Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Modern sculptress chronicles territorial imperative

Whiskey's for drinking; water's for fighting over.

Lake Whitney – A lakeside property dispute has become so ugly that members of a rural Bosque County property owners association have begun to call law enforcement officers on each other for driving on the roads that lead to their retirement homes.

An elderly sculptress became so embroiled in the land dispute that members of a neighborhood watch held her until officers from a neighboring county and the distant city of Clifton arrived to detain her for a Bosque County deputy.

Her crime? She took a wrong turn in the dark, wound up in front of the wrong house making a u-turn, and the rest is history.

When the Deputy Sheriff from Bosque County arrived, he issued her a warning citation for driving her car on a private road, one for which which as a property owner, she claims collective ownership.

Maezell Powell does not want to be photographed. She is shy of the video camera, too, and blames her fears on a heated dispute over ownership of the roads in the rural subdivision of 5-acre ranchettes where she lives on the shores of Lake Whitney.

“They're trying to take my land away from me,” she states in a forthright tone. What's more, she claims a couple who serve as officers in the local property owners association subjected her to false imprisonment by parking their pickup truck behind her van and keeping her from leaving once she arrived at her friends' house.

Where previously land owners and visitors had been allowed access to drive four-wheel vehicles on the “Corps Road” and fish along the lake shores by parking at the end of roads mutually owned by the property owners association, they are now prohibited from driving down and parking on them on pain of being arrested for criminal trespassing.

Either the U.S. government and the Brazos River Authority is fencing people out, or they are fencing something in. That something is water, and it's definitely not free. 

It's a long story, but the conflict between Ms. Powell and road maintenance supervisor and association officer Morris Wilkins and his wife Cindy culminated in a showdown in which Mr. and Mrs. Wilkins chased her off the road where they live, followed her to a neighbor's property, held there until their son and a Hill County deputy arrived from across the lake, and waited for a Bosque County Deputy to arrive.

At one point earlier, she stood in front of Mr. Wilkins' tractor as he tried to grade a road that passes in front of her property.

“She said that was her road and he couldn't grade it,” recalls Mrs. Wilkins.

All the archetypal western lines of tension are in the story. There are the fences, the disputes over water, access, law officers – and there is even a connection to a colorful and violent past on the Texas prairies.

Maezell Powell's great grandmother Louvella Turner settled and homesteaded near the Staked Plains town of Spur about 1890 after arriving from Illinois.

It was the height of the buffalo harvest by hunters and skinners who slaughtered the Native Americans' staple game animal, the American bison.

The young woman would often round up baby buffalo and herd them back to her ranch, where she raised them.

Soon, a clay sculpture of the young woman mounted on horseback and a buffalo following along with her will be cast in bronze and added to her extensive collection of westeren paintings.

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