Motoring down the Clear Fork of the Brazos in The State of Texas

Looking back on my childhood and growing up in Lueders, Texas was a wonderful experience taken for granted at the time.

At age 12 you could become a Boy Scouts which most of my age group did and we loved playing on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River and a feeder creek called Cotton Wood.
(I told of this in my story on scouting in Lueders in 40's and 50's)

Carol Felts, who was in the same school grade as GranPa, lived directly across the street and as a result he and I spent an abnormal amount of time together and much of it was on the river.

Carol's Uncle Dodgen had a small wooden fishing boat made out of plywood which he kept tied up down on the banks of Cotton Wood Creek south if where we both lived and we just about took over his uncles boat.

We were the Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn of Lueders, Texas and had much fun paddling up and down Cotton Wood which fed into the Clear Fork of the Brazos near the rail road bridge.

If I recall correctly Carol and your GranPa even gave his uncles boat a new coat of paint which was green with white trim. I would think a new coat of paint made it our boat, Right.

After awhile, Carol and I got tired of paddling and I knew our neighbor Jay Watkins had an old fishing boat motor he never used.

I went over and asked Jay if he would sell us the motor and he said he was planning on cutting the shaft off of it and making a powered lawn mower out of it by putting a blade on the end of the shaft.

Kids, the rotary lawn mowers had just been invented and had not been out very long. I know because around this time I was still using a push reel mower to mow our grass. So, I am assuming after Jay saw one of these new fangled machines he got to figuring out how he could turn the old boat motor into a rotary lawn mower.

Jay told me he wasn't sure the old motor would even run because he hadn't run it in a long time and it was also missing a prop.

That apparently didn't faze me. So, after some further discussion I made a deal with Jay to give him $10.00 for the boat motor providing it could be made to run.

I took the motor home, cleaned it up and had it running in a couple of hours much to the surprise of Jay's wife Evelyn as she later told my mother and dad.

I can't recall where or how I came up with the ten dollars to pay Jay except I do remember getting Carol to pay half and so we both owned the motor and was probably the first partnership for the both of us.

Carol and I were now the proud owners of a 1-1/2 horse power boat motor called a "Water Witch" which was sold new by Sears and Roebuck.

But, we had one problem, No Prop.

Shorty Graham, ran a local Automotive Garage in Lueders and some how we discovered he had a Water Witch outboard motor sitting in his shop. It was a newer model and 1 horse power larger but, the prop shaft was the same which meant we could use Shorty's prop.

As an adult I would never have asked such a thing but, as a kid tired of rowing it didn't bother me to ask Shorty if me and Carol could borrow the prop off his motor. Unlike today also, Shorty said "sure" but, you can not use my shear pin because if you shear the pin off it is hard to get another so you will need to make yourself a shear pin out of a nail.

So, we took the prop off Shorty's motor, made a shear pin from a nail and to the river we went. But, alas our fun only lasted about an hour when the motor quite running. We were a ways down the river so Carol started paddling us towards home and I cranked on the motor trying to get it started.

The motor finally cranked and we ran it a little and then it quit again. So, I cranked some more and Carol paddled some more.

We finally got back to our docking spot, tied the boat up and went home taking the motor with us.

The next day our motor cranked and ran fine at the house. Next time we went to the river we had the same results.

The motor would run a little while and quit So, Carol would paddle and I would crank or I would paddle and Carol would crank.

This scenario went on for about a month. Run and quit, paddle and crank. I think we paddled that motor further then it ever took us.

On one occasion, my Church of Christ Sunday School Class was having a picnic at the Lueders Dam located on the Clear Fork of the Brazos about a mile from where we kept the boat tied up on Cotton Wood.

I figured to impress the group and arrive by motor boat. So, I invited Carol to attend the picnic with me and suggested we take our motor boat down river to the dam and arrive in style.

We arrived at the picnic about 30 or 40 minutes late because I cranked and Carol paddled our way to the picnic.

Afterwards we headed home and I think this is the occasion we left the boat tied up to a tree down below where the old rock scout house was built on the banks of the river close to the railroad bridge and we walked home. The next day we had to go retrieve the boat and get it back up Cotton Wood where it belonged.

Somewhere along the line, we were told the motor would run and quit, run and quit because it had a bad coil which when cold it worked and when hot it would short out and stop the motor. Once cooled off it would run again until it again got hot.

The fix to all this was to give Shorty his prop back and then borrow motor and all from him which we did. Shorty's motor ran fine and carried us afar..

I do recall being over in Abilene and going to Sears and Roebuck trying to get a new coil. But apparently, it was unavailable or too expensive because we never got one.

As I recall it now, we only borrowed Shorty's motor once or twice and then seems like we lost the use of Uncle Dodgen's boat for nothing we had done but, he moved or sold it or something which eliminated our quest for an outboard motor.

As I recall it, I bought Carol's half or gave him his money back or something but, my memory tells me I obtained full ownership of the motor.

After 60 years, I will assume the statue of limitation has run out in case Carol wants to lay claim to half but, It may surprise Carol to learn that I still have that stinking Water Witch which we paddled further then we rode.

If Marie Watkins, a close friend of my sister, Iva reads this it may surprise her also to learn, I still have something once owned by her father.

I have now made a deal with my grandson, Nicholas Smyth to restore the Water Witch and we plan on putting it in the museum but, part of my deal with Nicky is the motor now belongs to him with the expectation he will forever keep it so one day he can tell his own grandsons about when his grandfather was a young boy exploring the Clear Fork of the Brazos River in the State of Texas with his buddy Carol Felts and a Water Witch.

The End


The Water Witch

Grandson, Nicholas Smyth
60 years and still "No Prop"

The Restored Water Witch
65 years and Now a "Prop"
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