Short Stories: Jim Garry

Jim GaryThe Williamson County Historical Commission sponsored the third event of a series labeled "A Toast to our Past" at the county courthouse in Georgetown on January 25, 2022. The title of this event was Williamson County and the Wild, Wild West. Jim Garry's talk was the third of three presentations that evening.

Jim was introduced by January Raesz.

From Jim Garry

During the Republic of Texas period, Sam Houston appointed Robin Williamson as a judge to hold court in the feuding Shelby County. He rode into town, confiscated the unused building, cleaned it up, set up a table and chair and announced that court would be held.

When the day for court arrived, everybody in the county had come to town, sure there wasn't going to be any court. The spokesman for the people walked up and laid a Bowie knife on Williamson's law books and said, "Around here, this is the law." Williamson reached under his coat and pulled out two Paterson Colt pistols. He tapped the Bowie knife with one pistol, saying, "This may be the law," and tapping the other pistol said, "but this is the constitution of the Republic of Texas, court is in session."

We think of the wild west in terms of gunfights, lynchings and feuds, but beneath it all were people making their living and getting from one generation to the next on the same piece of land. My family settled on Brushy Creek and farmed on our land. My daddy's uncles would tell him family stories and he passed them on to me. Uncle Emzy Taylor had to have a job so that he could afford to ranch and farm. But his real love was horses and mules and he took to breaking 36 mules for cotton wagons.

Mules aren't stubborn, their smart. They're not going to do something until they understand why you're asking them to do it. Sometimes you make a request and they make a point of their side with their hind feet. You're training them with a two-wheel rig and sitting low in the wagon at just the right height to be kicked in the face. You make sure the rig has a long shaft to harness the mule far enough that he can't reach you when he kicks.

The mule understands that he's the engine and trains fairly easy on flat country. Downhill is a problem because all of a sudden you're asking him to do the brakes, and that doesn't make sense to him. He thinks the only logical thing to do is stay ahead of the wagon. The technical word for what happens next is called "a runaway." You can pull back on the reins and holler "whoa" as loud as you can and it has no effect.

You solve the problem by attaching a cuff on one front ankle with a rope within your reach. When the mule starts running, you pull back on the reins, say "whoa," count to three and then pick up that front foot. The mule knows he can't run downhill on three legs and so he stops. After a few times, he realizes that if he stops before three, he can stop on all four feet.

Uncle Emzy hired two high school students from Taylor to help train the mules one summer. By the middle of the summer, Emzy agreed to let them borrow the rig and a mule to spend the weekend in town. He warned them not to let "Little Jimmy" run away down Brown's hill.

These two teenage boys put their heads together and decided cuffs on both front feet is better than just one. Headed to town at a good clip down Brown's hill, the one boy pulls back on the reins and says, "Whoa." The other counts real slow to three and pulls back on the front ankles. The mule buries his nose in the road, as well as the point of the rig's harness shaft converting the rig into a pretty good-sized catapult.

When the dust settled, the mule's lying on his back, head uphill, rig's in not too good a shape on the downhill side of the mule and the two boys are down among the cottonwoods. They claimed they weren't hurt any, though one had a broken arm. And I bet you couldn't have laid a half-dollar down on either one of them and found a place that didn't touch a bruise or scrape. Emzy said that if it wasn't so hard on the mules, it would be a great way to train them. That mule could be running flat out in the pasture and if he heard you holler "whoa," he would immediately stop.