Texas is another country...

Texas is another country...I have driven into Texas from all four directions and can affirm that after crossing that imaginary state line you just know you are in Texas . The world becomes wide open space, the sky feels higher, you can stretch out and rest a spell.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Post by Alana Cash

My grandpa never learned to drive anything except a tractor which he drove 10 miles to town once in a while.  Mostly, he hitched a mule to a wagon whenever he needed to go anywhere.  He played the fiddle, and I saw it once although by the time I met him, he had arthritis and couldn’t play.  I’m sorry for that. My dad told me that they used to go to dances at “neighbor’s” houses – meaning neighbors miles away.  The neighbors moved all the furniture into the yard and the musicians played in the living room with one of them calling out square-dance moves.  I was thinking of that as I listened to the Get Down Boys playing Appalachian blue grass music last night on the lawn outside the local library.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obrtY1jqc2E   (their fiddle player is from Austin)

When I visited my grandparents as a kid they had finally settled on a 70-acre farm.  My grandma tried to teach me how to milk the cow – I never quite got it – and after she drained the cream off, we shook it into butter using gallon Ball jars.  I’d do that until my arms wore out.  A couple of times a day, she drew a bucket of water from the well just off the back porch and we drank it using a communal dipper.  I wasn’t allowed to draw water until I was a teenager for fear that I would fall in the well.  I wasn’t scared of the water so much as the dozens of daddy-longlegs that lived on the stone sides.  

We collected chickens eggs every day and picked blackberries from the bushes that grew near the barn, making cobbler or jam.  Sometimes Grandma boiled the laundry in a cauldron.  At night we all sat on the porch in the dark watching fireflies.  Occasionally we caught a bunch and put them in a jar, making a lamp.  We only used a real lamp indoors and that one burned kerosene.  We took our baths in the creek. 

Every morning, Grandma made the best yeast buns I’ve ever tasted, and I woke to the smell of baking bread.  She made a huge batch of dough every week and stored it in a cabinet drawer, pulling out eight hand-sized pieces every morning and placing them in a round iron baking pan.  She sent the recipe to my cousin, who sent it to me, but neither of us has had any success in baking them.  It may have had something to do with my grandma’s wood-fired oven.  Grandma had an indoor stove for winter and moved it outdoors in the summer. 

My great-grandfather James Curren Cash the first, died when my grandpa was a boy.  Because of the wanderlust that permeates so many members of our family, I’ve come to believe that he was what the Irish call a Traveler.  But many Irish were made to be travelers during the Great Famine when their English landlords put them off the land and tumbled their houses down so they were left to sleep in ditches.  When British Parliament began forcing the British landowners to care for the tenants, the landlords gave them passage to New York instead.  So James Curren Cash the first may have landed in New York without skills to make it in a city and wandered around the country looking for work.  My grandfather James Curren Cash the second was definitely a wanderer.

At the beginning of my grandparents’ marriage, my grandpa was a sharecropper cotton farmer.  Later on, when he did finally settle on his own land, he grew hay and cattle.  He tried cotton farming for a little while in West Texas.  The family traveled by wagon to Lamesa and stayed less than a year.  They weren’t used to living without humidity and Grandma told me that the dusty wind and the flies drove her crazy.  So they moved eastward.  

The longest stretch they lived in one place during my dad’s childhood, was seven years in a two-room house.  A kitchen/dining room and a living room/bedroom for four kids and two adults.  Four more children were born later, and the oldest had already died and been buried by the side of the road while they were traveling somewhere.  Another son would die later as well as a teenage daughter.  For those seven years, the kids went to a one-room schoolhouse nearby.  It’s still standing. 

I have a photo of  Grandpa’s mom, great-grandmother Frances Crane Cash, and her brothers that was taken in Fort Worth although I don’t know if she lived there or was visiting. She remarried as the third wife of a man with 17 children already, adding 4 of her own.  The stepfather’s surname was Chambers and he hailed from Kentucky.  His home and farm were destroyed in the Civil War and he abandoned Kentucky to move West and start over and some time after that he met Frances Crane.  The Crane family has been traced to France, but there are family rumors that Frances and her brothers were half Cherokee.

I am not sure where my grandparents met.  My grandma’s father, Mitch Harris, was from Southhampton, England and lived in Fort Worth for a while.  He got into a fight there, apparently winning, because Mitch left the man for dead and skidaddled to Missouri.  That worked out okay since he was a traveling preacher already.  And another wanderer.

When my dad was old enough, he drove out to California with a bunch of neighbors.  Two people in the cab and six people in the bed of a pickup.  That first year, they picked oranges in the groves near San Bernardino.  When that season finished my dad and his younger brother moved up to Modesto to pick peaches.  After that, they lived in Modesto part of the year and went back home in the winter.  Once, he tried hopping a freight, but empty train cars travel with the doors open and the rain and cold were getting inside, so he got off in New Mexico and caught a bus. 

When my dad settled on a permanent job, it was in the military, and I was born at Carswell AFB in White Settlement, Texas (now part of Fort Worth).  We moved 10 times before I finished high school and I went to 8 schools.  Amazingly, I still have 2 good friends from my military childhood. 
I caught wanderlust and I still wish I had heard my grandfather play the fiddle.  

Another Cash family wanderer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0G2X0Zpgfw  The Wanderer, Johnny Cash


Liza Stein said...
I love this post Alana!!! A true tale of Texas and Americana in it's younger years.



Liza Stein said...

I love this post Alana!!! A true tale of Texas and Americana in it's younger years.

Anonymous said...

WOW ... great family story Alana!!! I'm currently doing some genealogy and I've found a cemetery in Sabine Town with a bunch of my Great Great Grandparents and Great Great Great Grandparents along with numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, etc ... they were early settlers that arrived in Texas before the fight for Texas independence. Still trying to get info on what they did and how they lived!!!

Judy Granberry Johnson said...

Enjoyed the great story. Thanks for sharing your roots.