The Last Cattle Drive in Travis County
Family and friends gathered at the home of John W. Bowles on the Old
Ferry Road in Spicewood, Texas.
A drought in 1946 lowered Lake Travis. My father Malcolm Bowles often
said, “The Pedernales got so low, folks in Spicewood couldn’t draw a
bucket of water.” The drought that made the last cattle drive necessary;
also made it doable.
After Mansfield Dam was finished in 1941. My uncle, Lester Bowles leased
the eastern end of the Pace Bend from the LCRA. He installed a cattle
guard near where the Pace Bend Park entrance is today. The fence and
cattle guard across the west end, water on three sides created a natural
pasture. They called it the Six-Forty, for it surveyed at about 640 acres give
or take. The fluctuating water level was the give or take. When the lake
level was normal, everything worked, as it should. Livestock strayed when
the water was low.
Bowles also leased grazing rights on the Turner Ranch on the Pedernales.
He and his wife Izola Bowles and her three brothers D.C., Lester and Jack
Crumley herded the livestock from the Six-Forty and the Bowles Ranch
across the dry Pedernales riverbed. With the cattle on the Turner Ranch,
the herd consisted of about 500 head of cattle and a small herd of sheep
My Grandfather, J.W. Bowles sold his home and remaining acreage above
the water line of Lake Travis. Then purchased a ranch in Burnet County
with more acreage and a large pecan bottom. The household goods
moved by truck; the livestock would have to hoof it. That decision, a matter
of economics. The move to Pleasant Valley, just east of Marble Falls was
less than fifty miles.
The Drive to Pleasant Valley
Alfred Cox was trail-boss; drovers were Wiley Heffington, Buster and Jude
Myers all from the Hamilton Pool area. The cattle followed Aunt Izola
driving a 1939 Chevrolet pick-up with a stick shift. A baby in her lap and a
rowdy eight-year-old hanging out the window. Hay on the truck coaxed the
cows along. Drovers herded the stragglers on horseback. Fences damaged
by cattle needed mending as they moved slowly up the Old Spicewood
On the third day of the drive, they slowly worked the herd onto the Marble
Falls Highway just a few miles south of the two-lane bridge into Marble
Falls. Some of the bulls were Brahma, which spooked easily.
Once across the bridge several bulls strayed. The drover’s attempts to
drive them back failed. Finding a well-manicured lawn with a clothesline full
of freshly washed sheets, the wayward bulls went berserk when the sheets
flapped in the breeze. They eventually headed in the right direction, but not
before trampling a clothesline of fresh washed cloths.
The drovers headed the bellowing bovines down a side street turning east
on Smithwick Highway to Pleasant Valley. Old-timers in Marble Falls still
remember the day the Bowles family came to town.
#cattleguard #lcra #smithwickhighway #pleasantvalley #marblefalls
#marblefallshighway #wileyheffington #davidabowlesauthorandstoryteller
#austintexas #historicalwesternfiction #mansfielddam #oldspicewoodroad
#burnetcounty #johnwbowles #laketravis #turnerranch #izolabowles
#oldferrywoodroad #pacebendpark #dccrumley #lestercrumley
#jackcrumley #brahmabulls #pedernales #alfredcox #bustermyers