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South Texas Living

Remembering the Wenzel family in Camp Ranch

Remembering the Wenzel family in Camp Ranch
Max Wenzel and Lawrence Zook

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Rainy Days and Starry Nights
January 29, 2014
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This is part II of Lois Wauson’s column “Remembering the Wenzel family during the Depression,” Jan. 15.

Max Wenzel came to visit us for years. About once a month, he would show up at our farm after we moved to the Kasper community. I found out later he had walked straight across one pasture after another all the way from the Wenzel farm in Camp Ranch. He would appear one morning walking out from the pasture of scrubby mesquite trees and cactus. My sister Gerry remembers him starting home at night, and she always wondered how he could find his way if it was pitch dark, cloudy, with no stars or moon to guide him, knowing he was not taking a road, but walking through woods and pastures all the way to the Camp Ranch community.

His eating habits were really different! Mother would talk about it when he would leave to go home. He used molasses and syrup on everything! As we sat down to lunch or dinner, and Mother had cooked a big meal of fried chicken, or chicken and dumplings, cornbread, fresh vegetables, and homemade bread, Max asked for the syrup or molasses pitcher and Mother watched in dismay as he poured it all over his food on the plate, mixing it all up with his knife and fork, then proceeded to shovel it into his mouth as fast as he could as he hunched over the table, never lifting his eyes to anyone until it was all gone. Then he filled his plate again, and did the same thing.

Max quit coming over to visit in the early ’50s. I overheard Mother and Daddy talking one night. It seems Max had his eye on one of my sisters. I think he wanted to marry her. She was about 14 or 15. Mother noticed he couldn’t take his eyes off of her, and Max finally mentioned something to Daddy about his intentions. I don’t know what Daddy said to him. But we didn’t see him at the house any more. Perhaps after all those years, he was finally getting lonely. He must have been in his 50s or 60s by then. Who knows how old he really was, that is what we thought. Perhaps he was much younger, but to us he was old!

I heard after Max died, Reinhold and Pauline would argue often. She would lock him out of the house; she got so mad at him. An old friend ran into him one day and Reinhold was really upset, because Pauline had locked him out of the house. Asked where he was sleeping, he said, “Where do you think? In the hog pen!” This went on for years. Then one day the friend saw Reinhold, and he said, “Well, Pauline died last week. At least I won’t have to sleep in the hog pen any more!”

Those Sunday visits with the Wenzels in the late ’30s will always be in my memory; like at the end of the day in Camp Ranch, Mother and Daddy put us sleepy kids in the back of the wagon and started home, before darkness set in. Reinhold, Max, and Pauline stood in the large bare swept-dirt yard and waved as the mules pulled the wagon up the lane to the road. The two men stood there with their straw hats pulled down over their eyes, to avoid the sun setting low in the sky; Pauline, her hair pulled back in a bun, a long flowered kitchen apron over her long dress, and her plain round face smiling, waved at us and they all looked so lonely. I saw the guineas, chickens, and dogs in the background, their only company. They were different and unusual and friendly and warm and I sure did like their feather mattresses and homemade sourdough bread with homemade butter and plum preserves! They were a good example of a typical German family in the olden days.

Lois Zook Wauson is the oldest of eight children who grew up on a farm in Wilson County in the mid-20th century. After many years living in other parts of Texas, she now lives and writes in Floresville. Her two books are available from the Wilson County News office. Email her at

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