Martha Jane Makes Homestead Tracks In Texas

Third and Fourth Generations Follow
by Sandra Sue Pittman

When the wind mixes with a driving sleet in West Texas, a cow, a calf and a young girl should be someplace out of the bitter cold. Preferably someplace warm.  Stella's thoughts about someplace warm kept her going in the driving sleet.  The cow was having a hard time of it, too.  Stella could tell by the tension on the rope that kept the mother as close to her newborn as she could get.  The calf, barely four hours old, was draped across her saddle sharing the slicker that was doing a passable job of keeping the rain and ice from soaking them both.

Stella looked up just before her horse crossed the road through the gate where the sign was covered in snow and dripping with ice sickles.  Just able to make out Wristen Ranch through the blowing sleet and snow, she peered beyond the sign to make out the house and barn  down the snow covered  wagon rutted tracks.  Holding back on the horse so the cow could keep up, she spoke softly to the shivering calf, "Hang on little one, we'll get you warm and fed real soon.  Dear god, let there be somebody here who will take us in for the night."

The answer to her prayer was standing beside the barn swinging a lantern.  As she neared the barn door, Stella allowed the cowboy to take the reins and lead them inside.  For the first time in what seemed like hours, she took a full breath of air without the wool scarf filtering the cold and ice. 

Numb and shivering, she handed the calf to the out stretched arms who quickly rubbed the calf down with a toesack, laid it beside it's mother and returned to the girl as she nearly fell from the saddle.

"I bet yore Stella Carroll," said the cowboy as he helped her to the pot bellied stove in the tack room of the barn.  "I'm Bob Offield.  I met yore Mother, brothers and sister today when they was stuck in a mudhole jesta mile or two down the road from here.  Can't say I'm surprised to see you.  Yore Mama said you were jest a few hours behind with a cow and a newborn calf.  Looks like you did a right fine job of getting all of you this far.  Now let's get you unfroze a bit before we git on up to the main house where Miz Wristen will fix you somethin' to warm you up".

With her chattering teeth, Stella was having a hard time saying her thanks, but managed to nod her head in agreement as Bob motioned her to the stool in front of the fire.  He threw in another log and stoked the embers as Stella pulled off her gloves and hat, and unwrapped the shawl she had covering her head and shoulders.  Bob noticed that she had the same color hair as her Mama, and the young girl seemed to have that same proud stance and determination that he had witnessed earlier in the day.

The following day dawned with the sun shining on the snow drifts that had piled on the window sill of the room Mrs. Wristen had insisted Stella take for the night.  Stella hadn't had the luxury and comfort of a real bed since leaving Grandpa and Grandma Marleys place.  It seemed like a long time ago, but it had been less than three weeks since she had left Borden County to travel to Grandfalls in the covered wagon she watched roll out of sight so many hours ago.  Now she would have to catch up with her Mama...oh how she wanted to stay under the warm scrap quilts, eat hot food and wait for warmer weather before venturing out again.

"My Daddy died nearly thirteen years ago.  Mama, my brothers and sister and I have been living with my Grandpa and Grandma Marley on their farm in Gail.  Mama heard that Ward County was offering homesteads to farmers who could make it for two years.  So we started off and when we got to Monahans, the storm hit and the cow decided to have her calf.  I'm very grateful to you, Miz Wristen, for your hospitality.  I couldn't have gone much further.  "Stella found herself telling Mrs. Wristen, who was busy making a pan of biscuits and stirring gravy for the ranch hands that would be sitting down to the long oak table for breakfast.

"Your Mother must be a determined woman to take on homesteading in this part of West Texas without a husband.  It's a tough life, and God knows, it takes a mighty strong will and strong back to make it work.  I wish you and your Mama well.  Stella, I can see that you are strong, young Texas woman.  You'll make it."

Pittman Place Cow and Calf ~ Grandfalls, TX ~ 1982 ~ by Sandra Sue Pittman

Around sixty-five years after Martha Jane Carroll and daughter Stella brought their first cow and calf to homestead in Grandfalls, Stella's youngest son, Willard Carroll Pittman, was raising a few head of  cattle and farming Bermuda Grass on twenty-one acres of land in Grandfalls, Texas.

The Pittman Place land was Irrigated out of the same ditch that Willard's father had been 'The Ditch Rider' for Fifty years earlier. 

Willard Carroll Pittman ~ Pittman Place ~ Grandfalls, Texas 1982

Cow Skull ~ by Sandra Sue Pittman
Grandma's Quilt and Shawl ~ Collection of Sandra Sue Pittman