Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hog Trapping

I've had enough! My sons Ben and Grider helped me put out the portable hog trap this morning. It has been wet and cold but no one complained. We put the trap in the corner of a torn up pasture in front of a well used trail. We should either catch hogs or dogs, but it would have to be a dog that likes sour mash.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Indian Campground

Many of the places on the K-Bar are very visible, but some require some imagination. The Indian Campground falls in the latter column. I will also refer to it as Indian Village or even Indian burial ground to make it fit a story.
Actually, this was something we did not know existed until fairly recently. The village is on a tract of land we did not own until the 1980's. We knew it as a walnut grove, and it touched part of the existing ranch. After Dad and my brother Bil purchased this tract and logged the pine timber, one of the foresters we knew told us that the walnut trees that were present was a strong sign that Native Americans had camped and lived in the area. This was easy to believe;there are no other walnut trees even close. Therefore, we summarized, the trees were planted, and because of there size and age they must have been planted several hundred years ago. Or, at least there parents were.
The area was well known by both Dad and Uncle Al. The village was very close to where Hottel Creek and Bluff-off Creek merge. The alluvial bottom land was, (and still is) full of river cane, Myrtle, and other evergreen plants that range animals lived on during the winter. The stock men of the area would come to this area for winter roundups. Now the area is full of wild hogs and deer that eat the same vegetation. Uncle Al remembers that one of the last of the range hogs lived there. The old sow was a real old fashioned rooter, and was protective of her little pigs. He was a little scared to be in this area un-armed.
I have told the village tale several times. When it looked like the I-69 road project was coming directly through the ranch, I inferred that the route would disturb an Indian burial ground, therefore needed to be moved. The project is on hold, so for now the place is still somewhat sacred.
Dad was a good storyteller and told us bedtime tales when we were young. One of my favorite serial pieces was of a young Caddo hunter/warrior. Dad was very smart and knowledgeable of the native tribes, but when he created and told these tales he did not know of the village. When I explore the area now, I can easily imagine that this was the village of that Caddo family, his description was spot-on.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Burned Over Meadow

Fairy tales begin with "Once upon a time", disaster stories around the K-Bar usually begin with "One day Dad decided to ___". This is the story of the Burned Over Meadow, also known as the burned over area.
One day Dad decided to burn some brush piles left after logging. I need to confess that I was not home during this catastrophe, I was away at school. I put together the story from the participants, primarily my brother Bob and Dad. The brush piles in question were over a year old, so they were dry. It was in January, and the winter had been wet, emphasise on been. It was now dry and windy, perfect to burn. My brothers attempted to talk reason to Dad, but his mind was made up.
Papa was there to help and began to clear a fire row with a hand rake as the rest threw diesel on the wood and set the piles ablaze. The pile burned well, what with a good west wind fanning the flames. The wood burned so well that things got out of control and soon the woods were on fire. Dad blames it all on the hand rake breaking, but the dry windy conditions probably had something to do with it. Papa left to get Mama packed and to safety, he knew the fire would not stop until it hit a major highway, (Papa was not always optimistic.)
Eventually the US Forest service arrived with some volunteer firemen. They used a dozer to clear lanes and with many men put out the forest fire. The positives of the disaster were the Moffet Volunteer Fire Department was formed, (and that is a very good thing,) and we had several new acres of cleared land. NO houses or building were destroyed and nor neighboring forests were touched. Dad still claims he had it under control until the rake handle broke, but my brother Bob still remembers the flames going from tree top to tree top. This is something I have experienced as well. It is scary.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tracking my Past

Ben (my son) and I were checking out the hardwood bottoms of the ranch last week and I saw this wonderful coon track in a sandbar. Immediately, my heart began to race as the sign brought back memories of my young adulthood. In the late 1970's and early 1980's I almost eradicated the coon population on the ranch. I loved to coon hunt.
I only had one coon dog at a time, but we hunted frequently. My friends from school would come out to hunt with me. I had some great memories, like running down a county road, (I hunted on foot,) chasing my dog Stump who was hot on a trail, and ending up jumping a fence around a large cemetery because that where the coon decided to tree. My friend would not go with me and I did not shoot that coon out, because of respect for the dead and the fact that I did not want to talk the a sheriff deputy that night.
Of course, I hunted at night, crashing through briar's and sloughs with only a small head light and a hand held flashlight. Usually I hunted in the winter, so I could sell the hides of the coons I killed.
Now I look back on those days, and instead of being amazed at how stupid that seemed, I would secretly love to live them again, without the darkness, the scratches, and the cold wet clothes. The coons are back, and for now-they are safe.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Tower

The Tower is a radio and telecommunications tower that is on the Cheatham Hill. The hill is one of the highest spots in Angelina County. The views from the top are breathtaking. Papa cleared and farmed on the hill as long as I can remember, however the hill is very susceptible to drought conditions. It does have a good red clay base, (as evident by the fire any mounds) and was an favorite spot of mine. I planted prickly pears at one end of the pasture that I rescued from West Texas and they still grow.
Once the tower was built and the buildings that followed were erected, this has become a blight on the ranch. The natural beauty is scared and the tower companies are scum.

The one good thing about the tower is that the clearing for the guy wires gives me a great 200 yard shooting path.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hog Wild

Wild hogs have invaded the K-Bar. These feral pigs are basically nocturnal and I am yet to see one, but I can see the damage they do rooting for food. These are where I first saw the signs, in the hardwood creek bottoms. The main area is where the loggers stages the logs the last time we logged the bottom tracts. This is a remote area and I even have the cattle and goats shut out of this area for now, (until after deer season-which ended a few weeks ago.)
This is not he first time hogs have lived on the K-Bar. When Papa and his family moved here almost all the local farmers, (himself included,) raised hogs on the open range. East Texas was hog country, but they were tough woods hogs. After the range was closed by stock laws in the early 1950's, people ceased raising hogs. Now they are back- with a vengeance!
We have been sparred from their destruction until this year. I suspect some of my neighbors baited the on their places to hunt them. As long as they stay in the bottoms I am not worried but...

As long as the hogs rooted up areas in the wooded bottoms they were OK. Now they are destroying pasture. Now it looks as if I need to start controlling these pests. The traps will be set soon

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


The K-Bar Ranch is all about animals, but the animals that rank the highest,(after humans,) are the dogs. There have been a few really outstanding dogs that have lived and worked on the K-Bar, a few descent ones and a lot that we fed. Sarita is on the edge between descent and outstanding. If longevity has anything to do with it, she is outstanding. Not bad for a mangy, stray, one eyed, fat girl.

We have always had dogs, but Dad was dog less several years ago when Sarita wondered on to the place. She was a mangy starving pup, and a female. We usually don't do females. The breeding cycles of dogs are too much for us to handle. Dad was desperate, so he took what God provided. We covered her coat with old crank case oil to help with the mange and fed her. It took years to get rid of her mange and to put real weight on her. Eventually both happened. Now she is a little on the plump side.

She originally had two good eyes, but not a good since of what a Suburban can do while backing up. Mother backed into her while she was not much older than a pup, (but right after Dad took her to a real vet to get her fixed. Dad never took dogs to a real vet, and when Sarita got backed into he thought this was a sign.) She recovered completely except for loosing her eye. Who would have ever thought a dog with this kind of start would ever survive for long on the ranch, but Sarita may be the oldest dog to ever live on the K-Bar. Go figure!

Her best attribute is her protectiveness. She is a very good guard dog. She is also very tough! She rules the ranch and all the places next to it. Sarita is the queen of the area. Interesting thought is what if Sarita outlives Dad? This could be a problem. Mother is not as attached to dogs as Dad is, and she sure isn't as attached to the place. Ten years ago I would have not worried about this, Dad was in great health and his dog was a one eyed fat girl with a desire to fight coyotes and a history of hair loss.Now she is a fixture.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Swamp

To be honest, I have always been fascinated by swamps. Swamps, sloughs, ox boughs, what ever you want to call them, are really interesting places. I firmly believe that land animals crawled on to land from the primordial ooze at a swamp. This swamp is close to Hottel Creek, (probably part of the stream at one time,) and close to the West Meadow. It is very shallow and has begun to dry up completely during the summer months. It is well shaded and the hub of much animal activity.
One of my first memories of The Swamp was when Uncle Al and I looked for salamanders there. The ones we found were the first I had ever seen in person. Because of the fluctuation in water levels, I have not found a salamander in years. I have found crawfish however, at times lots of crawfish. Because of these crustaceans one can find other animals as well. This was the place I started most of my hunts during my coon hunting days. Many raccoons or opossums could be found dining on the crawfish during the early spring.
Because of the sweetgum and beach trees that surround the water, The Swamp is well shaded and can be cool during the summer months. It also grows potent poison ivy, of which I am highly allergic, and has been assaulted by Chinese tallow trees in the last few years. As of yesterday, it had not been overrun by the feral hogs that have attacked other areas, but it it just a matter of time.
The ranch had many other small sloughs such as this one on it, many of which have been destroyed due to logging and farming. I am glad this one has survived, but like so many things on the ranch, it's survival is in danger. Yes, that is ice on the water.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Steer

We name cows, goats, donkeys, horses or any other animal we plan to keep for more than a year. Because of this time limit, we seldom named steers. Bulls-yes, cows-yes, but since we sold steers (emasculated bulls) at 400-500 lbs. they were simply identified with their mother, (Piggy's steer, Buggy's steer, etc.) The Steer originally was going to be sold as a yearling, but he has skills. He can't roll over or ride a bike, but he can escape anytime we tried to load him. He is not mean or aggressive, but he can jump and he knows where the weakest part of the lot is.
Now he is big as well as agile. We may never load him. He is big enough that the cowboys who would rope and load a cow are now a little scared of the steer. They think that if he and their roping horse got in a tug-of-war, the Steer would win. They are probably correct.
Although he is basically gentle, this half longhorn beast is now very big and as such needs to be respected. Earlier this year I was feeding the cows some cubes by hand. I never feed bulls out of my hand but I would feed The Steer this way. As I was feeding him he flicked his big horns up at a fly or such and knocked off my cap. The Steer weighs between sixteen and seventeen bills, (1600-1700 lbs.) and his massive head got within a few inches of mine. That was a very sobering thought.
One thing about The Steer that I like is reminds me of oxen of olden days. He looks exactly like the beasts of burden that were instrumental in the logging and freighting businesses that built East Texas. I can only imagine how much raw power a yoke (two) of oxen like The Steer would have. Even though I know the Green Mule could outwork a half dozen oxen, the physical size of the oxen are impressive. He looks much larger in person than in picture. Even digital photography can't capture The Steer. He has skills.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Last Cotton Field

The K-Bar was actually more of a farm than a ranch. Papa was a dairy farmer from the midwest, (born in Iowa, raised in Missouri and Wisconsin,) and after going broke in West Texas during the depression, (The Great One,) he moved his family east. In Angelina County he operated a dairy and small cotton farm.
The cotton operation was small. All the plowing was done by horse or mule, the planting, chopping and harvesting done by hand. After World War 2 cotton prices fell and boil weevils flourished in humid East Texas. By the mid fifties most of the cotton production had left this area and had gone west. Papa believed in cotton, and did not give up. He kept his cotton allotment and continued to work it as a cash crop. By the early sixties he was one of the last cotton farmers in the county.
Before giving up and accepting the fact that the cotton industry had changed permanently, he wanted his grandchildren to experience the joy of cotton, (the plant, not the cloth.) This field was his last one that he worked. He plowed with Old General, had a hand planter so he didn't have to bend over, used the hoes to thin the stand, (chopping) and then expected his elementary school (and younger,) grandsons to help pick and harvest. This field was between a pond, (the West Pond,) Hottel Creek and a swamp-all of which were much more interesting than picking cotton by hand. Even though Mama had hand sewn some tow-sacks for cotton sacks for the kids, Papa found it much easier just to pick the cotton himself.
The final issue was getting the cotton ginned. At one point there were cotton gins all over Angelina County-including one less than a hundred yards from this field. However, the last gin in the county had closed by the early sixties. Papa then had to carry his cotton to Nacogdoches to be ginned, but the gins in that county soon closed as well. The last place he went was in Crockett, but the hundred mile round trip was not worth it.
The last cotton field is now know as the West Meadow. It is sandy creek bottom soil and can really grow grass, but when it has been ignored and not mowed for a year or two, it grows weeds and pine saplings well too.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Green Mule

"The Old Green Mule, She ain't what she used to be"
The Green Mule is actually a 1973 John Deere 2640, (nothing runs like a deere.) She is only the third tractor to live on the K-Bar. Before the 1970's all the horsepower for the farm and ranch work was done by, well by horses and mules. The first tractor was an old Cub Cadet. It was a used tractor bought by Dad that ran (sporadically) on gas. It was small, had a belly mower and did not have a three point hitch. It was better than what we had before, (nothing,) but it became clear the ranch needed a bigger tractor.
The first John Deere was a diesel tractor bought in the late 1970's by Dad and my brother Bob. It was much larger, and had the ability to pull disks and bush-hogs. It was the work horse for a long time until Dad had an opportunity to trade(with a little cash) for a larger tractor, and that is the tractor in the picture. It was named the "green mule" by Dad one fall as we were dragging hardwood logs from the soggy creek bottoms to the sandy hills where we could cut them up and split them up for posts and firewood. "The big logs were heavy, but not too heavy for my green mule."
Yes, It runs. One thing about the men of the K-Bar. We aren't as concerned about cosmetics as we are about performance. Dad is not one to quit on a garment because of a little wear or a change in style. He feels the same about the equipment. It may look like it is about to fall apart, but it still works,(although it does have a flat tire-rubber and locust thorns don't mix.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

The "West" Pond
There are three ponds on the original farm. They were known by their geographic location. They are the East Pond, (closet to the old house), the North Pond and the West Pond. These unimaginative names are an oddity on the ranch, a place where every animal and place has a name.Something unusual in this picture is the ice sheet on the part by the dam. It rarely gets cold enough to freeze the ponds on the ranch. This picture was taken January 10,2010. Yes, it has been cold!
The West Pond is the largest of the original ponds, (although Lake Folly is much larger.) Some unique facts about this pond. It was built along the old county road that was one of the older roads in the area. Non-native bear grass can still be found along the ditches of the old road. The yucca like plants were used by the settlers for everything from straw hats to sausage hangers for the smokehouse. Because of the proximity to the road, there were many large holes dug before the Killams bought this land. The holes were dug by treasure hunters looking for lost Mexican payrolls.

Papa's Barn

Papa's Barn is showing the wear and tear of all the ranch. Originaly a milking barn for 3-5 cows, Papa built this timber framed barn almost completely by himself. He was a great carpenter. It was used for over 50 years, but during the last dozen or so it was badly neglected and began to fall apart. Hurricane Rita started it demolision and Hurricane Ike pretty much finished the job. Papa's barn was once the pride of the farm, now it is just another example of how neglected the farm is. Papa is gone, Dad is on his last leg and I may be the last Killam to ranch on the K-Bar. I don't have the time or money to run the ranch like Papa did. I feel the strain, and sometimes feel like the barn looks.

"The Dutch" is the last of a line of Brahman/Simmental cross cattle that I developed years ago. I bottle fed a red Brahman (or brehmer as they are known in East Texas) when I first got out of UT. She became a big red cow and I named her Rowena, red girl in Spanish. Dad ran Simmental bulls at the time on her range and the resulting cross were big range cows that calved regularly, (usually males,) and gave good milk without having to feed a lot of grain. They were very aggressive and clannish with the rest of the herd. They were always the boss. I like them.
Rowena had a granddaughter I named Piggy. She lived up to her name. Dad hated her but I liked her aggressive attitude. She never harmed me, or anyone else that I know of, but she would sell her soul for a little extra feed. Duchess was Piggy's last calf, and now she is just known as "The Dutch." She always calves and raises good animals. She is a money maker. Even though we have cut the cow herd way back, Dad kept "The Dutch."