By Elisha Gene Penland
Recently there has been a rendition of the drowning of my brother Clyde and Aunt Tressie Huffhines, as printed in the Palacios newspaper, appeared. This account of the incident is not too accurate. Below is an account as I remember it in as much as I was in the boat at the time of the terrible accident:
It was a bright spring afternoon when myself, three older brothers and Aunt Tressie went down to the bay (Tres Palacios Bay) to play. Tressie always was kind of an older sister and watched over us younger ones. We were on the beach and found a wooden skiff washed up on the beach. Boats often washed up on our side of the bay from the west side, the Palacios side. We dug it out of the sand began playing with it. There was a pole in it but no oars so we got in it and pushed it out in the water far enough for it to float with all of us in it. It also had several feet of old rope on the front of it. We poled it out a little ways and were having a lot of fun splashing and just goofing around.
To make a long story short after a while playing a small squall came up from the southeast. Normally the squalls are from the west or northwest, from the other shore. We began floating away from the shore and when Tressie had no control with the pole anymore she took off her boots and got in the water, took the rope and began swimming toward the beach. She was a very good swimmer. She got us in far enough to where her feet touched the bottom and was making more headway when brother Clyde stood up on the middle seat and said “I can swim and I am going to help Tressie”. He dove in with his rubber boots on and never came up. Where he went under the only thing that I saw was his little grey cap floating. And it finally sank also. To this day when I see a hat or cap in the water I think of that little grey cap and wonder if the person that it belongs to also drowned. Tressie saw him jump in and came back to get him. She dove and dove looking for him until she did not come up again. Each time she came up she said she did not see him and ask Glenn if he had came up.
After searching for Clyde for that period of time we had floated farther away from the beach and the old boat was kind of leaky or we were taking on water from some where and Glen handed Ray Lee one of Tressie’s boots and told him to start dipping out the water. (In the newspaper article it said that Glenn bailed out the water with an old bucket. I do not remember a bucket, just the boots) He had me go up to the front of the boat and he took the other boot and dipped out water with that. We drifted a long time and we were away out in the middle of the bay. Glenn and Ray kept bailing water all this time and the waves were getting big.
We finally got to where we could clearly see the tower on the pier where they put storm warning flags and other flags for the fishermen to see. There were lookouts in that tower that were watching us in the boat and did not know that we were in distress.
Now here is part of the story that no one seems to know about. Someone, Aaron, Mother or Grandmother had seen us out in the bay and had run to the field and alerted dad to the situation. He, dad, took one of the bamboo fishing poles that always stood in the shade of the house and attached a white bed sheet to it and went up on the roof of that old house and began waving the sheet. I don’t know how he knew that was a distress signal but he did. Anyhow the lookouts saw it and alerted a fellow with a speed boat and they came out and took us into the speed boat and took us to Palacios. It was one of those speed boats with the pretty shiny wood decks on front and big engines that roared when they speeded it up. They dried us off and wrapped us in warm blankets. When they found out from Glenn who we were they took us over to the house across the bay by automobile. I went to sleep in the car and don’t remember getting home. I woke up the next day and there were many people coming and going from the house. Mom was in the living room crying with the neighbor ladies and dad was on the porch greeting people and engaging in a scheme to start a search and grandma and other ladies were in the dinning room and kitchen with food all over the place. I remember us boys crying that Clyde and Aunt Tressie would not be there anymore. I did not really understand how dead was dead then. I was only four years at the time.
There was a lot of activity around the place for the next few days. The search air plane landed in the pasture and came right up to the yard in front of the house. He was there several days searching until Clyde was found. Dad even went up with him once.
Aunt Tressie was found washed up on the shore at Coon Island and Clyde was found a later by a fellow wading around Grassy Point. Grassy Point is a spit of marshy land protruding out in the water with no beach south of the slough just south of Collegeport. I don’t remember them bringing the bodies to the house as the news article said. I really don’t know. If they had I know that my mom would not have let us younger kids see them. She was protective that way.
I do not remember going to either funeral services, if there were two, but I do remember being at the grave yard and seeing two fresh graves with the earth mounded up and a white board at the end with their names on it. I know that there was never a headstone put there. There were people at the grave yard also and I remember our neighbor lady, Mrs. John Ackerman, consoling my mom as she was crying.
This is the way that I remember the incident. I would like people to know that I do have a good memory of my first few years. I remember when we moved to Collegeport to the Jenkins’s farm. We moved by train and the stock was in a cattle car and were unloaded at the stock pen in Collegeport. I remember living on the Jenkins’s farm. My younger brother Ralph, two years to the day younger, was born there and I remember it very well. It was the first time that I had seen a model T Ford coupe. Dr. Wagner came from Palacios in it. That is how Ralph got his middle name of Wagner. My oldest brother’s name is Aaron Brown after Dr. Brown of east Texas.
Elisha G. Penland
Funeral Services For Girl Held Wednesday; Boy Found This P.M.
Untold sorrow has come
to the home of Mr. and Mrs. A. A. Penland, who live on the Pierce
place south of Collegeport across the bay southeast from Palacios,
by the drowning of their 8 year old son, Clyde, and a sister of Mrs.
Penland, Tressie Huffhines, aged 14 years, on last Saturday
Untold sorrow has come to the home of Mr. and Mrs. A. A. Penland, who live on the Pierce place south of Collegeport across the bay southeast from Palacios, by the drowning of their 8 year old son, Clyde, and a sister of Mrs. Penland, Tressie Huffhines, aged 14 years, on last Saturday afternoon.
It seems that while the girl, with four of the Penland children were playing in an old skiff on the bay shore near their home, that the anchor broke loose, and they had drifted out quite a distance from the shore before they noticed the fact. Having no oars, Tressie, who could swim, took off her rubber boots and started for the shore to get aid. She had almost gained the wharf when Clyde, distracted with fear jumped out of the boat. He did not remove his rubber boots and could not remain afloat. Tressie saw he was sinking and swam back to his rescue. She reached him as he was sinking the third time but was unable to drag him to shore and sank with him.
This left the other three children in the boat by themselves to drift at the mercy of the wind, which was from the southeast. The old boat began to take water as it was being buffeted by the rough waves and Glenn, age 10 years, began bailing with an old bucket which the children had been playing with. For more than two hours they drifted and covered a distance of over three miles before some parties living in the B.Y.P.U. grounds were attracted to their cries and noticed the boat out in the bay a short distance from the pier. A boy got in his skiff, went to their rescue and pulled them in. The older boy, upon being questioned, told who they were and where they lived, and Jack Lee and son make their boat ready to take them to their home. While this was being done the children who were almost frantic and chilled by exposure to the wind and water were warmed and made ready for the trip and then to reveal to the mother, who had no suspicion of the terrible news that awaited her and the father who was at work in the field nearby.
As soon as it was learned that two bodies were in the bay, searching parties were sent out, working throughout the night and all day Sunday. Work was resumed again early Monday morning and an airship sent out, and they located the body of the girl on the shores of Coon Island, 3 miles south of Palacios that afternoon.
The remains were taken to the home and funeral services were held at the Collegeport cemetery Wednesday afternoon, conducted by Eld. C. F. Conner of this city. The father, who lives in Oklahoma, was notified and accompanied by his wife, came to be with his daughter and attend the service.
Parties have continued search for the body of the little boy and about 3:30 this, Thursday, afternoon, R. Kirkman found it a short distance out in front of John LeCompte's place on East Bay. Mr. Kirkman had waded out in the water up around Grassy Point, and was on his way back when he sighted the body, which was in fairly good condition. The Palacios Beacon, Thursday, March 19, 1931
Composed 7/14/2006 by Elisha Gene Penland (formerly known as Eugene Eli Penland in and around South Texas) Conner, Montana
This is a story of my misfortune of truthfully earning a broken leg.
In the town of Collegeport in the thirties it was customary to celebrate Armistice Day. This was in honor of our WW1 veterans, of which there were many. As usual the school prepared a program to be presented at the celebration that night. All school programs and other civic and holiday functions were carried out at the Community Building which was really the Presbyterian Church in the center of town across the street from the Mopac Building.
It was on November 11 when I was 13 which made it 1939. It also was one of those wet soggy rainy falls where all the roads were so muddy that many of the country folks that lived out on muddy roads could not get to town in their cars. Dad and Mom did not want to try it therefore for me to go to the program I was compelled to walk the five miles or ride a horse to the program. Cowboys don’t walk either. I rode to town on a big bay horse that we had not had very long. He had on iron shoes which no one around our country had shod horses.
On the way to the Community house I had to go by the Drug Store. Of course one of those big malted milks that Hugo fixed was in order. While I waited for him to make it I also had a chocolate Hershey bar. Remember now that I am not a very big guy and my stomach was kind of full. After the treat I rode on up to the meeting place.
When I arrived at the church it was early and hardly anybody was there. A few of the town boys were playing around in the schoolyard across the street and some in front of the church. Rodney Purswell was there on his horse. A quick and snappy little horse. We got to joshing around and he grabbed my hat and started to run away with it. He ran across the road with me right behind him. I had in mind to rope him and pull him off his horse. I’m glad I didn’t for it might have broken his neck. Kids don’t think of those things. He made it across the highway in front of me and turned left in front of the Mopac building. When he turned left my horse was on the north side of the road and he also cut left to cut him off. When my horse attempted to cut left his feet went out from under him because he had on those iron shoes. I saw the sparks fly from under his feet and he went over on his left side and rolled over me. The saddle was a big stock saddle and with the high horn and pommel it did not do any damage to my upper body but sure did wreck my left leg. That clumsy horse got up and went home. (After that I called him our five gated horse. Snort, Start, Stumble, Fart and Fall.) I lay there and some folks gathered around. Someone had information that there was a medical doctor visiting the Duffys and loaded me in the back seat of a car and took me to Duffy’s with my left leg dangling to the side.
There they laid me on the floor. My left leg bones were shattered below the knee. You could see the bones protruding through the skin. The doctor went to work. He had Leo, Mr. Duffy, gently pull on my foot to stretch it out. But first the Doctor swabbed the wound including the end of the bones with iodine. Did that really smart. They splinted my leg with rolled up newspapers and many wraps of gauze. The doctor kept lifting my eyelids and remarked. “He sure is a tough little rascal, he’s still awake and don’t appear to be in too much shock.” By the time the doctor got all his stuff done Dad and Mother had arrived and I was loaded into the back seat of someone’s car and off we went to the hospital in Bay City.
At the hospital they put me on a big flat, skinny table and in came a nurse with a white cloth in her hand. She held this foul smelling cloth over my nose and mouth until I went to sleep. I woke up sometime in the night with my leg hanging up by a rope to a pulley in the ceiling with a big white cast from my toes to my crotch. I woke up vomiting and some fellow in the room in a bed called for the nurse. She wanted to know if I had eaten all that stuff, I thought that was quiet funny. From where did she think it came. It was all that malt and chocolate all over the place with the reeking smell of ether. To this day if I smell ether I almost throw up.
The cast was a real big thing with a metal brace up each side with a round walking pad on the bottom. It had two stainless steel pins through the leg. It was penned just below the knee and above the ankle.
It wasn’t so bad being in the hospital. They fed you a lot of Jell-O, puddings, soft scrambled eggs and bacon. There were three of us in the ward. One little boy was burned quite badly. He really looked bad to me and they were real careful working on him. They also kept a net over him so no bug or flies could get on him. The other fellow was a young man probably mid to late 20’s who was always trying to get the nurse in bed with him. I thought that kind of funny because he had both legs broken. I stayed in the hospital for about a week. Then went home to get well.
I learned to get around pretty good on the crutches because my foot had a rubber pad on the bottom I could put a little weight on. When I did I could feel the pens in my leg therefore I was pretty careful about that. I went back to school right away and did not get much sympathy from anyone. Especially the teacher. She made me catch up on most all that I had missed in school. Book reports and everything. Like I said “Cow boys don’t walk.” It was not long before I figured out how to get on a horse and ride again. No saddle or anything. But I could do it.
The worst was yet to come. The skin began to itch under the cast. I could stick a coat hanger down up top a little ways but I could not scratch my foot. Like to have driven me crazy. When we went to get the cast off was another adventure. They sawed and cut for a long time to split the cast off over the brace. When they finally got the brace off there were these two steel pens sticking out on each side. They were about the size of a spike nail and had a four sided point like a nail. The doctor kind of wiggled and tapped them and it wasn’t too pleasant. I let him know too. He finally took a tool of some kind and twisted them out. M y nasty disposition was working up and when he looked through the holes and squirted what I thought was iodine through the holes I called him a few names because it sure did hurt. I just wasn’t tough for that.
I took a long time to heal up where I could do things like I wanted to. I missed the spring track and field meets and the softball season. By next fall I was doing pretty well. I can still feel it on a cold day. I can also smell ether at a tolerably distance.
BIRTH OF A BIT
The last class to graduate from Collegeport High School was in 1936. Thereafter the last 2 grades of high school were consolidated with the Blessing High School district. My older brother Glenn was a junior that coming school year. The school bus that he was to ride left at the end of the pavement in Collegeport where the grocery store and the stock pens were. The bus left real early to be able to meet up with the school bus in Tin Top. From there the Blessing bus took the students to Blessing High School. It was five miles from our house out on the dirt road to the place in Collegeport to catch the bus.
We had only one car at the time and it seemed a dilemma to Dad and Mom as to how he was to get to the early bus without walking five miles before daylight in the winter. Daddy traded the man who mowed the edges of the highway our old grey mule, Pete, for a small black mare that was real spooky when cars went by. The old fellow was very happy to get old Pete for he was as solid as a rock when cars passed on the road.
This little broomtail was broke to the harness but not to ride as we soon learned. We had broke several young horses that we raised to ride but we trained them to be gentle from the start and they rarely bucked or acted up. This little mare would have nothing to do with being ridden. Dad would ‘ear her down.' Which meant he would get a hold on her head, get an ear in his mouth and bite real hard. She would stand trembling all the time that this was going on. Glenn would get the saddle on her but he did not have much time. When Dad loosened his grip she started to buck and threw the saddle off. She really fought it hard. After many clouds of dust, cussing and hollering the bronco busting session came to an end.
When rice harvest started later, this little mare was put to harness and pulled a bundle wagon to bring the rice bundles to the threshing machine. That’s how it was done in those days. After working hard all day pulling the wagon in the muddy field dad thought that she might be tired enough for Glenn to ride home. Dad went through the earing down process again. Glenn got up on her back and she promptly threw him off and would not allow any rider that day. This went on for several days and Glenn did not get to ride her home from the field. After a few days dad told all the field hands that he would pay five dollars to anyone that would ride her to a standstill. The field hands began to try to ride her one after another after they had been thrown off. Finally they wore her down enough that she did not buck very much and began to run. The rider hung on, bareback, and rode her around in a circle until she got tired. Glenn got on her and she walked home with him on her back while pulling the wagon with the other mare.
Just because this little mare had been ridden to a standstill and allowed someone to sit on her back, that did not break her to be a riding saddle horse. Dad and Glenn worked on her some more through the months before school started and got to the point that they could get her bridled and ‘eared down’ and saddled. They would lead her out in the pasture a little away from the barn and fences and turn her loose. She would take off in a run through out the pasture, around in circles and finally Glenn could guide her back to the barn yard. That’s as ‘broke to ride’ as she ever got that fall.
Come time for Glenn to go to school he would roll all stuff, books, lunch and whatever else he was carrying in a gunnysack and tie it on the back of the old army saddle before he attempted to saddle her. Dad ‘eared her down’ and Glenn gently saddled her, got on and dad turned her loose. She would break out in a run and disappear down the road toward town. When she came to the cross road where she was to turn left he had a hard time sometimes getting her to take the road to the left and he had to work for a while to get on the right road.
Our wire gate had to be kept shut to keep the cattle in the pasture and not go up the road the way that Glenn went. It was left down for a few days while he tried out the ride to town. The faster and shorter way for him to get to the bus would be to go north through the Savage’s ranch at a diagonal and come out their gate about a half mile from Collegeport. There was a wire gap (gate) between us and Savages and a wooden gate to exit from their property onto the road. Glenn could not get off to open the gates and get back on. Dad got permission from Mr. Savage to drop a top wire of the fence along side each gate. It worked just fine thereafter Glenn would leave the barn on a run come to the fence and jump the fences and run all the way to Collegeport. Every day was the same. Rain or shine.
After arriving at the bus stop
Glenn would get off and put his horse in the old railroad stock pen,
which was only used for shipping cattle by truck. If he had time he
would unsaddle her and put the tack in a feed manger and give her
some hay. If he was late he would turn her loose in the stock pen.
Our good friend Uncle Tom Fulcher,
everybody’s friend, would come over and take care of her and have
her saddled for Glenn in the evening when he got off the bus. He
would help Glenn get on and home he would go.
Now to the part about the bridle bit. Spider, I finally remembered her name, did not like a straight bit. She was use to a limber bit as used with work horses. She fought it something awful. Chewed on it and slung her head side to side. She often had bloody foam out of her mouth. Glenn could not stop her with the limber bit. Once she ran away with him out on the prairie and all he could do was to keep her running in a circle until she finally stopped. Mr. Fulcher kept watch on her mouth not to let it get too bad. He decided to do something about. He fabricated the first hackamore bit that was ever made as far as anyone knew at that time.
Uncle Tom fabricated the bit side shanks out of a galvanized gasoline drum. The material was thicker than tin and not as thick as strap iron and would not rust. He made it by hand using hammer, chisels, drill and files. These were all hand tools. We had no power tools at that time. We had no power either. The nose piece was about one quarter inch round stock covered with a piece of rubber hose. The curb chain was a short piece of small figure eight chain. He made two bits really. The first one was abandon because the side shanks were too short and there was not enough leverage to stop the horse properly. The second one with longer side shanks worked very well and Spider never again had hard medal in her mouth.
This bit was used many years on several horses in training and for ever day use. It has been in the family every since. I retrieved it out of the barn yard dirt one year when visiting the folks after all the children had left home and dad told me to take it home and keep it if I wanted it. That I did.
Memories Part 1 Memories Part 2 Memories Part 3 Memories Part 4
Memories Part 5 Memories Part 6 Keechi Scrapbook Old House on the Bay
- Present by the Penland Family
Jul. 13, 2006
Mar. 26, 2009