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THE SARATOQA L1QHT BY FRANCIS E. ABERNETHY The Old Bragg Road with its mysterious Light turns left off Farm Road 1293 about seven miles west of Honey Island and heads straight for Saratoga, in the heart of the Big Thicket. The road itself is sandy, graded, and pretty well ditched, and is wide enough for two cars to pass. It is seven miles long and as straight as a rifle barrel. Loblolly pines that will make poles and saw logs in a few years grow right up close to the road on both sides, and occasional bogs hold their water and snakes and frogs tight up against the road bed. Sweet-gum sprouts, yaupon, and palmetto, growing thick in patches and always rustling, fringe the road, that after a light night rain carries the sandy signs of all the 'coon and cats and 'possums and armadillos that take their nightly stroll along its trail. A set of broad, splay-footed tracks show where a big old buck deer has eased up to the edge of the palmetto and pine, scanned the road to see that all was calm, and then sauntered down the middle, between the tire tracks, just taking his pleasure walking in the sand. Before 1901 this was all thicket and cypress brake and shallow clay pan, holding water and growing thick with ty-vine and saw briars, and choked in the shallow ponds with baygalls a ribbon snake couldnt wiggle through. Then the Santa Fe railroad shot a line between Bragg and Saratoga and cut a right of way and brought progress through this part of the Thicket in the form of 227 88. The Old Bragg Road-the ghost road. THE SARATOGA LIGHT the old "Saratoga." It made a trip a day to Beaumont and back with people and cattle and oil and logs, and it lasted till the tracks were no longer needed for hauling the oil from the Saratoga field and the virgin pine from the Thicket. Sante Fe road crews pulled the rails in 1934 and for many years the old tram road was just another bad road that tunneled through the Thicket, which would have taken it over, but there was still some traveling back and forth between Bragg and Saratoga. And there were the hunters-the fox runners and cat hunters and those that chased the deer. They used the road because it carried them into some of the densest woods in the Big Thicket. The old tram road was one long bog during the rainy season, and the brush crowded insistently in on it, always trying to elbow the travelers off. And then there was the Light. Cecil Overstreet and some of the old-timers and their offshoots say that the Light has been showing up as far back as they can remember, fifty years or more. Sometime in the uncalendared past, Harry Broom, a Saratoga barber, and Joe Martin were running the fox one night and had stationed themselves by a pine-knot fire on the edge of the road bed to listen to the hounds. During the race the Light showed up. Harry throught it was a fire hunter or somebody with a flashlight walking down the road, so he hollered at it. When he got no answer, he decided he'd better investigate, so he eased on down the road to where he thought the light was. Just as he got there the Light faded out and disappeared; Harry and Joe Martin left soon after. The two hunters told their story and were plagued by the sceptics, but after that, other hunters and late wanderers on the road saw the Light and verified-and amplified-Harry's report. One lady came back from Waco to the Thicket in 1961 just to see the Light again. She reported seeing it when the tracks were still on the road bed. She said that when she was five years old and her father worked on the railroad, she, her mother, a neighboring lady, and the rest of the children all walked down the tracks to meet her father when he got off from work one evening. The Light appeared and scared them all into hysterics, so she said, and the belief that the world was coming to an end. "\Varty" Lewis tells a 229 230 TALES FROM THE BIG THICKET story his grandfather, George Lewis, told him about the Light, which he saw back in the 'thirties. The elder Lewis...


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