If fish could talk


Just when we were undertaking research to find a North Texas Native American rainmaker, the gully washer came. Eastland County received approximately 14 inches of rain in the last half of July. Which brings to mind an Old West saying, “Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.”

Imagine what would happen if we had lured a rainmaker to Cisco, turned him (or her) loose to dance and pray, and the next day the rains came. Talk about timing – Cisco probably would make the evening’s network news.

After several years of catastrophic drought, wild fires, burn bans, and limitations on water use, the county finally got a drenching rain, what some call “a frog drowner.” Or a frog strangler. Call it what you want; most of us said “Thank you, Lord” anyway.

Lake Cisco rose about 14 feet, according to reports; boat docks settled on newly risen water; and our yellow grass turned green. A fanciful imagination conjures up the image of fish in local lakes gurgling, “Whaaaaaaaat?”

Nine miles down the Kingdom of Possums

Forget imagination; our real memories are plentiful. My family was big into water skiing on Texas lakes. Along with close family friends, Ciscoans J.V. and Helen Heyser and their three children, we often loaded up kids, boats and ice chests and enjoyed unforgettable summer weekends.

Heyser daughter Sherry and I once skied nine miles along the length of Possum Kingdom Lake, acquiring tender, red ankles from the rubber-boot chafing. One blissful memory of skiing up the Colorado River on an early summer morning was a zen moment. The river was wide and smooth as glass as we skimmed the surface of the still, green water, observing riverside homes, swimmers, boaters, birds, and a continuing stream of nature along the river banks.

J.V. Heyser, ever the adventurous athlete, once skied too close to the dam and encountered a floating metal oil drum painted orange to warn skiers off, sort of a poor man’s buoy. J.V. ended up in Cisco’s now-closed Graham Hospital with a compound fracture of one leg. His description of the smashed bones still sends a cold chill down my back.

My somewhat reserved father refused to wear shorts much less a swimsuit regardless of Texas’ scalding heat. He was, however, an enthusiastic water skier. Skis on, rope in hand, he usually rose from the water fully outfitted in a long-sleeve shirt, khaki pants, baseball cap, sunglasses, and a cigar. Lit, of course.

Memorable summers

Completed in 1920, the Williamson Dam launched an era of outdoor fun for Northwest Texans at the massive recreational area on the east side of the dam. The swimming pool was billed as the world’s largest concrete pool and was surrounded by bathhouse, skating rink, miniature golf course, picnic tables, park, occasional traveling carnivals, and long ago, a zoo.

The park drew thousands of swimmers, senior trippers, and family reunions. Today a few of the WPA-built native-rock structures in the area remain, including several stone cottages, the zoo’s tumble-down infrastructure, picnic benches, and at least two stone arches (like those at Cisco’s Oakwood Cemetery and the Cisco Country Club).

Growing up here, we spent most summer days at the swimming pool. Our fathers were World War II veterans, and at the time, Cisco veterans owned and managed the property. As children of veterans, we paid ten cents for all-day swimming privileges.

We swam, sunned, picnicked on the island in the middle of the pool complex, and occasionally worked as lifeguards, receiving 50 cents an hour. During Cisco’s annual Fourth of July extravaganza, imported motor boats left wide wakes in the swimming pool during the Miss Cisco contest and a choreographed water ballet.

One year the ballet cast included Judy Sitton, Peggy Hailey, Mitzi Rider, Alice Ann Webb, Janet Green, and yours truly. Our photo, wearing swimsuits, tropical pareos, and a whole lot of stage makeup, appeared on the front page of The Abilene Reporter-News.

But let’s pause for a moment. Do frogs really drown or is that a myth – a tongue-in-cheek bit of wry humor? According to Yahoo Answers, “Frogs can indeed swim, but most species will drown if forced to stay underwater without anywhere to climb out. Some species, like the clawless frog (Xenopus) often sold in pet stores are capable of living completely underwater.”

Next time it comes a frog strangler, keep an eye out for puddles in case you need to leap to action and save a frog.

Lake Cisco Pool

Cisco Pool

6 Responses to "If fish could talk"

  1. Alice Ann Holliday (Webb)   August 31, 2013 at 8:51 AM

    Those of us who grew up in Cisco were indeed blessed in so many ways. The swimming pool was the crown jewel of my childhood. My sweet Mother would drive us out there almost every day and sit in that hot sun for hours watching my brother, James Stanley, and I playing with all our friends. As we got older, she would drop us off and go back home, but she said she really wanted to stay because she loved watching all the kids. During the summer before I entered the 6th grade, I jumped off the side of the pool, head first, and broke off half my front tooth. Coach Kenneth Mayes took his gum from his mouth and put it on that tooth so it wouldn’t feel “quick” from the air hitting it. I kind of had a little-girl crush on him, so I thought that was very romantic! And yes, I remember those “water ballets” well and how hard it was in that merky, dark water to find each other so we could grab hands and come up at the same time, gasping for air but with big smiles on our faces. Oh, I could go on and on, but I won’t. We all have our own precious memories of that magical place. Thanks for taking me back.

  2. Karen Taylor   August 29, 2013 at 5:12 PM

    Thank you for the interesting feedback on the If Fish Could Talk column. Rick, you’re the first person to emerge recently who was involved in the pool and park operations at the old Cisco swimming pool. (Albeit as a child roaming the wilderness around the pool.) Would love to visit with you sometime and perhaps research more interesting history.

    Glen, thanks for the reminder on the Dean Drug sale. I hadn’t heard about it till now. Lots of good memories at that place and the beautiful young owners — the late Betty Dean and Lloyd McGrew! As a teenager attending Cisco Junior College and working at the Cisco Daily Press, fellow employees and I took an afternoon coffee break, drove down to Dean Drug, sat at the tiny bistro tables in the middle of the store, and drink cherry cokes. Fellow cherry-coke-and-Cisco-Daily-Press companions included Carlene Holder and Dorcas Sitton, wife of publisher Jerry Sitton. Jerry graciously held the fort down while his entire front-office staff went lolling about with cherry cokes and local gossip.

    Patty, thanks for the information on the Haynies. They were a bit earlier than my class of ’61. If you’re looking for friends of you and your siblings, you might consider dropping in on one of the numerous CHS class reunions held here every year. Last year I wrote a number of articles about the 60th anniversary of the combined CHS classes of 1951,’52,and ’53. There were spouses, friends and one teacher (!) who weren’t alum but were connected to that group. They had a rip-roaring good time.

  3. Rick Wende   August 29, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    Brings back a lot of memories. My parents Ed and Irene Wende use to run all of that at one time or another. With the help of my brother David and sisters Danelda and Marcia. I spent the first 10 years of my life hanging around the miniature golf course and skating rink. Many an hour was spend exploring the dam, swimming every day, skating, and exploring the old zoo and hills around the park. Surprized i never got snake bit. I still like to go out there sometimes and imagine the activity that was going on in a more simple time. A great time to be there was 4th of July with the carnival,the Miss Cisco contest, and the fireworks. My mom was always scared the dam would break with the explosions from the fireworks. The park met its doom first with the highway going thru the eastend of the park and then the opening of Six Flags. My parents also managed the christian camp and the country club and golf course.

  4. Glen Carr   August 28, 2013 at 1:59 AM

    Thanks for the memories.How about sale at Dean Drug.

  5. Glen Carr   August 28, 2013 at 1:58 AM

    Thanks for the memeories. How about mentioning the Sale at Dean Drug starting Thursday..

  6. Patty Nell Haynie Wendell   August 27, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    J.V. Heyser – I know that name. My siblings were Jessie, John James and Harvey Benedict – all Haynie’s. They were 18, 14, and 10 years older than myself. do any of those name ring bells? I think Jessie graduated 1938, John 1942 and Harvey 1946. John graduated from Mexia, served in WWII and went on to be an accalimed musician. The new band hall in Cisco is named for him. Harvey served in Korea. Am looking for their friends. Thank you. BTW, I would have graduated CHS 1957 had we not moved in 1954.