“It’s the mud - - - gray mud
The sloshy, grimy, slimy & sticky gray mud - - - gray mud.
I go tramping, stamping, my muscles are cramping
From mud - - - gray mud.
I am crawling, falling, and awkwardly sprawling
In mud - - - gray mud.
My temples are pounding, pounding and pounding
From mud - - -gray mud.
My body is aching, breaking and shaking
With mud - - - gray mud.
No depth am I sounding, I’m drowning, I’m drowning
In MUD! - - MUD! - - MUD!”
— Joe Westbrook, Esq., Co. 857, CCC
Such is life in Northeast Texas this spring, and so far, this summer. Rain and mud, trees fallen from too much rain, and dreary skies. I suspect that cattle are beginning to have hoof rot. If cotton was planted, it drowned. Since I was raised farther west near Wichita Falls, where rain is scarce this time of the year, it strains my senses and conscience to complain about mud, overflowing ponds, and countless mosquitoes. But I could stand a few dry days.
I always feel guilty when I express that sentiment. I know that we will be begging for cooler weather, breezes and lower temperatures in no time at all. So we should sit back and enjoy.
While you read this and recuperate from the Fourth of July, I will be on my way to Austin for four days at the Briscoe Center for American History, researching John Morris Sheppard. You don’t know Sheppard now, but as the year goes by you will read more about him. I have been asked to do a biography of him for the Texas New Deal Consortium. I’ve just begun my research but already I am amazed that one person could to so much. The time period is 1902 to his death in the spring of 1941. World War I, Roaring Twenties, Prohibition, Great Depression, New Deal and finally World War II, it was a roller coaster in American history.
The poem above was penned by Joe Westbrook, an experienced mud-swamper in the Civilian Conservation Corps at Caddo Lake, one of many ABC agencies who accomplished so much during the New Deal. Northeast Texas, along with the whole state participated in numerous agencies during the trying times from 1935 to the beginning of World War II. The New Deal Consortium recently published “Conflict and Cooperation: Reflections of the New Deal in Texas.” It gives reflections from New Deal historians, who explored such a sad time.
I know that the CCC built small dams to combat erosions here in Hunt County. There is a really pretty park at Bonham known as Bonham State Park. Students at East Texas State Normal School received funds for odd jobs so they could continue their education. I had the privilege of reading letters they submitted for those funds. No requests for fancy cars, new clothes, just room and board. Greenville has one public building built by PWA, Public Works Administration. The Municipal Building opened in October 1939. Other construction jobs under the WPA built roads near Wolfe City, sidewalks in towns, and countless other jobs. The whole concept is worth looking into.
One time when I was in Austin to do research at the Texas State Archives, I had an interesting experience. The archives are on the ground floor of the Texas State Library. I kept hearing noises upstairs. When I left, I noticed some black clouds hovering around the capital. I decided to duck into the Archives of the Austin Diocese of the Catholic Church. I spent two hours there reading letters to Sam Houston. Later, I discovered there was a large thunderstorm that I blithely ignored while researching. I hope this trip has no surprise storms.
Taylor is chairman of the Hunt County Historical Commission. She can be contacted at email@example.com.