Sweeping the Yard

During the drought of the 1950’s, our water well and stock tanks at Fitzhugh, Texas went dry. The cattle dad didn’t sell were hauled to my grandfather John Bowles’ ranch in Spicewood, Texas. The ranch on the Pedernales River would provide water for the livestock. My father, Malcolm Bowles, became a carpenter in Austin and tended his livestock on weekends. We rented a house on South First Street with indoor plumbing, the first place we lived with such luxury. It would be years before we had hot water.

This was the first time my family had been dependent on anyone for water. I remember my parents being upset over an $8.00 bill from the City of Austin Utility. A decision was made to let what grass we had in the yard die. My mother’s two rose bushes would be kept alive with dish and bath water, toilet rules were; if it is brown flush it down, if it is yellow let it mellow. My older brother and I were encouraged to take our standing business behind the garage.

As the drought lingered, the dirt in the yard began to pack hard and crack on the top. To keep from tracking dusty dirt particles into the house, mother would hand my brother and I brooms to sweep up the loose dirt and debris in the yard. The old push lawn mower rusted in the garage, until the spring of 1957 when it started raining and didn’t stop.

Austin’s population in 1950 was 132,000; today it is fast approaching a million. Maybe the time has come to turn off the sprinklers and pick up the brooms again?

Malcolm and Alta Bowles
Malcolm and Alta Bowles – Pedernales dry riverbed ca 1950
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