Memories of Frances Cox Dilley


Memories of Frances Cox Dilley

My family moved to Cottle County in early 1924 where my father, Emory H. Cox, and grandfather, Charles O. Wise, both worked for Jim Norman in the community of Ogden. This is where I was born. They had lived in Ringling, Jefferson County, Oklahoma before moving to Cottle County.A sister, Elizabeth Waldeen, and brother Emory Hilous Jr. were born in Ringling. My grandparents lived across the road from my parents when Elizabeth was born. My mother went across the road to get my grandmother and she had Betty there with my grandmother assisting. This story was passed down from older siblings. Ringling is about 100 miles East of Cottle County, just across the Red River from Bowie, Montague County, Texas. Before moving to Oklahoma they lived in Silverton, Brisco County, Texas. Two sisters, Lillian Batrice and Alice Lucille and a brother, Charles Peyton, were born in Silverton, which is located on US 287 SE of Amarillo, Potter County, Texas. Amarillo is about 140 miles Northeast of Cottle County. My grandparents Charles O. Wise and Frances A. Wise lived in Cottle County for many years after we had moved to Ralls in 1932. They were both born in Lincoln, Clairborne Parrish, Louisana and were married in Arcadia, Louisana 6 January 1895. They were both living in Floydada when they died and are buried there along with several other members of the Wise and Cox families. Although I lived in Mississippi for many years, West Texas is still my home.

My childhood memories of Cottle County center around the community of Swearingen. My father, Emory H. Cox was born in Bransford, Summer County Tennessee to Peyton Cox and Elizabeth Duncan on 7 March 1896. My mother, Carrie Lucile Wise was born 18 December 1895 in Lisbon, Biensville Parrish, Louisana. She married father 26 December 1915 in Silverton, Texas. We moved to Swearingen from the farm in Ogden on the Crowell Highway (U.S. 70). The Norman farm is where Dr. O.E. Looney delivered me on 06 April 1924. He also delivered a brother, James Wise, and a sister, Neida Doris. Two other sisters Eunice Ruth, was born in Ralls in Crosby County, Texas and Rebecca Anne who was born in Floydada, Floyd County, Texas.

It was about 1927 when we moved to Swearingen. We moved into a house in that was owned by Dr. Looney. My, all those people, it seemed like a city, having known nothing but the cotton farm. This grand spacious two story house with a large yard both front and back, we loved to play upstairs. We stayed on the first floor most of the time and the played on the second floor when the weather was bad. On these days when we couldn't go outside our favorite pastime was cutting paper dolls from the Sears and Roebuck and Montgomery Ward Catalogs. The slick glossy pages were the ones we could use. The others were assigned to the little building out back. If you have never had an outhouse, you cannot imagine how difficult it is to go to the bathroom in the wintertime. We had a two hole model, which means that two of you could sit side by side and use the bathroom. It was so terribly cold in the winter. In the summer you worried about spiders and snakes. The dress section with the beautiful ladies who posed in all the finery is what we like most. Many hours were spent living in our dream world of the fine things that could be bought "mail-order". This is where the catalog got the name "wish book".

My first friend was Mamie, who I meet while we lived in Swearingen. She lived with her parents in the Railroad Section House. The Railroad Section house was a large two story boarding or apartment house with huge verandas and out side stairs. Most of the railroad hands lived here. Mamie's mother cooked for the people who lived in the Section House. Swearingen had a small hotel, Furr and Hare Drugs, Tannerhill and Colby Dry Goods and Groceries, Guaranty State Bank of Swearingen, a lumber yard, two grocery stores, a livery stable, stockyards, and school. Doc Hare was the Postmaster and he operated the Furr and Hare Drugs, his wife Miss Mable normally was found in the postoffice. There was a saloon in town but we were not allowed to go near it. A service station sold gas and fixed flats for those lucky enough to have a car.

Swearingen was a farm and ranch center and shipping point for four large ranches the 7L, OX, McAdams and Brothers. Six to eight thousand head of cattle were shipped from Swearingen annually. (Carmon Bennett Taylor's Our Roots Grow Deep. pg 177) All ranches had to have cowboys to work the stock from horse back. The country around Swearingen was rough and filled with mesquite and cedar trees. Mesquites have long thorns on them and they would stick you good. The Tounge (renamed South Pease) river runs just north of Swearingen and it is rugged country. The Tounge was dry most of the time. It was a haven for rattlesnakes, coyotes, and wolfs who all took a toll on the stock. Round-up time on these ranches was when the calves were branded and the little bulls made steers. The older steers were seperated so they could be shipped to the market. Round-ups were hard work and took a lot of time to get the cows out the gullies and mesquite thickets. Some cows were downright mean when the cowboys roped their calves. Many cowhands were hurt and some killed by the enraged mother longhorns. The average horn spread was 2 to 4 feet. Some cows weighed close to two thousand pounds. A 1200 to 1300 pound horse couldn't hold one of these cows, it would take three or four cowboys to rope these cows so another could rope the calf and brand him. After the calf was released the cow was ok, most of the time. After the round-up the short drive to town to ship the cows was a fun time for the cowboys. They could show off their skills to the town people and later celebrate in the saloon. The cowboys would drive the cattle through town to the stock yard where they were loaded into cattle cars on the rail line. I was never allowed to play in the front yard near the street when the cattle drives came through. Although Mamie and I could go to the Railroad section house and watch from the second story verandas. We could see everything, the cowboys popping their ropes, the dust and bawling cattle. I think of the history I witnessed. The longhorn cows, reduced almost to the point of extinction, a vanishing breed. As we watched the action, we could smell the cows, the dust and dirt stirred up by the milling cattle. The bawling of a scared sentinel of Texas Heritage, some which made the mad dash in attempt to gain their freedom only to be turned around by an alert cowboy. Years later when watching western movies, I recalled scenes of Swearingen, the cattle drives and the stores with the false fronts on them. Sometimes I would think that the movie makers used Swearingen as a model.

Today there is not much left in Swearingen, a green sign with the word Swearingen on it by the side of the road, FM104, put there by the Texas Department of Transportation. It is called a "goast town" by Carmen Bennet Taylor, in her book "Our Roots Grow Deep". None of the old buildings are left. Most of the big ranches are still in operations only they don't drive the cattle any more. They use trucks to transport them to market now.

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