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Counting Cats in Somerville, Texas

by Patricia Campbell

campbellpatricia@bellsouth.net

 

My husband and I recently visited my cousin, John Pinkerton, in Somerville, Texas.  It was a good reunion because we hadn’t seen each other in many years---about 70. 


On a visit to the Somerville Area Museum, I learned that the town was formed in 1882 when the Santa Fe Railroad established a strategic switching yard and railroad tie plant in an already established pioneer settlement. Soon a Fred Harvey Restaurant and Hotel came to the area making the growing town a whistle stop for the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroad.  The town was named after Albert Somerville, the first President of the GC&SF.  Later, after the passenger train business gave way to automobile and airline travel, the Harvey House was demolished; freight trains still travel through Somerville but don’t stop there to load and unload, but the switching yard remains.


It was interesting to me to see a little town like Somerville where on the same street there could be a boarded up, collapsing Victorian house and next to it be a mobile home and then next to that a house built perhaps in the thirties followed by a modern brick home and then another boarded up house next to it and so on.  There didn’t seem to be much zoning going on in Somerville.

 

With not a lot of money collected to run the town, streets had gone for years without repairs and are full of pot holes or are worn away completely leaving many neighborhoods with dirt roads again.  We laughed as we bounced around the streets that we were getting our aerobic exercise!


Nearby Lake Somerville brings visitors for fishing and boating.  It was formed as a reservoir by the damming of Yegua Creek in the Brazos River basin.  Somerville still has schools, churches, and a few store fronts plus a Dollar General and Family Dollar Store but most of the citizens work in nearby larger towns and have to do most of their shopping there.  We did eat in a couple of the mom and pop restaurants in Somerville.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that the quaint little Mexican food restaurant we went to had once been the family home of my cousin’s wife! 


Somerville is pretty laid back and as a result doesn’t have agencies to enforce rules about parking on the
street, junk piling up in yards, or animal control.  It is quite a sight to see wild turkeys and deer walking right down the street!  Plus, one of the pastimes of my cousin and his wife is to ride around town counting cats.  Cousin John wrote an essay for his website about this activity that I found very entertaining when I read it, but I wasn’t so sure I quite believed his tale about counting so many cats. 


Naturally while in Somerville, I wanted to go cat counting.  We went out the first afternoon and counted 21 cats!  I couldn’t believe it! We saw them on porch railings, under cars, walking across the yards, sitting in windows, and some houses had four or five cats sunning or grooming themselves on door steps and driveways.  I was amazed!


I wanted to go cat counting again for the next two afternoons to see if we could break the record of cat sightings.  Sure enough we saw 26 cats the second day, and I swear I am not lying when I say we counted 51 cats the last day! 

 

You may be wondering if we saw any dogs.  Yes, we saw many of them, but they were all nicely penned up in back yards and there weren’t nearly as many dogs as cats.  It seems like the residents of Somerville must prefer felines.   It sure was fun counting them and was the highlight of our visit.  


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