Description: Colonel W. R. Austin came from Kentucky to Palo Pinto County about 1880, and settled on Staggs Prairie. When an infection in his eye responded to mineral water treatment, he established the Austin Well, later operated by his son-in-law, Tom Sims. Blind Nellie was a fixture of the Austin Well for years. She had an interesting history: A cowboy rode her into town one day, and auctioned her off to the highest bidder, J.H. Coleman, who bid a dollar and a half for her. Then Bob Kyle took Coleman's bargain off his hands, but Colonel Austin was the one who profited most from her when he devised a method that used her to "pump" water from his well. This unique method of bringing water to the surface was an added attraction at the Austin. Instead of drawing it up by hand or using a power pump, Blind Nellie was trained to walk around in circles, pulling the water up from below. She would pause long enough for the water to empty and, as if on a hidden cue, would go around again as the receptacle was lowered back into the well, repeating her performance accurately each time. In later years, when she became confused in her ritual, she was allowed to retire. In retirement, however, Blind Nellie selected a place in her pasture, and during the working hours of the day she repeated the ritual of walking her circle in a size corresponding to the one she had walked for so many years at the Austin Well. She died in 1912.
Item Type: Photograph