, L. B. Kirkpatrick and Sons. They leased, stocked and ran two large ranches in the area of Leakey and Uvalde, Texas.
Ranching was all that he ever knew but he was always proudest of the time that he served in the United States Army. As children, he taught us to respect the flag at all times and we also learned to respect and care for the land and animals.
Alzheimer’s robbed us of the last several years of his life. However, it did not rob him of the things he loved because in his mind he still worked on windmills and rode horses.
Alton and Three Generations of Kids and Horses
Alton and Linda Rocksprings July 4th Parade 1953
Alton and grandson Douglas; Checking the cast on Douglas
Alton and great-grandson Wade
Alton Kirkpatrick, Tom Kirkpatrick, Connor and Carson Kirkpatrick
Connor is the baby in this photo but is quite the young man now!
Alton was the father of two children, Linda Kirkpatrick and Tom Kirkpatrick. He had five grandchildren and three great grandchildren. And as Connor stated in his paper: This feature is dedicated to the memory of Alton Stuart Kirkpatrick.
February 3, 1920—August 17, 2003
Linda has shared two poems about her father. This first was written after his death:
For My Dad
He sits and watches the sun sink low
Behind the shadowed hills of life.
His thoughts are scattered and his mem'rys
Are shattered and torn apart in strife.
Once he remembered his favorite mare,
The roan with a smooth easy gait.
And as quick as it came it's gone,
Why oh why can't it wait?
He is pretty sure that this is his hat,
However it may not be.
He sits in a chair and tries to remember
The time when he was young and free.
Yes, there once was a time not like this
When he was a different soul.
One who would rise before the dawn
Just to check out a new- born foal.
A man who has cowboyed all his life,
Who rode for only one brand.
Who did what he could but still had time
To hold a little girl's hand.
But now the tables have greatly changed
And I am at such a great loss.
A disease has consumed my right hand man
And left me the only boss.
Now no one answers my questions,
And no one to help me feed.
There's no one to help fix the windmill.
And no one to take the lead.
We reminisce 'bout the old days
And the things that we did together.
We can talk of cattle, horses, dogs
Rain and the hot summer weather.
We talk and maybe a mem'ry
Will stay with him in his heart
A mem'ry of times shared together
And how we never will part.
© 2002, Linda Kirkpatrick
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
Linda told us: This photo is my dad, Alton Kirkpatrick, me and a longhorn. I was very upset when this photo was made and remember every bit of it. You see my dad made me sit in that saddle, on that longhorn, in a DRESS!! Now what cowgirl do you know would ride a longhorn in a DRESS!? I was highly offended that my dad expected me to sit in that saddle in a dress. That nasty little look that I have on my face is not out of fear of that big ole steer it is because I had to sit up there in a dress!!! Daddy was standing there to keep me from bailing off!! He carried that photo in his wallet until a few years ago when I talked him out of it!!
This is the first poem she shared with us, in 2000:
My Cowgirl Life
This poem is written about my early life. The first horse that I began riding, at the ripe old age of three, was an old paint mare affectionately named Ole Paint. And even though I had a small childs saddle, my legs were still too short to reach the stirrups. So Daddy took a piece of and old girth and attached a pair of wooden stirrups to it, ran a leather string through a couple of holes and then tied this contraption to the saddle horn. A single roping rein was unheard of on the ranch, so in order to keep me from dropping the reins he tied a knot in then which served that purpose and also taught me how much slack to give the mare cause I got into trouble if I didnt hold the knot.
And of course these horses like Paint were the original baby sitters on a ranch. It made no difference how hard I kicked or how many times I swung my quirt (course all I ever hit was the skirt of the saddle), Paint would only walk. These horses seem to have an uncanny sense of knowing that a child was on them because I have seen these same horses become a top ranch horse when a cowboy was aboard.
Many cowgirls got their start in much the same way, tagging along after their dad on an ole babysitter horse.
My Cowgirl Life
I was just a little cowgirl of maybe two or three
And tired of riding horses upon my Daddys knee,
So I was given this old stick horse and for hours I would ride
Chasing imaginary dogies with my collie dog by my side.
I toddled out behind my Dad cause I thought I was a hand
Just a regular ole cowpuncher riding for his brand.
But Dad was awful excited, he had something for me to see,
There saddled up beside the barn was this good paint mare for me.
The saddle we had was way too big, for I was pretty small,
But Daddy told me not to fret, this was no problem atall.
He took two old worn stirrups and laced them to a girt,
Then tied them to the saddle horn and I sat there pretty pert.
He then tied the old split reins into a hard fast knot,
Just so I wouldnt lose them when we began to trot.
I began that day to tag along where ever Dad would go
I was finally a cowgirl and my heart was all aglow.
Well I grew to fit that saddle and to rein without the knot,
I even got a faster horse, cause Paint would only trot.
Wed ride up in the mountains rounding up the goats and sheep
Wed ride all day from dawn to dusk, then unsaddle, feed and sleep.
And now I am much older and I still run the ranch
My Dad will come and help me out when he has the chance.
I gather the cows in a pickup truck, with modern pens at hand
And sometimes my love of ranching is hard to understand.
Then I gaze at my very first stirrups hanging on the living room wall
And they remind me of that time when I was very, very small.
The life of a cowgirl in Texas is what I chose to lead
And all cowgirls in Texas are of a very special breed.
We are everywhere in the state from the Red to Rio Grande.
So please, when ever you see us, come over and shake our hand.
Youll find a very tender lady underneath our skin of brown,
And on our heads a well worn hat that we wear just like a crown.
We are the real heart of Texas with a will you cant deny
Our hearts and souls belong to God until the day we die.
So when you speak of Texas do not leave this thought unsaid.
And remember all us cowgirls were Texas born and bred.
© Linda Kirkpatrick
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
Linda Kirkpatrick has submitted a number of interesting stories and photos to our Picture the West feature:
Photos and stories about generations of family dollsPhotos and a story about the wild hogs of Frio Canyon in Texas Hill Country
Sheep and goat ranching photos from the 1950s and later
1930s photos from her Texas hometown's history
A 1905 family photo, Texas Ranger family history and contemporary photos
A 1930s-era photo of cowboy polo team
This is page two.
Find more poetry and information onpage one.
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