All commentary in this article on Manson Clark come from Marshman, Wildlife Experiences of Manson L. Clark of Cove, Texas, by Kendon L. Clark. We have about three of these books for sale at the museum and I am sure more volumes are available through Kendon Clark.
Manson began at a very early age to be wooed by the call of the woods and marshes. He and his older brother, Bill, began teaming up to trap coons, possums, and rabbits in the woods. In later years, Manson would often state that Bill was probably the best coon trapper in these parts. Despite the destruction of the 1915 hurricane, the storm did have its positive side. The same winds and tides which brought so much devastation to the coastal region also brought a new form of wildlife to the Cove area marshlands, several muskrats were washed into the marshes. The furry little grayish-black rodents began rapid adaption to their new home. As their numbers increased in the marshes during the following two to three years, they shared with Cove its part in an era which has come to be known in the history of the American fur industry as “The Golden Age of Fur Trapping.” The muskrat became the ‘trappers meal ticket,” and hunting them became a way of life for Manson Clark.
"When I was 12 years old, I was duck hunting. In those days there were very few duck hunters, just a few of the people who lived around here at Cove. I started trapping skunks at that time too, and when I was 14, I started trapping muskrats with single-spring and double-spring Victor traps. That was before they made the two-trigger ‘rat trap. I have spent most of my life since then in an outboard motor skiff hunting frogs, ‘gators, ducks, ‘rats, coons, mink, and fish, which turns out to be hard work, but I love it."
Manson completed his 6th year of education at age 14. Through the early years he received training along the gullies and in the woods and the shores of Cotton Lake. To his way of thinking, it was now time to put that training to work. It was therefore, at the age of 14 that Manson Clark ventured into the life of an outdoorsman which would become the mainstay of his family for decades to come.
Manson Clark had watched with interest through his boyhood years as men came to the Clark home from areas around Houston, paid William for the rent of a boat, and went into the marshes to hunt ducks and geese. He was often amused by their antics in attempting to handle a skiff with a pair of oars on the open waters of Cotton Lake and the pathetic wailings and groanings of their duck calling techniques as they attempted to lure the waterfowl within shooting range. In 1919, he began offering his services to the hunters for fifty cents per day. In earning the money, Manson would row the men across the lake in a skiff, position them in a blind or patch of sea cane, call the ducks in over the decoys for them, and row them back to the highland after the completion of the hunt. It was tiring work, but since he usually got in a bit of shooting of his own, it all seemed worthwhile. And besides, he always carried one of his mother’s delicious baked sweet potatoes in the pocket of his coat when on such excursions, the morsel giving him additional energy when he needed it most.
The Cottonmouth Moccasin
"The cottonmouth moccasin snake is the worst enemy the ‘gator hunter has," says Clark. "Many times I been struck at by these large snakes but so far have been lucky. Cottonmouths are deadly poisonous. Unless a man gets treatment pretty soon after he has been bitten, he might likely die. Many times, while trailing ‘gators in the marsh, I have run across a large cottonmouth, coiled up in the grass with its mouth wide open and ready to strike. I have waded through marshes where the regular water moccasins and fish snakes were so thick I would have to keep kicking them out of the way to keep from stepping on them, but these snakes won’t hurt you. But, when you see a stump tailed cottonmouth, you better not try kicking him around. I have caught a few cottonmouths in my muskrat traps. I have seen these snakes as big around as a man’s arm. Once I was pole hunting when the marsh was all dry except for one alligator hole. I walked up to the edge of the pit, looking for ‘gator sign, and had approached the den pretty fast. When I stopped and looked around, there were cottonmouth everywhere and I likely had been struck at several times while walking up to the hole, looking for ‘gator sign. I got my pistol out and started shooting a trail back through them so I could get out and away from the ‘gator hole."
A few muskrats had been washed into the Cove marshes by the 1915 hurricane and the furry little creatures experienced excellent water and weather conditions to thrive and reproduce in number. As the fall and winter months approached, a few of Cove’s young men became aware of a market demand for the fur of the muskrat. The method of shooting them with shotguns was replaced with the steel trap to enable them to get a better grade of pelt without all the pellet holes. When Manson took to the marshes during the winter of 1918-19 with a dozen steel traps, he had visions of successful catches of muskrats on a daily basis. It did not take long, however, for that thought to become shattered. He had gone into the marshes around Horse Island, south of Cotton Lake, and made many sets in every trail he found. The following morning was quite a disappointment as he found that only one of his traps had secured a ‘rat. He chanced to run across Dempsey Reeves, an older resident of the Old River Community. He had a winter or two of experience trapping the elusive little ‘rats. He gave Manson some pointers and after employing some of the techniques his daily catch increased noticeably and Manson began to learn what the feeling was, and is, to get trapping “in the blood.”
Manson used heavy gauge wire, such as was used to construct family clotheslines, on which to place the furs for the drying procedure. The wire was cut into pieces some 36 to 40 inches in length, each piece being bent into the shape of a horseshoe. Once the fur was dried the pelts were inverted, with the fur turned inside, and pulled over the stretchers. The excess meat was pulled from the raw hide and the pelt was set outside to cure. The skins would dry in a day’s time if clear and dry weather prevailed. Manson shipped the pelts to Funsten Fur Co. in St Louis Missouri and received $50 for his first 100 pelts in 1919 (50 cents a lb.),a considerable lump of money for those days!
With the price of alligator hides depressed to an all time low during the early 1930’s, Manson turned to another form of nighttime work as a supplement to his income by wading the shallow waters along Trinity Bay shoreline in search of flounder fish……A kerosene lantern was carried in one hand to illuminate the water directly ahead in order to spot the dark outline of the broad, flat fish lying on the sandy bay floor. A flounder “gig” was employed to stab the fish. The gig consisted merely of a wooden pole some four feet in length and very similar to that of a broom handle, with a pointed metal rod, of some ¼” in diameter, firmly imbedded in one end of the pole. Manson and Bill did quite a bit of floundering during the early thirties near the mouths of Cove, Dunn, and Long Island bayous. The catch varied greatly, ranging from some ten flounders in less desirable conditions upward to ninety when wind and water conditions were favorable. Little or no breeze on the bay provided the best floundering conditions, because too much wave action tended to make the water muddy, thereby decreasing the chances of seeing any flounders in the glow of the lantern’s light. They sold the fish for 12 cents per pound and, as Manson later wrote, “We didn’t make much money, but we lived.”
During the late 1940’s, a new form of wildlife had been quietly introduced into the marshes which would soon change the complexion and lifestyle of the lowlands of Chambers County, and all of southeast Texas, as nothing had since the advent of the muskrats in 1915. Outdoor magazines carried the advertisements promoting the sale of a species of a large, brown rodent known as the nutria. From the beginning, the name was used incorrectly as the actual name of the animal was the coypu (pronounced “ky-poo”) and the word nutria was only correct in referring to the fur of the coypu. The nutria was advertised as a deterrent to overgrowth of vegetation on marshland duck ponds and waterways. The live nutria, natives of South America, were sold for upwards of fifty dollars per pair from breeders across the county. In the lower Chambers County marshes near the area where Manson Clark and his associates had the Canada and Wilborn ranches under lease, Ralph Barrow, another extensive land owner and rancher, purchased several pairs of nutria for the purposes so stated above and turned them loose in his ranchland marshes. They were introduced in the Cove area by C. B. Delhomme of Houston. One morning in 1950, while running his muskrat trapline in the Wilborn Ranch marshes, Manson came upon a trap which held one of these animals. The large rat-like rodent of some two feet in length immediately turned in the trap to face Manson and revealed a double pair of awesome orange-colored teeth. The animal emitted a plaintive, but defiant when and sat back on his hindquarters as if ready to attack, but Manson managed to kill him, making it the first known catch of a nutria in the marshes of Chambers County. Their population spread like wildfire. Manson and his brothers cured the skins of the nutria they killed and shipped them to fur buyers in New York City and were paid $2.65 per pelt for their catch.
Manson and brother Bill acquired trapping and hunting leases on the ranch marshlands of Elwood Wilborn and G. R. Canada. The deal agreed upon between trappers and the ranchers was that the landowners would receive twenty-five percent of the gross income of the trappers which was derived from the ranchland marshes. No formal contracts were written; it was still the age in which the handshakes of honorable men meant more than their signatures on a piece of paper. Muskrat beds dotted the approximately three thousand acres under their lease and alligator dens were scattered throughout the marshes……The trappers knew that during the wet seasons they would be forced to stay at the camp for long periods of time due to the impassable condition of the mud roads. This too, was during the days prior to the spanning of the Trinity River by any bridges in Chambers County and, since the earlier ferries across the river were no longer in operation, it was necessary to travel northward to Liberty, some twenty-five miles distant from Cove, to cross the river by automobile enroute to the camp. The camp was a virtual paradise for marshmen and lovers of nature.
The summer of 1920 brought yet another new facet of marsh life for Manson. He had learned of a market for alligator hides and wanted to try his hand in this field. Manson ordered a Bulls-Eye II brand headlight from Sears and Roebuck, then anxiously awaited its arrival at the post office at Joseph’s Store. The light was fueled by signal oil and came equipped with an adjustable headband for fitting around the hunter’s cap. Armed with his headlight, drinking water, and 12-guage shotgun, Manson rowed excitedly to the mouth of Alligator (Gougee) Bayou. Manson fired at 15 alligators without success that morning. He had begun with 20 shotgun shells, but now had only 5 left. He considered giving up his alligator business as a valiant, but vain, experiment. As he turned the skiff around in the bayou the red glow of an ‘gator eye suddenly caught his attention in the beam of light. The reptile was hardly 20 feet away from the boat and Manson was surprised to have rowed so near the animal without scaring him away. Again, he slowly raised the gun and fired. A sudden splashing of mud and water sent ripples against the side of the skiff. Then, the surface of the bayou again lay smooth. Feeling the bayou bottom with the boat oar, he felt the wooden paddle strike the hard, scaly hide of the ‘gator. Lifting the reptile from the bayou and into the skiff, Manson then realized that the beam from the headlight would allow him to approach within close range of the animals, insuring a clean kill with each shot. He took home 5 ‘gators with his 5 remaining shells that night, after realizing the secret; they have to be shot at close range or the pellets of the shot simply will not penetrate the tough hides and bony head.
In 1928, I was pole hunting one day in the high sea cane about a mile from my boat when I heard a big noise about fifty feet from me. It was an 11-foot ‘gator crawling from a hole. I only had one shell, had shot the others I had with me at other ‘gators. I got up pretty close and let him have it in the eye. He acted like he was dead, so I punched him with the iron rod that I used to punch them out of the holes with, and he came at me and like to have got me. So, I had to walk all the way back to the boat to get some more shells, and when I got back to where he had been, he was gone. I trailed him about 3 or 4 hundred yards. He heard me coming and lay still. As I went to shoot him, he came at me again, but this time I was watching, and I let him have it. It was getting dark by the time I got him skinned and back to the boat. At that time, it was nothing to get 4 or 5 big ‘gators in a day.
The Nature of the Beast
Big alligators can be very dangerous if you try to get too smart with them. Many times, I have had them to grab my hook pole and drag it twenty feet back in the ground with such power that a man would be as easy for him to drag back into the ground and tear him to pieces. The older they are, the stronger they are. I have had them to shake the ground for 15 or 20 feet around when I touched them with the iron rod. Most large ‘gators live and den up in the marshes and never come out to open water. The female ‘gator builds a nest out of grass, mud, and sticks about 2 or 3 feet high and from 3 to 5 feet across, and lays from 30 to 60 eggs down in the center of the nest. The eggs will not hatch if she hasn’t been with the male ‘gator to fertilize the eggs. She generally has a hole of water 3 or 4 feet across and 7 to 12 feet deep, but not straight down, about 3 to 5 feet under the ground. In all ‘gator holes, the back end of the tunnel has a turning basin. They crawl in and go back to the end of the hole and turn around, then always come out of the hole headfirst. Sometimes they lay with their head at the edge of the pit and the instant anything falls within reach, they grab it and drag it back into the hole and tear it to pieces. The female ‘gator rarely gets much above 9 feet long, but a very few reach 10 to 12 feet. I have killed a lot of 10, 11, and 12-foot male ‘gators, but have only killed 6 over thirteen feet long out of about 2,000. My largest one was fourteen feet and eight inches long. I believe that’s about as large as they get, at least in this area. 42 alligators is the most I have ever killed in one night’s hunt. That was in the Willow Marsh Ditch in 1942.
Episode at Shell Bayou
Kendon Clark, son of Manson Clark tells of one of his father’s ‘gator hunting escapades in his book, “Marshman! Wildlife Experiences of Manson L. Clark of Cove, Texas.” Manson and his friend, Guy Maley had shot a ‘gator in Shell Bayou and pulled the 8’ ‘gator into the boat. Clark says, “Proceeding furtherup the stream, they paid little attention to the occasional squirming of the alligator in the boat as the animals often go through such involuntary movements due to postmortem nerve action within their bodies. Suddenly, the ‘gator came to life, having apparently been only stunned by the bullet. Raising his head from the floor of the skiff, he opened his mouth wide enough to reveal jaws full of uneven teeth, and furiously slapped the side of the boat with his heavy tail. Exhaling noisily through the nose, a common manner in the exhibition of displeasure by the reptiles, the ‘gator went on a virtual rampage, biting at everything in sight and flailing the massive tail from side to side. Trapped in the boat with the ‘gator in the middle of the bayou, Manson and Guy each prepared to abandon the craft if necessary. Manson perched himself on the precarious edge of one side of the boat while Guy assumed a similar position on the other gunwale. Between them, they watched as the enraged ‘gator literally “cleaned the decks.” The beast lunged toward the stern of the skiff. His first obstacle, the wooden rear seat, he caught between his powerful jaws and snapped in half, clearing out the rear section of the boat…Upon reaching the stern, however he doubled his wiry body into the shape of a horseshoe, spun around in the skiff, and headed for the bow. On this return trip through the boat, the beast bit out the two remaining seats.”
“Back and forth through the boat the ‘gator lurched and raged, with the two hunters still perched on either side, not unlike mockingbirds on a barbed wire fence. Guy managed to reach a section of one of the broken boat seats the alligator had cleared from his path. As the animal passed by on a return trip through the vessel Guy raised the plank and brought it down swiftly in an attempt to strike the beast behind the head. The ‘gator’s erratic movements caused Guy’s aim to go wild…...As the reptile recoiled and made another pass by them, Guy again brought the makeshift weapon down. This time the board found its mark, crashing into the alligator’s head just behind the skull. Immediately the ‘gator went limp, but both hunters knew he was only stunned and would soon renew the attack. Manson rapidly paddled the boat to the bayou bank where they dragged the ‘gator onto the marshy ground and fired a well-aimed bullet into the brain of the reptile. Realizing the dangerous position, they had been in only minutes before and thankful now to have come out of it as well as they had, the two hunters observed their partially wrecked boat. Not a seat or any other obstacle remained in the craft. Laying on the floor near the bow was Manson’s French harp. “When that ‘gator first headed for the bow of the boat,” Guy quipped to Manson, “I thought he was just wanting to play a tune on your French harp!” The two had to laugh at Guy’s statement in the quiet aftermath of what could have been a tragic situation.”
Most people prefer something safe, like golf or checkers—but the greatest sport in the world, according to those who follow it, is hunting alligators. Alligator hunting is fast becoming a lost art though, and rarely these days will one be found that measures 13 feet 6 inches in length. That’s a giant alligator! Just such a giant, remindful of the prehistoric past, was found hardly more than an hour’s drive from Houston by Manson Clark of Cove. Clark found the big ‘gator in the Trinity River bottoms near the junction of Lost River and Lost Lake. It was the biggest ‘gator he had killed in years, and he has killed many during a long career of hunting them for their hides. Back in 1929, Clark killed as many as 281 in one month, out of the Trinity River bottoms, for in those days the marsh area was alive with them. At one time alligators were numerous on the southern United States coast and far up the Mississippi River. But millions have been killed for sport and hides, and the few left have retreated to the more remote marshes and lowlands. The big ‘gator that Clark killed was one of these. He had located a small slough and dug out two ‘gator apartments, connected with a well-worn swimming path. This particular ‘gator was a rare one in more ways than one. He was a “nub foot.” His right forefoot had been severed at the wrist and healed over. Clark said it was the first “nub foot” ‘gator he had ever killed. He reasoned it had either caught the paw in a steel trap pinned to a log, or lost it in a fight with another ‘gator. In either event, the incident made him smart enough to survive possibly hundreds of years in the tough competition of jungle-like living in the marshes. Clark, who has studied alligators for years as a living, and killed thousands for their hides, said there is no way to tell their age when they get to the point where they are 13 ½ feet in length.
A young Kendon Clark proudly holds a foot of old "Nub Foot" while his dad, Manson skins him.
For the hide of old “nub foot,” Clark will receive about $22. This compares with $4.50 for a hide seven feet in length that he received back in 1929, but, as he explained, “that was in the days when a dollar really bought something.” Clark’s alligator hunting routine is simple, but its no parlor pastime. He tramps miles through marshlands, in competition with deer flies, horse flies, and mosquitos—battling boggy ground, saw grass, cane, and thorn-laden lucas tree limbs, until he finds a likely looking spot similar to other places where he has routed out alligators. He first looks for signs, and there experience is the best teacher. If there is no sign, he hunts another mile or so deeper in the marsh. If there is a sign, he uses a long, sharp-pointed, iron rod, about as big around as your little finger and five feet long, to probe around underneath the ground. The resistance to the iron prod tells Clark where the alligator den is located, and whether or not the ‘gator is inside. If the ‘gator is inside, he torments him with the prod until he emerges into the near-by creek or slough. The ‘gator sticks up only the upper edge of his snout—just enough for his eyes to clear the surface. At his point, Clark slams a .22 caliber bullet into his head at precisely the right spot!
Excerpt from Baytown Sun Article~1976~by Betsy Webber
“He’ll make a good trapper when he grows up if there’s anything left to trap.” This is Cove trapper Manson Clark’s assessment of Jefferson Lee, his 18-month-old grandson, son of Kendon and Genie Clark, and Clark is in a position to know a good trapper when he sees one. Manson and Ken have been making a good living for a long time in the Cove marshlands of Old and Trinity Rivers. Manson was born in 1905 in Chambers and has lived in Cove his whole life. Ken came along in 1942…Ken was 12-years-old when his father caught his first nutria. Between then and the mid-1960’s nutria multiplied and were everywhere. Fire ants and people taking potshots at them were bad for the nutria, but Hurricane Carla almost wiped them out, Clark said…Their coats were marketable as valuable fur…It was in 1950 that Manson killed an old mother ‘gator before he found her nest of 32 eggs. He brought the eggs home, bedded them down like an alligator would and hatched them out. Two of the hatchlings still live at the Clark place in Cove…The prettiest fur the Clark’s trap comes from the otter, but otters are few and far between. Clark said an otter’s deep, dark brown fur is beautiful from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. “Trapping is a good life, I love it,” Ken said. “My dad taught me all I know.” And in turn looks forward to the day his son will be old enough to go with him into the marshes.
Manson began smoking a pipe in the 1920’s and once he started, he was not seen without it except to eat, sleep, and attend church. It mattered little whether or not the tobacco was smoldering or, indeed if there was any tobacco in the bowl of the pipe, just so the pipe itself was in his mouth. The bowl of the pipe has a tendency to build up the ashen residue from the tobacco alongside its inner walls to a point that it almost becomes as hard as the wooden bowl itself. While a younger breed of pipe smokers is wont to scrape this buildup of burnt ash from inside the bowls of their pipes, many of the old-time smokers scorn such a practice. The gradual buildup of the residue inside the bowl actually causes the pipe to smoke cooler, and it might take a pipe smoker several years to form the proper thickness of the burnt, hardened ash inside the bowl so that the pipe will be exactly to his liking. Often, after extensive use, the bowl of one of these veteran pipe smokers will hold only a small pinch of tobacco and that must sometimes be packed down into the bowl with a matchstick, the largest object which will fit into the center of the bowl between the seasoned walls of hardened ash.
Manson Clark had reluctantly accepted a form of semi-retirement during the early 1980’s. After several bouts with a chronic heart condition which landed him in a hospital several times, he first gave up his fishing. To him, the act of fishing did not mean merely sitting in a boat with a hook or two dangling in the water. Rather, it meant staying on the water for several hours at a time, running and baiting trotlines consisting of hundreds of hooks. He had even given up duck hunting as a complete waste of time. As the number of firearms-toting people pouring into the marshes increased, so proportionately did the quality of the hunters decrease until Manson was no longer willing to put up with their antics. He merely made an occasional trip through the marshes to view what was going on as somewhat a source of amusement. There was, however, one form of his outdoor life he would not relinquish. Each November, Manson would be seen heading into the marshlands to begin another season of fur trapping. He might pull his traps out of the marshes for three or four days per month during the winter—just long enough to acquire some much-needed rest—but was soon back on the trapline in quest of the nutria, coon, mink, and otter. The winter of 1985-86 was Manson’s final trapping season. Having observed his eightieth birthday on November 28, 1985, he trapped the marshes hard during the next three months. Occasionally leaving his boat at the bank of a bayou for a mile-long walk across a boggy expanse of marsh, with a sack of traps across his shoulder all the way, younger men would see him slowly making his way across the muddy terrain and later ask him how he did it. “Slow and steady,” was his usual reply. “Never get in a hurry in the marsh, or it will kill you.” Therein lay a lifetime of advice for others who might heed the call of the marshlands in later generations. On August 6, 1986, Manson was feeling fine. Although he had suffered another severe round with his heart while picking dewberries in a field in Cove, Texas, on an unseasonable hot day the previous spring, he had the rest of the spring and most of the summer to recuperate. In this hottest month of the year, he was already making plans for the coming winter’s trapping season. In the mid-morning hours of that day, he had just returned home from a walk to Cotton Lake and was sitting on the porch swing at his home, attempting to cool off from the day’s heat. Suddenly feeling quite ill, he stood, went into the living room, sat down in his chair, and turned on a small electric fan on a nearby table. Gripped by a massive hart attack, he passed from this life almost immediately. His daughter-in-law, Mrs. Genie Clark, who lived nearby and was a certified EMT, was called and immediately began efforts to revive him. Soon, two other Cove medical personnel, Jack White and Jean Peting, arrived with the community’s volunteer ambulance service. Manson was rushed to Humana Hospital in Baytown, but all efforts to revive him were in vain. Two days later, on August 8, graveside services were held in the private family cemetery near his home. Manson Lee Clark was laid to final rest on the family property where he had lived his entire life, and no more than one-hundred yards from where he had been born eighty years earlier.
Manson Lee Clark ~ 1905-1986
I have always been drawn to the quaint welcoming atmosphere of a country store. They were an essential part of rural life in America for many years. A place where you could find most everything you needed from groceries to farming supplies and everything in- between, including a good dose of town gossip. The following article written by Houston Chronicle staff writer, Chester Rogers, March 21, 1948, about the C. T. Joseph Store of Cove gives us a glimpse into the essential role the country store played in days gone by. I, personally, have fond memories of the Casey Grocery Store of Hankamer. I frequented it often when I first moved to the Devers area in 1968 and then to Hankamer in 1979. I certainly do miss these friendly gathering places.
More Than A Store
By Chester Rogers ~ Staff Writer
Typed as written in the newspaper.
"I like to meet people and I like to talk with them." That just about sums up the philosophy which has guided Mrs. Ola G. Joseph through the 38 years she has served in a typical country store, which is a vanishing part of the American scene.
Such an institution near Houston is the C. T. Joseph Store at Cove, in west Chambers County, on the edge of the Trinity River bottoms.
Customers of this store can buy anything from sewing machines to overalls, washtubs, liver remedies, rat poison, ribbons, cold drinks, and staple groceries. They can even borrow a book, and besides all that they can visit with neighbors while they take advantage of daily mail service.
The store is operated by Mrs. Joseph whose late husband founded the store in 1900, after he survived the 1900 storm at Galveston and decided he wanted to move to higher ground.
Mrs. Joseph, who admits only to being "over 60," is thinking of retiring, and this store of her, the pride and joy of the community which it serves, may soon vanish like countless other early similar American mercantile establishments.
The Cove post office itself, a small institution that renders a lot of service to the community, is 28 years old.
Mrs. Joseph, who taught school 10 years in the primary grades is Temple, prior to her marriage and moving to Cove in 1910, recalls that the store was a mighty busy place when she first came there.
"All of our merchandise came here by boat from Galveston,” she related, "and it took many packing cases of foodstuff to serve the residents here."
"We used to serve residents from Wallisville and Anahuac, too. That was in the days when a road from Wallisville extended across the present Trinity River bottoms and came over to this side, right opposite Freeman McKay's house where a hand-drawn ferry made the transfer across Old River Lake.
"The highway across the bottoms and the ferry as well, were wiped out by the 1915 storm. The same storm caused a big flood on the Trinity and the flood waters cut a new channel on the east side of the river bottoms."
"It is odd, but right now there is a dredge working back of my house, building a new road embankment across the river bottoms to support the four-lane Houston-Port Arthur Highway."
Mr. Joseph observed that there were not as many people living in Cove 30 years ago as there are now, but in those days all of the residents of the area bought nearly all of their food and clothing at her store. Today, automobiles, roads, and more complete stocks in big stores in the Tri-Cities and Houston draw the bulk of the trade.
"Today we try to supply our customers only the short items, stuff they might need over the week end and small purchases not worth the trip to town," she said.
The store draws quite a lot of trade from outdoorsmen en route to the hunting and fishing grounds for which Cove is famous. Its still quite wild regions will harbor a few great alligators and other animal life, little disturbed by the fast-encroaching development.
The Joseph Store has served as a center of cultural development for the community, too. Years ago, the Joseph's started a lending library, and some of these books are still on the shelves. They provided the best reading material available in past years and offered a source of information for many youngsters in the community anxious to explore further education.
Daily mail service, in and out, arrives at the Cove post office about 1:30 p.m. daily. Residents of the area anxious to receive or send mail try to make it to the store at this time, creating a mild traffic jam in the parking area.
If they arrive earlier than the mail, they sit and talk with other neighbors on a gossip bench placed in the lobby of the store. On this seat they exchange latest neighborhood news, pass the time of day, and find out what is going on down at the other end of Cove.
In the event they arrive later than the mail, there is usually someone else who arrived late, too, and they still get in a neighborly visit--an event of no small importance among residents of the Cove area.
Between mails and between customers, Mrs. Ola Joseph does oil painting. She studied art for a year while visiting in California. Today, she has about 40 original oil paintings. Some of them are displayed in the living room of the Joseph home, which has an entrance into the store.
In addition to her painting hobby, Mrs. Joseph is a charter member of the First Presbyterian Church in the Tri-Cities, and for years has been active in its Sunday school work as a teacher and director.