Published on July 28, 2020

River’s End weaves its way through fabric of our lives

By Jan Edwards
The Bulletin

“Life is like a woven blanket – each colorful thread adds a bit to the story, the history of a place. I’ve been looking through some of my old postings for ideas to share with you when I came across this piece I wrote when I moved here 20 years ago.
River’s End, where I live, is a mixture of history, mystery and love. Old timers from back then are a “certain kind of people” that have woven a warm, comfortable blanket of memories for Roy and me.

The longer I live at the end of the river, the more I see the intricate weaving of the threads of life that bind us to this magical place - or that brought us here in the first place.

One weekend years ago, JoAnn McDonald called me to tell me that Barbara Churchill was visiting and that she had a lot to say about the early River’s End, which she referred to as “the river” back in the late 1940s and early 50s. I wanted to hear about this, so I walked over to Jo’s, and we all had a cup of coffee and a bunch of conversation. Threads that run through our lives have led us to River’s End. Cutting out just a little piece of River’s End fabric shows you what I mean.

Barbara Churchill explained that she grew up in southeast Houston on Elm Street. One block over on Erath Street lived Earl and Bo King and their family and Lee and Donise McDonald and their family.

Earl King had originally been from Angleton, and he knew about the fish camps on the San Bernard. The camps started just below where the old San Bernard swing bridge used to be (Churchill Bridge) with Franklin’s Camp (where 2J’s Café was), down river to Laird’s Camp (where Fiddler’s Island is), continuing down river to Burlington’s (where CR 441A is today), and finally Ducroz Camp at “the point.”

Back then, you could get a cabin at Laird’s Camp – or any of the others - for $2 a night. But mostly, Barbara’s crew stayed at Laird’s’ Camp.

Earl King had previously introduced the McDonald family to the end of the river before moving to Webster, and now he and Bo brought the Churchill family down here to fish and have fun.

About the time that the Kings brought the Churchills to the San Bernard for the first time, Allen Churchill met the McDonald bunch at an ice house in Houston. He was so impressed with the things they had in common that he brought the whole bunch home to meet his then-pregnant wife, Maude, at about 1 a.m.

Well, they got along so well that Maude made breakfast for the whole bunch (Lee and Donise McDonald, Lee’s half-sister, Martha, and her husband J.L. Richardson).

That began a true friendship between the families, and once Maude Churchill got her driver’s license, she and Donise McDonald would often pack up all the kids and some board games in her Henry J and come down to the river when their husbands had to work.

As they grew, the teen-aged Kings, McDonalds and Churchills fished and swam in the river and hung out at Shorty’s. The girls drank Cokes, and the boys drank that 25-cent beer that Shorty was so famous for. They all flirted and danced with each other.

JoAnn was swimming in the river when she met her husband, David.

Seems like someone at Shorty’s “encouraged” him to leave by throwing him in the river.

David McDonald’s uncle, Kenneth Shindler, was in the Navy, and when he came for a visit, Barbara Churchill fell head over heels for him.

They all spent time together in their summers of carefree youth and then drifted out of River’s End to marry other people and raise families. But the river has quite a siren’s song, and it never really left their hearts.

Now, the river has called them all back.

JoAnn and David McDonald are still married as well as Barbara Churchill and Kenneth Shindler. Tommy King, the son of Earl and Bo King, and his wife, Sondra, owned the house on the river next to our present home.

Now, keep up with me. The tapestry goes on and is finely woven here. Even though my husband, Roy, had come down here fishing in the ‘70s, he had not been back in a while. Work and raising children can call louder than the river at times.
But here we pick up another thread.

Tommy King was my husband’s sergeant in the Harris County Sheriff’s department, and when he had a Fourth of July party, we were invited to his house. We fell under the River’s End spell. After that, we came down every chance we got and finally bought our place in 2004 from Tommy King’s sister and brother-in-law – Pat and R. H. Blue.

Here’s yet another binding thread. Our longtime family friend who painted the murals in and outside Roy and my house, Kristin Shirley, was a teenager in the same neighborhood as the Kings, Churchills and McDonalds – 20 years later.

She came to River’s End because of our requests and has beautified it with her paintings and the sign she carved coming onto our island home – “Welcome to Fisherman’s Isle”.

Picking up another couple of threads of our tapestry, our neighbors, Harold and Pearlie Caudill, are also woven into life’s fabric here. Before Harold and Pearlie retired, they owned both a construction company and a racetrack. It seems that Harold worked several heavy construction jobs at the same time that David McDonald did, and he knew him before they bought a place here. And, because of the racetrack, they knew Lisa Schuble’s uncle, Mid Love, and his boys, as they raced cars at their track. Now, they’ve all met up again here at River’s End.

All the fine threads tied together by the love of the river and the independence found in the wildlife and solitude down here. This piece of the woven threads was recorded 20 years ago. Today, there are new people moving down here again, and as we work toward opening the mouth of the river a second time, more rich, colorful threads are being added to our fine tapestry.

(Write Jan in care of The Bulletin. Email: john.bulletin@gmail.com. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)