Denton, Tx. 1920-1938. pp. Typescript on rectos only. Folio sheets, loose. Light wear and soiling, primarily at edges. Manuscript corrections and notations throughout. Very good. Item #1705
An apparently unpublished typescript of a story about ranch life in Texas at the turn of the century. There is substantial detail about ranch life, farming practices, and other daily activities on a ranch in Texas. The author clearly had intimate knowledge of these activities and conveys it through his fiction. Our hero, Tom Hunter, is orphaned by the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and raised by his grandmother. He attends Texas A&M where he receives a first-class education and meets the Dalton family, spending holiday break at their beautiful ranch. Tom meets a young girl while there and relates to her his dreams of cultivating the perfect ranch -- well irrigated, productive, and worked by the honest labor of his own hands. He returns home after college to his family farm, which he has inherited. While working one day, he is suddenly and inexplicably approached by Mr. Cephas Powers, who questions him thoroughly and observes his strong work ethic. Powers proposes to "buy him":
"'...I infer that you are ambitious to make a reputation as a farmer and ranchman. You realize that you cannot for many years make that reputation on this ranch with your limited means and limited boundaries. ... When I say that I want to buy you, I mean just what I say. I want your whole time and all your thought and energy. ... I want you to take a tract of land and make the best ranch and farm out of it to be found any where in the Southwest. I have heard your history and know enough about you to be able to make you the offer without any conditions except that you agree to stay single and that you employ only single men in all positions of responsibility and trust.'"
The offer is bold and pays extremely well -- and Tom will be able to realize his dream. Not only that, the ranch he is to improve is the Dalton ranch, as well as the land around it (all the Daltons having apparently, and conveniently, died). First on his list of orders is connecting a telephone line to the nearest railroad station and purchasing some neighboring land. He sets about these tasks, and also hires a good friend from college, Wat Durbin, to work with him on the ranch. Wat brings his Black servants with him, all of whom speak in a heavily stylized dialogue: "'I ahm monstrous glad somebody kum sides dese heathen Mexicans what kain't talk folks' talk at all but jes jabbers like a passel o wile annimules."
Train car loads of supplies and machinery and animals begin to arrive, all described in loving detail and all sent by the mysterious Cephas Powers. Tom hires an Irishman and a German fellow, and describes everyone at the ranch as "a jolly crowd." Everyone agrees to forego women while working at the ranch, and improvement on a grand scale begins -- Mexicans clear acreage, the men start on telegraph poles and a road, the ranch is furnished and appointed well, and the German makes "twenty five of the best [bee] hives I ever saw and was anxious to make more." Tom buys the neighbor's property and adds it to the fold. The ranch is thriving and producing loads of cattle, crops, and timber. "The cattle were all sleek and fat and the colts and calves gambolled on the prairie where flowers of every conceivable hue strove to lend color to the scene. Any man who could not feel happy in Texas in May is sadly in need of reform."
Tom receives a note from Cephas Powers directing him to pick the owner of the ranch up at the train station. Lo and behold, the owner is none other than the young Dalton girl that he had befriended and related his dreams to these many years past, all grown up and with several maids and a niece in tow. The women settle into the house and proceed to furnish and outfit it to their style. The owner, Kate, also tours the ranch extensively, delighting in improvements and all the progress made on her behalf. The work ends, we suspect, prematurely, with the relocation of a family of skunks. There is no doubt in this cataloguer's mind that the intention is for Tom to marry Kate and become the owner of the ranch, completing the dream and the happily ever after ending. Whether the rest of the story was written and lost or never completed, we cannot say.
H.F. Browder served as Farm Agent for Denton County and in the city's Chamber of Commerce. Additional correspondence present here deals mostly with family genealogy, though one letter from 1920 is from T.O. Walton of the Cooperative Extension of the Department of Agriculture in College Station, discussing the Farm Bureaus and farming practices. An interesting story, full of rich characters and rife with detail about daily life in early 20th-century Texas.