Charlie Haldeman

The digital home of the genuine rural eclectic.

Summer 2021 archive

June 29, 2021

Remember that rabbit hole from the other day? We explored abandoned rail lines that can still be traced if you know what to look for on a map.

See previous column below if you’re just now catching up.

We mentioned an old spur in the hometown that had long since been cleared, though the dead-end switch was still on the ground well into the 1980s.

For the people of De Kalb, Texas, one might wonder why Highway 82 makes a slight detour before straightening back out long its eastward-westward run.

I don’t know for a fact, but the short-lived rail line that extended 10 miles to the north into the virgin timber of west Bowie County may be the reason.

The spur followed present-day Mill Street when it was built.

Here’s the entry in the Handbook of Texas on what was known as the De Kalb and Red River Railroad:

DEKALB AND RED RIVER RAILROAD.The DeKalb and Red River Railroad Company was chartered on November 27, 1891, with a capital stock of $50,000. Track was to be laid between DeKalb and the Red River to the north in Bowie County, a distance of ten miles. The members of the first board of directors included P. S. Ramsen, William Peters, and C. A. Skinner, all of DeKalb; and Benjamin Whitaker, J. H. Smelsen, J. C. Whitaker, G. B. Ellis, and Waverly Whitaker, all of Texarkana. In 1892 the line built eight miles between DeKalb and Lennox and 1 1/2 miles between Muir and Mooresville. The railroad hauled logs for the DeKalb Lumber Company and owned only its road bed and ties. Rails, equipment, and fuel were provided by the lumber company. In 1895 the DeKalb and Red River reported total freight earnings of $5,000 and used one locomotive and sixteen freight cars. The company was dropped by the Railroad Commission by June 30, 1899, as the railroad had been abandoned and the rails removed.

Since it’s been gone so long, it’s harder to trace than other old lines. But there appears to be evidence of the old road bed out to the west of Old 26 when viewed from above.

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June 26, 2021

A rabbit hole is that thing you do when you jump from one thing to another when you’re online. Have you done that lately?

It’s a daily habit for me.

For example, I ran across a story about a long-gone volcano in Austin. That led me to a USGS map of Texas, where I found a whole bunch of sites where these lava-spewing monstrosities once lived. (Holy Smoke! Texas Has Actual Volcanoes. Here’s Where to See Ten of Them. – Texas Monthly)

After that, I wondered if there were any caves near where I live. There aren’t. (The History of Texas is Under Your Feet and at Your Fingertips! – USGS)

But that got me to thinking about Hamilton Pool in central Texas. That’s a pretty spot. The water’s clear, and it’s popular with the swimmers. I’ve never been, but I’d like to go.

Except I can’t. Thanks to the big freeze earlier this year, falling rock has prompted authorities to rule out any swimming there this summer.

From Hamilton Pool in Texas, the rabbit hole continues on to Lake Hamilton in Arkansas. This is when I usually open up a map online and follow roads here and there with my finger. I scroll down them as if I’m flying overhead.

I scrolled from Lake Hamilton over to Albert Pike and found “The Blue Hole,” which was about the most remote swimming hole I’ve ever visited. It’s been more than a decade since I’ve been. I see on the google maps that someone has put up a sign with rules and a mailbox to collect money from swimmers and campers. You could drive a full-size car to get there. You had to use an ATV.

During one teenage camping trip at Albert Pike, a bunch of us loaded up to head west to Shady Lake or Bard Springs, a couple of other campsites that were over the mountains there. Somehow, we missed our intended destination and kept driving. And driving. Up and down, around the curves slowly, because these were mountain roads and I knew these were not my roads. Some time later, the hills flattened out. The dirt road gave way to pavement and the characteristics of the trees were changing. We came upon a sign… finally that read “DALLAS”

That’s Dallas, Arkansas. Three miles from Mena. That may not mean much to folks, but that 27-mile stretch of road takes about an hour or more to drive. Even longer if you’re going 30 mph. Sometimes I miss the days of not having a smart phone or a map and just finding my way down a path like that. That’s just about impossible today.

On the other hand, if I didn’t have the smart phone, I couldn’t do other things like follow old railroad routes on the map. I’m not good at too much in life, but I’m an expert tracker of old rail beds that have long been abandoned. One of those long-gone old lines eludes me. Back in my hometown, there once was a rail spur that split from the east-west mainline and went north into the woods for timber runs. That line was gone for more than five or six decades by the time I came along, though I still remember the switch was still there just west of the Broadway Street crossing.

Even that mainline through De Kalb was taken up in 1998. I know people like having a trail that runs from New Boston to Farmersville along a large portion of the old Texas & Pacific line, but I miss the rails.

Well, where was I?

How did I get here?

Oh yeah, that rabbit hole. That’s how this works.

Alice and her friends in Wonderland would be proud.

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June 23, 2021

This morning’s edition of the Bowie County Citizens Tribune from New Boston, Texas, noted an anniversary that caught my eye.

I remember this. There was no story in the 1991 newspaper. It was actually a large advertisement announcing

“COMING JULY 1ST – KTKX 103.5 NEW BOSTON, TEXAS”

Bowie County Citizens Tribune – June 23, 2021 edition

When that paper hit newsstands, I was up early helping my grandfather, Tank Tidwell, cut and bail hay in the meadow. It was steamy hot, and it wasn’t even 9 a.m. I was 12 years old.

We took turns drinking ice water from a big plastic orange jug during frequent breaks. We picked blackberries that were growing in the briars wrapped in the rusty barbed wire along the fence line. It was miserable, but memorable. Hard work, but rewarding.

By lunch, I convinced him to take us up to Roy’s Cafe. Up until less than a week before this, I was his only grandson until cousin Jackson came along. He was born June 19 of that year. Three pounds and three ounces at birth meant a transport from Texarkana to Little Rock, where he’d be in the care of the pediatric experts at Arkansas Children’s Hospital until August.

Tank and Grandma Suck made a lot of trips to Little Rock and back that summer. On this day though, the hay needed cutting, raking and bailing.

After cousin Jackson arrived in the summer of ’91, his sister, Jordan came along two Augusts later. Landry arrived four years after that.

Instead of a preacher, all four of us served as officiants at Tank’s funeral last June.

As for June of 1991, 30 years ago, I believe it was the only summer I regularly worked for Tank out in the pasture. By September of that year, Jackson was back home in Texarkana, and I ended up with my first broadcast job at KTKX-FM announcing the weather forecast twice an hour, three days a week from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Time flies. Memories forever.

Leslie Earl “Tank” Tidwell and grandson taking in the shade during Oktoberfest 2010
De Kalb, Texas

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June 19, 2021

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June 18, 2021

Ben Terry tracks storms, forecasts weather, and fights cancer.

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June 14, 2021

Today is Flag Day.

Aside from the history and reverence of this minor holiday, its not as minor as National Iced Tea Day.

I only bring it up from a memory of long-ago. When I was a child, our scout master, Roy Knight, mentioned it once during a Cub Scout meeting. He said it was also his father’s birthday.

Knight was De Kalb High School’s football defensive coordinator, track coach, and also taught (math, I think?). He went on to become high school principal and had to fill the shoes of retiring 30-year vet Gerald Pinkham. The high school burned down in his first year, the result of arson. What a year.

Coach and his family left town for bigger and better things after that. On to Hallsville, where he led a much bigger school. Then on to Lufkin, where he retired a few years ago as the superintendent there.

I think a lot of people from east Texas owe Roy and Janet Knight for their successful paths that began with their guidance.

Coach was the one who asked me if I wanted to be the PA announcer for the Thursday night football games at Harold Ward Stadium. I was in the 6th grade. I kept showing up throughout junior high and high school to “call those players’ names so their mamas and daddys and loved ones could hear them,” as he advised me before the first game.

I lost touch long ago.

But today would have been his dad’s birthday.

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June 7, 2021

Time for Taj!

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