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Remembering Bob Ramsey

By Linda Kirkpatrick
“Mom did you ever meet Bob Ramsey?” my daughter Amanda inquired of me a month or so ago. Amanda loved her nurse visits with Mr. Ramsey. He was excited to learn that her grandfather was one of his best friends.

That sure opened up a line of stories. As a kid in the sixth grade, Mr. Ramsey came to one of the local 4-H meetings that I attended. He spoke and I can say that we were all mesmerized with his tall tales. Of course, at the time, I believed every word that he said and I will admit I still do today. He influenced me greatly in the art of preserving and telling stories about Texas and the west.

You see, the world knew Mr. Bob Ramsey as an avid hunter and story teller and I had the honor of knowing him personally and could call him my friend.

Bob was born in 1918 on the ranch where I spent the first 18 years of my life. I have been down to the small cabin where his family lived. The cabin sits close to a natural spring. The ranch, now owned by the H. W. Lewis family, is a rugged, isolated, and very hilly place in the Texas Hill Country. Mr. Ramsey once told that he was very young when they lived in that cabin. A baby boy died there, his grave near the cabin. I remember searching for the grave but never found it. The location of the cabin is desolate and not easily accessed. Families were used to this way life and perhaps this remoteness was what spurred the imaginations.

In that first encounter with Mr. Ramsey, I learned how to “rattle up” a buck deer. Now remember I was in the sixth grade. I lived on a remote ranch with no TV, video games, phones or computer. Books and a wild imagination became my way of passing the time, well up until I met Mr. Ramsey. You might say that he kicked the imagination area of my entertainment up a notch or two.

That night at the meeting, he walked to the front of the group and held up a set of sheds, deer antlers that the deer had lost. He ask if anyone knew what those were and of course, I did but was too bashful at that time to speak up. I had a collection of sheds piled up outside the door of our back porch. Eventually someone spoke up, “Deer horns!”

“Now, what do you do with these deer horns?” Mr. Ramsey ask with that twinkle in his eye.

Back then, hunters and hunting leases were just getting popular. Matter of fact, I was shocked when I realized that people would pay money to drive around or sit in a blind and “hunt deer.”

Driving around in a large vehicle suited for the rocky terrain of the Texas Hill Country with an arsenal of guns was sure a sight for me. And a blind, I had not a clue how a “blind” could help you hunt. Then again, I didn’t know what a blind was. The words hunting and blind were enough to get my mind going and Mr. Ramsey had hardly even started!

With that pair of horns, anchored together with leather string, Mr. Ramsey was going to teach us how to “rattle up a buck!” What???

At this point, I was lost. But remember this was the cutting edge of learning to “hunt.” I think “hunt” was the word that threw me. I had no trouble finding all the deer that one could want, just follow me.

We learned how to hold the horns correctly so that the tines would not jab our hands and then with the backsides of the antlers, facing each other Mr. Ramsey hit them together and the sound resonated the courthouse, 4-H meeting meetings were held in the court room back then. And at that moment, if nothing else, he had my attention!

One of the tricks of a good storyteller is to take a subject and relate it to an audience. This story, if told by your average person would take a couple of minutes, but when told by a story teller it just goes on forever. The true storyteller can take you on a journey through time until at the end, you want to say, “It can’t be over yet!!” Mr. Ramsey was the best of the best.

When I left that meeting, I was ready to go out the next morning and “rattle up” my first buck. I really was confused because I knew where to find the bucks but just to “rattle” one up seemed to intrigue me and it would help pass a lot of time! Remember I was short on entertainment.

In my mind, I went over the steps one more time and then I tied up my dog and away I went. The draw north of the house seemed to be a likely spot. For some reason this draw was always kinda scary to me, to this day, it still is and I don’t know why. I found a nice Mountain Laurel bush to hide behind, got my antlers just right and then, “Crack!” The sound was much like the sound made by Mr. Ramsey’s antlers. I wacked them together a time or two more then, as instructed, just sat quietly for a few minutes. Then I locked the tines together and rattled them around. I scratched them on the ground, tossed a couple of rocks and shook the limbs on the bush, just as instructed, trying my best to make it sound like two bucks were really fighting. I really had something going here and then I remembered some of the other things that he had said.

“Keep a steady eye out, ‘cause those old bucks hear another fight going on and they want to be there. Nothing will stop them. They will come charging over the hills and through bushes…”

Bushes? Gee, could that mean that this Mountain Laurel bush might not stop a charging buck?

Under a Mountain Laurel bush, up the Scary Draw, north of the old ranch house, to this day is a great pair of “rattling horns.” You can’t believe how fast my legs carried me away from the Scary Draw and back to the house.

It was always fun to listen to Bob’s stories. One of my favorite stories is the one that he told about his dad, Reynolds Allen Ramsey. His dad spent his younger days in San Antonio, Texas near Fort Sam Houston. One of his exciting memories was the transfer the captured Geronimo from Florida to the reservation. Geronimo and his renegade band of Apache Indians were transported by train from Florida to the reservation with a stop-over at Fort Sam. This sounded very exciting and tempting for young Reynolds Allen Ramsey and his friends. So they made a little trip to the fort and eased themselves up to the fence surrounding the guard house in hopes of seeing a real live Indian.

At first, they saw nothing at all but then from around the corner of the out building came an Indian, a real live Indian. The boys thought that they were well hidden but they were wrong. The Indian walked over to the fence and looked the boys square in the eye. The boys trembled in fear and then the Indian spoke, “You got any tabacky?” And at about the same time the guards noticed the boys. The guards told them to leave the premises immediately. Could this have been the real Geronimo? Reynolds Allen was not going to miss a chance like this. He ran to the store, dug change from his pocket, bought a plug of tobacco and hurried back to Fort Sam.

Again, he crept back to the fence and there stood the Indian almost like he was waiting for him but as he reared back and threw the tobacco over the fence here came the guard again demanding to know why he was back. He knew that he was in severe trouble so he just told the truth, that the Indian ask for tobacco and he went to the store to get him a plug. And with that he high-tailed it outta there!

Mr. Ramsey was a wonderful teacher and I owe my love of history and storytelling to this wonderful man. He passed away this last December. I for one will miss his tall tales.

So, yes Amanda, I have met Bob Ramsey and one day I will tell you about how he taught me the art of mimicking the distress call of a baby hummingbird.

© Linda Kirkpatrick

Somewhere in the West
March 5, 2010 Column
See also
The Quadrangle and Geronimo
by Mark Louis Rybczyk

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