A Texas Matchmaker
II. Shepherd's Ferry
Within a few months after my arrival at Las Palomas, there was a dance at
Shepherd's Ferry. There was no necessity for an invitation to such local meets;
old and young alike were expected and welcome, and a dance naturally drained
the sparsely settled community of its inhabitants from forty to fifty miles in every
direction. On the Nueces in 1875, the amusements of the countryside were
extremely limited; barbecues, tournaments, and dancing covered the social side
of ranch life, and whether given up or down our home river, or north on the Frio,
so they were within a day's ride, the white element of Las Palomas could always
be depended on to be present, Uncle Lance in the lead.
Shepherd's Ferry is somewhat of a misnomer, for the water in the river was never
over knee-deep to a horse, except during freshets. There may have been a ferry
there once; but from my advent on the river there was nothing but a store, the
keeper of which also conducted a road-house for the accommodation of
travelers. There was a fine grove for picnic purposes within easy reach, which
was also frequently used for camp-meeting purposes. Gnarly old live-oaks
spread their branches like a canopy over everything, while the sea-green moss
hung from every limb and twig, excluding the light and lazily waving with every
vagrant breeze. The fact that these grounds were also used for camp-meetings
only proved the broad toleration of the people. On this occasion I distinctly
remember that Miss Jean introduced a lady to me, who was the wife of an
Episcopal minister, then visiting on a ranch near Oakville, and I danced several
times with her and found her very amiable.
On receipt of the news of the approaching dance at the ferry, we set the ranch in
order. Fortunately, under seasonable conditions work on a cattle range is never
pressing. A programme of work outlined for a certain week could easily be
postponed a week or a fortnight for that matter; for this was the land of "la
mañana," and the white element on Las Palomas easily adopted the easy-going
methods of their Mexican neighbors. So on the day everything was in readiness.
The ranch was a trifle over thirty miles from Shepherd's, which was a fair half
day's ride, but as Miss Jean always traveled by ambulance, it was necessary to
give her an early start. Las Palomas raised fine horses and mules, and the
ambulance team for the ranch consisted of four mealy-muzzled brown mules,
which, being range bred, made up in activity what they lacked in size.
Tiburcio, a trusty Mexican, for years in the employ of Uncle Lance, was the driver
of the ambulance, and at an early morning hour he and his mules were on their
mettle and impatient to start. But Miss Jean had a hundred petty things to look
after. The lunch--enough for a round-up--was prepared, and was safely stored
under the driver's seat. Then there were her own personal effects and the
necessary dressing and tidying, with Uncle Lance dogging her at every turn.