into lost mode, we found ourselves driving along a beautiful stretch of road high in the
hills somewhere southwest of San Saba. Toward the south, (I think) clouds grew in
immense proportions toward the sky. Then, just up the road we saw a bar in the
middle of nowhere with several pickups parked out front. The sign above the place read
Another sign on the building read "WE AIN'T
DIALIN' 911". A pistol hung from a peg on the warning. The door stood wide open
and we heard the sounds of a T.V. and conversation from inside.
"Let's ask for directions here," Ms.
Intrepid said, earning all rights to her name. With that, we were out of the car and
walking through the open door.
"Knock, knock," I said to the dark room
waiting for my eyes to adjust. Before we completed our introductions cold beers were
pressed in our hands, and we sat on stools by a bar in the corner. We told them what
we were up to and why. I passed around copies of the magazine, pleased to know one
of the bunch whose name I soon learned was Wade had read and liked the magazine.
And he told the others so.
The men in the room, four in all, were friends and
neighbors who gathered to watch the football game together. And there were more on
the way. There was Larry, Curly, Wade and Sloan (but no Moe). Periodically
women folk would show up with coolers of beer and the men-folk would send them off on more
errands. As it turned out this wasn't a bar at all, but a hunting cabin.
"Sloan?" I asked the man on the seat that
once was in a pick-up.
"Sloan Pool.," he responded.
Are you any kin to Jym Sloan who wrote for the San
Saba News back in the 1890's? He called himself Lemon Squeezer."
"That was my uncle."
At that moment I realized, quick as lightening, that
I had left the tape recorder, pen and pad back in the car. But as I looked down,
just beside my beer on the counter, I saw a clean pad, just like a reporter's, and a pen.
I picked them up and started taking notes.
Apart from a ranch, it seems Uncle Jym also left
behind a reputation as a maverick.
"He started drinking when he was twelve,"
Sloan remarked. "He lived to be ninety-nine. He would'a lived longer if
he hadn't quit. Uncle Jym, he couldn't hear nothin' and he wrote everything down.
Just opposite of what it's supposed to be. He couldn't near nothin! And
then his boy took over, and he couldn't hear nothin' either. He was Lemon Squeezer
II. Tom Sloan, he's been dead about two or three years.
"That two story house down there--there used to
be a two story house where that old barn is--that's where all of them was born. All
of the Sloans."
As I listened I learned that the old stone and wood
two-story building I had photographed earlier was Jym Sloan's garage. Upstairs was
where the servants lived. And it was probably there where, so one story goes, Jym
drove his Hudson Terraplane through a barn, knocking off both doors. Jym "Lemon
Squeezer" Sloan never bothered to have the Hudson repaired. He just drove it
around everywhere, doorless.
"This Sloan Ranch," Curly informed me,
"fifty or a hundred years ago took in over a hundred thousand acres. It went
plum from Pontotoc through this whole damn country. It was all owned by the Sloans.
'Course it's busted up, sold off, some of them died or whatever. Sloan and his kids
still have about twenty two thousand acres."
My mind was reeling at the possibility one person
could actually lay claim to so much of heaven; and, as I watched Curly spreading his arms
out wide to emphasize the extent of the holdings, pointing to directions that were now
completely lost on me, my mind reeled some more.
"My daddy married the ranch," Sloan
told me a little later, "and they lived down on Wallace Creek. I didn't see him
till I was twenty-one. He was always out dancin'" . Sloan smiled.
And everyone laughed and agreed. Evidently daddy had a reputation too.
"When I turned twenty-one I went to Llano. There were twenty-one bars there at the
time and I made every one that night."
It may have been in Llano where Sloan first saw his
daddy (Of course, like Sloan, I'm stretching the truth to the breaking point.) But,
I figured out pretty quick--from Lemon Squeezer, to Lemon Squeezer II, to daddy and now
Sloan-- that pecans, season after season, never fall far from the tree.
We had more conversations, most of which I didn't
take note of, some of which I'll keep to myself. But we had miles to go, and we
didn't want to wear out our welcome, so we made our move for the door (for the second
Just before we walked out the door, while saying out
good-byes to these friendly folk, Ms. Intrepid and I learned that the barstools we had
been sitting on, and the bar, and the bunk beds off at the other end of the room, were all
once owned by Hank Thompson who had a cabin on Sloan Pool's ranch. Hank Thompson,
for those of you who are unfamiliar with country music, was one of the three great Hanks
of the genre--the other two being Snow and Williams.
If we had stayed longer we would have rounded up more
stories, but just as likely, we'd still be there. Passing back through San Saba we
headed on to Fredonia, Pontotoc, Katemcy and other disappeared places. But that's
PAGE 1: MOVIN' ON / PAGE 2: CHEROKEE
PAGE 3: SAN SABA & CHINA /
PAGE 4: RICHLAND SPRINGS
PAGE 5: SLOAN / THE MAP
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