Published on September 8, 2020

My boyhood memories of Catfish Creek and grandpa

By Roy Edwards
The Bulletin

It was summertime in the mid-1950s, and a bunch of grandkids were spending a part of their time at Grandpa Ruffo’s farm, located outside Tennessee Colony, Texas, in Anderson County.

Looking for ways to stay out of trouble and away from adults, we decided to take a trip to Catfish Creek about eight miles back toward Palestine. Happy to get the kids out of the house for a bit, the adults quickly agreed.

The next morning, we loaded our gear into Grandpa Ruffo’s International Harvester pick-up truck and were whisked off to our next adventure.

Great Uncle Walter Quick and his wife, Mary, had an all-Jersey dairy just north of the Palestine to Tennessee Colony Road. Catfish Creek was its eastern boundary. Jersey cows give the richest milk of any dairy herd. (Daisy, the cow whose picture was on all Borden milk products, was a Jersey.)

We stopped at the dairy so Grandpa Ruffo could tell Walter what we were doing. Walter bade us welcome, and we took off for the creek. Of course, the first thing we did was to go splashing up and down the creek. I think we scared every fish into the next county.
Adventures abounded in the heavily wooded creek bed area.

We formed a cavalry and chased Indians. Then we became a tribe and chased the cavalry. We had a shootout with Bonnie and Clyde. We went after bootleggers, gangsters and G-men.

We set traps for grizzly bears, mountain lions and swamp monsters – but didn’t catch any. Probably a good thing – those things can be harder to turn loose than they are to catch.

I think we may have caught some fish. I know I caught a Bullfrog. He hit a small lure. Bullfrogs don’t fight fair. They jump out of the water, go into the brush, around trees, and wherever they want to. I FINALLY got a hand on him and worked the lure loose, then let him go.
Cousin Gene was with us, and he was about four cents shy of a sixteen-penny nail. Great Uncle Walter didn’t want his Jerseys getting cut up on barbed wire, so he had an electric fence around his pasture.

I bet Gene a dime that he couldn’t pee over the electric fence. When he started out, everything was fine. Then he started losing pressure. When the water met the wire, he did an Olympic-quality standing double back flip with a three-quarter twist. He didn’t laugh … but the rest of us thought it was hilarious. I gave him the dime anyway because he did pee over the fence – at least at first.

By mid-afternoon, we were all hungry, thirsty, and generally worn out, so we struggled back toward the barn. Uncle Walter saw the sad shape we were in. He invited us into the barn – it was cooler than the pasture or the creek bottom. The barn was not air conditioned but did have several large fans to circulate the air.

He sat us down at a picnic table close to one of the fans. Then he got three pitchers, some glasses, and a long-handled ladle. There was a big concrete box in the corner that was full of refrigerated water – cold as ice. In the box were his big milk cans. The cans were full of raw Jersey milk – also ice cold.

This milk was not pasteurized, homogenized four percent milk like you buy in the store. This milk had to be at least 10 percent butterfat. Using the giant ladle, he stirred the cream on top into the lighter milk below. Then he filled the pitchers and put them on the table.

About this time, Aunt Mary walked into the barn carrying a large tray with a half dozen loaves of homemade, yeast-risen bread. The aroma was indescribable. The bread had a brown, crispy crust and was so hot that Uncle Walter had to cover the loaves with a towel while he sliced off big chunks with a knife so large it made Jim Bowie’s knife look like a toy.

The tray also held two plates loaded down with freshly churned butter made from the Jersey cream.

Aunt Mary also had several mason jars of fig and pear preserves that she had canned. She cooked them down to the point that you had to turn the jars over and dig the goodies out with a fork.

I’ve eaten a lot of meals in my 79 years, but this is one I will always remember.

As we finished up, Aunt Mary called Grandpa Ruffo to come get us.

We were so full of good, rich food that we had to help each other into the pick-up bed for our ride back to the farm.

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