“As Goes Old Dobbin So Goes The Old Buggy Whip”
(Originally published in the Waco Tribune Herald, October 13, 1929.)
Why does tying a slow horse to a post improve his gait?
If you are familiar with the days when the “class” of Waco came to town via phaeton and buggy behind gentle old Dobbin, you will raise your hand eagerly to give teacher the answer.
But since there are only a few reminders of that grand old day when hitching posts were thicker than “no parking” signs along Austin Avenue, and every home of consequence in Waco sported a fine team of buggy horses and several carriages of different size and purpose, you will have to be told.
When a slow horse is tied to a post, it makes him fast.
Recalling the days when he was hitchboy for Goldstein and Migel’s, Harvey Alexander says he was called upon to do everything from merely tying the horses when they were driven up to the curb, to selling goods in the store.
LOTS OF EXCITEMENT
All of the prominent people of Waco would drive up in their carriages and Harvey would tie their horses while the women would dismount and do the shopping. When time was limited, he would run into the store and get the articles the women wanted. When clerks were busy with other customers, Harvey would go behind one of the counters where business was rushing and help with the selling.
“Sometimes the horses would be frightened by streetcars and then there would be lots of excitement,” declared Alexander. “The horses would try to jump out of the harness and it was my duty to unhitch them and get them straightened out,” he said.
FEW HITCH RINGS LEFT
With the inroads of “gas buggies” the signs of yesteryear have just about disappeared from Waco. In front of R.E. Cox Dry Goods company are a few rings left in the curb and there are some others in front of W.T. Grant’s. On Sixth Street in front of the State House hotel are two stone blocks with rings in them. The blocks are worn with the years and the corners are nearer being round than square.
Clint Padgitt recalls some of the old customs during the time that he attended Baylor University. He said that the place where the fence on the south side of the athletic field behind the science hall was the hitching place for the student’s horses. There all of the young men of the university tied the horses that drew the two-wheeled carts.
Fifth Street from Webster to Speight avenue was the “race track” according to Padgitt.
ARRESTED FOR SPEEDING
“It was a good street and we whipped up our horses there and raced up to the university but lots of the boys were arrested for speeding and we had to be careful when we did race,” he said.
There are rings in the sidewalk along the Fifth Street side of Baylor and several old posts that have been broken off during the years, but still wear the coat of green paint. In front of the Baade home at 503 North Fifth Street are two iron posts, and, according to Padgitt, Bailey Slayden was killed when his team started to run away at Fifth and Marlboro and the front axle of the buggy caught on one of the same posts and threw the driver out.
Another hitching post, which belonged to W.H. Jones, known then as “Uncle Billy” is owned by J.W. Mann. The post was moved from its original place in front of “Uncle Billy’s” home at 822 Austin to Fifteenth and Columbus and at the time of his death was given to Mann. This “post” was in the form of a little Negro boy, made of iron, holding out a ring.
DIFFERENT HITCHING REINS
There are several other old hitching posts in Waco, Padgitt said. There were two kinds of hitching reins. One was called bridal hitching rein and other was called the neck hitching rein. The people who lived out on the farms had a way all of their own of tying their horses. They would tie the lines to the wheel of the buggy or carriage and when the horses would start up the lines would get tighter as the wheel turned. The expressmen had weights on their lines and when they dismounted from the drays they would drop the weight to the street and the horses would be “tied”.
Fritz O. Patzkie used to drive a carry-all for Manchester and Clisbee, then the largest livery stable in Waco, Padgitt related. He would drive four horses to the wagon when the Masonic lodge would attend a funeral or some other function and needed a conveyance that could carry several people.
SO GOES THE WHIP
The buggy whip is going the way of the hitching post, too. Only about three or four dozen are sold during the year, and most of them are sent to St. Francisville, La., the last stronghold of the horse and buggy. Only one or two are sold within the city limits and the rest are used by farmers.
Baylor girls have taken advantage of the technicality regarding the “no car riding after 6 o’clock” rule of the university and on occasion have hired buggies from the Riverside livery stable, according to Sam Alexander, proprietor.
Alexander did not say that the men students took the same advantage.