I never knew for sure what first inspired me to write. Looking back now, I know Fred Gipson was a major influence. Gipson was the Mason County writer who penned books like Hound Dog Man and the nationally acclaimed best seller Old Yeller, which became a major motion picture. I grew up on neighboring ranchland in Kimble County. Hound Dog Man was the first book I ever checked out of the Junction school library. It was classified a children’s book.
J.D. Salinger also caught my eye when I was still a kid. I read Catcher in the Rye three times. That best-selling author Salinger fell in the moron category on early day IQ testing gave me further hope. Salinger was an early-day outlaw as was Blackie Scantlin, the rapscallion hero of Gipson’s first book.
I will always count San Antonio Evening News front page columnist Paul Thompson as a significant influence. He was a word mechanic with few peers, a literary hatchet man with a fascinating command of the written word. Paul Thompson became a mentor of sorts. I was intrigued by his ability to kill, gill, and gut political panjandrums with his writing while skating successfully along the fine line of libel. Paul Thompson probably wielded more political power than any single individual on the San Antonio, Texas scene. He epitomized the term “Poison Pen.” He was damn sure the most feared writer in this part of Texas.
And I read gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson (no relation) with the weird feeling that I might have known him in an earlier life. I had to read Hunter Thompson. Perhaps because his weird behavior and scatter-shot writing style offered proof that you don’t have to be sane in order to make it. Whatever make it is. I never was sure about this. Hunter S. killed himself at the very end of his zany career.
As mentioned earlier, when I was a kid growing up in Junction, Texas and surrounding Kimble County ranch land, my first interest in any kind of literature was focused on Mason County writer Fred Gipson. Gipson’s interests centered on dogs and kids. He wrote several books, gaining national acclaim with the bestseller Old Yeller, a touching dog yarn which became a major motion picture. But it was Gipson’s earlier novel that caught my fancy and fired my imagination, a story of a boy and the loveable but fiddle-footed rake the boy idolized.
Title of the book is “Hound Dog Man.” The setting is Mason County in West-Central Texas. The main actor is a raccoon hunter who never managed to completely grow up. Blackie Scantling is his name. He was never referred to as a raccoon hunter. He was a coon hunter, the greatest in the world, and his coon hounds were called Rock and Drum. People from that neck of the woods still refer to raccoons as coons. I do so myself.
Hound Dog Man is told from the perspective of 12-year-old Cotton Kinney, a country boy who yearned for a dog of his own. After dropping by the Kinney home for a visit, Blackie Scantling was to captivate young Cotton with antics and trail hound stories alike. The two even went on a magical adventure which saw the hound dog man get down on all fours and back down a bewildered bull. And as was his custom, author Gipson eventually returned the boy to reality and his responsible, hard-working father and the qualities that such men instill in their sons. There was always a moral to a Fred Gipson story.
I had two treeing walker coon hounds while growing up in Kimble County, of which Junction is the county seat. And wouldn’t you know I called my dogs Rock and Ruby. I also had a tough little terrier mix I called Tippy.
My childhood hero, however, was no coon hunter, although his lifestyle was as free spirited as was the fictitious Blackie Scantling’s in Gipson’s novel. Red Smith was my childhood hero. He was the toughest cowboy in the world and the greatest horse trainer who ever lived.
I was always taken with Fred Gipson’s knack for describing our part of Texas– there is nothing prettier than hoar frost sparkling on a cow chip in the moonlight.
Of Red Smith, I once wrote: He was a hell-raising whiskey-drinking cowboy with no teeth and a face like a rock slide. Red was the clean smell of juniper cedar on a bright morning. He was squeaky saddle leather on a muscled blue pony.
Red Smith was my Blackie Scantling.
My father, Grady Kindrick, died before I was three months old. I never got to know him. He died on an operating table in San Antonio’s old Nix Hospital after being rushed by car from Junction, more than a hundred miles distance. The year was 1934. My mother, Bernice, always told us that Grady died of locked bowels. His younger brother, my uncle Bennett Kindrick, told his son, my cousin Dr. Roy Kindrick, that my father’s death could probably be attributed to a ruptured appendix accompanied by pneumonia.
My mother was a beautiful, brilliant school teacher and published poet who retired with a masters degree after teaching in Comstock, Comfort, Junction, and the Fort Sam Houston Independent School District in San Antonio. She taught me in fifth grade. It was my hardest school year, as my mother wanted no hint of favoritism. Her last Job was at Cole Middle School at Fort Sam Houston.
When I was in school at Junction she married an Edwards County ranchman by the name of Temple Deats. The relationship was brief and abusive, Deats being the polar opposite of everything my mother believed in. One of my mother’s younger sisters accurately described Deats as “scum.” This marriage was annuled by a county judge. She later married Horton Layfette Howard, a retired chief in the U.S. Navy and a really good guy who treated me with kindness. They stayed together until Howard’s death.
When Bernice was 18 months of age she was voted the prettiest baby in Junction. My Aunt Mary Helen (Polly) Majirus, one of my mother’s younger sisters, remembered a picture of the event, my mom holding a little silver cup she was awarded and crying.
Always active in church and civic organizations, she published two books of poetry after retiring from school teaching for 45 years. Among many other organizations, she was a member of the National League of American Pen Women and the Stella Woodall Poetry Society International.
I know she was brilliant, and at some level I believe she loved the little boy Sammy she raised, but we were never what one might call close as Sammy grew up to become Sam the daily newspaper columnist and later the publisher of Action Magazine. My mother’s taciturn disapproval was always there. She never mentioned anything I wrote, and the words Action Magazine never escaped her lips. Alcohol consumption was anathema to her. The first issue of Action Magazine in 1975 had a back cover advertising Lone Star Beer. I’m sure my mother never looked at another issue. And I had my part. My own drinking problem and the drug arrests which followed did nothing for the relationship with my rigidly religious mother.
But there was another side to Bernice my mother. After I was divorced from my first wife Vicky, and before I was to marry my forever wife Sharon, my mother washed every stitch of clothing I owned, and she lovingly hand mended my shirts, pants, and even the bed sheets I took her to be washed. She always loved little Sammy, and the love for that little boy endured until her death.
I can also recall those times so long ago when I really wanted a father. One instance has been lodged in my memory like a river bottom rock.
I must have been in grade school. Red Smith was working with my cowboy grandfather.
A larger and older bully was tormenting me when school turned out for the day. My mother was a teacher in the Junction school and this may have exacerbated my situation. The bully was shoving me down, then daring me to get up and fight him. His name was Hamp Wallace. I guess I was ashamed to alert my grandfather. I finally told Red what was going on.
He told me what to do.
“You get you a strong cedar stick,” Red said. “Then you go up side his head the next time he messes with you.”
“Up side his head?” I remember asking.
I never forgot Red’s reply:
“Up side his head means you knock the shit out of him anywhere you can hit him. And you stay with it. If you don’t do this, it will only get worse for you. This kid pushing you around ain’t got good sense. Sometimes people like this have to have sense knocked into their heads.”
I was prepared to take Red’s advice, but when I showed up outside school with the cedar stick my adversary backed off. There was fear-fueled fury in my eyes and I was probably foaming at the mouth like a rabid fox as well. It was enough to stop the bully. He reported me to the school principal for threatening him with a club. But he never again tried to shove me around.
For as long as I can remember, Red Smith was intertwined with both sides of my family. He was a close friend of my father, Grady Exa Kindrick, and he worked for years alongside my cowboy maternal grandfather, Clarence Frank Chenault, a lease rancher who survived for years in the rugged Central Texas cedar brakes after a mortgage foreclosure cost him his own ranch on Kimble County’s Cedar Creek, just a few miles south of the town of Junction. He bought the Cedar Creek ranch from his grandmother, Susan Abigail Wood Harmon Kelly. He later lost the ranch in the mortgage foreclosure, due to heavy rains which kept him from reaching the bank in time to make his mortgate payment. Ironically, it was Weaver Baker, law partner of my grandfather’s friend Coke Stevenson, who signed the foreclosure. I don’t believe my grandfather held a resentment. He told me once that it was “just business,” and that Baker was only doing his job.
People who loved and admired my grandpa affectionately referred to him late in his life as Old Shinney. Although he was nearly stone deaf, Clarence Chenault was no mute. Shinney could cuss like a China marine on a blue streak. He lost almost all of his hearing as a young man. He always blamed his hearing loss on an old Model-T Ford freight-hauling truck that he drove with no muffler. Our family always maintained that my grandfather was a distant cousin of General Claire Chenault, commander of the famed Flying Tigers of World War II.
I loved my grandfather Chenault. He could read my lips fairly well, but his hearing impairment probably kept us from being any closer than we became. He taught me to boil cowboy coffee in an open pan; he taught me to shoot pool in the Junction Pool Hall. But it was Red Smith who taught me to shoot a rifle and gut a deer, and it was Red who got drunk with me repeatedly in later years when I was a reporter with the San Antonio Express and News.
My grandfather was poor for most of his life. All but dirt poor. The lease rancher in the Texas Hill Country was akin to the poor sharecroppers of the south. They worked hard just to stay on the land and provide for their families.
During the late 1940s and early 1950s, the hated screwworm was threatening to obliterate the livestock industry in many parts of Texas. The screwworm hatched and thrived on living animal flesh, eating away until the animal was dead or too far gone to survive. This was before experiments at Texas A&M University produced a sterile screwworm fly that, in effect, sterialized other flies, eventually bringing the hated scourage to an end in Texas. This happened in about 1957 in Kimble County, about four years after I graduated from high school.
I have vivid recollection of livestock literally crawling with screwworms. I once saw a doe deer with worms literally working in her face. The worms had eaten out her eyes and she was stumbling blindly until Red Smith ended her suffering with a single shot from a 30-30 Winchester rifle. The doe had wandered into the long-since-abandoned Evergreen School House on the South Llano River, one of numerous elementary schools in Kimble County before students were bused into town for the advanced grades and high school. Members of my family had attended the Evergreen School.
The powerful stench of Smear 62, the foul black goop which seemed to be the only answer of that day for screwworms attached to living livestock, will remain in my nostrils until I die. The worst of the screwworm epidemic in Kimble County was experienced by my family when my grandfather Chenault was lease ranching on one of the Coke Stevenson ranches, this one on the North Llano River.
I was just a boy in those days, but they had me out doctoring the worm-infected sheep, goats, and even cattle. My aunt Rayola Chenault, my mother’s baby sister, was a cowgirl who rode like a man with my grandfather Chenault and Red Smith, both driving and carrying infected livestock from the ranch pastures to a fenced area near the ranch house which was called a “worm trap.” We doctored the wormies in the trap area daily, turning them back into the open pastures only after they healed, making room for new wormies in a seemingly never-ending battle with the screwworm fly. Any small wound, even a tiny scratch, would invite the hated flies and the “blow,” eggs which would quickly hatch into flesh-eating larvae.
I can remember Red, Aunt Ray, and my grandpa carrying new wormies across the pommels of their saddles to the ever-populated worm trap. And there was a constant influx of babies– lambs and goats that were orphaned by the flesh-eating worms. My grandmother called them “sanchos,” and to this day I don’t know where she found the word. The sanchos were fed daily with dilluted cow’s milk in Coke bottles equpped with rubber nipples my grandmother fashioned from discarded car innertubes.
My mother’s side of our family was headed by my cowboy grandfather Clarence Frank Chenault. He graduated from Peacock Military Academy in San Antonio, and when a young man, he and Texas governor-to-be Coke Stevenson hauled freight by mule and horse team between Junction and Brady, the nearest railhead to our part of the state. They also hauled goods in and out of Menard, another railhead, often camping together on the trail. The two of them were lifelong friends. And through the years as I grew up around my grandpa Chenault and Red Smith, much of that time was spent on ranchland that my grandfather leased from Coke Stevenson.
Both sides of my family, the Kindricks and the Chenaults, were enexorably enmeshed with the Stevenson attorney brothers, Coke and Bascomb. As Coke was elected governor of Texas (serving from 1941 until 1947), with my Chenault grandparents living and working on Stevenson property my grandfather leased from his longtime friend, Bascomb Stevenson continued on with the Stevenson law firm in Junction when he became engaged to marry my father’s oldest sister, Kimble County beauty Anga Lillian Kindrick.
I was always told that Bascomb was a heavy drinker and probably an alcoholic. He and my aunt Lillian had announced their plans to marry when Lililan died in a one-car rollover near Junction. Bascomb Stevenson had been at the wheel and he was unhurt in the wreck that killed my beautiful aunt. Everyone said Bascomb was probably drunk.
My father’s brother Bennett Kindrick said Bascomb killed his sister. He swore on Lillian’s grave that, from that day forward, he would never drink a drop of alcohol. And he was true to his vow. He stayed sober until his death at age 98.
Coke Stevenson organized the First National Bank in Junction. He served as a county attorney, a county judge, and a state representative before he was elected lieutenant governor and then governor. The only political race he ever lost was the one that made headlines all over the nation, his fall by 87 votes to Lyndon Johnson in the infamous “Box 13” race for the U.S. Senate. Everyone in Junction always said that Lyndon Johnson stole the election from Coke Stevenson by virtue of the dubious Box 13 in Jim Wells County which was delvered by vote broker George Parr. Names for some of those who allegedly voted in Box 13 had been copied from tombstones.
My grandmother Chenault was named Lulu Burt Hodges Chenault, including nicknames Oudie, Toodle, and Evie. We all called her Mama. My aunt Rayola, her youngest, said Mama used the name Lulu the most. Her death was a tragedy that my old cowboy grandpa never got over.
I was in junior high school when my mother pulled me out of class. I will never forget that awful morning. My grandmother Chenault had been killed by a train. The circumstances were devastating.
My grandfather’s last attempt at lease ranching was on Kendall County property located a few miles out of Boerne on the Sisterdale Road. The owner of that property lived in San Antonio and he hired my granparents to act as caretakers on the ranch. My grandparents lived on that ranch for about a year before they made the decision to move into a Junction house my mother had found for them. They were leaving the Boerne ranch when a freight train hit their 1938 4-door Plymouth sedan on the northern outskirts of Boerne, killing Mama Chenault and seriously injuring our Papa.
The circumstances, later recounted by my heartbroken grandfather, were hard for any of us to take. All but impossible for our Papa. He finally recovered from his physical injuries. But his tormented mind never healed.
The car had stalled on the railroad track. Mama was desperately trying to get my hearing-impaired grandfather to get out of the vehicle with her while there was still time. The train engineer was blowing the whistle full blast. Clarence couldn’t hear it. Lulu was desperately trying to push Clarence out of the car. She would not leave him. He couldn’t understand her frantic words. She loved him. We all knew it. She stayed with him in the cab of that old car until her death.
My aunt Rayola Chenault Proffer has been my greatest helper in piecing together much of my family history. She told me the following: “Papa never talked to me about what all happened – at a later time, the only thing he ever told me was that Mama was tugging on his shirt sleeve with tears in her eyes and was pointing to the train. I still do not know if they were thrown out of the car or not. Someone told me that right after it all happened and this person got there, they saw Papa and Mama on the ground with Papa holding her head. Mama was taken to the mortuary in Boerne and an ambulance took Papa to a Fredericksburg hospital. To this day I do not know if Papa had any serious injuries or not. I don’t think he had anything broken. And I don’t know how long he was in the hospital. This all happened close to noon on a Wednesday, May 12, 1948. The funeral for Mama was at 4:00 p.m. Friday, May 14th.”
Aunt Ray said a coroner who investigated my grandmother’s death said she may have died of a heart attack when the train hit. There was little blood, he said.
“This would have been a blessing if it were true,” Ray said, going on to note that she saw traces of awful bruising on Mama’s face as she lay in her casket. “The undertaker had tried to cover it up but we could see the damage.”
I was just a youngster at the time, but my grandmother’s violent death and my old cowboy grandfather’s anguished grief, gave me an early look at what true love really looks like.
Old Shinney Chenault was done cowboying after my grandmother’s death. My mother had another room built for him on our little white stucco house in Junction. He spent most of his time shooting pool in the Junction pool hall. I never heard my grandfather say much of anything about the horror on a Boerne railroad track.
But I heard enough to know.
My room in the Junction house was next to the add-on room which was Papa’s until his death a number of years later.
I heard. Late at night. Every night. Not loud. The soft sobbing of an old cowboy mourning a lost love, the only love he had ever known, the mother of his seven children and the one he might have saved if not for the damnable hearing loss which denied a train whistle. The whistle tried its mechanical best to warn them, but the human frailty was the rapacious creditor, not to be denied. She would not leave him. She never did. And he never stopped loving her.
Aunt Ray sent me a copy of the letter of condolences former Governor Coke Stevenson sent his longtime friend after my grandmother’s death. The letterhead proclaimed: Stevenson Ranch. Cattle, sheep, goats. Junction, Texas. It read:
“I have wanted to come and see you and try to express my friendship for you in your time of tragedy and loneliness. You know, of course, of my friendshp, and have known of it for many years. There isn’t much that a friend can say in a time like yours except to let you know that you are remembered often and in the spirit of a fellow man who would be helpful if he could
“The temptation is strong, Clarence, to men in your situation, to give up and let go. But don’t do it. All of us have a purpose to serve in this world, and while you and I can never understand why we have been called upon to suffer tragedy in our lives, yet there must be some reason for it and it is our duty to accept it and make the best use of our situations for our families, our friends, and our communities. We can still do some good in the world. It may not be much but every little bit makes life worth living for someone. I am satisfied that you feel a great deal like I do and that you have the determination to carry on. I hope so.
“With kindest regards, I am, sincerely your friend.”
The letter was signed: “Coke R. Stevenson”
My mother Bernice was the oldest of the Chenault children. After her there was, in order, Nunelee Harman, John Blake, James Allen (Jimmy), Mary Helen (Polly), Joyce, and my aunt Rayola.
Jimmy was the child prodigy who applied for college entrance and passed with flying colors when he was in his third year of high school. He then joined the Army with parental consent when he was 17, only to die in a Denver hospital of tuberculosis. My mother traveled to Denver to be with him during his final days. His entire army career was spent in Denver’s Fitzsimmons General hospital where he was to die.
My father’s side of the family was always more of a mystery to me than my mom’s side, largely because my father, Exa Grady Kindrick, my maternal grandfather, Samuel Bennett Kindrick, and my aunt Anga Lillian Kindrick all died before I got to know any of them.
I was born November 10, 1934, and named Clarence Samuel Kindrick after my grandfathers. My birth took place in the old Nix Hospital in San Antonio, the same hospital where my father died.
My paternal grandmother was Iva Lou Miller Kindrick, known to her grandchildren as Nanny. She lived in the family home in Junction until her death when I was still an adolescent. My maternal grandfather was a postmaster in Junction and also at the Telegraph Post Office and Store on the South Llano River, but he died before I was born. My father’s brothers were Ur Dee (Turk), the oldest in the family and a Junction postmaster himself, and Miller Bennett, the youngest. My aunt Lillian was second of the Kindrick kids and my father Grady was number three. Of all the Kindricks I was closest to my Uncle Ben and his two sons, Freddy and Roy. Fred passed of natural causes, and my cousin Dr. Roy Kindrick, an oral surgeon, was retired from his medical practice in Denton at this writing.
Once again, it was the influence of former Gov. Coke Stevenson that would help a member of our Junction family, this time my father’s younger brother Bennett, who was named at Coke’s behest the business manager of the Gatesville State Scnool for Boys in Gatesville.
My uncle Ben worked himself up from the state school business office to eventually be named superintendent of the Gatesville State School for Boys. A humanitarian who loved the boys under his supervision, Bennett Kindrick did away with such harsh punishment practices as the dreaded “busting block,” a greasy, filth-encrusted mattress where boys were stripped of their pants, laid face-down, and whipped with a thick razor strop until their buttocks were striped with blood and torn flesh.
These facilities have been converted into a state womens prison, but I can recall our summer visits to my uncle Ben and aunt Eleanor Kindrick when my cousins Fred and Roy were romping and playing baseball with the reform school inmates.
Bennett Kindrick was slight of build, but he had an amazing way of handling even the roughest of the reform school inmates, some of them 18 or 19 and built like adults. They respected him, and many of them loved him. He even adopted and helped educate a few of them.
Uncle Ben always said that most of the reformatory inmates were not bad boys, just neglected boys who needed a loving home.
When I was a baby, my grandfather S.B. Kindrick owned and operated the Kimble County Telegraph Store and Post office on the pristine headwaters of the South Llano River. He was the postmaster and grocer-owner of the general store, which sat on ranchland that bordered the Coke Stevenson Ranch which bordered both sides of the river.
During the1927 F5 tornado which destroyed the little neighboring town of Rocksprings in Edwards County, my grandfather Kindrick was said to have given away groceries and drinks to the tornado victims.
The store and beautiful river front rancland, known as the Telegraph Ranch, were passed from S.B. Kindrick to his son Grady Kindrick, and my father kept the property until his death. During that time, my father allowed my maternal grandparents, Clarence and Lulu Chenault, to live in quarters attached to the store, and for a time my grandfather Chenault was the Telegraph postmaster.
“I feel sure,” said Rayola Chenault Proffer, “that Grady and Bernice allowed Papa and Mama to live rent free in the Telegraph store quarters as long as they wanted.”
My Chenault grandparents moved frequently,barely managing to keep the wolf from the door. From the Cedar Creek Ranch, they moved to Hays County, and then back to Telegraph and Coke Stevenson property on the South Llano River. From there they moved to ranchland on the North Llano owned by Stevenson, and they stayed there until Coke sold that ranch to J.M. Livingston. I think they then moved back to Stevenson property on the South Llano before they were to move on Kendall County ranch property near Boerne.
After my father’s death, my mother sold Telegraph to Ernest Boyette, an Austin lobbyist. Ernest’s younger brother Pat Boyette was a TV weather pioneer in San Antonio. I think he was on Channel 5. When Bernice sold Telegraph she was frightened and grief-stricken, a young school teacher with a baby son and no comprehension of ranch real estate value. She let Telegrah go for a pittance, and she grieved over the loss for the rest of her life.
The ranch, store, and crystal-clear South Llano River front property would have been mine had my mother held on to property which is worth multiple millions today. I never faulted her. At the mere mention of Telegraph, tears would spring into her eyes, and my heart would mourn with her. I was spiritually connected to that piece of heaven on earth, and my soul roams those river banks to this day. I fished there, I hunted coons and ringtail cats there, and I swam in the prettiest and cleanest waters on earth. So who, I have often wondered, really owns Telegraph? It couldn’t matter who holds a paper deed. Who really owns Telegraph? Ask the Dalai Lama and he might tell you Sam Kindrick.
The South Llano and the North Llano Rivers of Kimble County merge just below Junction, hence the name of what I believe to be the prettiest little town in Texas. After confluence of the north and south streams, what we always called the Main Llano, meanders on through Mason County to join the Colorado River near the town of Llano.
The South Llano, where I spent most of my boyhood, is the gem of spring-fed Texas rivers, and the great flood of 1935 was the water event most discussed througout my early years. I was a year old when the flood hit.
My mother told me she stood on the front steps of Junction’s First Baptist Church to watch both North Llano and South Llano rivers raging on either side of the town. And 16 miles up toward the headwaters of the South Llano, my father’s Telegraph Ranch and Store weathered the storm, but not before a beautiful river-front pecan orchard was leveled by the mighty rush of water. leaving one gigantic and majestic pecan giant still standing.
Red Smith was staying with my family at that time. He recalled my father Grady Kindrick’s reaction.
“Grady had a double-bit cedar axe in his hand,” Red told me. “He told me to grab an axe and help him. Grady said, ‘I can’t bear to look at that one tree. Let’s take it down and start all over again.’ So that’s what we did.”
Red Smith and my fatrher Grady Kindrick worked the better part of a day in waist-deep river bottom mud before that last pecan sentry was to fall.
I think I know now where my once-explosive temper and defiant attitude might have come from. Grady was a Christian church man who might have let his self will run riot on occasion. God took almost all of his beautiful pecan orchard, so he and Red finished the job. Was this tree cuttng an act of defiance? Anger? Grief? I always wondered if Grady felt remorse over destruction of that tree.
Everyone I have ever talked with who knew my father would attest to his sharp business acumen.
“He could fix a broken-down bicycle and sell it for three times what he paid for it,” my uncle Ben told me. “There is no way of knowing how far in the business world Grady might have gone had he lived. He was the master of the deal.”
By the time he reached the age of 30 he owned two large produce trucks, a grocery store, the Telegraph Ranch and Post Office, and our white stucco Junction home which he built himself. Oliver Lynn Verlin was the rock mason who built our fireplace.
My mother was a devout Christian and member of the Junction First Baptist Church. She and others said my father was a staunch church member who also sang in the choir with a strong tenor voice.
I never knew for sure if my father was a gambler, but many of the oldtimers who knew him said he was known to wager at golf, the sport he loved and reportedly excelled at. While Grady’s truck was being loaded with produce and other goods in preparation for his return to Junction and other towns along the way, he was known to frequent the Brackenridge Park Golf Course where he was a known winner. An oldtimer in the produce business by the name of Guggenheim recalled my father’s skill with the golf clubs. I think Guiggenheim had a company in Boerne.
I don’t recall Mr. Guiggenheim’s given name, but I recall his words when defining my father’s prowess with the golf sticks: “Grady could hit out of a sand trap like few others. Sometimes he deliberately hit his ball into a trap. When he blasted out of the sand, his ball would almost always land near the hole. His opponents called it luck. But it was not luck. Your father could hit out of sand like the pros. I watched him win this way time and time again.”
When I was young, I had my father’s full set of golf club, all with hickory shafts. I lost many of them through the years, and the only two I have left are a driving iron and a 1920s era niblick, which is shaped much like the modern day 8 or 9 iron.
While talking with friend and fellow writer and musician Hector Saldana about writing a possible autobiography, I mused: “Hell, Hec, what to write and how to start?”
Hector came right back.
“Hold those old golf clubs of your dad’s and write what comes into your head.”
I did it. I held the clubs and closed my eyes. Stories and events from my past began to form. But the two most notable sensations were sorrow and curiosity.
I felt an almost palpable sorrow that I never got to know my father; and a profound and almost overwhelming sense of curiosity about what might have been.
I have always wondered what Grady Kindrick might have taught me had he lived into old age.
The Chenault family horses and my cowgirl aunt Rayola’s keen observations and heartfelt rememberances speak volumes about who we are. She was 92 at this writing. The horse members of our family included Pinto, Brown Jug, Leatherbritches, Dunny, Redbird, and Buckskin.
Pinto was my grandfather’s pride and joy, a high-strung paint cow pony that had been broken to the saddle by Red Smith. The first time Aunt Ray laid eyes on the two-year-old paint colt, Red had Pinto jump the hood of a car parked in front of the Telegraph Store. That did it for Papa. He bought Pinto on the spot.
Only Aunt Ray can give first-hand and beautifully descriptive information on the Chenault family horses and the hard times my grandparents survived. The great depression of the 1930s was ending, but it was still tough for hard-scrabble lease rancher Clarence Chenault and his brood as the World War II years materialized.
Of my grandfather’s favorite horse, Aunt Rayola said: “Pinto was a paint or pinto horse. His coat was white and spotted with bay mane and tail. Red Smith broke Pinto. Red was working for Debs Boone at the time and he rode Pinto to Telelgraph one day (from the Boone ranch). Pinto was just two years old then. That is the earliest age for a horse to be broken. There was a convertible parked actoss the road from the store. Red was so proud of the way Pinto handled. He showed off a little by having Pinto jump the hood of the convertible. Shortly after that Papa bought Pinto (from Debs Boone).
“Pinto was the most high spirited of all our horses. Not temperamental, just hyper. His energy was limitless. When you were riding him if you didn’t pay attention he would throw his head back and hit you right between the eyes. Any morning that Papa saddled Pinto they seemed to go throgh the same routine. Papa would start to put his foot in the stirrup and Pinto would know exactly when to side-step. So they would literally go around and around, Pinto making noises by blowing through his nose while Papa’s leggings were flying. Pinto would get his bits jerked and a few whacks from Papa’s old floppy hat across his withers and a whole bunch of ‘dad blame its’ as ‘dad blame it’ was Paps’s favorite cuss word with the threat of ‘I’ll wrop my rope across your withers.’ Papa always pronounced wrap with an o as in hop. With all of this out of the way, Papa would mount up and off they would go, Pinto stepping lively and both of them sniffing the wind.”
Papa could never afford ranch help. Red worked with him for enough money to get drunk on the weekends. Mama did all of Red’s laundry and kept him supplied with the buttermilk he loved. Aunt Rayola workd stock with my grandfather from the time she was big enough to mount a horse.
“Papa always tried to run a thousand head of sheep and a thousand head of goats,” Rayola said. “When it was time for the roundup Mama would have breakfast made and get us up at 4.”
Rayola said it took them almost a week to complete the roundup. They pulled out before daylight in the mornings, Ray on the big brown saddlehorse she called Brown Jug, and Papa on Pinto.
Aunt Rayola has hoarded her most treasured memories like some women stockpile diamonds.
“Papa would never let us kids race the horses,” she said. “ But sometimes as we started out early in the morning, Papa would pull his hat low over his forehead and say to me ‘I don’t believe old Crow Bait (my horse Jug) can beat Pinto.’ Then he dug in the spurs and the race was on, me on Jug and him on Pinto, neck-and-neck and full speed for about a quarter of a mile. Then it was down to business for the rest of the day.”
She said Pinto was nosey and always wanted attention.
“When we lived on the North Llano there was no fence around the house,” Ray said. “Pinto would come up to the screen door in front of the house, snort a little and twiddle the door with his upper lip. One day we gave him a slice of lightbread, or ‘wasp nest’ as Papa called any bread that was not homemade. Pinto caught on quick how to get his treat.
“Pinto had a bad habit of biting or kicking the other horses. He didn’t do it to us, just the horses. We had to watch him when they were all fed. He would gobble up his oats and grain and then run the other horses away from their feed boxes.”
After a long days ride, Rayola said, from 5 in the morning until 9 at night, Pinto would still be going strong.
“After the other horses were all turned out in the horse pasture for the night–when they should have been grazing or resting–you could hear Pinto at any hour running the other horses,” Rayola said. “From the sounds they were all making you knew he was biting and kicking. The next morning he would be full of vinegar and ready to ride. I’m sure if we had inspected the other horses they would have had bloodshot eyes. Papa tried hobbling Pinto at night but hobbles would never hold him. I suspect he chewed them loose. Papa next tried a big chain about 6 foot long with with a heavy leather strap on one end which was buckled to a foreleg. Pinto mastered that. At night you could hear him sling that chain with a certain rhythm–clank of chain, then hooves, as he ran the other horsess. I suppose Papa gave up after that.”
Rayola can still produce the wonderful little memories that might have slipped through the cracks for less attentive people.
“We were out in the pasture…stopped for a shady rest. The horses hot and sweaty. They liked their heads rubbed where the bridle fit. Pinto would go up to Papa’s back, rub his head up and down really hard. Almost push him over. Then he did it. Papa was on hands and knees, drinking from a spring. Pinto ducked his head, shoving Papa’s backside until he went head first into the creek.”
When Papa left Boerne and after my grandmother’s death, he knew he had to find Pinto a proper home. He found it on the Coke Stevenson ranch.
Coke took Pinto in, and my grandfather’s great paint cow pony and longtime friend was allowed to live out his remaining days on the Stevenson ranch near Telegraph where he started it all by jumping over a car hood.
Rayola’s horse was Brown Jug, a powerfully-built animal we all called Jug.
“He was part Morgan,” Rayola told me. “Had a dark reddish brown coat with black mane and tail. Before Papa bought him he was used in rodeos as a roping horse. During that time he got his foot caught in a fence, leaving a bad cut on his foot and leg. The wound didn’t leave him a cripple, but he could no longer be used in rodeos.
“Jug stood out from the other animals–always with a look of elegance. Neck had a graceful arch. Pretty rounded forehead and ears always pointed alertly foreward. He was larger than most saddle horses but was sure-footed and could stop, start, and turn just as quickly as any quarterhorse. He had a gait that made riding him as comfortable as sitting in a rocking chair. He was usually good natured and gentle but you couldn’t always count on it. He wasn’t too good to bite you and of all the horses we had, you couldn’t trust him not to kick if you walked behind him. Especially when he was eating. He got me only once, leaving a horseshoe print on my backside which I wore for a while. I had fed the other horses and was walking behind Jug, still carrying the feed bucket, when he got me. Jug kicked me and the bucket into an agarita bush.”
Rayola recalled Jug using the old breath-holding trick that many horses have known to pull when the saddle girth is being cinched up.
“Only Jug probably did it a lot more than most horses,” Ray said. “He would puff up like a blowfish when I was cinching the girth, then let his breath out when we were on our way. Of course the girth cinch would be so loose the saddle would almost fall off. It made me so mad I felt like murdering Jug. But he loved me, and contrary as he could get, I loved him.”
Red Smith was my grandfather’s most loyal stock wrangler, but a drifter by the name of Doc Curtis was there for some of the roundups. And Rayola recalls that Doc was helping them roundup sheep when Jug threw her for the first and last time.
“We were rounding up the sheep and it was hot,” Rayola said. “That was when we lived in the rock house on the Stevenson ranch. We had stopped to rest and loosened the saddle girths on the horses. When it was time to go, I tightened the saddle girth and Jug nipped me. This was one of his contrary days. I suppose horses have days they don’t feel good just like people. I got my foot in the stirrup and before I got my other leg over the cantel he pitched just enough to throw me right on over and across his back. Papa and Doc Curtis were both saddled up and watching the show. They were trying hard not to smile. I remember Papa telling me, ‘If he does that again take your rope and wrop it good across his withers.’”
The rock house they lived in on the South Llano Stevenson ranch had a rock water tank with a hose Rayola used to cool Jug down. “He was one of the few horses we had who loved to be bathed.” Aunt Ray said. “Jug would stand and savor every drop from head to tail for as long as I dared to waste the water.”
My Aunt Rayola Chenault was a superior horsewoman who did it all. She roped, branded, helped shoe the horses and did all of the chores most male ranch people perform.
“A lot of times,” she said, “Papa had me ride by myself. Check a fence, doctor wormies. See if the windmill in the back pasture was pumping. Took me a half a day or more and, often times, your dog Tippy would follow. When he got tired I would put him behind the saddle and let him ride. Jug never objected.”
Tippy was a tough little terrier mix that an old Junction doctor gave me as a puppy. I didn’t want to keep him penned at our Junction house while I was at school, so his home became the ranch my grandparents were living on. Tippy would also ride on the front fender of my grandmother’s old car when she drove down to the Telegraph Store for groceries and household supplies. He never lost his footing.
There were many rattlesnakes on the Coke Stevenson Ranch during those days, and Tippy developed into a protective rattler hunter and killer. He was always between us and the snake, and our efforts to discourage his rattlesnake killing were to no avail. He found the snake, barking and circling, and waiting for the inevitable strike. When the snake struck and missed, extending its body from the coil, the little terrier mix was on him like jugged lightning. He grabbed the snakes behind their heads and shook them until there was no life left. We never knew how many he killed. It was many until he finally missed. The big rattler got him around his head. The swelling was awful as my grandmother doctored him with potash and whatever country remedy she had at her disposal. There was no vet around Telegraph and the Stevenson ranch in those days. I remember us all crying. Tippy hung on for a day and the better part of another night before his little frame finally succumed to the venom. I never forgot Tippy.
I still have visions of Tippy riding behind Aunt Ray on Brown Jug.
Redbird was a reddish brown bay, temperamental mare always referred to as my uncle Jimmy’s horse. Rayola said the mare was not mean but stubborn. Aunt Ray recalled Mama hitching Redbird to the family’s Model-T Ford when the car stalled in the creek crossing..
“Redbird did not want to pull,” Rayola said. “Mama got in front and tugged on the harness–even laid a few thumps on her rear. Redbird either balked or went backward. So Mama unhitched her, turned her around facing the Model-T, rehitched her and it worked. I do not recall what happened to Redbird.”
Aunt Ray remembers Buckskin as her childhood horse. He was light gray with black mane and tail. “He was so gentle. He would sit on his haunches and let me and my sister Joyce slide down his back.”
Leatherbritches was a 2-year-old stallion with a chestnut coat and a sorrel colored mane. When Papa brought him home, Aunt Rayola recalled, he was unbroken. She said he was a mixed breed draft horse, part percheron, and larger than other horses they had at that time.
“When I crawled on him bareback, Papa got really nervous,” Rayola said. “He said ‘Watch him.’ I remember Papa getting Red Smith to break him. He turned out to be gentle and good-natured. Two things Leatherbritches ever put up a fight over–getting his first set of horseshoes and the castration process that would leave him a gelding.
Rayola said: “The first time he was shod it was a real man’s job. He didn’t want his hooves rasped and his frogs picked. (The frog on a horse is the tender inner part of the hooves, and it is important to pick the frog clean when applying new horseshoes). He snorted and kicked and Papa and Red first hobbled him and then tied one leg to a tree and he wound up laying broadside on the ground. How undignified. When he got up he was wearing four new horseshoes.
“When Papa and Red made a gelding out of Leatherbritches that was a feat in itself. I wasn’t supposed to watch but I did anyway…from a distance. That was another man’s job–throwing a big animal like that to the ground and then tying his feet.”
Of all the family horses, it was Pinto, Jug, and Dunny that have always remained in my memory. Especially Dunny, the sweetest and most loveable of all the horses in the world as far as I am concerned. Dunny was the first horse I ever crawled on, and long before I was large enough to saddle a horse, I constantly pestered Aunt Ray to “saddle old Dunny.” Mama Chenault loved the story and she delighted in retelling of the time that Rayola lost her cool.
“Would you saddle old Dunny,” I whined for what may have been the umpteenth time and counting, causing Ray to shriek in frustration… ‘No, I will not daddle old Sonny.’ My grandmother never tired of telling the story.
Of Dunny, Rayola said, “He was old when Papa bought him. And Papa wouldn’t use him to work stock if another horse was available. Dunny babysat all kids. If any of the grandchildren ever said they knew how to ride a horse it was because they sat on Dunny first. When all of the horses were in the horse trap (a 40-acre pasture used to hold the horses before the work day started) it was my job to bring them out at daylight. One always wore a bell. Most of them were hard to catch. I would hide the bridle behind my back and tempt them in with an ear of corn. But not Dunny. I remember how easy Dunny was to catch. I could walk up to him, put on the bridle, and then lead him to a stump or fork in a tree where I could climb on bareback and drive the rest of the horses in,
“Dunny was patient and tolerant as an old brood hen. One time we were heading home at a pretty good clip. I was probably daydreaming and Dunny was probaby thinking of the bucket of oats he would get when we reached the barn. He made a quick turn around a fence corner and I wound up underneath him. The minute I left his back he came to a dead stop. He had his head turned as he watched to see what I would do next. He didn’t move an inch until I had crawled back on his back.
“Dunny was a good horse to teach you horse things. I learned how to prepare a horse’s feet for shoeing by working on his feet. He would patiently let me hold his feet and pull the nails out to remove the shoes that needed replacing. I would dig all of the gunk out from under his hooves and use the pincers and rasp to trim them.Then Papa would form the horseshoes to his feet using anvil and forge.
“Papa and I were rounding up sheep one day, and Dunny and I were heading off a sheep through a liveoak thicket when a limb raked me out of the saddle, knocking a wasp nest down my collar. There was a swarm, and as I fought to get them out of my shirt, some of them must have gotten under the saddle blanket. It was the only time I ever saw docile old Dunny kick up his heels, pitch, and break wind like a real cavorter.”
Dunny’s ending was the saddest story I ever heard my Aunt Rayola tell.
“The day came,” she said, “when Papa had to make the decision to sell Dunny. I know it wasn’t pleasant for Papa. He just couldn’t afford to keep horses that could no longer pay for their oats. I can still see Dunny turning his great head and looking wistfully toward us from the backend of the horse truck until it was out of sight.
“I never asked but I know all the horses on that truck were being sold to a glue factory or for dog food. After some 40 years I can still see Dunny’s face. I never blamed Papa. He did what he had to do.”
William Chester (Red) Smith died December 20, 1985 at age 80 from natural causes. I was in San Antonio and nobody bothered to call me until Red was already buried on the South Llano River Wooten Cemetery. I wasn’t as closely connected with Junction historian and newspaper columnist Frederica Burt Wyatt as I am now, so I got word of Red’s passing by word of mouth happenstance. The following is part of a tribute to Red I published in Action Magazine:
The Junction town marshal might have worn out at least two pistol barrels on Red’s head.
He had his own personal cell in the Kimble County Jail where he spent the tail end of most weekends.
The week days were spent breaking horses and no Comanche Indian ever lived who could talk horse language better than Red Smith.
I had a personal interest in Red. My father died when I was a baby and Smith was around to offhandedly contribute to my upbringing.
Some of the upstanding townsfolk looked down their noses at Red. They called him a no-good saddle tramp without a direction in life. But I knew better.
Chester (Red) Smith was a flat-belly with hide tougher than corrugated sheet iron. He liked the wind at his back so he had a new direction every time it shifted. His 150-pound frame remained lithe and muscular even as he advanced into his 70s. When young, he had bright red hair. And the kids would all gather on Saturdays to watch Smith spur a snot-slinging colt down Junction’s main street, knowing full well that he was on a collision course with Marshal Joe Baker.
His home was a saddle. The ground was his bed. He would spit in the devil’s eye and charge hell with a bucket of water when he believed he was right.
Red went to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and later received a full governor’s pardon. But he stayed in Huntsville long enough to ride the hair off everything he mounted in the big prison rodeo.
A bronc raked him off on a tree limb once. Red landed in one of those giant prickly pear mottes.
I recall his laughter as he shaved off thousands of pear thorns protruding from his leathery hide. It was a dry shave with a straight razor. We were at my grandpa’s place on the North Llano River at the time.
“Can’t pick ‘em all out,” Red said. “I’ll shave ‘em down and the rest will rot out in a few days.”
Red died at age 80 but he never got old. When he was about 75 he was leading a parade through Junction with a broken bone sticking all the way out of his leg. Someone decreed that Smith, the living legend of hard-to-curry cowboys, should serve as grand marshal of the annual horse race and fair parade.
In typical fashion, he showed up on a green half-broken colt which was spooked by the noisy crowd. The horse rolled its eyes, chewed at the bit, and jitterbugged nervously on the asphalt. As it attempted to bolt, Red hauled back on the bridle and swatted the two-year-old with his hat.
The horse slipped and fell on Red, shattering his leg just above the ankle.
A veterinarian was among the crowd which quickly gathered.
“Don’t cut that boot off,” Smith said. “I have been jailed a thousand times for riding a horse down this street and I ain’t about to miss a chance to do it legal.”
And with the busted bone poking over his boot top. Smith triumphantly led the annual parade on that same slobbering colt that fell with him. Red was part horse. He could jump car hoods, and I personally watched him coax his bow pony Blue into the open bed of a pickup truck.
So the thought of Red Smith dying had never occurred to me.
The deep draws and high bluffs overlooking the South Llano River don’t die. Rocks don’t die. The creaking, clanging windmill doesn’t die. So what the hell right did Red Smith have dying?
When I heard that Red Smith was gone my first reaction was anger.
Red was the clean smell of juniper cedar on a bright morning. He was squeaky leather on a muscled blue pony.
It just wasn’t fair that he should go. I felt cheated for myself. And I felt cheated for the millions of people who never had the privilege of knowing Red Smith.
I cussed as tears flooded my eyes. As was his way, Red didn’t let anyone know he was going to die. He just did it. And in accordance with his last minute instructions they took him to the obscure little Wooten Cemetery on the South Llano Rver and buried hin in a simple pine box.
When I was a kid, Red helped my grandfather stay alive on a dought-stricken range which sustained more screw worm flies than anything else. At that time, Old Shinny, my grandfather, was lease ranching on the half-dry North Llano River. A lease rancher is the equivalent of a share cropper, and no row ever hoed could be any harder than a summer of screw worms killing the livestock, followed a record cold winter that killed what the worms missed.
They hunted for their food that winter. I was just a sprout but I can remember it was the same winter that Red had the rest of his teeth pulled. The first batch of teeth went when a horse stepped on Red’s face. I remember that toothless grin as Red rode out of the snowy half-darkness with a buck deer tied behind his saddle. When not hunting for table meat, he had been searching for freezing livestock and there were actually icicles hanging from the brim of his hat.d.
Red worked all over, twice riding a horse to California and back and if he had a family he felt close to it was my mother’s. He came and went, sometimes staying a year or so at a time and working for no more than his board and some Saturday night drinking money.
When I was attending Sul Ross State College in Alpine I awoke one snowy winter morning to find Red’s dappled gray pony he called Blue hobbled beside my car.
Red was in the back seat sleeping.
The movie Giant with Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean was being filmed in nearby Marfa. Red had ridden Blue from Junction to Alpine, hoping to land a horse wrangling job on the movie set. He got the job.
When I was working at the Express and News in San Antonio, Red rode his horse to my house on Harriett Street. He rode Blue to my mom’s house in Terrell Heights a number of times, and I believe he visited by horseback my Uncle Nunelee Chenault who lived off of Flores Steet on San Antonio’s South Side. They were friends since childhood. I was starting to drink heavily in those days, and I had no trouble getting Red to join me in San Antonio skull orchards such as the Burnt Orange, SWC Club, and the San Jacinto. My wife at the time, Vicky, was kind enough to put Red up, but after we boozed it up for more than a week, she was happy to see the cowboy ride away.
Red Smith taught me to shoot a rifle. He helped steady the gun when I shot my first deer, an illegal spike on ranchland where we had no permission. Red broke off one of the spikes with his boot. “If a game warden stops us, we will just say the broken antler was shot off and that it had three points.” Red did not believe we were morally wrong. He taught me how to bridle a horse. He taught me to never hit a woman. He showed me how to dress a deer without breaking the fine membrane which covers the carcass. He taught me how to sharpen an axe. And he taught me to stand for what I believed to be right. I learned how to get drunk all by myself. Although Red and I got hammered a few times together in later life, Red had nothing to do with me getting my head in the jug.
When Red Smith sat a horse he looked like a part of the animal. His spurs were equipped with little slick rowels which would do little or no damage to a mount. Red literally slept in his spurs.
Except for the prison rodeo, Red stuck to horse training.
“I’m a horse breaker,” he was oft to say. “Not a bronc stomper.’
The people who looked down their noses at Red never saw him work with a horse. My grandfather called Red a good honest man. The horses knew, too. Red loved children, and I experienced his affection at an early age. When there was money left after one of his weekend sprees, the old cowboy would spend it all on candy which he would pass out to kids who were waiting for it.
In his younger days, Red hired on to help move some heavy ranch and farm equipment which he didn’t know was being stolen. He was arrested and sentenced to prison along with the others and he remained at Huntsville for almost a year before one of the real thieves made a statement which exonerated Smith.
With his pardon from the governor came a pocketful of cash and a new suit of clothes as compensation for his false imprisonment. I know Red held on to the suit for I saw him in it at my grandfather’s funeral. He used the cash to throw a drunk which lasted more than a year. He loved Shinny.
When my grandfather Chenault was near death at my mother’s home in San Antonio, Red was there. I have a distinct memory of Red bathing my grandfather’s face with a damp cloth. There was a bond between the old cowboys that I cannot explain.
My grandmother was smashing up Smith’s food after his remaining teeth were pulled. He never even considered wearing dentures and in short order he was able to gum his way through anything, including corn-on-the-cob and rock candy. The toothless look seemed to match up with Red’s other facial architecture. His face suggested he may have looked 45 when he was born.
Although records show he had only one brief marriage to Dorothy Bohissen of Houston, Red liked the ladies, and there was sometimes a twinkle of contentment in his eye after one of his visits to the dude ranches that dotted the South Llano River.
I recall one of my grandmother’s comments when Red came dragging in after a night of tomcatting at Heny Bossman’s Flying L guest ranch.
“My, my,” said Mama. “Those city women do have a taste for roughness.”
Red did a stint in the Merchant Marine Corp. My Aunt Rayola remembers him showing my grandmother a marine pants creasing technique he liked.
Junction Eagle columnist and Kimble County historian Frederica Wyatt filled me in on some Red Smith history as I was preparing to write about Red.
He came from a hard luck family. His mother Fannie died when he was 15. His fater Monroe was killed by poison which was placed in his food by a ranch wife named Nethery who was trying to kill her husband. Monroe was working with the husband and he was an accidental victim. Red’s brother John D. was shot to death in a Rocksprings cafe, and a younger brother, James Monroe Smith, was knifed to death on Junction’s main street.
I know Red had little in the way of material possessions. He was wealthy in the ways that count. I was thankful to God when Frederica assured me that Red had no pauper’s funeral.
“Red had a nice funeral” Frederica assured me. “No tent, just the overhead sky as the canopy. It was a beautiful morning and we all felt a little bit closer to Heaven. I sat there and wondered if anyone had notified you as I know you would have been there had you known.”
The late Ramsey Randolph was Red’s lifelong friend and Frederica relayed Randolph’s words to me: “Red and I had been friends since we were teenagers. As I walked away from that open grave where Red’s body had been placed I thought unless his friends mark his grave no one will know a hundred years from now whose body rests in that spot. So my concern led to 35 of Red’s friends joining together to erect a Georgia granite monument at his grave. It cost us $525.”
Graveside services were held in the Wooten Cemetery on Cajac Creek 11 miles southeast of Junction. It was Red’s request that he be buried in the valley of the South Llano River in the ranch country he loved.
The Reverend Sam Coffey eulogized his friend. Members of the group sang Amazing Grace as the grave was filled.
Bennett Boone was later buried beside Red at his own request. Bennett was named after my uncle Bennett Kindrick.
I later took my wife Sharon to visit Red’s grave. As I looked down toward the river, I recognized the very spot where my dogs once treed a coon.
As it always did, the gentle spring breeze was reminding me how much I loved my homeland.