Tadpole's Outdoor Blog

June 17, 2012

“THE NEUVILLE CAVE” – JUNE 17, 2012 – BY: NEAL MURPHY

“THE  NEUVILLE  CAVE”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

Email: SUGARBEAR@NETDOT.COM

 

 

Why was its existence kept a secret from me for so many years?  My mother used to have picnics there when she was a teenager.  My father hunted in and around this unique piece of real estate when he was young.  When in junior high, I played baseball against a team from Neuville.  Yet, no one ever told me about the cave.  I found out about its existence about twenty five years ago by accident.

Since locating the cave I have taken my young grandchildren exploring several times and they had a blast playing in it.  This well-kept secret is located ten miles north of San Augustine off Highway 96.  A left turn on to county road 1012 for about a mile will get you in the vicinity.  It is safer to go in a four-wheel drive vehicle as the deep sand can snare a sedan.  One has to walk approximately twenty-five yards south on an old logging trail  to the cave, and it can still be missed because the road goes over the cave which is, in reality, a long tunnel.  Once located it is a rather steep drop to the cave entrance which must be negotiated with care.

In the 1930’s and 1940’s the Neuville (Gunnels) Cave  became a place for teens and young grown-ups to visit.  Rumor is that Sam Houston hid in the cave from Indians, and that Davy Crockett spent the night there on several occasions.  It is also said that the Declaration of Independence was drafted in this cave, and that the first sermon ever preached in Texas was done so directly in front of it.  Immediately over the cave is a large tree, it is said, under which General Robert E. Lee spent one night on his return from the Mexican war.  A rusty and blood-stained knife was found in the cave, and with this knife in this cave Sam Houston cut Santa Anna’s throat.  This was after Santa Anna had escaped from the field and was captured in this cave.

No one knows if any of these stories is real, but at least it makes for a good discussion.  At least, we know that the cave has been in existence for a very long time.  The cave is located on private property south of what once was the old Gunnels farm house.  The cave is a unique attraction for East Texas.

In 1935 the Center Chamber of Commerce was working for the designation of a State Park for Shelby county.  The Chamber wanted to include the Neuville cave as a state park.  However, the cave was bypassed as a state park and nothing more became of the proposal.

The town of Neuville was founded during the latter part of the 1800s, and was named for the Stephen de Neuville family, who settled in the area in the 1840s. A post office was opened in 1901 with  William J. Neuville as postmaster.  The Neuville community had a hotel, several stores, a large lumber operation, and a population of 450 by 1914.  By 1925 its population had declined to 300, and was reported at this level through the mid 1940s.  In 1938 the community had two schools, one for seventy-five white children, and one for thirty-five black children.

After World War II Neuville began to decline as much of the timber in the area had been cut over.  By 1949 the population was estimated at 100.  The local school district was consolidated with other districts by 1955, and the post office was closed in the 1960s.*

Back to the cave.  It is approximately 270 feet long and has two parts. One part tunnels through a hill and opens into an immense sink-hole covering an area of at least two acres, and an average depth of forty feet. In this area several springs have their origin and the small stream goes through the main tunnel of the cave and out the west opening.

The cave is actually one long room, approximately 20X40 feet.  The roof of the whole cave is arched, and the hard sand and clay deposits offer a solid wall that appears to be safe from cave-ins.  It is dark enough to warrant having a flashlight handy when wading through the shallow water.   It is truly an amazing thing to see right in the middle of the sand hills.

On our last trip to the cave our daughter had a close encounter with a bat  whose nap she interrupted.  In addition our vehicle got stuck in the shifting sands.  Out of nowhere a vehicle appeared on the road which we flagged down.  The driver happened to have one of those new “car telephones” and called for help to get us out.

I have been told that the cave is still private property and should not be entered without expressed permission.  I am still amazed that I never heard about this unusual cave when I was younger and more agile.  Perhaps some day the state will make a recognized park of it.  It is richly deserved.

*  Cecil Harper, Jr. – “Neuville, TX” –  Handbook of Texas Online

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Outside the Cave

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inside cave showing a bat on the ceiling

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my daughter with grand kids playing inside the cave

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About the Author

Neal Murphy resides in his birthplace, San Augustine, Texas, with his wife Clara. He has two children, Kay Fatheree, a pastor’s wife now living in Abilene, Texas, and Douglas Murphy, a police officer in North Carolina, and has five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Neal earned a bachelor of business administration degree from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and a master’s degree in insurance from the Insurance Institute of America. He also attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he studied religion courses. He is a deacon at a Baptist Church, has taught Sunday school classes, and directed church choirs for many years. He began his writing in 2005, and many of his short stories about his life growing up in a small Texas town have been published in Reminisce Magazine, Good Old Days Magazine, Looking Back Magazine, and the Town Square Magazine. He had a story included in Memories of Mother, a book published by Xulon Press. Another story was published in the book Dear Old Golden School Days published by the DRG Publishing Group. He published a book, From the Heart of a Country Preacher, by Xulon Press in 2006. His second book entitled Those Were the Days was published by Xlibris Inc. in 2007. In 2008 he published another book, The Psalms—From the Heart of a Country Preacher, by Xlibris Inc. He is a founding member of the Deep East Texas Literary Guild of San Augustine, Texas, founded in 2009. He has weekly stories in the San Augustine Tribune and the Toledo Chronicle, an online newspaper. He has a monthly story in the Shelby County Today online newspaper.


June 10, 2012

“THE OHLY FACTOR” BY: NEAL MURPHY – JUNE10, 2012

“THE  OHLY  FACTOR”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

Email: SUGARBEAR@NETDOT.COM

 

I did not know it in the middle 1940s when I was in elementary school in San Augustine, Texas, but I was breaking the law.  In fact all we students were lawbreakers.  Some of you might recall this event that the courts now say was very detrimental to our very souls.  Yet, most of us grew up to be intelligent and useful citizens in spite of the learned judges’ opinions.

Once a year, without fail, the principal would report to each class room that there would be a general assembly in the auditorium at 10:30.  I usually had an idea what was going to occur, and I was excited about it.

Several hundred six to twelve year old students would be herded into the large auditorium for a special program.  Yes, I was right.  I could see the large felt board on the stage and there she was, Mrs. Ohly.  She and her husband, R. M. Ohly from Tyler, Texas, toured from school to school sharing Bible stories with all the students.  Now she was on our stage, and she had a magic board.

She always began her presentation with these words, “Good morning, students.  My name is Mrs. Ohly – O-H-L-Y.”  As she told stories from the Bible she would use cutouts of the different characters which she would place on the large board and they would magically stick.  I never figured out how that worked.  As she related stories of Noah and the Ark, Daniel in the lion’s den, the birth of Jesus, Jonah and the whale, and many others, she would illustrate the stories with the figures placed strategically on the magic felt board.  Her stories always captured our young imaginations. If I had only known what damage she was doing to my mind I would have exercised my right to stay in my class room.

After her stories were over, she always gave each student a small New Testament to take home and read.  We then returned to our studies refreshed and just a little wiser in the ways of God.  Perhaps we did not realize that at the time.

Unfortunately our Supreme Court and Federal judges now tell us that it is illegal to hand out New Testaments on school property.  It is now against the law to pray out loud – perhaps you can sneak in a silent prayer just before a mid-term test.  There are no more Christmas carols sung, in fact there is no more Christmas.  The religious holiday has been replaced by “Winter Break”.  Students are in serious trouble if they even mention the name of Jesus on school property.

I am sure that Mr. and Mrs. Ohly never realized what terrible law breakers they were for those many years of poisoning thousands of young minds.  No doubt they are both gone on to their rewards by now, but I am one student that appreciated and enjoyed their ministry.  I keep hearing people ask the question, “What is wrong with our schools these days?  Why are the kids so unruly?”  I am sure that Mrs. Ohly and God are looking down at us now and saying, “We have the answer!  Look up!”

June 3, 2012

THE BAPTIST FOX – June 3, 2012 – Neal Murphy

THE  BAPTIST  FOX

 

BY: NEAL MURPHY

(sugarbear@netdot.com

The night of June 3, 2005 was hot, humid, and dry.  The drought conditions in deep East Texas had continued unabated all year.  Both man and beast were in search of cool air and wet water.

As deputies for the Shelby County, Texas Sheriff Department, my partner and I patrol the county, checking the security of businesses, churches, residences, and schools.  On this particular night, we were driving through Blair, a community on the far western side of Shelby County.  We pulled into the parking lot of a small Baptist church located right off the Farm-to-Market highway.  As we drove up to the church, suddenly an animal ran from under the church into the trees beyond.

Although we had gotten only a fast look, we identified the animal as a female fox.  She gave a glance back at her intruders as she disappeared into the pine trees behind the church.

Larry and I mused that the fox was probably hot and was using the church crawl space to rest and cool off.  Then, suddenly, a young fox peered at us from the church crawl space opening.  He seemed not to be very afraid of us as he ventured outside the entrance and stared at us.

The little fox probably was hot, hungry, and thirsty.  Larry had brought along a sandwich to eat later on during our shift.  He eased out of the patrol car, opened the back door, and got half of his sandwich.  He moved toward the small fox, talking to him gently.  The fox retreated back into the safety of the church while Larry placed the sandwich on the ground at the entrance.

Then Larry found an old bowl, and filled it with water from a nearby water hose, and set it beside the sandwich.

After retreating to our patrol car, we sat and watched as the young fox came out of hiding, gulped down the food, and lapped up the water, ignoring his audience only a few feet away.  Then he just stood there watching us intently long enough for us to take several pictures of him.

I left a note on the front door of the church advising them that they had a family of fox living under their church.

Each time we were in the Blair community, be would stop and check on our fox family.  We saw the mother a few more times, and the young fox began to run from us.  His mother probably gave him some lessons about the dangers of humans and how to avoid them.  Eventually, they were both gone, but they served as an interesting break for us while on patrol.

A church member jested that the two fox were baptized, and were never seen at church again.  Seems I have heard that before.

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About the Author

Neal Murphy resides in his birthplace, San Augustine, Texas, with his wife Clara. He has two children, Kay Fatheree, a pastor’s wife now living in Abilene, Texas, and Douglas Murphy, a police officer in North Carolina, and has five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Neal earned a bachelor of business administration degree from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and a master’s degree in insurance from the Insurance Institute of America. He also attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he studied religion courses. He is a deacon at a Baptist Church, has taught Sunday school classes, and directed church choirs for many years. He began his writing in 2005, and many of his short stories about his life growing up in a small Texas town have been published in Reminisce Magazine, Good Old Days Magazine, Looking Back Magazine, and the Town Square Magazine. He had a story included in Memories of Mother, a book published by Xulon Press. Another story was published in the book Dear Old Golden School Days published by the DRG Publishing Group. He published a book, From the Heart of a Country Preacher, by Xulon Press in 2006. His second book entitled Those Were the Days was published by Xlibris Inc. in 2007. In 2008 he published another book, The Psalms—From the Heart of a Country Preacher, by Xlibris Inc. He is a founding member of the Deep East Texas Literary Guild of San Augustine, Texas, founded in 2009. He has weekly stories in the San Augustine Tribune and the Toledo Chronicle, an online newspaper. He has a monthly story in the Shelby County Today online newspaper.

May 20, 2012

“AN ALARMING SITUATION” – Neal Murphy

“AN  ALARMING  SITUATION”

 

BY: NEAL MURPHY

(sugarbear@netdot.com)

 

 

The boarding house on Wettermark street near the campus of Stephen F. Austin State College was the setting for many a juvenile prank during the fall of 1955.  I was a freshman student at the Nacogdoches college living in the large, two-story house with eight other male students at the time.  More time was invested in playing pranks on each other than in studying the expensive courses required for a degree.

Looking back on this year I am amazed that I passed any courses at all as so much time was spent playing dominoes or forty-two than anything else, except perhaps jokes and pranks on the other residents.

One of the residents was a young man from a small town near Tyler.  He was somewhat socially inept, the perfect target for innocent harassment.  One fall afternoon while *Jim was gone someone of our group devised the perfect practical joke which had Jim’s name all over it.  After explaining the details of the prank to the rest of us, we all agreed.  All the tools needed were as many alarm clocks as we could gather together, which was a total of five.

Most alarm clocks in those days were the wind-up kind not needing electricity to work.  We entered Jim’s room and began carrying out our devious plot.  We set each alarm clock to go off at thirty-minute intervals, beginning at two o’clock in the morning.  Then we hid each one in places such as desk drawers, the closet, chest of drawers, and under his bed.  Our plan completed, we all retreated to our own rooms and waited.

Jim returned home just in time for supper at the boarding house, an experience in itself.  Around midnight we all retired for the night awaiting the results of our plan.  At two o’clock I heard the muffled sound of an alarm clock in Jim’s room.  Then the sounds of someone stumbling over furniture in the dark combined with a few choice words.  Our scheme was working.

Things settled down for awhile as he evidently  located the clock and turned it off.  It would not be long before the second one would go off.

At the sound of the second alarm clock more choice words were heard as he searched out the location of this clock.  This time he yelled out,  “Who the hell is doing this to me?”  I heard several voices from other rooms: “It wasn’t me.”   “I didn’t do it.”  “What clocks?”  “Anybody hear any clocks?”

After the third clock chimed Jim finally got up and began an all-out search for the remaining clocks which he located.  Seems I recall a couple of them being hurled at the wall.  “This is not funny.  I have a test tomorrow”, he whined.  The boarding house was extremely quiet the rest of the night.

Poor Jim was a good-natured fellow and accepted our pranks as just a part of college boarding house culture.  However, I recall that the next week several of us had our beds “short-sheeted” by a person or persons unknown. Tit for tat, an eye for an eye, sowing or reaping, giving and receiving – whatever one wants to call it, it was definitely in effect here.

I have often wondered what happened to Jim.  He did not return to the boarding house the next year.  It was suggested that he probably became a clock and watch repair man, considering his background and experience.

* name changed

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About the Author

Neal Murphy resides in his birthplace, San Augustine, Texas, with his wife Clara. He has two children, Kay Fatheree, a pastor’s wife now living in Abilene, Texas, and Douglas Murphy, a police officer in North Carolina, and has five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Neal earned a bachelor of business administration degree from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and a master’s degree in insurance from the Insurance Institute of America. He also attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he studied religion courses. He is a deacon at a Baptist Church, has taught Sunday school classes, and directed church choirs for many years. He began his writing in 2005, and many of his short stories about his life growing up in a small Texas town have been published in Reminisce Magazine, Good Old Days Magazine, Looking Back Magazine, and the Town Square Magazine. He had a story included in Memories of Mother, a book published by Xulon Press. Another story was published in the book Dear Old Golden School Days published by the DRG Publishing Group. He published a book, From the Heart of a Country Preacher, by Xulon Press in 2006. His second book entitled Those Were the Days was published by Xlibris Inc. in 2007. In 2008 he published another book, The Psalms—From the Heart of a Country Preacher, by Xlibris Inc. He is a founding member of the Deep East Texas Literary Guild of San Augustine, Texas, founded in 2009. He has weekly stories in the San Augustine Tribune and the Toledo Chronicle, an online newspaper. He has a monthly story in the Shelby County Today online newspaper.

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