Tag Archives: Gorman Falls Texas

Rough Creek drums

Rough Creek on the Parks Place, San Saba County, Texas, looking northeast, ca. 1970 (J. Matthews)

Relying upon memories of childhood can be misleading, even downright wrong in place and time.  As adults when we reflect upon last year’s vacation we may err in detail and conversations we thought we had.  Even so, memories preserve detail that can re-emerge with an almost preternatural force with a bit of reflection and musing, even to the point of re-evoking scents and cachets of the past that transcend the moment.

My mother and grandmother never hosted parties, but they hosted and partook of family celebrations — Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, birthdays.  And there were funerals, lots of them.  Funerals brought the Parks, McRorey, Morris, Ward, Millican and Ragsdale families together for burying kinfolk and re-establishing contact with distant relatives at Bend Sand, High Valley, Colony and Cherokee cemeteries in central Texas.  When I attended these functions, I had two sets of clothes, one for dressing-up and the other for outdoors.  Following the meal or funeral, I changed quickly into jeans and hiking shoes and explored and played with my cousins.  Having dinner at the Parks Place signified the best of all possible worlds because Rough Creek ran through it.

Rough Creek flowed through my great-grandfather’s place and formed the backdrop, foreground, side-scene and main-event for me.  Even today, still, Rough Creek continues to course through my mind and heart and its memory pacifies my days.  My great-grandfather’s ranch was called the Parks Place.  Not the Parks Ranch, the Parks Place.  Rough Creek cut the Parks Place in two parts, emptying into the Colorado River that bordered the east boundary.  For untold generations, Comanche Indians encamped at the confluence of Rough Creek and the Colorado, only to be driven away in the 1840s with the settlement of the area.  In the field north of the creek, after a hard rain, flint tools lay exposed.  A large midden revealed debris of hundreds of years.

I found stone tools, but my primary focus concerned the creek.  A county road ran through the Parks Place and at the creek, a large concrete slab had been poured, forming a stone-firm foundation for the road and continual pool of fresh water for perch, catfish and minnows.  Blue-colored dragon flies lit on green lily-pads and joined together in reproduction that I never fully figured out as to male and female flies.  Sycamore, cottonwood and pecan trees shaded most of the creek’s bank.  The water temperature was cold and it took a few minutes to become accustomed when as a boy my mother allowed me to swim and wallow with slippery moss on rounded stones.

I hiked up and down both banks of the creek.  When the terrible drought of the 1950s occurred, Rough Creek continued to run.  Neighbors in pickups with forty-five gallon water drums, came to the creek, parked on the slab and filled drums with water.  Their children swam and played in the water while the adults bailed water into the drums with buckets.  The elders were sun-tanned and strong, their hats crusted with dark sweatbands that bespoke toil and care for their cattle and family.  My great-grandfather never closed the road and I never saw the gates closed.  Cattle guards — steel-framed panels set in the ground — allowed trucks and pickups to pass over them unhindered, but kept the cattle in check and within the bounds of the Parks Place.

My great-grandfather gave me a branding iron, an iron with a capital “P” for the Parks Place, when I was a boy.  I have it hanging in the alleyway of my barn and see it everyday when I feed Star, my paint gelding.  I’ve not used it because our brand is a Running M.  I do not think of cattle when I see the the branding iron.  I think of Rough Creek on the Parks Place and I wonder how high the water is at the crossing.  Is it high enough that perch and catfish swim back and forth across the slab?  If another drought comes, will the present owners be patient with the neighbors who come to fill their drums?

In the early 1970s, I took the photograph of Rough Creek that sets the banner and feature photo of this post.  The Parks Place had been sold and passed into other hands.  The road remained open and I stopped at the creek’s edge and took this photograph.  I framed it with the sycamore on the left and the road and concrete slab in the foreground.  Behind the trees, on the upper left-side of the photograph is the grist mill, but you cannot see it clearly.

The photograph verified that my memory remained good and that cool, fresh water flowed over a concrete slab with lily-pads and bull rushes abounding.  After taking the photo, I drove slowly out of the Parks Place and up the road, past the mill and over the cattle guard I had seen when I was young and had most of my life in front of me.



The intersection of Rough Creek and the road is precisely 31.136°N 98.5468°W, elevation at center: 1,119 feet (341 meters), San Saba Quad map.

I have a true narrative I have written involving a court case between my relatives and the first owner of the Parks Place (not the present owners) after it was sold.  The first post-Parks owner attempted to close the road.  My cousins de-welded the gates, threw them in the pasture and smeared his brand on the portal with cow manure.  The owner sued my cousins in civil court — most upset he was about the cow manure.  My mother and cousins testified that the road running through the Parks Place had always been open for ranchers and their families living in the back country, and that closing the gate impeded the commercial and social intercourse, long-standing in history, of the community.  The owner lost the case, sold out and moved on.  The present owners of the former Parks Place indulge me and my kin when we stop and look at Rough Creek as we go into the back country.  My great-aunt Helen Tom, daughter of my great-grandfather, talks with the present owners about her growing up on the ranch and they allow my aunt to visit and see the place at any time she so desires.


Filed under Bend Texas, Colony Road, Recollections 1942-1966, Recollections 1966-1990, San Saba Texas

Gorman Falls: Texas Rainforest

Gorman Falls near Bend, Texas (Jeff Lynch, Photographer)

Jeff Lynch is producing some of the most stunning photos of Texas landscapes.  This photograph of Gorman Falls, near Bend, Texas, is spectacular.  Please click on the link below for technical information about the photo and his biography.

I have camped many times at Gorman Falls.  I qualified for the First Class rank in the Boy Scouts by hiking from Bend, Texas, to Gorman Falls in the 1950s.  My grandmother hiked with me and pointed out wagon trails and campsites that she had traveled upon and cooked for cowboys, including her husband, J.W. Parks.  When we reached Gorman Falls, she picked watercress from about the stream to relish our lunch.  She lived in Bend, Texas, and worked as a telephone operator at the one-person switchboard.  The switchboard was in the living room where we played dominoes and listened to KWKH Shreveport, Louisiana, for country music and the Louisiana Hayride.

Gorman Falls existed as a respite from the summer heat, a cool habitat for sunburned people that managed cattle on horseback.

Texas Rainforest | Serious Amateur Photography is Jeff Lynch’s blog and website.

On May 10, 2010, the San Saba Commissioner’s Court met and received a report on the Colorado Bend State Park and Gorman Falls. The San Saba News & Star report is found at this link.  Other items included a discussion about the county scales at Hamrick’s Automotive.


Filed under Bend Texas

Fine Sentences January 31-February 6, 2010

The best sentences from my friends on the blogroll for the week of January 31-February 6, 2010.

Before I could go back down to help him cross he’d run the other way across five times as much water, and up the far bank to reach the bridge from the other side. He flew up to us smiling.  –Coyote Crossing, Chris Clarke.

Nestled in the foreground is the Rio Grande and in the background are the snow-covered majestic Sandia Mountains.  Sandia means watermelon in Spanish.  –Evangeline Art Photography.

Musicians, the good ones anyway, understand the rules of music so well that they are able to venture beyond the rules of their form and create something even more true and beautiful and reflective of the true condition of human life.  –HappiForever and the Hungry Ghosts.

I love the cemetery in Cimarron, New Mexico, with the hazy purple mountains in the distance.  I love the cemetery at Logan for its windmill in the corner and its lack of perpetual care.  There are yuccas and cedar trees and a view to the Revelto Creek and the graves of my Aunt Ruby and Uncle T.H.  –I Love New Mexico Blog.

The crowd screamed, pushed forward. I knew to lie prostrate on the hot roof. Machine gun fire continued.  –The Block, Kittie Howard.

I’ve spent most of my cooking career running small boutique hotels, private homes and luxurious bed and breakfasts. The best part of working small is playing with unexpected treats like gourmet fruit for garnish. Every morning is  chance for a new work of art.  –New Mexico Photography, Sebastian.

In honesty, my favorite part of living in the land of boats, ships and all is seeing them in stillness. Of this I never tire. Sails folded, long water shadows cast. There is peace in still water and its mirrored reflections.  –Sea Mists and Sunsets, Chris Schutz.

There are men in orange suits and neon signs warning, “Stay Away!” or “Keep Out!” all over the place. But still, there is no sound. Just the wind quietly whistling, and that low vibrational drum beat of science.  –Stark Raving Zen in the Very Large Array, New Mexico.

I stepped outdoors to take this photo and the instant the air hit my skin, it brought back memories of a nine year old girl growing up in East L.A. and having the special treat of ice skating in the Paramount ice rink.  –Taos Sunflower, photo of fog moving up to Arroyo Seco, New Mexico.

I had set up a small piece of the yard, down beneath the far end of the clothesline and there I lived in my head and in my heart for more than one summer.  –Teresa Evangeline.

As I sighted through my viewfinder I knew the long hike and difficult climb had been worth it. I’d found a perfect spot to spend a few wonderful hours doing what I love the most.  –Jeff Lynch, Texas Photography, upon seeing Gorman Falls near Bend, Texas.

On the edge of the darkened wood, the silence falls through the stilted trees…no whippoorwill remains.  –Bonnie Joy Bardos, Bohemian Artist, from blogroll of  The 27th Heart.

And, to be in the present eliminates our ongoing thoughts about our tragic, unhappy pasts.  –Turquoise Moon, from the blogroll of The 27th Heart.

Outside the week of January 31-February 6, 2010, these are two bloggers that fall under Cordilleran blogging.

Christmas Eve our home is always open to our sons’ friends. They come after Taos Pueblo ceremonies, family dinners, drinks with friends. There’s green chile stew, cornbread, cookies. Sausage Cheese Balls. We have a bonfire outside in the pit and listen to the stories of their still young lives.  The moon rises above Pueblo Peak. We relive the past and laugh and tell tales. Toast to their futures.  –Coffee On the Mesa.

Often I gazed across to this remote ridge and wished to bridge the stream.  –Observations from a Missouri River Bluff.


Filed under Cedar, Fine Sentences Series, Juniper

Flying Hats Over Gorman Falls, Texas

Photo Courtesy of Colorado Bend State Park

This is a narrative of how my ranchito in Texas is called, “The Flying Hat,” and of special places on earth that evoke attachment and meaning in an ineffable way, be it Gorman Falls or Estes Park or Truchas Peaks.

Gorman Falls is located in San Saba County, along the Colorado River, downstream from Bend, Texas, and above Lake Buchanan.  Since 1984, Gorman Falls has been managed, fortunately, by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. An artesian spring, ejecting about three-hundred gallons a minute, provide hand-cramping cold water for the falls.

When wading in the water, legs cramp from the cold.  Water cress grows naturally along the stream.

The spring is about one-quarter of a mile up from the falls.  The sound of the waterfall is loud, a low roar, back down by the cliffs, as you walk under a canopy of sycamores, cottonwoods, and pecan trees that give shade,  plunging the ambient temperature ten degrees or more.  The temperature change is so vivid, it is like opening the refrigerator in the house after working outside in the heat.  It is no wonder that the Comanche, the working cowboys of the Gorman and Lemons Ranches, planned their day to be close to the falls when toil eased at mid-day or stopped in the evening, so that the cool air and artesian water might ease their muscles or give good medicine to the tribe.

I know of these things, maybe not the Comanche camp, by listening to my grandmother who tended the chuck wagon for her husband who managed cattle for the ranches.  My grandmother, Effie, took me to the falls many times, always pointing out on the downhill slope to Gorman Falls, “That’s where we camped and set up the wagon, built a fire right there.”  And, I would look and see bleached rocks and junipers, a clearing in the trees, and, yes, the remnants of a fire, her fire, many layers below.  I thought of the cowboys who herded cattle, sitting down and eating beans, cornbread, and beef that my grandmother cooked.  She was not that tough of a woman, of a person, to fix grub on the ranches, but she did.  She followed my grandfather because she loved him and would cook for him and his pardners, as they tended cattle in the blazing hot, anvil-hard earth, Texas sun.  Gorman Falls, with its cool, artesian water, was Beulah land, paradise, relief beyond belief, for them, for me.

I have camped many times under the sycamores at Gorman Falls, but the time I remember the most was in 1951, when my grandmother, Effie; my stepfather, J. W. Hollingshead; and my mother, Gywn, drove to the falls for a picnic.  I was nine-years-old.  My step-father, J.W., had an old gray, felt hat that was soiled and very, very ugly.  My grandmother had teased him for months to get a new hat and throw his old hat away.  As the four of us chatted under the shade of the trees and cool air along the stream, my grandmother proposed to my stepfather that if he would throw his old hat over the waterfall cliffs, she would throw her bonnet over the falls after his hat.  But, J. W. throws first.  It was an ugly hat.

Smiling so broadly, my stepfather walked to the edge of the falls and threw his hat over the cliff, the wind and mists of the water catching it, holding it, and then settling onto the trees below, never to be seen again.  And, with that, my grandmother, grinning and chuckling softly, walked to the edge of the falls, unpinned the hat from her hair, and threw her hat, a yellow, broad-brimmed hat trimmed in wide black ribbons, into the air and it, too, settled with the mists of the falls onto the trees below.  The hats flew, suspended, they flew.

We all laughed and I, to myself, admired my grandmother for creating an event that took us beyond our scarce resources as a family, the jobs under good, but insensitive bosses, to a place that transcended our daily duty, our toil.  Yes, I laughed, too, but I was a witness, a boy looking at his gods, knowing something, but not understanding everything they did.

Time is fleeting.  I grew.  They worked.  They played, they loved.  They went away.  My grandmother passed in May 1965, my stepfather in December 2002, and my mother in April 2003.

In November 2003, I purchased land near Mingus, Texas, from the inheritance of my family.  I named the place, The Flying Hat.  That would be the best name, a time when all four of us were laughing:  my grandmother, stepfather, mother, and me, beside hand-cramping artesian water, under sycamore trees, as flying hats settle onto trees below.  These days, my granddaughter and I deliberately throw our hats off the terrace of our ranch house to amuse ourselves, but we know, deep down, the flying hats over Gorman Falls, Texas, flew first.



Portions of this post first appeared on The Flying Hat Horses website, several months ago.  The “About Us” page on the website is currently being revised.  The Colorado Bend State Park has infrequent field trips to the falls.  The Colorado Bend State Park, however, is open to campers and fishermen.

I visited Gorman Falls with my grandmother and relatives when it was under the supervision of the Lemons and Gorman Ranches (I’m not sure which ranch). Being privately owned, it lacked meticulous cleanups, having certain debris trails along the Colorado River bank and artesian stream. Despite that, the greenery around the stream was composed of ferns, some native.  I would like to go back and type the plants, especially the water cress, since my grandmother fixed a salad one time beside the stream by harvesting the cress.  I stated in the post that the temperature would fall ten degrees.  I have not taken the ambient temperature under the the canopy of trees, and I will correct my post if I have more data.

The fifty-three acres I purchased was with the inheritance I received from Effie, J.W., and Gywn, so I thought it proper to pay some respect by the naming, Flying Hat.  This fifty-three acres in Erath County is combined with thirty-five acres I share with my cousins in Mills County for a total of eighty-eight acres.  Living with eighty-eight acres is a soothing and fiery experience.  John Wesley Powell, in the nineteenth century, wrote that in the West a ranch should be comprised of at least 2,560 acres, so as to sustain a profitable operation.  Today, a lot of us in the southwest, have much less than 2,560 acres (four sections, English township nomenclature), but we have jobs to supplement our income and a passion to live with the land.  My grandfather, J.W., who helped manage the Gorman and Lemons Ranches, worked at times for the Santa Fe Railroad, to supplement his income and to save some for his own ranch.

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Filed under Colony Road