Postcard From Medicine Mound, Texas - Ghost Town

In southeastern Hardeman County in West Texas is the interesting little ghost town of Medicine Mound. The town was named after the four nearby cone-shaped dolomite hills which rise 350 feet above the prairie and were called Medicine Mounds by the Comanche Indians. The hills have flat tops which the Indians considered to be the home of powerful, but benevolent spirits and they used these hill tops to hold sacred ceremonies and to mix medicinal herbs so the spirits would make the curative powers even stronger.

Medicine Mound once had a population of 500 with 22 businesses, including a newspaper called "The Citizen." A devastating fire in 1932 destroyed most of the buildings in downtown and with the exodus of people already started for better job opportunities in larger towns, few of the burned-out businesses rebuilt. By 1940, there were only 6 business properties still open to serve the remaining 210 residents. 

The Medicine Mound school was closed in 1955 and the handful of students traveled to Quanah to continue their formal education. With a population less than 100, the post office and all but one store, the Hicks-Cobb General Store, closed down in the late 1950's. In 1980 there were still 50 residents in the vicinity, but these were mostly older people who still lived and worked on the farms and ranches around the area. 

Bluebonnets and cactus in Medicine Mound
Today the population is zero. The dilapidated remains of an old house and the shell of the W.W. Cole building, a combination drug store, bank, and gas station remain somewhat standing. The Hicks-Cobb General Store also remains, but it was turned into a regional history and cultural museum by the now aged daughter (born in 1927) of the former owner and is not in much better shape than the other 2 buildings. The museum was supposed to be open every Saturday from 10:00 - 2:00, but during my visit on a Saturday during those hours, it wasn't open, not a single person was anywhere in sight, and judging by the deep layer of dust which covered everything viewable through the window, it hadn't been opened or attended to in a good long while.

The old W. W. Cole building with the gas pumps still
standing sentinel

Medicine Mound doesn't have much of an interesting history. No bad men robbed the bank, nobody was murdered there, it had no notorious residents and there aren't even any mysterious ghost stories about the small cemetery where a few of its residents remain resting in peace. It was just a quiet little town where normal everyday people lived and dreamed and died. And then, having served its purpose, Medicine Mound died too.

The town "Necessary Room"
The only remaining house in Medicine Mound has
seen better days

I wonder what happened to the people who
lived here. Did they live full, happy lives
until death took them to a new home or did
their dreams die and they simple pack up
and leave without looking back?

At one time this was someone's pride and joy. Iris flowers
were lovingly planted around the property.

Florida Lovebugs Massacre

I've mellowed a lot since my youthful days, especially now that I'm old enough to realize the truth of the statement that it's not worth it to sweat the little things and most things are little things. I'm mostly a peaceable person not wishing harm on anyone or anything, but there are a few exceptions. One exception is snakes. Most truly rational people feel the same as me - the only good snake is a dead snake. I've heard there are good snakes, but I haven't met one. If you are one of those people who like snakes, sorry, but you are weird and you will not be able to change my mind. Other exceptions are mosquitoes, gnats, chiggers, leeches, and ticks. The world would be so much better off without any of those. If you are reincarnated back as one of those things, you must have been really, really bad in your former life. There is one more exception, the Lovebugs in Florida. They don't bite or sting or eat your food growing in the vegetable garden or cause some strange, fatal disease, but when it comes to the annoyment factor, they wear the crown.

If you don't know the creature I'm speaking about, consider yourself lucky. They are small, black and orange lightweight bugs that mate in the air while flying. The female is less than 1/2" long and the male is about 1/2 of her size. They mate tail-to-tail (they are so repulsive looking they can't even stand to look at each other while having sex) and the female slowly flies around pulling her little fella behind her. This might explain why they don't fly smoothly, but seem to lurch around in the air and constantly fly into things. You very rarely, almost never, see one alone as the only time you see them is during the spring and fall mating seasons when they do nothing but mate and fly around while doing it. The little annoying buggers don't even eat, they just have sex constantly.

A while back, I made the unfortunate decision to visit Florida during the Lovebug mating season. When I was in the US Navy, I went to boot camp in Orlando during Lovebug mating season and then I lived in Florida for almost a year while attending a Naval school so I know about the Lovebugs, I had just forgotten about them and their seasons when I scheduled my trip. It won't happen again.

In boot camp in Orlando, Florida in the spring and summer months, there is a lot of physical activity in very hot, humid weather. You sweat a lot, a whole lot. You stand at attention in the hot sun for long periods of time while one instructor or another screams curses at you letting you know just how worthless you are and how you will never, ever be good enough to actually become a sailor in the United State's Navy. And you sweat. While you are standing there ramrod straight and absolutely motionless, the Lovebugs in their sexual ecstasy or sheer stupid clumsiness cannot avoid you and fly right into your stationary head. And there they stick in the sweat dripping down from your newly shorn, almost bald head. The bugs are so weak they can't even extricate themselves and fly away, they just crawl around, one trying to walk one way and the other trying to walk in the opposite direction. They crawl up your nose, in your ears, across your eyes, they flow down your shirt collar trapped by the sweat running down your neck. Little buggy feet crawling around causing itching and you know they are there and you can't do anything about it but endure because you are standing at attention and the slightest movement will result in screaming directed at you individually and even more exercise. Every day I heard, "Don't you dare touch those Lovebugs! Those are the Captain's Lovebugs and if you touch something that belongs to the Captain, you will be dead meat!" I endured and I came to hate Lovebugs.

During my fateful Florida trip. Lovebugs came swarming out of the woods and marshes by the trillions. Paired up to make even more of themselves, they stupidly flew their way over the highway and there I took my gleeful revenge. Their little squishy bodies covered the front bumper and grill of my truck and piled up on my windshield so thick I had to keep spraying windshield washer and employing the wipers just so I could somewhat see the road ahead through the goop. I had to stop twice just to fill up the washer fluid and clean the wipers. I knew later I would have a heck of a job cleaning my truck of all those squished bug bodies, but remembering the absolute misery they caused me those many years ago, I loved the massacre.

The First Shot of the Civil War

Cadet William S. Simkins
Just northeast of today's downtown Dallas, Texas is the historic Greenwood Cemetery. Famous for the many icons of history buried within its grounds, it is perhaps even more famous for the numerous cemetery scenes filmed there for the popular TV series Walker, Texas Ranger which starred Chuck Norris and ran from 1993 - 2001. One of the more obscure burials here is that of Confederate veteran William Stewart Simkins.

William was born on August 25, 1842. On January 9, 1861, he was a senior cadet at the Citadel, a South Carolina military academy. At daybreak, he and several other cadets were manning a battery overlooking the Charleston Harbor. Standing watch that morning, he saw a signal from a guard boat and quickly sounded the alarm, waking up his fellow cadets. They spotted the Union ship Star of the West attempting to resupply Fort Sumter. A cannon was loaded, aimed at the supply ship, and William fired. It was the first shot of the Civil War. (see The Civil War Ended in Texas for who fired the last shot.)

William Simkins
William and his classmates were graduated early on April 9th. Just 3 days later on April 12, 1861, he participated in the bombardment of Fort Sumter, the first battle of the Civil War. William served as an artillery officer and then Inspector General throughout the conflict, finally surrendering as a colonel in the army of General Joseph Johnston in North Carolina in 1865.

Simkins moved to Florida after the war, studied law and passed the bar exam in 1870. He move to Texas in 1873 and eventually joined the law faculty of the University of Texas. After a long and successful law career, he passed away in Dallas on February 27, 1929. 68 years after he fired the first shot of the Civil War.

Simkins Family Plot in Greenwood Cemetery

Grave of William Simkins