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 Texas : Features : Columns : "Texas Tales"

HUDSON BEND

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox
Maybe some day a scuba diver will find the old bent rifle barrel at the bottom of Lake Travis. Itís bound to be there somewhere, resting in the sediment in the vicinity of Hudson Bend.

When Wiley Hudson came to Travis County in 1854, settling above Austin in a bend of the Colorado River that came to bear his familyís name, no one would have considered doing so without a good rifle close at hand. The state capital lay a dayís wagon ride downstream, but hostile Indians still preyed on the area.

Six years after Hudson built his cabin on the river west of Austin, a federal census enumerator listed Hudson and his wife Catherine as having eight children. Hudsonís father and two brothers also lived along the bend. All of the Hudson clan got by as farmer-ranchers, though when the Civil War broke out, the Hudson boys shouldered arms for the Confederacy.

After the war, the Hudsons returned to the Colorado, enduring droughts and floods as they made their living off the land.

On almost any farm in early day Texas, corn figured as an important crop. The Hudsons and their fellow settlers carried the corn by wagon to Anderson Mill, where the yellow kernels could be ground into meal and eventually transformed into cornbread.

By the time Hudson had grandchildren, the families living in the hills west of Austin no longer feared raiding Comanches. But well into the 20th century, a rifle still hung above every mantle. And a Texan learned how to shoot early.

One day in the 1930s, one of the Hudson grandsons busied himself plunking a single-shot .22 around his familyís riverside homestead.

Wearying of the hornetís buzz of speeding bullets, the grandpa told the boy to be careful where he aimed. He especially cautioned him against shooting around the mules. The animals, hitched to a wagon full of corn, had a deserved reputation for skittishness.

But boys being boys, the youngster kept the lead flying. When a bullet whistled past the long ear of one of Hudsonís mules, both animals jumped straight into the air and came down going in opposite directions.

Recovering enough to pull together, the mules ran wildly, pulling the corn-laden wagon behind them. The team ran through a gate, catching the wagon behind them. That broke the gate and wrecked the wagon, covering the ground with mounds of corn.

Seeing the consequences of his disregarded warning, the elder Hudson came flying out of the house after his errant grandson.

Grabbing the bolt-action rifle from the boy, the old man smashed it into the closest pecan, wrapping the barrel around the sturdy tree.

Unreconstructed, the young man picked up the .22 and smarted off: ďNow I can shoot around corners!Ē

At that, Hudson retrieved the rifle and hurled it out into the river.

A few years later, the newly created Lower Colorado River Authority began buying land along the river in anticipation of building a large flood control dam. With the completion of Mansfield Dam in 1940 and the filling of Lake Travis, about half the original Hudson acreage flooded. Remains were exhumed from the old family cemetery and relocated at Teck, just off present Ranch Road 620.

The area around the new community of Hudson Bend has boomed, with subdivisions and expensive homes covering much of the old farm and ranch land. And somewhere out there in the lake is a rifle barrel with a story.
© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" - December 16, 2005 column
 
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