One hundred years ago, a home burned in the small community of Cornett in western Cass County. Ten children were going to be out a Christmas.
That's when the Betts family "bought in" to their family home at this spot on this peaceful rise of land.
As Christmas neared that year, the children who'd been farmed out to neighbors were afraid Santa couldn't find them. The three older Betts boys got the younger ones to write letters. Then they mounted their horses to ride over to the blackened but still standing chimney. There they pasted letters of directions for Santa.
Santa found them all that Christmas.
The home was re-built in 1921, and last month, a century later, relatives and friends of the Betts came to be together again at this home.
The idea for a birthday party for the home had been that of grandson Casey Betts. Combining it with a housewarming Christmas celebration was that of Casey's wife, Melinda McDaniel Betts. She's an adopted Betts.
"I'm not a Betts, but for the last 40 years I've felt like I was, and I've loved it," Melinda said as she worked weeks in advance preparing party favors, decorations and food.
The community, it seems, has loved the Betts' home, too. It has been the center of "town," although there is no town to Cornett. Cornett has no beginning or end. Just a road through its magical countryside.
Everything is quiet, peaceful and spacious here, away from everything else. It's 10 miles to get a loaf of bread or gallon of milk, yet the Betts' home and ranch has been the hub of Cornett for years.
"Have a party, gathering or let friends drop by, and if you are out on the porch or in the yard talking, everyone in the whole neighborhood can hear you," Melinda said. "The sound just carries."
The village of Cornett could have been "Bettsville" back in 1901 when the post office was established. But there were a few more in the Cornett family then. Now only one Cornett family member remains.
It's the Betts' home with its single family ownership now in its sixth generation and 100 years old. The spot of land has weathered but functional buildings, and on this spot on one recent Sunday, more than 100 people returned to celebrate its birthday.
An example of the Christmas connection is the Betts' living room. Here is the fireplace where Mama and Papa (Janie and Charlie Betts) sat shoulder to shoulder before as many as 50 family members, to sing Christmas songs played at the piano by Bernie McCord or Myra Hummel. Mamma and Papa would have 13 children and live until 1969.
Here, too, was the Christmas tree in its same corner for a century.
One of those returning relatives, Paul Betts of Austin, summed up the day.
"We're celebrating a family established in this community for so long and still thriving. You can see by the number of people here today the home and family is very cherished. They've come also to honor the community, its friends, neighbors and their families."
"I moved away in 1988," Paul continued, "but now I love the peace and quiet here. Come back and it all looks exactly the same. So pretty in springtime. If people need help, they call upon each other."
Melinda McDaniel Betts had been born in Gilmer and raised in Daingerfield in a small family of three sisters.
"Then, I married Casey, and he brought me to the boondocks. I'd never heard of Cornett, and I struggled to learn everyone's name. Before long, I was a Betts. The family was so much fun. Uncle Otis gave me a rolling pin on my wedding day. He said I would need it, that Casey's head was so hard. I still have it."
Casey today is fond of saying he just does what he's told to do. And so on this day he met and greeted all the friends coming to the party.
In 2001, the Betts home and ranch had received a Century Farm Award from the state of Texas for having been a farm in the same family name for 100 years. Today grandson Michael Betts, 17, lives in the home and goes to school in preparation for running the ranch. A number of his high school friends came to the house party.
The Betts home is pretty much the same as it has been. Additions have been made but all in keeping with the original home. Changed out windows, added garage, it is a pleasant homestead that just seems to augment memories.
Melinda probably expressed it about right.
"We just sent out invitations to everyone saying, 'Ya'll, let's get together.'"
And that's all it took for the community of Cornett to come to life again.