I was pleased and honored to receive the H. Bailey Carroll award for the best article in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly for 2019. The Swiss-German artist Conrad Caspar Rordorf was killed in a shoot-out at Nassau Plantation in the fall of 1847. Because he was so well-known at the time, his murder and the circumstances that surrounded it were quite sensational in their own right. But his murder also had other improbable outcomes, all of which are explored in the article.
My son Will Kearney is building a new horse barn/shed with tack room for the ranch. We have a barn with tack room at the Home Place ranch, but we moved the horses to the big ranch several years ago and they have been without a barn since then. The trusses and support posts all come from wood harvested from the ranch. The horses pretty much stay out in the weather all year round but I am sure they will appreciate their own shelter in the future. we have quite a collection of historic saddles, including an original Sam Stagg saddle from the 1870s. We also have three Paulsen saddles from the twenties and thirties, which are highly prized by collectors. With the new tack room we will have a great place to store and display them.
Winter means sausage making time at the ranch. This year we were a little later than usual, but a good dry, cool norther blew in, giving us a spell of perfect weather to process and smoke the sausage. We usually mix the venison with pork, other wise it would turn out too dry. It is quite a process to cut up, grind, spice, stuff, ties off and package a hundred pounds of sausage meat, but this year my brother John helped my son Will and I do to the stuffing part, a big help. We only use post oak wood to smoke, and that is the case for most people around thus part of the state. The wood has a wonderful delicate flavor. We cold smoke for four to six hours, and only for flavor. Sausage like this cannot be purchased commercially because of government regulations. This year’s batch turned out perfect. Half we seasoned with salt, garlic, and black pepper. The other half we spiced up with with ground smoked and dried peppers that we grew and prepared ourselves.
For a short slide show, check out the following link: https://utexas.box.com/s/xh41m19pc8n56jziskbsmx9dxx1ac31k
We had a wonderful gathering for Thanksgiving 2017 at the ranch. All the kids and their families were in attendance. Many of Paulina’s brothers and sisters (and families) were also able to attend. The weather was picture-perfect. We cooked three turkeys on the smoker and decided to eat outside under our new pavilion, which can serve double service as an outside living room. For a slideshow, click on the following link or copy and paste in your browser:
Texas Germans produced an astounding body of literature in the 19th century that embraced all genres and which, if it were stacked up in a piles side by side, would exceed the amount produced in English. In other words, a shadow Texas literature exists that has almost been entirely forgotten. I and several of my colleagues are trying to give voice to this ‘forgotten’ Texas literature through contemporary translations. I am happy to announce that I recently concluded an agreement with Steve Davis, curator of the literary section of the Bill Wittliff Collection at Texas State University in San Marcos, to produce an anthology of Texas German Literature for for a proposed series to be called the “Wittliff Series of Southwestern Literature.” I have also recently completed an annotated translation of W.A. Trenckmann’s novel, Die Lateiner am Possum Creek [The Lateiner of Possum Creek; a Texas Story]. This is the only true Civil War Home Front novel in either language produced by a contemporary and, for this reason alone, has literary significance. It is a true window into the trials and hardships of the home front years and of the ethical dilemma faced by those who opposed the war but were forced by the conscription laws into military service. For more on this novel, see the tab “Books in Progress.” Texas A&M Press, coincidentally, will be bringing out an updated and annotated translation of W.A. Trenckmann’s memoirs, edited by Drs. Walter Kamphoepner and Walter Buenger, in the near future.
Hurricane Harvey was for us a major rain and wind event. We received over 30 inches of rain (see water trough in picture) and we endured sustained gale force winds for over forty-eight hours. Our chief worry was possible environmental damage (erosion, felled trees) resulting from the extraordinary large amounts of rainfall and the unrelenting winds. When the very slow moving storm finally passed, a quick inspection showed that we had suffered very little damage. The rain, although copious, had been spread out over 72 hours and everywhere I looked the runoff water was running clear suggesting very little erosion. A few trees had fallen here and there including a couple of valued pecan trees but other than that we actually were net beneficiaries from the rainfall because in the weeks prior to the storm it had become very dry. For a slide show, click below:
A severe storm toppled our garage last year. We are building a replacement barn/garage from post oak and cedar trees (eastern red juniper, actually) harvested on the ranch. Our son Will has done most of the work from cutting down the trees to assembling the trusses, but we have all contributed time and energy to the project. Many trees died in the severe drought of 2011. All the cedar trees — some over 200 years old judging from the ring count — perished in that drought, which is a good indication of how extreme an event the dry spell was. We constructed the trusses out of post oak, mostly sawed green to avoid problems of insect infestation and rot. Green wood is also much easier to work, especially in hardwoods such as oak. That is the way it was done before power tools became available. The trusses were bolted together in such a way as to accommodate shrinkage and resist warpage. There exists many hundreds of post oak trees on the ranch so the three or four trees we cut down will not be missed. The inspiration for the design of the trusses and how attached to the uprights came from a building we saw on our visit to Denali, Alaska, this summer and a picture of same begins the slide show. For the slide show, click the following link:
Yvonne Willicks is the the German Martha Stewart. She has a popular TV program on WDR (Westdeutsche Rundfunk) where she discusses recipes, examines appliances, and comes up with useful tips for organizing everyday life, in other words, the same format used by Martha Stewart. Once or twice a year, however, she and he crew, go to some “exotic” place in the world where she films a show on how other families in other parts of the world organize their daily lives. Such an expedition last spring brought her and he crew to Texas where she ended up filming a segment of the program on Texas at our ranch. It was a lot of fun all around and the program finally aired in Germany this week (Sept 26, 2017). The following link will take you to the program. It is in German, of course, but it is easy enough to figure out what it is about. Our segment is basically the last third of the program.
The Nesbitt Memorial Library hosted the annual Live Oaks and Dead Folks Cemetery tour in the old cemetery in Columbus this past weekend (November 4th and 5th). The weather was mild. the rain held off, and the tour sold out. Volunteers dressed up in period costumes and told the stories of interesting men and women who have gone on before. The tour provides a wonderful format for bringing history alive for young and old alike. I played Detlef Thomas Friedrich Jordt who under the pen name Detlef Dunt wrote the first book published in Germany about Texas. The book had the effect of encouraging German immigration to South-Central Texas. Jordt/Dunt settled with his family in the Frelsburg area and his two sons, Emil and Franz, became important civic leaders. Together with Geir Bentzen, I edited a translation of his delightful little book which appeared two years ago under the title Travel to Texas in 1833.
The book signing for No Hope for Heaven; No Fear of Hell; The Stafford/Townsend Feud, held Saturday September 24th from 3-6 at the Live Oak Art Center in Columbus (old Brunson saloon) was a great success. John Kearney and Jesse Armstrong provided the music during the social. The wine bar was a great success. About 250 people turned out for the event, which was extraordinary considering that it was the weekend of the Colorado County Fair. We also sold over 150 signed books for the benefit of the Nesbitt Memorial Library Foundation. Thanks to all who helped to make this a successful event.