recent article by Darlene Birks in Pampa's
Focus Magazine triggered a memory or two involving the famous "long skinny houses"
that graced the West on both farms and ranches and later on during the many oil
booms and busts.
History explains the shotgun house was named because
one or more rooms were built in a row, with connecting doors arranged so a shotgun
could be fired in the front door and would send its pellets completely through
the house and out the back door into the prairie beyond.
In reality, there
was a reason for the shotgun structure. In the early days of the West, lumber
came at great cost and the longer the length the higher the cost in producing
and hauling. The long skinny houses used short lumber that could be hauled easily
on wagons, most of which had beds only 14 feet long or shorter. Cost took precedence
over a larger building.
Another reason was that during the "homestead
era" shotgun houses were more practical as they could be easily hauled or skidded
on poles to a new location. Though no records exist, it is estimated that most
homesteads changed, sold or were abandoned at least three times.
ranch in New Mexico during the Rana settlement era, one such shotgun house was
stolen and skidded to the next homestead down the road each fall when the resident
owners moved to Clovis, N.M., to teach school during the winter. A nearby neighbor
needed it for his rather large family and always agreeably skidded it back home
when the indignant owners returned for the summer.
Our ranch headquarters
had a shotgun house set up on native rocks and was open around the bottom. We
had everything from greyhounds, stray hogs, skunks, cotton tails, pack rats and
lots of rattlesnakes live beneath where we slept. We had to remember always to
jump out the door to clear ground when exiting. Supposedly during the ownership
of Jules Bivins, during the early 1900s, the bunk house was skidded in from an
old homestead for ranch employee use.
My favorite shotgun house story
happened on the old Hugh Parsell ranch on the Canadian
River, upstream from Canadian.
In the early 1940s, there was a large two-story frame house and a shotgun house
located at the headquarters. A middle-aged couple lived in the shotgun house and
the husband was sent to Borger to pick
up pipe and sucker rod for windmill repairs.
Without all the good country
roads and highways of today, the trip required two days to go, load up and return
to the ranch. When the driver returned, he was suffering from a bad limp in his
left leg. He explained he was sitting in the hotel bar the night before when a
fight broke out. During the melee he was shot in the thigh with a .22 bullet.
Remember, this was during the later rough days of "Old Booger Town."
reporting, he limped on to the shotgun house to his wife. About an hour later,
he came running from the house with the wife after him, swinging a broom. He slept
at the big house for a couple of weeks after that. It seems his wife discovered
he - despite having a bullet wound in his upper thigh - had no bullet hole in
"It's All Trew" December
8, 2010 column
Delbert Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can
be reached at 806-779-3164, by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by e-mail
at firstname.lastname@example.org. For books see DelbertTrew.com. His column appears