I Heard It at the Icehouse: Grandma Katie

[This is a combination of several posts my father did about his grandmother a couple of years ago when he was putting some of his stories down on his own blog. NJM]

by John M. Moore

John Moore

John M. Moore

My grandmother, whom we called Kate, got married at an early age to Grandpa Asa, who was a strong man. They moved to Christoval, Texas, in Tom Green County, and bought a 100-acre tract which reached to the South Concho River. Asa stocked this track with cattle and then he set about building a hotel.

There was a place nearby which gave people hot sulfur baths. Kate and Asa rented rooms to people who wanted to stay for a while and have these baths. At nightime the staff would move the dining room tables into a corner and the young people would dance to the music from a Victrola while the older folks played dominoes. Meanwhile, Asa set up an irrigation system, using water from the river. The family prospered.

Then one day Asa had an attack of appendicitis, and died shortly thereafter. This left Kate with four children, a hotel and a cattle herd to manage. Kate turned out to be equal to the task. My grandmother helped to raise me and she was a strong influence in my life.

Katie had one brother named Dennis McCarthy. He became a telegraph operator and assistant station manager at the Santa Fe Railroad in Cleveland, Texas. He stayed with his aunt and uncle, the former Jane Lockhart and District Judge L.B. Hightower.

One night while working at the railroad station he witnessed a robbery. He talked to Judge Hightower about it and was referred to the district attorney. Two men were arrested, but released on bond. One night, a few weeks later, Dennis was found stabbed to death. The two men were arrested and later sent to the penitentiary.

Katie went to the funeral for Dennis, but she never forgave Judge Hightower. She thought the advice should have been for Dennis to carry a pistol.

When my grandmother, Katie, was about 90 years old I took her on a trip to the part of East Texas where she was born. We started out in Liberty County and I pulled up in front of a cafe because it was lunch time. “Son,” she asked me, “Have you eaten here before?” I admitted that I had not. She informed me that she did not like to eat in a strange place.

I thought a while and decided to visit the Partlow family. This was a pioneer family, but since they were related to Bill Daniel I had decided not to introduce Katie because she was related to the Hightowers and the Hightowers and Daniels were political enemies. In fact, one of the Hightowers was sheriff at that time.

But I decided to take a chance and we were welcomed by the Partlows. On this day they had set the table for about 24 people. They invited us and we enjoyed a great oldfashioned lunch with them. After that we stopped off in Livingston where Judge Luby Hightower’s picture was hanging on the courthouse wall. “He was a learned man, but he drank too much,” she told me. The judge’s drinking problem was well known in Polk County, but I do not know how Katie found out.

Then we went on to a settlement near the Indian Reservation and I stopped at a large farmhouse. I introduced us to the owners and they invited us to sit and talk. We were in the vicinity where Katie was born but everything had changed. Finally we started back to Friendswood where I was living. “Son,” she said, “I appreciate the trip but it has only shown me how lucky I was to leave East Texas,” she said. “They haven’t made any progress here since I left.”


Flashes of Illumination

Writing runs in the family, obviously. Flashes of Illumination, a collection of my short-short fiction, is now available here from Book View Cafe. This 52-story ebook collects the flash fiction I published weekly during the first year of Book View Cafe, and adds in a few later stories as well.

My novella Changeling remains available as an ebook through Book View Cafe. It’s a coming of age story.

Both books are $2.99 and available in four DRM-free formats: mobi, epub, prc, and pdf.


About Nancy Jane Moore

Nancy Jane Moore's science fiction novel, The Weave, is now available in print and ebook versions from Aqueduct Press. Some of her short stories are now appearing as reprints on Curious Fictions. She is a founding member of Book View Cafe. Her BVC ebooks can be found here. She also has short stories and essays in most of the BVC anthologies. In addition to writing fiction, Nancy Jane, who has a fourth degree black belt in Aikido, teaches empowerment self defense. She is at work on a self defense book that emphasizes non-fighting skills.


I Heard It at the Icehouse: Grandma Katie — 3 Comments

  1. Why, Nancy! what a remarkable family you have. How amazing that your grandmother was able to manage four children, a hotel and a cattle herd all by herself. I remember the large old fashioned southern dinners from when I was a child in North Carolina (the three daily meals were called breakfast, dinner and supper, of course).

  2. Hey, Gaye. Nice to see you here. My greatgrandmother cooked all the meals for all those people — including hotel guests and assorted others — on a woodburning stove. I think that got left out of Daddy’s remembrances, but I’ve heard it elsewhere.

  3. Great story! You’re fortunate to have these writings of your father’s. I have plenty of oral stories handed down from my family, many of which provide fodder for my fiction. But Maine’s a far cry from Texas! Thanks for sharing!