COBWEB CORNERS: The railroad man called ‘Finder’

By Mel McFarland

       Over the years I have shared a few stories I picked up from some of the old-time Midland men about the unusual characters they met. I thought I would share another with you this week. The men generally referred to him as Finder.
       It seems this young man wandered into this area from up in Montana in the 1890s. He took a job on the track crew. This sort of work was some of the necessary, but back-breaking work. As they might be somewhere along the railroad, the crew members had a box car with a bit of a kitchen in it, as well as a car with tools and another with bunks. The crew worked from sunup to sundown, sometimes even longer if they had to. When the crew broke for lunch or other meals, Finder might wander off down the track. This is where he got his name.
       At first, when he came back to the crew he might have a handful of arrow points. Occasionally he found items that must have fallen from a passing train or parts of railroad cars that may have fallen off. On a couple of occasions he even found pieces of cars from train wrecks and tools that had been left behind.
       At his home in Colorado City there was a bit of a scrap pile growing. His neighbors often complained until he made something they needed from his pile. His reputation for finding things occasionally made him quite popular. On several occasions the wreck train crew asked for him to work with their staff. He was adept at picking up skills, like welding, and he could often repair items that he found. His real creative nature was in making things from some of the odd items he found. The scrap pile in his yard occasionally turned out some odd-looking creations. One memorable item was what we would call a barbecue pit, but a hundred years ago it was an outdoor stove. Another was a small forge for fashioning bits of scrap brass into useful knobs and handles.
       He eventually found himself working in the railroad shops in Colorado City, producing parts of his own design. He was a bit of a tall, lanky man. Some of those who knew him called him "Tree." Some say he left the railroad and became a well-known sculptor using scrap pieces.