Happy Ginning at Night

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This was a story wrote in the San Antonio Express/News, Sunday, Jan. 26, 1964. It's about an incident concerning disagreement over how cotton is baled. The "Uncle George" was my great-grandfather George W. Rumfield and it took place near what is now Covey Chapel around the late 1890's. The two sons were James Henry and George Jr. Rumfield. The story was related to me by my great-uncle Edward Rumfield (younger brother of the two sons) years ago when I was in elementary school in Dilley, Texas. I thought it might be of interest to people visiting the Frio County Web Page. This article submitted by Joe A. Jacobs.


Happy Ginning at Night Leads to Daylight Fuss

By Oran Warder Nolen

ODEM - back in the days when cotton was on of the main crops in Frio County, on of the busiest gins during the harvest season was the Cibolo gin about ten miles west of Dilley, on the Carrizo Springs Hwy.

Before the highway was paved the gin was the gathering place for farmer from all over that territory during the ginning period. Many yarns were swapped around the loaded wagons as the old wood burning furnace roared and the gin saws whirred. Many a trade was consummated while the old presses groaned, and the panting hands finally caged the rebellious cotton in burlap and iron.

Vivid Event

One event that occurred many years ago still remains vivid in the memory of the old timers and will probably be told to their children and grandchildren in the years to come.

The owners of the gin had imported a man from some part of the country to act as manager or foreman during the ginning season, the rest of the crew being made up of men from the Cibolo neighborhood.

On busy afternoon the foreman took a horse and buggy and drove to Cotulla, the county seat of La Salle County and sought out the busiest saloon he could find. After absorbing all the moisture he could hold, he stocked the buggy up with a full assortment of bottle and returned to the scene of his labors at Cibolo.

It was dark when he reached the gin, and the crew had just shut down after the day's operation. The gin yard was full of cotton waiting to be ginned, but it was not their custom to run at night, as they were generally able to keep the cotton pretty well cleaned up during the day.

Eager For Work

However, the foreman, due to the potent moisture he had absorbed at Cotulla, was seized with a fervent desire to fire up and run the rest of the cotton through that night.

He enthusiastically proclaimed his intentions to the gin crew, and as he lent added charm to his appeal by passing an uncorked bottle around for inspection, he soon won them all over to his point of view. Fire was started anew under the boiler, a bale of cotton on a wagon was pull up under the suction pipe; and the crew having miraculously recovered from the effects of their hard day's labor, were filled with "wim. Wigor and witality" and raring to go.

In a short time the machinery was whirring and banging and rattling in the familiar way, and the crew was working madly to get the cotton through. The fact that the gin was not equipped with lights, necessitating their having to work in the dark, did not dampen their zeal in the slightest.

The foreman was the busiest man of all. Every few minuets he would grab a bottle of liquor and rush up and offer it to one of the workmen, and the workmen, knowing the respect that was due their superior, would instantly let the cotton and machinery take care of itself and stand back and show their respect for the boss by giving all their attention to the bottle in hand. The foreman, inspired by the homage and obedience, would grab another bottle and rush over to another waiting member of his retinue, and thus the cotton and machinery became of secondary importance.

No Worries

Something went wrong with the machinery in a short time, but the crew neither knew nor cared. Just so it made a lot of noise, they were perfectly satisfied. However, in a short time over half a bale of loose cotton was blown all over the gin yard, and when the puzzled crew could not find enough cotton to tie up into a bale they decided that maybe there was something wrong and that they had better quit for the night. It happened that the bale of cotton belonged to "Uncle George" Rumfield, a pioneer settler of the community. Early the next morning Uncle George went over to the gin and was astounded to see his empty wagon standing under the suction pipe, and he was equally astounded to see the cotton scattered all over the gin yard and festooning the near by trees.

It did not take him long to ascertain what had happened, and his wrath was enhanced a hundred-fold upon seeing the guilty foreman lying on the ground nearby in a drunken sleep.

Boiling over with righteous indignation, Uncle George grabbed a whip off a nearby wagon and rushing over to the sleeping foreman he proceeded to work him over from one end to the other. The foreman awoke in an angry frenzy and scrambled to his feet, using very loud and profane language as he did so. He made a run for the gin, loudly proclaiming that he was going to get his gun and use it immediately.

Guns Brought

At that time Uncle George's house was located close to the gin and he began calling to one of his sons to bring his gun. Not one, but two of the boys responded, both rushing over to their father's assistance with gun in hand.

The angry foreman emerged from the gin with a six-shooter in hand, and for a moment it looked like a wholesale shooting was going to take place, but some of the bystanders grabbed the foreman and took his gun away from him. He went off down in the brush and slept throughout the day, and the incident was finally passed over.

TXGenWeb, Frio County - Happy Ginning at Night updated on 08/10/2005

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