The Seeder Post by Christopher C. Evans
Hood County News – June 12, 2003
A hammered metal sign above the road in off Rock Church Highway says “CEDARROCK” — one word — and the road itself it drops off into what seems for an instant to be an abyss. But on a little farther, past a residence and an assortment of outbuildings, there is a cabin.
Welcome to Mr. Cash’s Neighborhood.
Never mind the assorted piles of this and that that look like junk. Most likely they are stuff Charles D. “Charlie” Cash will turn into something artistically useful. Never mind that Charlie Cash, 72, is known around Hood County as a master spur- and bow-maker — or that his trademark rustic spurs especially will one day be worth a lot more than they are now.
These days the spurrier of CEDARROCK is in a second bout with bone cancer, the first one with painful shingles.
What’s particularly sad about that is that it’s hard for Charlie Cash, a loquacious little man with beady brown eyes that dance childlike beneath thick brown brows when he talks, to be his regular fun self these days.
“The doctors got it early this time,” he said recently of the cancer, though it is clear related medications have diminished his strength. “And if you’ve never had shingles, take my advice, try something else first,” he appended with raised brow.
“Main thing is, I can’t work,” said Charlie, leaning on a cedar walking stick in his meticulously cluttered, three-chamber shop. “I’ve got 20 orders for spurs right now and I’ve got all of ’em started here. It takes me from six to eight hours on each pair.
“If I could do an hour a day I could catch up, I know I could, but I just give out. I can’t even do an hour a day.”
Even so, Charlie Cash is still president for life in this hillside 44-acre wash of caliche and cedar, the overalled potentate over an empire concencrated in but not limited to the remarkable log and rock cabin he and his wife, Mildred, built a quarter century ago.
(The Cash’s den is reminiscent of the one in the cabin in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, so much so that it is easy to start looking for Sneezy and Grumpy to emerge whistling from a door by the fireplace.)
“I make every part of the spur — the band, the shank, the rowel,” Charlie said from his favorite armchair. “I get my metal over at Granbury Salvage, just go over and pick it out. The metal I use could have been anything.”
Though his own spurs have the initials “CDC” in bronze over the iron, Charlie’s spurs, to those who know them, are anything but ornate. In fact, they are typically very rough around the edges when you get them.
Said William “Sonny“ Joyner, a sometimes working Granbury-based cowboy who owns two pairs of Charlie’s spurs, “I always tell the kids when they get Charlie’s spurs to put `em on and wear `em every day for two months, whether you’re gonna be on a horse that day or not. That rough finish Charlie leaves on there, those sharp edges will smooth right out if you just wear ’em. You have to break them in.”
“My spurs are made to be used, that’s the only reason I make them and they should last you a good while,” Charlie Cash said.
What if someone wanted a pair to hang on the wall?
“Well, I suppose you could hang them on the wall,” he said as though he’d never thought of it before.
Charlie is especially proud of the rowel, which is the round, spinning part of the spur. “That rowel there, the one that’s on most of my spurs, I designed it myself, it‘s called a teardrop rowel.”
As Charlie clambered with the aid of a long cedar walking stick through his notorious “shop” he stopped at times to sit or lean. “This here’s my rattlesnake den,” he said, pointing at two large diamondback pelts that will one day be part of a Charlie Cash custom bow.
“When I make a bow, I don’t do the bells and whistles,” he said, referring to modern sighted bows with all sorts of gadgetry. “I make a standard recurve or stick bow, just a reggler old Indian bow. It’s the same kind of bow I hunt with. I still do a little deer and turkey hunting, that and maybe some wild hogs.”
“Except for maybe taking a deer with my muzzleloader, I hunt with with bow and arrow.”
“He also makes knives,” said Mildred McDonald Cash, pointing to some of her husband’s framed cutlery on a den wall.
Charles Douglas Cash was born June 18, 1930, at Needmore, a few miles south of Muleshoe in Bailey County.
“My father and my uncle opened a store there, named it the Needmore Store and named the town in the process,” he said. “You needed more of everything there.”
Charlie said he is descended from the Cashes of Scotland. “King Richard took all their land and gave it to poor people, they ended up coming over here to West Virginia about 1600, I think it was, where the king gave them something like 22,000 acres.
“Almost all the Cashes I know of came from those Cashes,” he said. “There was a Howard Cash who was one of George Washington‘s colonels. My great-grandads were in the Civil War. Great-grandpa Francis Cash fired them cannons, he couldn’t hear it thunder after that. My Great-grandpa Howard Cash was a saddlemaker who was with (General) Granbury when Granbury was killed.”
Howard Cash, according to Charlie, was a boot and tack man at the famous XIT Ranch in the Panhandle and later went into the boot-making business with a man named Justin.
Charlie’s father, Jerome Morrow “Dutch” Cash, married to “the youngest Hinton girl, Blanche,” as Charlie describes his mama. “My daddy was a horse trader who had the store and could do a lot of different things.”
In 1934, Dutch and Blanche Cash moved their family to Ryon in southern Oklahoma, then a few years later to Weneetka in eastern Oklahoma. “Weneetka was right there next to the Creek Reservation,” Charlie recalled, something that piqued his fascination with the ways of Native Americans.
When he was nine the family, by now two sons and an adopted daughter, moved back to Texas, this time to Enochs, yet another wind- and sand-caressed hamlet south of Muleshoe.
It was at Enochs that Charlie met a man who would in retrospect be his mentor, a singing farrier named Carl Hall. “He was an old man who had a blacksmith shop where I’d go and watch, hang out,” Charlie said. “He’d sing all the time but he couldn’t hold a tune with a bucket.
“As far as a desire to work with hot metal, I think I always had that.”
He was also, he says, always a fan of projectiles and the contraptions that propel them. “I always loved bows, ever since I can remember.”
In 1948 Charlie took a high school sheepskin from Bula High School south of Muleshoe, home of the fighting Bulldogs. “The lights from the old football stadium are still there but they use the building for a barn,” he said. “When I was growing up in the area of Bula, Needmore and Enochs, that was about the time those big farms started getting split up.”
After high school Charlie Cash “went into the Army for three years, nine months and 15 days…It was a good experience. I was all up and down the West Coast and Alaska. I started out in communications but ended up being a cable splicer.”
When he got out of the service in 1952 Charlie Cash headed for the Fort Worth area. “I lived in River Oaks for a short period,” he said. “I met Mildred while we were both working at Williamson-Dickey. She was born in Dallas but had lived most of her life in Fort Worth. We got married.”
Some time later Charlie became a journeyman electrician, something that afforded some historic moments of which he is still proud. He was involved in rewiring the presses at both Fort Worth newspapers and did electrical work at the home of Amon Carter Sr.’s daughter, Ruth Carter Stevenson, on historic Broad Avenue in west Fort Worth.
That he receives today and lives primarily on a pension from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which whom he has more than 50 years of membership, is another source of pride.
In 1962 Charlie entered and won the Texas archery championship at San Marcos, later finishing “in about 10th place” at the national tournament in Hot Springs, Ark.
If there are things Charlie specifically doesn’t do these days one is cut cedar near as much as he used to or would like. “For every half acre of cedar I sold when I first came out here I paid for an acre of land,” he recalled. “I’ve wore out 26 chainsaws out here.”
Nor is he into the animal business as he once was. “Right now I’ve got a mule, donkey, a llama, some goats and some Barbados sheep,” he said. “I use those Barbados sheep because when the fireweeds come up the sheep will eat ’em and that’ll save all that moisture for the grass in July and August.”
Charlie Cash is an authority on many topics and a commentarian on many more. And in the three-plus decades he’s lived here in Charlies World, he’s heard some interesting stuff about southern Hood County.
He has it on good faith from a woman who once lived on what is now Baker’s Crossing Road, for instance, that “a lot of your moonshiners in the old days lived on that road…You’ll notice that everywhere there’s are briars and post oaks today, that’s where your moonshining families lived.”
According to Charlie’s source, “Springtown, Stephenville and Dublin were your big moonshining places, them and the Fall Creek area.”
He talks often of a place called “The Bottom,” which is the lower portion of the Cedarrock complex. “I do have an acre at The Bottom where I plant wheat or oats in the winter,” he said. More than simply a place to do agriculture, The Bottom, to hear Charlie tell it, is where fairly extraordinary stuff happens quite regularly.
“There there’s a low spot at The Bottom where you can take your hand, scratch up a few inches of sand and the water’ll bubble out,” he said. “It’s a spring. The Indians used it.”
Indeed, stories pertaining to The Bottom seem to themselves fairly bubble out of ol’ Charlie,
One involves a fracas Charlie’s jackass, Roscoe P. Coletrane, had with “two mountain lions that cornered him and went after him about two months ago.” Charlie didn’t see how the mountain lions fared. Roscoe sustained cuts, scratches and bruises.
The subject of just how tough Charlie Cash really is can be debated. On one hand, he “can be pretty mean,” as he put it. “Just let somebody drive in my driveway that’s not supposed to be in here,” he said, holding up the left-handed muzzleloader he made after his right eye “just suddenly went blurry” several years ago. “I shoot 70 grains, which is enough where it’ll go all the way through a deer but not enough where I’ll hurt my neighbors.”
It is the untough side of Charlie Cash, though, that may well be the biggest legacy of the spurrier of Cedarrock.
Indeed, if he has a mission left in life, it’s something that seems to slips into his conversations wherever he is. That would be, as he put it, “To help out these young people today who’ve got a lot of negative influences to deal with.”
Charlie has for many years donated spurs to be given to winners of local youth rodeos and agricultural contests at the Hood County Stock Show, dozens upon dozens of pairs in all.
A lot of Hood County “kids,” however, got their Cash spurs another notable way.
“There’s a whole bunch of these kids around here wearing Charlie’s spurs who didn’t pay for ’em,” said cowboy Joyner, who is considers himself only an acquaintance of Charlie’s. “In a lot of cases, those kids just never got around to payin’ for ’em because Charlie wouldn’t let ’em. He’s just a generous old man. ”
Asked about his own kids, Charlie named his real son and daughter, then pointed to a frame above his armchair. The frame contains snapshot of about 20 children.
“My grandkids,” said Charlie, though actually none of these kids are really related.
“I’ve always been that way,” he said, looking down. “If a kid don’t have a grandpa, I’m their grandpa.”
Charlie is particularly proud of those instances where he believes he has had a positive influence. “One little kid we know had them earrings in his ears, I don’t like them earrings, but this little kid liked bows,” he said. “I made a deal with him. I told him if he’d keep them earrings out, I’d make him a bow.”
So Charlie made a bow just to fit the “little kid,” who was actually in post-adolescence.
“So far, he’s kept them earrings out,” said Charlie. “If there’s one thing we gotta do we gotta take care of them kids.”
In the Jerry Jeff Walker song Charlie Dunn about a humble bootmaker, the kicker is a guy, Buck, who worked the register in the boot shop and took people’s money, but never caught onto why folks came back again and again to buy Charlie Dunn’s boots.
“It makes Charlie real pleased to see me walking with ease,” is one line.
Another, a reference to poor, dumb Buck, is, “He never understood the good things Charlie done.”
Those who know Charlie Cash, especially those who have visited Mr. Cash’s Neighborhood or wear his spurs, do understand.