Fort Richardson Road Trip

Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. His passion is travel, and he seizes any opportunity to share his experiences in the most immersive way possible, whether at sea or on the land.

New odometer setting at the intersection of Hwys. 199 and 281. Travel 2.25 miles and on the right side is the location of the Gage Family depredations. At 3.65 miles is the site of the demise of the Landman Family, the first victims of Nocona's vicious 1860 raid.

The oilfield on your left was my grandfather's; the discovery well was at the intersection of 199. Sometimes as a little boy, I got to sit on a well with the Steed men and their partners. There was vienna sausage, sardines and crackers to eat while I watched the men play cards in a little trailer next to the rig. The drill site sort of took the place of the cow camp. Remote locations with no phones and nearly impassable roads, the men were impossible to reach and the women half-jokingly referred to themselves as oilpatch widows. My dad addressed an understanding group of Wichita Falls oilmen one day at a lunch meeting. He began, "Please forgive me if I fumble this speech a little but I didn't sleep well last night. Tiger (my mother's nickname; Dad was called mouse) woke me up in the middle of the night when she came in. I said, Honey, look at the time. Where have you been? She kicked off a high heel and as it hit the wall replied, 'Sittin' on a well.' He finished, 'I just squeaked and rolled over.'"

The entrance to Fort Richardson is at 6.14 miles. There were two separate Indian fights west of the square. One of my earliest memories involves Fort Richardson about 1952. My dad walked out of his room in his uniform and told me to "Come hop in the jeep." In civilian clothes, this would have meant a drive to Herd's for a bag of burgers but this was even better. We met other soldiers at the fort and went through some of the buildings where the army still had equipment stored. Today, it's heartening knowing that the old place has been so beautifully renovated, and how effectively it now tells its history.

I feel as well qualified as anyone to serve as a guide on the northwestern frontier. I went through the first few years of grade school in Jacksboro before the family moved to Wichita Falls. We spent a lot of time at my dad's parents in Dallas and even more at my mother's folks in Lawton. We lost an uncle in World War II so Fort Sill memorial activities were always attended. My parents were married at the little chapel next to the parade field and I still drive by that when I can. Best of all, the old folks would take us kids to a picnic (pictured below) around Mount Scott and a visit to the kiddie rides at Medicine Park.

When I became a teenager in 1960, I returned to Jacksboro to work in the oilfields. It was a family tradition. I shared a motel room with my cousin and we roustabouted for a seventy-year old man named Roy Knight. He would pick us up every morning before daylight at the Green Frog Cafe across the street. The ladies there would fix our lunch in anticipation of the hot day, packing a tomato, pickle, onion and fruit separate so our sandwiches wouldn't get soggy. Roy outworked us every day and still had the energy to entertain us with stories about frontier Jacksboro.


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