Termites had already done a lot of salvage work on the old Half Circle Ranch granary barn. We had removed the upper siding and were ready to start on the roof. First, the eave boards had to be dealt with. They were still a wonderful red, having been protected by the roof tin, but the last row of roof nails all around the barn was clenched over through the boards, then the red boards were spiked to the rafters with at least five nails in each rafter tail. The top frame of the Wagon Brace Sofa Table is evidence that all of the work and busted knuckles were worth it.
There were doubts also, about whether to proceed with the salvage work on the porch ceiling of the Springer House. The Springer Ranch, located northeast of Canadian, Texas, was the oldest cattle ranch in the Panhandle (1875). The old bead-board porch ceiling sure looked good, but each narrow board had more than its share of accumulated dirt and trash that cascaded down each time it was pried on. We stuck with it, though, and some of the boards became the panels and trim on the sofa table.
The wrought iron brace from the undercarriage of a freight wagon was worn completely in two. With a little reworking and some new rivets, it found a new life as the front table brace.
The old corral on the Shaller Ranch east of Canadian, Texas, had seen a lot of escape routes through the broken boards and rotted posts, so it was time for the old corral to come down. Some of the 2×6 corral boards, complete with orange lichens, became the case and door frames on the Palo Duro Tall Chest.
Out in the southeast corner of Sherman County on Palo Duro Creek, another ranch was getting some new pens and a general clean-up. The resulting junk piles were a treasure-trove of stories and hard-used pieces and parts. Out of the piles were gleaned the faded blue wagon sideboards and endgate that became door and drawer panels on the Tall Chest. The lonesome Ford fender guard, found without its fender, set the tone for the whole piece. A trip to Colorado turned up the stove legs and kitchen pulls to go with the fender guard.
The old corral on the Shaller Ranch east of Canadian, Texas, wasn’t in use anymore. There were too many missing posts and cow-sized holes. Interspersed around the corral fence were a few oak boards that had obviously outlasted several of the posts they were nailed to, and many a cow’s charge. The years had given them a classy black and gray patina and a surface like wrinkled hide. One of the oak boards with fewer twists and turns became the frame of the Corral Coffee Table.
The table legs were originally part of the frame around the old cattle scales out at the east end of the Shaller corrals. There must have been 75 square-headed bolts and carriage bolts holding the thing together.
Years ago while cleaning up some of the scattered junk on Aunt Pearl’s place, I found the remains of an old stock tank. I liked the looks of the line of rivets running across the rusty tin, so I set it aside for a future project. The oak frame of the coffee table needed a special panel and I remembered the old stock tank section.
The black and green end panels and inlaid squares were cut from a bedroom door panel. The door was salvaged from an abandoned homestead south of the Washita in Hemphill County.
When I saw the rusted, purple oil drum in a junk pit I knew I had found the perfect color to go with some green trim salvaged from the kitchen of the Springer house. The Springer Ranch was located north of the Canadian River in Hemphill County and was the first cattle ranch in the Panhandle (1875).
Pieces and parts of sulky rake tines became stretchers and braces on the Sulky Dressing Cabinet. The legs are gas line pipe, and steel balls from windmill checks serve as feet. Door and drawer pulls were once nuts and bolts from oil field tank hatch covers.
A cow-tromped piece of tin found over on Amy’s Sand Creek Ranch had enough silver paint still showing to work for the side panels. And a leftover John Deer nut was just right to cap out the Sulky Dressing Cabinet.
Years ago, just north of Palo Duro Creek in Sherman County, a blacksmith’s shop burned down. The only thing left to mark the site was a pile of rusty metal. Among the odd parts and pieces salvaged from that pile was the large wing nut that tops out The Wing Nut Tower Cabinet. Not far away the flared pipe flange was located that became the cabinet base. I had the top and the bottom to something.
Inspiration for the rest of the cabinet came from the remains of old homestead and railroad wooden water tanks, their bands all akelter, and the boards settling into the ground. The coopered sides of the cabinet are made from wall boards from Peg Robertson’s old house. The banding came from a junk pile in a draw just over the Oklahoma line. No suitable cap or top could be located, so I fabricated one out of a scrap of tin that came off the north side of our barn.
The door latch and drawer pulls had been used in the kitchen of the Springer house in Hemphill County. A discarded beater batt board from a John Deere #55 combine had enough yellow paint left in one area to provide a suitable door panel.
First came the wonderful porcelain-coated 1930’s stove legs and little cast iron stoke-door, gifts from Michael and his mom in Colorado. Then, Lloyd Fry brought me a dangerous-looking coil of lightning rod cable, complete with the pointed mounting brackets. The Open Range Dresser was on its way.
The cable which had once been on Lloyd’s grandad’s barn in Lipscomb County gave up a short section for the back rod on the dresser. The gray panels and drawer fronts were fashioned from door panels and interior trim salvaged out of the two-story Appel house on Willow Creek just a couple of miles southeast of our place. A mile from the Appel house, down Willow Creek, the old Hostutler homestead provided enough white trim boards for the dresser case.
There were just enough of the porcelain knobs to match the number of drawer and the door–a rare occurrence.
Panhandle icons, wooden windmill towers and oil derricks, inspired the form of the Baling Wire Tower Chair. Most windmills have baling wire in use somewhere on the tower, maybe a loose brace board has been wired in place or a strand is used to tie the brake handle up or down. It is fitting, then, that the all-purpose wire has been given an elevated place of honor on this chair.
Cast-off plantation shutter frames were reworked to make the chair frame. Corral board from Sand Creek Ranch became arms and the top “platform” board. Arm supports are frame struts out of a 1935 Chevy, and the back braces were originally undercarriage braces on a freight wagon. The sheet-metal back panel was cut out of a Chevy door panel, this one a 1951 model.
Upholstery by Nancy Schwerzenbach
The old ranch house south of the Washita had already provided some surprises during our salvage job. There was the mad mother squirrel that ran up my arm, the bull snake hanging out of the ceiling tiles, and a past resident’s wooden leg–complete with a weathered cowboy boot.
The northwest bedroom had a great red floor. We wanted to get most of the floor boards loaded on the trailer and call it a day. We hadn’t pried up too many boards before we could see a flat ledger board that sat on the pier posts and supported the joists. Right at our feet, resting on the ledger board were two old sewing machine drawers, the remains of a postcard tucked in one. A couple of joist spaces down, lay an old whiskey bottle, the contents long ago consumed or evaporated. We had discovered someone’s old stash. The spot, though hidden, would have been easy to get to from the back of the house and by pulling back one loose siding board.
That red flooring has been rolled up to create the Stash Cabinet. The door knobs migrated from Colorado. A John Deere gear and an old disc from Lipscomb top out the Stash.
When pulled from the scrap pile by Palo Duro Creek, the old washtub clothes wringer didn’t look too impressive, but on closer inspection, I started to imagine all kinds of cabinet hardware possibilities. It had wing nuts and wing bolts, little gear cogs to turn the wringers, a graceful crank arm and handle, and a stamped metal outfeed for the clothes that plainly proclaimed it to be a “Como Ball Bearing.”
Maybe the wing nuts reminded me of wine bottle cork screws, or maybe the set of porcelain-coated, gas stove legs from the 30’s I was given, looked like they belonged on a wine cabinet. At any rate, the Como Wine Cabinet was under way.
There were several small piles of different trim boards accumulated from salvaging the Springer house. Dark green window trim from the back of the house became doors and drawer fronts. The west porch yielded the green and white lap siding used now as side panels and curved top on the cabinet. Yellow and green door and window trim from the east porch found a place as the cabinet casing and trim.
Wagon box banding caps out the front curve. An odd wing bolt, most likely from a draft control on a wood or coal stove, was found in the same scrap pile as the wringer, and wound up becoming the pull on the center door. Turned backwards, the “Como Ball Bearing” outfeed plate spans the top of the door. Door panels, cut from one piece of tin, one edge still showing some long-ago applied red paint, came from the north side of our old barn.
There aren’t too many of the stout and stately wooden granaries left anymore. Parts of an old brown door from a country schoolhouse became the frame for the Granary End Table. The gray tongue and groove boards were salvaged from the back porch of the Hostutler house on Willow Creek. A three-sided barn on the Shaller Ranch sough of the Canadian River yielded the red door and top boards.
The tin came off of our place. When we cleaned out the wagon driveway in the barn, we pulled this tin out of the accumulated layers of dirt. I have no idea what it was originally, but I’ve been saving it for a long time for a special, small door. The door pull is a crank year from a wash tub clothes wringer.
The little Dempster mill on Aunt Pearl’s place was worn out and needed to be replaced. The pipe tower was in bad shape, too, with daylight showing through some rusted-out spots on the legs. Over the years, cattle rubbing on the tower had given the pitted pipe a deep, oil-rubbed patina. Sections of the cow-patinated pipe became legs for the Quilt Block Dining Table. The table feet were once gears on a John Deere grain drill.
The table top frame is made of boards salvaged from an old corral on the Shaller Ranch in Hemphill County, Texas, just south of the Canadian River. Across the river, a few miles to the northeast, is the old Springer place. The Springer Ranch was the first cattle ranch in the Texas Panhandle (1875). The green tongue and groove boards for the tabletop squares came from the kitchen walls in the Springer House.
Like an old chore coat, patches over patches, pockets sewn with baling wire, and never allowed in the house, the north side of the old barn has delighted my eyes for some 25 years. The layers of scrap tin have slowly shed the silvers and grays of galvanization and slid more to the siennas, oranges, and reds of rust. Summer sunsets or storms could make the barn a glowing wonder. Add rain and the wall was a gilded screen.
Cathy’s granddad, Anton Bucher, repaired the wall outside the granary. He wrote in pencil on the yellow pine shiplap boards, “Repaired in 1945.” Then he nailed a flat sheet of tin over the wood. Later on in the ‘50s, after Anton had died, Cathy’s dad, Frank, used flattened tin containers to cover the rest of the barn siding to slow down the weathering. It helped. But the ice and driving rains and the wind—always the wind—kept working at the north side of the barn.
Frank is gone now and my turn has come around. I tore out the old wagon driveway and shored up the east side where the termites had worked. I pick up nails the old barn sheds and I nail flaps of tin back down. I have used some of those wind-loosened flaps on my furniture. The brightest colored tin and the patches with the best “cow-rubbed” finish, I have been saving for some special pieces.
The North Side Table counts as a special piece. I’ll bet the colors will keep on changing as the days and seasons change. The tin panels are framed with corral boards from Sand Creek Ranch, southwest of Lipscomb, Texas. The corral caught its share of weather, too. The red edges were the underside edges. The rest of the paint was beaten off long ago.
Window trim from Tom Conatser’s addition to the old Springer Ranch house on the Canadian River yielded enough green for the filet board. Old bridge timbers pulled out a junk pile along Palo Duro Creek in Sherman County, Texas, provided enough material for the table base. In the same junk pile were the remains of an old freight wagon. The truncated wagon tongue had been outfitted with a forged strap and ring. Not too far away was an ancient-looking hook and chain.
It all needed to stay together, the hardware and the timbers. One of Grandpa Bucher’s old harness hooks was paired up with the Palo Duro hook and the base of the North Side Table is anchored against the wind.
By the time the county decided to tear down the old Dreyfoos School, there wasn’t much left of the interior. Sky showed through the remaining rafters and the floor boards were rotted. Only a few interior doors and trim were worth salvaging. Here and there a layer of turquoise blue paint could be seen. One tall, stage door looked especially promising. Parts of that door were reworked for the door frames on the Dreyfoos Sprocket Wardrobe. Door trim and panels were used on the cabinet sides.
While visiting good friends, Rod and Lila, at their place near Yuma, Colorado, they loaded us up with the orange M&M baler sprockets that are used as the door pulls. Then, at a later rendezvous in Taos, they brought me an old, pink broom closet door from a fallen-down, country school in Colorado. Perfect panels for the Wardrobe doors. A yellow door from the now abandoned Hotel Higgins in Higgins, Texas, gave up enough pieces to top out the wardrobe and make the legs.
Peg Robertson lost his leg when he was just a kid. Walking home from the Washita country school one day, he stopped at a stock tank for a drink and knelt down on a rattlesnake. He made it home and his mom put a tourniquet on the leg, but she never loosened it. Years later Peg had him a peddlers wagon and he traveled the area between Canadian and Mobeetie in the Texas Panhandle. Tales of his frequent Saturday night binges in Old Mobeetie are told to this day.
Peg is long gone now, his old wagon weathering down in the tree grove. The remains of his house, just south of the Washita River, will be burned and the site cleared off for a new cabin. Salvage work on the old house yielded all sorts of bright colored trim and not a few strange stories. Peg’s wooden leg with weathered cowboy boot greeted us when we started work. White baseboard and colored bedroom doors later became parts of the Checkered Past Cabinet. An old coal heater discovered down in the dugout basement, some its isinglass still intact, served as inspiration for the mica/isinglass around the top of the cabinet.
Long after I had ventured down to the cellar and we had completed the salvage job, I was told the story of how Peg’s mother had shot a bobcat in that same cellar years before.
Most small plains towns still have one standing down near the tracks. These wooden grain elevators in the north and mills or cotton gins on the southern plains have long since been shut down and are overshadowed by their concrete offspring. Their archetypal shapes inspired the design of the Requiem cabinet.
A feed bin, sheltered at the back of an open-ended barn, provided the red case wood and door frames. The gray face frame came from the exterior barn siding. A half buried sheet of tin, pulled out of a draw in the east bull pasture, yielded enough usable tin for the door panels and roofs. The door pulls are brass spools out of windmill well checks. The elevator support columns are sections of oil field gas pipe.
To make up the door panel on the Linen cabinet, security fencing made by the Fort Worth Fence Co. is backed up by red tin salvaged from a shed on the Shaller Ranch of Canadian, Texas. The door and cabinet frames are made from bedroom doors and trim out of the Appel house on Willow Creek, near Lipscomb, Texas. A bobcat has taken up residence in the attic of the old house and raccoons have claimed the second floor. Most salvaging has taken place on the first floor.
The porcelain faucet handles came from a Wyoming ranch house. The cabinet stands on bathtub claw feet salvaged out of a little house in Higgins, Texas. The bathtub stayed.
An octagonal cap found on the tongue of a John Deere horse drawn grader is now the crown piece on the Wayside Linen Cabinet.
When the roof tin on the old Akers barn was stripped off and the underlying wooden shingles removed, the bare rafters did not look too good with their swayback sags and layers of barn dust. A quick inspection with a pocketknife revealed that some of the boards were longleaf heart pine. One of those rafters became the frame of the Skywatcher Dressing Cabinet. Lightning rod cable and brackets from the top of another old barn cap the front of the cabinet. The top finials are square washers found on an oil field location.
A roof purlin board from the Half Circle Ranch granary barn, planed and cleaned, became the door frame. The tin for the door panels was pulled out of the dirt in the Sand Creek Ranch corral. Sand Creek Ranch also provided the cabinet sides. An addition to the old ranch house revealed lap siding under the stucco. Bright trim boards from the interiors of various old homesteads deck out the inner cabinet.
The dump on the old Page place was impressive. Years worth of junk had been scattered down the draw and over the hillside. The bottom out of a copper wash tub lay off by itself. It had been used for target practice and stomped on by many a steer. All that character and rich patina deserved better. So it became the door panel for the Washday Dreaming Wall Cabinet. The door is made of Southern longleaf pine salvaged from door jambs out of the Hill House on Dugout Creek in Lipscomb Co., Texas.
The cabinet frame was cut from parts of an old door that once hung on a stone-lined dugout along Palo Duro Creek in Sherman Co., Texas. The ghost images of different hinges show that it probably was used in more than one place. The blue side boards were once hidden under several layers of wall paper in Peg Robertson’s old house down south of the Washita. Peg’s old wooden leg was still in the house too, complete with a weathered cowboy boot.
A part from a buggy frame, found half-buried south of the Canadian River, became the door’s backplate. Inside, on the little dream door, the plate behind the porcelain knob was once a tie-rod bracket from a freight wagon box. The dream door itself is the lockset portion of the old dugout door.
The old stucco house on the north side of Higgins, Texas is on its way down. The roof is leaking and water has found a way into the rough basement. All the old-timers will tell you that the house was moved in after the tornado, but no one seems to know where it sat originally. The house is square with the street, but off square with the basement it sits over.
History in Higgins is delineated by “before the tornado” or “after the tornado.” April 9, 1947, a monster storm tore most of Higgins off the map. Forty-five souls died. The lives of the survivors were changed forever, and the town has struggled to keep itself going.
Though the stucco house is leaking and sagging, the interior trim is still bright and sound. Old newspapers used as padding beneath the bathroom linoleum date from 1930. Peeling wallpaper reveals multicolored carsiding that looks to have been salvaged from an older structure. Yellow boards from the kitchen, pink from the bathroom, and green from a bedroom have been reworked for the frame and case of the Stormwatcher Dressing Cabinet.
Side tin on the cabinet came from an old homestead on Palo Duro Creek in Sherman County, Texas. In a junk pile on the same place, castoff wagon sideboards provided enough steel banding to edge the tin.
The old barn south of Lipscomb, Texas, had a dangerous northward lean. The roof was so swaybacked that most of the rafters were beyond using, but a couple near the gable ends were straight enough to become the frame of the Nightwatcher Cabinet. The evening sky as seen from inside the barn through the patchwork roof was the inspiration for the cabinet door. Discarded blue boards from the Parker House remodel in Lipscomb became the background panel. The grid is a section of security fencing made by the Fort Worth fencing company.
My late, good friend, Maurice Bernson, master of the found object, came up with the fence panels years ago in a salvage yard. The cabinet sides are sections of lap siding from the south side of the Springer House, Persimmon Creek Ranch, Hemphill, County, Texas.
A combine sicklebar keeper serves as the door pull. Ends from hand-forged wagon undercarriage struts are now the top finials. And baling wire secures an old disc hub to cap out the top.
From Mobeetie to Canadian years ago, Peg was known for his peddler’s wagon and his regular tendency to do some serious Saturday night partying. There is even a story about a certain Sunday morning aftermath. Since the boards for the Dream Cabinet came from Peg’s old house: green mopboards and exterior trim, and red flooring, I thought the smashed parking lot bottle caps would be fitting. The caps have been gleaned all over the South Plains, from Rosita’s café in Lubbock to Skillity Hill beer store in Lipscomb, County, to the Dairy Queen in Vega.
The underside of barn tin makes a good door panel. Inside, the small dream cabinet is made from drawer sides salvaged out of a house that was moved to Higgins after the ’47 tornado.
Roof tin peeled off the decrepit barn roof on the hottest of July days; sagging rafters bristling with nails beyond counting, iron-hard loft joists under layers of dirt and hay. The wisdom of salvaging all the castoff barn parts was daily called into question. The old barn is gone now, but the parts have become the Barn Sentinel Tall Chest. Portions of roof tin strapped down with old water tank banding clad the cabinet sides. Rafters, minus the nails, now frame the cabinet. A straight section of one of the old joists–without the layers of dirt, and with a few passes through the planer–is now the cabinet door. Red siding protected from weathering by a lean-to on the south side of the barn made the door “braces” and the drawer fronts.
Up in Yuma, Colorado, when Cecil passed away after a life of farming and collecting, they had a sale and some of the accumulated items found their way to the Texas Panhandle. Overhead door hardware became door and drawer pulls and the small latch got a second chance on the Barn Sentinel Tall Chest.
Sturdy wellhouses with their cool, mysterious interiors inspired the Wellhouse End Cabinets. Parts of bedroom doors and trim salvaged from an old homestead on Willow Creek in Lipscomb County, Texas, became the frames and tops of the cabinets. The sides are car siding that sheathed the back porch. Doors are fashioned from interior door parts from a house south of the Washita River in Hemphill County.
Panels for the doors are rust-striped barn tin that once covered the Akers barn south of Lipscomb. Worn, John Deere grain drill sprockets are recycled for door pulls.
Separately, the parts and odd boards did not add up to much. First from Colorado, came the full set of legs off a 1930’s gas cookstove. Then there was the wonderful crackled, gray trim salvaged from the old Appel house on Willow Creek in Lipscomb County, Texas. Just enough pink trim and door panels out of an old house on the north side of Higgins, Texas, that was probably moved into town right after the ’47 tornado
Old oven door handles from the abandoned Dreyfoos schoolhouse serve as bottom drawer pulls. The rest of the pulls are electric fence insulators that we once used for our cell grazing systems. The three top “finials” are insulator posts from REA power pole crossarms. Half covered by fallen ceiling parts, the old electric range in an old homestead was almost overlooked during the salvage work, but the Perfection emblem caught our eye.
An old barn rafter of longleaf pine rescued from the discard pile yielded enough rips for the frame of the Sentinel Cabinet. Side panels and the door frame came from ceiling boards discovered under layers of peeling wallpaper in the kitchen of an abandoned homestead on Willow Creek in Lipscomb County, Texas. Tin door panels were pulled from the dirt in the corral of the Sand Creek Ranch.
The door pull is a brass spool out of a windmill check. The red dream cabinet inside is made from a red kitchen drawer from an old house that was moved to Higgins, Texas, after the tornado of ’47.
The stack of barn tin up behind the Sand Creek Ranch corral did not look like much. Dirt was drifted along one side and clumps of sagebrush had grown up hard against each end of the stack. But shiny aluminum paint could be seen through the cedar posts weighting down the sheets. The biggest surprise was the backside of the tin where the old galvanizing process had created a wonderful crystalline effect. Sections of the old roof tin became door and side panels for the Winter Guardian Tall Chest. Lightning rod cable and five roof brackets from an old barn were a natural fit to crown out the Tall Chest.
An unwanted stash of gumwood discovered in a shed in Canadian, Texas, provided enough wood for the case and door frames, and the drawers.
Door pulls were part of a “Como Ball Bearing” washtub clothes wringer.
A couple of roughsawn gum wood planks first suggested the shape of the Chef’s Cabinet. Old corral boards, displaced by steel stock panels, were recycled to become the cabinet frame. Lap siding salvaged from a ranch house remodel on the Sand Creek Ranch now sides the cabinet. Wagon singletrees with ever-useful baling wire brace the top. Hinges on the plank doors were originally corral gate hinges, and the door pulls were part of an interlocking stock working alley.
Inside, the drawer pulls are old harness buckles. The utensil hooks came out of a cast-off wardrobe.
Every barn roof has its own rust pattern or shade of galvanizing. And like a quilt, sometimes the tin is just as amazing on the backside. Not as much rust as the weathered side, but there are stripes from the rafters, or snow flake crystal patterns from the zinc coating. The tin panels on the exterior of the SAMPLER CABINET came from the old Akers barn south of Lipscomb, Texas. It must have been 110 degrees the day we salvaged the sheets of tin off the roof. The barn loft was even hotter. Inside the cabinet are samples of zinc crystals on the underside of Sand Creek Ranch tin, rust-striped Akers V-groove tin, and patterned tin pulled out of the dirt in an old wagon drive-through.
Most of the granary barn on the Half Circle Ranch was termite-chewed and weathered beyond using, but up under the south side lean-to there were enough red siding boards to make the case and door for the SAMPLER CABINET.
A strand of saber point barbed wire tops out the piece. Saber point or ribbon wire was used to fence off the railroad right-of-way when the rail came through the Panhandle in 1886-87.
The Luther Hill schoolhouse must have been a bright place, if the red boards with pink edging are any indication. I inherited only two of the cypress boards with the flint-hard paint. They lay around for several seasons waiting on the right piece.
One day while looking through my stash of old doors, I looked at the backside of a tongue and groove door from the Hotel Higgins. Hard-edged green, loved only by some long-forgotten painter, but strong enough to hold its own with the red and pink.
The barn rafter legs on the sofa table are braced with curvy strapping from the front undercarriage of an old farm wagon. Leg bands are strips of tin that blew off the north side of the 90-year-old barn on our place in Lipscomb County, Texas.