Sometime in the mid-1950s, my mother was doing a great deal of genealogy research and was creating a family history book. Tucked inside, was this neatly typed memory of her grandfather, my great grandfather, Robert Huebotter. He was born in 1863 and lived to the young age of 88.
by Virginia Roberts (my mother)
Robert Huebotter was born in a covered wagon somewhere near Brackett, Texas on January 31, 1863. Little is known of his early life, his religion, his ambitions, or even his family. All I know are the sketches which I remember from my childhood impressions.
The thing I remember most about Grandpa Huebotter was his happy countenance, his laughing blue eyes, and the straight, tall manner in which he held himself. He always stood tall and held his head high so that even in his later years when age was pressing on his shoulders, he appeared to be straight and tall.
Robert was a happy man with a lighthearted nature. He worked hard faming on his nine acres of land which he moved on when he married Bertha Britz. Together they worked with the vegetables and flowers and every Saturday went to the Farmers Market to sell their goods. There was a newspaper article written up about with a picture of Grandpa with his arm around Grandma at the Farmers Market. They were being honored as the oldest couple coming to the Market. It was great fun for me to watch Grandpa and Grandma Huebotter prepare to go to the Market. We got up very early Saturday morning, and washed vegetables, and packed boxes and Grandma cut flowers and shined the bottles of pickled peppers. To a child it was a magical, fun world. To the adults it was a job, a chance to see old friends and meet new, and also shopping day. After everything was packed, we piled into the old black Model T that was just as tall and straight looking as Grandpa and off we’d go!
Robert and Bertha Huebotter had two sons and three daughters. One son Noel died when he was very young.
I mentioned before that Robert Huebotter was of a very light-hearted nature. He would often attack a very serious matter over which everyone was stewing and make a light joke of it. I saw this as a very wonderful quality. I’m afraid Grandma often saw it as nonsense or pretended to, for she often reprimanded Grandpa with a funny little German word, “Dumme Schwatzereri”, which in German means, “Crazy Talk”. However, there often lurked behind it a slight grin and we knew that even though she wouldn’t admit it, she thought Grandpa was pretty funny.
It seems that in the last ten years or so of his life, the greatest joy came to Robert Huebotter from telling stories to his grandchildren, petting his old dog “Prince”, and just enjoying his home and the beautiful country around him. Grandpa taught me to appreciate the exhilarating sweetness that comes when you take a tender orange leaf and fold it together, breaking the veins that hold the teasing orange odor. I never pass an orange tree that I don’t break off an orange leaf, and inhaling the crushed sweetness, recall to memory many pleasant days spent with my Grandfather.
One of the fondest pictures that comes to mind when I think of our hours spent together is connected with enjoying the fragrance of orange leaves. How often I’d sit on the back steps by the big orange tree of which he was so proud, and listen attentively as he told stories of Buffalo Bill, now and then pausing to pluck an orange leaf, tenderly break it and pass it to me to sniff as I continued listening to tales of the old West.
Other times we’d tramp across the fields while Grandpa helped us catch a field mouse, or pointed out a flurry of “Bob-Whites”, or pulled a half-ripe pear from one of the trees that bordered his fields. I think life was somewhat of an adventure for Grandpa Huebotter, or perhaps he was just seeing the world as we children saw it, excitement in every new thing we discovered about the world.
I believe that Robert Huebotter had little formal schooling, but he was the proud possessor of a beautiful flowing penmanship. He was once awarded a prize at a fair by “Buffalo Bill” for having won the blue ribbon for penmanship. Because he was personally acquainted with him may been been one of the reasons why the stories Grandpa told almost invariably ended up being about William F. Cody. He had a deep love and respect for Colonel William F. Cody. I never realized before why I, too, had this deep affection for Buffalo Bull, but surely it must have been instilled in me by my Grandfather.
Grandpa used to sit at parties and draw beautiful birds with his skillful fingers. As we’d watch, he would draw one flowing line and then another and with a few quick flourishes, a dot for an eye, we’d behold a fancifully sketched bird. These birds were as graceful and moving as their live counterpart soaring through the skies. I think of all the hundreds of birds Grandpa sketched at family parties and cards games as he kept score, and how they were tossed into the furnace afterward. How precious one of them would be now.
Although I know very little about Grandpa Huebotter, there is one outstanding character facet that I remember quite vividly. That was his cheerfulness in the face of something unpleasant. Even when he was in great pain, if you acted too concerned he would make a little joke about it. He was not perfect, he complained like all the rest of us, but more often than not, he was joking about his situation, to the dismay of Grandma.
I recall that in his last few days, no one could get him to eat. I guess we had an understanding though, for I made some tapioca pudding and joked with him that if he didn’t eat it, I’d stuff it down him, and with blue eyes twinkling mischievously he ate every bite.
I shall never forget the picture Grandpa made when he was dressed to go to town. Tall, (about 6 ft. 3 in.) and straight, white hair and thick white mustache smoothly combed, with his blue eyes sparkling and full of spirit, he was a sight to behold, all decked out in his black suit and tall, black hat. Never will I forget the quaint picture of Grandpa and Grandma, all straight and prim, with the produce neatly packed in the back of their just as straight and prim Model T, chug-chugging off to Saturday Market.
It's time consuming, but with every letter, article and photo I uncover, I can't help but do a little research to see what more I can learn. With my mother's recollections above, what stood out was the reference to Buffalo Bill. I remember my mother telling me that her family knew Buffalo Bill (William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody February 26, 1846 – January 10, 1917), but I don't recall any specifics. So I spent some time searching the Internet for any references to Buffalo Bill and awards for penmanship. I was hoping to uncover a photo of young Robert receiving such an prize. Alas, no luck. Though I did uncover that William F. Cody had notoriously terrible handwriting, so a reference to him awarding those with good penmanship is most curious. I'll keep looking.
The Houston Chronicle article was among my mother's belongings as was an article featuring Robert Huebotter's son, William Frederick Huebotter, see below.
Now if I can only find a photo of Great Grandpa Huebotter & my mother with that Model T...oh wait - maybe that's it in the background of this baby pic of my mom with Gertrude & Bertha...