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Through Time and the Valley

John R. Erickson

Publication Year: 2013

The isolated Canadian River in the Texas Panhandle stretched before John Erickson and Bill Ellzey as they began a journey through time and what the locals call “the valley.” They went on horseback, as they might have traveled it a century before. Everywhere they went they talked, worked, and swapped stories with the people of the valley, piecing together a picture of what life has been like there for a hundred years. Through Time and the Valley is their story of the river—its history, its lore, its colorful characters, the comedies and tragedies that valley people have spun yarns about for generations. Outlaws, frontier wives, Indian warriors, cowboys, craftsmen, dance-hall girls, moonshiners, inventors, ranchers—all are part of the Canadian River country heritage that gives this book its vitality. “Through Time and the Valley is the finest non-scholarly account of the history, culture, and people of this region. . . . What I did notice was humor, pathos, strong characterization, crisp dialogue, and such a sense of place as to bring a lump to my throat.”—Roundup Magazine

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Series: Western Life Series


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Author's Note

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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Preface to the New Edition

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pp. ix-xxvi

It has been twenty-three years since Bill Ellzey and I made our journey through time and the valley, and as you might expect, much has changed. Many of the people whose stories appeared in the book have passed on since it was published in 1978: Harold Hudson, Leroy McGarraugh, Jack Jines, G. H. Holt, Elrick Wilson, Ben Hill, Hugh Parsell, Johnny Isaacs, Tom Conatser, Drew Cantwell, Bert Sherman, Ben Ezzell, and others...

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1. The Canadian River of Texas: June, 1972

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pp. 1-8

It was summer. It was June. It was the morning of the day we began our journey through time and the valley.
Bill Ellzey and I watched as the pickup and stock trailer climbed the last fifty yards of caliche road and disappeared over the rim of the caprock, leaving behind a haze of white dust and a silence that spread from horizon to horizon. We were alone now, ...

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2. Shine Popejoy

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pp. 9-20

The Texas Panhandle is a very young country, and like most young countries it has spawned an inordinately large number of ghost towns: Old Ochiltree, Old Hansford, Sweetwater, Taz, Zulu, Timm's City, Hogtown, Parnell, Tascosa, Oil City, GeWhitt, and Plemons, to name but a few.
Around 1895, Plemons appeared in a lovely little valley on the north bank of the Canadian River, about a mile south of the caprock. In 1901 an election was held, Plemons won the county...

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3. Carson Creek

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pp. 21-28

About six hours later we came to a spring of live water, a welcome sight after a long afternoon in the saddle. The air had been still and steamy along our course, and we had been pursued every step of the way by hordes of deer flies, a grayish insect about three times the size of a house fly. These loathsome creatures had the bite of an ice pick and drove our horses to distraction. Bill and I spent most of the day slapping flies on the necks of Suds and...

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4. Billy Dixon

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pp. 29-40

The next day we rose at the crack of mid-morning, broke camp, and with our heads still fuzzed with all the sleep we didn't get, we made our way to the Billy Dixon place, three or four miles east.
In 1883 Billy Dixon resigned his position as scout at Ft. Elliott, Texas, and retired to a quieter life. Only thirty-three, he had seen more excitement than most men could have managed in a hundred

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5. The Battle of Adobe Walls

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pp. 41-50

In 1867 President Andrew Johnson appointed a peace commission to meet with the five major tribes of Plains Indians and to reach an accord with them. Among those he appointed were Generals Sherman and Harney, Indian Commissioner Nathaniel Taylor, and other senators and dignitaries. In October they arrived at Medicine Lodge, Kansas, to meet with a delegation of chiefs headed by Satanta, Kicking Bird, and Lone Wolf of the...

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6. Cutting for Sign

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pp. 51-59

By the time we crossed Adobe Creek the shadows were about five o'clock long and the tyranny of the midday sun had lessened a bit. We probably should have made camp on the creek, but we hadn't traveled much that day and were anxious to push on down the river. And after all, for the past two days we had seen ideal camping spots everywhere we looked, so there was no reason to think the country would change all of a sudden...

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7. John's Creek Rodeo

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pp. 60-62

From the windmill camp we rode east, skirting a low line of bluffs on the north side of the river. Around noon we reached John's Creek, the first live water we had seen since leaving Bent's Creek fifteen miles upriver. Here we swung north and followed the creek a mile and a half until we came to a cottonwood grove with a nice sandy beach on the creek nearby. Spreading the tarp in the shade, we unsaddled the animals and put them out...

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8. John's Creek Tales

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pp. 63-73

T he Brainard family had been on the river since the very beginning. The old man E. H. Brainard came to the Panhandle in 1882 to cowboy for the old Bar CC Ranch, which at that time controlled some fourteen hundred square miles of land in Roberts and Ochiltree Counties. E. H. Brainard was assigned to work out of the John's Creek line camp at the western edge of the ranch, where he lived in a three-room frame house. When the Bar...

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9. Roundup on the Lazy B

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pp. 74-85

D ollarbill and I had gone to a big auditorium to listen to a lecture by Lawrence Ellzey, the Wolf Creek rancher. His subject for the evening was a tribe of primitive people in some faraway land. After the presentation, as my horse and I chatted with friends out in the lobby, I noticed that Dollarbill had developed a limp in his front foot. I looked it over and decided that it needed a good dose of salty meat grease, so off we went to Ed Brainard's...

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10. Canyon Rum

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pp. 86-102

Early the next morning we bade farewell to the Brainards, crossed Willow Creek, and rode east into a range of high cone-shaped sand hills. After traveling for an hour or so, we came to the east fence of the Brainard land, at which point we left the sand hills and topped a rise that formed a divide between two very...

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11. Government Canyon

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pp. 103-118

Eight hours after leaving the Brainard Ranch, we arrived at the Leroy McGarraugh place in Government Canyon, an orderly outpost of civilization thirty-five miles from the nearest town. We found the owner, Mr. McGarraugh, burning weeds out of a cattle guard with a butane torch. After swapping opinions on the weather-as I recall, the consensus was hot and dry-we stabled our animals in a very substantial set of corrals Mr. McGarraugh...

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12. Dobbin Is a Communist

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pp. 119-126

We rose at six the next morning and went right to work putting our gear in order for the trip. Around seven Mrs. McGarraugh called us to breakfast and we dropped our work and went to the house.
We had hoped to get an early start on the day, but at the breakfast table good coffee and good companionship conspired to hold us longer than we had planned. After the meal, the conversation...

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13. Dave Wilson

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pp. 127-134

T he hours crawled by. Around noon we passed the old Red Camp place, which is no longer red, crossed Highway 70 under the Dugout Creek bridge, and pushed on into the most uninspiring country we had seen. Maybe the heat had something to do with it-it was miserably hot and still-but I shall always harbor unpleasant memories of that stretch of country between the highway and Point Creek. It was flat, barren country with bonedry...

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14. The Angel of Picket Creek

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pp. 135-140

Around three 0' clock fu the afternoon we opened a pasture gate and rode onto the Killebrew ranch. We had spent eight straight hours in the hot sun. Our canteens were dry. We hadn't eaten, and our horses hadn't drunk since eight o'clock that morning. Ours was a sad little caravan heading down the road.
But we didn't have far to go this time, for up ahead about half a mile was the headquarters of the Killebrew ranch where we could...

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15. The Tandy Ranch

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pp. 141-148

W hen we got to the ranch house, we unburdened the animals and Mr. Streeter put them into stalls and fed them some sweet feed. Dollarbill didn't deserve such good treatment after bucking me off and rolling on my spurs. Outside the lot, I walked over to Mr. Streeter, who was unhitching the trailer, and decided to get his opinion on what I should do about Dollarbill. I showed him the bent spur and told him what had happened. Then...

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16. Awanyu, Gold, and Poor George

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pp. 149-161

As we were cleaning up the breakfast dishes, Floyd Morris came in the back door with his two small children, James Ray and Amy. Streeter's son-in-law, Floyd, worked on the Tandy Ranch, and he and his family lived in a mobile home about fifty yards south of the house. He and I didn't need to be introduced, as we had attended high school together in Perryton. At a time when the rest of us gave very little thought to the future, Floyd...

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17. Bar CC Ranch and Dave Lard

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pp. 162-171

T he next morning, over fried ham, biscuits, and gravy, we began asking Mr. Streeter for information about the river bottom. Although we had been "on the river" for a week, we had yet to cross it or even to get within a quarter-mile of the stream bed. This morning we would cross over to the south bank for the first time, and we wanted to know what to expect in the way of quicksand...

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18. Horseshoes with Ben Hill

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pp. 172-177

The next morning David Trimble rode down to the river with us and showed us the best place to cross. Our second crossing was as uneventful as the first, and again we found the river dry except for a few slues and pools.
Our destination this day was the Ben Hill Ranch on Barton Creek, a short ride of about four miles. Ben Hill's son Arnold lived on the place then, having recently returned from a fifteen-year stay...

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19. Lavender Cowboys at Springer's Ranch

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pp. 178-190

At five A.M. we were jarred out of bed by the alarm clock and staggered to our morning chores. Bill went down to the corral to give the horses some oats, and I put the breakfast on to cook.
We left the Hill place around six-thirty. The air was cool and damp and the valley lay blue and silent around us. About a mile south, we struck the river road and turned east, just as a big orange lollipop sun appeared over the tops of the trees. Trotting the horses...

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20. Oasis Ranch and Needmore Creek

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pp. 191-196

After a big lunch of roast beef, roasting ears, potatoes, biscuits and molasses, we all hunted a cool spot and bagged a few hours of sleep. Then, around five that afternoon, Bill and I saddled our horses and rode east toward the Oasis Ranch on the Oklahoma line. Getting into the saddle that day proved something less than a pleasure, as my rump, thighs, and shoulders ached from...

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21. The Canadian Depot Robbery

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pp. 197-203

George Isaacs had three brothers who settled in Hemphill County and became landowners and respected citizens. But somehow things had never worked out right for George. At the time his brothers had been settling on land, he had been over in Randall County cowboying for the T Anchor Ranch. That had been a good life, an exciting life, and he had worked his way up to a...

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22. Canadian: Queen City of the Panhandle

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pp. 204-218

We arose the next morning at six, ate a good hearty breakfast, and began the last leg of our journey, a ten-mile ride into Canadian. A thunderstorm the night before had left the country cool and damp, the sky a gray overcast. The horses felt frisky in the morning air and we made good time, arriving in Canadian around ten-thirty or eleven

Appendix: The Storytellers

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pp. 219-246


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pp. 220-222


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pp. 223-230

E-ISBN-13: 9781574415186
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574415094

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 31 b&w illus. 1 map.
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Western Life Series