Some old cowboy drew the house plans in the dirt. That’s what Daddy always said. One window or door, square in the middle of every exterior wall.
I’ve heard it was built for the first judge of Sutton County. Someone said it was a stagecoach stop. All I know for sure is, grandpa bought it in the ‘20’s from someone whose last name was Wilson. He and granny lived in it all their lives. This is where my daddy grew up. They had rodeos out back—real ones, with a grandstand announcer and everything.
All the things to build it had to be hauled by mule. We used to have a list…how many sacks of concrete, the number of boxes of nails, all the lumber, the man-hours and just what everything cost. Whoever poured the concrete never tamped it down, but made the most of what they had. They spread it thin and simply let it mound. Maybe they only had so much and couldn’t get any more. Out in the country back then, you made do with what you had. Those loose-poured concrete walls have a geology all to themselves, layers of pebbles, honeycomb gaps, and every so often, a tiny fossil shell. Many thousands of years ago, all this land lay under an ancient sea.
Back in my grandparents’ day, the house had a bright red roof. You’d ride up a hill and look, and you couldn’t miss the house. A picket fence kept the prize-winning goats from eating up the yard, but did nothing to stop the deer, who hopped right over it on their nightly garden raids. But that was all right, Daddy said, it gave them good antlers and saved him having to prune the weeds.
Years later, far from home, I remember that house and think how happy we were. To go there, is to open a floodgate of memories. One step over the threshold, I remember I yearned to be a cowgirl back when I was twelve. This place endured The Depression and the 1950’s Drought. The famous Ward parties were thrown here—great big fiddle and banjo hoe-downs that guests drove miles to attend.
A hundred and twenty West Texas summers since the house was built, and it’s still standing strong. Sure, it’s got a few cobwebs and rat turds, but structurally, it’s fine. Steve Chambers is going to renovate it, opening the upstairs gallery the way he thinks it once must have been, before someone closed it off. Plus, it’s getting a massive kitchen upgrade and better bathrooms. I can’t wait to call it home again.