Curley Bill and His West Texas Ranch
Curly Bill and His West Texas Ranch
Sylvester Bliss grew up on Staten Island, New York. He was big at 15 years and huge at 21, and he had jet-black curly hair. When he became of age his father suggested that he look for a job so he could pay his way. He dutifully started looking for employment but was so large he threatened other folks and no one would hire him. Sylvester was becoming desperate, but one day his ship came in. There came a mail packet that notified him that his Uncle George Norton had died and left him a 500-acre ranch in West Texas near the town of Snakebite, Texas. The family was excited and his mother packed his belongings and put them in a tow sack. His father was more excited and hitched up the horse and buggy and took his son to the city limits and pointed the way west. Sylvester always said that his father was so sad that he heard him crying, "Hallelujah."
The new ranch owner paid his way the Buffalo by working on a river barge and upon arriving in the big city Sylvester got lost and asked a stranger for help. The stranger led him through town and at the edge of town three other strangers robbed him of all his belongings. So all the way west was one hard job after another and he became dirtier and dirtier and a bushy curly black beard rose on his face. By the time he got to Snakebite his nose was the only feature that could be seen through the hair that covered his whole head. He knew that cowboys worked with cows and horses so he stopped at the livery stable on the edge of town. After the surprise of seeing such a hairy giant the livery owner offered him a job of cleaning the stables. Sylvester was in a bad way because he no money and was hungry so he took the job. He worked all day and was paid twenty-five cents. He grasped the money and started for town and found a horse trough full of water. He tried to wash and hold the money at the same time. The money slipped out of his hand, but Sylvester did not delay he jumped right into that trough, found all his money, and took his first bath in three months. He went into an alley and wrung his clothes as dry as he could get them. He was just pulling on his pants when he heard someone at the water trough. He crept out and watched a cowboy slip the bit out of his horse's mouth. The horse sunk his muzzle into the water and went completely mad. He left town braying and bucking and making a terrible racket. Some of the town’s people watched and in wonder "wondered what had happened that horse." Curly Bill did not know what was wrong with the horse but he felt clean for the first time since he left home.
The eating-house was open and Sylvester went in and bought a steak and a plate full of potatoes for fifteen cents. While he was eating the Marshall stop by and asked whom he was and where he was going. In all his pride, he said, "Sir, I am Sylvester Bliss from Staten Island, New York and I am here because my uncle died and left me his ranch. I am going to become a cattle rancher." The lawman asked who the uncle was and when Sylvester told him, the Marshall laughed and called out, "Hey, folks this is Sylvester Bliss from Staten Island, New York, and he inherited the Norton place and says he is going to become a cattle rancher." Everyone in the room started laughing and one man said, "Son, the Norton place is nothing but a waste land covered by sage brush." The new ranch owner would not be put aside and declared that he was going to start raising cattle. He was told that he would have to build a fence all around his land. Then someone said to put up a fence you have to dig postholes and the land was to dry and hard to dig holes.
Sylvester slept in the stables that night and early the next morning he went to the Land Office and picked up his deed and directions to his ranch. He used his last ten cents to buy enough food for about two days. A crowd of people had gathered round him and one the men were laughing about his appearance. The man said, "He is big and you can't see what he looks like except that nose sticking out of the curly hair looks like a chicken bill." Little Mary Ann was standing in the group and only caught a few of the words. She pulled at Sylvester's pants leg and said, "Curly Bill, Curly Bill." Now you know, folks, how Sylvester Bliss became Curly Bill.
Curly Bill arrived at his ranch and saw that no postholes were available. He walked all around the edge of the property and there was no way to dig post holes because the soil was too hard and dry. The food that he had bought was his favorite. He put his hand in the bag and brought out a handful of peanuts and then split the peanuts into two portions one for today and one for tomorrow. Curly Bill started another trip around his property and was eating peanuts. He dropped some and as he walked ahead he heard a noise and stopped. He could see nothing but as he stood eating he dropped another peanut and was almost hit when a gopher came up for the peanut. Curly got excited when he saw a perfect posthole. Just to check it out he walked back and sure enough every place he had dropped a peanut there was now a posthole. He wanted to check something and dropped the food in between the new holes. Sure enough that gopher would come up and a perfect hole was left in the hard dry soil. He spent the rest of the day and most of the next day dropping peanuts and watching post holes being dug. Curly Bill went back to Snakebite and excitedly told anyone who would listen that he would become a rancher because he had postholes all around his property. The marshal finally told him that you could put up a fence without fence posts and there was no wood for the posts.
This new problem didn't stop Curley Bill. He was going to be a rancher. The livery stable owner gave him a job so he could buy supplies for himself and his new ranch. When he had enough money for supplies he told the town's people that he was going back to his ranch. When he arrived back on his ranch he noticed for the first time that there was not any bushes or trees--just sage brush and tumble weeds. The weather was beginning to get cold so Curley Bill decided to hunker down for the night and return to town the next day. The next morning he got up early and made some coffee to go with his peanuts. He was squatting at the fire and a hot coal fell into the peanut shells and started a fire. The flames licked at the dry shells and started burning the path of shells from the entire peanut he had eaten on the post line. Curley Bill jumped up and started chasing after the fire and he watched it go down into a posthole and there was an explosion as something came up out of the hole. Bill was surprised and watched the fire run down into another hole and there came the explosion. He started following fire again and he heard a noise behind him. "Thunk"--then another thunk-- Curley Bill looked back and was amazed. He realized that big old rattle snakes had went into the holes because of the cold weather. When that fire went down into the hole, it was those big old rattle snakes that exploded out and disappeared into the clouds. Why, folks, they went so high they froze and then fell tail first into the postholes. Curly Bill excitedly went back to Snakebite and told his new neighbors that he was going to be a rancher because he had postholes and fence posts.
They laughed at him and someone told him that he would have installed a fence on the posts before he could raise cattle. That night as he was resting in the livery stable, he remembered being down on the Rio Grande and watched Texas Longhorns surround an unfamiliar sight and would stand shoulder to shoulder as they gazed at the strange apparition. Curley Bill got so excited he could not sleep during the night and the next morning he borrowed a horse and headed to the Rio Grande. The Snakebite people laughed when they saw Curly Bill driving a herd of Longhorns toward his ranch. They told him that Longhorns would not be worthwhile as money making venture. Curley Bill Paid no attention and took those Longhorns, and all around the ranch, he wedged a long horns in the mouths of those big old rattles snake which were his fence posts. Now let me tell you folks, no body or no thing will mess with a longhorn steer tied to a big mad old rattlesnake. Curly Bill was so excited about becoming a cattle rancher that he raced back into Snakebite and told the people that he had post holes, fence posts, and a fence and he was going to become a cattle rancher.
The people laughed at him again and said that a cattle ranch needed water and his place was nothing but wastelands covered with tumble weeds with no water available. Curly Bill was devastated because with all his walks around the ranch he had not seen any water. The only thing that reminded him of water was a dry creek bed. He went back to his ranch to pack his bedroll and loosen the snakes and Longhorns. He decided to take one more trip around his ranch. He was walking slowly eating peanuts and stumbled and fell into the dry creek bed. Curley Bill decided to walk to the head of the dry creek bed to see if there was any sign of water. It took hours to finally come to a spot where the dry creek bed gave out and it was getting late and was turning cold. In the dim light Curley Bill hunkered down beside a white boulder. As much as he tried Curley Bill could not get warm. He finally decided to build a fire. He gathered some tumbleweeds and sagebrush and built a fire. It became warm and Curly Bill fell asleep. Sometime later he was awaken by a noise. It was drip, drip, drip, then it become gurgle, gurgle, gurgle and then splash, splash, splash. Curly Bill built up the fire and was amazed. That big old white boulder was melting and water was beginning to run down the dry creek bed. By morning Curly Bill could see that his entire ranch would have water, and now he knew that he would become a cattle rancher.
The people in Snakebite were astounded to hear about the water. They went out to see and came back shaking there head because they couldn't understand how a white rock could make water, but there it was. Curly Bill had more water than he needed and told the other ranchers he would swap water for big fat steers and cows. Curly Bill had become a rancher. The Snakebite people continued to be amazed and the word spread throughout the land. A famous surveyor came by and told Curly Bill the he had struck water at the tip of a big old iceberg. He said that the ice would replenish itself and the river would always run full of good cool clean water.
Curley Bill came into Snakebite for supplies and as he was loading the wagon one of his new friends said, "Pay Close attention, Bill because people will still try to cheat and rob you. So my friend pay close attention, Bill." Little Mary Ann heard the conversations but could only identify a few works. She grabbed Curly Bill's hand and said, "Pay cose Bill. So now you know folks, how Sylvester Bliss became Curly Bill and now Pay cose Bill from little Mary Ann cause people to change Curly Bill's name to Pay Cose Bill, and over the years he became Pecos Bill who had a ranch on a river that ran clear and cold and people started calling it the Pecos River. So now you know where Pecos Bill came from and how he found his river.