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By Claude Hall
And Rollye James
Who wish you all a Happy New Year!
Rollye: Until about 2:45 yesterday afternoon, I was concerned. I hadn’t heard a word from
Claude. Usually his weekly column is here when I get up (for me that’s the crack of noon, but
his column is usually in my inbox by 9 a.m.). Then, like manna from heaven, two emails
arrived. Saved again. Not that I’m adverse to writing the lead, just that it’s so much more fun
for all of us to hear from Claude. You know from his words in last week’s column about his
health battle, complicated significantly by an unconscionable medical bureaucracy that found
him without pain meds when he needed them most. It’s obvious from the thoughts you share
in Vox Jox how much Claude means to you— to all of us. The fact that he would submit
anything at all given his physical condition reveals how much all of you mean to him. I know
you’ll join me in keeping Claude in your prayers. Here’s hoping that 2016 is the year we’ve
all been waiting’ for— filled with only good things, and lots more from Claude Hall.
Woody Roberts, a science fiction buff: “Claude, Michael, somebody was able to get the
Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to approve of Error 451 appearing on your screen
when a website or blog will not load because it is blocked for legal reasons. What some may
not have realized: that newly approved code number is an intentional reference to Ray
Bradbury's dystopian masterpiece “Fahrenheit 451,” a novel about book censorship. I recall
as a boy learning from a review -- being Ballantine promoted a Bradbury's first novel -- that
451 is the temperature at which paper burns.”
More Woody: “Claude, this morning at 7:25 a.m. (sunrise) I fired off my 20 gauge. I’ll do it
again at midnight on New Year's Eve to close out 2015 … this year I’ll fire all three shots to
honor our fallen Mousquetaire. When I moved to this hermitage on 10 acres of woods
surrounded by 2,000 uninhabited acres in January of 1984, an old horseman at Manor Downs
told me the story of Reuben Hornsby and his Christmas morning tradition. I'm living on what
then was part of the Gilbert headright that was positioned next to the Hornsby headright.
Today descendants of Gilbert still own the 150 wooded acres next door. I live off what they
called Gilbert’s Trail, a cattle trail, now it’s Gilbert Road and the new school less than ½ mile
away is Gilbert Elementary. Since your amazing brain already holds a large amount of old
west lore I’m boldly adding to it by including Reuben’s story; ah yes, and, 'tis a roundabout
Christmas tale it be:
“(1793–1879). Reuben (Ruben) Hornsby, soldier, surveyor, and one of Stephen F. Austin's
earliest colonists, was born near the site of present Rome, Georgia, on January 7, 1793, the son
of Moses and Katherine (Watts) Hornsby. After residing for a time in Mississippi, he left
Vicksburg on January 2, 1830, on the steamboat Pocahontas and arrived at Velasco, Texas, on
February 5. From there he made his way to Matagorda, where, on June 5, 1830, he contracted
with Stephen F. Austin for a grant in the new upper Austin colony, in the Mina District near
the site of Austin. In the spring of 1832 Stephen F. Austin with some settlers set out from his
Upper Colony, headquartered at Mina (now known as Bastrop) to survey a half-dozen
homesteads along the Colorado River. By late day, Josiah Wilbarger, John Walters, Joseph
Duty, William Webber, and a man named Barker had chosen land for their farms. Only
Reuben Hornsby could find no land to suit him, and caused the party to ride on while he
sought the extraordinary place where he would make a new home.
“At last they entered territory that intrigued Hornsby, land far out into the wilderness below
them, when they topped the hill, lay the most delectable valley anyone could remember
seeing, luxuriant and emerald-green, where a horseshoe bend of the Colorado hooked into a
lowland waving with a sea of wild buffalo rye grass. Laying down his gun Hornsby turned to
his friends. 'Boys, this suits me just fine,' he said. 'You can go on home if you like.' A
surveyor by trade, Hornsby surveyed his one-labor headright at Hornsby Bend in Travis
County, east of the Colorado River and thirty miles north of Bastrop. He occupied this
headright in July 1832 and received title to it on March 4, 1841. ‘A more beautiful tract of
land ... can nowhere be found than the league of land granted to Ruben Hornsby’, wrote
historian John W. Wilbarger. ‘Washed on the west by the Colorado, it stretches over a level
valley about three miles wide to the east, and was ... covered with wild rye, and looking like
one vast green wheat field’.
“At this time the Hornsby home was the northernmost on the Colorado and therefore the most
exposed to Indian raids. Only Josiah Wilbarger preceded Hornsby in settling this extreme
frontier. Hornsby's home, according to J. W. Wilbarger, ‘was always noted for hospitality’,
and he was said to be ‘remarkable for those virtues and that personal courage’ that made him
and Josiah Wilbarger ‘marked men among the early settlers’. In August 1833, when Josiah
Wilbarger and four companions were attacked by Indians near the site of present Austin,
Hornsby rode to his rescue. Wilbarger had appeared to Hornsby's wife in a vivid dream
beseeching aid, and she urged her husband go to him, although Wilbarger was then believed to
be dead. Hornsby located his scalped and severely wounded neighbor and returned with him
to his home, where he was nursed back to health.
“On November 28, 1835, Hornsby was appointed a commissioner for organizing the militia of
the Mina District. In the Runaway Scrape of 1836 the Hornsby family followed the Little
River down to the Brazos, where they learned of Sam Houston's victory at San Jacinto.
Shortly after returning home Hornsbys and their neighbors were attacked twice by Indians;
two young men were killed while working in the fields during the first raid, and two others out
hunting cattle were ambushed and killed that fall or winter. On February 20, 1845, Hornsby
enlisted as a private in the Travis Rangers under Lt. A. Coleman for three months; he
reenlisted on May 20 under Lt. D. C. Cady for a single month. In June Hornsby's son Daniel
and a companion were killed by Indians while fishing in the Colorado River. Hornsby
married Sarah Morrison, whom Wilbarger called ‘loved and reverenced by all who knew
her’, and was the father of ten children. Sarah died on April 20, 1862. By the end of his life
Hornsby had become a prosperous planter. He died at his Travis County estate on January 11,
1879, and was buried beside Sarah in the family cemetery at Hornsby Bend. A Texas
Historical Commission marker was placed at his home in 1936. A small collection of his
papers is at the Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin.
“Hornsby Bend was named after Reuben Hornsby. To fulfill his headright claim of a league
and a labor of land, he found a spot on a horseshoe bend of the river where he built a cabin
and later a stockade. He chose that particular spot on the river because he felt it would
provide adequate protection from the Comanche Indians, who also lived in the area. Over the
years Hornsby, with other settlers, built a gristmill, cotton gin, sawmill, blacksmith shop,
general store and, eventually, a post office. In 1847, the community built the first school,
known as the Old Rock Schoolhouse, in Travis County. The first cemetery in Travis County is
also located near this community.
“He moved his family to the area that became Hornsby Bend in 1832, and served in John J.
Tomlinson's Company of Texas Rangers in 1835-36. He was also instrumental in securing a
mail route from Bastrop in 1838, and was one of Edwin Waller's surveyors who laid out the
new city of Austin in 1839. After introducing cattle to the area, he was one of the first to
register a cattle brand – RH -- in Travis County on March 19, 1840. He served on the first
Travis County Grand Jury, and in 1840-41 he was a surveyor to mark a new road from Austin
to Bastrop. Because of his many contributions to the County, he was awarded one million
square yards of land within the city limits of Austin. In 1879, after a lifetime of service to the
community he helped to found, Reuben Hornsby was laid to rest in the cemetery that bears
his family name. Many Christmas mornings Reuben Hornsby would get up early and from
the front porch would shoot his shotgun. Seconds later Jess Hornsby, living a few yards
away, shot his gun, answered by Mark Gilbert, Smith Hornsby and Spurge Parsons. Up
the road we could hear guns of Wallace Hornsby, who usually shot twice, then Ernest
Robertson, and Jim Hornsby living down the lane. Tett Cox was next to shoot. One
Christmas, half asleep, he shot too close to the front porch -- the shot going through his roof.
This he never lived down. Answering that shot was August Foster, and nearer the Hornsby
Cemetery was Paul Rowe and Vice McLaurin, who never failed to answer. From down near
the river could be heard the guns of Malcolm Hornsby, Willie and Jimmie Platt, followed by
Sam Platt with his forty-five. This was their way of saying Merry Christmas to the Hornsby
Bend Settlement. But as time went on, many of the shooters married, moved away, or died,
and so the tradition faded.
“Years afterward, Harry Hornsby decided he wanted to shoot his shotgun off on Christmas
morning to see if there were anyone to remember. He shot, waited a few minutes, and there
was no one left to answer. He silently came in the house to put his gun up and realized he was
about the last one to remember to shoot on Christmas morning. So, Woody took up the cause
and every Christmas sunrise for 31 years I've fired off a shot. Once, about 25 years ago, I
heard someone fire a shot in return. Nothing since then. With the housing project moving
closer and closer I may soon not be able to pump and fire a volley. I added the New Years Eve
blast as my own tradition. These days it gets harder to be up at midnight than up at sunrise.
“A very Merry Christmas from Woody and Happy in Texas to the Hall family in Nevada!”
Lee Baby Simms, better late than never:
Profound as a Thousand Nights ....
Who among We Mesquiteers will be the first to fall?
I do not wish to know.
I do know this … Unus pro omnibus. Omnes pro uno.
That's enough to know right now.
Woody Roberts and radio personality Lee Baby Simms look upon an engine
during their San Antonio days in radio.
Robert Weisbuch, en route to the Hill Country: “This is so ... everything. Woody: free in
Austin that Friday Eve the 8th and all Saturday 9th so whatever works for you. Guys, let us
toast our lost mesquiteer this new year. I will toast each of you as well, aware of my good
fortune in knowing you. I just looked in Wikipedia for the character Athos. It is amazingly
apt for Lee, himself a secretive but loving hero.”
Claude Hall: “I asked Johnny Holliday if he kept up with a sporadic member of his old
KYA, San Francisco basketball team.”
Johnny Holliday: “Claude, yes, I'm I’m in touch with Rick … just spoke with his oldest son
Scooter who is my god son and was in town over the weekend. Our oldest daughter Kellie is
God Mother for Jon Barry. Rick spends the winters in Charleston, SC. His son Canyon is a
junior on the UNC Charleston basketball team and Rick and his wife never miss a game. I
will see him in a few weeks when Canyon's team plays at the University Delaware. Duke is
good … we've got Rasheed Sulamon on our team this year, former Blue Devil … what a
great kid he is and one of the major forces to the Terrapins being 11-1 and ranked number 4 in
the nation. I am more than happy to jot down things about Rick … but if you would like to
speak with him yourself, I know he would have no problem in giving you a call.”
Claude Hall: “Me? A ragnot talking with Rick Barry? I’d be too nervous. God, when Rick
got the ball, you just automatically chalked up two points. Without question, one of the
greatest basketball players who ever laced them up. Speaking of roundball, I’ve just run
across an article I did with Joe Smith, one of the world’s greatest Laker fans. A few years
ago, he even made a highlight film. I’m thinking about typing up the article again and running
it in maybe two features in Vox Jox. Maybe starting next week. We’ll see.”
Rollye: It's got my vote Claude! In whatever state it now exists, if you can scan it and send it,
I'll do the rest and make sure it runs.
Tom Campbell: “Thank you so much for this. I will be in Vegas Jan. 3rd for the whole week
attending CES as I do every year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and
Barbara! Can I come and visit you guys for just a few minutes while I'm in Vegas. Lots to
share and to catch up on. Thanks. Miss you guys.”
Ron Brandon: “I'm the guy that published Radio Music Report for a few years out of Atlanta
with some success ... the same sheet originally started by Paul Drew that you refer to. Dick
Reus had it for a few years and sold it to me. Unfortunately, unlike Paul, I did not save many
copies and they have drifted away over the years ... some to John Long, etc. However, there
are over 1,000 pics on my FB site ... most of that era 70s, etc. You, are anyone else, are
welcome to share any that might catch your fancy. Enjoy all the great stores ... humbled by
the great talents that passed through those couple of decades. Ken Dowe put in a good word
and helped me land a job at WNOE in early 60s … never forget that. Wishes to Claude and
his health ... we've both had a rough year.”
Ron’s Facebook page
is a treasure trove! Particularly if your radio career extends
through the ’70s, it’ll bring back countless memories. I doubt you’ll be able to look at the
pictures without thinking “We were so young!” And I’m sure you won’t stop after seeing a
few, so make sure you’ve mapped out an hour or two before proceeding, and then be prepared
Rollye: Thanks to everyone who has subscribed to the mailing list. Hopefully this column is
arriving largely intact in your inbox. If not, don’t forget that it’s in pristine shape online at
every Monday. It’s an educational process for me. Last week I learned that the
embedded YouTube files don’t survive the email journey. I’ll include text links as well in the
future. You’ll be the first to know what this week’s effort has brought. But I won’t stop
trying’ to get it right. I appreciate your patience.