Preamble: This story is about an event involving my grandfather, John L. Dement. It is shared here as it was told to me by Bradley Davis, my great uncle. Bradley’s telling adds a wonderful second layer of charm and interest to the story. In this respect it is really a story about a story-in-a-story. An outline chart can be furnished on request.
High Water Horseman
By Bradley Davis
Via Brad Dement
If you drive through Oak Hill very often you might notice an old stone building off to one side. It’s on the north side of the road about a half-mile east of the bluffs, next to a stream crossing. It’s noticeable because it looks somewhat out of character with the other buildings on the block. It looks decidedly more old-west than most. True, a number of the more recent buildings in Oak Hill have added western facades, but none of them have the same feel. It has an aged and authentic look to it. Much like what you would imagine an old bank would use back in the “olden days”. It has narrow pane windows flanking a tall panel door. A boardwalk type porch crosses the front of the narrow but quite substantial looking stone building. A massive collection of weeds testify to its many years of disuse. In truth, I haven’t seen this building for years, so this description is more faithful to my childhood impression of the building, rather than the actual building.
The old stone building came up in discussions at Reunion last year. A number of us were sitting around, as we always do at Reunion, looking through old photographs and comparing notes on family history and the like. Bradley Davis was there so we were quizzing him on matters that, these days, only he could verify first-hand.
Its funny how I always feel so juvenile around “Unk”. Maybe it’s the relative difference in our age, or maybe it’s the result of some childhood impression, I don’t know. The fact that he was passing out silver dollars that day to us forty and fifty year old “young-uns” only heightened my adolescent sensations.
Anyway, someone mentioned the old stone building in Oak Hill as being something of a curiosity, and asked Bradley if he knew anything about it. Bradley looked down for a moment, concealing a slight grin. I thought he was changing the subject when he started telling us about a visit he had a few years ago with a group of long-time Oak Hill residents.
They were full of memorabilia about Oak Hill’s past. They recounted where they were and what they did during Oak Hill’s coldest winter, longest drought, biggest snow, etc. When the conversation came to the biggest flood, one of the old-timers piped up and started telling about how his brother and family were rescued in the flood of 1918[estimated].
He explained. “They had took-up shelter from the rain in the stone building along Williamson Creek. The creek got out of its banks, and the family realized the swift moving water had stranded them there. The building stood well off the ground, but when the water got chest-high inside the building, and still rising, they knew the situation was serious, and gettin seriouser by the minute. Then they saw something off in the ……”
Bradley had been listening and chosen his moment carefully. He interrupted the old-timer, and then completed the sentence as though it were his own. ” ….something off in the distance. It was a fellow on horseback. He had seen the family and realized the situation they were in. He carefully walked his horse through the swift water, and then rode it right up inside the building. He was able to shuttle the entire family back to higher ground and to safety.”
The old-timer was stunned. “How did you come to know that story?” “Well”, Bradley explained, “That fellow was my brother-in-law [John L Dement]. And since he was on his way to see me when it happened, I probably heard the story before you did.” They all had a good laugh.
Bradley went on to explain to the Reunion group. John’s wife, Lanier Dement (Bradley’s sister and my grandmother) was pregnant and visiting him in Dripping Springs at the time of the 1918 flood. John was working in Austin when the flooding began. This helped to explain why John was so motivated to be traveling in those conditions.