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A Matamoros Jail


Historic Accounts of Life in South Texas

From "Early Times in Texas" by J. C. Duval - Published 1892
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The Young Explorers

I never knowed Mr. Othello, said Uncle Seth, "but ef he had nothin' at all to do I pity him. I never was in that fix but onct myself, and that was when the Mexicans had me jugged at Matamoros, jess becase I stole some horses from 'em to pay for them they stole from Texas.

They kep me nigh onto two months in a little room 'bout eight feet squar,"with only one winder to it, which wan't much bigger than the mouth of a bottle gourd, and there wan't a thing inside of it exceptin your Uncle Seth and the bufferlo hide he had to sleep on. I tell you boys, I never was so hard put to it to pass the time in all my born days. Ef I had had a leetle soft pine er cedar fur whittlin', it wouldn't have been so bad, but they wouldn't let me have it nor a knife to whittle it with.

I berlieve ef it hadn't been fur a mouse I would have gone plum crazy afore I got out'n that jug. I counted every crack in the walls and made a calcerlation of how many squar inches there was in 'em, floor and all, which tuck me a considerable time, fur you see I was never very spry at cyphering but at last I got through with the sum, and then I said over to myself everything I had learnt by heart, including the multerplication table, and two or three prars my mammy had learnt me, when I was a little shaver, and which I hadn't said fur many a long day before, the more's the shame fur me. At last I got through with everything I could think of, and then all I could do was to lay down on my bufferlo hide and look at the naked walls, that shut out the blue sky and the green grass and trees.

One day when I was layin' in this way and just ready to gin in fur good. I seed a little mouse poke his head out'n a hole, and look roun' in a sort of inquirin' way. 'Come in my little feller,' says I, afore I thought what I was doin', 'come in and I'll treat to the best I have,' wtyich was a crust of bread. But instead of comin' in, he dodged back inter his hole, and I didn't see him any more for an hour. Then he poked his head out agin, and this time I kep as still as a mouse myself, and purty soon he crept out easy, and little by little he sided up to a crust of bread that was layin' clost to my face. I didn't wink my eyes, and when he had eat as much as he wanted, he slipped back agin to his hole. Well, from.that time on, he come out every day reglar fur his breakfast, dinner and supper, and at last when he found I wouldn't hurt him, he got so tame he'd eat out'n my hand, and then jump aroun' the floor like a kitten.

There's no tellin' the comfort that little varmint was to me, and I railey berlieve ef it hadn't been'fur that mouse that I would have gone stark stavin' mad afore I got out'n that jail in Matamoros. No boys," continued Uncle Seth, "this thing of havin' nothin' to do, is the hardest work I've ever tackled yit, and I'd a heap ruther be out here in the woods foot loose, ef I had to run from bears and javalinas every day, than to live safe from all sorts of varmints in that jail at Matamoros.'

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