This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Kim Patterson.
Before automobiles filled the roads of America, personal transportation often consisted of buggies and wagons pulled by horses and mules. One of the hazards of this form of transportation was that, on top of trying to avoid driver error, you had to contend with the animals' behavior as well.
Lifelong Waco resident Mary Sendón recounts a family adventure, courtesy of their horse:
"My mother would go to town when my grandfather had his barbershop. She would hitch up the horse and—and buggy, and she'd go downtown, pick my grandfather up to bring him home to lunch and then she'd take him back again. Well, one day, she took him back to work, and she started up Austin Avenue. And she dropped the lines, and the horse started running. Well, somebody on the street saw it and called my grandfather right quick—ran for my grandfather—said, "Your daughter's running—the horse is running away with her." He got in somebody else's buggy and started up—(laughs) followed the track to see which way that horse was going. Do you know, that horse was so well-trained it turned the corner at Eighth and Austin, turned the corner at Webster, and went into the back alley. And the barn door was still open, and it just went right into the barn and stopped. (interviewer laughs) And when my grandfather came home, there was that horse and buggy standing still waiting."
Avery Downing of Waco recalls traveling by buggy during his youth in Northeast Texas:
"And I would sit on the back and let my feet drag in the dust and dirt going down the road, and how interesting that was to see the road unfold backwards in front of me. And there were some—on some of these bigger creeks and streams, the bridges [would] be kind of shaky. And the horse or the mule, whichever one, sometimes they would be skittish, and they would have to be controlled considerably to get across this bridge without a problem."
In Calvert, Bobby Joe Fulwiler's family had one of the first automobiles in town, a Stoddard-Dayton. He describes how these early motorcars could wreak havoc:
"You drive down the road, and people would see you coming. They'd—they'd hop out of the wagon or buggy and run around and hold the horse's head while you went by because the horse would run away—get scared and run away if that automobile went by."
But there were, of course, advantages to having smart animals at the helm. Benny Martinez of Goliad remembers what his father did on occasion during the ride home from town in the family wagon:
"Mama would say, ‘There comes your daddy.' We could see him from way—way far because it was prairie. And my daddy would be asleep in the back. The mules would be by themselves, you know. So they'd come up there and pull right in front of the house. ‘Placido, wake up!' My father would get up. He wasn't drunk."
Although the horseless carriage was seen at first as a fad, its adoption proved unstoppable, and in the early 1910s motorcars began to outnumber buggies. Buggies and wagons continued to be used for the next two decades, especially in rural areas. Today, some faith groups such as the Amish still rely on them, but these modes of transportation are mostly synonymous with the past.
Living Stories is heard every Tuesday on 103 point 3 FM, Waco's NPR. For full transcripts of the interviews featured in this segment, or for more information about the Institute for Oral History, visit baylor.edu/livingstories.
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