When We Were Young, Everyone Looked Really Old

Old Man Cardwell

When we were young, preteen years for me, we went all over Smithwick horseback. Mostly it was Kenny, Jimmy Palmer, Glenn Lewis and me, but sometimes others in the community joined in.

Everett and Maude Jackson had the little store beside the road just below the cemetery, towards the church house. The store had really limited fare. Mostly snacks and soda pops. I don’t remember them having any perishables. Maybe some soda crackers and Vienna sausages and cans of potted meat.

Across the highway from the store and down the creek a little ways was a little shack that Old Man Cardwell lived in. It was a very primitive place. I don’t remember it having electricity or running water. It was heated with a wood stove and he had an old fire pit of sorts outside where he would do some cooking. No bigger than he was, being old and swiveled up, it didn’t take much food for him. Nothing ever appeared appetizing enough that any of us wanted to eat with him.

Times were really different back then, the early 60’s, but when we went to visit Mr. Cardwell, it was like we were transported back another 100 years. It was never clear to me why he lived out there. The property belonged to Everett Jackson. It wasn’t like he could live there and fish or anything? Even though his little shack was on the bank of the creek, there weren’t fish in the mostly wet weather creek. I think he mostly enjoyed the lifestyle. I guess it was almost like being a homeless person today.

It was just a real adventure just going over and hearing his stories. I really don’t remember them, but he was able to entertain us.

What always struck me was he had a place up in Marble Falls. Not a fancy house but a place on Backbone Creek. I think it was a couple of acres at Avenue F between 2nd and 4th. There was really fertile ground there. I remember he grew some tobacco, the only time as a kid I ever saw it being grown. I guess it was for his own use, though I can’t tell you for sure if he even smoked. He probably chewed it. His mouth and chin appeared to have those stains. But I can’t tell you for sure, because old men like that didn’t always have the best hygiene regiments.

When He Went Back To Town

We often visited him over the years up in town at that place, when we stayed over with Glenn. It was only a couple of blocks from where Glenn lived with his folks.

There was a time when the Old Man had the most beautiful garden. No one else in town did that year. There was a severe drought going on. The city kept eyeing how green everything was. Corn was tall, huge water melons, best looking tomatoes you ever saw.

The city finally investigated and found out that Glenn and an accomplice had found a city water line and dug it up and tapped Mr. Cardwell an irrigation line into to it and then buried it. They helped him build up furrows and plant a very large plot. It was quite the setup, with a nice deer proof fence and all.

The city found the tap and cut off the valve and then set back and watched to see who came to help with the garden. They knew the Old Man wasn’t capable of doing it alone.

They caught Glenn red handed. They threatened to put him in jail, but as far as I know nothing ever happened.

Finding Out More About Old Man Cardwell

I was able to speak to a relative of Old Man Cardwell’s a while back and found out little bit about him. His name was Hiram.

I have written about him, calling him Old Man Cardwell. This wasn’t out of disrespect, that’s all I’d ever heard him called. He died in 1984 at 93 years of age. Back when we used to go visit him was 20 – 25 years before he died. That made him 68 to 73 years old. He looked old, toothless, had lived a hard life I suppose. Nothing wrong with that. Most everyone did in times before ours.

Uncle Ed Bible

I often think of Uncle Ed Bible. He passed on the last day of the year in 1962. I was only 10, but I remember him well and I remember him fondly. He had just turned 64, but he seemed so old to me. If I had made a guess I thought he was in his 80’s. He was married to my Great Aunt Marie.

Cec used to tell about how Uncle Ed, when he drove, he drove very slow, never looking left or right and he sure didn’t take his eyes off the road to check his rear view mirror. He was a slight little fellow, that set way down in the seat as he’d head out of town towards home. He looked like a child looking through the steering wheel and just over the dash. One day Cec eased up behind him outside of town after the road got straighter and gently touch his bumper and started pushing. He just kept increasing speed until both vehicles were traveling at an extremely high rate of speed. That old car of Uncle Ed’s had a lot of play in the steering wheel so he would fight it hard and tap, tap and tap the brakes, trying to slow it down.

Cec let off so he could get it slowed down in time to turn off at his driveway. This played out several times throughout the years without Uncle Ed knowing it or without it causing a major accident, which was a miracle.

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