For over twenty-five years, I made my home in Wichita County in North Texas where the land is rolling hills, arid, and for the most part, barren. I can’t imagine what the early settlers must’ve thought when they first laid eyes on it. It doesn’t even remotely resemble a fertile place in which to make a home. There’s just not much to recommend it so I have no idea what the attraction was.
Other than a few trees that grew along the streams and rivers, wood was a scarce commodity. So when pioneers came west and settled here, they had nothing except dirt from which to make a home. They grabbed a shovel and set to work. The early settlers carved dugouts into the sides of hills around here. Also, the dugouts were actually warmer in winter and cooler in summer than other types of houses.
But they were nothing to write home about. They were dark inside with only a door to allow light and in most the floors was nothing but dirt. Can you imagine a woman trying to keep things clean?
Or keeping the creepy crawly things out.
Or for the pioneer woman to see to do the sewing, cooking or reading.
It must’ve been miserable even though they were lucky to have the shelter.
According to the Wichita Falls Museum of North Texas History, one of the early families to make friends with the Wichita Indians and set up housekeeping on the tall grass prairie was the W. T. Bunton family. He carved a dugout from a hill that is near the present day downtown area and lived in it with his wife and two boys. Several more children were born to them there. I’m sure cramped wasn’t the word for the tight quarters. Everything was in one room. The women who lived back then were as tough as a piece of dried shoe leather. They did whatever needed doing to survive.
Another family to settle in Wichita County was Monroe Dodson with his wife and children. He too carved a dugout from a bluff. Here’s an excerpt from a young adult nonfiction book titled “In the Land of the Wichitas” by Dorothy Crowder that describes the Dodson dugout:
“Other than a few cowboys from the Samuel Burk Burnett 6666 Ranch, there were no other white neighbors of the Dodson family. Let us go near the dugout which serves as the family home. It is carved from the red earth of the river’s bluff. It is 14 x 14 and houses the entire family and the hunting dog. Mr. Dodson has carved a fireplace into the south side of the dugout. The chimney does not draw well, and the tiny room is filled with smoke…. The children are tumbled in piles of fur, which form their beds….”
Oh, lovely! The pioneers paid a handsome price for adventure, cheap land, and wide open spaces.
The book doesn’t mention what kind of fuel the Dodson’s burned but I’m sure it was mostly dried buffalo chips or something like that. Thousands of buffalo roamed this area until they ran headlong into the mangy buffalo hunters’ big guns.
I’m currently writing a series called Men of Legend and it’s set in the Wichita Falls/Vernon, Texas area on a large fictional ranch called The Lone Star. It was established by patriarch, Stoker Legend, and comprises four hundred and eighty thousand acres that he’s carved out for his sons—Houston, Sam and Luke. The land is wild and unforgiving and requires a blessed mental toughness to survive.
These men have what it takes. They’ve fought Comanche, drought, fires, floods and outlaws to plunk down roots so deep it would take forty pounds of dynamite to blast them out. Their blood is spilled on this land and they’re not running from a fight.
They are a proud family. They are blood. THEY ARE LEGENDS.
Highlight October 4th on your calendar. Book one – TO LOVE A TEXAS RANGER – will ride into bookstores and online. You don’t want to miss this.