Many years ago, I wrote a column for another newspaper that no longer is in business on the memories of a former Denison woman who like many people in this area grew up on or near the banks of the mighty Red River.
Darlene Thorn Bradshaw is one of those native to this area and she wrote her memories in a unique poem simply called “Red River.”
Darlene was born in 1939 in the home of her grandparents on the banks of the Red River in Delaware Bend (between Whitesboro and Gainesville). Her dad, Joseph Thorn, had taken her mother, Edith, to visit her parents and the visit turned out to be a little longer than planned.
Darlene said, “When mother left for home she took her new baby girl with her, but she left some wonderful memories behind.”
Her mother, who loved to write, put together the history of Delaware Bend several years prior, talking about her childhood and the Red River often. Darlene said her mom remembered the old ferry boat that took travelers back and forth from Texas to Oklahoma across Red River and of being baptized in the cool water of the Red.
While her dad was away in the Army during World War II, Darlene and her family lived in the Cotton Mill community, then moved into Denison when he returned.
“Dad loved to fish and during the summer he often took us camping” she remembered and sometimes spent a lot of time below the dam on the Texas side catching fish for her mother to cook.
Darlene was a Licensed Vocational Nurse in the field of hospice with the terminally ill in Fort Worth at the time the column was written. As a nurse, she said she often was at the bedside when a patient passed from this life to the next and she often wondered where their memories went.
Because of this ongoing mystery she decided to put some of her cherished memories on paper so they wouldn’t be lost and could be shared with her children, grandchildren and now with our readers.
“On the banks of old Red River where the town kids use to play, you could kill a water moccasin almost each and every day. / The copperheads were plentiful and rattlesnakes were too, but if you didn’t bother them, well, they wouldn’t bother you.
“Willow trees were everywhere and made a shady bed for any worn out camper to rest his weary head. / It was a place for sweethearts under the sunny sky above - memories for the future, first touch, first kiss, first love.
“Wild flowers without number were once seen everywhere. Paint brush and buttercups, their fragrance filled the air. / Hills covered with wild roses, would take your breath away, red blanket of pure heaven where angels danced all day.
“Let’s not forget the horned toads and screech owl or red ants. The haunting sound of a whippoorwill perched on a distant branch. / The banks were wet and slippery, made of bright red clay, the currents flowed crimson red where the town kids used to play.
“Spring rains were sometime heavy and old Red would overflow, the speedy current rumbled like it had someplace to go. / But the richness of the soil on the banks it life behind was like a gift from heaven and worth it every time.
“‘Cause down in the river bottom mainly ‘neath old Okie skies grew the sweetest watermelons and they were a Texas size. / The best section of the river was on the Texas Side. You jumped into your inner tube and started on your ride.
“You floated over quicksand and sometimes the ride was rough, but ll miles down river you reached Carpenter’s Bluff. / Some craved more excitement and heard adventure call, so they hopped a raft and traveled all the way to Arkansas.
“Many kids played hooky on the banks of the Old Red, catching trout, catfish and stripers, at least that’s what they said. / Poison oak and Ivy were also easy to catch. So were the mosquitoes, they really made you scratch.
“Sunday morn found churches of all denominations on the banks of Old Red River in merry celebration. / Baptizing their new converts just like the good book said. Many folks found Jesus on the banks of our Old Red.
“When baptizing was all over and singing settled down, out came their picnic baskets” chicken dinner” on the ground. / Many were the camp fires and smell of catfish frying. You could hear the big fish stories from folks you knew were lying.
“If you could take a glance at Old Red’s past history, Texas and Oklahoma fought over boundary. / When the fight was over in the court of “greater minds” the law proclaimed Old Red the states’ dividing line.
“Old Red had no grief nor sense of right or wrong. The heart of old Red River just kept beating right along. / The kids who lived in town didn’t care who lost of won, Red River was a place to go to play and have some fun.
“Many kids have drowned they say because the currents sucked them down in the waters of Red River and their bodies never found. / And many have been bitten by the snakes upon the ground, but these stories never bothered the kids who lived in town.
“They just kept on going to the river made of clay. They made themselves some memories, and those memories live today. – Darlene Thorn Bradshaw.”
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. She has been a longtime contributor to the Herald Democrat with her bi-weekly column, which appears in the Wednesday and Sunday editions. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.