True stories of old Houston and Houstonians: historical and personal sketches / by S. O. Young. Page: 197
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HOUSTON AND HOUSTONIANS 197
As I say, Mr. Pannell had the old black hearse, and the little
gray mare and he had something more. He had a boy whom he
had raised, named Rick Nolan. Rick was a typical boy, thoughtless,
hair-brained and ready to engage in anything that gave
promise of fun, as all real boys are. Rick was placed in command
of the pauper hearse and the little gray mare, and he had
not officiated at many "plantings" before he discovered that the
little gray mare should have been on a race track rather than
before a hearse.
Potters Field was then located on the banks of the bayou
beyond the San Felipe graveyard, and as that was away out in
the country the San Felipe Road gave Rick as fine a race track
for developing the speed of his gray mare as the heart could
wish for. He would go out quietly enough but would come back
at a 2:40 clip, racing everything in sight until he reached Main
Street, when he would slow down and creep along as quiet as a
Rick might have continued his sport indefinitely but for an
accident. During the fall of 1866 a tough and wild-looking old
"bum" and the cholera struck Houston. The bum might have
remained in obscurity, but not so the cholera. It was something
The people knew all about yellow fever and after the first
panic among the tenderfeet, the situation was accepted and
everything ran along as usual. They knew nothing of cholera,
however, and its advent produced a genuine and lasting panic.
Every man was afraid of his neighbor and friend whom he regarded
as the carrier of the fatal germs. Stories of miraculous
cures, of apparently well men falling dead, of apparently dead
men coming to life, and all such things, became current and
everybody believed them.
Now just when this nervous tension was greatest Rick was
called on to bury a negro out in the Potters Field. He performed
his duty and started back. Just as he reached San
Felipe Road he encountered the bum mentioned above. The
bum asked for a ride to town, but as that was almost a capital
offense in Mr. Pennell's eyes, Rick wisely refused.
Then the bum offered him ten cents to take him to town. Rick
was tempted and fell, but he insisted that the bum get inside
the hearse and lie down so no one could see him, and that he
get out when Main Street was reached. The bum agreed and
got in. Rick drove along quietly until within a few blocks of
Then he concluded to give his passenger a touch of high life.
He gathered up his reins and hit the mare a sharp lash with the
whip. That settled it and in a moment Rick realized that he
had overplayed his hand. The mare took the bit between her
teeth and bolted.
Main Street was reached in a jiffy and people along that highway
were horrified to see an apparently crazy mare dashing
toward town, having in tow a dilapidated hearse containing a
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Young, Samuel Oliver. True stories of old Houston and Houstonians: historical and personal sketches / by S. O. Young., book, 1913; Galveston, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth24646/m1/197/: accessed July 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .