troughs, better known in Texas as horse troughs, were intended for the hydration
of livestock. But Texas ranchers and their families found far more use for these
open containers of water than merely affording Old Dobbin a place to drink. |
troughs also played a role in many a Hollywood Western as a handy receptacle for
bad guys in saloon brawls. Nothing like knocking a drunken cowpoke in a slimy
horse trough to put him in his place, so to speak.
the 1963 Paul Newman classic “Hud,” the cold-hearted, hot-blooded character played
by the late actor in his salad days seemed to think the ranch’s horse trough could
sober him up if he splashed his face enough.|
In real life, many a ranch
kid ran to the trough to stick an injured or burned limb in. Cartoon characters
like Daffy Duck also found that a convenient horse trough could cure the effects
of a shotgun blast or a hotfoot.
While the trough shown in “Hud” was a
circular galvanized metal affair, the first generation of Texas troughs was made
of wood. Later, ranchers made concrete tanks and eventually turned to the galvanized
|“They lined the inside
of the wooden troughs with pitch,” Merkel advertising executive and cartoonist
Roger T. Moore recalled. “They always leaked a little, but not enough to make
a difference.” |
Despite the pitch, the troughs eventually sprouted some
form of vegetation. Wet wood made a nice growth medium for algae, and the constant
water supply encouraged other plants as well.
But in a country where water
was and is always at a premium, a full horse trough was as good as a creek or
river if neither body of water lay particularly close.
a wooden trough on his grandfather’s place that the old man claimed had been the
site of the first baptizing in that part of Taylor County.
horse trough uses include: A
place to obtain water for the radiator of your over-heated Model T.
place to dunk someone who had offended you in some manner.
place to take an outdoor bath. Vaudaline R. Thomas, in her self-published book
“Plum Creek Memorabilia,” recalled a West
Texas cowboy who preferred bathing in the horse trough. One day when the wife
of a neighbor drove up, she spotted the cowboy as he enjoyed his bath. Every time
he tried to get out, Thomas recalled, the lady revved the motor of her Model T
to announce her continuing presence, forcing the hapless hand back into the water.
“This went on for some 10 minutes,” she wrote. “She was determined that he have
one good Saturday bath.”
troughs made a handy place to keep minnows in anticipation of the next fishing
trip. They ate mosquitoes, too.
could even keep a creek-caught bass or mess of perch in the horse trough for a
time. Moore remembers one friend who put gold fish in his family’s trough.
a hot day, dipping your hat in the trough provided a little natural air-conditioning
for a while.
long as a careful guard was kept, a horse trough made a great place to cool a
in a block of ice and a horse trough made an excellent beer and soft drink cooler.
In lake-shy West Texas, a horse trough
could be as big as an ocean for a kid with a homemade toy boat.
troughs attracted wildlife, from quail to deer.
© Mike Cox
October 15, 2008 column
More Texas | TE
Online Magazine | Features |Texas
Ranches | Columns |
A definitive history
Books by Mike Cox - Order Here|
| || |