They also had a lot of use for oxen, mules, and boys around the mill. I think this was a little before OSHA and child labor laws...or if it wasn't, they didn't pay too much attention to them. That part of East Texas was so far back in the woods in 1904 that the law didn't mess with them. I'm pretty sure there was a still out behind that building you're looking at.
My great, great grandfather was one of the Ray & Rays; his brother was the other. My great grandfather, that handsome-looking blade with the horse, would have been a young teen-ager in the mill shots, although I don't know which one he is. Obviously, the mill was doing pretty well; for my great-grandfather Harvey Ray to have a fine-looking animal like that in 1908, at the age of 18, would be the equivalent to one of my kids driving around in a new Corvette, which they ain't.
Grandpa also worked in the sawmill as a boy, and as a log truck driver for the mill when he got back from the war. After the mill closed, he became an OTR trucker, and spent the next thirty years driving his own rig over the highways of America. I used to think that was a great job. And as I sit here and type, I still do. I've always liked the breeze of the open road.
One day before he died, Grandpa Bud took me out to the old mill site. It was back in the woods on what he called "Ray Mountain", although I don't think anyone else called it that by 1980. He stopped by the side of the gravel road in a forest so thick you couldn't see ten feet into it, pointed into it and said, "The mill was about two hundred yards back in there." I never was the brightest bulb in the pack, and I asked him "why was the mill way back in there?" He was kind with me and explained that it was a sawmill, and there were no trees anywhere around back in those days.
Well, my dad started the Ray family on the path to higher education, and got a semester of Texas A&M in before he decided he was cut out for better things, and went in the Marines. I think they gave him a deal he couldn't refuse...three meals a day. Dad said he was eating on couch change at A&M, and he was getting pretty thin. The Marines put a little meat on his bones...and allowed him to meet my Mom. They started having babies in Quantico, Virginia, and that's where I got my start in life.
After the service, my dad went into manufacturing and wound up in the oil business in Houston. I got a job in the plant my dad managed, went to college night classes, then eventually decided to try forestry school back in...you guessed it, East Texas. One day, I came home from school and started telling my dad about cruising timber, using all the terms of the trade, and my words reminded my dad of his childhood growing up around the mill. As he reminisced, I realized that I was bringing the family back full circle, and felt pretty good about that.
One last thing...you might have thought it was pretty mean-spirited of Papa to shut down the mill the way he did. Well, when he died, my grandpa and his siblings were cleaning out Papa's house, and they found a cigar box up in his bedroom closet. Inside the cigar box were dozens of IOU's from folks all over the area, amounting to thousands of dollars. Papa had been helping folks out for a long time, and had apparently been holding their IOU's until they could come and pay them.
Well, Papa's little farm didn't amount to much by 1967, and the bull was gone...but I think his reputation was worth a fortune.