Tag Archives: Gordon Texas

Volunteer Fire Departments — Possum Kingdom Complex Fire 21 APR 11

Please note that if you wish to add your VFD to this list or give other pertinent information, please e-mail me at matthewsranch@msn.com and I will append your information to this list.  I mean no offense if you are not on this list, so assist me in compiling this information.  Thanks — Jack Matthews.

I have compiled a list of a number of volunteer fire departments that I have seen in the field fighting the Possum Kingdom Complex Fire on the southern, middle and western sides of the fire lines.  Contact the VFD by telephone for information on giving cash donations or other commodities.  Please note that other VFDs have worked in the fire zones that I do not list here.  I have seen Fort Worth, Bedford, Dallas, Graham, Coleman, Cunningham and other companies in the area.

These are the VFDs closest to my area in southern Palo Pinto-northern Erath Counties of Texas.


Info/Chief (Charles Sims): (940) 329-8350
P.O. Box 485
Palo Pinto, TX 76484

Lone Camp VFD website
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PO Box 296
Palo Pinto, TX 76484
Telephone: (940) 659-3900

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201 E Rusk ST
Santo, TX
Telephone: 940-769-2060

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111 E Crockett ST
Gordon, TX
Telephone: 254-693-5312
Fax: 254-693-5859

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4809 Green Acres RD
Graham, TX
Telephone: (940) 549-8231
Fax: (940) 549-8265

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212 S Oak AVE
Mineral Wells, TX
Telephone: 940-328-7741
Fax: 940-328-7731

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610 Grant AVE
Strawn, TX 76475
Telephone: 254-672-5333

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Filed under Wildfire

Mingus and Gordon, Texas, evacuated 15 APR 11

Officials have ordered the evacuation of Mingus and Gordon, Texas, six miles to the north of us.

News link on evacuation.

10:51 p.m.  I have returned from Gordon and Mingus.  Fire trucks are concentrating at Gordon.  It’s fairly pacific there.  Russell Stowe Ford Company seems to be moving all of their vehicles out of the building to another location.  Some people are huddled at the volunteer fire department building.

The game warden said that our ranchito — south of Gordon six miles — would probably be okay and not to worry.  He did state that the situation was serious or they wouldn’t have issued the evacuation order.  Obviously, I thought to myself.  Not much help there.

I went to Mingus and the bars were open and still serving drinks and the lights are on.  A Burlington-Santa Fe freight train came roaring through town as I circled the Mule Lip Bar, so at least the railway tracks are presently clear between Mingus and Abilene.  I much prefer Mingus to Gordon.

I came back to our ranch on the south access road of Interstate 20 and I saw in the distance the glow of the fire north of Mingus-Gordon.  I estimate it was at least fifteen to twenty miles away, maybe more.

The wind has died down, probably around ten m.p.h.   I can look directly up in the sky and see the moon despite the smoke.


Filed under Wildfire

Fall of All Seasons

Fall foliage in the grove at Flying Hat Ranch (2009). Photo by B. Matthews

Today, September 22, 2010, is the first day of Fall.  The sun positioned equally between northern and southern hemispheres today falls to southern skies from today until about December 21, the winter solstice, shortest day of the year.

Fall of all the seasons is harvest time, but it is more.  It seems to be a time for catching up and preparation.  The Winter is coming and windbreaks must be established for the horses and hatchets and axes placed in the pickups to chop the ice from the water troughs.  An uptick of hay must be stored in the barn.  When it is drier (this season it is not) grass must be shredded in places to stop the spread of wildfire into the woods and structures.  A hard look must be given to livestock to affirm they are properly conditioned weight-wise to make it through the winter.  If not, then added grain or alfalfa must be apportioned to the weak.  Crevices must be stuffed, caulking pressed into cracks.  The tire chains must be brought out and placed in the trucks.

Summer in most parts of Texas is brutal from 10:30 a.m. in the morning until the long shadows in the evening.  Fall, Winter and Spring give comfortable temperatures for outdoor labor and I anticipate Fall coming way back in June.  June through the middle of September is a time I tolerate and mechanically toil outdoors.  I’m not trying to rush through the Summer, but I am happier when I feel the cool temperatures before daylight in the Fall, as I did this morning, standing in the pasture road looking at the moon, almost full, falling through the mesquite trees on the Dooley place.

I have long since passed the time in the Fall when I saw it as a time of playing football or watching the sport.  I do occasionally watch games and on Friday nights I see the stadium lights from Gordon and Stephenville and other towns about our region.  Interstate 20 is filled with band and supporter buses going to games, intent upon boosting the boys and their play with pigskin.  Better to have the game than waste away in destructive behaviors despite the risk of concussions.

Fall.  I am glad for cooler temperatures and the colors changing in the grove of trees.  I hope your first day of Fall is a good day.  I know mine is.


Filed under Flying Hat Ranch

Bill Tiblets Picks Pecans

Abandoned Mingus Grocery Store, Texas

Mingus Post Office, Texas, 2009

In 1999, my wife and I looked at a house to purchase in Mingus, Texas, an old nineteenth-century mining community mid-way between Fort Worth and Abilene.  The house was a wooden two bedroom structure that had been moved from New York Hill along the main highway to 113 East Grant Town Road.  The caretaker and brother of the woman that had lived in the house was named Bill Tiblets.  He and his wife lived next door to the house we would buy.  Bill said, “Set a price on the house.”  We did, and for $35,000 we had a 1913 Arts and Crafts house with about one-quarter of an acre upon which I planted a vineyard of forty-four Cabernet franc, Cabernet savignon, and Syrah grape vines, most imported from California vineyards.  The vineyard flourished over the next four years and we still have a car boy of the Cabernet sitting in the dining room.

Bill Tiblets had lived in Mingus all of his life, been postmaster, and had operated a steak house, “Will’s Steakhouse,” for many years before he retired.  He was tall, pleasant, well-groomed, and friendly.  Bill became a close friend of mine and so did his wife, Will, for whom the steakhouse was named.  They had four sons, Larry, Jody, James, and Charles, and the kind and friendly attributes of their father and mother were ingrained into their behavior.

Bill, however, in his early seventies, was partially impaired by the concoction of old age and hard work.  He had osteoarthritis and from time to time had to use a scooter to get around in the house and yard.   Each week or so, he would call me and invite me to come over to his home next door and have a toddy.  It would be a toddy of Old Granddad whiskey with Seven-Up or Coca-Cola.  We talked and I found out that during World War II, he had been stationed in Brownwood, Texas, for training, and that his wife, Will, had come down to stay with him.  Accommodations were so sparse in Brownwood  with Camp Bowie nearby, that they rented out a clean chicken house in which to reside for a couple of months.

As time passed, I could tell that Bill was in a state of physical degeneration, becoming less and less mobile.  Still, however, he would walk as best he could.  One day, he and his sons came over to the house and we went outside to see the old steakhouse that he had owned.  The steakhouse was across a nearby creek that used to have crawdads and bullfrogs when the climate was wetter and cooler, back in the 1930s and 1940s.  Bill, his four sons, and I picked up relics from the cafe that had burned down (a case of arson): spoons, forks, knives.  Brenda and I had already picked up some Buffalo-style platters in the rubble.  We use them to serve steaks to our guests.  But, on that day, Bill, his sons, and I reflected on the steakhouse so many people enjoyed.  Bill said that people would fly into the landing strip on New York Hill and come down to their steakhouse to eat.   Will’s Steakhouse was also known as Little Lowake, a steakhouse near San Angelo that was as popular in Texas as The French Laundry in California.

Lowake Steakhouse, Concho County, Texas

As Bill’s degeneration worsened, he walked less and less, motored more and more.  We still had our weekly toddies.  He continued to joke.  He tolerated the local minister’s visits to insure his passage to the afterlife would be comfortable, although, like me, Bill professed skepticism at such things as heaven and hell.  He much preferred the company of his family and friends while alive to thinking of  reverie beyond the grave.  Bill worked in his wood shop and plant nursery in his last days.

Our houses, as I said, were next door:  the Tiblets a brick house, ours the wooden Arts and Crafts of 1913.  Pecan trees bordered our property with a 100 foot vacant grassy lot between us that we kept mowed.  Larry, Bill’s son, trimmed around the mesquite and pecan trees.  The vacant lot had been a parking lot for a dance hall in the 1930s and 1940s.  The pecan trees would seasonally give both our families a sufficient harvest for munching, perhaps a pie.  We could see each other across the lot and we would talk almost daily.

One fall day, Bill drove his scooter to the pecan trees between our homes.  I saw him through our kitchen window.  He sat briefly under the shade of the trees, warming in the sun, and then he wiggled out of the scooter, got on his hands and knees and picked pecans.  His impairment prevented him from bending over from the scooter.  I called my wife to the kitchen window.  “Bill is picking pecans on his hands and knees,” I said quietly.  He would put them in his pockets and occasionally empty the nuts into a bag attached to the scooter.  Over the next few weeks, Bill would pick every few days or so, easing himself down from his machine.

Bill possessed the good in mankind,  the deep-down drive to keep going, despite pain, to maintain a simple but necessary ritual of harvesting pecans when ripe or making a pie for the holidays or feeding the horses or cattle.  Necessary toil.  I saw Bill on his knees that day, but he was a thousand feet tall, decked in finery, and crowned with an ancient helmet of self-possession to duty, until the end of his time, his day, his life.

Bill died later that year.  We all will have our end, but until that day, we need to get out of the chair and harvest the fruit on the ground, on hands and knees, if necessary.  Like Bill.

I raise my toddy everyday and toast to my friend, Bill Tiblets:  “A votre exemple.”



Bill’s children and widow have moved from their home on Grant Town Road in Mingus.  Will lives in Gordon, Texas, a few miles east of Mingus, and her children have all built homes nearby  on top of a hill, overlooking Interstate 20.  The Arts and Crafts home Brenda and I lived in for four years has been sold.  The present tenants have let the vineyard lapse into semi-chaos, but when I drive by on the way to the post office I do see Cabernet franc vines robustly staying alive.  We kept the Mingus house for a couple of years as we moved  to our ranch.  We got a good price for it since I had cleaned up the dead trees and had planted the vineyard.  I miss the house and so does Brenda.  Bill’s children are settling in on the hill and each son has the drive and initiative of their father: construction, home repair, accounting, water plant worker, and other skills.  Brenda and I talk about Will and Bill and our life next door to them in Mingus, but the one topic that always comes up is Bill Tiblets Picks Pecans.


Filed under Recollections 1990-