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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

and goats.

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.

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