Memories of my Favorite Town

Spring of 1957

I believe it was the spring of 1957 when my family rolled into Del Rio to my dad’s new duty station. We had no idea it was a mission that was Top Secret and dealt with spy planes that flew all over the world from just out side of Del Rio to take pictures of our nations enemies in Russia and Cuba. We only knew that we lived where the cowboys lived. I was five years old and started kindergarten at St. James. I remember Jimmy Carter was one of my classmates and almost everyone wore cowboy boots. I was in heaven because as the song goes, "My heroes have always been cowboys… "Roy Rogers was my favorite and Saturday mornings was filled with black and white adventures of him and Sky King and other cowboy types. I was living my dreams.

South Main Street

Back in those days the base had very little housing so we rented a house on South Main and Duke Street from Mimi Foster, Jimmy Pettit’s grandmother. Mrs. Foster was a sweet woman who lived across the street from us and Jimmy lived a block away down Duke at the corner of Duke and Griner. Del Rio was still pretty small back in those days and as I recall Jimmy Carter lived just down the street from Jimmy Pettit. They were some of my first Del Rio buddies. I remember that our rented house only had a swamp cooler and a few gas heaters for climate control but we didn’t know the difference. In the summer we ran around like little Indians without shirts and barefooted and would run in and make noises to the swamp cooler fan as it blew it’s cool air back in our faces along with our own voices warbling the noises we made. It was the time of life that had no beginning and no end. It was wonderful.

My little brother Seth was Jimmy Pettit’s age and we would play together at one another’s houses. We used to mess with the Yellow Jackets and it seemed like the only time we got stung was when we weren’t messing with them. We would find a big nest and throw rocks at it and then run. Another favorite pastime was putting black ants into red ant beds and watch them fight. As I recall, the red ants were better warriors than the black ants. I don’t know if either species is around anymore. If they are they are fewer than in the old days. Now we have Cut Ants and Fire Ants, just not the same. Other fun pastimes were catching Horny Toads and Fireflies or digging up grub worms.

The Ranch

My mother became involved with the library way back when and through the library we became friends with Max and Libby Stool and Ethan Stool soon became one of our best friends. My mother also became friends with Jerry Cauthorn and we were soon visiting Alley and Jerry out on their ranch just past Mud Creek on Highway 90 towards Brackettville. That ranch was the best thing that could have happened to this kid. I learned to ride horses and hunt. I got to explore and watch sheep get sheared. I remember Bobby Davenport who was dating Cathy Cauthorn at the time play his guitar and sing old cowboy songs. Yep, I was in Cowboy Heaven. I remember one time Bobby and his brother Walt were out on the patio with my little brother and me. Seth and I had a pile of Blackcat firecrackers and a box of kitchen matches. You know the kind you can strike anywhere. Bobby and Walt were talking and watching us pop firecrackers. We were lighting one match per firecracker and throwing the firecracker then getting another match and doing it again and again. Well Seth got his routine messed up and lit the firecracker and threw the match away. I got my first taste of Cowboy humor when that firecracker blew up in his hand. Those Davenport brothers almost doubled over laughing.

Then there was the time out on the ranch when a bunch of us kids were sleeping on cots outside the house on the patio although not much sleeping was going on. There was a porch light on and every bug on the ranch was flying or crawling around. We were having a regular bug war. We were catching them and throwing them at each other in our cots. It was a lot of fun until I picked up a scorpion in the dark and got stung. End of game.

I can’t imagine what life would have been like for me if I hadn’t lived in Del Rio. I probably would think it dangerous to swim in a stock tank full of moss and water striders. I know I would never have climbed a windmill or shot Jackrabbits out of the back of a pickup truck. Del Rio was ideal for a kid.

Back in Del Rio and a Teenager

In about 1962 or 1963 my dad got transferred and we were gone for about four years. When my dad retired my parents decided they wanted to spend the rest of their lives in Del Rio. It was January of 1968 when we moved back. I had just turned 16 and had my driver’s license. It was great to be back in Del Rio and it was my second semester of my sophomore year in high school. It was also the last semester that the old Del Rio High was open. I was blessed once again to have been able to go to the old school. It wasn’t a great experience academically, I barely squeaked by that semester thanks to the generosity of my Geometry teacher Mr. Guajardo. (I will always be grateful.)

I guess it was the next year, the first year of the new high school that Mark Stone told me about going to Mexico. I couldn’t believe that kids could buy beer. Mark’s older brother, Greg was out of town on his “Senior” day. He had gone to visit the University of Texas. Mark knew I had a driver’s license and said that we could take Greg’s car. Sounded good to me!

Problem was it was a standard transmission but not to be deterred we chugged on toward the bridge. I think we first stopped at Chips and had something exotic like a Singapore Sling before we moved down the street to Casino’s where I was introduced to 15 cent draft beer. For those of you that don’t remember, Casino’s was on the same side of the street as Lando’s but several blocks down and it was a drive in where they would wait on you while you stayed in your car. It was also next to the big arroyo that is Las Vacas Creek. If you will remember Las Vacas creek is the big gully that drains into the Rio Grande next to the bridge. Well, after a cold beer or two we decided it was time to go. I put Greg’s car in reverse and proceeded to chug backward and in the process I bumped a parked car that happened to be in neutral. The bump wasn’t hard but it got the other car rolling toward the Las Vacas arroyo. There was nothing that Mark and I could do but look in horror as that car rolled toward that very deep ditch. Right before it went over it hit a small hill and rolled to the top and paused and rolled back. Whew, someone was watching over two dumb kids. That was my first trip to Mexico without my parents.

Del Rio, I love Del Rio.
Lee Worley- Class of 1970