Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Fish, You Fool, And The Ghosts Of The Brazos

The sun was shining, the air was crisp and it seemed right to go fishing; Genius Patrol weren't invited, their job was to stay behind and guard the Compound.

A short drive later I was at Soldier's Bluff or Sosebee's Bluff, named after George Sosebee who left Georgia in the 1870s to escape the "odious" Reconstruction Government after the Civil War.
Reconstruction reached its most odious stages in the mid '70's and George Sosebee determined that he could stand no more of it. On the raw frontier, he reasoned, there must exist a place where no Reconstruction Official or carpetbagger would venture.

By 1875 Sosebee had found his frontier, where the Big Rocky Creek tumbled through a limestone precipice overlooking the Brazos river in Bosque County. 

Carpet Baggers

Today, Sosebee's Brazos is gone, inundated by the Corps of Engineers' dam which was built in the 1950s. Still, the tops of his limestone bluffs remain and you can fish from them, sometimes with spectacular results.

With that in mind, the lake was choppy and surging, thanks to a fierce North East wind, and I wondered if the expedition'd be a bust. "How's the action, kids?" I asked a professional crew of youngsters who'd set up on the shore with an impressive array of surf casting rods. They said it wasn't bad, holding up a very respectable Largemouth.

Inspired by success, I cast off with a plastic minnow allied to an earthworm and sure enough started getting bumps and tugs; fish were out there, no doubt about it. But could I close the deal?

It took a while but then, BOOM, a fish was on, pulling out the drag and glinting silver in the topwater. At first I thought it was a Drum but no, it was a decent young Bass around 12". I put him back and reflected on the towns flooded by the dam, including Towash, across the way from the bluffs. In case you wondered, Towash wasn't Cheltenham:

On January 5, 1870, Hardin was playing cards with Benjamin Bradley in Towash, Hill County, Texas. Hardin was winning almost every hand, which angered Bradley, who then threatened to "cut out his liver" if he won again. Bradley drew a knife and a six-shooter. Hardin claimed he was unarmed and excused himself, but claims that later that night, Bradley came looking for him. Bradley allegedly fired a shot at Hardin, which missed. Hardin drew both his pistols and returned fire, one shot striking Bradley's head and the other his chest. Dozens of people saw this fight, and from them there is a good record of how Hardin had used his guns. His holsters were sewn into his vest, so that the butts of his pistols pointed inward across his chest. He crossed his arms to draw. Hardin claimed this was the fastest way to draw, and he practiced every day. A man called "Judge Moore", who held Hardin's stakes of money and a pistol, but refused to give them up without Bradley's consent, "vanished. Later Hardin admitted killing two men in Hill County Texas - Donald Long.

Here's another account, fictional but I'd say on the money. 1865 Towash made a big sign... Texas-style. It boasted the Boles racetrack, which attracted the sports and gamblers from as far away as Hot Springs, Arkansas. There was a hand ferry across the Brazos and close by a grist mill powered by a huge water wheel. Dryer & Jenkins was the trading store. There was a barbershop that did very little business and six saloons that did a lot, dispensing red-eye... raw. Typical of many towns in the Texas of 1867, there was no law except that made by each man with his own ‘craw sand.’ Occasionally the Regulators of Austin rode in... always in large groups... more for protection than law enforcement. 

I reeled in the Bass and cast off for more, while the ghosts of the Brazos lay heavy on the lake.

Tight lines,


No comments: