By Jessica Crabtree
As, so to speak, “life happens,” we as busy people tend to let the things we enjoy or aspire to be fall to the wayside. Dreams diminish, life becomes about “what if’s” and opportunities are bypassed. As C.S. Lewis said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
At the age of 45, Mary Lane Watson ventured into art. Never having had a previous love for art, Watson said she never doodled as a child, just in her adult life developed an urge to paint. Her childhood aspirations centered around sports.
Watson was born and raised in the rural Jack County town of Antelope. Antelope is a small community near the intersection of Loop 187, U.S. Highway 281, and Farm to Market Road 175, 25 miles northwest of Jacksboro in the northwestern part of the county. Current census places the population at 65, even though that seems boastful.
Antelope is one of the oldest active communities in Jack County. The town received its post office in 1858 and for much of its existence, was centered around agriculture, particularly ranching for its fertile soil and proximity to the West Fork of the Trinity River, which made for a great supply point for cattle trails.
Although the town seems desolate today, Watson remembers attending school there, along with the filling station, hotel, churches and Bolton Grocery where, “You could get some good old bologna.”
At the town’s peak, population exceeded 300; however, the town never flourished in the 20th century, despite oil discoveries. Population continued to decline, as Watson put it, “The Post Office went, and then we lost the school in 1971. It consolidated with kids going to either Midway or Jacksboro.” Watson believed the loss of both did the town in, saying “time changes everything.”
The Antelope native’s roots run deep in the town. “My great-grandfather, Rit Christian and wife Lou came from Missouri. They had seven children and built the Christian Ranch,” Watson informed. Although exact years are unknown, the home Rit Christian built still stands today, a home where multiple generations were raised, including Watson’s grandfather Paul Christian and mother, Margaret Christian Conner. The Christian Ranch remained in the family for years, until it sold recently.
Watson was raised in a picturesque white home, with a sun room off the back and long windows perfectly complementing the front porch, awning and pillars. The home was built by the town doctor back in 1885 and is in close proximity to the school. Watson even labeled her raising as “idealistic” saying, “It was a great way to be raised. We she and one sibling, brother David walked everywhere we went.” Watson attended Antelope school.
Her father, Clarence Conner was an electrician by trade and a baseball lover, playing in the Triple A- New Mexico League. Born during the Great Depression in Antelope, Watson said the family relocated for a short time to Borger, Texas, where her father worked on the Panhandle refinery of Phillips.
To read more pick up a copy of the October 2017 NTFR issue. To subscribe call 940-872-5922.