Dekalb [Bowie County], Texas

By Paul Ridenour

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Frank Williamson is a friend of mine from Oklahoma.  He is a baseball umpire and he told me about a museum in Dekalb. 

I decided to take a road trip with Charles Steger and do all of the things Frank told me about.  With Charles, one never knows what kind of trouble one will get into.

Dekalb is the birthplace and resting place of Dan Blocker or "Hoss Cartwright" from the TV show Bonanza.  Other notables who lived in Dekalb include umpire Durwood Murrell, 12-string guitarist/songwriter/singer Huddie William Ledbetter or "Lead Belly," and baseball pitcher Luke Walker.  Dekalb is also known for the site of the plane crash of actor/singer/songwriter Ricky Nelson [born Eric Hilliard Nelson] in 1985.

I met Charles in Mt. Pleasant and had breakfast at Whataburger.  We should have eaten somewhere else.  I went to the store Dollar Tree for the first time and bought five pairs of reading glasses for $5.  Afterwards, we drove down to Pittsburgh and then up to Dekalb.

Mt. Vernon, Texas, home of Dallas Cowboys' "Dandy" Don Meredith

Years ago on Monday Night Football, Howard Cosell said "That was the best onsides kick you will ever see."  In the background, I heard Don say "Mt. Vernon vs. Mt. Pleasant, 1953."  I busted out laughing.

Mt. Pleasant "Welcome Y'all" - local folks call it Mt. Misery

Mt. Pleasant has the most trailer manufacturers in the country.

Pittsburg, Texas

Home of the Pittsburg Steelers

Pittsburg or Pitchburg, has the ugliest courthouse in Texas.

Bo Pilgrim's Pilgrim's Pride chicken processing plant

The man himself

Pilgrim's Pride World headquarters - the only Fortune 500 company on Cypress Creek

Cluckingham Palace - Bo Pilgrim's home and executive hotel

Pilgrim's Pride feed processing plant at one end of downtown Pittsburg

The Prayer Tower at the other end of town near First Baptist Church - built by church member Bo Pilgrim

I didn't realize that Peter's feet and hands were so big

Inside the Prayer Tower

Charles kneeling in the Baptist tower like a good Methodist

I found four magazines [Awake and Watchtower] of the cult Jehovah Witnesses' inside the tower.  JW's are strictly forbidden to read other people's materials. If they can't read ours, why should we read theirs?  Their material is written by a guy named Anonymous.  Did someone say credibility?  I took the cult magazines out of the tower.

One of Bo Pilgrim's many banks [feed processing plant in the background]

First United Methodist - Pittsburg, TX

We drove through Sugar Hill (named for its production of moonshine) through Broseco Ranch on the way to Dekalb where I saw my first watermelon patch. This one did not make it on the truck as it was immature, deformed, and has self-esteem problems.

Charles bought me a huge watermelon for $4 off the truck.  I forgot and left it in his car.  He said it tasted good.

Broseco Ranch had acres and acres of cows and oil wells.

Dekalb, Texas

Dan Blocker's house - 600 S. Runnels Street

Woodmen Cemetery - died at age 43

Nice mural near City Hall

We had lunch at the Front Street Junction Cafe and Grill.  These women must have been The Ladies Club of Dekalb.

Charles - praying with his eyes open or a serial killer?

Williams Museum [which is also the Chamber of Commerce]

Open Thursday through Saturday 1 - 4.  But they will take appointments if you call them at 903-667-3344 [Carolyn McClary].

Carolyn met us at 2 PM and showed us the museum, where Dan Blocker lived, and the plane crash site.

Artifacts and photographs below are at the Williams Museum.

One of Dan Blocker's Bonanza scripts

Dan Blocker as "Hoss Cartwright." on Bonanza.  His delayed birth certificate has his name as Bobby Don Blocker.

Dan was co-owner of the national restaurant chain called Bonanza Steak House.

A younger Dan Blocker

Blocker on the left

Supposed life size cutouts of Woody Allen and Dan Blocker

Dan Blocker was the heaviest baby born in Bowie County - 15 pounds

Dan Blocker's character name "Hoss" Cartwright on Bonanza was really "Eric" Cartwright.

American League Umpire Durwood Merrill "You're out and you're ugly too!"

Durwood graduated Dekalb High School and also taught at the school.

 Durwood Merrill signed 1988 World Series baseball

Used by Durwood Merrill

Luke Walker, former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher - graduated Dekalb High School

Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter - lived in Dekalb for three years.  He wrote a song about Dekalb called "Dekalb Blues."

Lead Belly wrote several songs including "Cotton Fields," "Goodnight Irene," "Black Betty," and "Pick A Bale Of Cotton."

He was the first to record the songs "The House Of The Rising Sun" and "Midnight Special. "

The US Post Office issued a 32-cent stamp of "Leadbelly" Ledbetter in 1998, the first convicted murderer to be honored on a US stamp.

"Lead Belly" records

"Dekalb Blues"

"I went to a garden party"

"To reminiscence with my old friends..."

"...But if memories were all I sang"

"I rather drive a truck" - Ricky Nelson [crash site beyond the trees]

Ricky Nelson's plane crashed behind this house in the fields beyond the trees on 12/31/1985 on his way to a concert in Dallas

My friend Teresa Daniel had tickets.

The Plane Crash - the popular belief was that a fire was used for drugs [freebasing] but the NTSB investigation and the problems with this type of plane [DC-3s], the cause was probably the cabin heater.  The pilot said the crew tried to get the heater to work several times but they were unsuccessful.  Records show that this type of plane and this plane in particular, had a history of cabin heater problems.  The heater compartment was found unlatched.  It was never determined the source of the ignition and fuel.

"You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself" - Ricky Nelson

Charles sent this to me after this trip.  Notice the telephone pole, the house, and the barn.