From book entitled: True Tales of the South
Collected and Edited by Clarence Poe
|No picture of the war could be
complete unless it
included the father and mother of the son in uniform - often waiting, waiting for a too-long-delayed return.
Sometimes the soldier had never learned to write
and so depended on some oral message, possibly
lost in transmission. At any rate not a few soldier's
far from home returned months after - and in some
cases a year or so after the war - with no advance
word to wife or parents. With charm and authenticity Dr. J. Frank Dobie of the University of Texas here reveals what war meant to one such waiting couple
in pioneer Texas cattle country - a true story sent for special inclusion in this volume.
Not long after Texas joined the Confederacy, a youngster named Tim Cude, from Live Oak County, enlisted. Although he was only sixteen years old, his way with oxen was a community wonder - especially the power of his voice over them. It was a voice young and lush, but strong, without the gosling quality. He did not charm the oxen by whispering - horse charmer style - in their ears.
Brindle and Whitney were his wheelers,
Months after Appomattox, his mother and father learned that he had been alive at Lee's surrender. More months, then a year, then two years dragged by, and still Tim did not come home, and there was no word from him. At first his father and mother talked with high hopes of his coming, then, gradually, they came to say little, even to each other, about his return. They still nursed a hope, but the heavy conviction settled down on them that Tim must be among the many boys in gray who would never come back home. Their hope grew gray and secret, without confidence. The days went by slow as laboring oxen walk.
In the late spring of 1867, Mr.
Cude put a few beeves in
It was in December before Mrs. Cude
finally consented to go. They took a load of dry cowhides with them,
and as the oxen pulled them south at the rate of about two miles
an hour, the went over their plans again and
The plans cheered them. They
would buy sacks of real coffee and a new coffee grinder that would do away
with the labor of pounding the grains held by canvas with a
hammer. They would buy sacks of flour and have real flour bread. "You remember
how Tim always likes flour gravy," Mrs. Cude said, "and sugar - sugar for
cakes and pies." She would have enough calico for three new dresses
and a sunbonnet, besides a tablecloth; he would have new boots, new
hat and breeches, and parcale for sewing into shirts. "I'll get some blue
for Tim," Mrs. Cude said. There would be a new plow for the cornpatch
and lumber for a galley to the frame house, so hot in the
It took them a week to get down
to Powderhorn, and then two days to buy everything and load
the wagon. On the way back Mrs. Cude kept wishing they'd make better time,
but the four old tortoise-stepping oxen never moved a foot faster. "Perhaps
Tim came home today," Mrs. Cude would say at the evening camp.
"I dreamed last night that he came just after dark," she'd say over the
morning campfire, always burning long before daybreak.
In all the dragging months, months adding themselves into years,
no day had dawned, no night had fallen, that she had not made some
little extra preparation for her boy's coming home. In
all the period of waiting, this was the first time she had not been
there to welcome him. As she approached the waiting homestead now, the
At last they were only six miles from home. Christmas was only three days away. Then in a mudhole at the crossing on La Parra Creek the oxen stalled. For an hour Mr. Cude struggled and worried with them, trying to get them to make the supreme pull. Mrs. Cude threw all her strength on the spoke of one wheel. Finally Mr. Cude began the weary business of unloading some of the freight and carrying it on his back up the bank from the creek.
Then suddenly they were aware of
a man, dismounted from the horse beside him, standing on the
bank just ahead. Being down in the creek, they could not have
seen his approach. His frame, though lank, was well
"Those look like mighty good oxen," the young man said, coming down, as any stranger in that country at that time would come to help anybody in a tight spot.
. "They are good oxen, but they won't pull this wagon out now," Mr. Cude answered. "I guess they're getting old like us and can't. We've been working them since before the war."
The stranger had moved around so
that he was very near the wheel oxen, which he faced, instead
of the driver and his wife. His hand was on Brindle's head, between
"I believe I can make these old boys haul the wagon out," the man said.
"They wouldn't do any better for a stranger than for their master," Mr. Cude answered.
"There's only one person who
could get them to pull," added Mrs. Cude. "That's our boy who went
"Oh, yes, and they knew him. They liked him."
Then for a little while there was silence.
As Mr. Cude began drawing up his rawhide whip, again the stranger asked for a chance to try his hand.
"Very well," Mr. Cude agreed slowly, "but every time you try to make 'em pull and they don't budge the wagon, they're that much harder to get against the yoke the next time."
The young man asked the names of the oxen and got them. Then he took the long whip, not to lash the animals - for that was not the whip's function - but to pop it. He swung it lightly and tested the popper three or four times, as if getting back the feel of something long familiar that had been laid aside. then he curved the fifteen feet of tapering plaited rawhide through the air - and the ringing crack made the sky brighter. At the same time he began calling to the oxen to come on and pull. He talked to Brindle and Whitney and Sam Houston and Davy Crockett harder than a crapshooter talking to his bones.
The oxen, without a jerk, lay slowly, steadily, mightily, into the yokes. The wheels began to turn. The whip popped again, like a crack of lightning in the sky, and the strong voice rose, pleading, encouraging, confident, dominating.
The oxen were halfway up the bank
now. They pulled on out, but nobody was talking to them any longer. For
with a shout that rang to the Texas heavens the Cudes recognized
their son who could handle oxen as no one
Pages 199 - 203 - "TrueTales
of the South At War -