Memories of the Past at
Driftwood and Camp Ben McCulloch
By Roy T. McCuiston
Having been born and raised in Austin and having spent much time fishing on the Colorado River the word driftwood was very familiar to me as much driftwood came down the river during each flood. But a town by that name was unknown to me until 1916 when I met Ethel Dement who, on Christmas Day in 1918, in the home of her grandparents in Driftwood, became my wife. She spoke of her Grandma and Grandpa (“Pappy”) Dement, her Uncle Alex, her Aunt Nannie and Uncle Dave Jacks, and many of her friends living in and around the town of Driftwood. She spoke, also, of the Old Confederate Reunion at Camp Ben McCulloch on Onion Creek near Driftwood.
When she told me later that she was going to camp at this reunion with some of her relatives, I made up my mind to see Driftwood and to go to the Reunion. I had no car but managed to borrow a motorcycle, from a friend, on which to make the trip. The roads being what they were in those days, going to Driftwood on a motorcycle was quite an experience but I made it and have never regretted this experience, for some of the most enjoyable times of my life have been spent at Driftwood and at the Reunion.
Our present younger generation might now wonder just what we could do to get so much enjoyment out of visits to a little town like Driftwood, with very few cars and no television or other means by which we get pleasure and thrills in these modern times. As an example of what the younger generation of that day did for pleasure and entertainment, let me tell you about one Christmas week we spent at Driftwood.
Ethel’s Uncle Alex (Dement) had written us a letter asking us to spend some time with them during Christmas. I was a carpenter in Austin and not wanting to miss that invitation, I quit a good job in order to go. Alex had said he would meet us in Dripping Springs on a certain day and we made a deal with the mail carrier who delivered mail from Austin to Dripping Springs in an old Model T Ford, to take us to Dripping Springs. Ethel rode in the front seat with the driver, and since the back seat was loaded with Christmas mail and packages, I made the trip on top of the mail.
It had been raining and the road between Dripping Springs and Driftwood was in such a bad condition that Alex came after us in a wagon and it was about all the team could do to pull that wagon with us in it through the deep muddy ruts and we barely made it across Onion Creek. (It is hard to believe that now we have a good paved road and a good bridge over Onion Creek on this route over which we traveled.)
What did we do for enjoyment during Christmas week at Driftwood? First, we got a shapely cedar tree out of a nearby pasture and had lots of fun decorating it with homemade decorations, mostly, such as colored paper chains, strings of popcorn and red berries, cookies, etc. We managed for lots of fireworks and had Roman candle ’battles’ up and down the street through Driftwood. (We could play in the street then without dodging cars.) The fireworks included the anvil shooting at “Pappy” Dement’s blacksmith shop. As I recall, they put black powder in a square hole in the anvil, placed another anvil on top of this and ignited the powder. This made a noise that could be heard for miles.
We enjoyed burning brush piles and another thing we really enjoyed, when the weather was cold, was going to the various hog killings around Driftwood. We were often given trimmings, pieces of liver, etc., that we roasted on sticks over the fire. When the lard was made we enjoyed eating the “cracklings.” And if you have never eaten “cracklin” bread you haven’t lived. Of course, there were parties to attend and invitations to wonderful meals. And to some of us, pitching dollars and horseshoes, while corn was being ground at “Pappy’s” mill, was also lots of fun.
So – taking all these various experiences into consideration, Christmas at Driftwood in those days was a pleasure never to be forgotten, and even though the Reunion is held in the summertime there is a similarity between the two, with families and friends getting together and enjoying various forms of entertainments.
Today the entertainment at the Reunion consists mainly of dancing and carnival shows while in the by-gone days there were good programs, rodeos, ball games, roller skating and dancing.
It is interesting to remember that at first roller skating and dancing were done on a small portable wooden floor. Then came a concrete floor, and this has been enlarged to one of the largest and best open-air dance floors in this part of the country.
In earlier days the concessions at the Reunion were obtained by bids and usually operated by local people. Those were the ‘good old days’—when, for instance, Uncle Laurel Hall and Uncle Jim Eckols had the orangeade and strawberryade stands with all you could drink for a nickel. You could buy soda water, ice cream, cotton candy, etc., also.
Lighting was done by kerosene and gasoline lanterns and I well remember when a friend of mine, Russell Robbins, brought a Kohler portable light plant and furnished lights for the stands and dance floor. As this was long before the days of LCRA, these lights were a wonderful thing.
When I attended my first Reunion, I was really surprised to see families camping along Onion Creek from the Driftwood crossing to the old crossing the Buda people used. It was near this crossing that a spring runs out from the base of a huge cypress tree (Ed. Note: Old Martin Spring) I have been told that Uncle Alex Dement would tell people (and a few believed him) that by taking some of the burrs or small limbs from this tree and planting them one would eventually have a cypress tree with a spring underneath it.
Most of the families that were camping came in wagons and buggies but there were a few cars. These being the days when there were no bridges and the creek had to forded, after few vehicles had crossed creek at the upper crossing, it was almost impossible to get up the wet hill, especially in a car.
I remember the wonderful meat cooked in the open in a long pit dug in the ground, turned with a long handled pitchfork; and Oh! The memory of the wonderful gravy. I could go on and on relating these experiences, but to really hear tales of the past 50 to 75 years ago get Archie Weatherford and Uncle Alex Dement together and you will really hear tales that may make your hair stand on end – and I would be that last person to think they might stretch things a little.
After all these years, though Ethel’s relatives are not now living at Driftwood, the many friends we made there and who are still living there make it always a pleasurable experience to go back to Driftwood and the Reunion. Some of the homes are still as they were in the old days. At one time there was another store and residence on the east side of the road just south of the blacksmith shop, all of which are gone now. There was residence back of the store which burned some time ago. And, only recently the old Dement home, where Ethel and I were married was removed to make room for the new residence of Mr. and Mrs. Olen Miles. Other nice homes have been built in the near vicinity of Driftwood and new people have moved in, a tribute, I think to the fact that the Driftwood community is a good place in which to live and to visit.
Source, DRIFTWOOD HERITAGE The History of Driftwood, Texas Copyright 1970.