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Growing Up in Bandera

March 22, 2023 - 00:00
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Editor’s Note: Growing Up in Bandera is available in book form! Visit the Bulletin’s office or call 830-796-3718 for more info.

You would think being a cowboy was the only way of life around Bandera in earlier times. Everywhere you look there are stories written and monuments erected to celebrate local rodeo heroes and the cattle drives connected to the area. That’s all well and good for the tourist trade but other events gave birth to Bandera.

Making cypress shingles to sell was the primary way to make a living back in Bandera’s earliest times. Big wagon loads were taken to San Antonio where there was a great demand. Maybe like me, what you didn’t know was charcoal was also made in Bandera to sell in the city.

I was told the best charcoal could be made from old dry hard cedar like can be found in old cedar fence posts. The wood was set on fire and then covered at some point with wet hay to smother the flames. Afterwards the charcoal chunks would be loaded up and hauled to San Antonio to be sold for heating material in wood burning heaters. Every generation of Bandera kids has had a way of making some money. Many of those ways have disappeared over the years due to progress. It is rare to see a shoeshine boy in these modern times. Around the popular watering holes in town now you are as likely to see as many patrons in tennies as those wearing boots. I have to wonder how much a person could get for a boot shine in our current times.

As an early teen I tried dishwashing in a couple local places. Let me tell you those were the most despicable jobs imaginable. The fact that in both places I endured foul mouthed rude bosses probably is the reason I didn’t tolerate that kind of behavior in my later adult life jobs. They didn’t have an H.R. department like the companies of today. Of course being in the U.S. Army was an exception where I didn’t dare open my mouth.

Later in my teen years the work got harder but more enjoyable. Building fences and hauling hay were popular summertime jobs for teens back in the day. The fact that I could work alongside my friends made for a day of ribbing and poking fun which made the heat and sweat seem less unbearable. Plus we knew what was coming at the end of the day when we shucked our clothes and took a dive in the Medina River.

Back in my early years I was like many others kids around town who picked up every beer and soda bottle along the roads to return for deposit and then immediately spent the money on bubble gum and penny candy. It was pretty much the same story when it came to gathering pecans to sell. Later in high school and beyond we were looking for enough money to buy a six pack or two of beer to be shared with buddies down on the river.

When I started working at the Phillip’s 66 station in town I had more money but less time off to spend with my friends. It wasn’t too bad though because there were a couple of girls who lived close by and came to visit quite often.

As I continue rolling along while Growing Up In Bandera one thing is very clear to me. The times they are a-changin”.