Saturday, May 21, 2005

John Wesley Hardin Day in Comanche, Texas

It's that time again, folks. John Wesley Hardin days in Comanche, Texas. Kman and I are headed out, so no time for new posting, but this post below will fill in the blanks.

Wonder why there is no Lee Harvey Oswald day or Bonnie and Clyde Day? Jeffrey Dahmer Day? Yuck. But, Hardin was just as dastardly, I suppose.

On May 21nd, Comanche will host its very first John Wesley Hardin festival. Should be noted that the event is not to honor the very rascally outlaw, but simply a salute to the town's colorful past. Hardin just happens to be one of the most famous (infamous) names associated with Comanche.

Hardin first cut a notch on his six shooter when he was a teenager. Talk about your teen angst! His brother practiced law in Comanche and in 1874, John came to town to celebrate his 21st birthday. Lore has it that John, his brother, Joe and some cousins were first at the horse races, then went to get a cool one at the Jack Wright Saloon. Deputy Webb, from nearby Brown County, came into the saloon and John killed him with a single gunshot. The nice cousins then followed suit, and pumped a few more bullet holes into the former Texas Ranger. An angry mob ensued, John escaped, but his brother and cousins swung with a hemp necktie for their participation. Hardin hid out in Florida using an alias, and got married. Eventually, he was caught by the Texas Rangers, returned to Texas, and was imprisoned in Huntsville. He served 16 years, was pardoned by Governor Jim Hogg ( and contrary to rumors, there is no Ura Hogg sister, but there is indeed an Ima), and was later killed in El Paso. Wonder what he told Mrs. Hardin about his past in Texas? "Oh, darlin, they just don't understand me in that horse-piss state."

Also, on tap for the festival will be a little known movie/documentary called "Dirt-Sitting in Comanche County", which was made in the 1950's. Dirt sitting began around 1953 when a fellow turned up at Jesse Reese's farm about 10 miles out of town. A man said he had flown over Reese's dairy with a Geiger counter and picked up low-level uranium readings. He wanted to buy the farm (literally, not as in pushing up daisies). Reese got his own Geiger counter and searched his property. The counter went off as he crossed a ditch. Reese collected a bucket of dirt and sent it to Austin for analysis. Dirt did indeed have uranium, but not enough for mining. So, nothing much happened until a guy showed up at the farm some time later and asked to "sit" in the ditch. Said the low-level uranium would help him with his aches and pains of rheumatism. Wasn't long before this caught on right smartly, and Mr. Reese saw the light and the Lord said, "If you build it, they will come and sit a spell and pay good money!" (Or maybe I am just confusing Mr. Reese with that movie star fellow.) He built a shed and began charging creaky-feeling folks a dollar apiece to sit a spell in his healing dirt. Well, now, I tell you, it wasn't long before ole Reese sold every dairy cow off his farm and turned his barn into an amphitheater and a cafe. (Wonder how great THAT smelled for a cafe?) Dirt sitting had become all the rage and prices went up to $2 bucks per person. Uranium dirt sitting really took "root" after that. A sitting place opened in the old Sinclair gas station in town, then called the Cactus Inn. (Kman's mom had a waitress job there right after the big one - WWII). I wonder how safe it is to plop down in dirt by the CACTUS Inn? Anyway, there was even a whole business called The United Uranium Dirt Sitting Company. Someone saw fit to film all this, and thus the documentary was created. There are even some old folk who were in the original film still living in Comanche. Change comes slowly to these little Texas towns. You can tell these old-timers by the dirt caked on the butt of their overalls.

Other festival happenings include a chuckwagon breakfast, historic bus tour, craft exhibits, storytelling ( we Texans are good at this!), Hardin look-alike contest, steak-eating contest, a pie cook-off, an old-fashioned cake walk, and a street dance.

If you're interested, you can call the Comanche Main Street office at 325-356-9558 or the Comanche Chamber of Commerce at 325-356-3233.

And Cowtown Pattie? You can find me on Reese's farm with my butt planted in some of that amazing healing dirt. Heck, can't hurt..what if I find it is a sure-fire cure for cellulite? Somehow, I don't think the slogan, "Buns of Dirt" has the right sort of ring to it, all puns intended!

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