Ol’ Bachelor Man Bruce Crayton Remembers Ways of Old, Likes ‘Em Better
BY NATHAN A. KING
The Daily Record, San Marcos, Tx., Sunday, March 19, 1978-Page 5A
“I’m just an old bachelor man,” Bruce Crayton said. From his perch atop a mule-drawn seeding machine modified for use as a plow he spit into the furrow that he and Jake and Lucy had turned on their previous pass across the field on Bishop Street.
“If you want to know anything about farmin’ just go talk to my brother at the house back yonder. He knows a lot more than I do.” The 84-year old Crayton said in a way that seemed to close the conversation:
For a while it seemed the interview had come to an abrupt end before it really got started as Crayton, a photographer and a reporter waited a few moments, wondering what to say next.
A couple more question, however, drew the old man out. His rambling monologue lasted almost an hour as Jake and Lucy, his two mules stood patient in the gusty March afternoon.
“I left home when I was young. Went out to West Texas and’ worked on a lot of different ranches. I worked around Kerrville, Llano, Big Spring and Lubbock. Worked all those ranches years ago. Then I got old and I come back home,” Crayton recounted.
Home for Crayton is Hays County, more particularly the two pieces of land he now rents so that he can have something to work on. Born in Guadalupe County, he moved to the San Marcos area when he was “just a little boy.”
In his farming work Crayton likes to stick to “the old ways like we done it in the beginnin’.” He say the word beginnin’ with such emphasis and authority that it sounds as if it should be spelled with a capitol letter.
“I do not like no tractor,” Crayton declared. “I’m a mule man. I been handlin’ mules for a mighty long time and I jus’ don’t wont no tractor. A man and two mules can work a hundred acres and that’s all in the world I need. Besides, I jus’ likes to do it.”
Crayton appeared completely at ease in front of the photographers lenses. “You know, taking these pictures is a wonderful thing for the country. This way you can show everybody what happened way before their time.”
The old man recalled several incidents in which various people had noticed him and asked to take photos. “Most of them have taken pictures of my hands,” he said, gesturing while holding the leather reins and resting his hand on one thigh.
“You see these big knots on my hands. That shows what age will do. You put in 80 years and your hands will look like mine. I comes from a lot of pullin’ and strainin’ and ropin’ cattle. Its trains the nerves. One fella looked at my hands an asked me how long I was in the penitentiary. He was kinda disappointed when I told him I’d never been.”
“I come from a big family. Eighteen children. Nine boys and nine girls – all full brothers and sisters. My mother was 96 when she died. Dad was 65 when he died. With all them kids the old man must have been a pretty good man.”
“This new race of people don’t understand things. Especially doctors. I went to this doctor once and I got on him. I asked him how old a woman was before she gets her womanhood. He said 18 or 19. I said, ‘An you’re a doctor?’ Well, I look at it a little different. When my mother was 14 she married and had a child when she was 15. She had 18 children in all and lived to be 96. He didn’t know what to say about that.”
Crayton talked about the trail driving days, taking cattle up the Chisholm Trail to Kansan City, about times when there were no trees between here and the railhead, the destination of the drives.
“At the beginnin’ on this prair’ they weren’t no trees from here to Kansas. Some people called me crazy or foggy for sayin’ that, but that’s they way it was in the beginnin’.”
College professors have come and talked with Crayton. They recorded his stories, especially, he said, “them bad ol’ cowboy tales.”
“I know a lot of cowboy songs too. Trail drivin’ songs, the true ones, not just somethin’ I picked up. Cowboys was always thinkin’ of the girl they left behind. There was one that was made up by a cowboy who took sick and had to ride in the wagon. But he wouldn’t take off his boots and spurs and leggin’s. He was just awful low sick, layin’ on that cot and singin’.”
Crayton then launched into the unfamiliar tune except for the refrain: “Bury me not on the lone prairie.”
“There aint no cowboys anymore,” he said. “Not like we used to have. We’d have as many as 300 or 400 horses workin’ on just one herd going up the trail. And the beginnin’ there was nothin’ but pather, bear and Indians.”
Crayton told of his Grandfather John H. Crayton, who is buried in Martindale. “My daddy’s daddy was a rich a man as ever come to Texas. He was the first man to bring a pair of boots from Kansas City to here. He was rich and he never did slave none of his slaves. They was free all their lives.”
“There was one black man named C’nelius. He learned to count up to 10 and they put him in charge of the ranch. He finally got up to where he could figure some and he done a good job for a lot of years.”
“Yeah, the ol’ time ways is mighty good. They might come back. But I’m just an ol’ bachelor man and I prob’ly wont get no woman. These young ones I just cant handlin’ em. I’m huntin’ a good woman but I just cant find one. I think that for most all men, that’s what they’re lookin’ for, a good woman.”
“If you young men will excuse me I really need to get back to this plowin’,” Crayton said, bringing his stories to an end, at least for the time being.
“Take all the pictures you want and drop me one by the house. I sure like to see it. Now watch them mules when I turn ‘em around. Step back a little. They’re a might scary around strangers.”
“Jake and Lucy might be a bit shy around people they don’t know, but one thing is for sure: There driver ain’t the least bit scary.