Mr. Caywood’s wagon rolls again
Saturday marked the debut of the old “two-mule” wagon on permanent display outside at the I&GN Depot Historical Museum.
The wagon was lovingly restored by Rockdale Historical Society volunteer Gary Jackson.
“It took me 106 hours,” Jackson said. “I put in another 20 or so working on the lean-to where it’s being displayed from now on.”
FAMILI AR— Fo r ma n y decades, Caywood, a near lifelong resident of the Talbott Ridge community east of Rockdale, was a familiar site on local streets.
Decades after everyone else had switched to cars and pickups, Caywood would hitch up a pair of mules to a wagon and make almost daily trips into Rockdale.
There were many times when the vegetables were free for needy families.
He was never too busy to stop and visit with children, gener- ation after generation of them.
In the era before garden tractors, Caywood was also Rockdale’s “ plowman.” Each spring he’d add ground tilling to his trips, using the plow he kept in the wagon and the two hard-working mules.
A plow is chained inside the restored wagon as a tribute to Caywood.
NO BILLS—To say “ they don’t make them like Lee Caywood any more” would be an understatement.
He was born Sept. 15, 1888, and by the time he was a young man, Caywood was living at Talbott Ridge, independent and self-sufficient.
In the severe drought year of 1925, the week after running a story about a Cameron area farmer who only had a store account (debt) of $31, Reporter Publisher John Esten Cooke got a visit from Caywood.
“I can tell you about a farmer who has no store account whatsoever, and hasn’t had one in 11 years, and that’s me,” Caywood said.
Caywood raised melons, cantaloupes, radishes, peas, turnips, plums, berries, grapes “and all kinds of garden truck” in season. When he ran out of crops to sell, he peddled wood, about 150 loads a year by the mid-1920s.
He also raised cotton.
Caywood told Cooke he attributed his success to “scientific cultivation,” breaking land nine inches deep and bedding it “high and wide.”
Caywood said his goal was to have something to sell every time he loaded up the wagon and went into town (Rockdale).
The Talbott Ridge farmer told the publisher he didn’t buy anything at all on credit, not even medicine.
PROJECT—Jackson worked on the wagon project inside a depot warehouse and decided to roll it out on Saturday as part of Rockdale’s antique appraisal-garage sale weekend.
A small plaque on the wagon gives a brief history of Lee Caywood’s life.—Mike Brown