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Cedar exhibit cuts into heart of livelihood-nuisance argument

Sitting on the running board of an old cedar truck in the 1930s is Ronnie Lewis’ grandfather Oscar Delbert Boultinghouse of Smithwick. Lewis will give a presentation on 'Cedar Choppers in the Hill Country' at 10:30 a.m. June 3 at The Falls on the Colorado Museum in Marble Falls. Courtesy photo

Uncover the myths of Central Texas cedar trees, home to an endangered songbird native to Texas, in a new exhibit at The Falls on the Colorado Museum in Marble Falls. “Cedar: A Livelihood or a Nuisance?” runs May 29-June 30.

As part of the exhibit, author and Central Texas cedar chopper expert Ronnie Lewis will give a presentation on “Cedar Choppers in the Hill Country” at 10:30 a.m. June 3 in the Madolyn Frasier Room at the museum, 2001 Broadway in Marble Falls.

Lewis will discuss the tight-knit, fiercely independent people who made a living cutting and selling cedar in the Texas Hill Country during the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, a topic he knows well. His mother, Bonnie Gay, was raised just east of Smithwick, a member of the Boultinghouse family. Her father, brothers, and other family members all cut cedar for a living.

The work was hard, but the family made good money while remaining self-employed. Lewis was born in Smithwick in 1952 but moved to Bull Creek when he was 4 years old. He attended a three-room school in Jollyville through the seventh grade, and many of his classmates also came from cedar chopper families.

The Lewis family returned to Marble Falls when Ronnie was in the eighth grade. The cedar chopper era was near an end, but several cedar yards were still active in town.

“I count myself lucky to have lived in time to be around the people in that business,” Lewis said. “While some were the unsavory type, many were the best hardworking and honest people you’d meet anywhere.”

Lewis is the author of “The Angora Chronicles: Musings of an Old Goat,” a collection of stories about growing up in rural Central Texas.

The Falls on the Colorado exhibit introduces visitors to two different perspectives on local cedar trees, which are technically Ashe juniper. While once a source of livelihood and fence posts, the tree is now considered a nuisance by many.

Find out why the trees are so important to the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and whether they really are water hogs and invasive species at the Marble Falls museum's latest exhibit.

The Falls on the Colorado Museum is located at 2001 Broadway in the Old Granite School building. Hours are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Admission is free. For more information, visit or email

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