December 27, 2008

Windows to the Past: One

by Molly Noble Bull

The Dog Run House

Below is a photo of a home in Del Rio, Texas near the Rio Grande River built in the late nineteenth century by one of my ancestors, Richard Potter, and his two sons—no relation to Harry Potter of storybook fame. Richard was a farmer, married, and the father of four children. One of the children was my grandmother.

The original house was made of adobe and only had four rooms with a dog run down the middle. Two rooms upstairs and two rooms down. Later, a wooden kitchen was added to the left of the house.

I do not know the identity of the young man standing in the dog-run area of the house, but you will notice a stairway going up to the second floor. The second floor had a dog run down the middle, too, and every room opened onto a wooden wraparound porch on both the upper and lower levels.

Potter relative standing in the opening at the center of the dog run house.

In constructing the house, my ancestor built two wooden walls twelve inches apart and filled the space between the walls with clay from the Rio Grande River. When the clay dried, an adobe wall, twelve inches wide, was born. I visited the house when I was a small child, and I remember how cool it felt inside. Yet the house lacked air conditioning or electric fans. Every window was wide enough to sit in, and I thought that was really great.

John Potter was Richard’s oldest son, and he worked for the railroad. A line of railroad tracks ran right in front of the house, and I was told that every day when John drove the train in front of the house, he would pull the whistle and give the family a special “toot.” Then everyone would run out of the house and wave at John as he drove by.

“My grandmother would say to her friends something like, “My brother was an engineer for the railroad.”

Today, we might think that she meant that her brother had a degree in engineering. What she really meant was that her brother drove the train.

When my great grandfather died, my great grandmother sold the place. The new owner tore down the wraparound porches and filled in the dog run, making two extra rooms.

To them, I am sure it made sense. But in my opinion, the house looked much smaller and less impressive than it had in Richard Potter’s day.

The little girl with long black pigtails is my mother when she was about ten and her Potter cousins. Notice the huge pecan trees in the foreground. The house mentioned above is in the distance.

Molly's Potter relatives with dog run house in the background.

Trivia question to win a copy of Sanctuary by Molly Noble Bull: Who burned down the house in my novel, Sanctuary?

To find the answer, go to my blog.

You will need to read the prologue and the first scene in chapter one. To post your answer at Bustle and Spurs.

Here's the trailer to my book Sanctuary:"> name="allowFullScreen" value="true">" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344">

Molly Noble Bull


Tina Dee Books said...


Sanctuary was a great read! I had no idea about that part of history until I read your book. Fascinating!

Happy New Year!
Tina Dee

Susan Page Davis said...

Loved seeing your family photos, Molly! Thank you.

Terry Burns said...

Great blog Molly, love your website. I had an uncle with a dog run - cool house.


brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

Molly, you know that I enjoyed reading Sanctuary. Thanks for sharing your photos.

Pamela J said...

The captain of the king’s army ordered the Soldiers to burn the house down.
I LOVE pictures from older days as well as antique furniture. I had never heard of a house with a dog run in it.
Pam Williams
cepjwms at wb4me dot com

Teresa Slack said...

I first heard of dog runs while reading James Michener's TEXAS. Love those kinds of books since I enjoy learning all kinds of trivia like this. My high school geography teacher proudly proclaimed himself a gatherer or useless information. Guess I'm the same. Thanks for the info and the pics. I could look at that stuff all day long.

Molly Noble Bull said...

Thank you Tina, Susan, Terry, Brenda, Pamela, and Teresa for stopping by. But please don't leave without clicking onto my video at the end of my article on the dog run house and taking a quick visit back in time.

Linore Rose Burkard said...

Very interesting trailer, Molly--Really different, too! I will get to this book, I will!

Linore Rose Burkard said...

Very interesting trailer, Molly--Really different, too! I will get to this book, I will!

Carole said...

I just finished reading The Winter Pearl - very enjoyable, Molly! - and am looking forward to Sanctuary.

It was the captain who ordered his soldiers to burn the house down. I have to wonder if the boy in the prologue was in that army.

cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

Stephen and Janet Bly said...

Molly: Enjoyed your blog about dog runs. Your family was most fortunate. Most folks out west couldn't afford such luxuries and their houses tended to be too small. You've got a wonderful heritage in all ways.

On the trail,

AJ said...

The answer to the question is: the captain ordered his soldiers to burn the house down.

I remember visiting relatives as a child whose house had a dog run.