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"Hindsights"

Looking back at:

Runaway Horse is Page 1 Story

By Michael Barr
Michael Barr

On May 20, 1921, William Dietel, managing editor of the Fredericksburg Standard, sat at his desk on a lazy Friday afternoon. Not much was going on. The world outside his window was moving but not very fast. The editor had 8 pages to fill for tomorrow's newspaper and was probably wondering how in the world he was going to do it.

He had already written about the Kaffee Kraenzehen at Mrs. Felix Meier's House last Thursday and the rain that fell on Willow City earlier in the week. The Methodist Church South announced that there would be "preaching using the English language at the 10:30am service on Sunday." Doss school had an end-of-the-year picnic in Ernst Schmidt's pasture. And that was the exciting stuff.

The wasn't much else to write about until Udo Henke's delivery horse ran wild and turned a part of Fredericksburg's Main Street into a disaster area.

Fredericksburg TX - Henkes Meat Market
Henkes Meat Market
Photo courtesy Gillespie County Historical Society.

Udo Henke worked for his father Richard at Henke's Meat Market on the corner of Main and Lincoln Streets (today the Luckenbach Outpost on Main). Udo delivered fresh meat to customers in a horse-drawn wagon. There was a saddle on the horse for Udo to ride between deliveries.

The Henke house was next door to the meat market. The house was the birthplace of Admiral Chester Nimitz. The admiral's mother was a Henke. The family stabled its horses in an enclosure behind the house (today the beer garden at El Milagro).

Fredericksburg TX - Henkes Meat Market
Henkes Meat Market
Photo courtesy Gillespie County Historical Society.

At 5pm that Friday afternoon Udo stopped his wagon at Klaerner's Corner (today the Chase Bank Building at the corner of Main and Llano). After making his delivery Udo stepped into the stirrup, but the girth had worked loose. The saddle slipped, throwing Udo to the ground. Udo was not hurt, but the horse spooked and took off in a wild panic, headed west on Main, the wagon behind it bouncing off buildings on both sides of the street.

Halfway down the block the runaway horse and wagon crashed into the plate glass window at the Citizens Garage, owned by the Joseph Brothers, at 132 West Main Street (today eWay Furniture) showering the men inside with glass. Had it not been for the iron railing out front the damage would have been a lot worse.

Crossing the street the vehicle smashed into a delivery cart parked in front of Juenke and Schoenewolf's General Merchandise Store (now a part of the Dooley's building). Then for good measure the horse struck the iron post in front of the store a glancing blow, making the entire building shake.

The town, lulled by the tedious routine of another ordinary afternoon, suddenly came alive. People spilled out onto Main Street to see what all the excitement was about. Editor Dietel seized the moment, grabbed his pen and began to write.


Down the street Mrs. Eddie Herbort and her 2 children had been grocery shopping that morning and had just alighted from a buggy in front of Stucke's Bakery. Mother and children were about to enter the bakery when Udo Henke's runaway horse and wagon flew by at close range, scaring the daylights out of Mrs. Herbort's horse and sending her vehicle on a wild ride of its own.

Meanwhile Udo Henke's horse reached the courthouse with no signs of slowing down. Then in front of the post office the horse caught its foot in one of the stirrups. He stumbled and fell. As he got back on his feet a gentleman walking down the sidewalk ran out on the street, grabbed the reins and steadied the animal.

A farmer finally stopped Mrs. Herbort's horse and buggy 3 miles out the mail road. The top of buggy was torn away but a container of flour and the rest of her groceries were intact.

In a couple of minutes it was all over. The street was quiet again.

When the dust settled there was some property damage, but no great harm was done. At the very least Udo Henke's runaway horse brought a little excitement to a lazy Friday afternoon, and the next day's newspaper had a page one story.

Michael Barr
"Hindsights" November 22, 2022 Column

Source:
The Fredericksburg Standard, May 21, 1921, page 1.



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