Strange name for a community, but then knowing how it how it got its name, it isn’t such a mystery. Back in the late 20’s and early 30’s, a strip coal mine was located just north of the U S Highway 79 and about a mile west of the “roadside park” just west of the current Sandy Creek church – thus the name “Big Lump” came about, apparently named after the lumps of coal that was being mined. In the immediate area around Big Lump, the Sandy Creek Church, cemetery and Sandy Creek two room schoolhouse and an old “country store” adjacent to a “open field” baseball playground where adults and children alike gathered on Sunday afternoon to “visit” and fill time between morning and evening church services, was the center of the community. My maternal grandfather, Ira R. Touchstone owned a large house that sat about half a mile due north of the “roadside park.” Actually the “park” consisted of a single concrete picnic table that has long since gone away. Directly across the highway was a dirt road that led to my paternal grandparent, Sallie E. Scott’s house and to the Sipe Springs community (see attached map).
Just inside the open field behind the picnic table where the baseball diamond was located, two “covered benches” and a soda pop stand was in evidence. Every Sunday after church, the young men and older boys met on the field for an evening of baseball. People in the community came to watch the game and usually brought a “picnic lunch” to enjoy before going back to church Sunday evening. I remember as a child, sitting on our (Touchstone) front porch or on the porch of the “country store” watching the games because I was not old enough to play in the games.
My grandfather worked at the mine and one day when my mother was walking through the small frame houses near the mine, delivering his bucket lunch to him, she was attacked and mauled by a bulldog belonging to one of the workers at the mine. She still bore the scars on her arm and shoulder at the time of her death a few years ago. All this occurred before my time but I remember my grandfather telling about how he shot the dog while it was being held by its owner and had its head sent to Austin to check for rabies. Fortunately, the tests were negative, sparing her the dreaded rabies shots. Having myself gone through a series of rabies shots later in life due to a cat bite, I am well aware of what she missed.
Coming from a broken home (1931) I alternated between my grandparent’s homes (Scott and Touchstone) when I went to Sandy Creek or Sipe Springs two room schoolhouses, depending on where I was at the time. My teacher at Sandy Creek was Mrs. Glen Lumpkin and at Sipe Springs it was Mrs. Dee. Strange as it may seem, those are the only teacher’s names I can remember until I got up into Junior High school. The grades were divided by rows with grade school in one room and high school in the other. We all had chores to do at school as well. The girls helped sweep the floors and the boys cleaned chalkboards, erasers and brought in firewood (when needed). During recess and lunch the girls usually played jump rope and the boys played marbles, spun tops or chased horned toads. The local “men folks” kept the school wood needs supplied.
During summer months, most all the boys either hunted or trapped animals for their skins when we were not working in the fields or clearing “new” ground. Living in the country always provided something for us to do. Mainly we were learning how to be responsible and dependable because it was required. Kids now days marvel at their fine cars, fancy clothes and such items but I bet none were any more proud than I was when I got my own horse and saddle – for which I worked to earn money to buy. I rode many imaginary “trails with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hoppy, Tom Mix and Buck Jones” while riding through the countryside. At night we would crank up the old Super Heterodyne Radio and listen to shows like the Shadow, Green Hornet, Captain Midnight, The Lone Ranger, I Love a Mystery, Lum and Abener, Amos and Andy to name a few. Back then a radio ran on an “A” battery and a “B” battery – one was merely a car battery and the other a small higher voltage battery, but don’t remember which was which. Since my Dad was the only one in the family who could drive and he was off to war, we used the car to recharge the car battery for the radio while it sat on blocks in the garage. I guess I joined every club that was advertised by these adventure programs by sending in cereal box tops for which we usually received a “secret coder” badge and membership in their fan clubs. I have no idea what happened to all the treasures I had back then but know that they would be priceless in today’s world. Oh if I only knew then what I know now!
Every Saturday morning my grandfather Scott would hitch up a team to his wagon, head into the pasture to soak the wheels in the old slough (stock tank) then he and I would start to Rockdale with my grandmother’s butter and eggs, which were sold, to the local grocery stores. My grandfather would give me a quarter to see the matinee at Matson’s theater, usually consisting of a comedy or cartoon, a serial and a western movie. There was also enough money to buy a bag of popcorn and a candy bar or soft drink and still have a few pennies left over. After the movie was over, I’d head to the local domino hall, where my grandfather would be waiting after he did his “visiting and shopping”. We’d then go to the livery stable back of the hardware store, hitch up the team and make our way to pick up his purchases, if any, then go by way of the ice plant and get a 100 pound block of ice, wrap it in canvas, then sawdust or cotton seed and more canvas then make one final stop at a small grocery store which was run by an elderly black man (I can still remember how nice and friendly he always was) where he would buy each of us a large peanut patty to eat on the way home. Of all the trips I made with him, the list of events never changed. With my Touchstone grandparents, the events were just a little different, we’d go to town in a Model T pickup but other than that, it would essentially be the same, except he didn’t play dominos as I remember.
On Saturday night, we’d all gather at someone’s house in the community and listen to the Grand Old Opry from WSN in Nashville. Back in those days, country music was Country Music, not what we call country today. All the greats were eventually presented on either the Louisiana Hayride or the Grand Old Opry, and after the Grand Old Opry went off the air about midnight, the musicians would head across the street to the Ernest Tubb Record shop and play as long as anyone would care to listen – or at least it seemed that way. Of course us “youngens” “played out” long before that time anyway.
All too soon, time to return to school would come around again. To get to school, we all walked or rode a horse as I remember at Sipe Springs. I jokingly tell my grandchildren about having to walk all that way to school in the snow and ice (usually ice every winter but snow was a novelty). There doesn’t seem to be as many ice storms now as we had back then. I do remember how cold the houses were because they were not insulated as they are today – in fact I don’t believe there was any insulation in the walls or ceiling. When I reached high school age (after a year or two at Mart, Missouri City, Angleton and Houston while living with my Mother) all the “country” schools were closed and combined with either Rockdale or Milano High School. So off to the “big school” we all went. I remember that Rockdale had a “bad” football team and we at Milano, were not allowed to play football (school policy) Our school played baseball, basketball, track and boxing. I can only remember one multi school boxing event (Rockdale and Milano) where I got my ears pinned back real good – oh well one can’t expect to win at everything.
Early in 1942 my dad, Ervin Scott, joined the Army as a member of the 1st Armored Division and became a half-track driver. He came home in December 1945 and I joined the Army in January 1946 to retire in 1969. I then went on to retire from the Security Alarm industry and later, my own Business and Computer Consultant Company. Fully retiring when I suffered a massive heart attack in 1999 and having to undergo a quad bypass.
There is an old saying, “You can take the boy out of the country but you can never take the country out of the boy.” That is especially true in my case. I have traveled all over the world – seventeen countries in all, been to some of the largest cities in the world, including London, Berlin, and Tokyo and nothing can compare to “country living” or “home folks.” My wife of 56 years, and I finally quit retiring and settled on a five acre tree covered piece of land just south of San Antonio where we enjoy our peace and quiet days with our two small dogs, a cat who thinks he rules the house and our grandkids and our church family. Health problems keep me relatively close to these military hospitals here in San Antonio but my “home” is still there in Milam County, torn between Rockdale, Milano and Big Lump. Times will never be like they were back then, but then I guess we wouldn’t want them back would we - OR WOULD WE? Personally I don’t think it was so bad in that era. We never had much of the finer things in life but then we didn’t really want or need much either.
Sipe Springs is long gone and Big Lump is just a memory now but those communities live on in the minds of the families who lived there. The families that come to mind are the Scott’s, Touchstone’s, Blackmon’s, Hairston’s, Diver’s, Huddleston’s, Gray’s, Krahl’s, Jones’, Story’s, Pruitt’s and a few more whose names have faded away with time.
Created on 29 June 2005 and last revised on 2 Dec 2006.